Case: It’s too early to talk turkey, but it’s too late to stop now

Contributed photo / Dave Miller lines up his shot while turkey hunting. It may still be winter, but the spring turkey hunters are already itching to get out into the field and call in some gobblers, writes "Guns & Cornbread" columnist Larry Case.
Contributed photo / Dave Miller lines up his shot while turkey hunting. It may still be winter, but the spring turkey hunters are already itching to get out into the field and call in some gobblers, writes "Guns & Cornbread" columnist Larry Case.

I am going back on something I said I would not do.

Not long ago, I was tired of seeing posts on the Book of Faces and other founts of knowledge in the social media and internet labyrinth. Overanxious turkey hunters, as early as January, were going on about how they were ready for the spring turkey season and how they "just couldn't wait" for it all to start.

In truth, I will confess that I don't like the "I just can't wait" phrase. It may seem trivial, but the fact is you will wait if something has a date on it and don't try to make things happen so quickly. Time goes by too fast as it is.

So again, some weeks ago I was chastising those who wanted to talk about spring turkey hunting too soon — it is still winter, after all — and here I am doing what I said I wouldn't do. Well, we are here now, so I may as well dive into it with a little sermon to get you going on spring gobbler season.

Spring gobbler hunting is just that: It happens in the springtime. Spring is when male turkeys strut their stuff for the girls and make all that racket that we turkey hunters claim to love so much (gobbling).

During this time, we hunters sally forth and use all of our innate skill and turkey calling powers to lure the gobblers into range. Most of us don't like to admit that often the turkey that gets called into range is just ready to be called in that day.

We like to think we are channeling Ben Rodgers Lee (a late, great turkey hunter) or maybe Ray Eye (a great turkey hunter who is still with us), and that it is our incredible skill on a turkey call that gets that wise old gobbler into range (not the fact that it is the height of the turkeys' breeding season and this is the day this turkey is going to come under the gun, whoever happens to be there.)

Turkey hunters are great on planning and preparation. Most of us love the part about getting ready, and we may even like this more than the hunt itself. So herewith are a couple of topics to get you started on the path to this spring's annual bout with insanity known as turkey season.

Get lots of new turkey calls.

I am at the head of the line on this one. Every year I usually start thinking about being better prepared in the calling department and figure just what I need is a bunch of new calls to make up for my inadequacies in calling.

In my defense, I don't have much trouble calling turkeys (especially that one that wanted to be called in anyway), but I just figure I could be better, and you can always make up for a lack of skill with more stuff — gear, that is — of any kind.

I always make a preseason call to Jim Clay (another renowned turkey hunter) for some of his Perfection Calls, which he has been making since, I don't know when, maybe the 1970s? Master Clay is an icon in the turkey world, and I figure just carrying some of his calls has got to be lucky.

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This year I am going to try some new calls from local guys here in West Virginia. Mike Booth, who has the "On the Limb" podcast and Nature's Voice Game Calls, has promised me some calls, and I am looking forward to using them. Nathan Taylor is also a Mountain State call maker, and I already have a couple of his Higher Calling custom turkey calls, but I may need to get a few more. Both of these guys can be found on Facebook.

Shotgun shells and the mystique of TSS.

The turkey shotgun and shot shell world has changed vastly in the past several years.

Once upon a time, we used pretty much the same shotgun for about everything. Ducks, pheasants, rabbits, the odd deer now and then, as well as turkeys all got shot with the same shotgun, often a Remington 870, an 1100, or maybe a Mossberg 500 pump gun.

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Now most of us would not think of turkey hunting without a shotgun specifically for that purpose. Sometimes it is a Benelli Super Black Eagle or a Mossberg 835 tricked out with optics looking like something that Buck Rogers (a 1930s science fiction guy, and then a late 1970s TV show) would be toting.

Shotgun shells have, if anything, changed even more than the guns that fire them. In the days before the turkey craze, we used whatever shells were found in our vest from our last hunting trip. Winchester Double X Magnums in No. 4 or 6 shot or Remington Nitro shells seemed to do just fine, and we killed turkeys with no problem as long as we did not try to stretch the barrel, that is, not shoot at turkeys that were too far away, like more than 40 or so yards.

Shot shell makers changed all this first with the advent of the Winchester Long Beard XR shell. In a stroke of genius, Winchester engineers perfected a method of encasing shot pellets in a hard clear plastic material that shatters instantly upon ignition of the shell and encases the shot charge in this buffering as it starts down the barrel. The result was greatly increased possible ranges on turkeys. To the amazement of many, including the birds, 60 yards became the new 40 as far as killing turkeys.

This went on for a few years until word started to get out that some real turkey nuts were loading their own shot shells with a new type of pellet made from a metal known as wolfram, or tungsten. This metal in its purest form, for shot shells, made pellets that were almost twice as dense and hard as lead pellets and produced patterns and terminal ballistics (the pellets' effectiveness in killing game birds) once thought of as impossible.

Federal ammunition produced the first commercial shot shells for Tungsten Super Shot, and the world has never been the same.

With TSS, tales of turkeys being knocked over at incredible ranges soon became old hat. The use of TSS brought up another phenomenon in the turkey shotgun world in that it allows the hunter to use sub-gauges such as the 28 gauge and even the .410 bore to effectively hunt turkeys. The density of the TSS allows it to be loaded in fine shot, such as No. 9, and with the small shot, the shell can be loaded with sometimes twice the number of pellets, allowing for incredible numbers of hits in a pattern.

Let's just say these are not your granddad's shotgun shells.

Now aren't you glad I brought all this up so early?

"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at

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