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Photo contributed by Larry Case / Shown is a CZ Reaper Magnum shotgun with patterned targets. The Reaper is the brainchild of David Miller, and it's the gun he and outdoors columnist Larry Case used during a recent turkey hunt in Missouri.

If you have never experienced Route 60 on Gauley Mountain in West Virginia at 4 in the morning during a rainstorm, you may (or may not) want to give it a try. It's dark and foreboding, and the route twists and winds through the mountains. Did the original builders of the road follow a drunken cow to find this path? I'm not sure, but it seems so.

Anyway, rain, darkness, and tipsy cows aside, I'm on the road again.

David Miller made me an offer I could not refuse. Once again, he has invited me to the great state of Missouri to pursue spring turkeys. How can you turn that down?

Several times in these pages I have told you about Mr. Miller, who hails from Grain Valley, Missouri, and is the shotgun product manager and pro shooter at CZ-USA, a gun company based in Kansas City. To say he knows about shotguns and does some shooting would be like saying the pyramids are a bunch of rocks piled up in Egypt.

Not once but twice, he has set Guinness World Records involving shotguns and breaking clay targets. The first time was in 2015, when he shattered 3,653 clays in one hour. The next was in 2019, when Mr. Miller and four young team members shot for 12 hours (that's right, 12 hours) and broke 14,167 clay targets. Both of these feats are in the Guinness Book of World Records, so you can look it up. I was there for both events, saw the whole thing and it was a sight to behold.

Maybe I have made my point: I shoot shotguns, you shoot shotguns, but we don't shoot shotguns like David Miller. I have no trouble believing he dreams about shotguns at night, rises in the morning and spends the day shooting shotguns, thinking about shotguns, or planning the next shotgun CZ-USA will bring to the market.

But this trip, as with others in the spring with Mr. Miller, involves the locating, calling in and subsequent shooting of big, burly, long-bearded, sharp-spurred turkey gobblers. It is a hard job that involves a lot of work and physical endurance, but someone has to do it.

Since I'm in West by God Virginia, and Dave and the big gobblers are in Missouri, the first thing is I just have to get there. So for this trip I will fly out of Charleston, West Virginia, to do the obligatory stop in Atlanta, and then on to Kansas City. (We have to go to the Peach State's capital to get anywhere from West Virginia, and that means flying out of Charley Town.) The trip out goes fairly smooth, with a few delays from Atlanta to KC. Dave picks me up at the airport in the afternoon. The first order of business is, of course, to go eat, and if you don't know Kansas City and the surrounding area, they have a lot of great places to chow down.

What KC is famous for is barbecue (more on this later), but our first stop will be the Captain's Sports Lounge near Lake Lotawana. This not too fancy décor with great atmosphere was the perfect place to gorge on burgers before we get to the work of shooting and patterning the CZ-USA Reaper Magnum shotguns we will be using on this trip into the gobbler's backyard.

Like many shotguns at CZ-USA, the Reaper is Dave's brainchild, and it is a very cool concept for a turkey gun. In the past several years, the turkey gun world has gone to almost exclusively ultra-tight chokes for dense patterns at longer ranges. This is to put more shot in the turkey's head and neck area. It's a worthy goal to make clean kills, but the problem is when your pattern is dense at 40 yards, if the turkey happens to appear much closer, twenty steps or so, your pattern is very small, and a swing and a miss is often what happens.

Thinking about this dilemma, and the turkey technique (known as reaping in the turkey hunting world) where the hunter hides behind a turkey fan, which often brings a gobbler wanting to fight an intruder into very close range, Dave had some ideas for an over-and-under shotgun. Why not have a barrel choked for the long distance gobbler and another for the one close up? The result was the Reaper. A fully camouflaged 12-gauge with 3 1/2-inch chambers, sling studs and a specially designed rail on top if you want to mount an optic. (Like KC barbecue, we will talk about the Reaper more later.)

We do a lengthy session with the Reaper shotguns, Remington TSS ammo and Aguila brand 7 1/2 shot Pigeon loads (1400 fps). Dave uses the Aguila shells for the up-close barrel, and it's a good idea. Inspection of the targets at around 20-plus yards show a pattern that no turkey is going to walk through. That evening we have to go eat again, of course, and I go for some pulled pork in the barbecue line. Dave delivers me fat and happy at the hotel with the warning that 4:30 in the a.m. is going to come very early.

I know, I've been here before. The bed feels wonderful, and the Sandman has no trouble getting me to sleep.

Next morning is cold but beautiful with no wind; it's a turkey hunter's morning. Along with CZ-USA photographer and video lady Elissa Crossland, Dave and I make our way to a pair of blinds he has already set up for us. We have a long getting ready session in the dark. After the first cardinal sings, we start to hear enthusiastic gobbling in the distance — a lot of it. After several minutes of this, we start to get the idea these turkeys are in a different zip code from us and we are going to have to move, and quickly.

Will these turkeys be cordial? Will they come see us if we call? Will they respond to a turkey call with a hillbilly accent?

Guess we will find out in part two of this tale of the itinerant turkey hunter on the road again!

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Contributed photo / Larry Case

"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at larryocase3@gmail.com.

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