Editor’s Note: One of the hottest new guns in the world of turkey hunting in the last few years has been the .410 shotgun. Many gun manufacturers have tooled-up to make these new turkey shotguns because the demand has been so high from consumers to purchase these guns. Although, the little, lightweight shotgun never has been intended to be a shotgun for hunting turkeys, but primarily used in the past to shoot clay targets, upland birds and squirrels, many of its features have been modified for hunting turkeys. This little gun has had a lot of publicity and promotion in the past few years and has changed the way that many turkey hunters are now harvesting turkeys. This week we’ll look at using the .410 to hunt turkeys.
I got my first shotgun when I was in elementary school. For Christmas, my dad bought me a J.C. Higgins bolt action .410 shotgun that held three, .410 shells. Back then, my schoolmates and I didn’t know anything about patterning shotguns, and we basically used No. 7-1/2 shot for taking doves and No. 6 shot for harvesting rabbits and squirrels. One of the proudest moments of my life was when my grandfather, John Lorenzo Phillips, Sr., agreed to go dove hunting with me one day after school. I was probably 8-or-9 years old. We went to a reclaiming dump not far from my home, where slag was reclaimed from the nearby steel mill. The dump was surrounded by large fields, and on any given afternoon, I could take one or two doves with my .410 that Mom would cook for me the day after the hunt.
On that day, Grandpa and I were walking down a road to a dump truck that was loading up the slag used for building roads. Two doves came straight for us. I aimed at the first dove, pulled up and fired, and the dove hit the ground. Quickly I bolted my .410, fired and killed the other dove. My grandpa was so excited that he told everyone he knew about my wing-shooting skills. Several years later, my friends and I found places to hunt squirrels and rabbits near my home, and I even took one snow goose that came out of a flock and landed on a small pond near my house.
Several years ago when I began to hear rumors about turkey hunters bagging gobblers with .410 shotguns, my only point of reference was that J.C. Higgins .410 that I grew up hunting with and had used to teach my grandchildren how to hunt. As I investigated and researched the .410 for turkeys, I discovered that these new .410 turkey guns weren’t anything like my smooth barrel, bolt-action standard .410 J.C Higgins shotgun. I felt certain these hunters had to get turkeys within 20 yards or less to be able to down these big birds with this little gun with No. 7-1/2 or No. 6 shotshells. However, as I studied the turkey .410, I learned that bagging a gobbler with one of these new guns could be as easy as bagging a turkey with a 3-1/2 inch 12 gauge shotgun and a turkey choke with much-less recoil.
The first person I knew who hunted with one of these turkey guns on steroids was a longtime friend of mine, Barry Smith, once the Chief of the Fisheries Section of Alabama’s Department of Conservation. I wanted to know why Smith was hunting turkeys with a .410, what kind of .410 he used, and what he thought of this relatively-new turkey gun.
To learn more about turkey hunting, check out John E. Phillips’s book, “The Turkey Hunting Guides’ Bible,” at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01ITWYY2K/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p2_i11 and available in Kindle, print and Audible versions. You may have to cut and paste this link into your browser. (When you click on this book, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read 10% of the books for free and hear 10% for free). To learn more about other turkey books by John E. Phillips, go to www.amazon.com/author/johnephillips.
Tomorrow: Well-Known Outdoorsman Barry Smith’s First Season Hunting Turkeys with a .410