Turkey hunters can be like any other breed of outdoorspeopole, running the gamut from stripped-back minimalists to gadget-crazed trend setters.
Of course, “spending” is everywhere in the great outdoors these days. You see it in the range of ice fishing campers or boat electronics or, heck, even in fishing rods. You can buy a nice fishing rod for $50. Or you can spend $500 or even $5000.
But in recent years, it’s turkey hunting that’s been heading headlong (some would say off the rails) toward increasingly expensive gear, including shotgun shells at $11 each and decoys at $200. $.
Yes, $11 shotgun shells. Federal Premium TSS (Tungsten Super Shot) Heavy Loads are available at national sporting goods retailers from $38 for a 3-inch 12-gauge five-load box to $48 for a 3-inch five-load box, 5 inches. The same retailers sell Browning TSS Tungsten Turkey Shot for $40 for a box of five 12-gauge 3-inch charges and $55 for 3.5-inch shells. It’s $11 each shell. Plus tax. (For comparison, for those of you who don’t shoot, the average shotgun shell for trap shooting or grouse hunting is about 25 cents. Duck and pheasant loads cost a just over 50 cents each. So far, premium turkey fillers coat about $1-to-$1.50 each.)
Will turkey hunters top the $11 a carapace price, as they say in the retail trade?
“Federal Premiums are the ultimate in turkey loads. The incredibly high pellet count in the 7 and 9 rounds, along with the ability to carry energy farther, makes them ideal for 12 and 20 bore ga. and .410. Tungsten Super Shot has a 22% heavier density than heavy shot and 56% heavier density than traditional lead shot. It puts the most pellets possible in a 10″ circle at 40 meters… Long range turkeys don’t stand a chance.”
Do they work? Probably. According to stories I’ve read in some hunting publications, the new long range shells contain dense patterns at all ranges and retain energy well beyond 40 yards, once considered the general limit for a shot sure. The literature now says that 60 yards “is the new 40”, and some claim that shells can cleanly kill turkeys at 70 yards or more. (Know that you have to hit a turkey in the head or neck with several pellets for a clean kill, their heavy feathers protect their body.)
Are new hulls worth it? I do not know. I’ve never spent more than $1.50 on a load of turkey and don’t plan on doing that anytime soon. I’ve slaughtered over a dozen turkeys over the past 30 years – from 10 to 50 yards away – and never thought I needed better shells. I might suggest hunters camouflage themselves better, stay still, and call before trying to capture birds traditionally considered out of reach.
Recent years have also seen a huge increase in the availability of extremely detailed turkey decoys made of all manner of materials – simulating resting hens, calling hens and hens ready to mate. There is also a trend for full size Tom and Jake decoys in various parry states. (When I first started turkey hunting with Tom decoys, it was taboo lest another hunter try to pull over and hit you. Apparently that’s no longer a problem.)
The same national outdoor retailer is selling a single Jake Strutter lure by Oregon-based Dave Smith Decoys for $199. A mating pair costs $299. Or buy a flock of four decoys for $489.
“Made from a spray-on, pigmented, ultra-durable version of DSD’s proprietary ACE resin, the specialized bodies actually seal their own surfaces for an entirely worry-free, hesitation-free shooting experience,” reads the decoy’s description. in the catalog. “Lightweight, compact, and quiet, these field-proven lures come equipped with highly detailed, true-to-life appearances and poses.”
On the other end of the spectrum is the foam lure I picked up at Fleet Farm last week for $7.99 (on sale). It looks pretty good. Folds into the pocket of your turkey vest or jacket. I have killed most of my turkeys near foam decoys which never cost more than $15. They eventually fall apart after a few years, so I occasionally replace them. Would more realistic and expensive lures work better? Probably. Are they necessary? Of course not.
Sometimes it seems like in a world of outdoor opportunities rushed between work and home life, we’re driven to try and buy our wood mastery points rather than earn them. Of course, if you have extra money, spend it. Enjoy. But if I had one wish for turkey season this year, it wouldn’t be for a fancy new decoy, an $11 shotgun shell, or an electronic scope on my shotgun. It would be to have a lot more free time to spend in the turkey woods.
But that’s something money can’t buy. At least not yet.
Spring turkey seasons in Minnesota and Wisconsin began last Wednesday and continued through May.