Three Reasons to Scope Your Turkey Gun and Three Reasons Not To

Turkey hunters once scoffed at using an optic on their specialized shotguns. Some still do, but many hunters today see a clear advantage.

When optics companies first introduced dedicated turkey scopes and red-dots about 20 years back, a lot of purists—me included—scoffed at the notion. Why the heck would anyone need a scope to hit a tom in the noggin at 30 yards? The naysayers saw it as a gimmick to sell more product or as an affectation from guys obsessed with their equipment.

I’m sure you see where this is going.  Yes, I’ve come around, and it appears that so have a lot of other hunters.  Here’s why:

1)   First and foremost, you miss fewer turkeys. Even at 30 yards, where patterns tend to be as big as a basketball and plenty dense, it’s possible to miss.  Ask me.  The main reason why is nothing more than shooter error. Lack of focus on the front sight (bead), inconsistent cheeking of the stock, jerking the trigger. All avoidable of course. Nonetheless, I think an optic naturally forces a shooter to get his head into the correct position to align the crosshair or dot. And then it’s only natural to squeeze the trigger the way you do with a rifle, rather than snap it like you do when wingshooting.

2)   You miss fewer turkeys at long and close range. Because patterns thin at longer ranges, it’s important to center the tom’s vital column. The edge of the pattern likely won’t do the trick. At very close range the shot swarm may be no bigger than a softball, but whoops—if you don’t take care to aim, a humbling whiff can easily occur.

3)   If you can’t see the front sight/bead, you’ll have a hard time hitting anything. Older hunters’ eyes lose depth of focus abilities. Mine have, and if yours haven’t yet, they will. With glasses or contacts, I can see the turkey out yonder quite sharply, but the correction that makes that possible denies me close-range focus. With an optic, I see the crosshair or dot in the same focal plane as the turkey.

Despite the advantages, this argument is far from settled.  Here are reasons why it continues:

1)   Expense. An optic that can do the job and yet is durable enough to withstand rough handling and wet spring weather will cost a couple hundred bucks. At least. Then there’s the cost of mounting it. Newer shotguns may be drilled and tapped for scope mounts, or perhaps even have an integral rail. You still need mounts and/or rings, so add $15-$30 more.  Popular older models can be outfitted with a saddle-type mount from Weaver or B-Square, for somewhere around $35 plus rings.

2)   Extra weight/bulk to lug around. Small reflex sights with mounts may weigh just a quarter-pound or even less. Not a big deal. However most scopes, with mount and rings, are going to add about a pound to your gun. Hmmm. Hard-core ridgerunners have a legitimate beef here, but for most of us, a pound isn’t going to make much difference.

3)   Something to go wrong. Sure, scopes can break or lose zero, and red-dots’ batteries can go dead. But come on … these pitfalls have largely been eliminated. Today’s optics are proven tough and reflex-sight battery life runs hundreds of hours. The biggest problem I’ve encountered using a turkey scope is fogging the ocular lens when the gun is shouldered and I have to wait for the tom to step clear. On humid mornings with my mask in place, that’s a problem, and one reason I prefer a red-dot, which is mounted farther forward.

Turkey optic or not? What say you?


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7 Responses to Three Reasons to Scope Your Turkey Gun and Three Reasons Not To

Joe wrote:
March 28, 2014

I have shot beads, iron sights, and red dots. For myself I am red dot man now. My 870 with Vortex Strikefire with Indian Creek Black Diamond tube along with a Timney trigger (switch to slug barrel for deer) is wicked on gobblers. Red dot is great at short and long ranges.

Terry wrote:
March 26, 2014

Every year before season starts i pattern my Winchester 1300 to see where i have to aim to make the shot count as well i know the limitation of yardage that i can effectively harvest the bird . I do not have a scope on my shotgun but i wear glasses which helps for the distances.

Bob Walton wrote:
March 25, 2014

Good reasons to use a scope. I had to smile a bit at the reasons not to use one - it made me reminisce; these are the same reasons my dad would have given me 40 years ago - especially 1 and 3.

Dale Reisert wrote:
March 25, 2014

I do agree about using a scope , At 71 my eyes are not what they use to be and I tried the red dot type but due to sun glare I could not see the red dot when the sun glare was on the scope about noon, So I switched to a low power cross hair type scope and I will never go back. At first the I tried the inexpensive way to go by installing a B-Square saddle mount on my Rem.11-87 that worked real well, if you are concered about using the shotgun in other ways besides turkey hunting then at the end of the Turkey season simply remove the mount with the scope attached and you are good to go for any other type of shotgun use you may have. The other option that I tried recently is buying a new Rem. short barrel non-rifled cantilever slug barrel and using a .665 dia, turkey choke. With my present set up after having considerable work done on my Rem.11-87 barrel it now shoots like a rifle and with the new loads on the market today and the extra super full turkey chokes its easy to miss any Turkey at any range as the patterns are so tight. Its now a true 50 yard killing machine. It might even be better is I could find some of those new Winchester Long Beard loads that just came out. Turkey guns and ammo have come a long way from when I started Turkey hunting some 35 years ago and scopes are the way to go.

WolfmanMSU84 wrote:
March 25, 2014

Interesting article. I agree that a little extra weight is not much of a problem, but what scope, red dot should be considered. I don't need glasses yet, but seeing my front site clearly at 30-40 yards is getting pretty tough. I think the hard part for me is that I am a one gun hunter. I have an 870 that has been around a while, but has always killed what it was shot at. It also doubles as my home defense gun, as well as ducks and geese. It seems I would be taking it on and off. I did mount a Hi-Viz front site. It seems I can see the front site much easier now, but I haven't hunted with it yet.

Frank Gryncewicz wrote:
March 24, 2014

Red dot all the way, have AimPoint on my hand cannons as well. Both eyes open, place the dot and send it. IMO no finer set up, sure there are some nice holograpic sights just a look through the tube guy.

TulsaReiner wrote:
March 23, 2014

I agree whole heartedly. I thought scopes and red dots on a shotgun for turkey hunting were unnecessary technology, until last spring when I missed a gobbler TWICE at 30 yards. (I got him when I called him back for a 3rd shot). I suspect the 'age excuse'-- the front sight is out of focus for me. So now my 12 gauge sports a red dot. And I'm excited to try it is 2 weeks.