Can I use a 20-gauge to hunt turkeys?
Yes, yes, yes. I grew up in a family that was all about the 12-gauge. As a small-framed hunter, I have always been partial to the first gun I ever got as a kid, a 20-gauge youth model shotgun. Nevertheless, the hunters in my family were always 12-gauge this and 12-gauge that. They created some kind of impression that the 12-gauge was the end-all, say-all for hunting. It would not be until I was much older that I started to realize that the 20-gauge can actually be an advantage.
I first reverted back to a 20-gauge for ruffed grouse hunting. Someone told me that a lighter gun which I could shoulder quicker would make a world of difference on wing shooting. It did. When turkey season approached I started thinking about the idea of swapping over and trying a 20-gauge to hunt turkeys.
The 20-gauge is Lighter to Hunt Turkeys
Some days we are doing a lot of “running and gunning” on birds. Covering miles with not only a shotgun but also film gear gets weighty. On one hunt I decided to swap out my tank-of-a-12-gauge turkey setup for my 20-gauge Franchi Affinity, loaded up with a #4, 3-inch shell. We put some miles on that day and let me tell you that gun is light when you carry it from sunlight till afternoon closing.
Less Recoil from a 20-gauge to Hunt Turkeys
The idea that lighter weight means less recoil is not always true. Keep in mind that the lighter in weight the gun actually is the less it will absorb the recoil. I have some 20-gauges that are as light as a feather and as a result the kick is not too far off from a 12-gauge. However, if you put a 20-gauge at an equal setup to a 12-gauge, they will always kick less. This can make for not only easier handling but more importantly, better accuracy.
The 20-gauge will put a Turkey Down
My first opportunity to shoot a turkey with a 20-gauge arrived on a nice old tom in New Hampshire. At 30 yards standing broadside I let the shot rip. Now I knew the gun did great on paper but I still had that 12-gauge stigma stuck in my head. Like there was some reason that the 20-gauge wouldn’t pack the punch needed to put a big old tom on the ground! That day I broke the age old myth in my own mind of the 20-gauge versus the 12-gauge as I watched the tom go down just as hard as any 12-gauge kill I had put on. Needless to say, this year I will be using a 20-gauge to hunt turkeys.