Let me be perfectly clear: I am not an expert turkey hunter! No way am I going to give you calling tips or turkey hunting tips. I bumble along, and fortunately we have a lot of turkeys to hunt these days.
So, important admissions made, I’m pretty good at shooting turkeys if and when I get a chance. Over the years—and I can go back about 50 years—I’ve hunted all the varieties, and I’ve hunted turkeys in a lot of places. My opinions have shifted over time, and may shift again. In part this is because, as turkey hunting has exploded, our turkey guns and turkey loads keep getting better.
During my career I’ve been wrong about many things. One of them was the7mm-08 Remington. Back in 1980 the cartridge was brand-new when a Remington 788 in 7mm-08 Rem came into the office. You remember the 788 bolt-action, Heavy, unlovely, rear-locking…and they shot like gangbusters. Colleague and friend Payton Miller and I were assigned to wring it out, I think for that year’s G&A Annual. The rifle grouped extremely well, but the truth is we both got it wrong: We scratched our heads, and didn’t understand what this brave new cartridge was for…or what it could do that existing cartridges couldn’t.
As to the latter, probably nothing…but that can be said about almost any new cartridge. As to what it was for, it was a mild-kicking, short-action cartridge that was probably very effective. Part of our problem was we had no first-hand experience with the 7mm-08 Rem on game. This was not entirely our fault. Payton and I took that early 7mm-08 Rem on several forays up the Central Coast for wild hogs, but we never got a shot. We figured it would do just fine…but we didn’t know.
The 6.5mm Creedmoor is a great cartridge…but it isn’t the only 6.5mm cartridge out there. We all know the 6.5mm Creedmoor is the hottest thing since sliced bread, right now, except the 223 Remington, our hottest-selling centerfire cartridge. And the greatest cartridge phenomenon I’ve seen in my career. The Creedmoor is different because its popularity isn’t based on marketing hype. Developed as a long-range target cartridge, its introduction was soft and its designer, Hornady, had limited expectations. The Creedmoor won matches right out of the starting gate, but it actually fizzled along for several years. Then, suddenly, it took off and, so far, hasn’t looked back. The 6.5mm Creedmoor is accurate, efficient, mild in recoil, and with its short case is able to utilize the long, aerodynamic bullets currently in fashion, from a short action.
There are quite a few cartridges in the middle tier of “fast” 6.5mm’s. All of these will at least approach 3000 fps with a 140-grain bullet, and certainly with a 130-grain slug. Left to right: 6.5mm Remington Magnum, 6.5×284 Norma, 6.5-06 (wildcat), 264 Winchester Magnum, 6.5mm SST (proprietary).Suddenly the .26-caliber (bullet diameter .264-inch) is in. This, in itself, is odd because this bullet diameter is hardly new. Back in the 1890s, at the dawn of smokeless powder, a number of 6.5mm cartridges were developed for military use, primarily for European powers. Several became popular sporting cartridges, not only in Europe but also over here. Some, such as the 6.5×54 Mannlicher-Schoenauer and 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser, are ballistic equals to the 6.5mm Creedmoor…especially if modern propellants and bullets are used. Up through the 1930s America’s sporting press was full of references to early 6.5mms, but their use dwindled and almost faded away.
It was a perfect setup for prairie dogs; we had a big shade tree to our left, three of us in line on portable benches, with a big colony stretching away before us. Stephen Shen was on the left, Gordon Marsh in the middle, me on the right. Interestingly, all three of us were shooting the 204 Ruger cartridge: Stephen a Savage 116, while both Gordon and I were shooting Ruger No. Ones, his in blue/walnut and mine stainless/laminate.
It wasn’t universal; Bill Green was off the right, popping away and having a ball with a semi-auto 17 HMR . This was Gordon and Bill’s annual prairie dog shoot out of Cheyenne, hunting with Craig Oceanak and Nick of Timberline Outfitters. It was my second shoot with them; for Stephen, CEO of Vector Optics, his first ever. We had other rifles, 223’s and 22-250’s. However, except for Bill, who clung to his 17 HMR and walked in some amazing shots, the 204’s did the majority of the work. There are many excellent varmint cartridges, so it struck me as unusual that three among our foursome were shooting 204’s…but I think we made good choices.
Just recently I got back from a “mixed bag” hunt in Argentina: where I did some wingshooting, deer, and water buffalo hunting. I took an over/under Blaser 12 gauge; and a Blaser R8 with 270 Win and 375 H&H barrels. At this moment I’m on an airplane, headed toward Cameroon. I do not have a gun case in the cargo hold; I’ll be using a “camp gun.” In this article I will be discussing the pros and cons to travel with firearms and without firearms while traveling to hunt.
Mindsets vary. If you’re a hunter who views a firearm as an essential tool, then, so long as a suitable tool is available, it may not be important for you to bring a favorite firearm. On the other hand, if you’re a “gun guy,” it may be important for you to bring a firearm you consider perfect for game you’re hunting. Destinations vary. Sometimes it’s fairly easy to bring guns; other times it’s a major hassle, but still possible. And there are places where the hunting is great but it is not possible to bring a firearm. You simply must use whatever is available.
I’m both a hunter and a “gun guy.” Given a sensible choice I prefer to bring my own. However, I’ve hunted several places where bringing a firearm isn’t possible. That’s easy: I’ll use whatever is available! Where decisions get hard are situations where practicality and convenience enter in. Essential to consider: Game and hunting conditions; and what firearms are available?