Granddaddy's Gun 

Grandpa’s old single shot .410 gauge shotgun has been in the family for over 75 years and this past weekend I was able to take this relic on its inaugural turkey hunt. Even though I’ve hunted turkeys in Utah for the past decade, using a .410 to take a turkey here is prohibited. But that’s a different story when hunting in Idaho.

I remember my Dad telling me the story about the first time he shot a pheasant with the ol’ .410. Just as he reached the top of his dirt driveway back in the early 40’s, a rooster jumped at his feet and he dumped it. And I remember the thrill of shooting my first quail back in the 70’s in the desert of Arizona, which happened to be my first time hunting with the .410. And I have fond memories of my kids shooting/hunting for the first time with this classic gun and recently I experienced my grandson shooting his first cottontail rabbit with it. Now with all of that history, I thought it would be fitting to take the good old .410 on its first turkey hunt.

Before heading to Idaho, I went out and patterned the .410. The pattern from 30 yards was impressive with 8 pellets from the 5 shot 3” shell hitting the target in the head and neck. And at 25 yards, the pattern was even more impressive. I decided that if given an opportunity at 25 yards or less, I’d take that shot.

                                    Sitting at far end of this meadow, we watched the turkeys feed into the open


My son and I left Utah Friday afternoon and had our Idaho camp set up by Friday evening. Before sunset we located some turkeys feeding into the open just over 1000 yards away, so we knew where we were going to setup come morning. And unlike the foul weather I experienced during the hunt last weekend, the weather gods were smiling on us because no rain or snow was in the forecast for this weekend.

snow storm, turkey decoys in snow i went hunting turkey with idaho turkey gobbler

Hunting previous weekend, surprised by overnight snow         It quickly melted, nailed gobbler with my SX3 12 gauge

The mid-April morning air was cool and crisp with the stars shining brightly as we left camp. Our decoys were in place and our makeshift blind was set before first light. A few minutes before fly down, we heard gobbles in the distance, shivers went up our spines!  I let out a few soft yelps and clucks which were answered by turkeys roosted within 50 yards behind us. However, we were slightly disappointed when the turkeys flew down in front of us because all 5 birds were hens. We did have some excitement when a turkey sneaked to within 15 yards behind us, but that too ended up being a hen. It would take another hour before things got exciting once again.

GoPro footage of turkey hunt
       GoPro image from .410 as gobbler to left of my decoy hits the dirt


Carson retrieving the turkey gobbler long beard
                                      Carson heading out to retrieve our prize


Until that hour had passed, I’d let out a few calls every 10 to 15 minutes in hopes that a tom within earshot would become curious enough to come check us out. Finally the calm was shattered by a gobble within close proximity! I was shocked since the gobble was well inside of a hundred yards and came from the open meadow to my left. I strained to see the source of the gobble, but to no avail. Softly I produced a couple of soft clucks from my glass call and within seconds I could see the red heads of several toms as they gently appeared above the swell in the field 60 yards out.


With turkey heading back to camp
                                        Rolling field provided surprisingly good cover for approaching turkeys


Stunned, I watched as these newcomers slowly fed to my right. After a minute or so, it seemed as if they weren’t interested in coming closer, so I let out a few more soft calls. While the entire little flock inquisitively looked my way, they again began to feed parallel to my position. Panic surged through me as what seemed like a perfect opportunity appeared to be diminishing quickly, 15 more yards and they would slip out of sight over the rise ahead. Again I softly called when at last the lagging turkey veered from the rest and began heading my way. With great anticipation I waited and waited and waited until at 9 yards the gobbler was more than close enough. The relatively quiet pop of the .410 absolutely flattened the tom. Another historical moment for the heirloom, my son and I had our turkey and chalked up another memory for the ages!

idaho turkey with .410 gauge shotgun
                                    Make shift camo burlap blind and the ol' .410 did the trick on this Merriam's turkey