Georgia Hunting Land For Sale South Carolina Hunting Land For Sale North Carolina Hunting Land For Sale Hunting Land and Recreational Property For Sale

Is the 20 Gauge a Good Turkey Gun?


With the advent of the magnum shotgun shells several years ago, sub gages have a diminished representation in the world of turkey hunting. Ever since the 3 ½ inch shells first came onto the market, turkey hunting and turkey hunters have taken the approach that bigger is better. We even saw a rise in the manufacturer and sell of 10 gauge guns for several years. It seems that turkey hunting has taken the same medicine as pro baseball. Forgetting the fundamentals in exchange for power. Where as in baseball teams gladly trade two hundred strikeouts a season for twenty home runs. Turkey hunters trade calling technique and woodsmanship for longer range shotguns.

And while there will always be those who prefer bigger shells or as one acclaimed turkey aficionado once said “the only reason I don’t shoot 4” shells is because they don’t make them.” There will still be those who prefer to hunt and kill turkeys with smaller guns, or as they are known sub-gauges.

This is where the twenty gauge comes into play. The 20 gauge loaded with 3” number five is just as deadly inside 40 yards as is a 12 gauge 3” shell. Dead is dead right? I mean how dead does he need to be to still be dead? It is true the 12 gauge will have more shot and a tad more powder, the effectiveness of the 20 in comparison is so similar that it is a wonder why more hunters do not use the smaller 20 gauge when hunting turkeys. Where the 20 falls short is on the extended ranges the larger guns provide. But under most circumstances the 20 is more than ample to kill a turkey inside the range most turkeys are killed.

When I first started hunting turkeys in the late 1970’s finding a three inch shell in anything other than buckshot was difficult. Manufacturers just didn’t make them. Hunters all over were effectively killing turkeys with the old standard 2 ¾ inch shell in the popular # 4. Nowadays, more and more turkey hunters are using smaller shot to achieve the same satisfaction. Some are using # 6 shot a few are even using # 7 ½ shot and a few still are using # 9 shot to kill the turkeys. More on that later. But having said all of this, the truth of the matter is that under most hunting conditions, the 20 gauge is very capable of killing a lot of turkeys. Many female hunters who decided long ago that the recoil of the 3 ½ inch shell was not worth the damage have used the 20 gauge exclusively.

Vicki Cianciarulo one half of “America’s Favorite Hunting Couple” along with her husband Ralph and hosts of Archer’s Choice and The Choice televisions shows on the Outdoor Channel has used the 20 gauge exclusively for decades to kill dozens of turkeys. Preferring to use the 20 gauge Vicki says, “There is really no reason to use anything else. Most of the shots are inside twenty-five yards so why wouldn’t I use it.”

On the furthest extreme of the sub-gauge hunters, Charles Hudson of Travelers Rest, SC switched to a .410 pump shotgun a few decades ago. “I have killed more than my fair share of turkeys, so I raised the ante a few decades ago and started using the .410 with # 9 Tungsten shells.” Hudson is a legend in the world of turkey hunting in South Carolina and began hunting turkeys the very first year it was legal and has not missed a season in over sixty years. Having “more grand slams than I can count” Hudson is a key advocate for sub-gages. He agrees with the sentiment that if more hunters would learn better woodsmanship and calling techniques they would not feel the need for the use of the largest legal shells available.

Granted Hudson is in the minority when it comes to using the .410, but his sentiments are still appropriate. Sub-gauges are more than capable of killing turkeys. Perhaps, you should give it a try and put some time patterning your gun to know the effective range of your 20 gauge and learn that killing turkeys is not about how big of a gun you can shoot. Rather it is about the experience in the woods.