Until the morning I sent a load of copper 5s sailing over a Missouri gobbler's glowing white head, I didn't understand how anyone could miss a turkey. Now that I know, I've put scopes on my turkey guns.
The supertight patterns of Extra-Full turkey chokes leave little margin for error. Mispoint slightly and you'll brush the bird with the pattern fringe. Raise your noggin to watch him fall and you'll shoot over him. But a scope encourages you to keep your head down, and cross-hairs help you aim with precision. Unlike iron sights or a bead, a scope doesn't block out the lower half of the bird. And to my 45-year-old eyes, a turkey seen through optics (with just a hair of magnification) is distinctly brighter and clearer than the same bird seen through the lens of a red dot. Finally, you can put the crosshairs on a turkey faster than you can line up a bead.
There's plenty of good gobbler glass available. Here are four of my favorites:
Swarovski PV-I I hunted in Texas last spring with this 30mm scope, conceived for use on Cape buffalo and other large, mean animals. A 1.25X-4X variable, the PV-I provides a 98-foot field of view at 100 yards at 1.25X. This is so wide that you almost can see behind yourself. The PV-I has an illuminated circle reticle that rings your target with an orange halo, although the instrument is fully functional with the illumination switched off.
The PV-I also features a spring-loaded, collapsible eyepiece that gives way if the scope slams back into your forehead under recoil. It sells for $1,100. Is that more than most of us will pay for a turkey scope? Well, yes, but if I hunted gobblers for a living, I'd have one.
Leupold VX-II Shotgun You don't have to drop a grand to buy a great turkey scope. Leupold's fine VX-II 1X-4X Shotgun scope offers everything a turkey hunter needs in a lightweight, compact, matte-finished package at a list price of $339. With a heavy Duplex reticle that shows up in the brush, a 70-foot field of view at 100 yards, and generous eye relief, this model approaches gobbler glass perfection.
Cabela's Alaskan Guide This $149 muzzleloader scope is intended for use on blackpowder rifles in states that prohibit magnifying sights during "primitive" seasons. With no magnification and an 86-foot field of view, it's terrific on turkey guns, too. Think of it as a red dot without batteries. Target acquisition with a 1X scope is lightning quick. Just for fun, I've powdered flying clay targets with the Alaskan Guide on a turkey gun. Last fall I used it to shoot a hen that came scurrying quickly past my tree.
Bushnell Banner (Model 71-1436) Some shotguns with cantilever-style mounts require a scope with extra eye relief. Bushnell's Banner scope is a 1.75X-4X variable that puts a full 6 inches between your forehead and its eyepiece. Extended eye relief reduces field of view (at 1.75X the scope covers 35 feet at 100 yards), but that's about the end of its shortcomings. It has a thick, easy-to-see circle-plex reticle, and it's built to take heavy recoil. As $79 scopes go, this is a good one.
The Bushnell weighs about 12 ounces, the same as the Swarovski. Any scope and mounts add a pound to your gun, but I don't mind carrying a little extra weight over one shoulder if it improves my chances of hefting a 20-pound gobbler over the other.
Aimtech (229-226-4313; www.aimtechmounts.com) and B-Square (800-433-2909; www.b-square.com) mounts are the answer for putting scopes on turkey guns without drilled, tapped receivers. You can install them yourself in a few minutes. In theory, a receiver mount on a gun with a removable barrel shouldn't be accurate. But in practice, ranges are short in the turkey woods, and even a barrel that wiggles wildly won't be off target by more than an inch or two at 40 yards. --P.B.