Gun Talk: Use What You Have

At church Sunday evening, while I should have been focusing on what the minister was saying, my mind kept drifting back to a question my friend Gary asked during the pre-service meet and greet time that hinges around the coffee pot.

Gary had been sharing his recent deer exploit (one day afield; one small buck). Gary is retired and is not an experienced hunter (he’d borrowed his son’s muzzleloader for the hunt) but was very pleased with his deer success. He said he was thinking about trying turkey hunting and said someone told him he’d need a  “3 1/2-inch” shotgun. He wasn’t sure what that meant.

Another friend, who is a skilled and highly experienced hunter, joined the conversation and – with only the best of intentions and wanting only to help – delved into the attributes and detriments of various chambers, chokes and gauges. His information was accurate and detailed but long before he announced that a 12 gauge, full choke 3-inch would be okay for turkeys, Gary’s eyes had glazed over. I know this look. Your listener (or reader) has no idea what you’re talking about and (in Gary’s case) is too polite to say so.

I’m often guilty of this and wonder how many of us unintentionally cool a budding interest in hunting or fishing with an onslaught of data resulting in sensory overload. Wishing to help, we dump an avalanche of information on someone and, suddenly, if you’re on the receiving end of this pronouncement, the endeavor appears hopelessly complicated.

I caught up with Gary after church and asked what he’d decided about a turkey gun. He shrugged with an “I don’t know” kind of smile.

I told him that I am not a turkey expert (I’m not; far from it, in fact) but suggested that he use the shotgun he has, regardless of gauge or chamber. Just use what he’s comfortable shooting. He offered that the only shotgun he’d ever used is the one he used for squirrel hunting. I said that a gun that will handle squirrels will down a turkey. We talked briefly about patterning his gun so he’d know its effective turkey range but I thought his gun (a 12-gauge 870, 3-inch, modified fixed, as it turned out) would be fine.

My friend seemed relieved. I only hope that the advise was sound.