My 20-Gauge Season - Part 1
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
For 23 years I’ve not missed a turkey season, and for the vast majority of those years, I hunted with a rusty-trusty Remington 870 Express. Around my freshman year of high school, my father gifted me that shotgun, and since it’s been responsible for dozens of turks flopping their last across 13 states.
One day, it will belong to my son. The stories are countless, the memories will last a lifetime — and that is what I hope to pass on.
Yet for some reason, I decided to make a change for the 2020 Alabama turkey season. A change that at first seemed like an excuse to add another gun to my collection, but it turned into so much more than that. I committed to killing as many turkeys as I could with a 20 gauge.
Not seeing the coronavirus pandemic charging straight at our country like a freight train, I had big plans to invest a bunch of time on our lease in Alabama, a return-trip scheduled with my 12-year-old son to our home state of Iowa, and maybe work in South Carolina and Mississippi, as time and work allowed.
But that all changed when the health crisis hit, or at least when many states acquiesced to the panic and restricted non-resident hunting — among other rights.
My traveling hunts for 2020 were put on hold.
I committed to making the best of Alabama’s turkey season for my little family. And to augment the memories to be made by capturing as much of it on film as I could — just as I have for 20 years now.
Two friends from my northern motherland — entrepreneurs and outdoorsmen in their own rights — reached out and asked if I’d be willing to try some new tungsten-based turkey shot in my videos. Enter Jake and Zack from Boss Tom. Boss Shot Shells take bismuth and tungsten to new levels of lethality, achieving impressive velocities in turkey rounds, including .410, 28- gauge through 12-guage.
I was in.
America basically shut down shortly after I placed my order for a new Benelli M-2, and it didn’t arrive before our season began, thanks to the slowed pace of just about everything coast to coast. Admittedly, I shot my first turkey of the year with my 870 to cover the gap. Plus, it was proven and comfortable. And the Boss Tom 12-gauge rounds did the job.
No regrets. I was on the board. Given the current state of our society, I was grateful to have a turk beak in the dirt while under quarantine.
After that ice-breaker gobbler, I re-committed to my initial pledge to the 20-gauge. But not before my kids put on an epic show of responsibly and wild-turkey prowess. Things had started off right for my family. And all before my new shotgun arrived.
My second bird came just a few days after my first, both of which were saved on video thanks to my son running the camera. Honestly, the second hunt is one of the most amazing hunts, captured on four different camera angles, that I’ve ever seen — or experienced.
I shot that bird with my son’s Mossberg Bantam 20 gauge and Boss Tom loads.
Then my Benelli arrived.
Time to talk upgrades: Knowing my family of four would be competing for time — and space — we needed another blind. I was fortunate enough to compliment my already-proven Primos Double Bull Deluxe with the new Double Bull Surroundview 360. To see a side-by-side comparison visit this link: Surroundview 360 Vs. Deluxe.
After the shotgun arrived, I committed to getting the Benelli package patterned and ready for Alabama turkey war. And it only took three shots. The Inertia-Driven M-2 is, without a doubt, one of the smoothest-shooting shotguns I’ve ever used. It weighs less than 6 pounds, a feature I loved after a lifetime of heavy-duty pump-action 12.
The package from Benelli includes two key components I want to mention.
Turkey gun scopes, of any type, have been effective to a point, but unproductive when a scenario requires a quick shot. If you’ve turkey hunted enough, quick shots are commonplace. The Burris FastFire 2 makes it easy and natural to acquire a target quickly, whether from a blind or against the base of a giant white oak.
It took three shots at 25 yards to zero the red dot. But the knock-down power of the Boss Tom Tungsten is nothing short of impressive.
The second part of the Benelli M-2 package is the Rob Roberts turkey choke tube, which was specifically designed to match and enhance the M-2’s performance, and by adding long-range turkey loads like Boss Tom, the combination is simply badass.
The days of only a 10- or 12-gauge shotgun being effective at 50-plus-yards are long gone. The marriage between the M-2, FastFire 2, Rob Roberts choke tube and Boss Tom tungsten turkey loads take the lightweight Benelli 20-gauge to new distances.
Now, the 20-gauge is an effective 50-yard gun you can have confidence in.
It was time to put it to the test.
In Alabama, residents are allotted five gobblers, and for my third bird I managed to acquire permission on a friend’s property. It took well over 27 hours of commitment to finally kill the tom I was after, but I was especially thankful to truly test the distance capabilities of my new shotgun combo.
I killed that turkey at 45 yards — a shot previously not easily made with a 20 gauge. And as the video illustrates, it put him down instantly.
When I started hunting, it was about bigger, heavier guns with larger rounds, such as 3 1/2-inch chambers in both 12- and 10-gauge shotguns. In those days a 20 gauge was for kids and old men who didn’t want to haul a larger gun around, and the effectiveness was restricted to 30 yards or closer.
Now the trend seems to be shifting to smaller, lighter shotguns that produce an equal reach as their larger counterparts — pack more punch in a smaller package. I like that. Being able to shoot that bird with that shotgun at that distance help instill in me a sense of confidence in my new setup.
But one turkey or test isn’t enough … ~ Thomas
Thomas has spent over two decades pursing whitetails, turkeys and ducks across 10 states and two Canadian provinces. He currently works full time as Senior Editor for Bassmaster publications, but freelances on the side as a hunting videographer, photographer, editor and writer. His work has been featured in some of the nation's leading hunting and fishing magazines spanning nearly a 13-year content generating career in the outdoor market.