All posts by Grant Carmichael

A few facts about modern turkey loads

Forward by Grant Carmichael

Every Spring, turkey hunters breakout their best turkey hunting shotgun to check the pattern and make sure things are in working order.  Patterning a shotgun for turkey hunting is as much necessary as it is fun – you need to be confident in your gun and its effective range.  As Jamey explains, modern turkey loads like the new heavier-than-lead (HTL) turkey shotgun loads are more expensive than their lead counterparts.  However, do your homework, and the results will show the best turkey shotgun patterns are found in the HTL loads due to the higher shot count and thier resistance to flyers.  For these reasons, I shoot HTL turkey loads out of my shotgun! – Grant

Indian Creek Chokes
In recent years many turkey hunters have decided to make the switch from shooting lead shot to one of the heavier-than-lead alternatives in their best turkey hunting shotgun. Others are wondering “what’s the big deal and why would anyone want to quit shooting turkeys with good old lead 5’s?” Well at some point everyone who made the switch has asked that question as well so it seems that this would be a good topic to look at a little deeper.

The decision to switch has been easy for some and difficult for others, myself included, and it could do us all some good to take a look at some factors that could contribute us to making that decision.

Let’s look at shot history

Lead shot has been around for a long time and has been the standard shot used for most small game hunting for everything from doves, quail, rabbits and squirrels and even larger game such as geese and turkeys. Lead shot is reasonably inexpensive and readily available in most sporting goods outlets and with its heavy weight it has proven to be an excellent shot material…it does however have some problems. Several years ago lead shot was outlawed for waterfowl hunting when it was discovered that the excess shot was being ingested by waterfowl while they were feeding and ultimately was causing damage to the breeding success of waterfowl. Its standard non-toxic replacement has been steel shot which is harder and considerably lighter than lead which therefore means it can’t be shot safely through some older shotguns and has a lesser killing range.

Ever since steel shot came on the market, there has been an effort to develop better alternatives which would perform as good as or better than lead and still be non-toxic to waterfowl and over time we have seen shot such as Bismuth, Hevi-Shot, Federal Heavy Weight, and Tungsten (commonly called TSS) come onto the market. Several of these have proven to be deadly in turkey hunting loads as well.

turkey shotguns for hunting

Material properties

Steel shot weighs about 7.5 grams per cubic centimeter (g/cc) and is harder than lead.

Lead shot weighs about 10.6 g/cc and is a relatively soft metal, deforms easily and is reasonably gentle on a gun barrel.

Hevi-Shot weighs about 12 g/cc and is a mixture of tungsten, nickel and steel and is a much harder metal than lead. It can damage the inside of the barrel of a shotgun and therefore must be loaded with thicker shot wads for more barrel protection.

Hevi-13 weighs about 13g/cc but is otherwise similar to regular Hevi-Shot.

Federal Heavy Weight weighs about 15.2 g/cc and has a higher percentage of tungsten in the metal which makes it heavier than the previously mentioned materials.

TSS weighs about 18 g/cc and has the highest percentage of tungsten of any shot available today and is therefore the heaviest shot currently available. It is an extremely hard material and requires even more precautions than the others to protect the shotgun from damage.

Loaded properly, any of these materials can be used for many years of turkey hunting without causing any shotgun damage.

Performance Comparisons

It is generally accepted that steel shot should not be used for turkey hunting.

Lead shot has proven to be a good turkey load and the most common shot size is probably #5. This shot size has enough energy and penetration to kill a turkey cleanly out beyond 30 yards as long as the pattern density is adequate.

Hevi-Shot #6 performs a little better than a lead # 5 and since the pellets are smaller it is possible to have more of them in the shell which makes the pattern denser as well.

Hevi-13 #7 performs about the same as lead #5 and Hevi-Shot #6. Smaller shot again allows it to have a denser pattern than the previously mentioned loads.

Federal HW #7 pellets perform even better still and if it were available in #8 shot it would actually be similar to those mentioned above. The Federal shell however uses an unusual shot wad that many shotguns do not shoot well. This shell/wad requires a more open choke and works best with non-ported chokes. Some shotguns will shoot this shell wonderfully while others never seem to work well with it.

TSS #9 performs similar or better than all of the previous shells mentioned and with the extremely small shot size it is possible to shoot extremely dense patterns out to 40 yds and beyond.

Hevi Shot Turkey Loads

Killing Power

Let’s face it, to kill a turkey with a shotgun two things are necessary; a dense enough pattern to place shot pellets in the “kill zone” of the head and neck, and pellets that carry enough energy to penetrate bone and into the vitals once they arrive on target.

With all other factors being equal, hard shot pellets will pattern more evenly than softer pellets due to the soft material being more easily deformed under the intense pressure it undergoes when the shot is fired. This is caused both by the initial compression on combustion and also by the shot being squeezed as it passes through the choke. When a pellet deforms it tends to fly erratically rather than straight and this can cause “flyers” and also cause the pattern to “open up” quickly as it travels downrange. Harder shot patterns open up also but at a lesser rate.

Pellet energy can be determined by formulas but it boils down to a combination of pellet weight and speed.

Penetration is based on energy but also takes into consideration pellet diameter. As an example, if you were to take a pencil and “stab” yourself with the eraser end and then do the same thing using the same force with the pointed end, which end do you think would penetrate deeper? It is not too difficult to see that a small pellet will penetrate better than a larger one even if they both have the exact same amount of energy.

Since speed plays an important factor in energy it should also be pointed out that a large lead pellet and a small tungsten pellet that may have equal energy as they leave the shotgun will not still have equal energy at 40 yds due to the fact that the larger pellet has more wind resistance and slows down more quickly than the smaller pellet. This can be demonstrated by throwing a BB and a ping-pong ball together and see which one slows down the quickest as they travel.


It is no surprise that once we go higher up the ladder than lead shot, we also go up in cost. I recently priced some 12ga turkey loads in lead, Hevi-shot, Hevi-13, Federal HW and TSS and here are the results with the prices averaged from several retailers.

  • Lead #5 1-3/4oz shot – $1.70 per shell – 296 pellets
  • Hevi #6 2oz shot – $5.00 per shell – 414 pellets
  • Hevi-13 #7 2oz shot – $5.60 per shell – 508 pellets
  • Fed HW #7 1-5/8oz shot – $5.00 per shell – 353 pellets
  • TSS #9 2oz shot – 7.19 per shell – 717 pellets
  • 20ga TSS #9 1-7/16oz shot – $5.18 per shell – 515 pellets

The last two are my actual costs for loading my TSS shells with no labor cost applied.

As you can see, other than with the lead shot, the cost per turkey shell really is pretty equal overall and I am spending about the same to kill a turkey with my little 20ga as others would to kill him with a big 12ga shotgun.


I have heard folks often state that the reason they keep shooting lead at turkeys is because of the cost. I submit to you that although I spend more money than I care to admit hunting the wild turkey, the amount I spend on my ammo doesn’t even scratch the surface of the overall expense. In fact my shell cost is likely one of my lowest expenses in turkey hunting and I can’t see any reason shell cost alone should cause someone to continue shooting lead.

Each of the pellets discussed, from lead to TSS, will kill turkeys within their limits and it is not my intention to convince anyone to switch loads but rather to better understand the differences between pellets so you can make an educated decision when choosing your turkey ammunition.

Ultimately I believe we as turkey hunters have an obligation to do everything in our power to cleanly kill every turkey we shoot at without wounding him and letting him get away to die later. No matter which type of load you choose I encourage you to practice shooting and pattern your gun so that you know exactly what it is capable of and then hunt within that capability.

Remember, a good rule to follow is to not shoot at a turkey further than your gun can reliably put 100 pellets inside a 10″ circle. That may be 30 yards for some and 45 for others but you won’t know unless you pattern your gun.
For reference, my 20ga consistently places 170 pellets in a 10″ circle at 40 yards using Federal HW #7 shells and 300+ using my TSS #9 hand loads. I get well fewer than 100 using lead #5 and my acceptable range using lead would be only around 25 yards but that is why I don’t hunt with lead.

Please note that some states have outdated laws that are based on lead shot and restrict turkey hunting to size 7 shot or even larger so you should consider that before heading out to hunt with TSS 9 shells.

By Jamey Rex for Grand Slam network

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GoPro HERO3 Review and Testing

Spring will be here before we know it, and a self-proclaimed turkey hunting addict can only sit in a tree waiting for BIG bucks for so long. It’s time to break out the new gear for Spring and see what makes the cut and what doesn’t. One thing is for sure – the GoPro HERO3 will be riding the barrel of my shotgun this Spring.   Here is my GoPro HERO3 Review!

Out of the box, the GoPro is much smaller that I expected. Its roughly 2×1.5” and comes with a few accessories and a clear waterproof housing. The housing works great, and my 2 year old daughter gave it the bathtub test, and it STILL works! It comes with several mounting accessories, but I have the suction cup and handlebar mounts. The suction cup, as you’ll see in the video is good for mounting the GoPro on the side of a car, a window, etc. I’ll use the handlebar kit to mount the GoPro on the barrel of my gun or on the bow’s stabilizer. You can also buy a remote, which I think I’ll buy soon.

Out of the box, the camera does lots of various types of shots, but I’ve just tested the HD video thus far. It appears to have a wide angle lens that is great for POV shooting and the image is crystal clear. As you’ll see in the archery video, it’s not great for long range shooting, but the wide angle lens makes a nice match for POV shooting…

Stay tuned for some Spring turkey hunting with GoPro HERO3!

Beard Hunter Calls – Custom Strikers

Well, by now you should know that different types of wood sound different on friction calls. One of my favorite things to do at a convention is to run a wide variety of friction calls with a plethora of strikers. In doing so, you can find the call and striker combination that you like best. In addition to the sound, you’ll find a striker that has the right balance and feel for the way you grip the striker. That is why I own every combination of striker from Beard Hunter Calls. Not only are they a work of art – but they have a great feel and balance – which is important to me. My personal favorites are the Purple Heart and Hickory strikers.

custom friction call strikers

Mero Custom Calls

Not only does this custom trumpet call from Mero Custom Call look great – it sounds and feels as good as it looks! The barrel on this trumpet is made from Cocobolo wood and the mouthpiece is ivory. The ferrule is made from a nickel brass .308 rifle casing, and the rubber lipstop and lanyard complete the trumpet nicely. In addition to his award winning trumpet calls, Brian from Mero Custom Calls builds some fine friction calls!

Custom trumpet call from Mero Custom Calls

Lodge Creek Custom Calls

While attending the 2012 GON Blast in Atlanta Georgia, I ran into a booth with great looking custom pot calls. After running them for a bit, I pulled out the plastic and purchased these 3 pot calls from Lodge Creek Custom Calls. For starters, lets take a look at the purr pot – it’s no secret that soft purrs and clucks will get that pressured tom to respond when excited hen yelps won’t do the trick. If you hunt public land, you know what I mean… those birds get yelped at all day long! You’ll see in the video below that Tater from Lodge Creek cups his hand and brings the call in close to his body to create realistic purrs and clucks.

The other two calls are their Two Sider Tamer Series. They are either glass or crystal on the front and have slate on the back for softer calling. One thing is for sure – my 2013 season will start with the purple heart glass Two Sider Tamer Series from Lodge Creek Custom Calls!

Videos of Turkey Sounds – Yelps, Cuts, and Purrs

We home these videos of turkey sounds will help you become a better turkey caller this spring in the turkey woods!

Turkey Sounds – Excited Yelp!

Not only do these guys know how to work a bird – they catch some great video footage of turkey sounds in the process. In this video, you can hear how fast the hen is yelping.

Fast forward to 7:30 to 8:00

Turkey Sounds – Yelps, cuts and kee kee

This is from the same group of guys, the Southern Gentlemen on YouTube. The entire video has some great calling, but starting at 2:40 you have some great spring time kee kee runs. Most young turkeys kee kee in the fall, but as this video shows, turkey do kee kee in the spring as well. With a little practice, the kee kee can be done quite easily with the mouth call. Click here to see a video of Jimbo Lindsey doing the kee kee with a pot call. Again, its not too hard to do – the key is to pinch or torque the striker and you typically run the call toward the outer edge.

Turkey Sounds – Yelps and Cuts

In this video really captures the hen’s yelps and cuts up close. It appears to be taken in the fall.

Turkey Sounds – Cutting

In this video the hen is cutting and purring as she searches out what she believes is another hen.

Gene’s Turkey Calls – Friction Pot Call

This custom turned friction pot call from Gene’s Turkey Calls is a killer! It’s a glass over glass ambrosia maple pot that comes with a one piece turned striker. As you can see in the picture, the call was carefully handcrafted and sounds as good as it looks! The call comes unconditioned and includes sandpaper and instructions for conditioning the call. Like other glass pot calls, use the sandpaper or a conditioning stone to condition the call in one direction only. The striker has a nice balance to it and it seems to be a natural fit with the pot. They have additional strikers available on their website too.

Gene’s Turkey Calls sells pot calls, scratch boxes, box calls, mouth calls and locator calls. Be sure to check them out – and tell them the Grand Slam Network sent ya!

Gene’s Turkey Calls


Baker Boys Original Turkey Coffin

Talk about an original custom call! This call is an “Original Turkey Coffin” from Baker Boys Turkey Calls. The Baker Boys Original Turkey Coffin – it’s a friction call that looks like a box call, but the striking surface is on the back and you use a striker like you would use on a pot call! You just run the striker in a straight line instead of a circular motion like you would on a traditional pot. As you work the call you can turn it in the direction you want to sound to carry, as the open end of the call acts as a speaker.

The surface of the copper needs to be sanded as often as needed! The call will not work if you touch the copper with your fingers because the oils in your hand will kill the sound. If this happens all you have to do is sand the calls surface with 220 or finer sandpaper or emery cloth. This call will make every turkey sound that you want out of a call! You can use soft calling by applying soft pressure on the call, and a louder sound as you add pressure – the harder you push down on the surface the louder it gets! The striker on this call is mounted with two holes on the call so it is always with the call in one package! This call is made of redwood and the striker is made of teak! This call was invented by my Dad Stanley Baker and is of his craftsmanship – a handmade and turned custom call! This call comes in many surfaces such as Copper, Glass, Aluminum, Slate, and Acrylic!

For more information on Baker Boys Turkey Calls, visit their website.

This is really a neat and fun call to work with. The key is to use the call like they do in the video below. By holding the striker high, you can get a nice purr and cluck. You can even place your hand over the box to muffle the sound producing soft calls! As with any copper call, you’ll need to use a scotch-brite pad to clean the copper that accumulates on the end of the striker.

Baker Boys Turkey Coffin

Baker Boys Turkey Coffin

Baker Boys Turkey Coffin

Turkey Hunting Times

If you’re new to chasing turkey in the Spring woods, you are probably wondering about the best turkey hunting times! For starters, your hunting times will differ from state to state. Most states have a spring turkey season and some have a fall season. Even within the spring and fall season, there are times that you are allowed to hunt. Some states allow you to hunt all day while others may only allow you to hunt from daylight until noon. Ultimately, you’ll need to review the turkey hunting regulations for your state to find the best times.

Finally, you’ll find that there are different turkey hunting strategies for hunting turkey in the fall, spring, morning and evening hunts.

Take time to visit the Online Discussion Forum to talk with other turkey hunters!

How to Condition Your Slate, Glass and Crystal Friction Calls

For the best sound, always keep your slate, glass, and crystal friction calls conditioned. Slate calls can be conditioned with Scotch Brite pads that can be found at most stores like Walmart or Home Depot. Simply run the Scotch Brite pad back and forth over the call’s surface. Scotch Brite can also be used to clean the tips of your striker – you really don’t want to use sandpaper! Sandpaper can change the shape of the striker’s tip. For glass and crystal calls, I recommend using a conditioning stone like David does in this video, but you can also use drywall sandpaper.