We're talking turkey hunting? In late December? You bet! By the time the holidays are finished and you get the chance to read this, you could be turkey hunting in less than 90 days! Now’s the time to start getting ready, especially if you’re going to make changes to your rig like adding sights to your turkey gun.

The thrill in turkey hunting is bringing a wary old tom in close. The closer the better. The ultimate would be to pull him into your lap where you wouldn’t have to shoot him at all; you could just reach out and grab him!

When you pull a strutting tom so close you can feel the vibration of his drumming through your whole body, then you know you’ve done everything right as a hunter. Your calling was good…or at least good enough. You were perfectly camouflaged to avoid detection. And even more important, you avoided the temptation to move or even blink. You were the ultimate predator.

While that’s the thrill of turkey hunting, it just wouldn’t be the same without the chance to finish the deal; to make the shot and claim your prize—along with delicious dining for you and your family. Fresh, wild turkey breast on the grill alongside some wild greens or morel mushrooms is the greatest spring tonic. So you definitely do not want to miss.

The backwoods adage is that if you haven’t missed a turkey, you haven’t hunted them very much. But the secret you don’t hear told very often is it’s way easier to miss a turkey up close than it is to miss one out there 20, 30, or 40 yards. And it becomes truer as each season brings new technology in shotshells and shotguns to make turkey loads shoot ever-tighter patterns. Gone is the margin for error that used to exist for shots less than 10 yards.

At these super-close ranges, your shotgun is performing more like a rifle than a scattergun. At 10 yards and in, you’re dealing with a “pattern” less than three inches across. Out at 40 yards it has expanded to at least 24 inches in diameter and it’s probably just as deep (that’s why they call it a “shot string”). So you have way more margin for misalignment at 40 yards than you do at 10.

The answer for accurate shooting at turkeys is the same for both ranges, but these days it’s more important close than it is far. PUT SIGHTS ON YOUR TURKEY GUN!

Any kind of adjustable sighting system will do. Iron sights or peeps are great. There are other good open sight options specially designed for turkeys, too. A red dot or reflex sight is a smart choice. Scopes (especially ones built for turkey hunting) are also great, but be careful. Heavy turkey loads are notorious for slap-you-in-the-head kind of recoil. If you creep up on that scope in the excitement of having a turkey in your lap, you’re going to end up with at least a nasty headache, and might need a whole bunch of stitches.

The key to sights on a turkey gun is adjustability. You must sight-in your turkey shotgun just like you do a rifle, but after you have the patterning centering nicely at 20 or 30 yards, you’ll do the precision adjustment on your turkey gun at 10 yards or less. That’s just the opposite of sighting in a rifle, where you do the fine work at greater distances.

Shoot a few of your chosen loads at seven or eight yards, and you’ll quickly see why it’s so important. If your aim is off just a fraction with a pattern the size of a golf ball, you miss! And that’s what we are trying to avoid.

Next time you’re out listening for birds going to roost and the conversation turns to shooting turkeys, tell the old timers the most important reason for sights on a turkey gun is shooting birds close. It will likely start a debate that will last a long time after the last turkey has flown up for the night…but guaranteed, you’re on the winning side of this one, and you’ll teach the old timers a thing or two!