Smoke Signals

Sept/Oct 2011



Staff Writer


Those fine feathered friends are about to come into season again here in the Rockies. We have all read from different sources about the best or perfect load for hunting turkey. Seems the loads vary from one writer to another that's why I'm bringing this up. Many of you may have seen or heard of this fine gentleman, a wonderful muzzle loading gun maker, very good hunter and just a fun guy to know.

Yes I'm talking about the one and only Danny Caywood of "Caywood Gunmakers" of Berryville, AR. I own several of his fine arms and recommend to anyone that wants a first class muzzle loading firearm.

Back to my original statement, "Turkey Loads". Danny has this information posted on his website and believe me its dead on the money for "optimum pattern density" as Danny states in the title to this article. Read his article then grab that smoke pole, and the needed supplies Danny says and head out back for your own testing.


Turkey Loads for Optimum Pattern Density.

by Danny Caywood of Caywood Gunmakers.

In reading about recommendations for loading shot in smoothbores, we often come across references to the use of fiber wads, felt wads and heavy over-powder cards.  Far be it from us to pretend that we know it all when it comes to shooting shot loads. However, it seems to be clear and reasonable when you stop and consider this; if the component over the powder is heavier than any individual shot pellet, it is very possible that the heavy component will overtake the shot charge after it leaves the muzzle and hit it. This quite often results in splotchy patterns or donut hole patterns. Sound familiar? If you've suffered this occurrence, here is a loading tip that might help put a longbeard on the table. This pertains to cylinder bore guns, but can be used in choked guns also. 

We recommend using only over-shot cards on the POWDER charge, if you want a tight pattern . 

The reason is that the light cards, say 3 or 4, seal the gases upon ignition and as they exit the muzzle, being light, they don't follow the charge and disturb it. They tend to go to the sides and leave the charge flying straight. If you desire a tight pattern for turkeys, purchase either nickel-plated, copper-plated, bismuth or any other HARD shot (not steel) of your choice. The reason for hard shot is this. If a round pellet stays round, it will fly straight. And by extension, 500 round pellets will fly straight if they stay round. When they get flattened or mis-shaped by the crush of the powder igniting, they will not fly straight and you will get many flyers. Bismuth may be the best because it is almost as dense and heavy as lead shot and almost as hard as steel. So it has the penetration of lead, but stays round for true flight to the target.

The suggested loading procedure for maximum pattern density is this;

Using your shot dipper as a powder measure, pour down a set amount ( example; 1 1/8 oz of volume for a 20 ga.),  then seat 3-4 overshot cards on the powder to pack it and push out any air. Then take a single overshot card and push it down the bore approx. 3 inches. Now, take that same volume of shot, as used for the powder measuring, and drop it down onto the card where it will be visible. Then take a dipper full of cornmeal  muffin mix ( not straight corn meal) and drop onto the shot. Tap the side of the barrel ( keep head and eyes from in front of muzzle!) until the shot works it's way to the top and the cornmeal has worked down into the shot charge. This will provide a buffering element so that when the powder ignites, the shot will push against the meal not the other shot pellets. Then place one overshot card on the shot load and seat it on the powder. The reason to use the muffin mix and not the straight corn meal is that there are sugars and fats added to the mixture that aren't present in the straight corn meal. Apparently, these pack somewhat and allow the charge to be bunched up for short distance from the muzzle, helping to give you a great pattern. We recommend using no. 7 or 7 1/2 size shot for turkeys for the pattern density. These size pellets will penetrate a gobbler's skull at 26-28 yards which is about as far as one should shoot at a turkey with a cylinder bore gun anyway. If this load does not give you a good pattern, try using one less increment of powder as thrown by your shot charger, so that you are using just a little more shot . If you are using choked guns, you can go to the bigger shot sizes.

By all means experiment with your gun to see which loads pattern best for THAT PARTICULAR GUN. Sometimes, a gun will throw a better pattern when LESS shot and powder are used. And by using the corn muffin mix when you shoot a turkey, the bird is already smoked and breaded and ready for the frying pan when you pick it up.





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