I returned from South Africa two weeks ago after an unbelievable ten day hunt in the Limpopo Province. It took me well out of my comfort zone and left me with an appreciation for a new hunting experience and some unforgettable memories. I was fortunate enough to hunt at Greater Kuduland Safaris on their 145,000 acre property. I saw so many different animal species while hunting there, and the diversity and animal numbers are a testament to what a good habitat can do for native species.
An African hunting trip was never something that was on my radar. I’ve never been on a guided trip before and was a bit anxious about the entire experience. But after the first few days of hunting, I was quick to realize that I was among kindred spirits. We hunted hard everyday in beautiful country and enjoyed the ups and downs of any normal hunting trip.
While there, I was fortunate enough to harvest an impala and a warthog with my recurve, and on the second to last day was able to take an awesome wildebeest bull with a rifle. I’ve got a journal full of chicken scratch and a plethora of photos to accompany the memories in my head. With so many great memories, I plan to share these experiences in several individual posts in the future.
By many people’s standards, I am still a young man. But, north of thirty years old doesn’t feel the same as south of thirty did. I feel my mortality after a day of stalking brown trout on round creek rocks and hiking the miles out of a deep canyon. As I walked back to the truck losing myself in the sounds and smells of the forest, I became contemplative. This often happens after a day fishing alone and talking to myself on the creek. The title of a Charles Bukowski poem pops into my brain and I found myself muttering the words softly under my breath – “the days run away like wild horses over the hills…”
There is no doubt when I married my wife, I married up. On this past Mother’s Day, I asked my beautiful 18 week pregnant wife what she wanted for Mother’s Day. I expected the usual: a day to herself at the spa or a new item of clothing that she had been eyeing. Instead, she asked for a weekend of sleeping in the dirt, eating food cooked over a fire, walking in the woods, and playing in the creek.
Spring time has quickly become one of my favorite times of the year for one simple reason – turkey season. Each year, around the first of the year, I start thinking about getting into the woods, looking for turkey sign, and straining my ears for the sound of a gobble. Last year, I was fortunate enough to bag my first Merriams gobbler after multiple seasons of trying to get it done, and as I reflected on my time in the field and the gear that I carried, I started researching on how to improve my efficiency with a shotgun. It wasn’t long before I was able to get my hands on a couple of chokes from Carlson, and after some time on the range and in the field, I was a firm believer in Carlson Choke Tubes.
Options – Carlson offers choke tubes for every situation a shotgunner will need. For the purpose of this review, Carlson provided a Remington Long Beard Choke Tube with a diameter of .660 and one of their Remington Extended Choke Tubes with a diameter of .675. If you take any time to peruse the Carlson website, you’ll quickly see that they have chokes of every shape, color, and size for all the major brands of shotguns, for any type of hunting or shooting scenario.
Lifetime Warranty – All Carlson choke tubes are backed by a lifetime warranty.
Made in the USA – All Carlson choke tubes are made in the USA.
Construction – Carlson’s Choke Tubes are made from the finest corrosion-resistant 17-4 PH stainless steel available.
To be perfectly clear, I am not a shotgun expert. I own a couple of shotguns. I shoot them often. But when it comes to the nuances of patterning them, I always went out, shot a couple of shells at different yardages to figure out what my max range could be, and called it good. With the Carlson chokes in hand, I took a Saturday morning to run out in the desert and see how these chokes patterned. My good hunting partner Austin and I both shoot Remingtons which was advantageous when it came time to seeing how the different chokes performed through two different shotguns. I shoot a Remington 870 Express chambered up to a 3″ shell, and Austin shoots a Remington 1100 chambered up to a 3 1/2″ shell.
We both had always just stuck with the factory standard Remington full choke (diameter of .691) that came with the shotgun for turkey season, so I started with shooting at 40 yards with the full choke. I switched chokes out and immediately was overwhelmed by how much denser the pattern was at 40 yards. I spent the next hour shooting different shells, swapping chokes between guns, and varying my distance from the target. To be clear, I’m not going to get super technical on patterning, but there was a significant increase in pattern density. After the smoke cleared, my 870 Express really liked the Long Beard XR choke with a .660 diameter shooting 3″ Winchester Long Beard XR loads. Austin’s 1100 partnered the Carlson Extended Turkey Choke with a .675 diameter and a 3-1/2″ shell. After a morning of shotgun patterning, I had a sore shoulder and confidence in what my shotgun was capable of.
Our season unfolded with plenty of turkey hunting. Austin spent a couple days in Texas and scratched out 2 Rios. I went to Missouri with my buddy Hunter and had some success decoying in a mature 3 year old. After that, Austin and I hunted here in Arizona which resulted in a Austin shooting a beautiful Merriam’s gobbler and I followed up with a jake. Our shots during these hunts ranged from 30-55 yards. Having success with this many turkeys and giving all the credit to choke tubes is a bit much. But, I will say, I’ve never been more confident pulling the trigger during a hunt, then after I spent time patterning my gun and knowing how much better it performed with the Carlson choke versus the factory choke.
Made in the USA
Constructed of high grade stainless steel
There really is no con for getting an aftermarket choke tube. The only con I could possibly see for tightening up your choke for turkey hunting is if you hunting in a thick area and most of your shots are closer than 15 yards. At that range, a more open choke would be appropriate for the situation. I can’t stress enough. Pattern your shotgun and have confidence in what it does at different yardages.
Prognosis: I was extremely pleased with the quality and performance of the Carlson Choke Tubes and would highly recommend them to any of my hunting buddies. Check them out.
The reviews at Arizona Wanderings are my honest opinion. These choke tubes were provided for the purpose of this review by Carlson Choke Tubes. Arizona Wanderings is not sponsored by or associated with any of the stated companies and is accepting no compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this review. My independent status may change in the future but, as of the date of publication, no relationship other than described above has been pursued or established.
The afternoon before turkey season opened, we got the truck stuck in a snowdrift that covered the road on the way to our camp spot. It took us several hours of digging and hauling logs and rocks in order to finally free the truck. By the time we finally pitched our tents and built a fire, the sun was going down and the temps were dipping towards freezing, so we opted to fill our bellies with red meat, potatoes, and a nip of bourbon.
The next day unfolded about as perfectly as any day of turkey hunting can. I screwed up our first setup on a tom gobbling his head off, but our second setup worked out pretty well. Austin shot a real nice mature bird that came into our mid morning setup. After cleaning his gobbler up and getting ready for the packout, we decided to make another set up on our way out. After a hen came clucking in, a young jake wandered in from the opposite direction. I couldn’t resist and knocked him down for a nice double bird day.
It’s not often that things work out like this on this hunt. I felt blessed to have a successful hunt and still have the weekend to spend with my family. After cleaning and stowing gear, it seems like a long time until the fall hunting seasons kick back on.
The short flight on the tiny 8 person Cesna from St. Louis to Kirksville touched down hard and bumped along the run way towards a small building. The co-pilot turned around in his seat with a big smile and said “welcome to Kirksville.” The countryside that I had seen from the air was a maze of rolling crop and grazing fields, separated by vast swaths of timber – turkey country. My good buddy Hunter was waiting in his truck as I collected my bag and made my way out of the airport terminal. After a quick handshake and back slap, we were on our way down the road to roost some turkeys for the next morning.
For the next four days, I received a crash course in Hillbilly 101 as we called to turkeys, hunted for mushrooms, drank around the campfire and pulled off ticks. Life in Missouri is simple. Work hard, go hunting, help each other, and then go hunting again. I was overwhelmed with the hospitality of Hunter and the folks that he introduced me to. My goal for the trip was to shoot a mature Eastern tom, andas any turkey hunter will tell you, the best laid plans often go awry. For the first two days we hunted our tails off and danced the dance of sitting, calling, and stalking pressured turkeys. We had a couple of close calls, but luck was not on our side.
Our patience was finally rewarded on day three when we found a strutting tom in the back corner of a large field with a small flock of hens. He was clearly a dominant bird who showed off for his harem. After watching him for a few moments through the binoculars, Hunter broke out his strutting gobbler decoy, and we belly crawled about 300 yards across the field behind the decoy. The male bird was pretty upset that our decoy would have the audacity to try and steal his ladies, and he half strutted half ran his way across 400 yards to let us know his displeasure. When he made it to 45 yards out, I peaked my shotgun out from behind the decoy, calmed my breathing while picking a spot on his wattles, and squeezed off a shot. When the smoke cleared, I ran up to find a beautiful specimen of an Eastern turkey and my feet. I could hardly believe what had just happened. With a quick prayer of thanks, we tagged the bird and admired his spurs, beard, and iridescent plumage. For two days our patience and positive outlooks were tested, and to be honest, doubt had begun to creep into my mind that third morning. But with persistence, a good hunting buddy, and a little bit of luck, everything came together.
The next morning, Hunter and I were back in the same area, looking for a bird for him to put a tag on. A morning rain foiled our initial setup, but birds started to pop up in the fields once it cleared. We glassed up a mature tom strutting on the tree line and after a quick stalk, Hunter also filled his tag. It was a surreal way to end my time in Missouri. There is no substitute for being in the field with a like minded hunting partner. Thanks to Hunter and all the fine folks I met while in Missouri. Between the hospitality of the people and the beauty of the countryside, I feel blessed to have experienced the best that Missouri has to offer.
Post Script ~ Although we were hunting as friends, Hunter spends most of his spring guiding for turkeys and fall guiding for waterfowl. He’s got years of experience and I learned a ton from hunting with him this week. If you are in the Midwest and looking to book a hunt, give Hunter Bender a shout. Another plug I want to throw out there is to Rick and Drake Morris at The Turkey Roosttaxidermy shop. Hunter and I would spend the afternoon lounging around their taxidermy shop, laughing, talking hunting, and watching them work. If you are looking to have a turkey mounted, these guys have one numerous state and national awards and are the real deal.
Hunting with Pat Flanagan on his guide’s day off is no picnic. After walking through Mearns country all day, I began to imagine that if he took off his boots, you’d see goat hooves instead of feet. I guess that’s what happens when you guide for quail in southern Arizona and chase your pack of shorthairs up and down those hills.
Watching his dogs work out the birds was a thing of beauty. Their dark bodies weaved and crossed in front of us through the yellow grass, occasionally circling back for a gulp of water before plunging back into the golden landscape. Pat’s dogs lived up to the hype and found us multiple coveys. The ice cold Modelas and tailgate full of birds at the end of the day was worth the work.
As quail season winds to a close, I can’t help but ponder over the days in the field spent by myself and with friends. I know that it’ll be a couple long months before I’m watching a covey flush and bringing the shotgun to my shoulder. Until then, I’ll be living off of days like this, replaying the day’s events over and over again in my mind.
Pat runs Border to Border Outfitters and you can hunt birds with him from Minnesota all the way to Arizona and everywhere in between. Check him out at Border to Border Outfitters.