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Go Ahead, Be an Optics Snob

Burris Fast Fire II Reflex-style scope affords fast target acquisition.
Burris Fast Fire II reflex-style scope affords fast target acquisition.

A turkey hunting friend once called me an “optics snob.” He made the comment while sneering at a very expensive red-dot sight mounted atop my very old Remington 870.

At first, I downplayed the fact that the sight was worth at least twice the value of my shotgun. I explained that I had found my treasure — an Aimpoint 7000SC — at a too-good-to-be-true price in a Cabela’s Bargain Cave. I almost tripped over my tongue apologizing for the fact I was using military-quality optics to hunt a 20-pound bird.

I also pointed out that if a guy is going to bother adding a sight to his gun, going cheap is worse than using no sight.

He replied by pointing out that I could have bought a new shotgun, with plenty of change for shells, for the cost of the Aimpoint.

I’ll admit his comment gnawed at me for a while. But now, a dozen years later, I’ve never regretted my purchase.

Aim — Really Aim

Burris Fast Fire II

I can miss a turkey with the best of them. When I recall my most memorable misses, almost all of them occurred when I lifted my head off the gunstock. Whether it was the excitement of the moment that caused me to peek, or whether I tried to force a shot at a difficult angle, the result was that my eye wasn’t properly aligned with the barrel. A scope or red-dot sight forces you to aim — really aim.

A few years ago, I traveled from Wisconsin to Texas for a hunt with my friend Dodd Clifton of Realtree. I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of flying with a firearm, so I made arrangements to borrow a camp gun from the owner of the ranch where we were staying.

Dodd had gotten in a day earlier and scouted, so I gladly followed his tip on where to hunt the next morning. His advice was superb. My calling was good enough. And when a Rio gobbler following a dozen hens came by, my borrowed gun boomed, sending two ounces of shot rattling through the mesquite bushes a foot over the tom’s fat red head.

I hadn’t really aimed. Instead, I’d kind of waved the barrel in the tom’s general direction, anticipated the excitement of seeing him fall, and then slapped the trigger. I hadn’t been careless on purpose, of course. After all, I don’t think I’m completely inept with a shotgun. It’s just that turkeys rattle me, which is half the fun of chasing them. But missing hurts, especially after traveling a couple thousand miles for the privilege. And in the moments after a miss, I don’t know that any price would be too high for a nifty little piece of glass that would have prevented it from happening.

I’ll always argue that your aiming system is every bit as important as the type of shotgun you shoot. When you find the best barrel, choke and shell for your gun, your work is only half done. You need to place shots with precision, especially with today’s technology helping us drill super-tight patterns that leave little margin for error at close range.

Reflex Sights

To aim with ultimate precision, you have two choices: a traditional scope or reflex sight. I’m a big fan of the reflex sight, generically known as a red-dot sight. A reflex sight can be housed in a tube like a traditional scope, or it can take a more compact, open form. Regardless of the housing, when you peer into a reflex sight, you see a red (or sometimes green) dot. After you’ve sighted in properly, the gun hits wherever the dot is placed.

A reflex sight shouldn’t be confused with a laser sight, which projects a light onto a target. The dot simply appears to float within the glass, providing a very quick way to bring your gun to bear on the turkey.

Most reflex sights have no magnification, which is fine for turkey hunting. Some models let you change the dot size. This is defined in terms of MOA, which stands for minute of angle — how many inches the dot covers at 100 yards. For turkey hunting purposes, a 4 MOA dot is about perfect.

My aforementioned Aimpoint is still in service, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I’ve been fortunate to experiment with a few of the miniature, open styles. This past spring in Oklahoma, I used a neat little optic from Burris, the FastFire II (see the accompanying photo), mounted on Benelli’s Vinci, which I discussed in the February 2010 issue.

A huge advantage of this new breed of reflex sight is its light weight. The FastFire II weighs only 1.6 ounces. This is one of the more affordable quality sights available. If you’re interested in this type of sight, also look at the Zeiss Z-Point and Trijicon’s RMR sight.

Traditional Scopes

Nikon’s new Turkey Pro lets you aim with ultimate precision.
Nikon’s new Turkey Pro lets you aim with ultimate precision.

The concept of a traditional scope built specifically for turkey hunting has been around for a while, and through the years, several manufacturers have offered scopes with built-in range-finding reticles. This is helpful when a gobbler finally steps into view and you’re wondering if he’s as close as he looks.

Most of these scopes have been offered in variable power, which is more of a nice-to-have than a necessity at the ranges we shoot at turkeys.

I saw Nikon’s newest iteration of this technology at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in January. Nikon has dubbed its new creation the Turkey Pro, touting the scope’s Ballistic Turkey Reticle as a built-in ranging device. The scope has a variable power from 1.65X to 5X. When you look through the Turkey Pro, you see two circles. The small circle on low power, or the large circle on high power, covers an area from the top of a tom’s head to the bottom of his wattles at 40 yards.

Another thing turkey hunters will appreciate is the generous five inches of eye relief. This lets you see a full field of view through the scope without having to crowd your eye up to it and risk getting whacked when you pull the trigger on a magnum load.

Nikon also added a unique removable anti-glare covering to the objective lens to reduce the risk of a sharp-eyed tom catching a glint of sunshine off the scope.

Snob Indeed

Every time I settle that little red dot on a tom’s neck and squeeze the trigger for a clean shot, I think about my friend’s comment from so many years ago.
“Optics snob,” I think as I carry my bird out of the woods, and I’m proud of it.

April 2010 issue of Turkey & Turkey Hunting magazine.This article appeared in the April 2010 issue of Turkey & Turkey Hunting. To load up on a subscription, click here.

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