I don’t know if my excitement is because of a rough turkey season last year or my desire to spend more time in the woods and less behind this desk.
Either way, I’m pumped to receive my new RAD MAX Pro for my Stoeger M3500 so I can get some practice before the big day.
A lot of the hunters I look up to for advice hunt with a pump-action Mossberg 500, Remington 870 Express, or a Winchester SXP. I chose the semi-auto shotgun because I wanted to save money and space and have a gun I can use more universally than a pump-action.
The first time I showed up to the range with an optic, I got a lot of jokes, but once the guys used a modern optic, they all became less skeptical. I’ve even converted a few friends that couldn’t get over the improvement in performance the RAD MAX optic gave them.
Where Do I Start?
Depending on your own financial situation, many hunters choose either the most expensive or the most affordable options.
I often see people buy a universal optic to ensure it fits a Picatinny rail, but didn’t think about how the optic fits their eyes and shooting style. When looking for the right optic, turkey hunters should ask themselves the following questions:
How Far Will You Be Shooting Your Shotgun?
The range of your shotgun has a big impact on how you will have to hunt, so it’s vital you know how far you’ll be shooting.
For turkey hunters, I think we can all agree that 50 yards with an extra-full choke is possible with a 3.5" magnum shell. However, even with my Stoeger M3500, I don’t think I’d take a shot past 50 yards. There are many factors in how far you can shoot, such as type of choke, ammo, barrel length, type of gauge, and vision.
What are the Best Turkey Loads?
When we’re considering shooting range, good ammo is a must if you’re wanting to go out to 50 or more yards.
The #4 pellets, especially in a 3.5" magnum, have enough power to get out to 55 yards with devastating power and accuracy. However, the recoil from 3.5" #4 pellets are going to hurt, regardless of who you are.
Choosing the load-out for each shell can be overwhelming for new hunters, but I would always suggest anything from a #4-#7 shell. Each shotgun is different, so it’s up to you to pattern your gun and determine which ammo works best for you.
There is a lot of debate about which shells are the best, but I don’t think anyone would argue with the performance and reliability of Federal Tungsten Super Shot (TSS) shells. Since Tungsten is denser than lead, you can have a lower # pellet size (#7 or #9) shot and have better and more consistent performance than #5 lead pellets.
The ability to pack smaller pellets in a shell offers better penetration and a higher kill rate. This leads to taking longer shots with a much better chance at success than using lead pellets.
My only complaint with TSS ammo is you’re going to spend around $75 for 5 shells with a 3.5" shell. You can get a better price if you go down to the 3" shells, which are proven to be just as effective.
Federal TSS Ammo
TSS #7 pellets are around 55% denser than #5 lead pellets
Overly expensive for most hunters
Tungsten-alloy used for pellets is 22% denser than Tungsten
TSS pellets offer better terminal velocity than lead pellets
TSS pellets are more accurate at 40 yards than lead pellets
TSS pellets are non-toxic!
TSS pellets significantly reduce the felt recoil of the shotgun
TSS pellets are more reliable than lead
TSS pellets offer about 22-22% pellets inside the kill zone (vs 10% for lead)
What is the Best Turkey Choke for TSS Ammo?
Personally, I’ve never taken a shot past 40 yards, but I’m confident in my Primos Jellyhead TSS Turkey Choke. I’m patterned out to 50-55 yards with Federal TSS Heavyweight shells with upwards of 15-20 pellets in the kill zone.
The Jellyhead TSS Turkey Choke from Primos is my favorite turkey choke because it’s versatile, reliable, and it’s optimized with my very expensive TSS ammo.
I use the .650 construction model meant for the 12 gauge, but you’ll have to choose the size based on your specific shotgun.
Even though the Primos Jellyhead Turkey Choke is perfect for TSS ammo, it shoots copper and lead shot with no problems. I love the versatility of the choke and the ability to shoot 50 yards with 100% confidence.
What Environmental Conditions Do You Expect to Encounter?
Spring turkey hunting is my favorite hunting season, and it’s not even close. I love waking up before the forest and listening to the animals and insects wake up as I sit in a blind or against a tree.
Spring weather can be very difficult to plan for because of the unpredictable rain showers and cycling between cold and hot temperatures.
Knowing the environmental conditions where you hunt is as important as anything else you plan for in a hunt. Having the right clothing for the season and the right weapon attachments is instrumental for a successful hunt.
Anything you use needs to be as effective at repelling water and dirt while maintaining operational capability in different lighting conditions.
For example, if you’re using an optic, it needs to be waterproof, shock-proof, abrasion-resistant, and have adjustable reticle settings for low-light and high-noon sunlight.
The best type of optic you can buy will have automatic adjustments to ensure you can keep your hands on the shotgun and your eyes on the target. For these reasons, the best optic for turkey hunting has to be the CT RAD Max Pro (Rapid Aiming Dot) Electronic Sight.
What Are the Benefits of a Red Dot Optic For Turkey Hunting?
One of my biggest complaints about a lot of hunters is how stringent some can be with traditional hunting gear and methods. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people insult me for using an RDS on my shotgun in the past year.
As guns and ballistics improve, companies like Crimson Trace, Leupold, and Vortex, are constantly innovating along with the guns and modern ballistics. I believe in the next few years; most hunters will have an RDS on their shotgun.
- An RDS provides optimal eye relief over a front fiber optic sight. Eye-relief is the distance the optic is from your eye. A longer eye relief gives you a full view of your peripherals to track turkeys. As every turkey hunter can attest, it’s difficult to determine exactly where a turkey will come out from the trees. Having a longer eye-relief helps to cover more ground while staying on target.
- My accuracy is always better with an RDS over a front sight. Being able to point and shoot with confidence is an advantage that I’ll take every day of the week. Once you zero your RDS, you just place the red dot on your target and pull the trigger. Wherever the red dot is at is where your spread will go.
- Target acquisition is the time it takes for you to identify your target and gain the target in your sights. One of the biggest advantages of an RDS is the target acquisition time. The RAD MAX will ensure you don’t miss out on a shot because you were too slow in getting the sights on the bird.
Where Do I Aim My Shotgun on a Turkey?
When most turkey hunters talk about the kill zone, they most likely mean the area between the brainstem (wattle) and halfway up the neck (caruncles). If your form and mechanics are correct, you’ll hit the turkey in the brain, neck, and maybe a few pellets in the shoulder area.
One of the few reasons I bought the Federal Premium TSS ammo is the chance to land up to 20 pellets in the kill zone of a turkey.
As you can tell from the Caldwell shooting target, 20 pellets inside that small of an area will be an instantaneous kill. As a hunter, there isn’t much more we can ask for other than a quick and ethical kill.
What MOA is best for a shotgun?
The whole reason for a shotgun is to increase your chance of hitting your target from 1 projectile to 100-200 projectiles. You can expect to see about 10%-20% of your load to hit a turkey at 40-50 yards.
Best Red Dot Sight for Shotguns
The Crimson Trace RAD MAX Pro has every feature that I might want for a shotgun optic. Spring turkey season might be my favorite time of the year, but my last couple of seasons look like the batting average of an aging catcher.
Crimson Trace RAD MAX Specs
Red Dot Rail Mount
M1913 Low-Profile Picatinny + Full Co-Witness Riser
3 MOA Red Dot
Yes, turns off after 2 minutes of no movement.
Ambient Light Sensor
Yes (CT Radiant)
Multi-coated (Extra Low-Density Glass)
50,000 Hours (5+ years)
Top of housing
The only thing I can do in hindsight is find out where I failed and get better or be more prepared for the hunt. Hunting in the dense National Forest of Virginia off great sunrises and sunsets, but they also ruin a lot of shots for hunters.
Understanding where you’re at in relation to the sun can make or break a hunt. Using an optic with no protection from the top and sides of the housing can be just as bad as without an optic.
The RAD MAX Pro has great protection from the sun from the sides and the top. The new top strap design that deflects the force of a drop on the top of the optic is another outstanding feature that won me over.
I hit my gun on more trees than I ever care to think about. I’m confident that if I drop my shotgun and the optic hits first, the 7075 steel housing will protect the optic.
After a few years of hunting in these forests, I’ve learned that I need to be on the move and mobile at all times in the National Forest. The competition is heavy and I’ve learned that the further I go out in the woods, the better chance I have to be alone.
I believe the CT RAD MAX Pro gives me the best chance to stay mobile, quick, and quiet. I’m not saying I had a say in what materials Crimson Trace uses, but they built the RAD MAX Pro in line exactly with what I needed for this turkey season.
What is The Most Impressive Upgrade With the RAD MAX Pro?
It’s been 3 years of turkey hunting for me in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, and I’ve been fortunate to be humbled (a lot) by these birds. In my brief experience, most of my shots are right after sunrise as they swoop down from their roost.
I’ve lost out on quite a few birds in the past 3 years from the sun hitting my line of sight between my balaclava and sunglasses. The other issue is the sun catching the lens and all I can get without moving is a white glow with maybe something moving in the reticle.
The CT Ambient Light Sensor is a game-changer for every turkey hunter trying to get an advantage on the life force of Earth (Sun). If the sun hits your RAD MAX Pro Lens, it automatically adjusts to the surrounding light. The reticle changes with its environment like a chameleon to manipulate the ambient light to its advantage.
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