JJ Reich, our friend and public relations specialist for Weaver Optics, begged to tell us about his experience hunting with Weaver's new Vertical Zone Turkey (VZT) scope from the KASPA series. While we know JJ's job is to twist our editorial arms into believing all of his brand's products are the greatest things since sliced bread, we got a firsthand look at the scope ourselves. Upon initial inspection, it seems to be a fine turkey hunting optic. Plus, we all personally know JJ as an avid turkey hunter, so we sat down to hear his story—and drill him with questions—about the VZT. Here's how it went down.
Starting With A Bang In Kansas
The very first field test of the VZT scope kicked off during Kansas' general season turkey opener in April of 2013. As daylight broke the morning darkness, JJ and his friend Mike Mattly set up their gobbler and hen decoys and settled into a thick corner-edge overlooking a wheat field, where they had witnessed a set of twin toms exit the crops the night before.
"It was opening day and we had high hopes that our scouting would pay off," JJ explained with a giddy tone in his voice. "And it did. A few moments after settling in, gobbles shook the nearby treetops. Those calls made our hearts pound like crazy."
Soon, the gobblers hit the forest floor. Mike slowly twisted his head and looked back. He smiled as he saw two massive black-feathered blobs glide in their direction. JJ kept his shotgun straight ahead, pointing at a natural opening between the trees. As the gobblers approached, they stopped just shy of his shooting lane.
"I prayed they would take just a few more steps," JJ recalled. "I just wanted to see that red, white and blue head of the lead gobbler in the crosshairs of my turkey scope."
However, the trophy tom nervously turned and walked away with the second tom following suit.
"We picked up our turkey calls and let out a string of clucks, purrs and inviting yelps," JJ said.
The twin toms stopped in the shadows of the large pine trees above the ridge.
"I thought they were heading down the ridge to exit the area," JJ said. "But instead, they started strutting back and forth, gobbling their heads off!"
Sweet Scoped Success
After about 15 minutes of what seemed to be constant calling, the twin gobblers proved to be quite suborn. So, JJ and Mike picked up their calling pace and became more aggressive.
JJ's beautiful Kansas gobbler had 1-1/4-inch spurs, an 11-inch beard and weighed-in at an ounce shy of 25 pounds. "Finally, the toms broke loose," JJ explained. "It was obvious the lead gobbler changed his mind; he was set on approaching our decoys and he was coming in hot!"
This time, the turkey didn't hesitate.
"His head and neck appeared in my scope and the reticle settled perfectly in the middle of his neck," JJ said. "I just squeezed the trigger. My scope did its job. The tom dropped dead to the dirt."
The second tom turned and took a few steps to escape, but then stopped to look back at his fallen companion. Mike tried a quick, offhand shot but missed, and the gobbler quickly escaped untouched.
"He shot high, over the gobbler's head," JJ recalled. "After the hunt, he admitted that he was a bit jealous to see me with my new turkey scope. He told me he was definitely interested in getting a scope for next year."
"My huge gobbler is one of the best turkeys I've ever shot," JJ said with a boastful smile. "So, when it came time to take photos, I proudly included my VZT turkey scope in the pictures. It definitely deserved some of the credit for the kill!"
Closer Look: Weaver's VZT Turkey Scope
What's the lowdown on Weaver's new turkey scope? As it turns out, JJ used his years of tom-tagging addiction to help refine the details of this new turkey gun optic, so we let the man tell us about it.
NAH: Why did you choose to start hunting turkeys with a scope instead of basic iron sights?
JJR: When you're turkey hunting, there's always something that can ruin your chances for a successful shot—an uncomfortable sitting position with little shooting-rest support, or heavy cover that provides a tight shooting lane. A magnified scope with a precision aiming point allows consistent shot placement, even from contorted positions created by gobblers approaching from unexpected angles. Bottom line: There's a better chance that you won't miss a turkey if you have a scope on your scattergun.
NAH: Other than "employer loyalty," why do you choose to use the VZT when you're hunting longbeards off the clock?
JJR: This scope is near and dear to me because I helped our optics engineers design and create the specialized Vertical Zone Turkey (VZT) reticle; it's truly designed specifically for turkey hunting.
NAH: Why is a specialized reticle necessary for turkeys?
JJR: Common reticles, such as a Dual-X, don't do the best job of helping to accurately aim a shotshell pattern at a target the size of a baseball. This is because they're typically designed to shoot a fast bullet at big game. Other rifle-specific reticles feature ballistic-elevation hash marks that simply aren't necessary for short-distance shots at turkeys. Weaver Optics set out to design a reticle to specifically target turkeys. Our new Vertical Zone Turkey reticle features a straight-sided slot shape. This unique design is perfect for targets such as wild turkeys that have a long, vertical kill zone.
NAH: Tell us more about how a hunter actually uses this reticle. We want details!
JJR: The VZT reticle's straight-sided slot shape is designed to naturally settle the center crosshair on the critical point in the middle of a turkey's neck. All the shooter needs to do is align the top of the slots with the top of the turkey's head, so that the bottom of the slots cover all the way down to where the skin meets the feathers, covering the complete kill zone on the bird. The straight sides of the slots also aid the shooter in proper alignment so that shots are not missed wide right or left.
NAH: What are the specs of this turkey scope?
JJR: The VZT has 1x [no magnification] to 4x zoom magnification for both close shots and long shots of 40 or more yards. It has a 24mm objective so that it can be mounted low on a shotgun. It features a 30mm tube for greater field-of-view, which helps turkey hunters more easily acquire their target in the crosshairs.
NAH: You didn't mention how the VZT reticle can help with ranging a target. Care to explain?
JJR: This is not an electronic range-finding scope. But, the two oval slots are designed to provide references for 20 and 40 yards at maximum magnification. At close range, the top of the turkey's head to the base of its neck will fit inside the larger outer slot. At longer distances, the top of the turkey's head to the base of its neck will fit inside the smaller, inner slot. In either case, the center crosshair will sit on the center of the neck for precise shot placement. When designing the reticle, our engineers mathematically tuned the outer slot to achieve a 10-inch turkey-load shot pattern at 20 yards and the inner slot to achieve a 10-inch pattern at 40 yards, making it an ideal turkey-killing optic.
NAH: Rumors circulating in the dark alleys of the turkey hunting underworld suggest this scope has "tactical" roots. Truth or myth?
JJR: Yes, when building this scope, our Weaver engineers started with a blank scope taken from our tactical series of military-style optics with 30mm tubes. The rugged, one-piece aluminum tube contains fully multi-coated lenses for amazing clarity and light transmission in the turkey woods. Other features include crisp 1/4-inch MOA adjustments for accuracy; a nitrogen-purged interior to help eliminate internal fogging; and an easy-to-adjust, reliable and accurate turret system.
NAH: Is there anything else we should know about this scope, minus any marketing hype?
JJR: I love using our VZT scope to tag gobblers. It provides extra confidence, plus it helps ensure my head stays down on the stock so that my aim stays true. However, the elongated oval reticle design is also ideal for vertical-standing small game such as prairie dogs, and it's very good for coyote and wild hog hunting.