If you step back and take a 30,000-foot look at recent hunting trends, eliminating the species aspect and look just at the mechanics and tools used for the actual shooting portion of most any hunt, it’s become a long-range game.
From increasing factory twist rates on .223 Rem. barrels from 1:9 to 1:8 to stabilize longer bullets to shank weary coyotes at longer distances, to tweaking fall-away arrow rests to get a cleaner arrow launch to make 40 yards the new 20 for sticking whitetails, the desire to kill critters at longer distances is more appealing now than ever.
And from scope to choke to ammo advancements, nowhere is this more evident than in the gear available to turkeys hunters. After all, there is little more satisfying than having the skills and setup to be able to jelly-head a hung-up longbeard that was previously just out of reach.
And I get it. Who doesn’t want the ability to add more beards to a collection and more breasts to the freezer? Count me in for both.
But what about the short game—for those who still desire to pull a strutter in close, or for that slippery tom that sneaks in the back door and is suddenly standing at 10 yards? A bobbing blue head at point-blank range is a tricky target.
Well, here’s to the spur seekers who want to have their cake and eat it, too.
Spreading The Wealth
I had the opportunity to stand on the shooting line with the ammo addicts and hunting nuts at Federal Ammo to see—and pattern—their just hatched new turkey load, 3rd Degree. And until gobblers evolve to the point that they start wearing helmets, they all ought to be worried. (FYI: The video below shows my buddy, Josh Dahlke, testing out the new turkey load before it even had a name!)
The concept behind this new shotshell is nothing new—using a blend of various shot sizes in one load to increase knockdown power—but the combination hidden with each 3rd Degree shell is incredibly unique, making it freakishly lethal at all distances, from “Oh, crap, he’s right here,” to “Is he close enough?” Hence the 3rd Degree name: It delivers three stages of absolutely devastating payload.
The leading portion of the shot column, which consists of 20 percent of the overall pellet count—is packed with No. 6 FlightStopper lead. These pellets release from the column first and have a nasty cutting ring. Each pellet resembles the planet Saturn. By design (because they’re not perfectly round), they disperse quickly, providing a forgiving pattern within 20 yards that’s incredibly deadly on those previously “too close” birds.
The middle stage, or 40 percent of the overall pellet count, is made of No. 5 copper-plated lead shot. This size/material combination has been long-proven to create a dense, even pattern at moderate ranges—the statistical range where most gobblers across the nation are killed.
The foundation—remaining 40 percent of the shot column—consists of No. 7 tungsten-ion HeavyWeight pellets. The tremendous density of tungsten-iron retains more energy at longer distances, delivering a tightly retained pattern and the long-range punch needed for those annoying hung-up lookers. And the smaller No. 7 pellets means there’s more hits on that longbeard’s melon.
And just in case you’re not familiar with Federal’s FlightControl wad, it’s been heavily tested in their Black Cloud lineup, and 3rd Degree also utilizes its unique rear-opening features to create consistent patterns, shot after shot.
I’ve never seen a turkey “jump the string,” but in case you’re wondering, this nasty payload of turkey termination gets delivered at a muzzle velocity of 1,250 fps.
For its inaugural 2015 season, 3rd Degree will be available in a 12-gauge option only, in both 3- and 3.5-inch configurations. But rest easy, all you 20-gauge shooters out there: Although there was no conversation of 20-gauge options, I’m fully expecting those available next year—I’d be shocked if that wasn’t the case. This load it so lethal yet so forgiving that it just makes sense in the chamber of any youth turkey hunter.
One word of caution: Don’t run out in the cold to add to your armory because they’re not available yet—but they’re coming, and they’ll be ready for you this spring, no matter how early your turkey season starts. Besides, if you’re already stocking up for turkey season, you need help … and you need to talk to me about hunting winter coyotes to get your killing fix.
Though the paper I shot at the Federal Ammo Test Facility would been dead three times over if it had a pulse, I haven’t shot anything that gobbles yet—3rd Degree is that new. But check back in a few months and I guarantee I’ll have pics of multiple longbeards to share.
Until then, aim small—or don’t. 3rd Degree will have you covered either way.
FlightStopper pellets disperse quickly to create a sizeable pattern at close distances.
At longer distances, tungsten-ion No. 7 HeavyWeight pellets create an effective, energy-retaining pattern.
The FlightControl wad stays with the shot column longer in flight for consistent, shot-to-shot patterns.
3rd Degree delivers a three-punch payload for devastating results on turkeys from near to far.
The shot pellets in 3rd Degree, from right to left here, and stacked from top to bottom in each shotshell: No. 6 FlightStopper lead, No. 5 copper-plated lead and No. 7 HeavyWeight tungsten-iron.
For this spring, 3rd Degree will be available in 12-gauge, 3- and 3.5-inch configurations.