By: Tom Lounsbury.
When it comes to raffles, I have never had much luck and whenever I purchase a ticket, I automatically assume I’m helping a good cause, and that is the end of that. As they say, if you don’t at least try, you will never win anything. My name did get drawn for a 12 ga Remington Express shotgun at a Ducks Unlimited Banquet, but that was back in 1986, and nothing occurred from then on, after purchasing countless raffle tickets.
Maybe the 2020 Michigan Elk Lottery was a turning point. Call it what you will, I looked at it on the order of simply buying another raffle ticket every year and wasn’t expecting much. After 36 years of dedication in annually “applying”, I was already quite used to rejection on the matter. Then that memorable day in June 2020 happened, which completely shocked (being “stunned” is too mild a definition) me, when I went online and discovered I had been drawn for an antlerless Michigan elk tag, a longtime dream come true, and eventually bagging a dandy cow elk was frosting on the cake!
Since then, I have won a “home defense” shotgun at a Friends of the NRA Banquet and a .22 rifle at a Pheasants Forever Banquet, and yep, folks, I was completely stunned both times. It was near the end of March this year when I stopped by at the Cass City Do it Best Hardware Store to purchase all my hunting and fishing licenses (and ORV stickers as well), and I ran into Jeff Wallace, who is the President of the Cass City Gun Club. Jeff was there dropping off raffle tickets for the store to sell, which entailed a 20 ga Winchester “turkey” shotgun, which was purchased through the store, and it was present behind the counter to look at. Only 100 tickets at $10 each were being sold, and I didn’t hesitate to purchase one, knowing full well I didn’t stand a chance. As I said, I do like to support good causes.
The Cass City Gun Club (CCGC) has been around for about 70 years, and I have had some fine times doing shooting activities there. They have regularly put on Hunter Safety Classes ever since it became required, and my 3 sons received their Hunter Safety Certificates there (and so did I, when I needed one to go hunting in Colorado – I really had a great time taking the class with kids).
During recent times, the CCGC has been regularly improving their grounds which entails 40 acres, and now has well-constructed trap, skeet, pistol and rifle ranges. The rifle range is a real dandy offering targets at 50, 100, 200 and even an amazing 365 yards. It also has a raised and spacious shooting platform which allows rifle practice from above! It is open to the public, but non-members must be accompanied by a member for any shooting activities. There is also an annual free youth day each summer, and a new activity is rimfire shooting on the rifle range for both pistol and rifle, which begins the first Thursday in May, and is on every Thursday during the summer, which has really piqued my interest! Yep, folks, I had no problem buying that raffle ticket to support a good cause.
When the phone rang one evening last week, I was glad I was sitting down, because Jeff Wallace called to inform me my raffle ticket had been drawn for the turkey gun. It didn’t take me long to get to Cass City Do it Best Hardware the following morning and receive my prize. It is a pump-action 20 ga (3 inch) Winchester Model SXP “Long Beard” that has been well designed by those in the know about turkey hunting. Featuring a chrome-lined chamber and bore, its 24-inch barrel features an external fluted, extra full “Long Beard” turkey choke tube. The composite stock features a handy pistol grip, and it, including the barrel, is externally coated in the new Mossy Oak DNA camouflage. This is a shotgun designed to handle a rugged and often wet environment (I have had some great turkey hunting opportunities during rainstorms as the birds don’t seem to mind such at all) and weighs in at less than 7 pounds. It is not a bad piece at all for “running and gunning” for turkeys.
Turkey guns are designed to be aimed like a rifle, with this one featuring Truglo fiber optic sights attached to the vent rib, and the aluminum alloy receiver (which is strong and durable with less weight than steel) is drilled and tapped for adding optics (an extra cheek pad is included to match the height for using optics). The Inflex Technology recoil pad has additional inserts to extend the stock if needed, however everything fits me perfectly as is. This shotgun is also easy to assemble and disassemble, the trigger unit is also easy to remove for cleaning (the large trigger guard works fine with gloves), and the safety button can be switched around for right or left-handers. The shotgun comes with the “duck-plug” already installed in the 4-round magazine to limit overall shell capacity to 3, which works for me in most hunting avenues anyway.
With the Michigan spring turkey season fast approaching, I put a priority in properly patterning this new shotgun and acclimating myself to all its handling characteristics on my backyard shooting range (yep, folks, I was just like a kid with a new toy). It is easy to load, and unloading is a breeze by simply pushing the shell-stop down and the shell pops out into your hand. Having to rack out shells to unload is not necessary, something I appreciate.
I had the Allen wrenches which came with the shotgun to adjust the sights in my pocket, because I felt tweaking matters would be required, but such wasn’t the case at all. The shotgun obviously came from the factory ready to hit right on point of aim. A lot went into designing everything, because the chrome-lined barrel is also back-bored, which means the bore size is larger than normal specs, which prevents friction with the wad and distortion of the pellets going down the barrel, for creating denser patterns. Combine all that with an extra full choke, and you can expect amazing results, which I sure did!
I was using standard bullseye targets for the initial sight-in/patterning and was indeed impressed. I was using more economical Winchester 2 ¾ inch, Super X shells with only 7/8 ounce of lead number sixes, and at 10 yards, the center of the bullseye was taken right out with a hole the size of a tennis ball! At 20 yards, it was the size of a softball, and 30 yards the size of a volleyball, and obviously, this load will work to that range. I stopped at that point, because I want to do some further testing using “turkey” paper targets, and I’m curious as to how far this 20 ga shotgun can reach out effectively, especially with its preferred (and more expensive) turkey ammo yet to be discovered. And yep, folks, you can easily miss a gobbler’s head/neck area at the closer ranges with this shotgun if you don’t use pinpoint accuracy. There is a reason for using rifle-type sights on a shotgun such as this.
I look upon smoothbore shotguns as being very versatile hunting tools, and although this handy piece is classified as a “turkey gun”, I plan on getting a modified choke tube for small game hunting and a rifled choke tube for using slugs for deer hunting. To me, it begs to be used for other avenues.
I appreciate the Winchester SXP “Longbeard” line of shotguns, because a portion of the sales is donated to the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) which is celebrating its 50-year anniversary this year. NWTF has played and continues to play, a very important role in the wild turkey becoming a very successful conservation story. I have attended numerous NWTF fundraising banquets over the years, and yep, I’ve enjoyed them all and have bought my fair share of raffle tickets, because it was for a good cause with always the chance of winning something.
My being drawn during the recent CCGC gun raffle for a superb shotgun is proof positive the “luck of the draw” can become a reality, despite the odds!