By George Grey
The dark was soft and velvety, the temperature just a touch cool, just enough for my camo jacket. The sky was just beginning to lighten in the east. Tall trees peeped out of the gloom in thick bunches on the hilltops around us. The moisture in the air was near thick enough to touch but a welcome change to this misplaced Eastern boy. I had been away from my favorite haunts in southern Missouri for the past few years and missed the heavy tree growth and humidity of the trans-Mississippi country. The humidity had always made my hair curl so pretty. Doc White didn’t have to worry about his hair. There hardly wasn’t any under his White Muzzleloading Systems hat. He’d said that he wore it so the turkeys couldn’t spot the shine.
Even though I had hunted turkeys for 14 years, some of the others in the party were neophytes. Jerry’s cousin Tom had never hunted turkey let alone much else. Doc white from Utah was so inexperienced that he was carrying a muzzleloader of his own design and a single shot to boot.
White Tominator, 12 guage, straight rifling, interchangable chokes, rifle trigger and stock, 90% patterns. A turkey hunter’s dream come true.
We stood outside the truck for a few moments, whispering to avoid frightening the birds. The plan was to listen for gobbles then make dispositions of hunter and guide for the morning’s hunt. Ray would take Doc on his first turkey hunt, I suppose just to even the odds. Ray was a championship turkey caller and designs his own calls. Tom was paired up with Sterl, a local caller of some renown and I was paired with Jerry.
I got an inkling of just how good this Ozark country was for turkey when we got out of the Suburban. The soft morning air was suddenly broken by a gobble. It came from the hillside just above us on the right. Another answered from across the road, then a third, and a fourth, then a dozen in quick succession. There were dozens of birds in the trees surrounding us. I was delighted. Maybe I would get another bird to add to the one I’d killed before. That would make the score two out of fifteen hunts. It was so surprising that Doc laughed out loud. He got a big gobble from up the hill for his faux pas. Jerry giggled. Sterl hooted like an owl. The world gobbled back, maybe fifteen or twenty toms answering the hoot. Jerry got exited and slammed the door of the truck Even that got a half dozen gobbles. It looked like we were going to have a good day.
…The soft morning air was suddenly broken by a gobble.—Another answered from across the road,—-There were dozens of birds in the trees surrounding us…
We got out the guns and loaded up. I was carrying my favorite Zoli 12 gauge over and under with rifle sights. Doc had popped a few caps on his new muzzleloader, fired a squib load then loaded the gun before we left the house. I’d watched him throw in a charge of powder from a hip flask, then pack down a couple of yellow wool wads, then thump in a long plastic shotcup followed by an ounce and a half of shot from a leather shot pouch. He topped all this off with another yellow wool wad. It looked to me like he was loading a shotgun shell, except that the cap went on a nipple at the back of the gun instead of a primer in the back of a shell. The whole affair took about thirty seconds. For his sake I hoped it shot faster than it loaded.
Doc and Ray headed off to the right, the gobbles still coming thick and fast from the near right hand hill. Tom and Sterl disappeared behind us down the road. They would cut to the left after another two hundred yards. Jerry and I headed up the left hand hillside. The birds were gobbling in full chorus as we climbed quietly towards them.
Half way up the hill we heard a bird flap down and hit the ground. Another followed, then a bunch hit the dirt. They were within a hundred yards by the sound of it. We found a bit of a clearing and sat down, pulling on face masks and camo gloves. Jerry and I had flipped for first call and Jerry won. I would call for him.
…There was a solid thump from Doc and Rays’ direction. It was followed by a whoop. Somebody just banged a bird…
Once Jerry was positioned. I started some sexy clucking on a slate. It sounded awfully seductive. Every sally got a gobble. There were at least three birds interested and coming in. Jerry had his gun up and ready. The gobbler on the right was closest. I caught a quick glimpse of him as he ducked around some oaks, looking for the hen I was mimicking. I saw Jerry inch his gun to the right and knew he had seen the bird as well.
There was a solid thump from Doc and Rays’ direction. It was followed by a faint whoop. Somebody just banged a bird. Sudden silence followed. I tried a few more seductive yelps but the noise had spooked off the gobblers. We walked on up the hill and took a second position in a little hollow after hearing several gobbles close by.
Accutrements for shooting the Tominator.Left: Shot bag, PowerCup tapered plastic shotcups, choke tube, powder flask surrounded by shoulder strap from White Shooting bag.
My sexy yelping brought in another bird. He was suspicious and came up close hiding behind trees all the way. He suddenly looked out from behind a tree not twenty yards away, saw Jerry move his gun a little and took off, keeping more trees between him and us. A smart old bird.
We tried a third sit, then a fourth. The third sit didn’t produce but the fourth brought two jakes in a rush. Both were small with only 6 inch beards. Jerry let them go. I’d have shot one given the chance. The little ones eat better anyway.
The fifth sit of the morning brought a big gobbler down the hill. It was a bright morning by now, the sunlight glowing on the trees, golden and rich. We saw the gobbler coming from 100 yards away, strutting and fanning as he came. Every sexy yelp got a big gobble. For a change he stayed in the open, displaying beautifully as he came closer. When he was within 25 yards and in full display, I gave him an alarm call. I could see Jerry was ready for his head to pop up. At the call, the tom dropped his feathers and twisted his head around for a fast look. His eyes bugged out in surprise and he took off like a shot. Jerry’s gun banged too late. He shot just as the bird lunged away.
…with… [no] shell to open, [no] forcing cone to blast the shot through, plus a straight rifled barrel to stop shot column oscillation, 90% patterns are [feasable]
We heard another thump from Doc and Ray’s direction. The shot was followed by a war whoop. The sound echoed through the hills, emphasizing their good fortune and pointing out our lack of it. We decided to head back to the truck. We’d hunted out this hill anyhow and needed new directions.
We met Doc and Ray coming down the road. Each of them had a big tom in hand. I noticed that Ray wasn’t carrying a gun. He must have used Doc’s muzzle-loader. Maybe it was more efficient than it looked. Both birds were big, mature toms with 10 plus inch beards and long spurs.
They would average out at about 22 lbs. a piece. I felt a twinge of jealousy but shrugged it away. It would be my turn soon.
Osceola turkey killed Spring ‘94. 45 yard shot using 1 ½ oz. #4 copper plated shot with 110 gr. RS Pyrodex and White components. This load shoots 90% first shot patterns in this particular Tominator.
Doc told the story. He and Ray had climbed up into the gobbling for a hundred yards then sat when the birds flapped down to the ground. Ray had called only two or three times when a big gobbler approached from the left. Doc was in front of the tree that Ray was behind. The bird ended up inside twenty yards but with his head in a position where Doc couldn’t see it. He slipped the muzzleloader back to Ray and Ray killed the bird.
I examined the tom. I expected to see maybe one lucky pellet centering the birds head. I’d heard about the lousy patterns that muzzleloading shotguns threw. To my surprise, the tom’s head was plastered with shot holes. There were at least twenty in his head and neck. It was obvious the gun had a good tight pattern.
I glanced at the muzzle of the muzzleloader, and was surprised to see a screw-in choke tube. Its walls looked pretty thick, too, telling me that the choke was pretty tight.
Their second bird came when they spotted a flock on the ground ahead of them. They had stalked in close, then Ray called over two big toms. Doc waited out a jake then killed the bigger of the two toms at thirty seven big paces. This was a real test of his pattern. Once again I was surprised by the number of shot in the bird. I counted four solid head and spine hits and a number of other lesser strikes.
Typical pattern from Tominator, showing at least 9 good hits. Load was 100 gr. Pyrodex P, two wool 1/8th inch wads, White tapered Powercup loaded with 1½ oz nickle plated shot and 1/8th inch wool top wad. 95% first shot pattern.
I asked about the pattern. Doc explained that since the muzzleloader didn’t have a shell to open or a forcing cone to blast the shot through, plus a straight rifled barrel to stop shot column oscillation, 90% plus first shot patterns were attainable with standard White components.
The secret of tight patterns are the White design-integrated straight rifled barrels, White tapered PowerCups and supertight chokes. The number and depth of cuts in the mouth of the PowerCup helps control tightness of pattern.
He showed me his plastic shot cup, called a PowerCup. It was deep and the walls had obviously been cut with a knife. There weren’t any built in leaves like most commercial shotcups. Doc explained that this feature gave the shooter the option of cutting the shotcup to match the pattern wanted. Longer cuts produced more open patterns, shorter cuts tightened up the pattern. He had cut this one to a depth of about half an inch with four petals.
He also demonstrated his choke system. To my surprise the tube came out with fingers alone. I’d been told that black powder gummed up threads on choke tubes so badly that it was near impossible to get them out. Doc showed me the Acme threads that prevented this from happening.
I noted that the choke tube was marked .665, awfully tight, much tighter than the .690 full choke I used on my own barrels.
I wondered how Doc could get a full size plastic shotcup into this choke, knowing that the bore of a 12 gage shotgun measures .730. Doc pointed out the taper built into the shotcup. The bottom of the cup was just small enough to get it into the super-tight choke, and the top just tight enough that it could be popped into the bore with the ramrod. He called the shotcup his ‘PowerCup’ and smiled when he said that it was the only shotcup available that would perform like that. Naturally it was available only from White. Yeah, just like the shotgun was. (Both now are available from WhiteRifles LLC, Linen, Utah. Go to whiterifles.com for an online catalogue or contact Whiterifles LLC at 435-785-6655.)
…The sudden realization came over me that I had to have one…
I picked up his shotgun. I even asked if I could first. I had seen the White muzzleloading rifle actions before and this looked just like one of Doc’s rifles except it had a ribbed 12 gauge barrel mounted on it. The stock was a nice piece of walnut. He said the production guns were available with a black hardwood or smoke gray birch laminate stock. I noted the thick recoil pad and the quick way that it mounted to the shoulder. It fit nicely, with a 14 inch pull that was just right. I liked the crisp rifle trigger.
I also noted the unusual nipple-breechplug. Doc explained that it was made of tool grade stainless steel, hardened to withstand the blast of firing and the slam of the hammer. He said I’d never have to change a nipple, simply because it would never bulge or blow in a normal lifetime of firing. Obviously, the hammer had to be softer than the nipple for this to be true.
White design-integrated NippleBreech-Plugs, for #11 cap, for rifle on right, for shotgun on left. These are hardened to Rockwell 40 and will last 5-10000 strikes, normally a shooter’s lifetime.
The sudden realization came over me that I had to have one. In fact, I had to have this one. But no, this one was a prototype and Doc wanted to keep it in his collection. This made me lust after it all the more. Still no, he wouldn’t take the Zoli on a trade, it had a dent in the fore-stock. But he would let me hunt with it for the rest of the morning. I was tickled and we traded guns, ammunition and guides.
He showed me how to load and made sure I had the steps down pat. Then he and Jerry turned down the road towards the truck. Ray and I headed for the hills.
There weren’t any toms gobbling now. Ray knew the ground pretty well though, having hunted here before. He took me to “Gobbler’s Knob.” I sat behind a log and he hunkered down behind some brush about 20 yards behind me. His slate yelped and I recognized an expert. He yelped a few more times then held off while we listened.
I thought I heard footsteps and glanced back at Ray. He was pointing furiously downhill to the left. Nothing was in sight. I heard a sound again, a soft brushing combined with a flutter. Then there were foot steps in the leaves. A gobbler was coming in, silently. I didn’t dare move.
I glanced over the unfamiliar gun, making sure I had the secondary safety off and the trigger safety on. I looked up just in time to catch the gobblers head popping out then quickly back behind a tree 40 yards away. As I watched, he left the safety of the tree and dashed behind one 5 yards closer. Then he peeped out the other side. This was one wary old bird. When he ducked back behind the tree, I swing the shotgun to point down the path I expected him to take next. There were two big trees right beside the path, the closest 30 yards away. Ray yelped again, so sexy that it near exited me.
I was watching the far tree closely when the tom stepped out from behind the near one. Don’t ask me how he got there. He was just suddenly there. And he was in full strut, head sucked back, iridescent tail spread into a broad fan and wings tips low, fluttering along the ground. This was what made the sound I’d heard earlier. He stayed sideways to us for a few steps then whirled to come into strut again. He obviously was wanting the hen to come to him. Just as obviously, he wasn’t going to get any closer and he was headed for the shelter of the tree he’d appeared from behind. It was time to shoot.
Ray clucked once. The tom dropped his feathers and extended his head. He had a funny look on his face. He was looking straight at me too. But then I was looking straight down the rib of Doc’s shotgun and the bead was just under his chin. The gun roared and the bird disappeared in a cloud of smelly smoke. Ray ran out of the far side of it, whooping like an Indian. Maybe this whooping business went with the gun. The bird was down.
Once again I inspected the tom’s head. Another dozen shot in the head and neck, any 6 of which would have been lethal. I was thrilled. Nice big bird too, with long spurs and an 11 inch beard. Ray swore he’d weigh 26 lbs., but he was just trying to make me feel good. On second thought, he did look bigger than Doc’s bird.
…Ray yelped again, so sexy that it near excited me…
We headed back to the truck and lunch. The day was warm now and the tom was heavy as we trudged along. Bugs hummed in the brush and birds sang in the trees. A turkey gobbled far away down across the river. Doc’s shotgun wafted a smell of burned black powder to my nose. I could feel an addiction coming on. What a beautiful end to a beautiful morning.
Two Tominators and two Eastern turkeys, the results of a pleasant morning’s hunt in the Ozarks of Missouri
In contrast to the old chokebored shotguns of yesteryear, the White Systems Tominator that Doc used is a unique scattergun with many technological improvements. If loaded as directed, it will produce 90% first shot patterns as measured on a standard 30 inch circle at 40 yards.
It makes an excellent, light carrying, yet hard hitting turkey gun.. (After all, who gets a second shot at a turkey?) It also does well on wildfowl and pheasant with lesser loads.
The BG (Big G) action shares the attributes of the White G-series guns, with extremely fast lock time, a primary trigger safety and secondary hammer safety and an adjustable rifle trigger plus quick and easy no tool takedown. It also sports a tool steel hardened nipple breechplug. The production stock is a handsome smoke-grey birch laminate or black harDwood with 14 inch pull and an inch thick recoil pad.
Stock design and fit are excellent, with a noticeable reduction of felt recoil over what you might expect with its light 5½ lb. weight. It sports a 14 inch pull over an inch thick recoil pad and fits the great majority of shooters.
…The problem—-is that the tighter modified and full chokes will not allow the introduction of ordinary plastic shot-cups in the muzzle…
Special features include a ventilated rib for precise pattern placement and a straight-rifled barrel to keep the plastic shotcup from rotating as it travels down the barrel. This results in a full 10% increase in pattern density. The fully adjustable trigger produces the crisp break and light pull found on White’s G-series rifles. Special screw-in interchangeable chokes add the advantage of easy clean-up and replacement because of their easy cleanup acme threads (a la Hastings), and allow you to pick the pattern you want.
Elegant Simplicity: Tominator ribbed barrel and action with rifle trigger, action rear end plug, mainspring with detent, hammer with cocking handle. No tools needed for stripping.
White’s Delron ramrod boasts a covered wad-removing screw plus fitted loading and special cleaning jags. The stock comes equipped with fore and aft eyes for a carrying sling. The barrel is also steel shot qualified. Metal finish is a dark non-glare blue.
The Tominator can be loaded like any other modern muzzleloading shotgun, with even better results in the field. However, it’s critical to pick the correct screw-in interchangeable choke and to match load components to it. The problem here is that the tighter modified and full chokes will not allow the introduction of ordinary plastic shotcups in the muzzle. Most are too fat to fit into the tighter chokes.
The secret to tighter patterns is White’s patented plastic shot cup. It’s tapered to get it started into the tighter modified and full choke with the ramrod or short starter, then dump in the shot. White calls it the PowerCup, developed especially for the super dense loads in the Tominator.
Tominator muzzle accessories: inter-changeble choke with Acme threads, choke removal tool, ramrod with covered screw-type wad puller and interchangable ramming and cleaning jags.
There’s no cut in the leaves on the PowerCup. The shooter cuts them in, giving him a broad choice of pattern densities, available merely by cutting shallow or deep.
The best turkey and long range duck load I’ve used combine 110 gr FFG Black Powder or volume equivalent of Select or RS Pyrodex, plus two White lubricated woven wool wads pushed down on the powder and pressed home with about 40 lbs. of pressure on the ramrod. If you use the right pressure, bouncing the ramrod on the wads will rebound the rod up and almost out of the barrel.
Cut the PowerCup with 3 or 4 slots ½ inch deep and ram it through the choke with the small end of the ramrod. Do the cutting at home, not in the field. Follow with 1½-17/8 oz. hardened copper coated lead shot for turkey, 1½ oz. of either iron-tungsten or Bismuth shot or a similar volume of steel shot for waterfowl. Now top with a woven wool 1/8th inch wad or a thin card top-wad to hold the shot in place. Cap the Tominator and shoot a 90% plus first shot pattern at 40 yards.
This load will take turkeys at a good 40 plus yards if you carefully center the birds head in the pattern. Closer is better, of course. It will also kill geese with the iron-tungsten or Bismuth load at similar ranges if you lead them right, and at lesser ranges with steel.
The Tominator comes with a special cleaning jag for the ramrod. Simply replace the shooting jag, which is turned smaller to fit the extra tight chokes, with the ribbed cleaning jag. Then use it just as you would for a rifle with a cleaning solution soaked patch swabbed up and down through the barrel. You’ll have to remove the choke first. White’s PowerClean pre-soaked parches are great for a quick job afield or a more thorough job at home. Follow with dry patches and finally with a good gun oil.
..The Powercup plastic shotcup is cut with 3-4 slots ½ inch deep and is rammed through the choke with the ramrod. Deeper cuts open up the patterns..
Be sure to re-grease the nipple breachplug with White’s Super Blue moly grease and only tighten it to “finger tight” when you replace it.
Even though the Tominator was developed for turkeys, it adapts well to hunting smaller game and birds with alternate loads and choke-tubes. A friend from Tennessee, who hunts squirrels with a shotgun, tells me that the tight choke is perfect for his chosen sport.
Following is a list of White’s recommended loads for a variety of game. Naturally, as with all muzzleloaders, there’s plenty of room for individual variation.
A pleased hunter with Tom and Tominator in the Ozarks of Missouri 1995. He claims that the Tominator patterns better than any modern shotgun.
Light field and target load
Use 80-90 gr. FFg Black Powder or Pyrodex equivalent, followed by a 1/4 or ½ inch fiber wad. You can use any brand of 12 gauge plastic shotcup to hold 11/8 oz. lead, lead replacement or steel shot equivalent, topped with a thin card top-wad. Use the cylinder bore or improved-cylinder choke-tube. Velocity will be about 1100 FPS.
Heavy field load
Use 100 gr. Ffg Black Powder or RS Pyrodex, under a 1/4 or ½ inch fiber or felt wad. Follow with a White PowerCup cut halfway down its length with three or four petals, throw 11/4 oz. lead or lead replacement or steel shot volume equivalent and follow with a thin card topwad. Use the modified choke-tube for good 70-75% patterns. This is a great load for pheasant and duck, but let the bird get out past 30 yards before you pull the trigger.
Use 110 gr. Ffg Black Powder or Pyrodex equivalent, followed by two White lubricated wool wads, then a White Power-Cup cut with three or four leaves only ½ inch deep. Follow with 1½ to 17/8 ounces lead or a full PowerCup of lead replacement shot, topped with a thin card or wool top-wad. Use the super-full .665 choke-tube. This combination will produce 1200-1250 FPS velocity and 90-95% first shot patterns.
Super goose load
Use 120 gr. Ffg Black Powder or Pyrodex equivalent, followed by two White lubricated wool wads, then a White PowerCup with three or four leaves cut ½ inch deep, followed by 13/4 oz. iron/tungsten, 1 ½ oz, bismuth or 13/8 oz. steel shot, (just fill the PowerCup full) then topped by a woven wool top-wad. Use the full choke-tube marked for steel if you use steel shot. This load kicks like a mule but will kill geese at 50 yards if you can get the lead right and tolerate the recoil.
I believe that this is the first turkey ever killed with a Tominator, way back about 1994. We sold quite a few of the guns, but I think this hunter killed his before anyone else had a chance to pull the trigger. His photo showed up first day of the Missouri season. He was the first of many to successfully take a Tom with a Tominator.
A big Rio Grande with Tominator, taken in Texas ’03.
TO TELL THE TRUTH- This was the first, and I originally thought the last, of the George Grey stories. The hunt happened as described except that I played the part of George. I really did hunt in Missouri with a guide named Ray, who was quite expert, and the hunt went pretty much as described. The story was originally written as an PR piece and became part of my first book, “The White Muzzleloading System” to illustrate the joys of hunting with my newly invented Tominator shotgun. Despite the passage of nearly two decades, the Tominator is still the finest muzzleloading turkey gun ever made and beats out many modern ones. The best I ever did with one was two birds with one shot at 55 big paces.
NEW & USED TOMINATOR SHOTGUNS
There are no more new Tominator shotguns. They were produced in 1992 to 1995. There was a second variation, called the White Thunder, with a lightweight stock, but there are no more new ones of those either. Every once in a while, White Muzzleloading runs into one or gets one in on a trade or finds enough parts to put one together. Watch the CUSTOM MODERN page to see if any are available. If one is, then email Doc at firstname.lastname@example.org for fastest service.