The answer is absolutely YES. A 22 lr will kill a human, a deer, or pretty much anything else if it penetrates the body enough to cause severe damage to an organ that is vital for life. There are many human deaths attributed to the 22 lr on record.
I have also witnessed deer being taken with this little round with perfect head shots. Death was immediate and humane.
Are there better rounds for turkey hunting with a rifle, yes. If you are looking to stay with rimfires, 22 WMR, the 17 HMR, and of of course the 17 WSM are all better choices.
Why, because velocities are higher when the projectile reaches the target promoting more expansion of the bullet, more shock, and therefore a better opportunity to do quick fatal damage to vital organs.
In other words, these cartridges improve your odds of a quick and humane kill. Even more so when all of the energy is dumped inside the target and the bullet doesn’t exit. But a 22 can work well for turkeys with a few extra precautions taken.
A bullet that will expand to the maximum and dump all of it’s energy into the turkey is necessary. Most 22 rounds on the market today will not do this. Velocities of the round are not high enough to cause expansion and or the current bullet design prevents it.
CCI segmented hollow point rounds are the best I have found for taking turkeys dependably and humanely with a 22 lr.
These rounds aren’t moving at an excessively high rate of speed but the bullet is designed to break into equal parts upon entering the target medium. The higher the velocity, the better the bullet will perform.
In addition to using the right 22 lr round delivering expansion, this small round should enter the vitals area close enough to do the proper damage.
A typical spring hunt where turkeys are involved in breeding and calls can be used to call them up relatively close some of the time, allows the use of a shotgun. With a #4 pellet load, the hunter’s objective is to aim for the head / neck area. Within 30 yards, this shotgun pattern is usually dense enough to ensure a quick kill.
When using a rifle, the head is much too small to use as an aimpoint, especially at long range. A much better aimpoint for a broadside shot is just slightly below where the wind contacts the body. This is where a turkey’s vital area is located. See the illustration below.
This is the area where the bullet should be when it does it’s work – expands and dumps it’s energy. Of course that means that aim point will have to be adjusted depending on the turkey’s position, as long the bullet ends up in the vital area.
Many will argue that the segmented rounds don’t have enough penetration to be effective. My answer is it only requires and inch, maybe two inches of penetration if you are shooting from the rear, to reach the vitals. The segmented rounds are perfect for this game bird. With the use of a great round and placing it in the vital region, any turkey will fall.
Turkey hunting with a 22 lr may not be legal in your state and / or area, so check the laws before you venture out.
Also, using a 22 lr to take turkeys is not too popular with some hunters. This is primarily because they love their hunting and hate to see their favorite game animal wounded and wasted when it can’t be recovered.
I am with them. I would never use a weapon to take any game animal with the intention of wounding it. If you take the advice I have offered above the 22 lr, it will be just as effective as any other round.
In fact, even more effective. The distance in which you can make an effective shot on your game will increase substantially. I have even taken turkeys at 100 yards with a 22 lr, but I knew my rifle’s drop numbers well and used a range finder to confirm. The birds went down immediately, no tracking, no lost birds.
So hunting turkeys is absolutely possible, and even practical. You will quickly learn that they are very smart and can see a flea move on a dog. Work on your calling skills. Calls don’t have to be perfect. Timing is more important than how it sounds. Don’t call too much. After one or two calls the turkey knows exactly where you are. Stop calling and let him find you.
Once you can make a few decent calls, master the art of bullet placement on this bird, all of your kills will be reliable and humane.
One word of caution though, be sure to check with your local wildlife officer or your state’s hunting laws to make sure you aren’t doing anything illegal.
When blending good calling skill with an accurate 22 rifle, you will have a hard combination to beat and I promise, you will come home with more turkeys.