A Beginners Guide to Patterning a Shotgun for Turkey Season
By: Cindy Stites
Before heading out to the turkey woods, any experienced turkey hunter will tell you that if you haven’t checked the pattern on your shotgun, you may be in big trouble when that gobbler starts strutting at 40 yards.
Don’t get nervous, patterning a shotgun is a lot less technical than say, sighting in your deer rifle. You don’t have to think about MOA and worry about the inches of drop with your ammo. What you do have to be concerned with, is what choke you are using and what load you are putting through your shotgun. That combination makes all the difference in the world when trying to get that tight pattern on your targeted bird.
What Choke Should You Use For Your Turkey Gun?
Getting a good turkey choke for your shotgun is a big deal, because that is what will determine how tight of a pattern the shot will travel after leaving the wod of your shotgun shell. There are a lot of different chokes out on the market specifically for turkey hunting, and they cover a wide range of price points, so do a little research and ask a few friends to see what they have had good luck with in the past. Chokes are available regardless of whether you are shooting a 12-gauge, a 20-gauge, or even a .410 in the states that a .410 is legal for turkey hunting.
What Is The Best Turkey Load For Your Turkey Shotgun?
Next thing to consider is the turkey load, or shell, you decide to use. Just like with the chokes there are a lot of different options out there for a turkey hunter to choose from. They are making loads that are getting distances like never before, but you can also get the tried and true loads that companies have been putting out to the masses for years. Either way, you might want to try a few different loads to see what shoots the kind of pattern you want, and at the distance you want to shoot it.
How To Pattern Your Turkey Shotgun
To start patterning your shotgun, get some turkey head targets or simply a large piece of butcher paper, or even cardboard if that is all you have, and place it in a safe shooting location starting at 20 yards. If you are using one of the turkey head targets, you will want to aim for the area of the neck just below the bird’s face. If you are using plain paper or cardboard, draw a simple cross on the paper with a dot in the middle of it. That is what you want to aim at.
What you want to see after you shoot, is a good coverage of the shot, or holes in the paper, on the neck, face, and head of the turkey. On the plain paper target, you want that coverage on the cross hairs you drew. If you have minimal holes there, but a large smattering to the left or right, or above or below of where you were aiming, then you know where you need to adjust your aim on the next shot.
A lot of folks will send the first shot down range with a less expensive shell like a simple bird shot, just to see where that first pattern ends up. Once you evaluate that initial shot, you can switch over to your more expensive turkey loads. Repeat this process at 30 yards, and again out to a distance that is realistic for your ability, as well as, an ethical shot.
And remember, when you are getting your shotgun patterned, one of the best things you can do, is sit on the ground either leaned up against a tree, or using the same turkey hunting chair you will be using when you are hunting. You want to keep the conditions as close to what you will be experiencing on your hunt to make sure you are going to be comfortable once you are out there for the real thing.
If you head out to the turkey woods knowing where your shotgun shoots, that is one less thing to worry about while trying to outsmart these infamous birds.