Is Your Shotgun Ready for Turkeys?

By CTD Rob published on in General, Hunting

Turkey hunting has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. Hunters find the sport challenging, rewarding and enjoyable. We field a lot questions about the gear needed for novice turkey hunters. The most common involves the shotguns used for hunting turkeys. Can I use my dove hunting shotgun for turkey? What type of sights do I need? Should my turkey gun be camouflaged? To be honest, you can kill a turkey with just about anything. However, lets take a look at some standards that will make your chances just a bit better.

Turkey Hunting

The proper camouflage will help your bag your prey


Turkeys have excellent eyesight. It is their primary defense mechanism. For this reason, hunters have to work extra hard to blend in to their surroundings. Their vision is so good that merely blinking your eye can set them off. Many turkey hunters use camouflage facial netting to obscure their face. A camouflage shotgun is a no-brainer. I’ve killed turkeys with non-camouflage guns, but getting in close is easier when they can’t see you coming. If you have the resources, why not give yourself that extra edge?


Shotgun chokes can be a little confusing. For Turkey, you want a very tight pattern over a decent distance. The holy grail of turkey shots is to hit the head with a large portion of the pellets without damaging the meat. To achieve this, you’ll need a full choke, extra full or something similar. This will give you a better chance of a kill shot at longer ranges. Anything else and you may not get enough pattern at 40 yards.

Shotgun Choke Yardage Difference between bore and choke
Cylinder < 20 0″
Skeet 22.5 .005″
Improved Cylinder 25 .010″
Light Modified 30 .015″
Modified 32.5 .020″
Improved Modified 35 .025″
Light Full 37.5 .030″
Full 40 or More .035″
Extra Full 40 or More .040″


turkey over shoulder

The right load will increase your effectiveness and give you a better chance

New shotguns sold specifically for turkey hunting often have drilled and tapped receivers for scope mounts. This is a nice feature, and if you have it by all means use it. There is a myriad of optics on the market for turkey, but just try to keep these features in mind. You don’t need a lot of magnification, just something tough that can take the recoil of a heavy bird load. Red dot sights are becoming popular among turkey hunters. They are very fast and give a clear sight picture. On top of that—they just plain look cool. If you don’t have an easy way to mount a scope, invest in a fiber optic sight. They are inexpensive and will give you better visibility for quick target acquisition.


You wouldn’t use a slug to hunt dove, and dove loads aren’t ideal for geese. In the turkey hunting world, I’ve used everything from 2 3/4- to 3 1/2-inch shells with varying shot sizes. However, if I had to give a generic turkey load for most situations, I would say a lead 3-inch shell with No. 5 shot is a great place to start. I would encourage you to try different loads to see which one patterns best for your shotgun. Every gun shoots just a little different, and if you’re obsessive like me, you’ll want to know exactly how your shot patterns ahead of time.

Once your shotgun is ready, you’ll be on your way to bagging that massive bird. Take your time and learn the sport. Like most forms of hunting, patience is the hunter’s best ally—you’ll find that rule goes double for gobblers.

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