Turkey season is almost here, and if you haven’t done so already, it’s a good idea to take your turkey gun out to the range and pattern your favorite load and choke to see how well they perform together. Not every turkey load works well in every gun or choke combination. Patterning your shot allows you to determine what load and shot size work best for your particular setup.
Patterning your shot is critically important in determining what the maximum ethical range is that you can take your turkey. A wide pattern could result in an unrecovered wounded bird, something no hunter ever wants. A nice tight pattern ensures a quick, clean kill.
Usually, you will want to pattern your shot at various ranges from 10 out to a maximum of 40 yards to see how the pattern opens up as the range increases. Use a life-sized turkey target to determine the number of hits to the vital areas of a turkey. Start out with plain target loads to get your scope or sights aligned and onto the paper. Once you have established this baseline zero, go ahead and take the target out to 40 yards, fire a turkey load and observe the result. Ideally, your pattern should be concentrated enough to land eight or more pellets in the vital area at the base of the neck. Any less than that and you need to use a different load and choke tube combination. If you find that changing the shot load or choke doesn’t help, you will need to bring the target closer until you can consistently get an acceptable pattern.
A number of turkey choke and load combinations are available on the market. Some chokes specifically match a particular shotgun shell. For example, Hevi-Shot’s 12-gauge Extreme Range choke tube is designed to be used with Hevi-Shot Hevi 13 shotgun shells. If your choke does not match up to a specific load, it may take some experimentation to determine what the best combination is. Take along a variety of brands and shot sizes when you pattern your gun and try each of them out to see which combination results in the best pattern.
The NSSF Shooting Sportscast has a fantastic video on patterning your turkey gun. It’s not long, but they go a bit further into the hows and whys of patterning your favorite turkey shotgun.