Shoot Like a Pro: How to Pattern Your Shotgun for Turkey Hunting

Posted on: March 2nd, 2023
by BlackHeart

Why Do You Need to Pattern Your Shotgun for Turkey Hunting?

Turkey hunting requires a certain level of preparation to ensure that you have a safe and successful hunt.

One of the most critical aspects of preparation for your turkey hunt is patterning your shotgun.

Patterning a shotgun is the process of determining how your shotgun shoots.

It involves shooting at a target to see the pattern of pellets that hit the target at various distances.

The goal of patterning a shotgun is to ensure that it shoots accurately, consistently at a range of distances (typically 20-40 yards), and has a dense and lethal pattern.

In this article, we will provide an overview of the steps that hunters typically take to pattern their shotguns for turkey hunting, including selecting the right shotgun, ammunition, setting up a target, and testing the effective range.

By following these 6 steps, you can greatly improve your chances of a successful turkey hunt.

📸: Jake Arienzo @jakearienzo

1. Choose a Shotgun:

A 12 or 20-gauge shotgun is the most commonly used for turkey hunting.

However, you could also choose to hunt turkeys with a 410 or 10 gauge, as well.

Ultimately, you need to choose a shotgun that is comfortable for you and one that you can shoot efficiently and effectively.

You should be able to shoulder the shotgun easily, aim accurately, and shoot without any issues.

Another thing to keep in mind is that most turkey shotguns should have a barrel length of at least 24 inches.

However, that’s not an absolute requirement.

2. Choose the Choke:

The choke controls the spread of the shot.

For turkey hunting, a tight choke is preferred to achieve a dense and lethal pattern.

The most common turkey chokes are extra-full, super-full, or turkey-specific chokes.

When swapping out your choke tube, you can use a choke tube wrench to remove the choke and replace it with the turkey choke of your choice.

Make sure the choke is screwed in tightly before shooting.

It’s also important to note that some choke tubes are not rated for steel shot and others have restrictions on size and speed.

Make sure you take that into consideration when you go to choose your ammunition.

3. Choose the Ammunition:

To have the best results, make sure you choose ammunition specifically designed for turkey hunting.

Turkey loads typically have a heavier shot charge and a denser shot pattern.

You should choose the ammunition that performs best with your shotgun and choke combination.

You can try different brands and loads to find the one that provides the best results.

Bonus: Our Top 5 Turkey Loads are:

  1. Winchester Long Beard XR: This shell features Shot-Lok technology, which keeps the pellets in place during flight, resulting in tight patterns and longer range.
  2. Federal Premium Heavyweight TSS: This shell is known for its dense pattern and penetration, thanks to the use of Tungsten Super Shot (TSS) pellets.
  3. Remington Nitro Turkey: This shell is designed specifically for turkey hunting and features a copper-plated shot for improved penetration and lethality.
  4. Hornady Heavy Magnum Turkey: This shell features a nickel-plated shot for increased pattern density and a Versatite wad that helps keep the shot together longer.
  5. Winchester Super X Turkey: This shell uses a high-velocity load and a one-piece shot cup and buffer to deliver consistent patterns and knockdown power.

An important part of choosing ammo is considering the shot size that will provide adequate penetration and coverage of the vital areas of the turkey.

Most hunters use #4, #5, or #6 shot.

Larger shot sizes have more penetration but fewer pellets, while smaller shot sizes have more pellets but less penetration.

You can experiment with different shot sizes to find the one that works best for you.

Free Turkey Target Courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation – – Click the Turkey Target to Download 🦃

4. Set up a Target:

Place a turkey head and neck target at the desired distance (typically 20-40 yards).

You can purchase turkey targets from sporting goods stores or print them for free from online sources.

The target should have a clear outline of the turkey’s head and neck, as this is the area you want to hit.

5. Shoot and Evaluate the Pattern:

Shoot at the target and evaluate the pattern.

The pattern should be dense and centered on the vital area of the turkey.

You can use a tape measure to determine the distance between the center of the pattern and the center of the target.

You can also count the number of pellets that hit the target.

Adjust the combination of shotgun, choke, ammunition, and shot size as necessary to achieve the desired pattern.

A good turkey gun with modern TSS loads shoots tight patterns beyond 40 yards. 📸: Alex Robinson

6. Repeat:

Repeat the process at various distances to determine the effective range of your setup.

The effective range will depend on your skill level, the specific shotgun and choke combination, and the ammunition and shot size used.

You can start with a distance of 20 yards and gradually increase it in 5 to 10-yard increments until you find the maximum effective range of your setup.

Once you’ve got the winning combo of shotgun, choke, ammo, effective distance, and shot pattern – you’re prepped and ready for your turkey hunt!

BONUS: Essential Turkey Hunting Gear

Before you hit the field, make sure you have all the essential turkey hunting gear.

The BlackHeart Cardiac Turkey Shotgun Case is a great case to transport your turkey hunting shotgun to and from the field.

The case features plenty of room for your turkey gun whether it has a pistol grip or mounted optics.

The case also features tons of storage pockets for your turkey calls, choke tubes, targets, and other turkey-hunting essentials.

The perfect thing to go along with the Black Heart Cardiac Turkey Shotgun case is the Roost Gun Sling.

The Roost Gun Sling allows you to comfortably carry your patterned turkey hunting shotgun to or from the field.

The sling’s most unique feature is its built-in rubber mesh diaphragm call organizer. The organizer allows you to carry 3 mouth calls to the field with ease.

Go Turkey Hunting:

Patterning your shotgun is an important step in preparing for your turkey hunt.

By selecting the right shotgun and ammunition, setting up a target, and testing the effective range, you can ensure that your shotgun shoots accurately and consistently.

Remember to always follow safe firearms handling procedures and local hunting regulations when preparing for turkey hunting or any hunting activity.

With proper preparation, you can increase your chances of success and enjoy a safe and memorable turkey hunt.

For more content related to trigger sports and shooting sports, visit the rest of our BlackHeart blog archive here.

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