Patterning your Shotgun for Turkey



The National Wild Turkey Federation suggests a 100 pellet average in a 10 inch circle as an “ideal” turkey pattern. The range has nothing to do with this 100 pellet average, if you have it at 25 yards you have an effective turkey pattern and if you have it at 50 yards you also have an effective turkey pattern. Patterns are not usually produced with exactitude, for no two patterns are truly identical and pattern pellet counts can vary by 20% or more shot to shot. For starters, let's consider what the Wizard of Whigam, the King of Constriction, and a dedicated champion of fine dining George Trulock has to say about turkey hunting shells and chokes.

“Probably the two most often asked questions are:
1-     What choke tube do I need?
2-     What shell should I use?
I will discuss the shell first as I think that it does to a large degree dictate the choke tube.
First and foremost you want a premium quality shell as it is next to impossible to get good long range patterns out of the cheap stuff. End of that discussion!
My preference, based on shooting quite a few turkey loads over the years would be the tungsten alloy loads. All of the major shotshell manufacturers offer these shells such as Federal Heavyweight, Remington HD, andWinchester High Density Extended Range. All of these will give tight patterns right out of the box but in order to find what works best in your gun you will have to pattern and see.
I have always used # 6 size tungsten and these are proven to work. If it is legal in your area Federal has a # 7 size shot that absolutely saturates the target. If you prefer lead go with a 5 or 6 as I don’t see a need to go with smaller size shot. It doesn’t take a large amount of energy to penetrate a turkey’s skull and these have worked well over the years.
My starting point for the choke tube is always use an extended version like the Trulock Precision Hunter as they will give tighter more consistent patterns than flush style chokes.
In the most popular brands I suggest the below:
Beretta and Benelli Mobil style- PHBER12660
Beretta Optima Plus-PHOP12668
Benelli Crio Plus-PHCRP12660
Browning Invector-PHWIN12665
Browning Invector Plus-PHIP12670
Remington Rem Choke-PHREM12665
Winchester Win Choke- PHWIN12665
Pick your shell, pick your choke tube and go pattern your gun. I strongly suggest using a padded rest and a very large target, 3 or 4 foot square. You will then be able to see the dense portion of the pattern even if your gun does not shoot to point of aim (some shotguns will not) I also suggest that you shoot some at 20/30/40 yards as the pattern size will change by a large degree at the different distances. The pattern can be so small it becomes easy to miss at close range.” – George Trulock

If you have a decoy or two set up at 25 yards, rarely will your shot be beyond 35 yards. Legitimate 45 yard loads are not that difficult to work up, but it takes an excellent shotshell and an excellent choke tube of the proper constriction to get you there with no hassle. Constriction is not what a choke is marked; constriction is the difference between the inside diameter of your individual's shotgun barrel and the exit diameter of your choke tube.

On a brisk, rainy, and extremely windy day in Illinois (4/12/2013) we did a brief comparison of a few 1-1/2 oz. loads using a .730 inch I.D. Ithaca Model 37 Turkeyslayer with a new Trulock Invector Plus “Heavyweight #7” extended choke tube. The exit diameter of this choke tube is .660 inch, yielding a constriction of .070 inch. Though ideal for Federal Heavyweight #7 Turkey loads, it also does outstandingly good with other shells.


In general, a good turkey load has a moderate velocity of 1100 – 1225 fps, the better lead loads are high-antimony buffered loads, and the best performers over the last four years have been Federal Heavyweight #7 and Winchester HD Extended Range loads. The Heavyweight #7 pellet is far more dense than lead, while the Winchester loads are right at the density of lead with very similar pellet counts. Though some like to use the loudest, longest, heaviest, hardest kicking loads out there . . . as far as I'm concerned it is not at all necessary (or desirable) when using the proper shell and the proper choke. Here is a brief look at a few 12 gauge loads. Note that the obvious winner is the 1225 fps Winchester HD #5 1-1/2 oz. shell: a 2-3/4 inch unfolded length shotshell at that. It exceeds the 100 pellets in a 10 inch circle to 45 yards with no problems.

If you want some extra range and recoil, the three inch version of this Winchester HD shell (1-3/4 oz. payload) gets you to 50 yards or so without much work. The tighter pattern, mandatory at 50 yards, is a negative at shorter ranges due to the resultant small diameter you have to work with. If you are calling in birds to decoys at 20 yards, it isn't a bad idea to use #6 shot for the higher pellet count per ounce and little more than a .040 inch constriction choke. Shots inside 30 yards are a virtual certainty with this type of set up.

In 20 gauge, the Winchester HD loads lose their appeal as the three inch shell has a 1-1/8 oz. payload; a very poor pellet count compared to the Federal Heavyweight #7 1-1/2 oz. 20 gauge load.


Copyright 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.





Custom Search