Tuesday, January 19, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Shotgun Patterning For Turkey Hunting

by Naomi K. Shapiro - Foremost Hunting Pro Staff Member

So you think, that with a shotgun that has lots of pellets and "sprays" a pattern, you can't miss a turkey? Lots of gobbler hunters including the best ones miss... that is, until they learn some not-rocket-science basics.


First, it's not your gun's fault if you miss! Most shotguns, from Benellis to Remingtons and everything in between are "good." They're manufactured well, and they do what they're supposed to do, if the hunter knows what he or she is doing. But they are all different. It's important to know that every single "pattern" that's shot is also different. There is no "one size fits all." Every gun, every shell, every "load," every choke -- every "everything" is variable. What the savvy turkey hunter does, is to take the time to find the right gun, right shell, right choke for what you're shooting at, with the pattern you're looking for, and the range you're shooting. Turkeys are different than grouse, ducks, geese, skeet, or trap.

You want to find that small "window" that fits what you're doing exactly, and it's not hard to do.

As for gun size lots of turkey hunters use the classic 12 gauge, but for real stopping power (and it does kick like all get-out), use a 10 gauge. What you're looking for is how the shot flies out of the gun. Practice is the secret to success.

Take your shotgun and buy a whole "set" of different shell sizes and types (length, pellet grain size, powder, magnum and regular load). Yes, it'll cost you some money, but it will help you get that bird you're after. Then find a choke (optimum would be able to "test" a number of different chokes, but that is not always an available option) that will provide you the tight pattern you need to make sure that once the turkey is hit, it'll go down instantly. You're not looking for a wide pattern shot as you may do for ducks, or even wider pattern for sport shooting. Your local gun shop will be able to help you in this regard, and you don't have to buy a new shotgun to be successful. And, of course, try to find friends or other turkey hunters who have the same gun you have, and check out what they use.

Information from any good source is always useful, and may at least allow you to hone in and target some "near-specifics", which will save you time and money.

OK you've got boxes of different shells, you've got a choke or chokes that will give you a tight pattern (try to determine the range you want so that the choke will give you the exact pattern you need at that range). Set up a stationary target with a bull's-eye at the range you're going to shoot.

Then test each different shell with the particular choke, and see if you bull's-eye the target in a tight pattern. You'll be surprised at how many supposedly-perfect shell and choke combos won't give you what you want unless they're mated and adapted to the particular make of gun. We've seen any number of very good hunters miss close shots because their choke and/or shell were not in sync with each other and with the gun they're shooting a hundred different things.

And don't for one moment think that because you're using a custom-made Benelli, or a huge magnum shell that it will automatically solve any problems. It won't. Do your homework and take the time to fine-tune YOUR PARTICULAR shotgun to a perfect symmetry with the choke and shell you're using. By doing this, you'll end up enjoying some delicious eating (no one that I know of who has eaten a wild turkey breast can ever be satisfied with a domestic bird again. Twenty-five pound gobbler, anyone?

(Phil Schweik of Hooksetters Guide Services contributed to this article).

Related Articles On Shotgun Patterning:

Shotgun Patterning For Turkey Hunting By Chris Larsen

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