Skip to main content

How To Pattern A Shotgun for Turkey Hunting

turkey hunting with shotgun

Before you even step foot in the turkey woods, you must pattern your shotgun. You have to know your choke pattern at different yards with different loads to know how your shotgun will perform in the field. Here's everything you need to know about patterning your shotgun for maximum turkey hunting success.

Why Patterning a Shotgun for Turkey Hunting Is Important

In order to have success on a turkey hunt, you must pattern your shotgun. Arguably the most important step as a turkey hunter is to know the range and best pattern for killing a turkey. The goal for patterning is to be on target, so sit and use a rest to keep the shotgun steady. Determine a good pattern at 30 yards or 40 yards and know your shotgun’s range.

One doesn’t have to be a professional shooter to be able to harvest a turkey. However, as hunters and enthusiasts of the outdoors, it is important to know what a firearm is capable of doing before hunting. A way to become familiar with a shotgun is by patterning it.  This is important as it lowers the chance of missing a bird substantially. More importantly, knowing how a firearm performs in every situation allows the hunter the ability to make a quick, clean and ethical shot on a turkey. There is no worse feeling than spending hours calling to a gobbler, having him finally break loose and come in, only to miss the shot or even worse wounding the animal enough to hinder the recovery.

By patterning a shotgun, a hunter will be able to determine how it performs at different distances. This will also help in determining the distance that the firearm can shoot and still be able to make a harvest. This knowledge is useful when in a hunting situation because the hunter will know when an ethical harvest can be made. By patterning a shotgun, a hunter can also determine what shotgun load performs the best out of their specific firearm. Shooting several different types of loads from a shotgun that is on a gun rest, so that gun is steady providing a consistent shot each time, is an excellent way to determine what the firearm will do.

When doing this it is strongly recommended to shoot several shots at different yardage such as 20, 30, 40 and even up to 50 yards with some of today’s technology in shotgun turkey loads. Shoot 2 or 3 of each load at each yardage marker using a paper target that features a life-sized silhouette of a turkey's head, being as that the head is the vital area of a turkey that hunters should be aiming at when hunting. After each yardage shot has been completed, inspect the targets to see what the best pattern is that fits your particular gun. Every shotgun performs differently.  Never assume that a firearm is ready to hunt without actually putting it through the test for yourself.



Use A Rest When Patterning Your Shotgun

Just as you wouldn’t shoot off-hand to sight in a rifle, don’t do it with a shotgun. Use a good, stable rest and know exactly where you want the pattern to hit on the turkey target. Always use ear protection and eye protection when patterning your turkey gun, just as you would any other firearm.



Use a Turkey Head Target and Know Where to Aim for Patterning a Shotgun

Use an anatomically correct turkey target to practice aiming where to shoot a turkey. Where the skin and feathers meet – or the wattle – is where you want to aim at a turkey. Aim for 20 to 25 pellets in the wattle area. One pellet in the brain or spine will take a turkey down, so the more you have there, the better. Use these turkey head targets to keep notes of how your shotgun set-up is working.



Printable Turkey Head Targets Available for Download

turkey head targets

Download Color Turkey Target  -  Download Black and White Turkey Target   -  Download Orange Bullseye Turkey Target


Know What Shotgun Chokes to Use for Turkey Hunting

What is a choke? What does a choke do? It’s important to know what a choke is and does for your turkey hunting shotgun. Chokes simply screw into the end of the barrel of your shotgun. They come in a variety of sizes that determine how tight your pattern will be at certain distances. Shotgun patterns can be tightly constricted with pellets grouped together closely or more open when the pellets are more spread out. The three most common chokes for turkey hunting are modified, full and super full. Test all three out and consider your hunting environment before determining which choke is best for your shotgun.



shotgun choke chart for turkey hunting


Shotgun Sights for Turkey Hunting

There are three basic types of sights for a shotgun. The open sight has a fiber optic front bead with a fiber optic rear trough. Line the front bead up with the rear sight and point it where you want it to go. It’s a very simple and very effective shotgun sight. The red dot sight has a glass reticle where you line up the front bead in the middle of the glass and aim it at your target. Red dot sights allow for a more comfortable shooting position than the open sight. And the third type of shotgun sight is a standard scope. Just as you would use a scope on a rifle, you can have the same for your shotgun.



What Are the Best Turkey Loads for Shotguns?

The size and type of turkey load you use is really a personal preference. The main shell sizes are 2 ¾, 3 and 3 ½ inches and the size you use depends on the gun gauge. Lead pellets are the most popular and are available with copper-plating. Tungsten is a new option for turkey loads. It is a heavier medal with the weight to make it go further. This gives the option of more, smaller pellets going to your target. It’s a personal preference that is best determined by trial and error. Just get out there and shoot a variety of loads with different chokes.



Best Shotgun Gauge for Turkey Hunting

The main thing to consider when choosing a shotgun for turkey hunting is confidence. You want to go with a shotgun you’re comfortable shooting with the right choke and load. A 12-gauge may shoot further than a 20-gauge, but the 20-gauge has less recoil. There are several options for shotguns, and your selection depends on where and how you hunt turkeys. 



Foraging for Dandelions
While most see dandelions as a nuisance that needs to meet the business end of our weed killer, they are a great source of nutrition and an excellent introduction to foraging. Dandelions are present in the U.S. because European settlers brought them here as a salad green. So instead of spraying it, pick it and eat it! Today you can often find dandelion in several forms at organic grocery stores and some farmers markets. But

Latest Content