View Full Version : Turkey Shot Pattern...

March 29, 2008, 02:08 PM
Hello All. New turkey hunter here. Looking for my first this year. Was out shooting my shotgun today to test the pattern. At 30 paces (roughly 30 yards) I was getting approximately 40-50% of the shot in the head area. At 50 paces, I maybe had 5-7 shot hits on the head. First off, I am not sure if the shot at 30 paces is adequate for a kill or not (I assume the 50 paces shot will leave me hungry). I used a 12 gauge with a full choke (no insert), #4 shot. Am I heading in the right direction here or is a new shotgun my best option? Have been looking at shotguns with threads for choke tubes. I don't want to spend the money if my current 12 gauge is okay, however I don't want to wound a turkey either. Any thoughts?

March 29, 2008, 05:43 PM
if you can get a barrel for your shotgun that uses choke tubes, that would be cheaper than buying another shotgun. nothing wrong with buying another gun though.

you would have to try different loads and brands of shells. each will pattern differently. and maybe use a choke tighter than full. you may or may not go through alot of shells and patterning targets before finding the right one. but when you do you should have no problem hitting and killing the turkey, with the first shot.

what shotgun do you have, make, model and gauge?

March 29, 2008, 05:56 PM
You might want to get a barrel that can use interchangable chokes. I use a Carlson's super-full turkey choke on my Mossberg 535 with Winchester Super X #4 heavy loads for turkey hunting.

At 30 yards, I can keep, and this is a guestimate, 90% of the pattern on a 16 inch cardboard circle that I used for testing my pattern. At ten yards, it was super tight, the entire pattern was in about a 10-12 inch circle on the cardboard circle.

Where I hunt at, 30 yards is about the farthest I'll be taking shots at turkeys at. So, I think I'll be ok.

March 29, 2008, 06:49 PM
Try index cards tacked onto a post. This will give you a better idea of what your shot pattern will do at 30 yards. Also, if you are aiming right.

March 30, 2008, 11:48 PM
standard1-1/4 or larger?

The lighter load may give better pattern than a magnum load and`allow you to shoot better without heavy recoil.

March 31, 2008, 07:12 AM
"40-50% in the head area"

I assume you mean the general area of the head considering you said, "I maybe had 5-7 shot hits on the head". To clarify this, are you saying you get 5-7 pellets into the head itself or in the head and neck combined? (it makes a difference)

The only way to find out exactly what the load is doing is to put up at least 36" square paper coverage (48" square is even better - sheets of newsprint are fine or you can hit the dollar store and try to get the wide rolls of discount wrapping paper cheap).

Next, put a small 2" or so diameter dot in the middle of the paper and fire one shot from a bench rest or other suitable solid rest holding your point of aim (POA) on the center of the dot. Then you need to see if your pattern is centering over the aiming point or not - if not, you need to try several different loads and see if the pattern is centering off the POA consistently with them as well, if so, you need to get the sight(s) and/or barrel adjusted to center the pattern on the POA, pulling the "kentucky windage" thing will ensure you send a wounded bird off to suffer.

If the patterns are centered up on the POA, you need to see if the shot is evenly distributed within the pattern. If you're getting blotches, separate groups of tightly packed pellets with areas with no or little pellet coverage, you need to change ammo brands and or loadings and try again. Different loads in the same brand and different brands with the same load will often shoot completely different. Shotguns are no different than rifles in that you must have a load that the gun likes. If you're shooting 1.5oz loads, drop to a 1.25oz load and see what happens because many times having a shot column that is too long will cause blotching as will changes in the type/length of wad used.

Throwing a massive volume of shot out doesn't do any good if most of it is lost out of the pattern area and/or that which hits the pattern area isn't evenly distributed.

March 31, 2008, 08:24 AM
I use index cards at the range I think I will be shooting the bird, usually 30 yards. Tack the card to a post and let loose. It checks your aim and number of shot you are likely to get into the kill zone.'

Worth a try!

March 31, 2008, 08:52 AM
Index cards are fine once you know what your pattern is doing as a whole. Index cards won't identify issues like blotching where you can get a blotch to hit the card say 6 out of 10 shots leaving you with a 40% chance of missing/wounding a critter. The cards also won't show other pattern issues like wandering or doughnut either.

I'm sure you'll agree that consistency is the key to acceptable performance and I'm not trying to be ugly with this but you have to know what the whole pattern is doing with multiple shots. If you're getting a doughnut pattern, you may find at exactly 30yds your getting multiple hits on the index card but move the card to 33yds or 27yds and you'll be missing it completely.

The problem I come across more often than anything else is people just don't put enough effort into patterning their shotguns properly. You cannot obtain any reasonable average pattern evaluation with just a few shots on a small target. Put up a 48" square target and shoot 20 individual patterns, then you can use those results to obtain a reasonable assessment of consistency with that given load at that given distance. If you find you get a good consistent pattern at X yardage, then you need to shoot at least another ten patterns, five at a closer distance and five at a longer distance. IE: Shoot the intial 20 patterns at 35yds, if it's good then shoot at least five at 45yds and five more at 25yds and compare what you get at both the close and longer ranges to what you estabilished as a consistent average with the initial 35yd patterns. You'll be amazed at just how many loads will print perfect pattern within a limited distance and not be worth crap at closer or longer distances.

Like I said before, shotguns are no different than rifles. You take a rifle that prints a 1" 100yd group with three rounds yet when you put twenty rounds into the same target you find 6 fliers that open the group up to say 8". No longer do you have an MOA rifle, you have a rifle that shoots 8" groups. It's easy to discount an occasional bad shotgun pattern or flier in a rifle but when it comes to making the shot on a critter, are you willing to chance that bad pattern or flier bullet won't be in the chamber when you're ready to pull the trigger?

March 31, 2008, 08:11 PM
Hunters Specialties offers an awesome life size turkey head with neck target. It shows all of the vitals that you have to hit to kill a turkey. The standard is at least 5 pellets in the "Harvest Zone" which is the brain,spine, jugular and windpipe at 30 yds. You can get them at Wal-Mart or on-line. Their cheap. I think I paid $2.95 for 12 targets. The cheaper option is to draw a turkey head and neck with the vitals and make copies or print off the computer. Just try different loads to see what works best. If you find your best pattern density is darting, (off center) then you could compensate with sights or a red dot scope. (If legal in your state) You dont want to look for uniform patterns in a turkey load, you want to find the best area of pellet density that your gun shoots consistantly and center on that area and not the center of the pattern. Dead turkeys are from pattern density not uniformity like in quail hunting. Remember that turkey hunting is a challenge of getting the birds in as close as possible and shooting over 30 yds should not be needed if your calling and camo is good.