A Pattern on Turkey
By: Peter Wood
A simple way to get the best out of your choke and ammo
Ever missed a huge gobbler with an outstretched neck at 11 yards? I have. I'm positive the now deaf gobbler is still enjoying a laugh on me, but only for few more weeks. The spring turkey season is almost here again.
How can anyone miss a 20-pound-plus feathered target at 11 yards with a shotgun? Easy, with an extra-full choke when you're focusing on a head and neck and not a robust body. Shooting at the kill zone of a gobbler's head avoids wounding the bird. Ten or more pellets in that zone ensures a quick, clean kill. A tight pattern works best. But, you must know how your gun patterns with different loads, at different distances.
After hunting gobblers for 20 years in Ontario, I knew to pattern my shotgun with the perfect load to nail a gobbler's vitals even out to 40 or more yards. But, how many hunters pattern their favourite shotgun load at 10 or 15 yards? I do now.
An inexpensive way for hunters to pattern their guns, in search of the best load for each one, is to share the cost with a few friends. Each one should purchase a 10-round box of ammo in a specific load. The more hunters involved, the wider the variety of loads you can try. Just decide on shell manufacturer, shot size (4, 5, and 6), and what lengths (2 3/4-, 3-, or 3 1/2-inch) your guns can chamber.
All sorts of turkey targets are available with neck and head outlined. Buy some that have easy pellet-hit identification. A full-sized, lifelike gobbler head jumps out from a contrasting background, even out to 50 yards.
A piece of cardboard with a gobbler head outline drawn on it will also work. Or, on a piece of 12- by 12-inch cardboard, draw a fist-sized circle. Choose a safe location on private property, if firearms-discharge regulations permit, or at a gun range. If safe to do so, sit in a hunting position. Bench rests are great, but shooting from one won't necessarily provide you with hunting-situation results.
Place targets at 15, 20, 30, 40, and even 50 yards. Shooters can take turns firing at a new turkey target for each load and distance. Change shell variations and repeat on new targets. Mark each target with yardage, shell brand, shot size, choke, and your name. Once completed, compare all targets to reveal the perfect shell, choke, and distance combination.
You will learn a lot about your shotgun and how it shoots different loads at different distances. Don't be surprised at the results, especially up close or far out. Knowing this will give you confidence to take that shot – or not – on a bearded bird this season.