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Patterning Your New Turkey Gun

This is why I shoot target loads at 10 yards first.

This is why I shoot target loads at 10 yards first.

So you did your homework and picked your new Winchester SX2 turkey shotgun in Mossy Oak Band Camo. Okay I must admit maybe your choice of gun isn’t the same as mine, never the less, one of the most important steps to getting your new gun ready is test patterning. Many people never do this assuming all new guns always shoot straight and for the most part they do. However, not all guns shoot all the hundreds of different kinds of turkey loads the same and if your shotgun consistently shoots off your point of aim, you need to do something about it. A gunsmith can adjust your shotgun by bending the barrel or by changing the fit of your stock. A less expensive fix is to fit your gun with TRUGLO adjustable sights or a RED•DOT GOBBLE•STOPPER™ scope and then adjusting them until your shotgun hits where you point it. A quick, inexpensive way of checking if the gun is consistently sighting in adjustable sights or a scope, is to use light weight target loads, then move on to the patterning with your turkey loads, and it’s easier on your shoulder.

Along with a straight shooting shotgun, you must also get your shotgun shooting good patterns. Turkeys are very tough birds and the preferred method of shooting them is aiming for the head & neck region where pellets to the spine or brain will instantly bring down a turkey. To do this, you need tight consistent patterns at the range you are shooting. Which brings up another question, how far away do you dare shoot a turkey?

Adjustable sights or a scope can go a long way in fixing the issue.

TRUGLO Adjustable sights can go a long way in fixing the issue.

This is a controversial topic since most serious turkey hunters believe in calling them close (less than 30 yards). Modern magnum loads and turkey chokes now make it possible to consistently kill birds at 40 yards and over, that’s providing you can aim straight. That is where the biggest problem comes in with most shooters and why I would recommend keeping your shots at 40 yards or less. Never the less many hunters misjudge shooting distances anyway, including myself… it happens. If you try to keep your maximum distance for a shot at 35 or 40 yards, when you do make a mistake in judging distance and the bird is further away it should still be in effective range. I would rather error on the side of caution and wait for the bird to get close.   It’s the responsible thing to do, plus I like calling them in close.

Getting back to patterning, after you have a straight shooting shotgun, you still must try out various choke and shell combinations to find your best pattern. In this day and age, many turkey guns are coming from the factory with extra-full chokes that are as good as the after-market tubes. The only way you will know for sure is to try it out.  There are also many great after-market choke tubes on the market, I use the STRUT•STOPPER™ XTREME CHOKE TUBE by TRUGLO, it works best for me!


Good but still the mass of the patteren is still a little right!

At 40 yards: Good but still the mass of the pattern is off a little right! Keep at it!

Most seasoned hunters pattern at 40 yards to start, I usually try a variety of shells from different manufacturers with different shot sizes (4, 5, or 6) and different lengths (2 3/4″, 3″ and if your gun can shoot them 3 1/2″). A good way to save costs while doing this is to go in with a few friends to spread the shell cost out some. For my gun, it likes Winchester’s 3 1/2″ XTENDED RANGE HI-DENSITY #6 shot; it gives me the best bang for my buck. Don’t get me wrong on this, I don’t change up shells every year. I only go through this step when I buy a new gun or maybe change up a choke tube or I fall out of favor with a current shell. Now that I have found the best shell and shot size combination at 40 yards, I will shoot some shots closer in to see what the pattern does there. Sometimes a gun will be throwing a great pattern at 40 yards but a terrible one at 20 – 25 yards. Again, a little time practicing before the season will tell you what to expect.  Just like bow hunting, the practicing gives you the confidence to make the right shot. Try some shots at a real close range, 5 yards and 10 yards. Turkey chokes throw very tight, baseball-sized pattern at these ranges. A day will come if you hunt long enough, you eventually will have a shot at 10 feet or less. There’s not much margin for error when they are in that close, you’re going to want that, for mentioned confidence.  I don’t shoot up a lot of my turkey load every year getting ready for the season, but from time to time I’ll check my pattern, and again that’s more for my confidence, it just lets me know if I miss it’s not the gun or the shells.

Just remember when patterning a turkey gun that no two barrels shoot alike. Even if they are the same model and year as someone else’s, they will probably still pattern a little different. However, if you have a hunting buddy that has the same turkey gun, starting with the same turkey load and choke combination might save you time and money but if it doesn’t pattern then try, try, try again. Good Luck this spring

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