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how to pattern a shotgun for turkey

Taking the time during the pre-season to pattern your turkey gun is an essential step all turkey hunters should complete. Not only is this the ethical thing to do but it also gives you the increased confidence in your equipment when you head to the turkey woods. This post will cover how to pattern a shotgun for turkey so your turkey gun is ready to make a clean kill this turkey season.

Gear Required to Pattern a Turkey Gun

  • Turkey Gun
  • Ear Protection
  • Turkey Ammo and Target Loads
  • Turkey Chokes or Shotgun Choke (Full Choke)
  • Lead Sled (optional)
  • Turkey Target and Paper Targets

The Importance of an Adjustable Shotgun Sight for Turkey Hunting

When it comes to turkey hunting, selecting the right sight for your turkey gun is crucial for accurate aiming and consistent point of impact. Some of the most popular sights that are used for turkey hunting are the red dot sight, reflex sight, and the fiber optic sight. Any of these sights can provide turkey hunters the ability to make the necessary adjustments to get the most amount of pellets on target. It is important to consider your hunting style and environment when choosing a sight. Look for one that is low-profile and secure, allowing for quick target acquisition and easy maneuverability in the field.

Choosing the Right Choke Tube for Turkey Hunting

In turkey hunting, testing and selecting the correct choke tube for your shotgun is crucial to maximize your shotguns performance while hunting wild turkey. While most shotguns come with standard chokes, full choke, modified choke, etc., investing in a quality aftermarket turkey choke designed specifically for high-energy turkey loads can greatly enhance how your shotgun patterns.

These aftermarket chokes have varying levels of constriction, allowing you to fine-tune your gun’s pattern to achieve the perfect pattern.

  • Consider the shot size and type you plan to use when selecting a turkey choke. The level of constriction should be matched to the shots size and type to optimize the pattern downrange. Smaller shot sizes or TSS (Tungsten Super Shot) loads generally work well with less constricted chokes, while larger shot sizes in lead loads may require more constriction.
  • Experimenting with different turkey chokes and types of turkey loads is essential to finding the optimal combination for your turkey gun. By testing different configurations, you can determine which choke produces the tightest and most consistent patterns at the distances you typically hunt turkeys.
  • Remember that pattern density is key, as a dense pattern increases the chances of hitting vital areas on a turkey’s head and neck. A tighter pattern also extends your effective range, allowing you to take ethical shots at greater distances.

How to Pattern a Shotgun for Turkey: Patterning Process

Patterning a shotgun for turkey hunting is a crucial step in preparing for a successful hunt. By following a systematic process, you can determine the performance of your turkey gun at various distances and ensure optimal pattern consistency. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you pattern your shotgun.

Note, for simplicity we are going to call your point of aim (POA) and your point of impact (POI).

1. Set Up the Target

Start by placing a paper target at a close range of 15 yards. I have found that a roll of 3 foot contractors paper works extremely well for this and allows you to see your entire pattern once you move back to farther distances.

The target should have a defined aiming point, such as a small dot. This will allow you to assess the pattern’s POI and adjust your sights accordingly. Ensure the target is securely placed and aligned with your shooting position.

2. Initial Shots using Target Loads

Now that you have your target set, its time to take some initial shots. Using your target loads, shoot at the 15 yard target from your comfortable shooting position. Examine the pattern on the target and evaluate your POA vs POI and determine what adjustments, if any, need to be made to your turkey gun. Repeat the process with a few shots until you are properly dialed in.

During these initial shots its important to make sure that you have a solid rest

3. Fine-Tune with Heavy Game Loads

Now that you have your POA and POI dialed in, its time to move your target back and do some fine tuning. Move the target to a distance of 40 yards and shoot with heavy game loads.

Repeat this step, takings several shots, until you know that your turkey gun it dialed in.

This step allows you to fine-tune your shotgun’s sights and POI before you start to shoot your more expensive turkey loads. Assess the pattern’s consistency and adjust your sight as necessary.

4. Shoot with Turkey Loads and Turkey Target

Once you have achieved your POI at 40 yards, transition to turkey loads to assess their performance.

Using the same type of small target used in the previous steps shoot your first turkey load. Assess your first shot and make sure that your POA and POI are still true and if needed make final adjustments to your turkey guns sights.

Once you have confirmed that everything is still hitting where you want its time to shoot a couple more shots at a turkey head target to assess your pattern.

The standard for assessing the pattern and reasonable range of a turkey gun is by how many pellets hit inside a 10 inch circle at 40 yards. A good pattern to kill turkeys is a minimum of 100 pellets inside the 10 inch circle at 40 yards. If you are getting fewer pellets than this you should either shorten your range or evaluate your load and choke combination.

Its also a good idea to count the number of pellet holes inside the turkey head target.

Selecting the Right Turkey Load for Your Shotgun

When it comes to turkey hunting, selecting the right load for your shotgun is crucial. I have found that a shotgun reacts different while using different loads. So its important to test and shoot different turkey loads to determine what works best in your gun.

The choice of turkey load can significantly impact your pattern density and effective range, ultimately determining the success of your hunt. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing a turkey load:

Shot Size

Different size shot are available, such as #4, #5, #6 (Standard Lead Loads), #7, #8, and #9 (Heavier than Lead or TSS Loads). The shot size affects the number of pellets in the load and the density of the pattern.

Pellet Count

The number of pellets in a load will affect your patterns density downrange. Higher pellet count loads tend to provide denser patterns, increasing the chances of hitting the vital areas of a turkey’s head and neck.

Shell Length:

Turkey loads are available in different shell lengths, usually 2 3/4″, 3″, and 3 1/2″. The shell length can affect the amount of powder and the number of pellets in the load. Consider your shotgun’s chamber length and choose a shell length that is compatible.

Shotshell Composition:

Turkey loads typically come in either lead shot or tungsten super shot (TSS) compositions. Lead shot offers good performance, while tungsten provides superior penetration and the ability to shoot smaller pellets. Choose a composition that suits your hunting needs and local regulations.

Importance of Shotgun Range and POI Assessment

Assessing the effective range and POI of your shotgun is a crucial aspect of turkey hunting that should not be overlooked. By understanding how your turkey gun performs at different distances, you can determine the maximum ethical range at which you can consistently hit the vital area of a turkey. This assessment is essential for shooting accuracy and ensuring a clean and ethical shot on the bird.

Evaluating the density of your pattern and POI of your shotgun can greatly enhance your shooting accuracy in the field. By shooting at various distances and assessing the pellet count within a designated area on a target, you can gain valuable insights into your shotgun’s performance. This evaluation helps you make the necessary adjustments to optimize your shotgun’s pattern consistency and ensure your shots are on target.

Benefits of Shot Distances and POI Assessment:

  • Improved shooting accuracy: Understanding your shotgun’s effective range and point of impact allows you to make accurate shots at varying distances, increasing your chances of a successful hunt.
  • Pattern evaluation: By assessing the pattern density of your shotgun at different distances, you can determine the optimal range at which your shotgun delivers a tight pattern, ensuring a lethal shot on a turkey.
  • Ethical shot placement: Knowing your shotgun’s POI helps you identify the vital area of a turkey and ensure your shots are placed ethically, resulting in clean kills and minimizing unnecessary suffering.

By taking the time to assess your shotgun’s range and point of impact, you can enhance your shooting accuracy, pattern consistency, and overall success as a turkey hunter. Remember, each shotgun is unique, and understanding your specific firearm’s performance characteristics is key to achieving optimal results in the field.

Tips for Optimal Shotgun Patterning and Sight Adjustment

Patterning your shotgun properly is essential to ensure accurate and consistent shots while turkey hunting. Here are some tips to help you achieve optimal shotgun patterning and sight adjustment:

Maintain Target Consistency

When patterning your shotgun, it’s important to use the same type of target consistently. Whether it’s a paper target or turkey silhouette, using the same target helps you evaluate the pattern and make accurate adjustments to your shotgun’s sights.

Focus on Aiming Point and Sight Adjustment

Pay close attention to your aiming point when patterning your shotgun. Make sure you aim at the same spot on the target for each shot to ensure consistency. If your pattern is consistently off-center, you may need to adjust your shotgun’s sights accordingly. Whether you have adjustable sights or use alternative sighting methods, such as a red dot sight, make the necessary adjustments to align your aim with the shotgun’s point of impact.

Use a Solid Rest and Experiment with Shooting Positions

To achieve accurate and consistent patterns, it’s recommended to use a rest that provides stability and reduces human error. Resting your shotgun on a solid surface can help eliminate unnecessary movement and improve your shooting accuracy. Additionally, experiment with different shooting positions, such as standing, kneeling, or sitting, to find the most comfortable and stable position for pattern consistency.

By following these tips and taking the time to properly pattern your shotgun, you can optimize its performance and increase your chances of a clean and effective shot at a turkey. Remember, achieving optimal pattern density and sight adjustment is crucial for a successful turkey hunt.


Patterning a shotgun for turkey hunting is a crucial step in achieving success and ensuring a clean and ethical shot. By selecting the right sights, chokes, and loads, and thoroughly assessing the shotgun’s pattern consistency, effective range, and POI, I can optimize my shotgun’s performance for effective turkey hunting.

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