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Borch

Patterning Info, Results and Questions.

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Borch

With the turkey season just around the corner and pretty nice weather I thought I'd repost this patterning article. Feel free to post you results and ask questions.

Turkey Patterning Tips:

Jeff Borchardt

Now that the weather is starting to warm up and spring is here a turkey hunters thought turn towards chasing turkeys. It’s often a lot of work to get that big tom into shotgun range. On top of that these birds are tough to put down! You want to do everything in your power to make sure that when the opportunity presents itself that you’re able to get the job done quickly and cleanly. Patterning is probably the least fun part of turkey hunting. These turkey loads pack a wallop! But it is an important duty of yours as an ethical turkey hunter to do what you can to make a clean kill. Here are a few tips to get you started and make the process more efficient.

Guns:

Most guys who hunt turkeys do not have a customized turkey gun. Rather most use guns they already use to hunt ducks, geese, pheasants and other small game. The most common setup for hunting turkeys is a 12 gauge shotgun which shoots 3 inch shells. But there are hunters out there using 2 ¾” 12 gauge, 3 ½ inch 12 gauge, 10 gauge, 20 gauge, 16 gauge and black powder shotguns. All will do the job on a turkey given the hunter knows the limitations of their firearm and only takes shots within the guns ability. The little 20 gauge has really gained popularity in the past few years for turkey hunting. So much so, that many ammo manufactures now make multiple 20 gauge turkey loads. Velocity has never been the issue with the 20 gauge loads. Instead trying to get the smaller payload to hold together long enough to provide an acceptable pattern at longer distances is the issue. With the new chokes and ammo choices available to hunters today this is no longer an issue out to 40 yards and beyond.

Chokes:

Generally with turkey hunting you’re trying to put a lot of shot into a small area. Like I mentioned earlier, these birds are tough to kill. Your most effective way of harvesting one is getting multiple head/spine hits. We’ll go into more detail later, so your looking for a choke for your gun that will give you a tight pattern for 30-40 yards. If your gun has a fixed choke you’re kind of stuck. You job is to find the ammo that’ll give you the best pattern with the existing gun choke combo. If your gun has a removable choke you have more flexibility. But you’ll still need to find the best ammo for your gun choke combo through trial and error. Every gun is different. Even if you have the same exact gun as you buddy does it doesn’t mean you’ll get the same results with the same combo. But it does give you a starting point. Generally aftermarket chokes made specifically for turkey hunting will outperform the factory choke your gun came with. There are always exceptions but generally this will be the case. Turkey chokes vary greatly in quality and price. You’ll find turkey chokes ranging in price from $12.99 to $200.00. That’s a big range in price. Most chokes will however be in the $25.00 to $55.00 range. Some have porting, some don’t. Most extend beyond the barrel end 1-2 inches and some are flush mounts. It’s also important to make sure to know what type of shot your choke is rated for. Most will be rated, “For Lead Shot Only”. In these chokes do not shoot the tungsten alloy shot as these loads will not be safe in a lead only choke. A general rule is that the tighter the choke the smaller shot it will group tightly and vice versa. But you’ll never know for sure until you pattern them yourself.

Now what it tight and what is open when it comes to turkey chokes? In a standard bored gun anything in the .660 or less is very tight. Between .665-.675 is a typical constiction and more than .675 is open. There are loads that will perform well in all of these constriction ranges. You just have to find what works best.

Ammo:

So many ammunition options out there now for turkey hunting that it’ll make your head spin. All the major ammo manufacturers have both lead and nontoxic shot loads available. Most of these nontoxic loads are Tungsten alloys but there is Bismuth shot loads as well. The nontoxic loads are more expensive than lead but also carry more downrange energy than lead of the same shot size. You be spending 3-5 times as much per box of the nontoxic loads and up to 10 times as much for the custom nontoxic loads. Here are a few common ammo choices and what typically works best.

Like I mentioned the tighter chokes will shoot smaller better in most cases. Here are some starting point numbers that typically hold true in 12 gauge guns with a standard bore.

The New Hevi 13 loads tend to perform better with tighter chokes, (.650-.665). For instance my Stoeger 2000 shoots the Hevi 13 2 oz 6 shot out of a .655 Jellyhead choke very tight. Whereas the old remington Hevishot loads liked a choke that was a bit more open, (.675-.685). Lead 6/5 tends to shoot best in that .665-.670 range and #4 lead tends to like .670-.680. But again unless you shoot it you won't know. Exception crop up all the time. For instance in my Stoeger 2000 it also likes the Federal Carttidge Flite Control #5 shot in a 2 oz load pushed through a .655 ported Comp n choke. It's totally the wrong choke for that load but my gun likes it.

Here is some additional Information on loads to consider while patterning. The Winchester Elite loads like a choke similar to lead loads typically. The Federal Cartridge Flite Control loads typically shoot best out of non-ported chokes

Another consideration of shot size is pattern density versus knockdown power. With smaller shot there are more individual shot to fill in a denser pattern. The downside is that they also lose energy quicker than the larger shot. Generally 2.5 ft/lbs of energy is the accepted energy level for penetrating skin and bone required to cleanly harvest a mature tom. In lead shot #6 shot falls below that level just past 35 yards, #5 lead at 40 yards and #4 shot about 45 yards in turkey shells pushing a heavy payload. You’ll pick up a 3-4 yards with the high velocity lead loads and an additional 7-8 yards with the Tungsten alloy shot.

Patterning Session:

I pattern at my local gun club but as long as you have a safe place to shoot with a backstop 50-65 yards out it will do. A solid rest with some sandbags is also nice to get a good bead for getting that pattern centered just right. You’ll need lots of turkey head targets. You’re looking for those with the spine and skull shown. Anything else is just for an aiming point. I print mine out on 8 ½”x11” sheets of paper and bring a roll of freezer paper along to see the big picture in regards to the pattern and a sharpie marker. If you have a few friends along then each bring a few boxes of different loads it makes it a lot easier on the bank account.

Safety is top priority. Make sure you have good hearing protection. Shooting glasses can be a good idea as well. These guns really kick so make sure to either wear a thick jacket or fold up some carpet and place it between the butt of the gun and your shoulder. It will make the session much more pleasant.

Bring some game or trap loads along. Use these until you get your pattern centered where you want it. Not need to pound your shoulder at this point. Start out at 15 or 20 yards. Put up your freezer paper and draw a small bullseye for an aim point. Carefully squeeze off two of the target loads at the bullseye. Now check it out and determine where your gun is hitting--left, right, high, low--if you have an adjustable sighting setup (scope, red-dot, iron sight), this is where you make the big adjustment to the point-of-impact.

Now take another of the big blank targets and tape a turkey-target in the center. Place it at 30 yards and fire one of each of the turkey loads you wish to evaluate, each at a fresh turkey-target. Label each used target as to the gun, load and choke tube used, as well as the distance, date, etc. for comparison later.

Certain loads will rise to the top and these are the ones you should keep for the next level. Take these best loads and move the target another 5 yards further away. As the distance increases a load or two will likely separate itself. You keep moving the target out until you end up with a minimum of 20 pellets solidly in the head/neck outline. I also use a minimum of 8 in the bone as a rule of thumb in addition to the 20 in the head and neck. When you find that distance where you hit that distance it will be your max distance unless it’s beyond the load’s acceptable distance based on retained energy. Just because you can punch a dandy pattern through paper at 50 yards with #6 lead shot doesn’t mean there’s enough knockdown energy there to cleanly kill your tom at that distance with that load.

Then, when you’re done just pat each other on the back for a job well done. Just make sure to avoid that shooting shoulder though. It might be a little tender.

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Cooter

Excellent post Borch!

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Borch

Here are a few targets that I use. I also use the one DaChise31's posted the other day as it uses less ink. Sometimes it feels good shooting something that looks more like a turkey. wink

88.jpg

87.jpg

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tanman

i am shooting a rem 870 3in 12g... i am shooting thru a .660 and #4 lead how do you think this will shoot and how do you think my kill range will be? i hope to pattern this weekend or something just looking for your thoughts

thanks for any input

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Borch

I'd definitely pick up some #6 shot with that choke. Number 4 shot generally prefers a little more open choke. That .660 should work well with 6 shot but you never know until you try it out. Try some Winchester #6 HV loads and I'd be surprised if you didn't get a good killing pattern out to 35 yards or so. But of course you'd need to try it out to make sure first.

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ANYFISH2

Borch, thanks for the info, perfect for us trying to figure things out!!

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jumpacablez

I shoot a deadly pattern with .660 with #5 shot, out to 40 yards and never went farther then that but everything was tight, just loaded the circle with bbs, including the vitals,

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Musky Buck

If you can use lead some day I might blow the dust off my 870 wingmaster with a 30" barrel and full choke and have at it.

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lindy rig

I just got done with a patterning session. At 30 yards, the target ranged from 27-55 pellets in the head/neck outline. Of these pellets, between 5-9 were in the skull/vertebrate.

At 40 yards, the target ranged from 26-27 pellets in the head/neck outline. And between 4-8 in the skull/vertebrate.

Would you be satisfied with these results or keep trying? I have limited time and resources before my season next week, but wanted to know what you guys thought.

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bmc

Lindy rig,

By the sounds of things, if I was a gobbler in your area, I'd be scared! grin It sounds like you are dialed in. It would be helpful for others to know what gun, choke, and shell combo you are using.

Brian

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Borch

Sounds like your good out to 40 yards but be careful not to stretch out too much past that as your pattern will thin pretty quickly.

Watch out turkeys!

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lindy rig

Beretta 391 12 gauge, Hevi Shot Turkey choke, and #5 Federal Hevi Shot

Thanks guys, that makes me feel a little better grin

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Archerysniper

We should find out what Donbo is shooting that way we can stay away from the combination wink

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tanman

how many pellets would you be satisfied with? at thirty of forty yards?

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Borch

Personally my cutoff if you're using the turkey head diagram is an average of 8 or more in the bone with not less than 4 bone hits with my worst pattern. They say it just takes one in the bone to drop a turkey but I like more insurance than that. I let the pattern and shot size let me know how far I can ethically shoot a bird at.

The reason that I like to be more conservative is that just misjudging the distance by 5 yards can make a huge difference in your pattern. Throw in some wind or rain and that'll have a negative impact on your pattern as well.

Good Luck.

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DonBo

We should find out what Donbo is shooting that way we can stay away from the combination wink

I'm just seeing this now. Jeez, a guy misses one turkey (okay, two) and somobody's gotta give him a hard time huh. blushgrin

Great and timely info Borch.

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Archerysniper

WOW Don that took way too long to make it worth anything but I still laughed back then and thats what matters. It's my turn for the missing this year after giving it to you last year.

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harvey lee

Don't feel bad Donbo, I missed 3 a couple seasons ago and had to run back to the truck to get more shells before I droped him.

Great post Jeff, the best I have seen in the forums for awhile.

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jpettit

Does anyone recomend using a red dot sight for turkey? do you think it would be of benefit? also do they make them with different mount options. I bought my son 1 for his cantilever deer gun, but i shoot a Benelli M2.

thanks for the advice & hope to get our 1st bird this year!

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Borch

My dad uses a red dot on his turkey gun and he really likes it. They do make a sandle mount system for most shotguns.

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trolloni

I highly recommend a scope on a turkey gun ,theres some that have a diamond reticle in em, i have one on my muzzeloader ,i missed 3 with open sights my fault i was shooting to far, so i put this on and now i dont miss after havin to wait for the smoke to clear !if his head is smaller than the inside of the diamond hes 45+ yards.the gun is a knight tk 2000 and a absolute riot to shoot 120 grains of loose powder and 2oz 6 shot .

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Borch

That's one nice turkey gun trollini. I've looked at one several times. There's just something about a cloud of smoke.

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Archerysniper

I'm thinking the same thing stepping down from the bow till I can get one with the smoke pole. I love my blkpowder rifle and sure would love to get a turkey with the blkpowder scattergun. And like you say the cloud of smoke and that smell hanging in the air would make it 100% better.

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trolloni

Itsa a blast, trouble is Knight went under ,Thomson makes a 12 gauge muzzeloader barrell for their pro hunter. another thing when you connect them birds dont even wiggle or flop like they do with a 12 gauge they are stone dead !i know though dead is dead, but if you want a mount youre taxidermist will appreciate alot less missing feathers!

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x1957x

I bought one of those Jelly Head chokes for my Browning 3 1/2 in. and used the #6 3 1/2 in. winchester turkey load and found that it put 167 pellets in the head and neck at 25 yards! It is an awsome combination!!

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