As a hunter, having the right tools and techniques can be the difference between harvesting a bird or coming back home empty-handed. Shotgun patterning is without question one of the most important tactics for turkey hunters as it not only ensures you’re likely to hit your target—it also promotes safe hunting techniques too!

Shotgun patterning helps you better understand which type of shotgun choke, choke brand, and shotgun shells works best in your gun, giving you valuable insight and total confidence when it comes time to take aim at a trophy tom turkey.

But before we get into why shotgun patterning is such an essential part of turkey hunting season, it's important to first understand what it is and how to go about doing it correctly so that the process becomes second nature when out on the field. Let’s take a look at why shotgun patterning is key for successful turkey hunts!

Trivia Question: When was the first shotgun choke invented? (Answer at the bottom)

The Introduction: Shotgun Patterning

Shotgun patterning is an essential skill for any turkey hunter to have. By better understanding how your shotgun, choke, and ammo interact you can ensure that your hunting trips are successful. Shotgun patterning lets you accurately estimate the range at which you can effectively shoot a turkey, as well as understand how different loads of ammo will impact where the shot goes.

Before hitting the turkey woods, you need to feel confident and comfortable that your shotgun pattern is spot on – so that when it comes time to take aim and pull the trigger, you’ll have the best chances of dropping a bird.

What is Shotgun Patterning and Why Is It Important for Hunters?

Shotgun patterning is the process of setting up a shotgun and shooting at a target to determine how and where the shots fired hit the target. This practice gives hunters an insight into what kind of spread their shotgun will have when fired, which can be incredibly helpful in improving accuracy. The more time spent patterning your shotgun, the better your chances are of hitting a target.

Shotgun patterning is important for hunters because it helps determine which type of ammo and choke tube works best with their shotgun. Different types of ammunition produce different patterns when fired, and knowing what your specific weapon produces can help you make more accurate shots in the field. Having a good understanding of your gun’s performance can also help you identify the ideal distance and situation for shooting.

Finally, shotgun patterning allows hunters to practice in an environment that is safe and controlled, where they can try different types of ammunition and chokes until they find the one that works best for them. This makes sure that when they head out into the field, they have a good understanding of their shotgun and the results it will produce.

Overall, shotgun patterning is an essential practice for any hunter looking to improve their accuracy in the field. It gives them valuable insight into how their weapon performs with different types of ammo and chokes and helps them become more confident shooters. With regular practice and experimentation, a hunter can become proficient in their shotgun’s performance and be prepared for any situation they may encounter.

How To Properly Pattern a Shotgun For Turkey Hunting

Patterning your shotgun is an important step in preparing for turkey hunting. It can help you determine the approximate area of impact, or “pattern”, that your shots will produce. This information can be used to ensure that you hit the target at different ranges and with different loads. Here are some steps to properly pattern a shotgun for turkey hunting:

1. Choose the right shotgun and ammunition.

A turkey gun should have a fast-twist barrel, which will help deliver tight patterns with larger shot sizes. Also, choose an appropriate choke tube for your shotgun, taking into account the size of your shot and what type of load you’ll be using. Usually, a turkey gun will require a full or extra-full choke.

2. Use the right targets and backstops.

Patterning should be done at different distances, usually from 20 to 40 yards away. For the target, choose a paper plate or a piece of cardboard with an outlined pattern that you can use to measure your shot groupings. Your backstop should be sturdy, like a bale of hay or a tree trunk; it’s important to make sure that the target and backstop are in a safe area away from people and property.

3. Take your patterning shots carefully.

Mount the gun firmly but comfortably, take aim at the center of the pattern you’ve outlined on the target, and fire. As you fire, be sure to note any changes in the point of aim or sight picture that may have occurred due to recoil. Also take into account any environmental factors, like wind or elevation change, which could affect your shots.

4. Measure and evaluate your patterns.

After firing a few shots, you can measure the patterns on the target and evaluate them for consistency. A good pattern should have most of the pellets landing within a 30” circle at 40 yards away; anything outside of that is considered an outlier. Measure your results and take note of any changes you may need to make in order to obtain more consistent patterns.

Your Shotgun's Point of Impact (POI)

A shotgun's Point of Impact (POI) is an important factor in the effectiveness of your firearm. It determines where the pattern of shot lands at different distances, and it can make a huge difference when it comes to hitting your target. Unfortunately, most shotguns are sold with their POIs set to factory standards, which may not be ideal for your individual shooting style.

Fortunately, there is a way to discover the true POI of your shotgun: by patterning it at different distances. Patterning involves shooting several rounds and counting the number of pellets that land in a 30-inch circle at varying distances. This will give you an idea of where the majority of shot is landing, and thus your true POI.

Patterning can be done in a variety of ways; you can shoot from a rest or use a patterning board to get consistent results. Patterning boards are available commercially and they allow you to fire several rounds with the exact same point of aim, making it easier to get an accurate reading. Once you have patterned your shotgun, you can adjust the POI as needed to get the best results.

By taking the time to discover your shotgun's true Point of Impact (POI), you can maximize accuracy at any range and improve your overall shooting performance!

Choosing The Right Choke and Ammo For Shotgun Patterning

When it comes to shotgun patterning, the right choke and ammo are essential. Chokes control the spread of shot as it exits the barrel, while ammunition determines pellet size, velocity and cost.

The type of choke used is dependent on the situation you intend to use your shotgun for. Generally speaking, a tighter choke will lead to a denser pattern, whereas a looser choke will produce a wider spread.

If you’re using your shotgun for hunting, different chokes are more suitable depending on the game and range. A tighter choke is usually better when shooting at ducks or other waterfowl in wide open areas, while turkey hunters often rely on extra-tight chokes for long-range shots.

But Why Does Choke Type Matter?

The type of ammunition is also important when it comes to shotgun patterning. Different types of pellets travel at different speeds and spread out differently, so selecting the right ammo can help you get a better pattern.

For example, buckshot is ideal for close range hunting and self-defense, while lead shot or steel shot is best for targets at a distance.

In order to get the most accurate and consistent pattern from your shotgun, it’s important to select the right choke and ammo for the job. Taking the time to experiment with different combinations of chokes and ammunition can help you consistently hit your target and make the most out of your shotgun.

Ultimately, you want to find a choke and ammo combination that produces an even spread of shot with minimal recoil and effective knockdown power. With enough practice and experimentation, you can become an excellent marksman with your shotgun. 

Understanding The Different Pattern Types

When it comes to shotgun patterning, there are several different types of patterns you can get depending on the choke and ammo combination.

A full pattern produces a nice even circle with minimal gaps in coverage. This is ideal for hunting or self-defense and is usually achieved with tighter chokes and heavier shot.

An improved pattern is slightly less dense than a full pattern and usually results from using a mid-range choke with lighter shot. These patterns are great for clay pigeon shooting or sporting clays.

Finally, an open or spread pattern is typically produced with a looser choke and smaller pellets. This type of pattern is best used for waterfowl hunting or target shooting at a distance.

Experimenting with different chokes and ammo combinations can help you find the right pattern for your needs, so don’t be afraid to try something new!

For more information on choosing the right choke and ammunition for shotgun patterning, please consult an expert or gunsmith. They can help you find the best combination for your specific needs.

Shotgun Choke Types

10 Quick Tips For Shotgun Patterning

1. Select the Right Shells: Choose shells that are designed specifically for turkey hunting and contain pellets with a size of 4, 5, or 6.

2. Pattern Your Shotgun: Before heading into the field make sure to pattern your shotgun in order to determine which load produces the best patterns for your gun.

3. Keep Distance in Mind: Different shell and choke combinations will have different efficiencies at various distances, so you want to select a combination that works well at the distance you plan on shooting turkeys from.

4. Change Your Choke Tubes: Different choke tubes will produce different results depending on your gun, the type of shell, and the distance that you're shooting from. Try several different tubes to see which one produces the best results.

5. Take Note of Your Patterns: After patterning your shotgun take note of where most of the pellets are hitting so you can adjust accordingly when you're out in the field.

6. Adjust Your Aim: Depending on the load and choke combination you may need to adjust your aim slightly to account for how your gun patterns at different distances.

7. Practice Makes Perfect: Once you've determined which shells and chokes work best with your gun, make sure to practice shooting turkeys at various distances so that you're comfortable and confident when hunting season arrives.

8. Clean Your Gun Properly: To ensure that your gun functions properly during turkey hunting season, make sure to keep it clean and free of debris. This will help prevent jams and misfires while out in the field.

9. Stay Alert: When you're out hunting for turkeys, stay alert and pay attention to your surroundings so that you can react quickly when a bird is spotted. Having an effective patterning setup won't do much if you don't have the skills to take the shot.

10. Have Fun: Most importantly, have fun! Turkey hunting is a great way to experience nature and bond with friends or family members so make sure to enjoy yourself during the hunt. Good luck!

Shotgun Patterning: Turkey vs. Duck

For turkey hunting, a distance of 40 yards is the recommended range for patterning shots with different shotgun loads and chokes. To get an optimal view of the pattern, it is best to use a target area that is at least 2’x2’, although using a 3'x3' area is even better as it allows for a better view of the entire pattern in case it isn't perfectly centered.

Waterfowl hunting requires a specific patterning of the shotgun in order to be successful. For close-range or timbered areas, a distance of 25-30 yards is suggested with the aim being to create a 30” circle. When hunting at mid to long-range distances, however, it is best to pattern the shotgun at 40 yards. This will ensure that the pattern is large enough to hit the target with more accuracy.

Answer: The first patented shotgun choke happened in 1866.

Shotgun Patterning FAQs 

1. What distance should be used to pattern a shotgun?

Shotgun patterning should be done from a distance of 20 to 40 yards away.

My Final Thoughts

Shotgun patterning for turkey hunting is an important, yet very simple process. While it takes patience and precision to correctly pattern your gun, the outcome can be well worth it if you understand the various types of patterns and how to optimize them for your particular shotgun and hunting needs.

Knowing how to properly choose chokes and ammo that will best optimize your shotgun's performance during hunting season can make all the difference when out in the field. So, whether you're a seasoned turkey hunter or just starting out, remember the importance of shotgun patterning this hunting season!

Do you pattern your shotgun each hunting season? Tell us your experience!

For a blog about the Best Duck Hunting Chokes, we have that too!