What could be more essential to a successful turkey hunt than a shotgun and ammo? Here’s how to select a shotgun/choke/shot combo to fit your needs.
Part one, two, and three all covered what I consider essential gear (calls, camo, and decoys) for turkey hunting. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention weapons and ammo before sending you out into the field. That said, the type and style of weapon are guided largely by the hunter’s preference. There is no wrong answer as long as fundamentals are kept in mind, and the hunter practices enough to become proficient with what he/she is using.
There are four basic types of shotguns: pumps, semi-automatics, over/unders, and side-by-sides. Each type of shotgun has its advantages and disadvantages. With pumps and semi-autos, you get a third round, which can be great if you didn’t quite put your turkey down with the first couple of shots. With an over/under, you can have different chokes on your shotgun at the same time. The key here is that these shotguns should be 12-gauge (kids can make it work with a 20-gauge if the range is close), shooting 3 or 3 1/2″ loads, with a full choke. Some new shotguns are designed specifically for turkeys and come with extra-full chokes.
Chokes are small tubes that either screw inside your barrel or mount to the muzzle. Basically, chokes help control the pattern of your shot. The ‘fuller’ the choke, the more dense your pattern will be. Hunters will need to experiment with a variety of chokes and loads to see exactly what works for their setup. There is no perfect answer here, because each shotgun, load, and choke combination will change how the pattern ends up downrange. With that in mind, don’t leave your season up to chance; practice and know how your equipment will pattern.
Inside a shotgun shell there are multiple projectiles called shot. Depending on what you are hunting, they come in lead, lead substitute, and steel (steel is typically used when hunting waterfowl). They are categorized with a numerical system, the higher the number, the smaller the projectiles. The smaller the projectiles, the more can fit into the shell and the denser the pattern. It may seem simple, but this is actually one of the more complicated areas of turkey hunting (for me, at least).
With a larger projectile (#2), your penetration and kill-power will be greater, but your pattern will not be as dense (meaning there’s a greater chance of missing, depending on range). This is a balancing game between shot-power and range. You will need enough power from your shot to penetrate vegetation and still be able to kill. You will also need to determine the lethal range of the shot you picked and only operate inside that range.
This will be the last turkey article until after my turkey season is over. I hope to write about a successful turkey hunt, and I would like to hear about yours. Please feel free to post pictures of your turkey harvests on our social-media pages. Without giving up any trade secrets, please say where you were hunting (the state is fine). Good luck out there.
(Featured image courtesy of hunteredcourse.com)