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The common wisdom is that turkey hunters need as much shot as possible in a shotgun shell to be fired at a turkey.  Also, the tighter the choke the better.  Ballistics research has shown, however, that problems occur with some magnum loads combined with very tight chokes.  Heavy shot loads in a shotshell with mismatched powder can create a blown pattern.  If too much shot is pushed by an inadequate powder charge, uneven patterns with turkey-sized holes can develop.  The shot string can also be lengthened in this situation, resulting in less shot reaching the target at the same time.  With turkeys, even a short delay can be a problem.


The rather recent development of other types of shotshells adds to the confusion.  Extra-heavy loads (over 2 ounces in 3" magnum 12-gauge shells) developed for turkey hunting can pattern impressively in some guns and perform poorly in others. These Super-Magnum shells also carry quite a wallop when you "torch one off" and may be more than some hunters can tolerate.  Not to mention the difficulty in trying to pattern these loads without flinching.  Closing your eyes, or flinching as you pull the trigger while shooting at a turkey is a guaranteed recipe for a miss, or worse yet, a crippled turkey.


The only way to determine the best load for your gun is to pattern it with several combinations of shot and powder charges. Performance will probably vary between different brands of shells fired from the same gun.  Any serious turkey hunter that fails to plan a good patterning session is planning to fail! 


Patterning has the added advantage of helping you determine the maximum range at which your gun will consistently kill a turkey with a given load.  Any gun/shotshell combination that always places at least 6 pellets in the head and neck of a turkey-sized target at 40 yards is adequate.   Even though I shoot a 12 gauge with magnum loads, all but a few of the adult gobblers I have bagged with a single shot were well inside 40 yards...probably an average of about 25 yards.  Not many 12 gauge guns will pattern consistently beyond 40 yards with any load.  Some guns do not center their pattern to the point of aim, another problem that can only be detected by patterning tests.


Try magnum loads in #4, #5, and #6 shot, with various combinations of powder and ounces of shot until you have the best load that will pattern correctly.  Sometimes fewer ounces of shot will pattern better than heavier loads.  For example, in my 12-gauge a 2 ounce or 2 1/4 ounce magnum load of  #5 shot won't pattern as well as a 1 5/8 ounce load.   Bigger is not always better when it comes to shells.


Duplex loads, those consisting of two different sizes of shot, provide poor energy retention beyond the range of the smallest shot size and will not pattern as far as a single shot-size load.


I prefer a 3-inch magnum load, with buffered copper-plated shot, because these loads pattern better than non-buffered loads.  #5 shot is my current favorite shot size.


Ladies and Gentlemen.....Pattern Your Guns!


Subjects in the Secrets Library
About Turkeys
Spring Hunting Tactics
Fall Hunting Tactics
Camouflage & Concealment
Turkey Calls & Calling
Check List & Misc.
Bow Hunting Tactics
Safety & Ethics
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