How to Pattern Your Shotgun for Turkey Hunting

How to Pattern Your Shotgun for Turkey Hunting

How to Pattern Your Shotgun for Turkey Hunting

Having your shotgun patterned correctly will allow you to shoot further and be more accurate on big toms.


While most of us will have to wait to go after long-beards until April, there are some parts of the country that you can get out as early as mid-March, but it’s never too early to start planning for the hunt. Turkey hunting involves plenty of planning, scouting and honing your calling skills, but one often overlooked critical step is patterning your shotgun if that’s your weapon of choice. We are going to teach you how to pattern your shotgun for turkey hunting.

Patterning Turkey Loads

pattern your turkey gun

Patterning your shotgun for turkey hunting is a crucial step to shooting big gobblers.

Knowing what turkey loads and chokes work best for your gun is important to your hunt. Finding that deadly combination can be the difference between a fan on the wall and a fan flying through the forest. Each gun and choke patterns differently, so spend the time making sure you’ve got a combination that will give the gobbler a dirt nap, not just ruffle his feathers.

Get everything you will need ready to rock. Gun, shells, ear protection, a solid rest and big sheets of paper that you can see the pellet marks on. Make sure you have a couple different sheets of paper that are at least 4 feet wide for each load and choke combination that you’re going to try. On each piece of paper, draw a 4-inch circle in the middle and make it dark so that it’s easy to see. Around that circle, have a 10-inch diameter circle and now you’ve got a good starting point to shoot at.

Step two: Set up your Target

Go to a safe location where you have a good backstop and set up a big, flat surface that you can attach your targets to. Measure out 40 yards with a range finder and set up a stable place to shoot. If you have a shooting bench, this is a good time to use it, but any sort of table will probably work.

Step three: Start Shooting!

Shoot your first shot, aiming at the bull’s-eye. You should shoot at at least two fresh targets so that you can see the pattern of the shots. Aim the bead, if you don’t use a scope, at the bottom of the bull’s-eye circle both times.

Step four: Do the Math

This step requires a little bit of thinking. You will need to take a tape measure or a 15-inch length of string to draw a 30-inch circle around the largest pattern of holes in the target. Once you have that circle drawn, count the number of pellet holes inside the circle, now divide that by the number of pellets in the shot-shell. The number you came up with there is the pattern percentage for the specific shell and choke combination that you just shot!

Step five: More Math!

Now that you’ve found the percentage of the large circle, you will need to do it again for the 10-inch circle that you drew around the bull’s-eye. There is a general rule-of-thumb that says 100 pellets in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards is a great turkey pattern. This would ensure that many pellets hit the head and neck of a gobbler.

Step six: Determine Point of Impact

Now that you’ve found a good combination, determine the point of impact of the shot. You will be able to measure and see with your eyes how the pattern’s density lines up with the 4-inch bull’s-eye. You should be able to see if it’s high-left, high-right, low to either side or left or right. This will allow you to compensate based on wind or elevation when it comes time to pull the trigger.

Follow these steps to find your deadly combo to get your gobbler this year. This could be the biggest preparation step besides scouting to make sure you get a turkey this season.

Check out more hunting tips on MorningMoss.

PJ Cashman

PJ is the co-founder of and is an avid hunter and lover of all things outdoors.

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