Fall turkey season is here and waterfowl hunting soon will be. Are you ready?
Every year, millions of hunters nationwide flock to the waterways, hardwoods, bottomlands, rolling hills, pine forests and numerous other landscapes in pursuit of varies types of birds or fowl. And, every year, some of them walk out of the hunt with a hollow feeling of disgust because they missed what seemed like easy shots.
Though there's nothing these folks can do about the past, they can do something to keep from missing their shots in the future. Being prepared, knowing their firearms and spending a little time on the shooting range can and will remedy shooting problems that have humbled many turkey hunters.
Knowing how your shotgun patterns are is only part of the equation to having a successful hunt. But it is a very important part. Practicing the shot before the season will leave you confident with your shooting abilities and you'll be able to focus on other important parts of the hunt.
This year, try these helpful hints to ensure success.
Does size matter?
When choosing a shotgun for hunting, choose a model that's comfortable to shoot to give you more confidence. Shooting magnum loads can lead to a bad case of the flinches or jerking the trigger, sure ways to throw off your sight plane.
Chokes and such
A key element to an accurate shotgun is a good choke. For example, turkey chokes have more constriction than a Full choke, and are often labeled extra full or xx full. Tighter chokes are designed for smaller pellets such as No. 6 or No. 5 shot. The more open constrictions are better suited for larger pellets such as No. 4s.
Can you have too much constriction? Yes, you can. Depending on your gun and the ammunition you've selected, you can over-constrict the shot to the point where the pattern diminishes.
It is possible for the pellets to bounce off each other or become deformed, leaving large holes in your pattern. The solution for this is to go to a more open constriction or to a smaller shot size.
Many veteran waterfowl hunters use improved or modified chokes with steel shot. Most prefer to work ducks or geese in for close shots. You will still find full chokes in blinds, but not as often as the lead shot days.
The ammunition you choose can drastically affect your pattern. Each gun-choke combination will shoot a specific round better than the others. The only way to determine which it likes, is to shoot a variety of ammunition.
Vary your shot sizes and brands from several distances and stick with the one that gives you the most consistent pattern.
What's in a pattern?
The ideal pattern for hunting turkeys is 100 pellets in a 10-inch circle at 40 yards. This density means that there should be plenty of pellets in the small vital area of the turkey's head and neck to kill it ethically.
n What's so magical about 40 yards?
Turkey guns are often patterned at 40 yards because that is the maximum distance promoted by the Turkey Hunting Safety Task Force as the proper range to ethically and cleanly kill a turkey with a shotgun.
However, knowing how your shotgun patterns at distances less than 40 yards is also very important. I think up to 50 yards is adequate for waterfowl hunters, though there are many 60 yard shots, even with veteran hunters.
Dial it in
Shotguns tend to be different, so field testing is important. Initial pattern tests should be on a 30-inch target. Sheets of butcher paper or craft paper work great.
Draw a small two-inch circle in the middle and color it in with a marker, then draw a 10-inch circle centered on that. Pace off 40 yards or use a laser range finder to mark your distance.
Use a shooting brace/bench to reduce human error and shoot a single round at each target. Shoot a few different types of ammo through different choke tubes, record the information and then compare the results. Pick the round that gives you the densest pattern.