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November 10, 2022
Any experienced hunter knows that the versatility of a shotgun depends on its choke. But did you know that turkey hunting requires a specific choke pattern that differs from the ones used to hunt duck, deer, and other game?
And unless you are using the new concealment technologies available today that will get you much closer, you’ll want to have the option to shoot from a distance with success. These birds have phenomenal eyesight, and because they move in flocks, you could miss your chance even if just one detects you.
This article will look at the essential factors to consider when buying the best shotgun choke for hunting turkey – and will also discuss one of the most significant breakthroughs in concealment technology that will help assure ultra-close turkey encounters.
When you fire a shotgun, pellets leave the barrel and shoot out into a “pattern.” But the further the pellets are shot, the wider that pattern spreads, causing hunters to be more likely to miss their targets.
That’s where chokes come in. Nowadays, chokes are an essential component in shotgun shooting: They allow you to tailor your pattern by adjusting the diameter of its shot column – which is why most refer to them as “chokes.”
Shotguns are the weapon of choice for hunting smaller and faster-moving creatures, such as game birds and squirrels. These guns allow you to fire numerous little pellets in one shot, thus increasing the likelihood of hitting those otherwise tricky targets.
While many factors are at play regarding the performance of pellets as they strike the target, none is more critical than the shotgun choke.
Every shotgun comes with a choke tube. Some chokes are preset to a specific size (like fixed turkey chokes), and others are threaded into the shotgun barrel end, removable, and quickly changed from one size to the next.
One of the earliest automatic shotgun chokes patents was issued in 1951. Soon after, in the 1980s, WinChoke by Winchester was introduced for the Model 1200 and Model 1400 shotguns. The WinChoke became the first widely used “replaceable” choke-tube system.
Several years down the line, the world of hunting saw several new advancements, such as the Accuchoke tube system from Mossberg, the Multichoke on Weatherby’s Model 82 in 1982, and many other notable versions.
While it took years for hunters to come around to the idea of using chokes, shotgun turkey chokes proved effective in terms of cost and time savings: Hunters could use a replaceable choke for faster, easier targeting without spending money on additional barrels.
Compared to an open choke or no choke, chokes can restrict the shot charge of a gun to hold it together long before the shot spreads. Restriction helps create a denser shot pattern at longer ranges.
It’s similar to how a nozzle on the end of a garden hose works: It adjusts the dispersion of the ammunition by making the tube narrower or broader.
Thanks to advancements in its design, the modern choke also significantly impacts the shotgun’s effective range. As you might suspect, the range increases with further tube constriction.
For instance, a full choke (with a narrower tube) performs best between 40 and 50 yards, whereas an improved cylinder (somewhat wider tube) performs best between 20 and 35 yards.
When selecting the right turkey choke for your hunt, get choke tubes made for the shooting you like and practice with your preferred load. Shoot at a center mark in a 30-inch circle at a distance of 40 yards while seated.
About 70% of the shot should land in the circle with a full choke, 60% with a modified choke, and 45% with an optimized cylinder choke. The cylinder should shoot between 25% and 35% or not at all.
Try a few alternative loads, either increasing or decreasing the shot size or making them somewhat hotter or less powerful. You’ll eventually find a combination that works perfectly for your shotgun and shooting style.
You can even draw a picture of the target on a piece of paper and shoot it at your normal range to test your gun’s performance: Be sure to check the pattern for any gaps and test out various loads and chokes to see if they provide a better pattern.
There are hundreds of chokes on the market today, and while whatever choke you choose should be compatible with your shotgun, you’ll want to consider the range, pellet patterns, and budget to find one the right choke that suits you best.
Distance is critical when hunting birds with shotguns: The farther you are from the target, the tighter the turkey choke should be.
This is because the more the choke constricts the pellets, the more tightly grouped they’ll be at a shorter distance and the more power they’ll have at a greater distance.
The wider the pellet pattern, the greater your chances of hitting the turkey (as long as you’re within the recommended distance).
For instance, with a cylinder choke, the pellet pattern will be 26 inches at 15 yards. But with a full choke, it’s only 12 inches, making for a difficult shot. So, for close-range birds, you need a wider choke and vice versa. Some experts set their maximum range as the yardage they need to consistently put 100 pellets within a 10-inch circle.
When choosing chokes, keep in mind that a shot pattern will decrease by about 30% every 10 yards — for example, at 25 yards, you’ll get a 32-inch diameter shot pattern with an improved cylinder choke. At 15 yards, the shot pattern diameter will be around 20 to 21 inches.
Do you want to purchase a range of chokes to switch them out while in the field? Buying multiple chokes also lets you practice with different diameters to see what works for you and your shotgun.
But if you’re on a budget, get one or two new chokes that are high-quality rather than purchasing several mid-range ones.
The pellets can be more tightly clustered over greater lengths and transmit more energy when constricted. A cylinder choke is the same as the standard barrel, while the full choke will give you the tightest pattern.
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To achieve denser patterns at greater distances, many rifle manufacturers are now producing specialty chokes with a diameter that achieves a desired shot pattern density.
Today, there are four main types of shotgun chokes for turkey hunting: Cylinder, improved cylinder, modified, and full chokes.
Each one offers a different spread and distance, so you know exactly what to expect when you’re out on the field. Let’s break each of them down.
The cylinder choke is nothing more than an open barrel. Because it offers zero constriction, it’s the least effective of all shotgun choke types targeting turkeys.
Although there’s nothing to narrow down the shot range and increase speed, beginners practicing close-range shots will have a better chance of hitting their target because of the wider-spread pattern.
You’ll get slightly more restrictions with this choke, but the shot string can expand quickly. This is a good option for quail, rabbits, upland game, and turkeys at ranges under 25 yards.
Constriction is moderate in a modified choke. The shot string is denser and more effective at greater distances because the pellets stay together longer, making it a good alternative for hunting turkey with shots under 35 yards.
Hunters favor this choke for shooting doves, ducks, or geese with a steel shot – and it is pretty effective on turkeys (provided you can get them in close enough). You can also opt for an improved modified choke, which is slightly tighter than modified and allows for a reasonably quick spread.
The full choke comes with the most severe and impactful restriction and effectively shoots squirrels, turkeys, and other game from 40 to even 70 yards since the pellets hold together even longer.
For even denser patterns at a distance, hunters may use an extra full or a special turkey choke. These two choke kinds, also known as “gobbler getters,” are perfect for the headshots required while turkey hunting since they have the densest patterns and extremely tight constrictions.
Be cautioned, though: With these extra full chokes, the pattern at close range is extremely small, and you have to place the shot perfectly to hit a gobbler’s constantly moving head at 30 yards and under. You’re more likely to miss that moving target at close range than you are further out where your pattern has spread.
Before 2010, when modern 21st-century technology in concealment completely changed the game, hunters typically used the tightest possible choke to stretch their shot distance beyond 50 yards.
That was because even with the best visual camouflage, turkeys often easily pick out a hunter at a great distance, even if he was sitting perfectly still. If that hunter were to move even slightly, it was game over.
Hunters quickly learned that getting a turkey inside 30 yards was a challenge, so they were forced to shoot gobblers at distances of 40 yards or more.
Now, however, hunters can use patented and proven HECS® Technology, which has changed forever how close they can expect to get to turkeys.
Choose your choke according to your hunting style and whether you use the right hunting technology to help you get those close shots.
In other words, if you are not using modern concealment technology that blocks your electrical emission, then the fuller the choke, the better since your shots will likely be further out.
If, however, you are using modern dual-level concealment technology like HECS®, you can be more assured of that ultra-close shot, then consider a modified or even improved cylinder to keep that pattern a little wider for more consistent kills.
The right gear, a proper choke, and plenty of practice will help you be a better turkey hunter.
Turkeys (and all birds) are now proven to see electrical impulses from living movements visually. This means any movement in nature accompanied by an electrical field will instantly be seen as a living movement, and the bird will react accordingly.
Unfortunately, all living beings give off an electrical field. So, how do you prevent the bird from seeing you when out on the field?
HECS® technology blocks your body’s electrical emissions created by muscle movement and basic bodily functions. Without these electrical signatures, the bird will not see your slow moments as living movements and will pretty much ignore you.
That means you are more likely to shoot your tom at 30 yards or less than at the longer ranges.
In this case, a more open choke may be a better option, like modified or improved cylinder chokes. With these chokes, you’ll be able to take out the gobbler’s head at a closer range since the pattern will be wider, allowing more room for error.
Whatever you choose, the type of turkey choke you use can significantly impact your turkey hunting experience and outcomes. But another aspect you can’t ignore is your hunting gear. That’s because the right hunting gear matters as much as the weapon and accessories.
HECS® technology employs a highly conductive, interlocking conductive carbon fiber grid directly woven into all HECS® materials to block your electrical signature. HECS® fabrics are silent, lightweight, breathable, resilient, and effective on or underneath other hunting camo.
While HECS® doesn’t make you undetectable or invisible to birds (you still need to stay quiet, somewhat still, and use common sense), it does provide an incredible advantage when the big birds are in sight of your position.
Animals and birds, like turkeys, view you less as a threat and more as an inanimate object, thus helping you stay hidden – so hurry and get your HECS® today to make the most of the next turkey hunting season.
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Mike Slinkard is a life long bow hunter, professional archer, successful entrepreneur, and self described science geek from the rural town of John Day Oregon. Mike has spent his life in close proximity to all types of animals. His grandfather was a well known cattle and horse rancher who first instilled Mike’s keen interest in animals and why they react the way they do in different situations. Mike’s insatiable curiosity in this realm led him to team with other professionals to make the HECS discovery in 2009. Mike has hunted all over the world and has taken over 30 species with archery gear including 48 elk to date. Mike currently hosts “Hunting with HECS TV” on the Pursuit Channel. He has also written many bow hunting and archery articles as well as being a guest on many different hunting podcasts.