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Photo: It's Turkey Time

Patterning is important because hunters need to know the range and best pattern for killing a turkey. The goal for patterning is to be on target.

We are officially smack-dab in the middle of our spring gobbler season. Perhaps you are one of the lucky ones who tagged out early and now get to enjoy things like some much-needed sleep, going to work without the fear of looking and acting sleep deprived or maybe, just maybe, you can find time for chores like cutting the lawn.

Or perhaps your plan is to wait for the weather and birds to warm up a bit and hit the woods when the timing is just right. Or sadly for some, the opportunity to tag Tom Turkey may have slid by because you missed. (Of course, I am not referring to me.)

Either way, it’s turkey time and time to enjoy all things turkey-related.

As turkey hunters, we talk a great deal about calls, calling, blinds, decoys and camouflage. We spend hours researching gear and tactics that give us an edge in the spring woods. But often we can forget about one of the most important parts — practicing like you play.

For example, patterning your shotgun to optimize your shot shell loads and choke combination. With all the new shells, including the slew of heavier-than-lead options, as well as the availability of incredible aftermarket choke tubes, the possibilities can appear to be endless.

I decided to refer to an expert on the subject of choke tubes and patterning for some tips. Here is a recent bit of news on the subject that came across my desk this past week.

The key, according to George Trulock, president of Trulock Choke Tubes, is to have a very dense core with as many pellets as possible inside of a 10-inch circle. Trulock also recommends doing this from sitting and kneeling positions to better mimic a turkey-hunting experience.

When is it time to pattern a shotgun? Trulock responds, “You should pattern a shotgun when it is new to you when you are using a different brand of ammo, or load, or size shot, and especially when using a different choke tube, even if it has the same exit diameter as a previously patterned choke.”

To pattern a shotgun for turkey hunting, the following are needed: several sheets of poster board of at least 3-4 feet wide; a marking pen; up to five identical shot shells; tape measure to measure the distance from the shotgun muzzle to the target; and a target stand to attach your poster board.

Next steps:

1. Measure 40 yards from the shooting position to the target, which is the most typical length for turkey hunting.

2. Carefully aim the shotgun at the center of the target; keep the bead on the aiming point and squeeze the trigger.

3. Repeat this five times using a different target for each shot.

4. Carefully examine each target to visually locate the center point of the densest portion of pellet strikes and mark that spot. Draw a 10-inch diameter circle centered on the previously made location mark.

5. Count the number of hits inside of the 10-inch circle on each target.

6. Add the numbers from each target and divide by five.

7. This number will be the average pellet count in the 10-inch circle for each of the five shots

“Shooting one or two patterns is better than not patterning at all, but you will get shot counts that are much closer to a true average by shooting a minimum of five times,” Trulock said. “More is always better.”

Chris Ellis is a veteran of the outdoors industry. His book “Hunting, Fishing and Family from The Hills of West Virginia” is available at www.wvbookco.com. Contact him at chris@elliscom.net.

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