Yesterday evening while performing one of the most important spring rituals – patterning the turkey guns, three gobblers sounded off at each shot. How is that for incentive? Yes, I do the patterning ritual every year because there are always new turkey loads and a hunter can never get enough practice. Those loud-mouthed gobblers on the hillside who kept me entertained weren’t the biggest surprise of the evening. It was the Improved Modified (IM) choke tube that performed better than the turkey full chokes.
The gobblers flew up to roost with a lot of shooting light left so; I assume they must have decided to study this situation more in-depth too. As I continued firing away, checking and double checking the patterns on the targets at varying range, those toms would purr, cluck, yelp and gobble in apparent “turkey deep thought”.
A few years ago Federal Prairie Storm, and their Mag-Shok turkey loads, both use flightcontrol wads with copper coated lead got my attention because the good folks at Federal recommend using an improved cylinder (IC) choke. Using IC choke makes it easy to change from regular upland bird hunting and turkey hunting in the fall. Patterns are very good for the specific game out my 20 or 12 gauges without needing to swap choke tubes. These loads raised my awareness of using a more open choke for better performance and accuracy. Still, for spring gobbler hunting my head stayed stuck on a turkey full choke.
Last year a good friend gave me a case of Federal 3rd Degree shells, thank you very much, good friend. This gift allowed me to test them without spending $4+ per shot. While patterning the 3rd degree through a variety of chokes from cylinder to turkey full, I discovered the Benelli factory improved modified shot the best pattern from 10 – 50 yards. The 3rd Degrees put the scatter back into scattergun. A turkey will need to be standing by himself, at least two feet from another bird or there will be collateral taking involved. At 50 yards it’s common for all shotshell patterns to be spread out. The good thing about 3rd Degrees is they are consistently spread into a nice pattern all the way. Nine to twelve pellets were delivered into the kill zone at 50 yards. I might try these during this spring’s hunt.
Thinking about the difference in shot metallic hardness of heavy shot, steel, bismuth, copper plated lead and nickel plated lead a light came on regarding the choke effect on each shot type.
Vicker hardness of shotgun shell metals
- Nickel 638
- Copper 360
- Iron 608
- Tungsten 3500
For decades my turkey shell of choice has been Fiocchi nickel plated Golden Turkey because they pattern well, inexpensive and efficiently kill turkeys. Plus with the moderate price a hunter can practice without breaking their wallet. The thing is my head got stuck on the turkey full choke is the better concept and until now.
Nickel plated shot is almost twice as hard as copper, meaning the nickel should perform better out of a more open choke, in the same manner, steel shot does, this is why I was at the range yesterday with an audience of gobblers testing standard factory chokes from Remington V3 and Benelli M2. With the V3 a modified choke shot best and the Benelli’s improve modified shot best, this was the patterning board surprise. Actually; the second surprise in that I should have thought of this a very long time ago.
I have no plans to shoot turkeys at 50 yards, my personal limit is 30-35 yards. It’s just more fun to call them in close.
As for the gobbling gobblers, well that is just pared for the course here in Wisconsin. Heck, sometimes they have the audacity to walk in front of me while I’m shooting. Not to worry, though, that reckless behavior ends come hunting season.