Do You Really Need a Choke for Turkey Hunting?

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When my fellow turkey hunters buy a new gun, the first thing they ask me is what kind of choke they should get for it. I usually answer their question with a question. “Maybe,” I say, “Have you tried the one that came with your gun?” They haven’t. Checking out your factory choke is a good place to start. So, let’s start there.

A choke tube is a device that screws into the end of a shotgun barrel to constrict the shot pattern, making it more dense and effective at longer ranges. While not strictly necessary for close-range turkey hunting, a choke can significantly improve your chances of bagging a tom at longer distances.

Understanding Choke Tubes

Chokes come in various constrictions, ranging from cylinder (no constriction) to extra full (maximum constriction). The tighter the choke, the denser the shot pattern will be.

When to Use a Choke for Turkey Hunting

If you’re hunting turkeys within 20 yards, a choke is not necessary. However, if you anticipate shots beyond that range, a choke can be beneficial.

Here’s a general guideline for choke selection based on distance:

  • 20-30 yards: Improved cylinder or modified choke
  • 30-40 yards: Modified or improved modified choke
  • 40+ yards: Full, extra full, or “turkey” choke

Choosing the Right Choke for Your Shotgun

Not all chokes are compatible with all shotguns. Verify that the choke you select is appropriate for the make and model of your gun.

Other Factors to Consider

In addition to choke choice, the following other elements affect how successful your turkey hunting setup will be:

  • Shot size: Larger pellets (e.g., No. 4) carry more energy but may not pattern as well. Smaller pellets (e.g., No. 6) pattern better but may be less effective at longer ranges.
  • Shell length: Longer shells (e.g., 3.5 inches) hold more pellets, increasing your payload and potential for a clean kill.
  • Gun fit: A properly fitted gun will improve your accuracy and confidence in the field.

While not essential for close-range turkey hunting a choke can significantly improve your chances of success at longer distances. By understanding choke constrictions, choosing the right choke for your gun and distance and considering other factors like shot size and shell length, you can optimize your turkey hunting setup for ethical and successful harvests.

Branded Chokes Can Save Time and Trouble

do you need a choke for turkey hunting

The short cuts are buying a choke test with a specific shell and hiring someone to do your homework. You can buy a Federal TSS choke or a Long Beard choke, for instance, and you can be pretty sure that it will shoot incredibly well with those loads. Although those chokes may not be optimal for the load in your gun, they ought to be extremely close, and those loads will have been used extensively. They also may or may not work great with other loads, to boot.

Manufacturer of chokes George Trulock describes how tests are conducted on branded TSS chokes by passing loads of 25 to 30 through different tubes that gradually lose constriction. 005 increments, until he found the right dimensions. He also waited for the barrel to cool between shots, only firing on days with similar air temperature and barometric pressure. Most of us would go bankrupt trying to shoot that much TSS, even if we had the time and patience to do so. As a bonus, Trulock says, he holds his branded chokes to somewhat tighter tolerances than usual. Therefore, if you want to shoot turkeys with a specific brand of ammunition, this is a good method to use.

When Factory Chokes Are Enough

do you need a choke for turkey hunting

Most turkey models are packaged with an X-Full choke, and a lot of them shoot fine. When our team of writers and hunters went turkey hunting in Osceola a few years ago, they were able to get real 45-yard patterns from Winchester factory chokes by passing the then-new 20-gauge Long Beard through them. If that was my gun, I’d have called it good.

Even a factory Full choke might perform satisfactorily with premium ammunition like Long Beard or TSS. As long as your gun, choke, and load configuration put 100 pellets in a 10-inch circle, or as close to it as possible, at the farthest distance you would allow yourself to shoot, you should be good to go. Save money. Save your shoulder. Go hunting. Just plan on letting those 50 yard birds live to gobble another day.

Of course, some factory chokes are awful. Alternatively, perhaps birds are stalking you in your dreams, hovering just out of reach and winking at you. You want all the range you can get. In either of those cases, you should buy a new choke. Aftermarket tubes usually do outshoot factory chokes. Now the question becomes, which one to buy?.

Do you need a choke for your turkey hunting shotgun?


How far can you shoot with a turkey choke?

“When you’re turkey hunting you are generally hunting at some distance, anywhere from 20 yards to maybe 50 or 55 yards so you want chokes that will throw a dense pattern,” Carlson said. “Turkeys are a lot different than hunting pheasants.

What is the recommended turkey choke?

Indian Creek Black Diamond Strike Across the board, Wall says that Indian Creek’s Black Diamond is the best turkey choke for pairing with APEX ammo. He recommends going with a . 665 constriction for the best performance with Apex’s 3-inch, 2-ounce loads for optimal performance from 25 to 60 yards.

What load do you shoot turkeys with?

Lead Turkey Loads A good compromise is #5 copper-plated lead pellets loaded in a 12-gauge 3-inch magnum shot shell. With this setup, you’ll be good out to 40 yards, and perhaps 50 if your gun is patterned tight.

Do you have to have a choke in a shotgun?

Shooting a shotgun with a threaded barrel—without an inserted choke—can cause damage anywhere from just messing up the threads to blowing out the end of the barrel. Never shoot a shotgun without a choke if the barrel is threaded to accept a choke.

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