Last Updated on May 13, 2023 by Dwayne Easton
What’s all the fuss about choke tubes? Why all the fuss about a turkey hunting choke tube? Isn’t a choke tube a choke tube? Whatever it is, it is a necessity to hunt turkey.
Choke tubes are an important improvement for hunters today. With spring turkey season coming, there is talk about tips and tricks and the best gear available to increase your chances of success.
No, choke tubes do not all look the same. A turkey choke tube can increase your shotgun’s ability to do what it does best.
Is the full choke tube included with your shotgun good enough to kill turkeys? Maybe. Perhaps not. It is not as useful as a turkey hunting choke tube.
Scott Carlson, owner Carlson’s Choke Tubes said that you want dense patterns for your pellets. Because you are hunting a turkey, you want to throw a tighter pellet pattern than with full choke. To make a clean kill, you need to ensure that you get pellets in the right areas.
The barrel’s end has an interchangeable choke tube that screws into it. This constricts the pellets and tightens the shot cluster as it squeezes through. This results in tighter pellet patterns.
There are likely to be a dozen different constrictions in the available choke tubes, from cylinder (which is the actual barrel’s bore so it doesn’t constrict any shot at all) to tight turkey tubes.
Here are some measurements for you. A full choke is generally considered to be a standard tight constriction, suitable for hunting purposes such as long distance shots on upland or waterfowl. It is 30 millimeters (.030) smaller than the cylinder bore. Although it may seem like a small amount, it is quite restrictive when you consider how much shot must squeeze through the narrow tunnel. A full choke is about.030 inches tighter than cylinder, and turkey chokes are 30 thousandths more tight than full chokes.
Yes, numbers. You don’t need to know the numbers or do the math. Just be aware that there are many chokes available and the purpose they should be used for. A choke tube with a wider pattern will give you a greater killing range when hunting pheasants. You don’t need to be dead-center to kill the bird with a larger pattern. Just get the pattern to intersect with it to deliver enough pellets to make a clean kill.
There are many choke tubes. There are many. Let’s begin with the largest open cylinder. Next, there’s skeet and improved cylinders. Finally, light modified, modified-improved modified, full and extra full. Next, you’ll find turkey chokes. You can also use rifled choke tubes to shoot slugs.
Choke tubes can be interchanged to allow you to tailor your shotgun for the type of hunting that you will be engaging in. Carlson stated that choke tubes are made to make the shotgun versatile enough to be used as a target gun or bird gun and also shoot any shotshell load. He said that choke tubes allow you to tailor a load for your specific purpose.
Shotgun barrels used fixed chokes in the past. This meant that they were shipped from the manufacturer with either a set or no constriction. Screw-in chokes were not interchangeable, so you would have to purchase a new barrel if you needed a different choke configuration. The choices for barrels were, for the most part: skeet or improved cylinder; modified and full.
This all changed in 1959, when Winchester introduced Model 59 shotgun. It was an autoloader that featured interchangeable “Versalite”, choke tubes. The idea of interchangeable chokes was revived in 1982, when shotgun manufacturers began producing shotguns with threaded barrels that can accept choke tubes.
Back to turkey hunting.
Carlson stated, “When turkey hunting, you hunt at a distance of 20 to 50 yards. So you need chokes that will throw dense patterns.” Hunting turkeys is a different experience than hunting pheasants. You need to hit them in their vital areas. A tighter choke will help you do that.
Because they are exposed and are not protected by thick feathers, the head and neck of turkeys are preferred targets. The heart and other internal organs are also good targets.
Over the years, shotgun ammunition has also seen major improvements, most notably with the introduction of heavier-than lead pellets. Carlson stated that pellets now weigh twice as much lead, which allows you to shoot smaller pellets and can be used tighter chokes than with size 4, 5, 6, or 6.
This is one of the most important things to know about choke tubes. In all cases, tighter is not always better. If you try to shoot the larger sizes 4, 5, 6, or 6 through a tight choke tube, it is likely that it will not pattern well. This is because the choke tube squeezes too tightly and the pattern blows open. Because they are smaller, the shot sizes of 7 1/2, 8 and 9 can be squeezed into tighter spaces.
You should be able kill turkeys at long ranges with lighter, heavier-than-lead pellets that are fired through a turkey choke tube.
Yes, you can, provided that you do your research. Hot new loads are being reported by hunters, ammunition companies, and choke tube companies.
But, should you still take long-range shots of your subjects?
Carlson stated, “I like it to deer hunting.” I’m comfortable shooting at deer at 400 yards using my rifle. Although some people may think I’m crazy, I have done my homework and know that I can shoot a 3-inch group at 400 yards. It’s not ethical for guys to shoot beyond 150 yards or 200 yards. If you do your homework, you will have the right ammunition.
He said that turkey hunting is the same. You can get clean kills at 60 yards and 70 yards with current ammunition, but it is important to do your research and test your shotgun at different distances in order to determine your effective range.
Carlson stated that while these loads can kill a turkey, the real game in turkey hunting is getting that turkey in. It’s all part of the experience.
Carlson also said that it is easy to mistake distances between turkeys, especially when you are excited about a hunt. He asked, “How many times did you shoot a turkey at 40 yards when he was actually 50 yards?” It’s difficult to tell when they are coming in. They are always closer than they actually are so I do not recommend shooting turkeys from 60 yards. If you do your research, you can. However, turkeys are often farther than you think. To make sure they don’t run away, you should use more pellets and a denseer pattern.
Is there a way to make a pattern look too tight for close-up shots?
Carlson stated that this is a common belief, but it’s not true. Carlson stated that a shot pattern spreads approximately 15 to 20 inches depending on what choke you use. This is even when the distance is 20 yards. He said, “So if your shot misses by 15 or 20 inches it wasn’t because of the choke or the load.” “I would say it was your fault that you were shaking,” he said. However, he warned that at 10 yards, the pattern is no larger than a baseball. This is something to remember if a turkey comes out of the brush in your-face close.
Carlson has tested shotguns and choke tubes as well as shotshells. He also shoots at patterning targets between 10 and 70 yards so he’s got plenty of experience with turkey loads.
He stated that he has had a shift of heart since his days of turkey hunting when he shot No. For their knockdown power, turkeys need 4 lead shot. He prefers sizes 6 and smaller for their knockdown power, despite being heavier than lead loads. He shoots lead shot and prefers to shoot 4s or 5s.
Winchester created an online pattern board to help them compare different turkey loads. Enter your choice of gauge, choke constriction and shell size to see a comparison of shots shot at the same range. This is a great way to compare shotshells at different distances and how they compare against each other.