Picking the best shot size for turkey hunting is a bit complicated task as it comprises of an analysis of gun patterning, gauge selection and a lot more to be discussed in upcoming sections. Most of the hunters would like to answer this as “which patterns best.” Well, it’s not the whole issue.
As we go deep into the matter, we would find that certain more factors also contribute to determining the shot size. The entire concept of selection is made easy and presented in a brief and easy to understand manner in this article. Hopefully, you will not forget to get it to read.
What Refers To A Shot Size?
Let us have an ethereal look at the exact meaning of shot size. A shot is generally a combined term used to denote pellets. Thus, whenever you are referring to shot size, it means the number of pellets in it that you are talking about mainly which differentiates the dimensions. A shot comes in different sizes, and the rule is the larger the number, the smaller the size. Like, No.4 shot is remarkably the leading shot (6.1 mm diameter) if we talk of mainly No.4, No.5 and No.6 shot just for instance and No. 6 shot is smallest among them. However, hunting regulations in different areas also specify the shot sizes to be used.
Shot Size Variants With Pellets
The exact measure of diameter and number of pellets are somewhat exciting to know a little bit more about the concept. So, just play with numbers and see shot sizes from onerous targets to small targets.
This table indicates the shot sizes with a diameter of a pellet in inches.
Above is the list of several pellets in different shot sizes.
The 000 Buckshot is a shot that has a large projectile. These type of shots prove to be great for hitting large fur animals like coyote, fox or even for home defense. On the other hand, the shots like No.9 shot are great to hit small vital areas like that of a turkey, snipe or quail. They throw more pellets at your target with a wider range. The throw of 579 pellets if your target is strutting even 60 yards away.
You should reduce the diameter of the pellet you use as the distance from your target decreases. With that, you can place more shots in shotshell as the diameter of the pellet decreases. Now, this is the general info helpful for every hunter.
In some areas, buckshot is illegal to use for turkey hunting. See, if you get an opportunity to use them, then they are distinctly not great for larger distances.
Types Of Shots
In market, there are many types of shots available with each having its own characteristics. As the time passes by, hunters are also introduced with new updated versions of shots which are capable to replace the old type of shots used by them.
Lead Shot And Steel Shot
Both of these shots are most reasonable shotgun pellet materials. Steel shot is non-toxic whereas lead shot is a toxic one and is already banned for turkey hunting in most of the states. Steel is lighter than lead with an average shot size of 7.86 g/cc as compared to 11.1 g/cc for the lead. The non-toxic shots whether it is steel shot or tungsten shot are usually expensive than toxic shots. Also, the steel shot patterns efficiently lead to a tighter pattern than a lead shot.
Tungsten Shot For Turkey Hunting
A Tungsten shot is a non-toxic shot that would cost you but has a great deal with hitting turkeys proficiently. Furthermore, it has more knockdown power as compared to a steel shot. However, it goes out of budget range for most of the hunters because of its high cost but still, it’s the best option as it is heavier than lead and harder than steel. This is the reason for its accurate knockdown power that can hit the turkey to the ground.
Now, the tungsten shot size will not go more than No.7 shot as it is more than enough to hit the large bird in one epic shot. Thus, take the keynote here that if you are opting for a tungsten one as a non-toxic shot option, then choose the No.7 shot as the best shot size for turkey hunting. It is even prevalent in some areas to use the only No.2, No.4 or No.6 shot for turkey hunting, but as the regulations change, some states have made the rule that even No.7 shot can also be used to hunt turkeys.
Copper Or Nickel Plated Lead Shots
These types of shot provide amazing penetration capability. As you read further, you will be able to see that all game revolves around better penetration with a better pattern. They pierce even better than the hard lead shots as additional plating always improves the whole quality of a lead shot.
Generally, copper plated lead shots are plated on magnum lead shots. While nickel plated shots consist of double plating process. Firstly, it is plated with copper for proper adhesion and then with heavily coated nickel. This whole process is responsible for improving its overall quality.
Alloy shots are one of the best alternatives for non-toxic shots. Though they are softer, their pellet integrity is worth noting. Usually, they are alloyed with tin to improve their penetration ability. They provide more consistent patterns and greater range than steel shots. Their gentleness results in ballistic properties that are much comparable to lead. These type of shots i.e. non-toxic shots are generally safe to use with shotguns not rated to use for steel shot such as older shotguns with barrels and chokes.
Tss (Tungsten Super Shot)
Tungsten Super Shot has been increasingly used over a past couple of years. They are composed of a high-density alloy of 95% or more of Tungsten. It will provide you an incredible density of 18g/cc or greater. However, it is less than the density of pure tungsten which is 19.3g/cc. But, pure tungsten has to mix up some other elements to form an alloy in the shape of a pellet. This shot is quite expensive because of certain environment-related factors. Due to the ‘Paris Agreement’ recently signed by China, many regulations are now imposed on the extraction of tungsten ore which leads to the increased cost of TSS shot.
These shots, being one of the best non-toxic shots also comes in the list of good penetration capacity. They are a great mix of nickel, iron, and tungsten. It is hard than steel and heavier than lead. Again, the only drawback is its high price. Mostly, you will find all of the non-toxic shots in an expensive range.
With its remarkable down-range velocity and great energy retention, you will surely hit the target within a specified range. It offers hard-hitting performance in 28, 16 and .410 gauge shotguns. You will get the same performance in sub-gauge as you do with your 20 and 12 gauge shotguns.
Determining The Best Shot Size For Turkey Hunting
Whether you go for turkey hunting with 20 gauge, 12 gauge, or 16 gauge, there’s always a burden on you to pick up the best shot size that will penetrate the turkey’s vitals very well. Thus, this discussion needs an overall review of all types of shot sizes available for turkey hunting and then choosing the best among them. Well, many other factors like choke tube, loads or gun patterning are going to disturb your decision, but we will understand their relativity in later sections of the article.
How Is The Position If We Use Buckshot For Turkey Hunting?
As I said earlier, 000 Buckshot has a larger projectile with around 6 pellets. But, how if we use different shot size buckshot for turkey hunting? Well, for a quick review, buckshot will surely not suit your target. Yes, it’s true that buckshot has a large projectile and you would probably think that a single pellet will certainly hit through a turkey’s skull. But, that’s not the whole scene going to be. The main problem here is that the shotshell holds only about a dozen pellets and possibly none of them would hit the little skull. Thus, the position to use buckshot for turkey hunting is not as effectively good as with other shots available in the market mentioned below.
What If We Use No.9 Shot Size?
Small game birds like dove can be more lethal to kill with size 8 or 9 shot. Number 9 shot comprises of 579 pellets. But, the fact is they don’t penetrate turkey’s vital portion of the head very well. If you go for gun patterning for this size, then also it will not fit best to kill big game birds like turkeys. So, size 9 is also out of the game now.
What To Do With Shot Size 4?
The performance of size 4 shot is noteworthy at even beyond 40 yards. Rule according to physics says that heavier shot has more energy breakdown and more mass can get the job done on a spring gobbler. This rule directly points to size 4 shot. Unfortunately, the decision is not that simple. Here, the choke tubes will disturb you arriving on a good decision. Aftermarket turkey chokes are usually tight that cannot accommodate the large size 4 shot in a capable manner. Suppose if we try to put them in tight turkey choke tubes, then pellets will compress each other and suddenly bounce, worsening the pattern by missing the turkey’s vitals.
This shot size can do a great job if matched consistently with the choke tube. So, it is important to look into the constriction of the choke tube. For No.4 shot size, .665 or greater choke tube constriction is needed to make it the best shot size for turkey hunting.
Is Shot Size 5 Good For Turkey Hunting?
Shot size 5 works well at 50-55 yards. Yes, this shot size provides a good amount of penetrating energy at that range. You just have to consider them with the tight patterning shotgun to make them the best shot size for turkey hunting. As lead is heavier, if you would like to go for No.5, then go for a lead shot (if rule permits). Moreover, if you have selected turkey hunting with 20 gauge, then using lead shots can be skipped.
How Could Be The Position If We Consider Shot Size 6?
If we note down deeply, the point of diminishing returns also applies on shot size dilemmas. The more and more pellets we choose, less and fewer pellets will guarantee hits. Don’t get it? Wait, the thing is about the scattered pellets. More pellets will sometimes lose to make the exact pattern on the target. And, in close ranges, the position may become entirely worse. Well, it means that range should be far enough like 50 yards if you are using shot size 6. Shot size 6 can be sufficient if utilized in open field areas as throws more projectiles into the air. Plus, most of the shotguns pattern the small shots better. However, there is a theory behind gun patterning which we will consider below, as gun patterning is a critical part of increasing your shot effectiveness regardless of shot size.
Have A Look At Shot Size 7 Also For Turkey Hunting
Let us talk about the shot size 7 because the lead shot is actually a thing of past now. It is even harder than lead shot 5 and will surely knock the turkey down in one shot.And, if the size of your game bird is large, then also you need more pellets for better penetration.
A Different Outlook
No doubt, the whole concern about best shot size for turkey hunting also depends upon limitations and capabilities of your shotgun. So, spend a few time learning about your buddy.
Also, not to forget about the material used in shots. There is a big difference between lead, steel, hevishot or TSS shot for instance. They just change the game to a whole new level. This variation is because of their densities. Just keep aside the exact numbers for some time and look at this. There is a new hevishot which is heavier than lead even. They can penetrate very well as compared to a lead shot.
There are the hard lead as well as soft lead shots. Hard lead shots pierce well than soft lead shots. While nickel or copper plated lead shots penetrate even better than hard lead shot. So, this is just another side of shots to be noted. Have a big game bird? Then, you should go with more pellets option as they will penetrate better but not ruin most of the meat. Mainly, we have noticed here:
Limitations of your shotgun
The difference in material densities of shots
Size of turkeys
It is also suggested by most hunters to carry almost all shot sizes ranging No.4 to No.7 as discussed above. Then, you need to test each of them at the field according to different ranges. This will better lead to a selection of best shot size. If not possible, just carry shot size 5 along with you. It patterns best with most of the shotguns and also provides a lethal shot as it is capable of carrying both density and energy even out to 50 yards or above.
How the pellets spread out of your gun would determine the right shot size. This is what comes in the patterning of your gun with a whole lot of other things like right choke tube, right turkey loads or right shotgun. It actually impacts a lot picking up your shot size. So, firstly invest some time to pattern your gun right before going to shoot hard-earned shot at turkeys.
The main objective of practicing gun pattern is penetration. To get a better pattern for a bird of larger size, you need to go for a large size shot. This is because shot size will also need to increase with a simultaneous increase in size of the bird and vice-versa. . At some times, it doesn’t matter what the shot size you are using. The must is shot to hit the target, and that will only come with gun patterning.
POI v/s POA (Point of Impact V/s Point of Aim)
You can make different calls or dress up yourself accordingly for turkey hunting, but that doesn’t mean at all if you will not be able to clean shot.
These points are about your effective gun range. Just because you have the best red dot scope for turkey hunting, it is not said that place of shooting is the place where you are actually aiming. This requires determining the Point of Impact.
Initially, take the choke that you are going to use first and set up a target in the range where you are comfortable shooting at. If your selected target does not pattern your gun well, you need to modify the range where to shoot a turkey. Make sure to use the same position for all the shots to get consistent and comparable patterns.
You can use simple brown paper with an aiming point in the center as a target. For this initial test, just use simple loads like 1 to 11/8 ounce target load. The shot should be close enough to imprint a bulk of pattern in one area of paper, and that is what you need. Try out endless combinations of choke/ shotshell to get an infinite number of outcomes.
For the target, you can also draw it by using a tracing of your arm. Simply draw an upward pointing elbow with a closed fist that points outward like the mouth of the turkey.
Shotshells And Turkey Loads
Never focus on one single brand name or the load until you shot down patterns. There are endless options available out there in the market regarding turkey loads. Round up different nickel or copper plated loads of No.4, No.5 along with No.6 shot size. Latest high-velocity loads and various alloy shotshells are amazingly form required patterns. Although they are expensive than lead turkey loads, they are worth buying. So, if they fit your budget, definitely give them a chance.
Even the best shotgun cannot produce exact results as needed. Different shotshells work differently on the shotgun. For that, it needs a trial of diverse loads to search out the perfect pattern.
Layout various shotshells in the order you are going to try them. Place the boxes near the shell and mark the target with the shell used so that you can keep track of results.
The load you are using should be feasible with the choke tube to get good pattern results. It is advised to start with a target set at 30 yards.
In the same way, lay out the different chokes and determine the one you are going to use first. Also, the type of chokes makes a difference. The most familiar chokes are modified, improved cylinder and full. For those guns with fixed choke, the finest results will appear from a barrel that is choked “full” or “modified.”
And, for the guns having an option of using after-market extended choke tubes, choose among the various quality tubes out there in the market that will fit your thread pattern. It also requires trying out variety to arrive at the best pattern. You can partner with buddies to have a variety of tubes.
Initially, you can initiate for a 12 gauge with .660 inch to .665 inch diameter array. Short barreled guns frequently use a large choke constriction like .655 inch.
You need an effective place where you can shoot at great distance from 50 -60 yards. But, starting 20-30 yards is suggestible. It will simply help you understand the distance logic to be used with different shot sizes.
A standard range among different turkey hunters is set at 40 yards. So, try to make it yours also if possible because bringing close the bird can fetch amazing nuggets for you.
I am referring here to a required pellet count. The acceptable pellet count should be 100 holes in a 10-inch circle at a distance of 40 yards. On turkey hunting in the wind, pellets scatter more unevenly. Thus, it is necessary to modify your range if that is not meeting the standard holes count.
If the count goes below 100 at 40 yards, then it is directed to back off 5 yards.
Also, try out at close ranges like 10-20 yards to see the result if in case tom comes close, fortunately.
The next thing you can do is to look for a greater pellet density within a 10-inch circle. To see the pellet count more accurately, see it through a light thrown on it. On the target, you will able to see the heaviest pattern part. You just have to draw a 10-inch circle around that area and begin to count holes.
Note where the gun is hitting. You can make a big adjustment to the ‘point of impact’ by using your adjustable sighting setup if you have one. Look for deformed patterns as they can worsen the scenario. You want around and consistent with no bunches of pellets in the main pattern.A large number of fliers means the tight choke constriction. Then, you can swap out your choke tube or just give a chance to smaller shots. Nowadays, most of the shotguns come with shot-lock technology. This shot-lock technology enables to fill the space between pellets to protect hit during in-bore acceleration. This, in turn, will reduce the number of deformed patterns leading to an effective pattern.
A good pattern combines best with good penetration. This is what we need because to penetrate a turkey’s neck & head vitals, a certain amount of energy is also required for a clean shot.
No.6 shot size retains its energy till 40-42 yards. Whilst, for No.5 and No.5, you can add some yards. Do not hesitate to round up several shots after noticing the pattern. It may sometimes take time to get consistent hits.
Gun Position/Gun Rest
To get better results, it is mandatory to have a gun rest which allows steadiness. There are many devices out there that can be used as a gun rest. Use the solid rest that can firmly stand out even in harsh conditions. As you cannot stand all of the time and suddenly end up at flinching after your second or third shot, you should always ensure that you have a stable rest while aiming at your target.Whatever your selected best shot size may be, if your gun is not stable, then the whole project could become worse for you.
A nice eye and ear protection are more than important. It should be your top priority. You can use muffs or roll up plugs for ear protection. Using a safety glass is must especially if you or someone around you is using a ported choke tube. Plus, you can also take the protection of your shoulders from kicking shotguns. For that, you can use Lead Sled or past pad. Just place a pad between the butt of the shotgun and your shoulder, and it will work amazing.Conclusively, if you are shooting at your best, then why compromise with protection because best shot size does not mean to achieve success by any of the way.
Thus, we can say that the best time to hunt turkey is after you have patterned your shotgun. It is like practicing different arrow broadheads while on turkey hunting with a bow. The exact number of best shot size for turkey hunting will only come after you have tried different loads with your favorite shotgun at distinctive ranges.
On the other hand, choke tube, and its constriction also play a dominant role in determining best patterns to arrive at the exact shot size. Hopefully, this article has helped you get insight into the whole concept behind choosing a shot size with all of the mandatory factors discussed above.
Moreover, there some extra tips for turkey or duck hunting that you should to know.