To make the most of those expensive turkey hunting shells, you need the right turkey choke tube.
For those who don't know, turkey hunting is a very particular and interesting kind of shotgun hunting. A good turkey gun and ammo set up strikes a balance between range and shot pattern density.
To kill a turkey, you have to put pellets in its spine and brain, and those are pretty small targets. You want the pellets from a shotshell to fly as straight and far as possible without spreading too far beyond a 12-inch circle at 50 yards. That will give you the best chance of putting several direct hits on a turkey's vitals within that range.
Modern turkey-specific ammunition like Winchester Longbeard XR shells (my personal favorite) and the newer TSS turkey loads from Federal Ammunition have greatly increased the effectiveness of shotshells for gobblers in general. But the first advancement that made smoothbores tunable to turkeys was interchangeable shotgun choke tubes.
Winchester introduced the first in 1961 with their WinChoke system. Turned out constricting a shotgun barrel at the muzzle would keep a shot pattern tighter, stretching it farther and thereby increasing its effective range. Together, modern ammunition and choke tubes have made it so many hunters are questioning if a 12-gauge is unnecessary for turkey.
When I was a kid, 10-gauge shotguns were the preference of serious turkey hunters. How far we've come.
At the time it was seen as something for very particular waterfowlers, upland hunters, and skeet shooters to tweak their patterns just so without using different guns or barrels.
When wild turkeys again became abundant in North America, the need for tighter patterns made interchangeable chokes a lot more popular and spurred the development of turkey choke tubes.
Today there are several interchangeable choke systems, including the original WinChoke as well as several from Beretta and Benelli and the Winchester/Browning Invector Plus and the RemChoke, to name some of the most popular. And there are a bevy of choices for turkey hunters.
Generally, the tighter the constriction of a choke, the less the pattern will spread. While plenty of hunters prefer a Modified or Full choke for turkeys, lots go with the even more constricted Extra Full and XX-Full.
Today, turkey hunters are able to take long-range shots with tight patterns that would have been considered unethical just a decade ago.
Here are a few suggestions taken from the plethora of options in today's turkey choke tube market.
These choke tubes have been around for a while and they combine an extended turkey choke tube and a slot-ported compensator to improve patterning and reduce felt recoil and muzzle flip. Extended tubes have a few benefits, and one is that they can usually be swapped out easily without using a choke tube wrench. Comp-N-Choke turkey tubes are made for a number of thread systems and come sized for 10-, 12-, 16-, and 20-gauge barrels as well as .410 bore.
The Jellyhead uses an extended taper and fluted ports to tighten patterns up to 20 percent and reduce felt recoil, allowing for fast follow-up shots, which can be crucial for tagging multiple gobblers.
Carlson's Long Beard XR Turkey Choke Tubes are specifically designed for turkey hunting with Winchester Long Beard Turkey XR shotgun shells. The ammo features what Winchester calls Shot-Lok Technology. The pellets are actually suspended in a polymer, which disintegrates as the load flies, making for extremely tight, long-range patterns. This choke tube is not for use with steel shot.
Like the company's Long Beard tube, the Carlson's TSS Turkey Choke Tube is specifically designed for turkey hunting with a certain kind of ammo, in this case Federal's Heavyweight TSS shells and their tungsten shot, as well as other small-shot turkey loads (#7-#9). The combination boasts reliable head shots at 50 yards.
This tube's multi-phase groove technology engages the shot cut and guides the pellets into a tight and consistent pattern. It also has a polished end face for better seating and sealing against the barrel. Its robust construction is rated for Hevi-Shot, Winchester Long Beard XR, Federal 3rd Degree, and other high performance turkey loads.
One of the earliest extended turkey choke tubes, this ported choke promises 14- to 16-inch patterns at 40 yards. Available in 10-, 12-, 16-, 20-, 28-gauge sizes as well as .410, these tubes are precision machined from high grade stainless steel with a unique conical/parallel internal design with outward angled diagonal ports.
The Black Diamond Strike is precision engineered to extremely tight tolerances and will accommodate all lead and hybrid heavy loads with shot sizes from #2 through #10, while promising to increase pattern density by 40 percent or more. The tube's 30 parallel ports greatly reduce recoil and stop wad rotation for more consistent patterns.