Choke Job: Need-To-Know Info About Your Turkey Choke Tube

Turkey hunters who just grab a choke tube labeled "extra full" or "turkey" and hit the woods are handicapping their own hunt. Here's how to pick the turkey choke tube that's right for your hunt.
Choke Job: Need-To-Know Info About Your Turkey Choke Tube

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Every spring, some folks grab a choke tube labeled “turkey” or “super full” and hit the woods. Without realizing it, they’ve already handicapped their hunt.

“For a turkey hunter, the choice of a choke is quite important,” said Clark Bush of

Bush believes the process of choosing a choke should begin long before the season. Hunters should consider the shot type (lead or tungsten-based), shot size (No. 4, 5, 6 or 7) and the differences in shotshell construction between manufacturers.

“The shot size combined with the wad type should help guide your choice,” he said. “Lead and tungsten-based shot in sizes 6 and 7 with conventional wads will flow equally well through (12-gauge) chokes with exit diameters between .640 and .675, with or without wad-stoppers” he said. “Chokes that are non-ported and without wad-stoppers will produce better patterns with Flitecontrol wad shells. And although No. 4 and 5 shot might retain more energy, it’s difficult to produce dense patterns with them.”

Terrain and hunting conditions add to the choices. If you typically experience close-quarters shots at gobblers — say 25 yards or less — any good lead shot with a tested choke will work. If you usually face longer, open-field opportunities, tungsten-based shot is a wiser choice.

Of course, you must experiment with several choke-and-load combinations to find the one that patterns best in your gun. One hundred pellets within a 10-inch circle is still the standard for a deadly turkey pattern. If your choke-and-load combination doesn’t produce that type of pattern, experiment with other combinations or back off your yardage a bit. Usually, modern shotshells and quality after-market chokes will perform far better than that to 40-plus yards.

“Range time will let you know your capabilities with a given choke and shell,” Bush said.

Your shotgun’s barrel also figures into the equation. Turkey hunters favor shorter-barreled guns, but those might not produce patterns as dense as those provided by longer barrels. As such, those guns might require a tighter choke.

“It’s best not to get hung up on numbers if you’re using a shorter barrel,” he said. “You want to look for dense patterns with no large (2 inches or more) gaps or holes in it. Smaller shot — No. 6 or 7 — helps to fill in the gaps and is quite deadly at ethical ranges.”

Many hunters also worry about choke performance in “overbored” barrels compared to a standard 12-gauge bore (.729).

“Constriction — the difference in the inside bore diameter of the barrel and the exit diameter of the choke — can make a difference, but it’s really more about the internal geometry of the choke than just constriction alone,” he said. “With overbored barrels, 100-plus points of constriction is not too much if the choke is properly designed. A barrel with an inside diameter of .775 responds very well to chokes with a .670 exit diameter, as does a .742 inside-diameter-bore barrel to chokes with .640 exit diameters.”

Long-term maintenance is also important. Bush said hunters should break in their choke tubes much like they would a new rifle or pistol barrel. Also, they should learn to “deep clean” the choke and must store it properly during the off-season. Information on the break-in and deep-cleaning procedures can be found at

This season, don’t ignore that seemingly unimportant tube at the end of your barrel. It determines how many pellets will deliver sure-kill downrange energy to a gobbler this spring. The more you’ve tested and fine-tuned your choke-and-load combination, the deadlier your gun will be.

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