How to shoot a turkey

How to Shoot a Turkey

If you’re new to turkey hunting, you might be wondering how to shoot a turkey – and make it count! This article focuses on where to shoot a turkey with a shotgun. For the most part, when shooting a turkey with a shotgun, you’re going to aim at the head and/or neck.

Indian Creek Chokes

Where to shoot the turkey

When turkey hunting with your shotgun, you want to aim at the turkey’s head or neck region. My favorite place to aim is where the waddles meet the feathers on the neck – and maybe a little up from there.  Naturally, with the shotgun you will have the shot scattered in a circular pattern around the point you were aiming. If you’re aiming at then neck, your shot will hit the neck and head – and the result will be a clean humane kill.

How far can you shoot a turkey?

Pattern your gun.  There’s no room for guess work after you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on camo, guns, and calls only to miss a bird.  If that happens, you probably kick yourself the entire way home.  Besides, heading out to the range with a few buddies and patterning guns is fun.

Anyway, in the next session, I’ll cover an easy way to pattern your turkey hunting shotgun.  You need to be putting a minimum of 78 shot in a 10″ circle.  Personally I like to have well over 100.  My Remington 870 youth model 20 gauge with a 21″ barrel and an Indian Creek .555 choke shooting Hevi-Shot #7s shoots 120-140s consistently at 40 yards.  When I back up to 50 yards, it backs me down to about 90 shot in a 10″ circle.  So I consider my effective range with that combination to be 40 to 45 yards.

Before the shot

I’m not going to go in depth on patterning in this article, but before you hit the turkey woods, be sure to pattern your shotgun with the same gun/choke/shell combination you’ll be hunting with. Changing up one factor in the gun/choke/shell combination will result in a different pattern. Sometimes the change will be enough to cause a miss! To pattern your shotgun, follow these steps:

  1. Buy a brown paper roll from the Home Depot, which is typically found in the paint section.  It cost less than $10 and is cheaper than some of the other alternatives
  2. Mark a dot on the paper to aim at. Using a range finder, step back to 30 yards, and shoot at the dot you marked on the paper.  Be sure to write the yardage information and the shotgun shell info on the target.
  3. Find a piece of cardboard and cut a circle with a 10″ diameter.  Locate the most dense pattern on the brown paper and draw your circle around it.  Draw a crosshair on the circle to create four sections, and count the holes in each quadrant and total them up.
  4. Keep in mind, a 10″ circle has 78 square inches.  So your target needs to have at least 78 shot in the circle to make 1 shot per square inch.
  5. Repeat the process with a new sheet of paper, backing up 5 to 10 yards each time until you’re no longer getting at least 78 shot per square inch.
  6. This should help you identify your effective range.  Once you find it, shoot at that distance a few more times to make sure everything is consistent.

Turkey hunting shotgun pattern from benelli super nova

Make the shot count!

When you set up on the turkey, be aware of your surroundings. First and foremost, make sure you’ll be shooting in a safe direction! Also consider the following tips before the shot:

  • When you setup, make sure you have room to move your gun around and that the barrel is unobstructed. After all, you never know which direction the turkey will choose to come in. If you do have to swing the gun around, you can either wait until the turkey walks behind a tree, or you can just wait until he gets close and SLOWLY move. He’ll see you, but if your movement is slow, he might pop his head up and start to walk away – giving you time to put a bead on him and squeeze the trigger! I prefer to move the gun when he passes behind a tree or bush.
  • Make sure you’re not shooting into brush, it will throw off your shot.
  • Don’t rush the shot. If you’re looking down the barrel at the bird, its easy to become unnerved and squeeze a round off too early. Wait for the clear shot within your effective range!
  • If the bird is walking or strutting, cut with a mouth call. He should stop or come out of strut and lift his head up. When he does… bust him.
  • If you shoot right handed, get setup in a direction with the barrel facing slightly right of where you think the turkey will come in. Its easier to swing and aim left than it is right if you’re a right handed shooter.
  • Get comfortable. If you’re not comfortable where you’re sitting, you’re more likely to move around and get busted in the process.
  • If the pattern on your setup is TIGHT, be sure to take your time especially when the bird is close! Its easy to miss a turkey that is up close!

Here’s my missed turkey from 2012 on a North Georgia public land turkey hunt! I never saw this limb until after the shot. The bird came in from behind.

Missed turkey and hit a limb

After the shot

After the shot, you hope to see a dead bird bouncing around like he just ate a load full of #7 Hevi-Shot! Either way, get ready for a second shot. You might have missed or sometimes a bird will flop or lay still, and then get up and run off (happened to a couple of folks I know last year).  Regardless, you want to be ready for a second shot if needed. I usually try to get to the bird quickly with the gun in hand. I carry my gun in case he takes off when I get close to him. When you get to him, be careful picking him up – he can spur you good! That’s why most people just step on their head until they quit flopping.

Finally, always remember to keep your gun on safety before and after the shot! Its easy to forget to place the gun on safety during the excitement of the harvest! Stay safe, shoot straight, and let us know how you do!

Thanks to all or our members who share tips on shooting and patterning your shotgun for turkey hunting!