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.
A turkey’s vitals are a relatively small target to hit. The objective is to land as many pellets as possible within the spine and brain to create the cleanest kill. Since this is no easy task, having a gun that is patterned correctly is crucial to your success. Forty yards is what hunters will start with to pattern their gun, as this is on the further end of your maximum distance. Ideally, you’ll want to have most of your pellets within a 10-inch circle at this range. Some avid hunters will say there should be at least 100 pellets within this circle, but that becomes too inconsistent depending on what size shot you are using.
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.
There was a time when the idea of altering shotgun patterns was seen as almost taboo, and suited only for the most purist and possibly even obsessive waterfowlers. However, with the North American turkey becoming one of the most popular pursued game animals, it’s easy to see why hunters have adapted their methods through the use of choke tubes.
Fast forward to today and there are countless interchangeable choke tubes on the market, with specific pursuits in mind such as waterfowl, turkey, upland, and even skeet. Generally speaking, it’s understood that the tighter the construction of the choke, the tighter your pattern will be, thus preventing your pellets from spreading too early.
From Improved Cylinder to Modified to Full chokes, they all serve their purpose. However, most avid turkey hunters will prefer an even tighter pattern, opting for Extra Full as well as XX-Full. This allows hunters to shoot birds at longer distances while still making clean and ethical kills, something that wouldn’t have even seemed possible perhaps only a decade ago.
With so many different choke tube options on the market today, it can seem overwhelming to determine that perfect one for you. So 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.
Primos Jellyhead Maximum
The Jellyhead from Primos has become one of the most popular choke tubes for avid turkey hunters in recent years, and that’s for good reason. The extended taper design tightened patterns but up to 20 percent and the fluter ports reduced the recoil by a large margin. Combining those two designs will allow you to reach out further, and seamlessly take a follow-up shot when needed.
Carlson’s Longbeard Turkey Choke
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.
Carlson’s TSS Turkey Choke Tube
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.
TruGlo Head Banger
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.
Kicks Gobblin’ Thunder
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.
JEBS Black Nitride
JEBS is known for creating some of the most reliable chokes on the market today, and that same standard of quality was applied to the “Black Nitride.” This is perhaps one of the most consistent choke tubes I have used and patterns like a dream. Plus, the Black Nitride process increases the longevity by preventing corrosion, providing more lubrication and is an 82 on the Rockwell Chart. That’s pretty impressive by any standard.