The way things are going these days, our hard-earned dollars just don’t stretch as far as they once did. Not everyone can afford to buy a specialized turkey choke that will shoot a pattern tighter than Kim Kardashian’s pants. So the question becomes, can I use a modified choke for turkey hunting?
There are many reasons one might need or want to use a modified choke for turkey hunting. The first might be the cost to acquire a gun or an additional choke.
If you are getting started hunting on a limited budget, you are likely looking to save money on one of the most expensive pieces of equipment you need to get started: your gun. Maybe you have an old shotgun already, but it has a fixed choke that can’t be changed. Maybe you have a gun that you use for other types of hunting, but you don’t want to spend the money to buy a turkey-specific choke.
Nostalgia is another reason you might be asking this question. Perhaps you have great grandpappy’s old 12-gauge in the closet. Of course, you have more modern options, but you’d love to get a gobbler with the same gun your old man used. And wouldn’t you know it, this gun has a fixed choke too.
If you fall into either of these categories or even a unique situation I didn’t consider, have no fear. You can use a modified choke for turkey hunting. In fact, it may be advantageous in some situations. However, you will need to take some special considerations when choosing your shell, preparing for your hunt, and making your shot.
Pairing the Right Shell with Your Modified Choke
If you are hunting turkeys with a modified choke, I highly recommend shooting premium ammunition. Federal manufactures its turkey hunting shells with a Flitecontrol Flex wad that is designed to hold a pattern together longer. Obviously, this is advantageous when hunting with a more open choke.
TSS loads are much harder than lead loads. As a result, you can shoot a smaller shot size and maintain the same amount of “knockdown power.” This smaller shot size will give you more pellets in the load and give you a denser pattern. If you can afford TSS, it will definitely be a better option out of your modified choke.
One thing to note, if you are shooting TSS or another “heavier-than-lead” option out of your older shotgun, make sure that you check with the manufacturer to make sure the load is safe to shoot out of your choke or barrel.
Patterning Your Modified Choke For Turkey Hunting
Once you have chosen a shell, it’s time to test it out. Get some poster boards and draw 10-inch diameter circles on them. First, check your point-of-impact with a cheaper, bird-shot shell. Once you know you’re going to hit where you’re aiming, it’s time to test your shell.
Put your target at 30 yards and give it a shot. If you’re getting at least 100 pellets within the 10-inch circle, then you can humanely dispatch a turkey at that distance or closer.
If you’re not getting at least 100 shots in the circle, move your target five yards closer and try it again. Repeat until you find an appropriate range for your gun and choke.
At this point, you should have a good idea of where to aim and what your gun/shell combo will do at any given range. This will give you confidence as you head to the woods.
Ethical Shooting with a Modified Choke for Turkey Hunting
I mentioned earlier that there is an advantage to shooting a more open choke. When you are shooting at turkey heads at close range, your pattern will be extremely tight through a tightly constricted turkey choke. It can be easy to miss.
With a modified choke, your pattern will not be as tight at closer ranges giving you more margin for error. This is advantageous if you are just hunting with a traditional shotgun bead and don’t have the luxury of precision aiming like you would with a red dot scope.
When you are getting ready to take your shot at a turkey, remember your patterning. Do not shoot at a bird that is beyond the capabilities of your gun.
If you are not good at field judging distances, pace off or use a rangefinder to measure key landmarks (big trees, rocks, bushes, etc.) around your setup before you start calling. When a turkey approaches, use his proximity to the landmark to know when he is in range to shoot.
Youth hunters may find it easier to hit a gobbler with a modified choke as long as you help them limit their shooting distances. A modified choke may also be the ticket if you hunt in extremely thick terrain where your typical shot is within 20 yards.
When you are hunting with an open choke, you must be even more careful than normal in choosing your setup. If that gobbler hangs up, you are not going to have the ability to reach out there to him as you might with a tighter choke. Choose locations on hillsides or in brushy areas where the gobbler won’t be able to see your calling location until he is within range of your modified choke.
There are so many hunters that pride themselves on the number of pellets their gun can put in a 10-inch ring at 40 yards. Don’t get into an argument with one of these fellas, but know that you can use a modified choke for turkey hunting so long as you prepare yourself and have good shot selection.
Eventually, you will want to invest in a dedicated turkey gun with an extra-full choke and scope (or red dot). These guns are ideal for the many situations you may encounter when hunting turkeys. In the meantime, get out there and hunt them with your grandpa’s old fixed choke shotgun.