Now that Winter has turned to Spring, it is time to unpack your turkey hunting gear and get ready for another season of tracking wild turkeys through their environment. 

 Shots at wild turkeys are hard-earned. Don't blow your golden opportunity because you didn't take the time to pattern your gun.

 If you are planning to start hunting gobblers this spring, or have hunted them before and not yet patterned your shotgun, you owe it to yourself and to the birds to take ample time and do it. 

It's actually a fairly simple process and one that can turn "the one that got away" into "the one that didn't.

                                                                            First, A Note About Safety 

 From the moment you decide to become a hunter, we hope you’ve had one thing on your mind – Safety

As excited as we all get for spring turkey season, safety before the hunt, on the hunt, and after the hunt should be at the top of everyone’s mind.

Checklist for safety:

  1. Always keep your gun's muzzle pointed in a safe direction, never toward a person.
  2. Treat every gun as if it is loaded.
  3. Only load or cock a gun when you are shooting.
  4. Identify your target and verify beyond your target before shooting.
  5. Anyone shooting or near a shooter should wear shooting glasses and ear protection.
  6. Never climb or jump with a gun. You can't control the direction of the muzzle if you stumble or fall. Unload and safely lay the gun down or hand it to a companion if you must climb or jump. Use the same procedure when crossing over or under fences, trees or other obstructions
  7. Avoid ricochet. Never shoot at a flat, hard surface or at water. Ammunition can ricochet off water just like a skipped rock.
  8. Keep the muzzle clear. Never let anything obstruct the muzzle of a gun or allow it to come in contact with the ground.
  9. Store guns so they are inaccessible to untrained shooters. 

  10. The main thing to consider when choosing a shotgun for turkey hunting is confidence. You want to go with a shotgun you’re comfortable shooting, with the right choke and load - a 12-gauge may shoot further than a 20-gauge, but the 20-gauge has less recoil.

    About The T/C Encore Pro Hunter

    While there are several options for turkey hunting shotguns on the market today, it's hard to beat the versatility of the TC Encore Pro Hunter. Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter barrels offer some of the best, most accurate shooting of any rifle barrel in its class giving you the flexibility to do whatever your shooting or hunting demands. 
    The Encore Pro Hunter allows you to configure the rifle as a muzzleloader, shotgun, or a centerfire rifle. Including options as a pistol as well.
    The scope for the Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter mounts on the barrel itself. This means if you switch out barrels then your scope stays zeroed or sighted in.
    This is what you are paying for when purchasing a Thompson Center Pro Hunter gun barrel, the versatility and ease is unmatched. It’s literally one pin that gives you the ability to switch out calibers. Keep your scope on the barrel, and then when you switch back you're still sighted in.
    With hunting season around the corner, some of you are likely in the market for a new hunting rifle. The interchangeable firearm system is fully supported with accessory stocks and barrels ranging from .204 to .500 S&W Magnum along with additional shotgun, slug, and muzzleloader barrels. You talk about a cool looking firearm that can be used for all kinds of hunting scenarios, and you’re talking about the Thompson/Center Encore.

Of course, the big selling point of the TC Encore Pro Hunter Platform is the interchangeability, being able to purchase the gun in varying calibers and finishes is a huge advantage to many gun owners.

In the 1960s, Warren Center developed the switch-barrel Contender handgun, later teaming up with the K.W. Thompson Tool company in a collaboration that would eventually become Thompson/Center Arms.

Center's design was a relatively simple break-open. Removing the fore-end reveals a large hinge pin. Simply drive out the pin, remove one barrel, install another and reattach the fore-end. That's pretty much it.

Truly the TC Encore gun barrel offers you incredible flexibility and quality that will last you for years and years. Perfectly suited to hand down from generation to generation of gun enthusiasts.


When it comes to getting back to the basics, Thompson Center Firearms knows how to succeed and nailed it with the versatility of the T/C Encore Pro Hunter platform.  With a large selection of available barrels and forends, you can configure your Encore to hunt almost any type of game, especially turkeys.

This brings us to the Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter Turkey and Turkey Barrel/Forend options - change the barrel, keep the performance. 

Available in 12-or 20-gauge, the Encore Pro Hunter Turkey is chambered for 3” shells and features Thompson/Center’s popular break-open single-shot design. With adjustable sights with fiber-optic inserts, the gun packs a punch and a clear sight picture all day. 

 The Encore Pro Hunter Rifled Slug Gun provides superior accuracy and performance utilizing the FlexTech stock and reduces recoil by 42% - for a turkey gun, that's a big deal! It includes a swing hammer that can be positioned on either side, making it a great turkey gun no matter if your right or left-handed.

 Whatever you build, your Encore will never lose its durability and accuracy. Simply remove two forend screws and the hinge pin to change the barrel - now you're ready to pattern your shotgun!

                                       Patterning Your Shotgun

In order to have success on a turkey hunt, you must pattern your shotgun. Arguably the most important step as a turkey hunter is to know the range and best pattern for killing a turkey. The goal for patterning is to be on target, so sit and use a rest to keep the shotgun steady. Determine a good pattern at 30 yards or 40 yards and know your shotgun’s range. 

 By patterning a shotgun, a hunter will be able to determine how it performs at different distances. This will also help in determining the distance that the firearm can shoot and still be able to make a harvest. This knowledge is useful when in a hunting situation because the hunter will know when an ethical harvest can be made. 

By patterning a shotgun, a hunter can also determine what shotgun load performs the best out of their specific firearm. Shooting several different types of loads from a shotgun that is on a gun rest, so that gun is steady providing a consistent shot each time, is an excellent way to determine what the firearm will do.

Choosing Your Ammo

Obviously, you need ammo, but which ones? There is no answer at this point. That's why you're going through the patterning process.  Loads have gotten so powerful these days and the selection is endless. Choose the right kind for your gun and chances are you'll be able to stuff a gobbler's beard into your next spent shell as a keepsake. 

 A turkey load may work well for one guy's gun but not be worth shooting at crows from another. Even shotguns of the identical make and model may not shoot the same load with equal results. As a rule of thumb, round up as many different buffered, copper or nickel-plated loads as you can afford to buy in No. 5 and No. 6 shot (don't completely rule out No. 4 shot, but don't bank on the kind of density you'll see from the smaller shot). The new "high-velocity" loads from various makers have a bit lighter shot charge containing fewer pellets, but seem to pattern more densely than the heavy shot charges with more pellets. Again, not a rule, merely a suggestion. 

 Also, somewhat newer to the scene are the various "heavier-than-lead" alloy shotshells. Although all of them are two or more times the price of a lead turkey load, they all are capable of producing fantastic patterns in the right setup. Do not overlook them. If it's in your budget, they are definitely worth the time to try. But be advised, not all turkey chokes are compatible with these harder shot pellets. To avoid a possibly dangerous situation, it's always best to check with the manufacturer of your particular choke tube before firing any of these rounds through it.

Sighting In

When setting out to pattern your turkey gun, it’s best to start close. Most shotguns do not shoot straight out of the box, and with increasingly tighter chokes and better loads, it is more important than ever to have your gun dead on.

There are three basic types of sights for a shotgun.

  1. The open sight has a fiber optic front bead with a fiber optic rear trough. Line the front bead up with the rear sight and point it where you want it to go. It’s a very simple and very effective shotgun sight.
  2. The red dot sight has a glass reticle where you line up the front bead in the middle of the glass and aim it at your target. Red dot sights allow for a more comfortable shooting position than the open sight.
  3. And the third type of shotgun sight is a standard scope. Just as you would use a scope on a rifle, you can have the same for your shotgun.

Afterer-market sights and specialty turkey hunting scopes can help with adjusting guns that don’t shoot perfectly straight. If you are using the traditional shotgun bead, make sure to do all your shooting wearing your turkey gear. A slight difference in how you shoulder your shotgun can change your aim point when using traditional bead sights


  • Consider adding a shotgun scope or other optical sight to adjust the centering of the pattern’s mass
  • Patterning

    Okay, so we've pretty much rounded up the essentials. You're going to need a place you can shoot at least 40 yards with a safe backstop. Farther is better because it never hurts to see what really happens to a pattern at 55-60-65 yards. It will help you understand why you shouldn't shoot at a turkey that far.

    Just as you wouldn’t shoot off-hand to sight in a rifle, don’t do it with a shotgun. Use a good, stable rest and know exactly where you want the pattern to hit on the turkey target. Always use ear protection and eye protection when patterning your turkey gun, just as you would any other firearm.


 Eliminate human error during your patterning session by using a solid rest Use a permanent in-ground shooting bench, otherwise, resort to a portable bench Equip the bench with a recoil-absorbing, fully adjustable gun rest The idea of patterning is to make your gun shoot reliable and consistent throughout your ethical kill range and to help determine what that range is. When starting the process of patterning, have a good supply of targets. Select a paper target of a turkey’s neck and head silhouette. 


 Start using a large target with a 30-inch outer ring to check the pattern’s center  Switch to using a smaller head and neck gobbler target that shows the spine and brain after the pattern is centered to the shotgun’s point of aim  Shoot several times to confirm your pattern Start off at a distance of twenty to twenty-five yards; fire each one of your shells from a steady rest at a clean new target, 

marking each target with the pertinent information.

 Move back to thirty or thirty-five yards, and then forty to forty-five yards and repeat the process again at each distance. CHECK YOUR PATTERN FROM THE DISTANCES YOU WILL HUNT 

 Use those targets to shoot at 20, 30 and 40 yards Study each target carefully Watch for point of impact changes, holes developing in the pattern and the pattern suddenly falling apart Start off by laying each of the targets out on a large surface where you can examine each target and easily compare them.

 A few of your targets will obviously not make the grade and will not require further examination. Remove those targets and cross that shell off your list of possibilities. 

Next, start checking your patterns for voids. A turkey's head is about the size of your fist and a void in your pattern that big, could cause missed opportunities in the field. 

The targets that are left will require a pellet count. Draw a ten-inch circle around the bull’s-eye on your target and count every pellet in the circle, the more pellets the better. After completing your pellet count and excluding voids you should have your load chosen for your spring hunt. MAKE SIGHT CORRECTIONS Adjust your sights if the center of the pattern’s mass is off. Consider adding a shotgun scope or other optical sight to adjust the centering of the pattern’s mass What is a choke? 

What does a choke do? It’s important to know what a choke is and does for your turkey hunting shotgun. Chokes simply screw into the end of the barrel of your shotgun. They come in a variety of sizes that determine how tight your pattern will be at certain distances. Shotgun patterns can be tightly constricted with pellets grouped together closely or more open when the pellets are more spread out. 

The three most common chokes for turkey hunting are modified, full and super full. Test all three out and consider your hunting environment before determining which choke is best for your shotgun. FIX THOSE HOLES Try a different choke tube, shotshell or shot size if holes are appearing in your pattern Use patience to solve the problem, trial and error is the best option

 When patterning your shotgun and making the final decision on your choke and shell combination, remember the reason for pattering is to make your shotgun shoot consistent. So chose the shell and choke combination that gives you the most consistent and repeatable pattern at all ranges.

 The time that is taken to pattern your gun will make sure that you’re ready when the opportunity in the field presents itself. "When you purchase an Encore Pro Hunter, you enter a world of more than a hundred different hunting configurations. Lure in gobblers with a break-open turkey gun, tackle big game with a world-class muzzleloader and outsmart nature's toughest predators with your trusty centerfire rifle—all from the same shooting platform." 

 In Conclusion 

 One doesn’t have to be a professional shooter to be able to harvest a turkey. However, as hunters and enthusiasts of the outdoors, it is important to know what a firearm is capable of doing before hunting. A way to become familiar with a shotgun is by patterning it. 

This is important as it lowers the chance of missing a bird substantially. More importantly, knowing how a firearm performs in every situation allows the hunter the ability to make a quick, clean and ethical shot on a turkey. There isn't a worse feeling than spending hours calling to a gobbler, having him finally break loose and come in, only to miss the shot or even worse wounding the animal enough to hinder the recovery.

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