Most turkey hunters have great faith in the ability of their favorite guns to drop gobblers at long distances.
Yet, surprisingly few actually know how well their guns pattern at different distances and whether the shot pattern actually goes to the exact spot where they aim.
Most turkey hunters don't spend time at the shooting range to determine exactly how their guns perform.
Shotguns normally are used on moving targets, and shooters develop instinctive skills to put the shot where it needs to be.
But turkey hunting guns are aimed more like rifles than scatterguns. And even shotguns with double beads or sights may shoot slightly left, right, above or below the point of aim.
To find out how your shotgun performs, make several targets of paper or cardboard. They should be at least 24 inches square. Thirty-six inches is better to reveal the placement and density of the shot pattern.
Set targets up at measured distances of 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards, making sure they are far enough apart that they won't be hit by stray shot from other targets. Mark each target with the distance and type of ammunition being tested.
Make a large, black dot in the center of each target and take careful aim at the dot when firing test shots.
After you have shot one target with each load you are testing at each distance, lay them out and compare the shot patterns.
Believe and remember what your patterning targets tell you. Hunters like to talk about the once in a lifetime shot that killed a gobbler at 50 yards, but few shotguns produce patterns capable of consistently producing clean kills at this distance.
If you find that the effective range of your shotgun is 35 yards, don't try longer shots.
Get a bird within 20 yards, and any shotgun will do the job. Fail to get the bird within 40 yards, and you run the risk of losing a wounded bird no matter how impressive your artillery.