Why Do Hunters Pattern Their Shotguns
Why Do Hunters Pattern Their Shotguns

Why Do Hunters Pattern Their Shotguns?

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It’s time to pattern your shotgun! Have you ever wondered “why do hunters pattern their shotguns?” The practice of “patterning” shotguns is common among hunters before each turkey hunting season to determine precisely where their pellets land when fired at a target.

Shotgun patterns are popular among many hunters because they believe they improve hunting accuracy and help them hit their intended prey.

What do you do when you can’t get a shot on target while hunting wild turkey or shooting ducks? Pattern your shotgun!

You’ll learn why mastering the shotgun pattern is so important in our guide. By the end, you’ll know how to pattern a shotgun and how to use a patterned shotgun to outperform the competition. 

What Does Patterning a Shotgun Mean?

When you buy it from your local gun store, there is a problem with your shotgun and that is, its unreliability. Your shotgun’s reliability and how familiar you are with it all play a role when you’re trying to take a clean shot while hunting. So knowing how to pattern your gun is a good idea.

Patterning a shotgun means shooting a target repeatedly with various shells and shot sizes. It aids in determining the most effective range and the best shells, shot sizes, and loads for your particular hunting style. It is one of the essential pre-hunting practices, but unfortunately, many a seasoned shooter do not do it.

Variations in barrel length, manufacturer, and cartridge type influence how well the pellets spread out. Knowing your shotgun’s pattern and the best way to position yourself for an accurate shot will be a breeze once you’ve done the patterning.

Why Do Hunters Pattern Their Shotguns?

A rifle is very different from a shotgun in terms of how you can fire it. For example, when you fire a rifle, the bullets almost always land in the same spot, but when you fire a shotgun, the pellets can land all over the place, causing unpredictable patterns.

When hunting, it’s critical to concentrate on your prey, and being familiar with your shotgun’s pattern helps you do just that. It also increases the likelihood of your pellets hitting their target. Pellet patterns from any two shotguns will be unique. For example, a larger pellet diameter makes for a more focused shot pattern in a shotgun, while a smaller pellet diameter makes it more effective at penetrating a target.

The pattern may be off-kilter in some instances. Other times, there can be a break in the pattern. Several factors contribute to a shotgun’s pattern, including the gun’s choke, the brand of the shell, and the type of shot. Therefore, you must “pattern” your shotgun to pick the correct ammunition.

The “maximum effective range” should be your only consideration when shooting at game birds in flight. To consistently hit the target, this is the range you should aim for. For example, more birds are injured and killed if you shoot at a distance beyond this point.

When you practice shooting a shotgun, you learn how to use your gun in the most efficient manner possible. As a hunter, you’re expected to kill your prey in such a way that it is quick and painless. Therefore, it’s critical to learn how to pattern your shotgun to get the best performance from your firearm and minimize the risk of wounded prey escaping.

The patterning board reveals which type of cylinder, improved cylinder, or modified choke is best for a given situation.

Pro Tip: For creating a single pattern, you will require at least ten shots.

How to Pattern a Shotgun for Trap?

According to en.wikipedia.org, in the United States and Canada, “trap shooting” is one of the three primary forms of clay pigeon shooting competitions. Trapshooting uses a single “house” or machine to fire the targets at a range from the shooter.

If you are going trap shooting, you need to pattern your shotgun to ensure that the choke and shells you select are working to your satisfaction. Therefore, “Shotgun patterning” or “testing shotgun patterns” is a simple procedure to follow once you understand what you are doing (Please remember that some of the steps will be different depending because it depends on the type of shotgun you own).

A Shotgun, ammo, some paper at least four feet wide, and a sturdy frame to hold it all together are all you’ll need to pattern your shotgun. Here’s what you should do:

  • Make sure your shotgun is empty, then correctly clean the bore with a suitable solvent and brush.
  • Ensure that your shotgun choke tubes are securely installed, and inspect your shotgun’s bore for obstructions or damage.
  • Choose a shotshell appropriate for the purpose you will be using it. Also, ensure that the particular shotshell has been factory-loaded.
  • Put up a piece of paper of pattern paper at least four feet wide vertically on a sturdy frame made of wood. Draw an aiming point in the middle (draw a black circle measuring 4-6-inch in diameter).
  • Measure a distance of 25 yards from your target when using a skeet gun or a.410-bore. Take a distance of 40 yards for all other firearms. Mark that spot on the ground with a ground marker so that you can always fire from the same spot.
  • Fire one shot onto each sheet of pattern paper, discard it, and replace it with a new sheet of the same pattern paper. You can make your job easier by counting each sheet and keeping track of both the barrels (in case you’re using an over/under or side-by-side) and the load.
  • According to our experts, shooting a shotgun with a specific barrel, choke and load combination requires several shots. They recommend using five shells to determine the effectiveness of a choke pattern with a 95 percent probability of being suitable for tarp shooting.
  • Once you’ve laid out each perforated pattern sheet on a white or transparent flat surface, you can trace a 30-inch circle around the area where your pellets left the most holes. Then, apply this on all the sheets you have used. Make a mark in the middle of the circle and ignore the aiming point you drew earlier. When you’ve drawn a 30-inch circle, draw a concentric circle of 20 inches in diameter inside it. After this, draw a vertical and horizontal line through the center of both circles to divide the shotgun pattern into eight sections.
  • Determine how many times a pellet hit each section. Include all hits from the 20- and 30-inch circles in your total. Repeat this process for every pattern sheet.
  • Add up all the hits inside the 30-inch circles, and then divide that total by the overall number of pattern sheets. You will get the average number of pellets hit within the circle.
  • Check the manufacturer’s specifications for the ammunition you’re using to determine the number of pellets in each round. To effectively analyze and evaluate the target, this is a must.

How to Pattern a Shotgun for Skeet?

According to collinsdictionary.com, skeet is a shooting sport that involves firing clay targets from traps, while those clay targets mimic an actual bird’s flight path and trajectory.

Figure Out the Distance

First, figure out what you’re going to be taking shots at and at what range. Since we’re going after clay pigeons, we anticipate shots from about 40 yards away.

Pro Tip: Test your three primary chokes at a minimum of 10, 20, and 30 yards. Test your firearms at 5-yard intervals up to a range of 40 yards, using a variety of chokes.

Make a Bull’s Eye

Make a bull’s eye on a large piece of parchment and tape it to the wall. Draw a larger circle if necessary if your vision is poor. The circle should be big enough to the point where it is easy to see from 40 yards away.


After you’ve set up your target, back up to a distance of 40 yards away from it. It’s time to get out the guns. Shoot the target with the same ammunition you will use in a competition. Aim for the dot’s center if you want to succeed.

Make the Pattern

After shooting:

  1. Look at the target and note where most of the projectile landed on the sheet.
  2. Draw a large circle around your pattern once you have identified it. The diameter of this circle will be approximately 30 inches.
  3. Repeat this process multiple times in each barrel.

It’s time to do some math now that you have a nice collection of goals.

Note: 2″ to 6″ above the bulls-eye at 40 yards is reasonable and advantageous when you’re shooting at wing shooting targets.

Do the Math!

Your pattern percentage is the first calculation you’ll do. Count the pellet holes inside the 30-inch circle after you’ve gathered your targets. Additionally, you’ll know how many pellets were in the shell you used. The number of pellets in the 30-inch circle equals the number of pellets in the shell multiplied by this number. Find the average of the percentages for each target that you shot. Check your gun’s chokes using the pattern percentages you’ve calculated.

When calculating pattern density, you’ll need to perform a second calculation.

First, draw a 20-inch circle inside the larger one on your target; this marks your starting point. Next, draw a smaller circle on top of your pattern’s densest area. Then, within the 20-inch circle, tally the number of pellets you’ve collected. To know the density of your pattern, divide the total of pellets in the 20-inch circle you drew before, and divide this number by the number of pellets left in the shell.

Calculate the average of these percentages for each of the targets you shot. Only when shooting at smaller targets is this calculation necessary. Even so, the densest part of your pattern needs to be marked.

Point of Impact

Patterning a shotgun is often done because the final calculation helps you find your point of impact. Locate the most densely packed area of your pattern. After that, you can see how close it is to the 6-inch circle you were aiming at; this will determine your shot pattern’s elevation and windage.

Note: Finally, keep in mind that switching chokes or shooting a different caliber, size, or a brand of ammo will alter your shooting pattern. Most shooters, particularly wing shooters, will not return to the patterning board for every small change they make in the field.

Pro Tip: Additionally, it is good to conduct a 25-yard patterning session. For skeet shooters, this method is beneficial because they rarely shoot at distances beyond 25 yards. Forty yards is the best distance if you want to see a lot of patterns. At 40 yards, the more dense your pattern is, the more deadly it will be. Keep in mind that if you’re unsure of your pattern, repeat the patterning method.

What Should a Hunter Take Into Consideration When Patterning a Shotgun?


  • As a general rule, it is recommended to have an area of at least 80-100 yards since you must test the shotgun pattern at least 40 to 50 yards away.
  • Pattern plates or sheets are the next consideration. They can be left blank or already drawn. To see how different chokes and shells affect the pattern, you’ll need to attach these sheets one at a time.
  • To pin the pattern sheet down, you’ll also require a large cardboard stand.


A choke is simply a constrictor just at the end of the shotgun barrel. The choke’s primary function is to reshape and concentrate scattered pellets into a single area.

The shotgun’s accuracy can be improved using a choke because the pellets aren’t spread out as widely.

Shotgun chokes can be either fixed or adjustable. An adjustable choke allows a hunter to fine-tune their shooting for accuracy and various games on any given day.

Performance of a Shotgun Shell

Now that you know what a choke is and how it affects your shooting, it’s time to learn about cartridges and why hunters favor certain types over others.

  • During firing, shotgun models greatly influence pellet trajectory. Oval and round spray techniques are available on a variety of models. Depending on the pattern, bullets can be kept closer to their intended target or dispersed randomly.
  • The shotgun stocking level affects the trajectory of these pellets. There is a huge difference between short- and long-stock shotguns when aiming that you can clearly discern.
  • Particles fired from a high- or low-comb gun may travel in one of the two directions.

What Distance Should Be Used to Pattern a Shotgun?

The accuracy of your shotgun shots is highly dependent on the distance from which you fire them. From a distance, your target will appear as a tiny black dot. Even if the fowl or turkey you’re aiming for seems to be the size of a dot, pattern testing can help you improve your aim so that it won’t flee.

You should stand at a distance of at least 40 yards when you pattern shotguns. Previously, the maximum range of the shotgun was 40 yards, but this has now been increased to 75 yards. Thanks to technological advancements in recent years, many shotgun shells now have a greater range.

In the case of hunting game birds, you should conduct your pattern testing at the range where you shoot your birds. A clay pigeon’s point of impact can best be determined at a distance of 30 to 35 yards when aiming in a straight line. Pattern your gun at a 40-yard range and look for any gaps from which the dove might slip through if you want to bag one.

A 12-ga shotgun might be the ideal firearm for you if you are experienced in game hunting. On the other hand, if you are a hunter with short stature or someone looking to adjust to the game, a 20-ga shotgun will be excellent. Keep in mind the gun needs to be patterned at 30 yards. 

You will need a 12 ga or a behemoth 10 ga shotgun with standard or magnum loads for waterfowl and duck hunting. A maximum distance of 50 yards is ideal for testing these for patterning. Keeping the pellets from dispersing too far will keep the killing power of the rounds intact.

Final Words – Why Do Hunters Pattern Their Shotguns?

It would be best if you patterned a shotgun as soon as you’ve upgraded or changed your firearm. Making a shotgun pattern is simple and can be done in the comfort of your own home. Your gun can be set up and experimented on at the patterning board. Make sure there is no one near the target area before you begin.

Even though your pellet pattern may have some inconsistencies, always choose the most appropriate one. The percentage, density, and impact point of your pattern will tell you if it is good or bad. It’s best to practice at 40 yards with the ammunition you plan to use in a tournament. Think about whether or not there are any holes in the 30-inch circle, which is your primary goal.

To summarize, we sincerely hope that this article has been beneficial to you and that you will no longer be afraid to pattern your shotgun after reading it. 

It would help if you patterned your shotgun before going on a hunt. Patterning your shotgun will ensure that you have the most precise setup possible, which will allow you to take a clean shot. 

So, what are you waiting for? The turkey is calling your name! Pattern your shotgun.