By John L. Barnes
Briley Mfg

HAVING THE RIGHT CHOKE HELPS YOU NARROW IN ON YOUR TARGET TO GET A GOOD CLEAN SHOT

Have you ever been on a dove hunt where you are just sure you hit the bird, maybe even knocked a ton of feathers off but the bird just kept on flying? You may not have had the right choke in your gun to make a good clean shot on that bird. Chokes are the last little bit of a shotgun barrel near the muzzle where the bore size is reduced to control the spread of the shot pattern at different yardages. It is important to understand which choke is needed for particular yardage to make a shot effective on the target.

As a basic example of how chokes work, think of a typical garden hose nozzle. When the nozzle is open it lets a large stream out that would not be very effective for anything beyond a few feet. As the nozzle is tightened down the stream released becomes smaller and is then better at delivering water at longer distances. That is very similar to how chokes work in your shotgun. The more open chokes will produce wider more open patterns that are only effective at shorter ranges. As chokes get tighter the pattern diameter will decrease and increase the effective range of the shotgun.

The shot pattern is the spread of the pellets at a certain yardage and is usually measured for size by shooting a large piece of paper to give a visual representation of what it looks like. For example, an Improved Cylinder choke will have about a 24″ diameter pattern at about 20 yards with no sizeable holes in the pattern. So, that improved cylinder would be very useful on a target at that yardage. When discussing the size of a shot pattern, you typically want to have the largest pattern possible that does not have any holes through which your prey can escape. The holes in the pattern are the areas where there are no pellets or large gaps between the pellets. Ideally, there should be no gaps or holes large enough that the intended target may escape through; this can be the culprit when a bird is missed. You wouldn’t have very much luck making clean shots on birds with that same Improved Cylinder choke when the range is increased to maybe 50 yards because the pattern would then be much too open for that distance.

Modified, Improved Cylinder, Full, Light Modified, Cylinder, Improved Modified… But what does it all mean? Those are the most common chokes used in most guns for various types of hunting although that is in no particular order. Starting from most open to tightest, the proper order is Cylinder, Improved Cylinder, Light Modified, Modified, Improved Modified, and Full. Any choke called cylinder is the same bore size as the barrel, making it have the most open pattern. As you move towards Full choke, each constriction becomes a little tighter with Full being the tightest producing a pattern that is effective at the longest range.

To pick the perfect choke for dove hunting one should consider the species they are hunting and the time of the season. For early season dove when the shots are close and quick, a more open choke will be the most suitable for successful hunting. Improved Cylinder and Light Modified are the two most popular for mourning dove during the earlier season. When you reach the later part of the season where the shots will be longer it is usually time to change your chokes out for something a bit tighter for a longer reach such as Modified or Improved Modified. For those ultra-long shots at the elusive white-winged dove wearing oxygen masks as they cruise around the upper atmosphere, tighter chokes will definitely be needed to make a hunt successful. For any white-winged dove hunting Improved Modified choke or tighter is recommended because of the long-range shots. If you spend a little time considering your choke selection for the species and type of hunt you can increase the overall success of your hunt.