The Best Chokes for Dove Hunting

A choke is a simple device that affects the pattern of pellets when they are fired from a shotgun.

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Using the right choke can improve the number of birds successfully brought down during hunting.

What is a Choke?

When a shotgun is fired, the pellets leave the barrel and scatter. The greater distance the pellets travel, the wider the spread of the pellet group both in diameter (spread) and length (range). This can be influenced by the insertion of a choke.

dove hunting choke on shotgun

A choke is a tapered tubular device that sits in the muzzle of a gun barrel – typically a shotgun.

Its purpose is to alter the shot string.

Shot string is the spread of the pellets, therefore the shot pattern.

It does not affect shot velocity or distance. Chokes have no impact on the power of the gun.

Types of Choke:

  • Cylinder Choke – an unconstructed barrel and the shot spreads quickly. Gives a 40-inch spread at 25 yards.
  • Improved Cylinder Choke – slightly constricted, the shot string spreads fairly quickly. Good for shooting game at relatively close range. Gives a 40-inch spread at 30 yards.
  • Modified Choke – with moderate constriction, the shot string is denser because the pellets stay together longer. Useful for longer-range shooting. Gives a 40-inch spread at 35 yards.
  • Improved Modified Choke – the cylinder is slightly tighter than a standard modified choke.
  • Full Choke – the choke with the tightest constriction, the shot is held together for the longest time. The shot string is the densest and is good for ranges of 40+ yards.  Gives a 40-inch spread at 40 yards.

As you might imagine, each of these chokes will be more suitable for particular types of prey.

Essentially, the choke you should use depends on the distance you are shooting at your game.

How to Choose a Choke for Dove Hunting

Although doves are plentiful and good to hunt simply due to their number, they are speedy and have an unpredictable flight pattern which makes them a challenge for a hunter to hit.

Add in the changing conditions of the collars of the season (early and late) and better pigeon hunting results can be gained by choosing different chokes and shotshells.

For most hunters, the guiding principle is based on the simple reasoning that for fast birds in tight cover, the shot should spread quickly.

Most doves are shot at a distance between 10 and 25 yards (9 – 23 m) so, a more important principle for guiding choke choice is this distance.

But, it can’t just be a choice of choke. Shooting doves successfully is a combination of the right choke and the right shot for the conditions.

The type of shot will also affect the spread and this will need to be considered when choosing a choke.  Steel shot forms a tighter spread pattern than lead shot.

Widely accepted combinations among experienced hunters are:

SeasonRangeShot SizeChoke
Early10 – 35 yardsNo. 7½Improved Cylinder or Modified
Late25 – 40 yardsNo. 6 – 7½Modified or Improved Modified

Remember with a more open pattern you’ll hit more doves than with a tighter full choke. Your choice of shot and choke should be the right amount of pellets to efficiently, quickly and cleanly bring the birds down.

The gauge of shotgun you use is not really relevant in successful dove hunting. Modern shotguns take screw-in chokes, so you can happily take a selection of chokes with you into the field and choose the right one for the conditions.

Of course, this is no guarantee of bagging a sackful of birds. It is a matter of trial and error (and experience) and learning how to not under or over choke your gun barrel.

Denise Bereford

Denise Bereford is a full-time writer and researcher with a long-standing passion for pigeons.

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