By J. Wayne Fears
Having a convenient place to test shotshells and choke tubes will make you a more efficient wingshooter.
A growing number of shotgun hunters use their scatterguns year-round. It’s turkey hunting in the spring, sporting clays during the summer, upland game hunting in the fall and maybe deer hunting that winter. Coyotes fill the gap between the winter and spring seasons.
Regardless of which type of shotgunning you prefer, knowing how your gun patterns with different choke tubes and loads can boost your odds of success. Patterning a shotgun, though, requires a safe, convenient place for testing.
Recently, a turkey hunting buddy and my two sons were wishing for a permanent place to pattern their shotguns. As we discussed how easy and inexpensive constructing a permanent pattern board would be, one of my sons suggested a remote location on a small tract of land I had in a farming community just out of town.
There was a flat area between a creek and a steep hill where we could shoot at 40 yards, the standard distance for checking patterns. Building the pattern board at the base of the hill would ensure no pellets escaped the shooting area. It would be a safe place to shoot and easy to reach by vehicle. It was also far enough away from any home that shooting noise would not be a problem. We decided to erect the pattern board there.
The project was scheduled for a Saturday morning. On Friday, my son, Steve, purchased two treated 4x4x8 posts, a treated 2x4x8 stud, two concrete landscape pads and a sheet of ?-inch plywood, and loaded them into his truck. Total cost: $31.89.
That night, we cut the sheet of plywood in half, giving us a 4-foot square to mount on a frame we would make the next morning.
While the size of the pattern board might sound large, I prefer it because it gives the shooter ample room to move targets around so no one area of the board gets shot out. Also, the board is big enough to use standard 30-inch pattern targets or life-size coyote and gobbler targets.
The next morning, we met at the property and began by clearing brush, limbs and weeds from the shooting area. Using a post hole digger, my friend George dug the holes for the 4x4s while my sons and I constructed the pattern board.
We began by sawing the 2x4x8 stud in half. After laying the two 4x4s parallel on the ground 48 inches apart, we screwed one 4-foot length of 2x4 across the top and then the second half 44 inches down from the top. This gave us a base on which to attach a half sheet of plywood to the pattern board stand.
With the pattern board made, putting it up was a simple matter of standing up the 4x 4 posts and placing them into the holes George dug. We made sure they were deep enough so the pattern board would be within easy reach of the shortest member of our group.
Finally, while two of us used a level to make sure the pattern board was positioned correctly, the others filled and tamped the holes. The pattern board was up.
Next, we placed concrete landscape pads 30 yards and 40 yards from the pattern board to mark shooting positions. We dug a depression into the dirt for each pad, deep enough so a mower could cut without hitting the markers.
This entire building process took less than two hours. We had a permanent pattern board that would give us many years of service.
A portable shooting bench makes the pattern board easier to use. Such benches are available from Brownells and Midway USA, or you can use an old card table and a folding chair for the same purpose. On the bench, you will want a commercial rest or simple sandbags on which to rest a shotgun.
On the many properties I hunt, I often see pattern boards without a bench or some other way to support a gun. I find it difficult to get accurate patterns without a solid rest. A shooting bench is a good addition to a permanent pattern board setup.
I store all my pattern board supplies in a shooting bag I keep handy. In it is a staple gun with a supply of ?-inch staples, a fast, sure way to fasten targets to the pattern board. Also in the bag are ear and eye protection both for myself and for anyone who might join me for the shooting session.
I keep a notepad and pen in the bag for taking notes on various loads, choke tubes and shot distances. Several years ago, I started keeping notes on the targets I was shooting and filing them at my office according to shotgun model. Now if I want to check how my Remington Model 11-87 performed with a certain turkey load, all I have to do is to look in the Remington 11-87 file and pull the target. I also date them. It saves a lot of shooting time and is a great reference for future hunts.
Finally, you will want a good supply of targets for your new pattern board. For general pattern testing, a Red Star Shotgun Special with its 30-inch circle is good. Birchwood Casey, Champion Targets, H.S. Strut, Quaker Boy, Caldwell and Red Star offer good turkey patterning targets. The NRA also has a wide variety of life-size waterfowl, turkey and coyote targets.
Having a convenient, safe and quick way to pattern your favorite shotgun can add fun to your shooting and send you on your hunts knowing a lot more about what to expect from your smoothbore.
Materials & Cost
Two 2x2x2 concrete landscape pads @ $3.54 ea.
Two 4x4x8 treated post @ $4.97 ea.
One 2x4x8 treated stud @ $2.97
One 4x8 sheet of ?-inch plywood @ $9
Less than $32
Pattern Board Targets
Red Star Targets
National Rifle Association
Life-size gobbler and
other large game targets
Caldwell Shooting Supplies
This article was published in the November 2009 edition of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine. Subscribe today to have GunHunter delivered to your home.