When you’re looking to take a trophy turkey, which load should you bring with you? Toms can be hard to hunt—even if you have ideal conditions. They have a little tiny head, and they are very reactive to noise, movement and changes in atmosphere. You need more than a couple of things to go your way to bag the right turkey without hiccups. After all, you don’t want a body that’s riddled with pellets. But which load do you take? Enter the duplex round.

What Is a Duplex Round?

A duplex round is a shotshell that is loaded with more than one type of shot or shot size. Typically, these types of loads allow better performance over a wider range of conditions, ranges, or game types. With regard to turkey loads that are duplex rounds, they are generally a stacked set of two or three different shot sizes. For example, a #4,5,6 shot duplex allows the best properties of each of the shot types to shine through. The density and weight of the larger shot allows a further pattern potential. The smaller shot sizes produce a more complete pattern type in combination. The combination of all these shot sizes allows for a better chance for terminal performance.

Turkey Hunting loads

Why Does a Duplex Load Make Sense For Turkeys?

For turkey hunting, the conditions, terrain, and ranges will vary dramatically at times. This makes it necessary to utilize improvements in equipment and increases in power to compensate for the additional conditional changes. Like the larger magnum chambers which allow for larger payloads and the chokes that allow for tighter patterning, duplex loads enhance the potential to get a legitimate pellet in the zone to dispatch a turkey. Because the turkey’s head is small, and they become twitchy, the minute variances in pattern that happen over 15-40 yards (typical turkey ranges) can render a load unable to kill a turkey in windy or even in normal conditions.

Hence the reason for the different shot sizes (duplex loads), combined with larger payloads and chokes. When utilizing a duplex load, you are tightening the pattern at every crucial range marker as it pertains to a turkey hunt. Your smaller sized shot maintains a great pattern at shorter distance; the intermediate sized shot maintains a great pattern at medium ranges and the larger shot sizes extend the potential for the round out past the normal range limit to ensure you not only have a humane kill at normal distances, but that humane kills can be assured at the extreme ends of the range spectrum without violating the game meat unreasonably.

Other Considerations

Turkey guns are typically robust, heavy guns that are made to take max loads. You aren’t shooting them often in a hunt, because you don’t get an opportunity to; so, recoil is not as big a concern as it might be otherwise.

The Magnum load of the shells that the typical turkey gun is chambered for makes the payload exceptionally large. The problem is, if you aren’t in good conditions, you can really butcher a turkey before it has had the chance to be properly butchered.


Some Things That Can Help You Bring Down Your bird

  • Choke use; having a heavily constricted pattern can help tremendously when you are looking to hit a turkey head at 40-45 yards or further (further shots are not necessarily recommended).

  • Scope use; a simple red dot is usually enough, and so any optic that can get you on target quickly would make sense, not just a scope

  • Pre-hunt patterning to help you determine the exact point of impact on target

  • Understanding the realistic range of the gun and load you are using



Duplex loads aren’t a necessity, but for hunters who value clean, consistent kills and strong performance, they should be included without hesitation and with absolute consistency. The improvement in overall performance and pattern density allows you to ensure proper kills on turkeys of all sizes in normal ranges, regardless of whether or not a hunter is utilizing other beneficial tools or methodologies (like tighter chokes or larger payloads or powder charges).

The duplex load is worth a legitimate look by all turkey hunters, as they can dramatically improve the yields of a hunt and put down game birds with a humane kill in a wider range of conditions and ranges.

- Benjamin Worthen