Fishing & Hunting Tips

Choose the best choke for duck hunting

Most of us hunters always have such extensive debate over shotgun and load selection for waterfowls, yet we somehow overlook the importance of a nice clean precision kills. So hunters should take some time to choose the best choke for duck hunting.

An interchangeable choke tube is the most important technological upgrade in shotguns. This advanced kit is replaceable which allows the pattern of the shotgun to be fine-tuned. This simple tweaks will make the gun more adaptable and the range of a bullet travel distance will vary. Those new hunters might still be wondering where is the choke tube, well it’s at the end of your shotguns barrel. Better choose the best choke for duck hunting for a nice clean kill and prevent any rough severed meat.

Choose the best choke for duck hunting

How does a choke work

Choke is a narrowed compression of a shotgun barrel’s bore at the muzzle end. The chokes are generally used with latest hunting and target shotguns, to enhance performance. This kits sole purpose is to control the spread of the shot to attain better range and accuracy.

The choke’s compression operate differently depending on its implementation process. Which means when a shot charge leaves the barrel, the cluster of shot will be outspread or tapered at a measured distance depending on the level of constriction. When the bullets travel range increases, the destructive power also decreases. That means your waterfowl will not have a quick neat and clean humane death.

So, before you make a shot, understand your chokes ability to determine the bullets travel distance. Have some patience, and wait for the duck to come in range before you pull the trigger. You just need to realize how far away the duck is when you’re making a shot and to decide one a choke tube that allows you the perfect pattern at that range.

In some incidents, the ducks might be coming in a faster pace and will be near your shooting range before you decided a shot. In the pre-season, most of the hunters hone their skills by taking up shooting practice with small teal, cattail-choked potholes or wooden ducks along the creek with hefty logs.

In this practice segments, many hunters accidentally decide to over choke the guns bore. This indicates that the compression of the bullet is so stiff and the matrix is compact which v will result in a lot of miss heat and those ducks which will get hit with a shot pattern so dense that it will decimate a sizable portion of the meat.

Contrariwise, when you’re aiming at the high-flying Passover ducks or shooting at the edge of your shotguns lethal range with an open choke, your shot won’t produce the mass or pellet count. In this case, you will achieve a quicker and cleaner kill.


Range against choke

To accomplish a successful hunting season, you will need a  higher than 60% kill ratio. Such top-class performance requires a pre-seasoned shooting practice. The American duck’s standard wingspan such as mallard, gadwall or black duck is about 2 and a half feet. You can set up a similar size target and use different chokes while shooting from different range with your chosen bullet types to determine the ideal combination.

As an example, if you are planning to fire a 1-⅛ ounce load of number 5 steel shot, there are close to 216 pellets per load. That means you will require 130 pellets in the 30-inch circle to be fatal at the range. On the contrary, when you try-out the same bullet at 30 yards and find out that there are roughly 95 pellets in the circle, it indicates that you have passed beyond your lethal range.

Just keep the shots under 25 yards for that particular load. For further safety, always use hearing protection and goggles before shooting your weapon. Be sure of your target and what is beyond, and be completely certain of your safety.


WEIGHT IN OUNCES (3% Antimony)



Chokes reaction with steel shot

Because of their architectural characteristics, steel and Wolfram shot create compressed classifications with a given choke than lead. As an example, when a choke tube is label improved cylinder or IC ( typical compression is generally estimated with lead shot, nonetheless look over with your choke producer ), with steel shot, it will discharge like a customized choke.

In addition, the conventional tweaked lead choke will process a narrower full pattern with steel. I would recommend you not to use full lead chokes with steel shot because the constriction will be too stiff. A quality cylinder or even a skeet contraction choke will work proficiently for ducks and other waterfowl. It’s better to use a customized choke tube for birds that are further away.

Understanding the ideal choke compression and conclusive load rang ( you may already have decided on a shot pattern prior to the season ), will grant you a positive concept of the ideal contraction for your load at a specified range and it will aid you to make a neater, further compelling executions with less immobilized and reduced meat spoliation.

12 familiar constrictions are:

  • Negative
  • Skeet
  • Cylinder
  • Improved cylinder
  • Light modified
  • Modified
  • Improved modified
  • Light full
  • Full
  • Extra full
  • Super full
  • Prodigious full

Water Fowler’s preferred choke

The bottom six constrictions are immensely favored by experienced waterfowlers. The general hunter is mostly acquainted with IC (improved cylinder), modified and full because most of the new shotgun come equipped with these three particular chokes. The remainder three- LM ( light modified ), IM ( improved modified ) and LF ( Light full) – are less known, but they are capable to take down any waterfowl.

IC ( Improved Cylinder )

In the past, IC and modified compressions are the only two recommendations for steel shot. Some pretentious genius has imposed the idea for years that IC is the choke of preference when shooting large steel shot. But what I practically learned over the past decade, that the IC, same as skeet, is too open for all but nearest of waterfowling circumstances.

Contrariwise, a true full choke is sometimes limited to lead shot only and too stiff for steel shot application. However, softer non-toxic shots are safe to use in older, repaired, full-choke barrels.


One of the exceptional and adaptable options remains a modified constriction. When you’re down to a single choke only, I would recommend you to pick modified, yet an LM constriction would probably be the next best choice.

LM ( Light Modified )

Light modified compression stands between improved cylinder and modified. Today LC has nearly abandoned by modern hunters but still, it holds some credibility. LM quickly opens up for close ranged shot yet maintains enough pattern density to be powered up to 40 yards. I’ve even come across a few LM tubes that create denser, more consistent patterns than modified. Overall it’s an excellent choice for mid-range ducks. Note that there are diverse tubes that marked as a ‘decoy’ are actually LM chokes.

IM ( Improved Modified )

Even though IM is stiffer than modified yet it won’t excessively constrict solid non-toxic shot and flutter patterns. I would totally prefer IM for North American ducks. For some overhead curious ducks, IM might be all right, but IM has enough compression to deliver considerate numbers of pellets on target for the clean and precise kill. In the past, a number of IC/large shot eloquence stalk off steel was considered to be damaging for the barrel and the choke. But today, protective blocks and non-toxic materials has turned IM into a better option.

Also for high-speed loads, IM keeps high-velocity patterns well organized and effective, without any excess compression and blowing things out of proportion. I would prefer IM for ducks because it is practically a death sentence for a single shot. So when someone wants to know how to choose the best choke for duck hunting, I would refer them the IM.

LF ( light Full )

Although, not used widely, but still, for some folks, this particular choke has its worth. In a number of the marketplaces, duck hunting chokes are labeled as full but in reality, LF in actual compression. Unlike a real full choke, LF can be used safely with steel and non-toxic shots, and also manage enough compression to produce concentrated patterns at a commendable distance.

Honestly, I use LF as my leisure shooting or target practicing. So, when you are loaded with high-velocity shot, stick with IM because LF is often too stiff and may produce patterns over 1550 fps.


Non-waterfowl compatible chokes ( Negative, cylinder, and skeet )

These particular three chokes are compatible with close range ducks which are highly unlikely. Negative is more gaping than the bore. The negative choke extends beyond the muzzle to achieve this open choke operation. Cylinder, on the other hand, has a similar size to the bore. Skeet is just a little tighter and has very poor waterfowling utilization.


Extra full, super full and prodigious full

These chokes measurements are more suitable to turkey and predator huntings.


The choke tube’s perfect patterning is extremely crucial for any hunter. The accurate composition of shot and choke tube will result in a precise and neat kill. Just place a few cardboard to fine-tune your shot pattern to your accordance. If you’re shot pattern is less than ideal, then it may result in injuring a duck rather than a quick kill. So better choose the best choke for duck hunting.

Just avoid over-choking at a given range because it might rip apart the prime meat of a duck, spoiling it all together. Before making a decision on a particular choke tube, do some extensive research and gather some experience. Any hasty decision might make you regret later on. Investing on a choke tube is a one time expense for some hunters. For a successful hunt for decades to come, choose wisely. As I’ve already given my verdict on IM ( Improved Modified ) choke, I would suggest you compare and confirm on a particular choking tube. Happy hunting folks.

Nicholi Wyto

Hey I'm Nicholi Wyto is a professional sports fisherman and hunter, love to enjoy spending time in Michigan’s rugged northern forests. I love to explore my experience and help others who are interested in fishing and hunting.

Add comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Posts