Oct 10, 2012, 1:01 AM EDT
By Bill Miller
As you go out to get your shotgun shells for bird hunting this season, keep these tips in mind. You’ll get the best value for your money, kill more birds and enjoy yourself more, too.
For general hunting of smaller birds like doves, quail, partridge, ruffed grouse and woodcock on private ground and public areas that don’t require non-toxic shot for upland birds, reach for the premium quality target loads on the shelf at the sporting goods store. You’re looking for the top of the line target loads like Winchester AAs, Federal Gold Medals, Remington Premier, Fiocchi Exactas, etc. Don’t be fooled by the cheap promotional loads that proliferate every hunting season. These do not contain the premium components the top target loads contain – high-antimony shot, performance wads, consistent powder blends and velocities, etc.
For the money, these are supreme-quality loads. They have to be. The ammo companies stake their reputations on top competitors winning with their products. They are not going to chance the shell being the cause of their shooters losing. They can keep the costs down on these loads because they produce them in higher volume than any other type of shotshells.
I’m getting an inside look at retail sales working part time at friend’s sporting goods store through the busy stretch of the hunting seasons this year. One thing I see consistently is people buying more shell than they need for hunting upland birds. It doesn’t take a 3-inch magnum to kill a pheasant, especially on opening day or at a game farm! For lightly feathered birds which are flushed at opening day ranges 1 1/8 ounces of good, hard 7 ½ shot is plenty! Now later on you may want 1 ¼ or even 1 ½ ounces of 6s, 5s or 4s for pheasants, but you still don’t need to be shooting turkey loads! Why punish yourself like that? And why spend the money?
I get a kick out of people who buy a 20 gauge shotgun because they want a lighter carrying gun and reduced recoil, then think the only way to kill anything with it is to shoot 3-inch shells. If you look at a 1 ¼ ounce shot charge in a 2 ¾-inch 12 gauge vs a 3-inch 20 gauge, you’ll note that it’s obviously longer in the 20. That configuration results in higher recoil everything else being equal, so the choice of a 20 gauge actually increases felt recoil in this case. I’m a huge 20 gauge fan, but stick with a nice, mild 1-ounce load and you’ll kill just as much … or more … than with that nasty kicking 3-inch 20.
There is an advantage to copper or nickel coated shot. Uncoated lead will tend to grab feathers and ball them up around the feathers and drag them inside the meat. This is called feather pull, and it hurts the quality of delicious meat as table fare. Coatings make the exterior of the pellet more slippery and reduce the amount of feather pull.
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