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Question by lovetohunt. Uploaded on September 18, 2011
This has been asked a few times recently. #2 steel for large ducks like mallards; #4 steel for smaller ducks like woodies and widgeon; BB steel for geese. At least 1500 feet per second muzzle velocity for all.
I am sure I will get plenty of people to tell me I am wrong, but I will give you my philosophy anyway.
Waterfowl, much like big game, are not dropped in their tacks with hits to the vitals. These shots are surely fatal, but the animal may cover a lot of ground between being hit and laying down to die.
What folds up birds immediately is hits to the wings, head and spine (neck). Birds hit in these areas don't argue, they don't negotiate, they just hit the water. If they are hit in a wing, they may be alive on the water, but they are on the water right in front of your blind, much better that dead 300 yards away.
While many people will argue that you need large shot size to penetrate the breast of large waterfowl like large mallards and geese, I disagree. Penetrating to the vitals is not your goal. I have seen a goose sitting in an open field shot directly through the breast and vitals with a .22. The bird took flight, flew approximately 150 yards and then dropped stone dead.
A .22 is obviously much larger than even the largest shot you would put in your shotgun, but even that does not instantly drop a bird with a hit to the vitals.
As opposed to the vitals, the wings, head and neck are very easy targets to penetrate. You don't need a large shot carrying a lot of energy to break these fragile bones close to the skin.
For those reasons, I prefer to use smaller shot sizes, which offer a greater pattern density that translates to a greater likelihood of hitting a wing, head or neck. I don't care if my shot penetrates well enough to pass through the breast and hit the vitals. My patterns are dense enough that if I hit the breast, I will have also hit a wing, head or neck, and folded the bird up immediately.
Accordingly, I prefer to shoot #6 shot (in steel or non-tox) for ducks and #2 shot in steel or #4 shot in non-tox for geese. I shoot these loads through a full choke, or even an extra-full if I am shooting decoying birds in a tight hole.
After several years of chasing waterfowl from the breeding grounds in Alaska to the migratory terminus in the everglades and everywhere in between, I have found that with these loads, I either miss cleanly, or fold up a bird. That horrible situation where you see feathers come off a bird, but it sails out on out of sight does not happen to me.
Every time I bring up this philosophy, plenty of people chime in to tell me that I am wrong, that those shot sizes will not break wings, that I am an unethical hunter, and the like, but I stand firm in my belief that higher densities of smaller pellets are the way to go for waterfowl.
That's easy. You don't need to separate what shots you use for the different waterfowl birds. Just shoot Black Cloud in 4 shot and kill anything on the water.
Ducks- #4 steel federals
Geese- BB or T shot also in federal
FastSteel is ten times better than Federal ammo! Black Cloud? At $35 per box!!!! I have hunted with guys who used the stuff and it's good but it's not THAT good. Using BB steel I actually outshot one fella using Black Cloud, but I was sure as hell shooting a lot better that day than I have been this week!
#2 steel is okay for breaking the wings of snows/blues, cacklers, or white-fronted. Eastern honkers, no! I can hardly break their wings with a ballpeen hammer! I wish I could tell you how many geese I have gutted that were carrying #2 shot or smaller. Most of the time there is no sign of a wound (it healed up years ago). So I'm not really seeing proof of the bang flop with small shot. On the contrary I see a lot of evidence of bang-ouch-fly-away. I rarely clean any birds that are carrying BB pellets from someone else's gun. If that #2 shot hits em low behind the ribs on a pass shot, it is NOT folding the honker up although it WILL die, and probably before the day is done. But plumb out of sight somewhere hours later. Also, realize that if you break a leg on a Canada goose, it's done for, but it won't fold up. I have found countless healed-up broken legs on ducks but NEVER on a goose. They can't get off the water without both legs. The lower leg bone on a goose is quite exposed and a heck of a lot easier broken than most of the wing (except that very small portion right out on the tip) Greenhead, #2 shot in lead was okay for breaking honker wings but same size in steel is really marginal. Its slightly more dense pattern than BB might give you a better chance of taking em in the head or neck (which is a relatively small target) but I do not agree that it ups the odds of breaking a wing (much more target to hit but harder to break). I think you are upping your odds of gut shooting the bird or breaking a leg, both of which will be fatal but rarely retrievable. By the way, I have drilled geese with BB at forty yards ahd had the pellet pass through the bird, breast to back.
I shoot #3 steel for ducks and geese. I almost never shoot geese that aren't belly up over the dekes and close.
I have been trying #1 steel shot this year. So far the jury is out. I'm not doing that great with #1 or with BB. Operator error. My good right eye is clouding up with foaters and I think it is causing my really badly damaged and vision-distorted left eye to try working harder than it is capable of doing. Tomorrow a.m. I'll be using a pair of flip down clip-on sunglasses that I have re-rigged to block out that left eye. I cut the right eye shade off with sissors and painted over the left lens with flat black primer. When the birds are into the deeks I'm going to flip the shades down and block out the left eye. A few years back when I was blind in that eye I absolutely couldn't miss. My shooting hasn't been the same since they fixed it.
#2 and #1 steel for quackers and BB and BBB for snows and honkers. T and F ruined my Patternmaster choke tube.
#2 steel. #4 if you're using BlackCloud.
Black cloud 4 shot
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