- Unless you're pass-shooting geese, there's no reason to throw more than 11/4 ounces of steel shot at waterfowl. I have extolled the virtues of high-speed steel in prior columns, and I'm not going to change my story now. Speed kills. It also kicks. Shoot 1450 to 1500 fps steel but stick with those 11/8- to 11/4-ounce payloads for lower recoil.
- In the uplands, a modest 1 to 11/8 ounces of shot is enough to drop everything that flies, except perhaps pheasants, which often require 11/4-ounce doses of lead pellets. Lead retains energy much better than does steel; so high-velocity shells aren't as necessary for birds as they are for waterfowl. The 1220 fps, 11/4-ounce live pigeon load kicks 20 percent less than the 1330 fps, 11/4-ounce high-velocity stuff and kills ringnecks almost 100 percent as dead.
- Dove hunters should know that the 1-ounce "Dove and Quail" loads you see for $3 a box at the marts in August are loaded to almost 1300 fps to ensure that they'll cycle in autoloaders. Spend a few more dollars and shoot light trap loads instead. When you're wearing no more padding than a camo T-shirt, 1-ounce target loads at 1180 fps deliver excellent patterns and less bang for the buck, which is what we're after. If you want speed, try International target loads, which are quite fast at 1325 fps, but low-recoil thanks to their 7/8-ounce payload.
- Three-and-a-half-inch turkey loads have even more kick than scary big-bore rifles such as the .458 Winchester Magnum. Frankly, the logic of enduring elephant-gun recoil to kill a 20-pound bird escapes me. Three-inch turkey loads flatten gobblers as far away as any of us need to shoot them. The nearly forgotten 11/2-ounce, 23/4-inch short magnum is deadly to 40 yards and generates two-thirds the recoil of a 2-ounce load. Lighten up; your shoulder will feel the difference¿¿¿even if the birds don't.