Fortunately, I hunt pheasants for fun and can shoot them with whatever gun I please. And, just as fortunately, market hunting for pheasants is illegal. However, if hunting pheasants was my job and I was paid by the head of roosters I killed:
a.) I would be going broke this year in Iowa.
b.) I would put aside my double guns and shoot my Benelli Montefeltro.
The Benelli is such a perfect ringneck gun. Sometimes I wish I didn’t own it because there is no good reason to take any of my other guns pheasant hunting as long as I have it.
Here’s why the Benelli Montefeltro is the best shotgun for pheasant hunting
It is a 12 gauge. 16s are nearly the equal of 12s and 20s are surprisingly effective, but the 12 gauge outperforms the 16 and 20 with lead, and beats them by a wide margin with steel. 12 gauge ammo costs less and is available everywhere.
It is a semiautomatic. While it is true I can only remember killing one bird with a third shot in 30 years of pheasant hunting, it’s also true that when I hunt with a semiauto, the gun is never empty and broken open for reloading at exactly the time another bird flushes as it is with O/Us and my double.
It is light. Although my Benelli is a 12 with a 28-inch barrel it weighs only 6 pounds, 13 ounces – less than many 20 gauges on the market. It’s light enough to be easy to carry all day, but it has enough weight forward that it moves smoothly to the target. The light weight combined with 12 gauge semiauto firepower is what makes it perfect for pheasant hunting.
It is an inertia gun. Not only are inertia guns reliable, they have no bulky rings or pistons or any other gas system parts up front, just the magazine tube. As a result they have very slender forearms, making them sit low in your front hand and point naturally.
It reduces recoil somewhat.** I definitely notice the Benelli kicks less than a double gun on those rare occasions I shoot heavy, high velocity (1500 fps) pheasant loads.
As a side benefit, it’s a handsome gun, too, and mine came with very nice wood. That matters, because even if I hunted pheasants for a living, I would still want to look good on the job.
*Second choice might be a worn-slick 870 Wingmaster from the late 70s or early 80s when they really knew how to make them. I’d want one with a fixed choke barrel, as those tend to have thinner barrel walls and be lighter and livelier guns than the new 870s.