Does Your Duck Gun Pattern Too Tightly?

by Phil Bourjaily

Waterfowlers have always been obsessed with tight-shooting guns and ammunition. Yet, when ducks decoy in your face, long range patterns become a serious handicap. The other morning I left my gun in its case (I was saving my limit for an afternoon hunt) and sat in the blind watching three experienced hunters blaze away at ducks decoying at 15 yards.

It was a calm day and birds would come in unseen over the top of the blind and all of sudden there they were, hanging in front of the guns.

Two of hunters were using HeviShot, the other was shooting Black Cloud Snow Goose. Both are loads that pattern very tightly through almost any choke. Everyone eventually killed a limit, but as you can tell by the empty Black Cloud box, they shot quite a few shells to get their ducks.

With their heads and breasts facing the gun, decoying ducks and geese aren't hard to kill--if you can hit them - and most shots are less than 30 yards. Nevertheless it seems a lot of waterfowlers aren't happy with a load that shoots anything less than an 80-plus per cent pattern at 40 yards.

I shoot my waterfowl guns with factory Modified chokes and hardly ever change. With the loads I use my patterns average around 65%-70%. Even that can a little too tight sometimes, but I like knowing I can make a second shot after a bird flares out of the decoys, or that I have a pattern dense enough to kill a cripple on the water if need be. Your opinions may differ. Discuss.