Patterning Your Pheasant Hunting Shotgun
Earlier this week, I received an email from a Pheasants Forever supporter who recently purchased his very first over/under shotgun. The gentleman asked a variety of very good questions. I couldn’t immediately answer all of those questions, so I reached out to Ryan Bronson at Federal Premium Ammunition for some help. Following are those questions with answers thanks to Bronson’s assistance.
What kind of shot pattern am I looking for out of my pheasant hunting shotgun?
(See photo to above) This image appears on the side of every box of Federal’s Prairie Storm pheasant load. According to Bronson, “This is an actual target that we shot with Prairie Storm. This pattern is actually off to the right a little bit (wind drift, shooter error, etc.). This was a 40-yard patterning target and we look for pellet counts in the 30 and 15 inch rings. Shotgunners should be looking for even distribution with few openings in the shot pattern that a bird could fit through. Even though this shot is 6 inches to the right, there are still plenty of pellets in the critical zones.”
What do people do for chokes in the upper and lower barrels of an over/under? Your best choke choice is determined after patterning your gun with your preferred shot brand and size. Personally, I like shooting open chokes. I start with a skeet choke on the top barrel to open up the pattern as much as possible for that first closest shot. I’ve found this to be an especially important factor in shooting Prairie Storm as the shot performs best with very open chokes. My second barrel has an improved cylinder choke in it to retain a more open pattern, but not quite as open as my first shot, considering the bird is now rapidly getting down range.
Is it the ammo or the choke that determines the best pattern? It’s the combination working in harmony with your shotgun. Finding the correct recipe through the three variables (gun, choke and ammo) will determine the best pattern for you. If you already know your gun, then the choke and ammo choices are determined in unison.
Bronson offered a few additional thoughts to keep in mind when patterning your pheasant shotgun:
I would emphasize understanding what your gun/ammo/choke is capable of at various distances. Sometimes you are better off letting a bird get out away from you a little before shooting it, especially if it is a tight pattern at 15 yards.
And if you shoot steel shot, then open the choke up too. Steel patterns tighter than lead. Plated lead shot, like the copper and nickel plated shot in Federal Premium will tend to pattern tighter than plain lead shot in value-priced loads because the un-plated shot will have more deformation. But these are all general rules. You only find specifics by shooting paper and testing.
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