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Sharpen your bow skill during the off season!

 

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We practice with our bows all summer long, but after opening day its easy to get wrapped up in the hunting and forget about practicing. But even if you’re spending your time in the field and can’t hit the archery range every day, you can still keep your edge. Shooting in hunting situations is obviously different from target shooting. In the real world, weather conditions, shot angles, brush and other obstacles can impact your shot. Also, when the time comes to take a shot during a hunting situation you’re usually either stiff and cold from sitting in a treestand or sucking wind from running up a hill. All this combined with the fact that you must make a clean shot with the first arrow makes it all the more important to keep your shooting skills sharp. Here are a couple tips.

Practice Drawing
One of the biggest challenges to making a “cold shot” is that often the muscles I use for properly drawing my bow are stiff. The simplest way to cure this is to periodically pick a target, draw your bow, aim, hold, and let down your draw. This keeps you loosened up, plus drawing and aiming without actually shooting helps you focus on the target.



Practice Shooting

Although just drawing and aiming will help a lot, the single biggest help is to actually shoot while out hunting. A common practice among traditional shooters is to carry one or two blunt pointed arrows in your quiver so that you can stump shoot in your down time. Stump shooting is fantastic for keeping you warmed up, but unlike just drawing, actually completing your shots will bring your release into play, as well as give you all sorts of angles and situations to practice.

Small game is even better than stumps (grouse and rabbits taste a lot better too). Grouse can be deceivingly tough to hit. You want to aim for the base of the neck or the head. Sometimes they flush at the shot, but grouse will go in the direction that their head is pointing, so if you use a snaro point, you can either take their head off or hit them in the body as they flush. The best thing about grouse is they often give you extremely challenging shots, and if you can become consistent at taking them, you will be ready for the big game (make sure to check your local regulations before taking any small game with a bow).

 

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Field dressing a black bear

With the bear hunt just around the corner, we will cover the basics 🙂  Pictures have been withheld due to graphic nature.

Instructions

imagesFG3W4IGS 1. Clear an area surrounding the black bear. Make the area large enough to allow room to move around and roll the animal away from the entrails. The lowest part of the ground should be reserved for the entrails. Move the bear onto its back. Spread the rear legs and either have your partners hold them apart or secure them with ropes. Repeat with the front legs.

  1.  2. Insert one of your knives in the cavity at the base of the bear’s throat. Cut the blood vessels with a deep, crosswise motion to open the jugular vein and bleed the animal. Move the bear so the blood will flow away from it and clear the ground as needed.
  2. Cut the skin in a straight line from the breastbone — located just below the rib cage — to the base of the bear’s jaw. Cut the muscles along this area to the bone to expose the throat and windpipe. From the same starting point, cut the skin in a straight line down to the anus. Some areas require hunters to leave the genitals for sex identification; cut around the genitals slightly to preserve them.
  3. Split the breastbone.  This can be done with a bone saw, hack saw or a couple of axes.  If you choose to use axes, hold one axe against the breastbone and hammer it with the other axe; this will break the bone from the base of the rib cage up to and through the top ribs. Open the chest by pulling the front legs apart. Cut the windpipe and gullet close to the head. Lay them in the chest cavity for later.
  4. Cut through the abdominal muscles; start at the base of the rib cage. Take care not to puncture the intestines, the stomach or the bladder; doing so could taint the meat. Sever the muscles down to the pelvic bone. Enlist your partners to hold open the bear so you can work more smoothly.
  5. Break the pelvic bone by using the same technique implemented the breastbone. Do not cut the urinary tract as it may contaminate the meat. Start on one side of the chest cavity and use your knife to cut the diaphragm from the chest wall. Start at the base of the ribs and slice as far back into the cavity as possible. Have your partners pull the organs to the side so you can see and cut more easily. Repeat the process on the other side of the black bear.
  6. Cut the intestines and rectum from the split pelvic bone to where the rectum meets the muscle tissue at the anus. Cut a circle in the skin at the base of the tail; cut 1 to 2 inches from the anus. Cut the muscles to the top of the pelvic bone to free the anus and rectum. Pull the lower intestine, rectum and anus away from the cavity and hold clear. You must not puncture or cut the urinary tract or intestines.
  7. Hold the parts, roll the black bear away and allow the intestines and stomach to spill onto the ground. Grab the windpipe to pull the lungs and heart out onto the ground. Cut any remaining diaphragm tissue to free the organs. Complete the field dressing by draining as much blood from the bear as possible and wiping the body cavity with cloth rags to clean. Do not use water. At this point your main concern becomes to cool the cavity and prepare for transport which can be done by propping the cavity open with a tree branch.

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    Proper field care will ensure less weight and trouble with removal and transportation from the hunt site.

     For more information on black bear hunting, visit us at http://www.wawangresort.com

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Firearm Safety

by Marti Davis

Marti-Davis

Safety, safety, safety

Firearm safety must always be our number one priority. Always remember to treat every gun as if it is loaded. That means always pointing the gun in a safe direction. Make sure you’re using the proper ammunition for the firearm. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.

When you’re hunting from an elevated stand, never climb with the firearm. Use a rope to raise and lower the unloaded gun after you’re safely strapped in to your stand. You can never be too careful or safe when it comes to handling and hunting with firearms.

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Know right from wrong

Before you do any kind of hunting with a gun, you must familiarize yourself with the state’s game laws and regulations. Even if you’re a seasoned hunter, you need to refresh your memory and check for any changes in the regulations that might affect your hunt. If you know and follow the regulations, when you do have an encounter with a conservation agent, you won’t have anything to worry about.

And while we’re on the subject of conservation agents, if you happen to get stopped by an agent, be courteous. It will take only a few minutes for the agent to check and see if you have the proper licenses and tags. Conservation agents have a job to do, and this is just a small part of it.

Cleaning and Maintenance

While some firearms take more cleaning and maintenance than others, you should take proper care of all firearms. If you do, they will last for many years, with the possibility of being handed down from generation to generation.

I like to use a combination cleaner-lubricant-protectant, such as Break Free CLP. A quick wipe-down at the end of a day afield is sufficient, unless you’ve been out hunting in rain or snow, or in extremely dusty or brushy conditions. In that case you probably need to break down the firearm to a certain extent. Remember to follow all manufacturer’s instructions on breakdown and reassembly. Never skip any steps the manufacturer recommends.

I also like to use a bore snake for a quick pass-through on my barrels. I use a little of the Break Free CLP on the snake and pull it through two or three times. It’s a great time saver for those quick, after-hunt wipe-downs between the thorough cleanings that require breaking down the gun.

And don’t forget that new guns need thorough cleaning when you first get them. Most come packed with a coating of heavy grease.

When it comes to maintenance on your firearms, I highly recommend that you find a reputable gunsmith in your area to take care of any malfunctioning firearms. For safety’s sake, never shoot any gun that is not in perfect working order. When in doubt, consult your gunsmith.

Sighting in or Patterning

Before going afield, you must take the time to sight in your rifle or pattern your shotgun. Even if you’re going out with the same deer rifle you’ve used for several years, take the time to make sure your gun is still zeroed in. Even the smallest of bumps can sometimes knock sights or scopes off zero.

With shotguns, make sure to pattern them to see which load works best with which choke. Once you get that figured out, make sure to use the same load each time you hunt with that shotgun and choke.

To be an ethical and responsible hunter, you have to know your own and your firearm’s limitations before you step out in the field. As ethical hunters, we always want to make the quickest and most humane kill shots we can.

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Transporting your firearms

Transporting can be as simple as using a sling to throw the gun over your shoulder, making it easier to carry in the field.

In a vehicle, I highly recommend a case of some sort when transporting firearms, whether it’s a simple zip-up, soft-sided case or a padded, hard-shell transport case. For one thing, a case protects the gun—for another, in some states it is the law. This is another area where it’s necessary to know the regulations and laws in the state you are hunting—or even just traveling through. Some states also require firearms to be cased when transporting them on all-terrain vehicles in the field.

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Follow-through

When throwing a ball, you must follow through to complete the action. The same applies to shooting a rifle or shotgun. Once you make the shot, you must follow through. If you’re shooting a bolt-action or pump-style rifle, follow-through includes working the action and chambering a fresh round. Be ready to make a follow-up shot if necessary. The same goes for shotguns. After you complete the shot, get another shot shell into the chamber and be prepared to make a quick follow-up shot. Of course if you’re using an autoloader, the gun does this for you. Just stay on the gun and be ready in case you need to take another shot.

Storage

After the hunt, be sure to unload and store your firearms properly. As I mentioned when discussing cleaning and maintenance, wipe down or clean your firearms prior to storage. Always make sure to store all guns beyond the reach of children or anyone else you don’t want having access to them. Always store ammunition separately from all firearms.

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These safety rules need to become second nature, yet always in the forefront while you are working with firearms, especially while hunting.

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Marti Davis

Marti Davis is a staff member for Browning Trail Cameras, WoolX and Mossy Oak.
She is an authority on most types of hunting in North America, and very active in
mentoring the next generation of young hunters.

 

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Stop Adding Fat to Your Game Meat

While my Wyoming elk tag has so far gone unfilled, my friend Tess was luckier, tagging her first elk in a Nebraska cornfield not long ago. A heat wave prompted us to spend all day Sunday butchering and last night we put about 20 lbs. of trimmings through the grinder.

I’ve been processing my own (and others) deer and elk for about a dozen years and view adding some type of fat to ground venison as a necessary evil. I prefer ground pork, adding anywhere from 10 to 20 percent. Due to a calculating error on my part (I was told there would be no math!), Tess’ grind ended up at about 25 percent pork, a bit more than she preferred.

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This math problem set me to wondering why hunters take a healthy source of protein and fatten it up? That’s like someone on a diet taking a carrot stick and dipping it in ranch dressing. Quick research shows no clear consensus on what or how much fat to add. Some hunters swear by 50/50, others just 10 percent. Some like pork, others beef tallow. Some add bacon ends and pieces.

Certainly, there’s a rationale to adding fat, including enhancing flavor because, hey, we all know fat tastes good. Fat also keeps meat from drying out when you fry it and helps patties from falling apart. But is there a better, healthier alternative? Yes, depending on how you’re planning to cook it.

Burgers on the grill are probably how much of the ground venison in America makes it to the table. I’ll be the first to admit, making a good burger without fat sounds impossible. The fat not only makes a burger juicy, it also helps it stay in patty form. Next time you have some 100 percent ground venison you want to throw on the grill, trying adding an egg and some breadcrumbs to serve as a binder. I’ve also heard of using steel-cut oats, diced onion, shredded potato and even powdered milk.

When frying ground venison for tacos, chili or spaghetti, cook it without fat. The spices should cover any gamy flavor you or your family might object to. (If not, find a new butcher to process your deer or learn to do it yourself. Since I started DIY processing 12 years ago, I’ve never had gamy game meat.) If the dry texture turns you off, try frying it in a little bit of olive oil, or add moisture as the venison browns in the form of stock, tomato juice or other flavored liquid.

As you can see, there are lots of alternatives to adding fat to your ground venison. What about you? How do you keep your low-fat game meat low fat? – David Draper, Wild Chef Blogger

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Recipe: Moose Tenderloin Lettuce Wraps

This super simple lunch idea will definitely be something you’ll be sure to make over and over.

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Ingredients
marinated moose tenderloin (thinly sliced) Get Marinate Recipe HERE

1 head butter lettuce
1 carrot
1 mini cucumber
feta cheese

Honey Cherry Dressing
1/2 cup cherries
3/4 cup red wine
2 tbsp honey

For the cherry dressing simply put all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer.  Describe it as, once you can’t smell the alcohol anymore it’s ready!  Take it off the burner and let cool.  As it cools it will gradually thicken.

Pan fry the moose until desired done-ness.  If you are like me and you like your meat not kicking anymore, then simply remove the meat just before its cooked all the way through.  If it’s sliced thinly it will continue to cook after you take it out of the pan and will be the exact done-ness and will be nice and tender.

Next up shave your vegetables.  Grab a potato peeler and shaved off nice strands of carrots and cucumbers to add in to the lettuce cups.  If you prefer them chopped or grated, by all means go right ahead!

Place your butter lettuce leaves on a plate and begin to assemble and alternated between moose and veggies, crumble feta cheese on top and drizzle the Honey Cherry Dressing on top.

Make as many lettuce cups as you’d like depending on how much meat you used!

Enjoy!

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A Better Bow Hunter: Aim to Hit

The traits that separate elite bow hunters from the masses are attention to detail and rigorous training. These are year-round archers, and here’s how they push themselves to become deadly hunters.

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1. Be Challenged
As creatures of habit, we’re guilty of practicing at distances at which we can comfortably stack arrows in an impressive -fashion—typically 20 yards. However, extending your practice distance well beyond your comfort zone accomplishes several things. First, it forces you to tighten your form, since miscues are multiplied as distance increases.

Greater practice distances also force you to identify and correct imperfections lest you continue to splash arrows about the range. This year, if space allows, double your practice comfort zone. You’ll find that when “short” shot opportunities present themselves, they’ll be chip shots.

2. Be Strong
Drawing a bow requires a certain degree of physical strength. Leveling a fiber-optic pin confidently on an animal is difficult, if not impossible, when your arms are trembling uncontrollably.

Sadly, archers who pull out their bow a week prior to the season aren’t physically prepared to attempt an ethical bow hunting shot. The right repetition makes you both strong and accurate.

3. Be Angular
Animals rarely present the perfect broadside shot. But how many of us practice any other angle? Whether you shoot a block or a 3D target, practice a variety of shot angles.

Shooting non-perpendicular angles adds another physical and mental dimension to the shot execution, because the bull’s-eye changes geometrically. When practicing, move about the range, varying your relationship to the target face until you’re proficient in every possible angle.

4. Be Accurate
Many archers think the only way to practice judging distance is with a bow in hand, but the opportunities are everywhere, including grocery stores and parking lots. Mentally measure an object in the distance and pace it off to check your guesstimate. Or stroll through the woods with a rangefinder. Stop occasionally and put an eye on a bush, branch, or rock. Give yourself a few seconds to estimate the real estate, and then check it against the laser. After a few trips, you’ll become amazingly accurate at taping distances with little more than a keen eye.

5. Be Crepuscular
Shot opportunities often present themselves in low light, whether the first or last of the day. Try shooting three or four arrows in this tough light. By doing so, you’ll have a real appreciation for what to expect when visibility is less than ideal in the field.

6. Be Blind-Ready
Ground blinds now outsell tree stands, as they offer a portability and versatility that tree stands simply cannot. However, if you’ve never practiced from one, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised when you try to lob a shot from inside its tight confines. Limited drawing distance, extremely small windows (which narrow the shot field), and dark interiors challenge even the best bow hunters. A word to the wise: Pop your ground blind up and practice shooting from it prior to toting it into the field.

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The Truth About Shotgun Ammo

Article by Phil Bourjaily

Our tests at a high-tech ballistic research laboratory may change the way you buy loads and guns…and even how you hunt.

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Shotgun columnist Bob Brister spent six months shooting at 16-foot-long homemade targets mounted on a trailer hitched to a station wagon that his wife drove past. Brister conducted this novel experiment to understand the effect of shot stringing at crossing game birds.

While it had long been known that a swarm of shot lengthened as it flew downrange, no one agreed on what it meant. Brister’s patterns, which sometimes splattered the length of his 16-foot-long targets, indicated that if you shot at a bluebill streaking past your decoys, up to 30 percent of the pattern might arrive too late to hit the bird.

A lot has changed since 1976. There are new questions about shot gunning to answer and, fortunately, new ways to answer them.

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I don’t own an $80,000 high-speed camera, but Federal Cartridge Co. has one in its underground test range (above). They also have a computerized shotgun pattern analyzer, a walk-in cooler full of ballistic gelatin, and a factory full of shotshells to test. Federal granted my request to spend a couple of days there in April to test shotgun loads. I had countless questions, but was able to answer these six.

Some things I thought I knew turned out to be wrong. Others were right. And several changed the way I think about shotshells.

1. Is a 3 1/2-Inch 12-Gauge More Effective Than a 3-Inch 12-Gauge?

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I’ve always believed the brutal recoil of a 31⁄2-inch 12-gauge magnum negates any ballistic advantage over the standard 3-inch magnum. I have always suspected, too, that cramming what amounts to a 10-gauge load into a 12-gauge barrel produced poor, ragged patterns and longer shot strings that made the extra pain even less worthwhile.

Test Loads:
– 12-gauge, 3-inch, 11⁄4-ounce loads of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1450 fps (Modified choke)
– 12-gauge, 31⁄2-inch, 11⁄2-ounce loads of Black Cloud steel BB shot at 1500 fps (Modified choke)
Results: Both loads patterned almost identically on a 30-inch circle at 40 yards: The 31⁄2-inch load put 72.6 percent of its shot in the circle, with 77 pellet hits. The 3-inch placed 71.8 percent of its shot in the circle, with 63 hits.

There was no significant difference between the lengths of the shot strings, which averaged 42 inches for the 3-inch and 49 inches for the 31⁄2-inch midway between muzzle and target. Both loads exhibited equal penetration in ballistic gelatin at 30 yards—5 inches—despite the 31⁄2-inch shell’s 50 fps head start in muzzle velocity.

The Takeaway: I expected the 31⁄2 to string out longer and pattern worse than the 3-inch load, but it patterned just as well. The higher pellet count of the 31⁄2-inch resulted in significantly more hits in the circle, but both loads put enough hits on target to kill geese.

However, the improvement in performance comes at a cost of a whopping 50 percent increase in recoil. Even with a gun seated in a massive rest, I could feel the difference, and the muzzle blast was noticeably louder in the test tunnel, too. I shot some of those same 31⁄2-inch shells while trying to shoot a triple on a five-stand range. I could hit the first target always, but recovering from the shot to make the next two was almost impossible.

Is the 31⁄2-inch more effective than the 3-inch? Yes—if you can withstand the recoil. “More” is only better if you can put it on target.

2. Is the .410 a Suitable Gauge for Young, Beginning Hunters?

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The .410 is a ballistic disgrace, and a crippler of game birds. Just ask me and all the other gun writers who have repeated that “fact” over the years. I believe beginning hunters should shoot a 20-gauge, not a .410, despite the higher recoil and extra weight of the 20. A comparison between the two, I was sure, would dramatically show the 20’s superiority.

Test Loads:
– .410 11⁄16-ounce loads of Game-Shok Upland No. 6 shot at 1135 fps (Full choke)
– 20-gauge 7⁄8-ounce loads of Game-Shok Upland No. 6 shot at 1210 fps (Modified choke)
Results: Unlike other gauges, which are patterned at 40 yards, .410s are typically patterned at 25 yards. We picked 30 yards as a compromise distance and to reflect the shorter ranges at which beginners shoot. The Full choke .410 shot 87.8 percent patterns at 30 yards, while the Modified 20 shot 84.6 percent. The higher pellet count and higher velocity of the 20 combined to put more pellets in the 30-inch circle (173) than the .410 (139). Penetration was better, too—3.3 inches vs. 3 inches. The 46-inch-long shot string of the 20-gauge, which was measured at 20 yards, was a full 20 inches shorter than the .410’s shot string.

The Takeaway: The .410 surprised us with great patterns. However, the .410’s shot string, which was 50 percent longer than that of the 20-gauge, revealed a shortcoming: The longer the string, the slower the trailing pellets are traveling, and therefore the less energy they retain. The .410 not only puts fewer pellets on target than the 20-gauge, but the .410’s tail-end pellets won’t hit as hard. Even so, I will give the .410 more respect in the future. I waited until my kids were 11 and 12 and big enough to shoot 20-gauges, but if a child is too small to handle a 20, a .410 can work.

3. Is a 20-gauge as Effective as a 12-Gauge for Doves?

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There’s a faction of smallbore shooters—including some people I hunt with—who condemn the 12-gauge as “unsporting.” As a 12-gauge shooter, I see it as being versatile and ballistically efficient. This test was my chance to crush my detractors with science. One area where 12s and 20s can be compared in an apples-to-apples format is the dove field, where many hunters shoot 1-ounce loads with either gauge, so that became the basis for the test.

Test Loads
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– 20-gauge 1-ounce loads of Game-Shok Upland No. 71⁄2 shot at 1165 fps (Modified choke)
– 12-gauge 1-ounce loads of Game-Shok Upland No. 71⁄2 shot at 1235 fps (Modified choke)
Results: The 12-gauge delivered a 50.7 percent pattern with 202 pellets in a 30-inch circle at 40 yards. The 20 did just 39.6 percent with 149 pellets inside the circle. The 12 achieved slightly deeper penetration (2.875 inches vs. 2.5625) in gelatin at 30 yards, likely due to the higher muzzle velocity. The high-speed camera showed no statistical difference between the lengths of the shot strings, which averaged 55 inches for the 12-gauge and 57 for the 20 at 20 yards.

The Takeaway: I thought the 12 would win, but I hadn’t expected it to beat the 20 so badly. Out of curiosity we tested the 20-gauge with one size larger shot to see if we could improve its performance. With No. 6 shot the 20 delivered a huge 15 percent increase in pattern density. That gave us a bonus takeaway: If you want to tighten patterns (sometimes by a lot), shoot larger shot.

A 20-gauge is fun to handle and shoot, but when it comes to putting pellets on target efficiently, it loses out to the 12.

4. Is Steel Shot Suitable for Pheasants?

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A growing number of pheasant hunters have to shoot nontoxic ammunition. Pheasants are tough birds and elusive cripples, so choosing the right shell matters, especially when you go from dense lead to lighter steel. In the field I have had no trouble killing wild birds with steel shot, but while dead is dead, I wanted to quantify the differences between steel and lead loads.

Test Loads:
– 12-gauge 11⁄8-ounce loads of Federal Prairie Storm No. 3 steel at 1600 fps (Modified choke)
– 12-gauge 11⁄8-ounce loads of Wing-Shok High Velocity No. 6 lead at 1500 fps (Modified choke)
Results: As expected, the hard steel pellets patterned tighter than lead (62.5 percent vs. 52.6 percent) inside a 30-inch circle at 40 yards. Nevertheless, the higher pellet count of the lead load meant more pellets in the circle: 128 hits, compared to 102 hits for the steel load. The lead pellets also penetrated 4.12 inches into the 30-yard gelatin, compared to steel’s 3.43 inches. The lead load had a shorter shot string (55 inches) at 20 yards than the steel load (61 inches).

The Takeaway: Even with advances in steel ammunition, lead is still superior. Usually hunters switching from lead to steel compensate for steel’s light weight by following the “rule of two” and going up two sizes in shot. Yet despite my choosing three sizes larger in steel and driving it 100 fps faster than the lead load, it didn’t perform as well as lead in the test. The “rule of two” should be the “rule of three or maybe four.” Steel 3s and 2s make the best pellet choice. Steel pellets, which remain round and fly true, patterned more efficiently than lead, resulting in tighter patterns. Given the lower pellet count and retained energy of steel, though, I would not go to a more open choke if switching from lead to steel. Still, modern steel loads are effective for pheasants.

5. Are Premium Buckshot Loads Worth the High Cost?

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One important lesson Brister learned was that hard shot loaded with ground plastic buffer protected the pellets from deforming in the barrel. Premium buffered magnum waterfowl loads clearly outperformed nonbuffered loads. But would this be true for the biggest pellets of all? Premium buck costs nearly $2 per shell, twice the cost of standard loads, so I wanted to see if it was worth the price.

Test Loads :
– 12-gauge, 3-inch, 15-pellet loads of Federal Vital-Shok buffered, copper-plated 00 buckshot at 1100 fps (Modified choke)
– 12-gauge, 3-inch, 15-pellet handloads of unbuffered, unplated 00 buck at 1210 fps (Modified choke)
Results: Premium buckshot averaged 12.4 pellets in a 30-inch circle at 40 yards, whereas unbuffered buck averaged 11 hits. The pattern diameter of the buffered load at 40 yards was 31.65 inches; the unbuffered load spread out to 36.89 inches. The unbuffered buck penetrated deeper (16.84 inches vs. 14.62 inches) than the premium, probably due to its higher muzzle velocity.

The Takeaway: There was a dramatic difference in the shape of recovered buffered and unbuffered pellets. I had thought the deformed, unbuffered pellets would string out farther due to increased air resistance and pattern much worse. That didn’t happen. Unbuffered buckshot tore uneven holes in paper, yet it penetrated deeply into the gelatin.

We did notice an odd phenomenon during this test. Occasionally two pellets would fly through the same hole in the paper or into the gel. With only 15 pellets in the pattern, the odds against that happening are very high—unless there is a drafting effect where a trailing pellet falls in behind a pellet in front of it, the same way race cars draft one another. You can’t rely on that happening, but when it does, the second pellet into the hole will penetrate almost twice as deeply as the rest.

Premium buckshot put roughly 13 percent more pellets on target. Whether that’s worth double the cost is a personal decision.

6. Which is Better for Turkeys: Lighter, Faster Loads or Heavier, Slower Loads?

shotshells6_cThe trend to lighter, faster turkey loads made me wonder if heavy and slow loads would perform better. Theoretically, a lower-velocity load will pattern tighter than a faster load because the lower launch speed deforms fewer pellets, leaving more of them round to fly true. But at the same time, a lighter load should pattern tighter than a heavier load for the same reason: the more lead pellets on top of one another in a shell, the more pellets deform when that shell is fired.

Test Loads:
– 12-gauge, 3-inch, 13⁄4-ounce loads of Mag-Shok Lead High Velocity No. 5 shot at 1300 fps (Modified choke)
– 12-gauge, 3-inch, 2-ounce loads of Mag-Shok Lead No. 5 shot at 1150 fps (Modified choke)
Results: The 13⁄4-ounce load patterned more efficiently, putting 70.2 percent of its charge in a 30-inch circle at 40 yards, compared to 61.4 percent for the 2-ounce load. It also outpenetrated the 2-ounce load in gelatin at 30 yards, 4 inches to 3.65 (though the latter is certainly adequate to kill a turkey). In number of hits, however, the 2-ounce load narrowly won, 216 pellets to 209. Recoil is about the same.

The Takeaway: Essentially the test resulted in a tie, although the heavier load snuck a few extra pellets into the target area. Recoil from both shells was almost identical. I would favor the lighter load because more penetration, while it may not help, can’t hurt, either.

Looking at these results, however, I can’t help but wonder if a slower 13⁄4-ounce load wouldn’t pattern better than either of these. Unfortunately, “slow” is a tough sell to the American public, so unless you handload your own turkey ammo, you may never find out. It’s a tie, so choose the one that patterns best in your gun.

BONUS: Does Shot String Length Matter?

 stringtheory 

It matters some, but not for the reasons we think. During these tests, Federal engineers Erik Carlson and Adam Moser measured shot strings at 20 yards and extrapolated lengths for 40 yards. The longest shot string in our tests, the 66-inch .410 string, would be about 10 feet long at 40 yards. Match that against a bird flying 40 mph at 40 yards, as Brister simulated in his tests, and you will lose only a small percentage of pattern density, perhaps about 5 percent, not the 30 percent loss Brister saw with some 1976-era lead waterfowl magnums.

Brister believed long shot strings were more forgiving of error than short strings. If you were to overlead a target, he thought, the trailing pellets might still break it, so the longer the string, the greater the margin for error. In theory that is true, but practically speaking, the chance is very slim of a trailing pellet breaking a target. The disadvantage is that the longer the string, the slower the trailing pellets, and the less energy they’ll have on target.

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