Choosing the Right Ammunition with Colonel Smoothbore
By Matt Schauer

Posted: September 2, 2012

Before we continue our discussion about shotguns, let’s take a few moments and discuss shotgun ammunition for the grouse, partridge, and dove season that opened September 1.

Grouse and partridge are really sporty game birds and fortunately for all of us, very plentiful in most all of Montana. Mountain grouse, sharptails, huns, and chukars are also some of the most tasty table fare one can ever dine on. I’ll leave the taste verdict on sage grouse up to you.

Unlike the speedy pheasant, grouse and partridge are not particularly hard birds to kill, and also unlike pheasant, they do not run much when wounded. In the early season when the birds are not too wary, most shots will be at ranges less than 35 yards and many will be within 20 yards. In your 12, 20, and even 28 gauge guns, I recommend a 1 ounce load of lead shot (be sure to check the regulations in your hunting area) at a published muzzle velocity of about 1200 feet per second or faster.

After hunting these birds for about 50 years, I really prefer size 6 shot. It has the energy to put down birds at ranges over 35 yards and at shorter distances; you won’t destroy your birds with concentrated hits. If you find the birds a little spooky and flushing wildly, try a 1 1/8 ounce load in your 12, 16, or 20 gauge guns. In the early season, use a fairly open choke, improved cylinder, or light modified works quite well. Later on, when the birds flush at longer ranges, a modified or improved modified will do the trick.

While I haven’t spent a lot of time hunting mourning doves, I personally use the same guns, chokes, and fairly light loads that are my grouse and partridge favorites. Many of the really successful dove hunters I have known use a 1 1/8 ounce of size 7 ½ shot and skeet or improved cylinder chokes. Remember, doves are webless migratory birds and are subject to some special hunting rules.

Next week, we’ll get back to shotguns, beginning with the classic external hammer single shot. Be safe and good shooting.

Colonel Smoothbore