With the Montana waterfowl season set to open on September 29th, let’s take a look at some of the ammunition available to duck and goose hunters. Federal law requires hunters to use non-toxic shot when hunting migratory waterfowl. The US FWS website lists the various types of non-toxic shot that is approved for hunter’s use. Here’s a link to that site: http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/CurrentBirdIssues/nontoxic.htm
There are many different types of non-toxics approved for hunting use; they include steel, bismuth-tin, and a bunch of tungsten combinations. The cost varies depending on which combination is used with plain old steel usually the least expensive option.
Nearly all ammunition manufacturers have non-toxic loads available. A couple of the newest choices are Federal’s Black Cloud and Winchester’s Blindside.
Black Cloud is a combination of standard steel and “Flitestopper” shot. The “Flitestopper” pellet looks somewhat like the planet Saturn. These oblong pellets have a raised ring circumscribed on them that create a larger wound channel. The reports that I have read indicate that Black Cloud is extremely effective on waterfowl.
Winchester’s Blindside shotshells are loaded with a hex shaped steel shot. This new shape allows the pellets to tightly fit together resulting in a greater number of pellets per shell. Once again, initial reports indicate that Blindside works really well.
If you’re hunting over decoys where early season shots are at fairly short ranges, use size 3 or 4 steel for ducks, size 2 for geese. Try 1 1/8 ounce for ducks and 1 3/8 for geese. Later in the season, try BB or T for geese.
The tungsten combinations are much heavier than steel and in many cases more dense than even lead. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s websites for information and suggested use for their products. Most all of your questions can be answered with a simple internet search.
Remember steel and other non-toxics are much harder and much less malleable than lead. Older fixed choke shotguns can be damaged by these modern loads. I suggest that if you have a shotgun with interchangeable chokes, use nothing tighter than modified and over decoys, a light modified or improved cylinder will provide good results. Happy hunting.
Be safe and good shooting.