The upland bird hunting season starts in a few days. In one of my earliest posts I offered some advice on the shot sizes I use when hunting these tasty critters. Here’s a recap of my choices.
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 number 6 lead shot (be sure to check the regulations in your hunting area) at a published muzzle velocity of about 1200 feet per second or even a little 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.
Pheasants are really hardy, large birds and they are very adept at eluding predators. After opening day most all of the flyers, read dumb, have been eliminated from the gene pool. The runners, read quite smart, are left to us foolish enough to think we can outwit these birds. My experience tells me, “ain’t no way” without a good, no, great gun dog. Early season bird will flush fairly close to the hunter and 1 and 1 1/8 ounce loads of 6 shot work well. Later in the season, roosters become extremely wary and are known to flush at longer ranges, especially in sparse cover. For these longer shots, try 1 ¼ ounces of number 4 shot at velocities of at least 1200 fps. Even hotter loads work better; be sure to pattern your gun with these heavies, they often give inconsistent patterns. Good luck to you in the coming seasons.
Be safe and good shooting.