May 24, 2024
Don’t get too caught up in this process unless it’s something you really enjoy doing. You don’t need to shoot super expensive shells to kill ducks. Go with the stuff you can afford and put it on paper. Take that money and go shoot as many clays as you can afford. Save the extra mental bandwidth to be thinking about your hide and being where the birds want to be. After all I’ve said it’s going to be hard to tell a ton of difference when you are shooting birds decoying and 15-25 yards because you found them and you were hidden well when they got there.

By: TJ Rademacher

Geese are a common area of debate when it comes to the selection of shot shells to effectively take them. They are large and very hearty animals and some of the most frustrating to retrieve when they end up crippled especially over water. We will discuss what actually matters when it comes to load selection and other factors that matter in the grand scheme of things. Let’s take a look at what you should be thinking about when selecting goose load. 

If you are using steel shot you should be looking a t shot sizes BB or number 2. I prefer #2. The reason for this is that you are getting more pellets which will boost your pattern density. Another reason and one most don’t think about has to do with ballistics and penetration. Shotgun pellets don’t act like bullets when they impact an animal. They aren’t as efficient because they are round. This slows them down faster as a result as they move through a medium. Also as they move through the air they are slowing down. the more surface area there is the more quickly a pellet will slow down. In my opinion the trade off in potential kinetic energy transfer is not worth the larger shot size at ethical shooting distances. The size 2 shot is more efficient and there are more of them. Another great advantage Is that you will not be switching between shot sizes if you are hunting both ducks and geese on the same hunt. You won’t be under gunned for either scenario. Any good reputable shell manufacture will suffice. Just make sure you go with as high a quality selection as you can afford. If you want to split the difference because you are not convinced, try pattering some number 1s. This could be a good late season option if you felt the need.

For those who shoot bismuth or are toying with the idea of switching to bismuth things get pretty interesting. You can drop a couple shot sizes and get the same performance as a traditional steel load. This really ups your pattern density materially. In bismuth loads you can shoot number 4 and be plenty confident in your ability to take birds at common ethical distances. Also as I’ve stated above this will be great combo hunt load that will set you up nicely for Both ducks and geese. I strongly encourage the use of bismuth because it is flat out superior to steel. Also for most when you do the math on a box or two of shells the difference in price really isn’t all that much more for what you are gaining in lethality. As before if you want to go up a shot size for late season birds or to boost your confidence you could go to #3 but it’s not really necessary. One other option is a duplex load. For example, there is a manufacturer that loads a 3/5 blend which is another great option for those hunting both ducks and geese.

In my opinion there is no reason to use more than a 3 in shell in either steel or bismuth.  In my experience a 3in load is typically going to pattern better. It is also my experience that you will be able to have quicker follow up shots using a 3 in shell versus a 3 ½ in shell. This little advantage is important when you miss or get a chance to take multiple targets during a shot opportunity. You don’t necessarily need all the powder and payload that the industry advertises to take waterfowl. Remember advertising folks want your money. They aren’t basing their recommendation on facts and if you read into what they are saying it could actually be far from the truth.

So now choose a shell and pattern it. You need to know what it’s going to do through your shotgun.  You may have to do a little searching but when you find a winning combo stick with it. You want around 70 percent of your pattern in a 30 in circle. Don’t skip this step. It’s very important. Also, shoot during the off season. Your chosen combo will work way better if it’s on target. That is about the only guarantee I can give.

Don’t get too caught up in this process unless it’s something you really enjoy doing. You don’t need to shoot super expensive shells to kill ducks. Go with the stuff you can afford and put it on paper. Take that money and go shoot as many clays as you can afford. Save the extra mental bandwidth to be thinking about your hide and being where the birds want to be. After all I’ve said it’s going to be hard to tell a ton of difference when you are shooting birds decoying and 15-25 yards because you found them and you were hidden well when they got there.

Get out and try new stuff when you are preparing waterfowl for the table. There is this whole other world out there completely devoid of jalapenos and cream cheese that will blow your mind.