This is the year to finally pattern your pheasant hunting shotgun. Mike Holm and Erik Carlson of Federal Premium Ammunition bring their expertise and cut through the technical world of patterning to help you master the basics and get ready for wingshooting.
1. Most pheasant hunters never pattern their shotguns. Why should they start?
“All hunters should pattern their shotguns to see what their point of impact looks like at different distances,” says Mike Holm, Federal Premium Product Manager, “Not all shotguns shoot dead center. Knowing your pattern can increase your ability to hit game in the field. Patterning also lets you see the pattern density and can help you choose the right choke constriction.”
2. At what range(s) should you pattern your pheasant hunting shotgun?
Holm says it’s good to pattern your shotgun at both 20 yards and 40 yards. “This gives you a representation of what your pattern will be for an up-close flushing bird and a more distant flyer.”
3. Should you pattern for both early season and late season pheasant hunting?
“By patterning your shotgun at 20 yards and 40 yards you are preparing yourself for both early and late season hunting. As we all know, not all early season birds are close,” Holm says.
4. How many different pheasant loads should you plan on patterning?
The most important thing, Holm says, is to pattern the load you plan to take to the field and know what it does. But patterning different loads can be valuable. “It can be interesting to pattern two different loads to see the performance differences. You might even find performance differences that fit different hunting conditions,” Holm says.
5. What choke is a good starting point to begin patterning?
“When patterning Prairie Storm® with the FLIGHTCONTROL® wad, start with Improved Cylinder (IC) chokes, because they generally provide a great combination for up close and at distance,” Holm says, “If you are using a load with a standard wad system, try both IC and Mod (Modified) chokes.”
6. How many rounds should be fired to make an accurate assessment?
Shoot three rounds at three separate targets and then go look at the patterns, says Erik Carlson, Federal Premium Engineering Manager, “This will give you a good idea of what you are getting from a choke and load combination because it averages out any shooter error.”
7. How do you assess your results?
Before you shoot, draw a 3-inch circle in the middle of the paper with a 30-inch diameter ring around it. “If you want to get extremely technical, you can also put a 15-inch diameter ring inside the 30-inch ring,” Holm adds. “You can use these rings to check the average point of impact, pattern density and pattern coverage.”
8. What are the desired results on paper you’re looking for?
For pheasant hunting, Holm says it’s a pattern that is consistently split 50/50 both up and down and left and right from center. “The pattern density should be consistent from edge to edge within the 30-inch circle.”
9. Does steel shot pattern much differently than lead shot?
Steel loads will tend to open up faster than lead loads due to the lower pellet density (this depends on shot hardness, velocity, payload weight, buffer and wad design). “If you hunt lands that require non-lead loads, Prairie Storm® Steel performs similar to a 2 3/4-inch No. 5 lead load,” Holm points out, “It has a similar pellet count, time of flight to 40 yards, and penetration energy at 40 yards.”
10. When should you consider purchasing an aftermarket choke tube?
Holm proclaims aftermarket choke tube makers are experts in their craft. “Each of them has a unique way to look at patterns and performance. If you are looking to perfect your shotgun pattern, do some research and go with the one that best fits your hunting style and preferences.”
This story originally appeared in Pheasants Forever’s eNewsletter. Return to On the Wing.
Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.