What is the Best Pheasant Load

  • troyrozeske
    Posts: 28

    Just wondering what load you use for pheasant? Does it make a difference if shooting a 12ga, or 20ga, etc?

    Posts: 138

    #4 lead, #2 steel.

    I shoot 3″, 12 ga. all year long. I also hunt public land, and hate losing wounded birds.

    1 hour 15 mins to the Pond
    Posts: 18101

    I hunt private ground. I use 2.75″ shells early in 6 shot lead. Late season, 3″ 4’s are the ticket.

    hastings mn
    Posts: 1525


    I hunt private ground. I use 2.75″ shells early in 6 shot lead. Late season, 3″ 4’s are the ticket.


    Posts: 731

    There are a lot of ways to kill a pheasant and none is right or wrong.

    Personally, I use mainly lightweight 20 gauges because they are just a joy to carry. Pick up my 5.2 pound Browning Superlight 625 sometime after you’ve just spent a day lugging around a 12 gauge and you’ll instantly see what I mean.

    But the downside–and there IS a downside–is pellet count. The thing that’s really important with a 20 gauge is that you have to be able to actually hit something with a shotgun. Otherwise, it’s going to be really tough.

    So here’s what I use:

    20 Gauge:
    – Fiocci Golden Pheasant 3 inch nickel plated #5.
    – Federal Preimum 20 gauge 3 inch copper plated #5.
    – Remington Nitro Pheasant 3 inch copper plated #5

    My observation about plated shot (nickle or copper) is that it IMO I get far more “dead in the air” kills with plated shot. This is when you can see the bird is lights-out dead, falling wings limp, head down and into a heap. I attribute this to the fact that hard plated shot can penetrate the skull and it reaches deeper into the vital organs without deforming. Even comparing 12 gauge to 20, I seem to get more clean kills with the 20 and plated shot.

    16 gauge: Occasionally I carry my father’s Remington Model 11 (same gun as the Browning A5) in Sweet 16. For the 16 I use #6 Nitro Pheasant or the no longer available Winchester Heavy Game loads.

    12 gauge: The only time I ever carry a 12 is on super windy days. Then I use 2.75 #4 because the whole point is to buck the wind.

    While it sometimes pains me to pay $20 for a box of plated 3 inch mags, I have to keep it in perspective. That extra fiver per box is insignifcant compared to other expenses. Since I’m the official chef when I join my relatives who farm out by Marshall for the opener, the fine wine and beer bill alone runs into three figures for the opening weekend. Not to mention last year I spent $$$ for 10 pounds of very meaty short ribs. Mmmmmmm. . .


    Roberts, WI
    Posts: 4594

    I rarely get to get out after pheasants but when I do, I’m very much in line with “Grouse”…… I have 12’s but there’s something about a lightweight 20ga that’s just FUN! I have a Charles Daly pump in camo/synthetic and it weighs “nothing” so it’s a pleasure to carry anywhere for any amount of time. It takes Remington chokes so I have a variety to suit whatever my needs might be. I also second the vote for the shot size choice being #5. I have 3″ in my possession but have yet to use them. What little I’ve done has gone well enough with 2 3/4″ shells.

    Woodbury, Mn
    Posts: 17843

    Lead like the others is always my first choice but the areas you can use lead keep shrinking. Especially in Iowa where we often go. It’s too cumbersome and risky to keep changing out shells depending on where the truck stops so most of us just use 3″ steel all the time. Tried some of the heavy shots too but we have all kind of settled into Federal Black Cloud. If I’m hunting wild birds hundreds of miles away I take every advantage I can meaning 12 ga and deadly shells. If game farming I often take the 20 ga.

    Posts: 731


    I have 3″ [20 gauge] in my possession but have yet to use them. What little I’ve done has gone well enough with 2 3/4″ shells.

    The 3 inch is certainly not required for a 20 gauge. My father shot thousands of pheasants and partridge with the Remington Model 11 20 gauge (2.75 inch only) that grandpa bought for him when he was 8. Before steel shot was required, he shot ducks with it as well, being it was the only shotgun he owned.

    I personally witnessed him shoot 3 huns with 3 shots out of a 15 partridge covey rise. Ouch. Brothers, no matter how you slice it, THAT ain’t easy.

    I bought him a Model 11 in 16 gauge for his 60th birthday. He is so adept with these old humpback Browning-designed guns that, to be honest, it’s a little annoying. Case in point, we did a little pigeon pass shooting last winter. I was 1 for 15.

    He was 4 for 4 with the 16 gauge. I hate it when he does that.


    Stillwater, MN
    Posts: 622

    They always say beware of the one gun shooter. They hit everything that moves! It’s an extension of them and they have never had to use anything else.

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