Bulletproof Ducks!


November 18, 2007, 05:22 PM
I took a duck hunting trip yesterday, the last one of the season. My hunting buddy and I spent about 4 hours floating down the river with his 14 week old lab (who, upon entering the canoe, made it his first order of business to leap into the frigid cold water, a mistake he did not make again - one dip in that water is better than a million 'no's').

We didn't see many ducks, but enough to take a few good shots. In total, we hit 3 ducks. None of them died. One male mallard fell from about 30 feet up into the water and started in his death twitches. The current carried him around a bend, and by the time we caught up he was swimming. When we got close, he jumped flew away.

The other two hits exploded in puffs of feathers, but continued flying like nothing happened.

We were using 3 inch number 2 steel shot, out of fully choked shotguns.

I've been considering switching to tungsten or some other heavy shot for some time, but was always put off by the cost. Knowing that there are 3 wounded ducks cruising around or dying in a ditch somewhere has really pushed me over the edge.

Anyone out there used tungsten or other heavier shot? Whats your favorite?

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November 18, 2007, 05:34 PM
I use Tungsten,I refuse to use steel anymore as I have had the same problem.People say to me you are not hitting them,but looking at the dead birds there has been no real penetration even at 30yds.I am yet to try hevi shot but it seems popular,I will try some this week.
Nice to hear from another hunter who is concerned about the welfare of the birds he shoots.

November 18, 2007, 05:43 PM
I have no problem killing ducks at 50 yards with steel. I use a modified choke. Full ruins the pattern. You can't choke steel like you do lead in most shotguns. Go to the pattern board and see what I mean.

I don't know how far you were trying to shoot. I hunt with decoys and shots are normally under 30 yards if the birds are working. But, 50 yards with number 2 and I've killed 'em dead. I think you might have a pattern problem.

Hevi shot, tungsten, way too expensive to burn up on a duck hunt. I'll normally burn through 10-15 rounds in a morning. Try Kent Fasteel or Winchester Hi Vel Xpert 1550 fps No. 3s. The fast steel stuff patterns great, has a lighter shot charge to attain those speeds, but that pays dividends, gives you a bout 10-15 more yards of shot pellet effectiveness. I was knockin' 'em out of the sky Thursday with the Xpert Hi Vel stuff. I didn't cripple a bird, though I lost three in the heavy cover. I limited by 9 o'clock.

I hunt with the Tungsten stuff on geese, but not ducks. I'd go bankrupt paying for the stuff as much as I waterfowl hunt. And, I've been using steel for 26 years now and have had no problem with it. I used to shoot 1s in 3", but have found 3s much better patterning in the fasteel stuff. Hell, I even knock 'em down inside 35-40 yards with 20 ga number 4 3" and Winchester makes a hi vel load in 20, too. The lighter shot charge seems to pattern better and my theory on that is that maybe it's the shorter shot string.

I'm sorry, but I've killed a LOT of ducks and I've yet to meet the bullet proof one. Steel works fine, but it takes more than buying a box and going hunting. You have to find what patterns well. It's more finicky than lead.

November 18, 2007, 07:02 PM
Steel is good at very short distances. The hevishot stuff is expensive, but it works at great distances. By my best estimate, if it works 3 times for every time steel works once, it's money well spent. On top of that, I feel guilty when I see an animal suffer. We owe it to the critters to make good shots.

If you are placing your shots, the Hevishot isn't really that expensive, as you won't crank through a ton of it.

November 19, 2007, 11:09 AM
I despise the actual steel stuff...Although I haven't had an opportunity to do any waterfowl hunting in several years.

First year I used the steel stuff, I thought indeed the ducks had Kevlar feathers. My favorite duck load before that had been the standard 2-3/4" #4 Lead shot. Got a box of #4 steel...I coulda sworn the dux were snickering as they flew away apparently unscratched. I went to short mag #2 steel next year...3"Mag #2 steel the next year.

At that point, I was almost back to standard lead load performance..

The newer stuff IS better..hevi-shot, & other substitutes...I am still convinced, though that for the first 5 years or so, the steel stuff only wounded and caused more lost birds than ever died from eating the lead on the fields & waterways.

November 19, 2007, 11:22 AM
I am interested to know how you shoot when using decoys.I have seen a dvd on duck hunting in the US,and this guy let's the ducks land on the water and then disturbs them.All of his shots look to be 25-30 yds.I have been shooting ducks for 38 years and still maintain steel does more damage than killing....

November 19, 2007, 11:42 AM
Same thing happened to me this weekend. We were clearing some none game bird that were making a bit of a mess, hit a crow with a .410 and all it did was change course.

Dave McCracken
November 19, 2007, 09:15 PM
My recovery rate with Hevishot 2s on Geese approaches 100%. I find them as effective as the lead 2s and 3s of my youth. Maybe better.

Expensive, yes. So are waders, licenses, guide fees and shotguns.

Tom Held
November 19, 2007, 10:22 PM

I'm hunting this week at my duck club in Illinois. We had 10 shooters today, everyone shooting steel and we limited out on 40 mallards by 9 AM plus some bonus ducks. I remember the old days with the first steel shot and it crippled a lot of waterfowl. The new steel, especially the Winchester HV 1550 is excellent with 2 or 3 shot and it's about $10 a box for 3 inch and not much more for 3 1/2. It's deadly out to 50 yards on duck with IC chokes. The "exotic" shot is not worth the cost unless you're only going to shoot a box or two a season. We're just over 900 duck for the season so far. It works for us. Just my opinion.

November 20, 2007, 05:40 AM
Two geese this morning,1 Canada,1 Greylag,both with my free box of Hevi Shot No 3s.To be fair they were only 35 yds out but they were both dead in the air.I now have to find a supplier who will sell at less than $4.00 a shell.

November 20, 2007, 06:39 AM
I used some of the first steel that came out. Head on shots at about 30 yards with T's on Canada's. Broke a wing and ended up chasing down the bird. The shot hadn't even gone all the way through the breast feathers, let alone penetrate.

I know a guy that does a lot of ducks and he swears the new stuff is a lot better. Supposedly gets the 40+ yard kills. He also mentioned the thing about patterns.

In any event, Hevi-Shot hits like a sledge hammer. At 30 yards it can cut totally through a duck. I took down a goose at 60+ yards that had been wounded with steel. Probably a lucky shot but it still worked.

I'll normally burn through 10-15 rounds in a morning.
Wondering what you're hunting that you can get 15 shots? Coots maybe? I usually limit on 4-6 shots depending on the mix.

November 20, 2007, 06:55 AM
I have to use a shell I can trust,I have lost confidence in steel.If I wing a duck or goose my dog has a twenty minute hard swim.In some cases the tide is so strong I cannot send the dog, and before I know it,it is in the Irish sea.I only shoot wildfowl when the wind is howling and the sea is thrashing,I need to be able to kill in a very small area of dry land,on fast moving wildfowl.

November 20, 2007, 08:15 AM
The Kent Tungsten Matrix is great for fixed choke guns that would be destroyed by steel or heavy shot. I like it and use # 5 and # 4 for ducks.

Dave McCracken
November 20, 2007, 09:22 AM
Thanks, Tom. That's good to know. There's still some BBB arond here that works OK inside 30 yards and not so OK outside.

When I bought the Hevishot, it ran about as much a shell as the cost of loading a BOX of my trap reloads. Nice to know there's an effective, less costly alternative....

November 20, 2007, 12:28 PM

I'm hunting this week at my duck club in Illinois. We had 10 shooters today, everyone shooting steel and we limited out on 40 mallards by 9 AM plus some bonus ducks. I remember the old days with the first steel shot and it crippled a lot of waterfowl. The new steel, especially the Winchester HV 1550 is excellent with 2 or 3 shot and it's about $10 a box for 3 inch and not much more for 3 1/2. It's deadly out to 50 yards on duck with IC chokes. The "exotic" shot is not worth the cost unless you're only going to shoot a box or two a season. We're just over 900 duck for the season so far. It works for us. Just my opinion.

Excellent post. I won't sit here and say that steel is BETTER than hevi shot or tungsten, I know better, I've used both. I like the tungsten/hevi shot on geese, significantly better, but I shoot a LOT of ducks and I can tell you that, to 50 yards, I have no problem dropping a big duck with steel DEAD. There's only so dead you can kill one. I've done it with steel ones and I do it with the new fasteel stuff, 1550 fps. That stuff is a significant improvement.

If you're crippling, you need to change loads and go to the range pattern board. Steel IS effective to 50 yards and if you are shooting farther than that with a shotgun, you are a sky blaster. You owe it to the bird to get it within range, not to switch shot.

How do I use deeks? Oh, lord, am I going to get a tongue lashing for being unethical because I use decoys and a call, now, not how they do it in Washington and Oregon? :rolleyes: (that's a reference to the many posts that say I'm an ass for sitting in a stand in Texas and have the audacity to call it deer hunting) You set the deeks up on the pothole with a hole in the middle for an LZ. You keep the wind at your back because ducks will flair into the wind to land and you wait. When you see an interested group, you talk duck to 'em with a call until they swing around and decide to land. You feed chuckle to 'em to keep their attention until the (ideally) cup their wings to land, then you jump up and holler to you buddies "shoot!" and you take 'em as they present their breasts to you. Of course, you get the odd teal that comes in over the grass and ties you up as you stumble in the mud to get on him, but this is the ideal use of decoys. They will land in the deeks sometimes, especially in the wee hours just before shooting time. When shooting hour strikes, I will jump them off the water and shoot 'em sometimes, so sue me. :rolleyes:

The idea with steel, though, or with any shot is to get the birds within range. I really HATE it when people sky blast. THAT, to me, is what does the birds the injustice, not using steel. Steel works fine for experienced shotgunner, duck hunters who bother to find the right load and choke before going hunting. Again, I've knocked plenty of ducks out of the sky from 50 yards with steel ones in the past and with the new fasteel. I've even brought down the odd snow or specklebelly goose from 40 yards with these duck loads. The secret is at the pattern board.

I don't do a LOT of goose hunting, not like I do ducks, so I'll continue to use various hevi shot on 'em, though I think I wanna try that new Remington "hevi steel" if I get another goose lease. The stuff is more affordable. I shoot way to many ducks to be using 2 dollar a round ammo, though. I'd go to the poor house quick at that rate.

November 20, 2007, 02:36 PM
Respectfully, several posters have advocated more open chokes with steel shot. Wanted to make sure I'm reading this right. With the way I wing shoot, I can use all the help I can get...and will try this if it is working with some of ya'll.

November 20, 2007, 03:29 PM
Open chokes for me with an 870 or an 1100. I mostly use MOD with steel, although if the birds are decoying well an IC will do. We're hunting saltwater so the shots tend to be on the long side. I've tried the full choke in both and didn't like the patterns.

My overbored Winchester SX-2 really likes the IC choke for 3" Hevi-Shot and even the 2.75" #6. I shoot mostly #4 and #6, although I keep some #2 around just in case the really big geese show up.

After patterning on paper I did some shooting off the end of the dock to see the kind of spreads and shot strings I was getting. Shooting at water provides a much different view of things.


November 20, 2007, 03:43 PM
Here is one of the charts from the Briley FAQ:


What are the lead shot to steel shot conversions?
Lead/Bismuth Steel/Tungsten

Cylinder .000" Skeet
Skeet .005" Improved Cylinder
Improved Cylinder .010" Modified
Lite Modified .015" Improved Modified
Modified .020" Full
Improved Modified .025" Extra Full
Light Full .030" N/A
Full .035" N/A
Extra Full .040" N/A
Back to the FAQ Questions

It's hard to squeeze a bunch of steel pellets through a full choke; steel does not compress anything like lead. Think of them as little ball bearings.


November 20, 2007, 04:39 PM
As a rule, a more open choke can actually give a tighter pattern with steel than a full choke. Also, the patterns may be more consistent. As noted, steel has no give, so the patterns tend to get blown with too tight choke.

November 20, 2007, 05:15 PM
I am sorry but I do think steel wounds far more than it kills.Very,very few in the UK use steel on wildfowl,tungsten,bismuth yes.We shoot moving birds overhead,to either side behind moving at speed,we do not shoot birds disturbed from water.All our shooting organisations also advise against shooting wildfowl at over forty yards.More birds are wounded over the 40 yd cut off.

November 20, 2007, 05:21 PM
I am sorry McGunner but anyone can shoot a bird taking off from water.There is no enjoyment in that type of duck shooting for me,it's just a massacre...

November 20, 2007, 07:12 PM
Hmm, then we should quit shooting pheasant, quail, partridge, any upland game if shooting it on take off is not sportsmanlike...:rolleyes: Actually, they're easier to hit when their landing gear is down on the approach. Hey, decoy hunting isn't something that started in Texas, either. It's pretty much how puddle duck hunting has always been done, at least in the 20th century. There are some fine examples of hand carved wooden deeks from turn of the century floating around as folk art drawing tens of thousands of dollars. I'll use the plastic kind, thanks, LOL.

When I first had to start shooting steel, I felt the same way about it, thought it was a travesty, crippling birds. But, once I figured the stuff out, what to use and what to choke with, I learned it can be effective to 50 yards. For the last 20 years I've been using steel. It's better than ever with the new high velocity stuff. But, it's still not lead, I'll grant you that. But, I hunt with it and it does the job.

Let me add this, as a life long duck hunter, I would have fun if I didn't shoot a bird, just set up the deeks and called the birds. The shooting adds, of course, and I eat 'em, but at least HALF the sport for me is calling and decoying them into range. I don't understand this attitude of just the shooting being what it's all about. There's so much more that I enjoy about duck hunting, just being out in the marsh if nothing else, but I really get into the decoys and calls part of it. After shooting my limit, if I'm not tired or uncomfortable and the ducks are flying well, I'll often stay 30 minutes or an hour and just call birds, great fun. Hunting, to me, is a lot more than just shooting. The whole idea is to get as close as possible. That's called hunting. What you do is called SHOOTING, as in pass shooting. No, not a thing wrong with that, either, I just like the hunting aspect of decoying and calling.

Dave McCracken
November 20, 2007, 10:57 PM
Flfiremedic, steel patterns so tightly that more open chokes like IC work well out there. Best to pattern and test to see what works for you in your use environment.

November 20, 2007, 11:59 PM
This is a good thread. Can some folks answer two questions for me? (I've not been duck hunting, yet.)

1. Why do some folks use 10 ga., since the recommendations here sound like they're effective?

2. This may be a crazy question, but it looks like it would be hard to eat ducks and geese if the meat has a lot of shot in it. Looks like it would break your teeth. Am I missing something here?

Don't mean to drift the thread, but all this has me thinking...


November 21, 2007, 05:56 AM
Chew the meat gingerly just in case. You will run across a shot pellet now and then.

10 works on geese, but they're really heavy and cumbersome to swing on a fast teal. It's totally un-necessary on ducks, too, as 12 works fine and I even shoot my 20 on ducks, especially in teal season. Those little buggers are fast and come in low over the grass and you have to get on 'em quick.

Even for geese I'd rather shoot hevi shot 12 gauge, work great and not a lot more expensive than steel shot in 10 gauge, really, especially Remington's new "hevi steel" which I've not patterned or tried, yet, but will if I get more heavily into goose hunting again. A 10 just doesn't handle quick enough IMHO for duck hunting, though, especially not if there are teal in your area. 12 is still the king of the marsh.

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