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Advice for new shotgun, sporting clays and upland birds

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by MCMXI, Apr 18, 2015.

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  1. MCMXI
    • Contributing Member

    MCMXI Contributing Member

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    Last October I went upland bird hunting for the first time. I enjoyed being out there with some incredible dogs but didn't pose much of a threat to anything in the air with a borrowed Benelli shotgun. I've often thought about buying a nice over & under and after last year's experience I ordered a Citori 725 Field 12 gauge with 28" barrels. The shotgun will be here next week and I plan on shooting sporting clays at a club about an hour away to prepare for hunting season. So now to my questions. I've read that #6 shot is ideal for pheasant but there seems to be a dizzying array of choices. I'd like to buy some practice loads (cheaper) that will allow me to develop some competence while preparing me for a similar shooting experience using "premium" ammunition in the field. Can someone point me in the right direction? Would I be better served with 2-3/4" or 3" loads? Is sporting clays the best way to prepare for pheasants? When I pattern the shotgun, what distance should I use? I'm very new to the world of hunting shotguns so appreciate any help or advice.
     
  2. Virginian

    Virginian Member

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    I shoot whatever is on sale in size 8 shot at clay pigeons. I do not shoot O/Us, but my semi autos cycle anything, including the dreaded Winchester Universals from WalMart. If I had big money riding on it I would likely shoot better loads, knowing that every once in a while the cheap shells may have cost me a target, but I will add that I usually know when I pull the trigger whether or not I was on, and the target usually proves that.
    I am not a pheasant expert, but when shooting them I have always preferred #5s. I do not feel 3" shells are needed in a 12 gauge, I shoot Mod & Full in a SxS or Full in a semi, and if a bird gets up close I WAIT to shoot.
    Standard patterns are shot at 40 yards except for Skeet, and the percentages you see listed for the shot in a 30" circle are at that distance. The 30" circle is NOT strictly around the aiming point, as the POI may be slightly off, but should be the 30" circle that covers the most pellets. I would recommend you also check your patterns at whatever distance you will be shooting at also. With today's better loads with better wads, buffers, and plated shot, the patterns are often far tighter than what you might expect.
    Sporting clays is about as good as anything for practice, unless you have access to FITASc or Helice in your area. If you get good at any of them you will be pretty deadly on pheasants. Pheasants aren't that hard to hit, you just have to survive the initial excitement of the flush.
    One of the first things I always do with a new gun is check Point of Impact and Point of Aim. Check POI by aiming like a rifle and seeing if the gun hits where it is pointing. Check POA by throwing up the gun and shooting to see if you AND the gun together are hitting where you are looking. Oh, and you need to do it for both barrels.
     
  3. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

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    There is not a sporting clays course that I know that will allow anything heavier than 2-3/4", 1-1/8 oz of 7.5 - that is typically a safety thing as larger shot might leave the property.

    Where you live, do you use a dog and do your pheasant shots typically mimic trap shots? (I.E.) - rising and going away? Then trap would be your best game with some skeet to practice for crossing shots. Otherwise, sporting clays can present such an infinite selection of target presentations that may or may not be representative of what you'll see in the field.
    Skeet was developed to replicate and allow practice for upland hunting; while trap was to represent live pigeon shooting and some aspects of pheasant hunting.

    Shooting sporting WILL prepare you for a wide variety of game shots including rabbits, teals, etc., in addition to what skeet and trap do.
     
  4. fromtheplaines

    fromtheplaines Member

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    Do you shoot much. If not I would maybe try shooting some trap than move onto skeet, than sporting clays. Get comfortable with the different types if target presentation. And watch people and ask questions. Most good shots won't mind the questions and if they know you are open to coaching you can get super good advice. Just get the cheap ammo right now, it's more of a time to understand how you and your gun work as a team. Also another thing to see about is if there are any bird dog training areas. It's a place where guys can train their gun dogs, so the release raised birds. I hear they are not very hard to hit, but it may be a good thing to practice once before hitting the field again
     
  5. huntsman

    huntsman Member

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    I've used #7-1/2 in both 16 and 12 gauge over pointers for pheasant with great success, it was my general upland bird payload for Nov-Dec when I could hunt 3 species of birds. If I were walking up birds or maybe hunting with a flusher I'd go to #6 or 4, you really need to match the shot size and choke to your hunting situation as best you can.

    Since your clay shooting will be done as practice to hunting shoot low gun, mount practice is critical and more important than score. I'd shoot a cheap promo load for practice, try to match shot size to what you'll be hunting with and pattern all loads before hunting.
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2015
  6. btg3

    btg3 Member

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    My introduction to shotguns began on a skeet range at station #7 shooting the low house with a single shot .410. Being coached by an experienced skeet champion, my very first target was hit. Looking back, I can imagine much frustration, slow progress, poor technique, and lack of understanding had I pursued skeet without coaching at the start. The coaching was rewarded with my own championships and field prowess -- the first dove had the same experience as my first skeet target. Most of my shotgunning was done with a 20ga semi-auto and reloads with #9 shot.

    So, you're planning to shoot at a club to prepare for your next field outing? It's your choice whether to go it alone or with a mentor/coach. You've done well regarding the hardware. Don't neglect the software. ;)
    Best wishes for much success!
     
  7. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

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    ^^ I started my kids the same way - station 7 low house, then station 7 high house; then moved to station 1 low house and station 1 high house. After they had that down we started moving towards the middle - 2 & 6, then 3 & 5, then 4. We left 8 alone for a while. Then to a trap field where we had them set the machine for straight aways and they stood at the back of the house and gradually moved back to the 16 yard line, one yard at a time
     
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