Gunning for Waterfowl

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I had a guy come up to me the other day at an outdoor show we were doing. He asked me what kind of shotgun I use and what would I recommend for someone just getting into waterfowl hunting. It sort of hit me that there are folks out there that think us waterfowl hunters use special shotguns when we waterfowl hunt. I guess it’s true we do use different chokes and are required to use steel shot. Of course there are several different kinds of loads and shot sizes to consider before heading afield. We are also only allowed to have a shotgun that can hold 3 shells including the one in the chamber. This is regardless of the shell size, which range from 2 3/4 to 3 1/2 in length. The exception to this rule is that during certain snow goose hunting seasons when “unplugged” guns are allowed. So the question he posed to me on what shotgun I use triggered a 30 minute conversation ( no pun intended ). So here is how the conversation went.

I told him that most all of us hunters have a shotgun in our collection of firearms. Many of those I have to believe are 12 gauges. It doesn’t really matter if they are single shot, over and under, pump, semi-auto or even a bolt action. What is important is that you can shoot it well and it can handle steel shot when hunting waterfowl. I have hunted with folks that use pumps, over and unders and semi autos. I have a buddy that used to hunt with a bolt action. Seriously? I hunt deer with a bolt action but not waterfowl. I then said to the future Waterfowler “before I tell you what I use, I will tell you what I recommend for the youth hunters or even an adult hunter just starting out”.

For a new youth hunter just starting out I recommend, if affordable, to get them a shotgun that will be used for other critters as well was waterfowl. If you invest in a shotgun that can handle different chokes this will allow them to go from turkey hunting, upland bird hunting, waterfowl hunting to skeet & trap shooting. In regards to the type of action a pump is nice for a young person because it requires another step to get that next shell in the chamber. This allows them to shoot without the worry of the action having a live round automatically fed into it. It also makes them really focus on that first shot. The other advantage is clearing the action on a pump at times is easier than an autoloader that can miss feed at times. The key to choosing a shotgun for a youth is that it needs to fit them properly. They won’t have fun lugging around a gun that is too heavy or they don’t feel comfortable shooting.

He again asked what do I use. So feeling the pressure to get to his question I told him. I use a Benelli Super Black Eagle II. It’s a 12 gauge autoloader with a 28 inch barrel. The reason for this choice is that its light weight and takes most of the recoil away. It’s action is flawless regardless of weather conditions and temperature. I will say that I clean this gun more than I clean my truck during hunting season. Keeping your firearm clean is extremely important to the longevity of the firearm. I joke with my buddies and tell them if they find a dirty firearm in my gun safe they can have it. I haven’t given one away yet. I shoot the Benelli all summer when shooting skeet to become one with the gun. I use it when hunting crow spring and fall as well. I then told my one man audience that when I turkey hunt I use a Mossberg 835 pump action with a red dot scope. It’s all set up with a turkey choke that has been sited in out to 50 yards. When turkey hunting one rarely needs a second shot with most shots inside 50 yards.

He then posed the question again to get me to endorse the all around gun for waterfowl, turkey and other such winged game. I was on such a roll that I brought up predator hunting and the 12 gauge Remington 11-87 that I have set up with a Carlson predator choke which is crazy deadly out to 70 yards. I told him we use rifles to reach out to get the coyotes beyond 50 yards but when they are running in hard to the call and are within a long field goal attempt we whack them with the shotgun.

Realizing that I like to talk more than he wanted to listen and with his wife looking on most likely thinking that this guy is a nut, I summed it up like this. If you are just starting out in pursuit of waterfowl go out and buy the highest quality shotgun you can afford. Get a 12 gauge either in pump or semi-auto. Go to a gun shop that carries many models and hold them up and work the actions. Then when you get your new shotgun home read the manual and become one with it by shooting it more than just the day of the hunt. This shotgun will become your new favorite hunting buddy that will be by your side for many hunts to come. Take good care of your new investment and it will return to you many hunting memories to cherish for years to come.

The best shotgun out there is the one that goes boom every time you need it to. To me any firearm that I’m in the field using is my most important piece of equipment. Your feet and hands can be cold. Your calls can be froze up. Your decoys can be riddled with holes. But if your shotgun doesn’t go boom when the birds are coming in you might as well be home watching a hunting show on TV.

Before he walked off he thanked me for my time, the information I had shared and asked “How many guns do you own?” I smiled and said a few. I can’t write down the real answer to his question in case my wife reads this article.

If your in the market for a new shotgun for yourself or that young hunter you are looking to introduce to hunting. Email me your questions and I will try to share my thoughts on what I have found as useful insight.

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