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SPILGER: Top new loads for pheasants and quail - The Grand Island Independent: Sports

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SPILGER: Top new loads for pheasants and quail

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Posted: Monday, November 3, 2014 5:07 pm | Updated: 5:10 pm, Mon Nov 3, 2014.

In our last installment, we examined some of this year’s new featherweight pheasant guns. This week we’re going to look at some top loads for taking roosters.

It should be noted that, although smaller gauges can bag pheasants, for the sake of brevity we’ll only be discussing 12-gauge loads.

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Rooster pheasants, especially late-season roosters, are big, powerful birds deserving of maximum respect.

Consequentially, maximum payloads are often required to authoritatively drop them, so a 12-gauge shot charge is usually in order.

First up is Federal’s 12-gauge “blue box” Upland Load featuring an ounce-and-a-quarter of number five lead shot with a velocity of 1,220 feet-per-second (fps).

This Cabela’s exclusive is basically a standard Heavy Field load packaged in a retro-looking blue box. Regardless of the packaging, this load is still an effective rooster buster.

Next is Herter’s new Select Field Pheasant load. It, too, has an ounce-and-a-quarter of shot at 1,220 fps.

Available shot sizes are fours and fives, but I’d stick with fives which provide a nice balance between maximum pellet density and sufficient knockdown power.

Best of all, Herter’s ammo, which is also a Cabela’s exclusive, is very affordable, costing much less per box than many other comparable pheasant loads.

Winchester’s latest pheasant offering, Rooster XR, is so new it may not even be on many dealers’ shelves when you read this.

Like Winchester’s Longbeard XR turkey loads, Rooster XR features a Shot-Lok buffer-like resin which holds the copper plated lead shot together longer to extend effective range.

Like its turkey load counterpart, it’s available in shot sizes four, five, or six. Again, I’d probably choose fives or sixes.

There are two 12-gauge shell lengths, 3-inch and 2.75-inch, with one-and-a-half and one-and-a-quarter ounce payloads respectively, both at 1,300 fps.

However, please note that Rooster XR is packaged in 15-round boxes, rather than the traditional 25-rounds per box, boosting the cost per shell ratio somewhat.

Hevi-Shot’s Hevi-Metal Pheasant loads come in standard 25-round boxes, with one-and-a-eighth ounce of number fives or fours at a whopping 1,500 fps velocity.

With a 50/50 blend of tungsten Hevi-Shot over standard steel shot, Hevi-Metal is probably the most effective and economical non-toxic pheasant load available.

My dad and I had great success using both Hevi-Metal Pheasant and Waterfowl loads on roosters last fall, which are essentially the same thing.

However, the waterfowl variant has slightly larger payloads and comes in a wider assortment of shot sizes.

For hunting non-toxic shot only zones, such a Waterfowl Production Areas, or whenever maximum knockdown power is desired, Hevi-Metal is the ticket for wild ringnecks.

Some of these new loads have even spawned their own choke tubes. Hevi-Shot has a line of both ported and new non-ported choke tubes.

Likewise, Carlson’s has introduced a new ported choke designed specifically for shooting Winchester Rooster XR.

This follows their line of Prairie Storm chokes, introduced a few years ago for use with the Federal pheasant load of the same name.

Chokes are increasingly becoming more load-specific, a trend likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

One of the best upland chokes I’ve used is Muller’s U2 Featherlite. It’s exceptionally lightweight yet durable, and has proven effective on a variety of upland birds at close to medium ranges, especially with Winchester White Wing one-and-a-fourth ounce sevens, another Cabela’s exclusive load.

Since quail are often encountered when pheasant hunting, I’d also like to briefly discuss spreader loads, which are designed to open up more quickly than standard loads, creating a wider pattern that’s more effective at close range.

A quick dispersing, wide-open pattern is often an asset on fast flying quail, especially over pointers.

One of the most potent spreader loads I’ve tried is Herter’s Super Spreader. It has a beefy one-and-a-fourth ounce payload of number sevens, and proved lethal on tight holding, early-season grouse. I predict it will work equally well on close range coveys of quail.

Kent also makes a spreader load, albeit in smaller number eight shot. Although hard to find, it’s worth seeking out for close work on both clays and quail.

Of course, Poly-Wad sets the bar when it comes to spreader loads with its effective and extensive Spred-R line available for a variety of gauges in several shot sizes.

I’ve been extolling the virtues of spreader loads for several years now, and will continue doing so, as they’ve helped me bag numerous quail.

Every serious and incidental quail hunter should carry a few spreader rounds in their vest pocket.

Jarrod Spilger of Grand Island writes about the outdoors for the Independent.

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