Game season is finally here and our shooting ambassador, Ed Solomons, has some timely advice on early season choke and load selection.
So, game season is upon us! One of the regular topics of discussion is what choke/load combo to shoot for early season grouse (if you are fortunate enough to have them to shoot!) and for partridge.
I’m not a huge fan of having a massive selection of chokes and shells for every occasion and from my experience working with most shooters, neither do they! Many either use fixed choke guns (usually ¼ and ½, or similar) or have multi chokes but don’t ever change them.
Ignoring the high bird shoots, which are a different kettle of fish, and which I have written about in a previous Farlows blog, most driven birds in the U.K. are shot between 15 and 25 yards, in my view. We shooters do tend to have a habit of over estimating our ranges, much like anglers do with the size of their fish! For these ranges, you actually need very little choke to consistently bring down game, especially when combined with the right shell. Also remember that using lots of choke will render the bird inedible, which will prevent it entering the food chain, which is something we should all be trying to avoid.
My personal choice for choking on regular game shoots (both grouse and partridge) is 3/8 choke, which sits between the traditional 1/2 and 1/4. It offers enough pattern density to take on any surprise longer shots that present themselves, while still giving the shooter a little margin for error without spoiling the meat.
Choke is only half of the equation though, as the ammunition you put through it can make a big difference to the outcome too.
Early in the season the birds have less feathers to slow the shot down, and are generally weaker fliers. This means that a lighter load, with slightly smaller shot, will fill the pattern well and be more than enough to bring down any sporting bird.
My personal choice is Hull Driven Grouse, in 30g 6.5 shot. This has a fibre wad so you are safe to shoot it over any estate, is incredibly smooth on recoil, and has coppered shot which holds the pattern beautifully, meaning even through relatively little choke you have an incredibly effective pattern.
You also have the added bonus of Hull also producing this in both 6 and 5.5 shot sizes so you can stick with the same shell for the season and just up the shot size as the birds get a little stronger and thicker in the feather, plus the bigger pellet carries more energy as the ranges increase, as you can see in the graph below.
If you are looking at trying a new shell for the season I suggest you pattern it at the range you feel you shoot at most often, through your chosen gun and choke combo. What shoots well through one gun won’t always perform the same through another, and once you know you have a sweet patterning combination you can focus solely on the job at hand and not worry about if the last couple of misses were down to you, or to your choice of cartridge.