Pheasant/Quail Dilemma

Dear Technoid,

Now that we’ve finished another fine gunning season for upland birds, I thought I might solicit your opinion in this column on an interesting dilemma. We were hunting in north central Kansas this November, where the CRP fields hold both pheasant and quail in the same locales. For any given dog point, who knew what would fly?

The question is what shot size/weight might one load into a 12Ga O/U for such a situation. My favorite load for wily roosters is 1 1/4 oz hard #6 @ 1220fps, especially longer flushers, but that seems awfully strong medicine for dainty quail which I would prefer to take with 1oz hard #7 1/2. Our local gunsmith suggested that I split the difference w/ copper-plated #7 1/2s for both.

Whaddya think O Technoidal One?

Best regards,

Dear Kevin,

That’s a tough one. It’s like trying to buy a car that can haul the kids to Scouts on Saturday and win the local stock car race on Sunday. Anything that you do is a compromise, and not a very good one.

There seems to be more discussion about proper shot size for pheasant than for any other bird. Personally, I generally use #5s for pheasants and #8s for quail. I have found that I get far too many pheasants running with #6s and that #7-1/2s are too big for quail. That said, we shoot our pheasants over Labs, so they tend to get up a bit further away than they may be for you with your pointer. Remember too, the average pheasant is larger than the average mallard duck. Think about what sized lead you used to use on ducks. Now add in the ducks are usually shot frontally and pheasants from the rear. I have some friends who take their pheasant with #7-1/2s shot in 28s, but they have pointers and hunt under preserve conditions. #5 always bring that pheasant down. My quail are shot over good pointers, fairly close and I use open chokes. The dog has a lot to do with the selection of shot size.

If I had to choose between pheasant size shot on quail and quail sized shot on pheasant, I would definitely go with the bigger shot. Obviously, #5s or #6s are too much for little quail, but you could always let them get out a bit before pulling the string. This is probably the approach I would take. If you let the quail fly out a bit, you may be surprised at how little those #5s chew them up if you aren’t using a world of choke. Remember, the big stuff has a much lower pellet count.

One other thought might be to load your #6 in the left/upper bbl and the #7-1/2s in the right/lower bbl if you are shooting a SxS or O/U. If your SxS has double triggers, this is a perfect solution. Barrel selectors on O/Us are iffy, but it could work if you paid attention. Obviously, this isn’t going to work if you use a pump or auto.

If you hunt with a buddy, one other approach would be to have one of you load for quail and the other load for pheasant. You could alternate shells if one person is getting all the action.

There it is. Three semi-perfect solutions to a seemingly insurmountable problem. The Technoid has done it again! (Yeah, right.)

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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