How to Choose the Best Shotgun for Pheasant Hunting
There are a few items necessary for effective pheasant hunting.
First on the list is a cunning ability to outsmart the birds in their own habitat. As any hunter will attest this is no easy task. Nothing makes up for experience in the field to learn the nuances of how birds react.
Second on the list for most people is a good bird dog. There are a variety of choices for a good partner in the field. You can train them on your own, which can be great for both you and the dog. You can also send the dog to school where it will learn how to become a skilled hunter in the field with nerves of steel and the patience of a grandfather.
Third on the list is the shotgun. This is the final piece you’ll need to get out in the field and take down some beautiful pheasants. You’ll need your apparel and maybe a few hunting accessories, but none will compare in necessity to your shotgun.
Purchasing a shotgun for pheasant hunting is a critical choice for any hunter. The gun will like be the one you have in your cabinet for an entire lifetime and it’s something you can pass down to the next generation when your time passes.
The shotgun you purchase now will need to be durable, accurate and something you can feel comfortable with in the field. A hunter and his gun form a bond that makes them inseparable. A good hunter combined with a good gun can lead to great results.
Here is a guide for choosing the best shotgun for hunting pheasants.
- The first item to consider is the weight of the shotgun. When hunting ringnecks you can sometimes walk several hundred yards through fields and terrain. It can make for long days if you’re toting a gun that is too heavy to handle. You’ll want something at least under the eight pound mark. There are some that even get in the seven pound range and even a couple below that weight.
Also an important consideration is the distribution of the weight. A light gun is great for tracking around all day in the field, but the weight needs to be distributed slightly forward. This allows for easy tracking of the target and can reduce recoil enough to make your shoulder comfortable for the length of the hunt whether that’s a single day or an entire week.
There may be issues with recoil when you’re shooting high velocity pheasant loads. These tend to pack quite the punch and you’ll notice it on your shoulder with a lighter gun. It’s typically the opinion of hunters that a lighter gun for carrying makes up for any kick that might occur. You can always put a little extra padding in your hunting vest or wear another layer.
- For an adult hunter there is really no choice other than the 12-gauge shotgun. It’s the best option for pheasant hunting. Ammunition is readily available and cheaper than comparative shotgun gauges. The power is enough to take down the birds with ease. There are enough options available that are light and easy to carry all day in the field.
The 16 and 20 gauge models are options. Perhaps for a youth or female hunter these would be good options, but the 12 gauge is really a good choice for any hunter of any body type. A 12 gauge shotgun is also good for a variety of different hunting. It’s a great gauge for pheasant hunting, but also works well for turkey and small game.
Style and Action
- If you’ve been around the pheasant hunting world for a few years you know that the double action is perhaps the most common. The over/under action of a traditional shotgun is both classic looking and functional for pheasants. These guns tend to be more expensive, but will last a few lifetimes if handled correctly. They are some of the best shotguns out there for pheasants and most hunters will agree. The double action allows for different chokes. A more open choke is often used for the first shot while a full choke is often used for the second to allow for more distance on the second shot.
Some hunters will never go away from the semi-automatic shotgun action. It makes for easy subsequent shooting and can really be a smooth shooting gun. The action can jam a little more than other actions, but the semi-auto action is something versatile enough for pheasant hunting and other bird hunting you would use it for like turkey hunting.
The semi-auto or the pump models will also be less expensive than the double barrel. If this is a consideration for you there is really no reason to discuss the double action. A semi-auto or pump action is a very good action for pheasants. It can be your go to shotgun for all hunting meaning you’ll only need to purchase one in your lifetime as long as you care for it.
- The style of the gun makes a difference for some hunters. If you’re going to be using the pheasant gun for other hunting like turkey hunting it might make sense to go with a camo pattern instead of the traditional pattern. For the traditionalist you really can’t go wrong with the classic stock and barrel look. You can get the black on black model, but for the traditionalist it’s all wood and classic barrel coloring.
Barrel length is something hunters consider. It’s not a huge issue for the pheasants. Barrel length is something you need to be comfortable with as a hunter. Anything around the 26 inch mark is likely a sufficient choice.
Typically you’ll want nothing less than a three inch shell. This gives enough power to reach out and get the birds that don’t like to get close. There is enough power and enough of a load to take down nearly any pheasant with a good shot.
- We couldn’t end the article without recommending a few guns. We’ve discussed the thought pattern associated with choosing the right pheasant hunting shotgun and here are our choices for the best out available.
Browning Citori 725 Field
This shotgun is a great over/under model for pheasant hunting. The gun comes in under 8 pounds and in the 3 inch load making it ideal for hunting pheasants in a variety of conditions.
Beretta 687 Ultralight Deluxe
The Beretta Silver models are great and so is the 687 Ultralight. The gun comes in at just about 6 pounds making it ideal for carrying in the field. It also looks classic and makes a good impression when you’re with your buddies.
Remington Model 1100 Autoloader
For those that want a versatile autoloader there is nothing better than a Model 1100. This gun works well for pheasants and can be great for other hunting too. You’ll be slightly heavier with this model than the 8 pound suggestion so there is a trade off.
This is another great option for a semi-auto shotgun. The Inertia action allows for less weight in the gun, which makes it easy to carry around in the field.
Remington Model 870 Wingmaster
This pump action model is one of the most popular shotguns available. It’s a great investment for any hunter. The versatility is ideal for the hunter that goes from the woods to the field hunting a variety of game. This one comes in under 8 pounds in just about all variations.