WATERFOWLING seasons are approaching, and although you may plan to hunt where lead shot is still allowed, you should start using the nontoxic steel shot that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service will require for duck and goose hunting nationwide by 1991.
This year, 43 states have steel shot zones for duck and goose hunting, and five of them require steel everywhere. Accidental ingestion of spent lead pellets has been killing large numbers of waterfowl for decades.
Steel shot has two disadvantages. canada goose outlet Steel pellets can damage some shotguns, and they lose their down range energy more rapidly than do lead pellets of the same diameter.
If you have been using a fine, old side by side or over and under shotgun for waterfowling, you’ll have to bite the bullet and buy a new fowling piece that can take the hammering to the barrel that steel pellets dish out. If you own a shotgun that is neither old nor new, question the manufacturer about its suitability for steel loads. If the manufacturer has gone out of business, discretion dictates going the new gun route.
Although steel loaded shot shells are available in 20, 16, 12 and 10 gauge, the 12 gauge is probably your best choice because the greatest variety of steel loads is available for it. There are adequate steel loads for ducks in 20 and 16 gauge, but if you plan to do any shooting at large birds such as Canada geese beyond 35 yards, neither of these is adequate. It just isn’t possible to get enough steel pellets of the proper size into those small shell cases.
Every veteran waterfowler has a preferred load for duck and goose hunting. With lead shot it might be No. 4 or No. 6 for ducks, No. 2 for decoying geese and BB for flight shooting geese. The rule of thumb for switching to steel shot is to go two pellet sizes larger. For years, the commercially available and traditional lead loads for waterfowl have had pellets in sizes 6, 4, 2 and BB. These sizes are available in steel, as are 3, 1, BBB, T, and F. The actual diameters are 6 (.11 of an inch), 4 (.13), 3 (.14), 2 (.15), 1 (.16), BB (.18), BBB (.19), T (.20), and F (.22). There is an FF designation, but no pellets of that size (.23) are being made. The next pellet size beyond FF is No. 4 buckshot (.24). Buckshot comes in lead only: No. 4, 3 (.25), 1 (.30), 0 (.32) and 00 (.33).
Sixteen states have long limited the size of pellets used for waterfowling. In the Northeast, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have recognized the need for larger pellets when using steel and have increased the maximum allowable pellet size for such loads. In New Jersey, it is FF, and in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, it is BB. Connecticut’s shot size regulations vary from area to area this coming season, but the state will allow BB’s everywhere next year. All of the above regulations apply to steel shot.
Where lead shot may still be used, the pre steel maximum shot sizes apply, although one may shoot steel shot and therefore larger pellets in a lead shot zone. The BB size restriction in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut limits goose hunters somewhat. A lead load of BB’s is just about right for flight shooting Canada geese, but to equal it in steel one would have to go to T or F. In most states, particularly in those that have shooting in built up areas, the shot size limitation is for safety reasons. Bigger pellets carry farther.
This country’s three major manufacturers of sporting arms ammunition Winchester, Federal and Remington have each produced brochures instructing hunters in the use of steel shot. These are almost always available at sporting goods stores where shot shells are sold. (Some states, New York among them, have published steel shot brochures and are planning public seminars on the subject.) Federal and Winchester also have videotapes on the subject for sale. Winchester’s runs for about 14 minutes and is available from many Winchester dealers. Box 459, Young America, Minn. 55399. Federal’s 11 minute tape is available for $17.95, and is available for loan, free of charge, to fish and game clubs. One should write Advertising Department, Federal Cartridge Company, 900 Ehlen Drive, Anoka, Minn. 55303; the telephone number is (612) 422 2840.
Winchester produces a greater variety of steel shot shells than do the other firms 37 in all but Federal is the only one manufacturing 16 gauge steel loads, and Remington is alone with its so called duplex loads, which combine two shot sizes in a single shell. Both Federal and Winchester offer steel loads above size BB. Remington does not.
If the new shotgun you purchase for shooting steel loads is a pump or automatic, you should probably if it is not fitted with any of the various screw in choke sleeves currently available get one that has a bored, or choked, improved cylinder. In the lead shot era, the typical duck and goose gun was bored either modified or full, but steel loads tend to shoot tighter patterns. When you do have your new gun in hand, take some time on a target range to see how dense a pattern it does deliver.
Although most modern shotguns can handle steel shot, problems have arisen with some, particularly when the pellet size goes above BB. When a charge of steel shot is passing through the constricted, or choked, portion of a gun’s barrel, it exerts greater outward pressure and this effect is intensified with the larger pellets. In some cases, there may be slight bulging usually only cosmetic on the outside of the barrel at that point. There have also been instances of screw in choke sleeves being swaged in certain places by this pressure. If these phenomena do occur when using the larger shot, they will usually take place within 250 rounds.
The Service will not ban lead shot in muzzle loading shotguns in steel shot zones until September 1988, but some states, including New Jersey and Massachusetts, have already done so, and fish and game officials in some other states, including New York, believe that such shot is banned even though the relevant regulation makes no specific mention of muzzle loading hunting.