What chokes should you use if you are new to driven pheasant shooting? A competition clay shooter will want to widen the pattern; as will the new beginner; as well as anyone else who would like to increase their bag size!
Pheasant shooting generally requires a wider choke, which also goes for most game bird shooting which requires a wide pattern of shot. Those who regularly practice clay shooting with tight chokes prior to their shooting day will have to remember to change their chokes out afterwards. Pheasant shooting with a tight chokes is likened to shooting birds with a rifle! An impossible feat.
The only time you will need a slightly tighter choke with be for birds that are stratospheric 60′ or higher
Though moving quite fast, birds do not just fly in straight lines and for the most part are not as fast as the clays at your local ground which are set up for completion practice. The chances therefore of missing birds because you are using tight chokes, even with the correct shooting technique are much greater. What is more; some of the pheasants you do manage to hit will be practically inedible as they will have been shredded to pieces by shot and be heavily damaged.
Our goal should be to knock them out of the air. In the fall to the ground the bird is dispatched quickly either by the fall itself or by being dealt with by those on the ground. Only birds at very high altitudes will be unaffected by tight chokes in this regard.
Open up your choke size… you will find your shots more forgiving and keep your birds intact
Quarter and half chokes (improved cylinder and modified) are possibly the best ‘all round’ combination for pheasant shooting; this will see you through all your shots for the day. If your gun from the clay ground is one which is able to take multi chokes then we suggest you open them up a bit and you will be able to hit a few more birds. The only time you will need a slightly tighter choke with be for birds that are stratospheric 60′ or higher.
Below is a comparison of chokes if you have a North American shotgun:
Europe US and Canada
1/4 Improved Cylinder
3/4 Improved Modified
Chokes can also vary between manufacturers as well so it is always worth measuring them with a choke gauge.
If you have an older gun with fixed chokes you may at some point wish to have them altered. However great care must be taken if you do this and the services of a professional must be used. The procedure involves having metal removed from inside the barrel to open up the diameter of the choke. However the risks of a burst barrel (the pressure of the discharge ripping open the barrel) because of removing too much metal and affecting the structural strength of the barrels is considerable.
In some countries (the United Kingdom especially) the gun will have to go and be re-proofed from a Proof House to re-certify the barrels’ integrity at some expense.
Pheasant shooting is a great sport but you need to be as careful as you can while enjoying it. This not only applies to how you behave but to the equipment you use as well. A burst barrel can have devastating effects on the gun and on the person holding it, older guns really ought to be left as they were originally made.
Open up your choke size and enjoy your sport as much as you can, you will find your shots more forgiving and keep your birds more intact.
Article Pheasant shooting technique