Pheasant shooting is a great sport. But knowing what comes out of the end of your barrel and how it reacts after it leaves the shotgun is important. Here are some tips on chokes for pheasant shooting to increase accuracy in the field.
What influences choke type?
Traditionally on most normal driven Pheasant shoots, guns will be shooting with a gun that has fixed chokes. Most older side by side guns have fixed chokes and these days you can order your over and under with either fixed or multi choked barrels.
If the shoot also includes a duck drive, you need to make sure the chokes and barrels that you are using will take steel shot, because in the UK we can only use steel for ducks.
What does the choke do?
As a reminder, a choke is screwed into the end of the barrel and is smaller in diameter than the barrel itself. Different chokes are available, they come in various sizes or constrictions. The more constriction in the choke, the tighter the shot pattern will be when it leaves the barrel.
What chokes should you use?
Here's a list of the chokes used by shotgun shooters for clay and game:
- True Cylinder
- Improved Cylinder
- Improved Cylinder
- Improved Modified
There are other choke sizes but they’re less common. They include:
- 3/8 (US Light Modified)
- 5/8 (US Light Improved Modified)
- Super Full (UK and US)
As you can see there's a wide variety on offer. The rule to remember is, tighter the choke, the tighter the shot pattern.
Widening the pattern increases your chances of success. Most normal game bird shooting generally requires a wider choke. Most game guns in the UK are supplied with quarter and half chokes installed, and these are the most popular ones to use. With fixed choke game guns, these are usually quarter and half, but full and full, quarter and three quarter were also very popular.
The only time you will need a slightly tighter choke is for birds that are flying 60′ or higher in the sky. We have a large number of shoots in the UK where the birds are presented very high and these attract somewhat of a cult following. For these birds, most guns will use extended chokes full and full, or a specific high pheasant gun with 32 inch barrels and fixed chokes, full and full.
Though moving quickly, birds are usually are not as fast as the clays at your local ground. They also do not only fly in straight lines. Using tight chokes increases the chances of missing them, even if you have impeccable shooting technique.
That’s not the only problem. If you do manage to hit a pheasant using a tight choke, it will be practically inedible as it will have been shredded to pieces by shot and be extremely damaged.
The 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 those on the ground.
Aim high – open up your choke size
Opening up your choke size will make 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 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.
In some countries (the UK especially) the gun will have to be re-proofed at a Proof House to re-certify the barrel integrity. This can be expensive.
So, be sure to open up your choke size and enjoy your sport as much as you can. This way you will find your shots more forgiving and keep your birds more intact