Shotgun pattern key to success
Most of the state’s wingshooters will knock the dust off their shotguns Saturday in a dove field, and there are three constants to opening day/weekend.
First, there are usually enough doves to make opening day a success.
Second, it’s usually hot, most times in the 90s; some years triple-digit temps ruled the first weekend.
Third, some hunters will not be ready for the season, and it’s this factor that leaves bruises, either on the body or the ego, or in other hunters’ ears after having to listen to all the excuses.
The upside is it’s the first weekend of Louisiana’s hunting seasons that, with only a handful of days off the hunting calendar, will run from Saturday well into May. It takes in doves now; teal next weekend and through the last Sunday this month; into squirrel, rabbit and deer seasons; the long snipe season; more dove dates; ducks and geese; woodcock; spring turkey and May’s spring squirrel season.
So, if you have some mechanical trouble this week, you have enough time to get the shotgun to a shop and correct the problem for next week’s teal season.
But what if the problem is you can’t hit the target?
When you start at the beginning — and that’s the best way to break down your problems — it could be a matter of fitting. Maybe your shotgun no longer “fits” you. Did you gain or lose weight? Most good gun shops will have someone at the gun counter who can determine if you need to alter the stock to provide better line-of-sight shooting.
After that, the process continues with time at the range and at a patterning board.
Years ago, David Reynerson was smithing guns in his Central shop and he began asking questions about straight-shooting shotguns.
What? A shotgun doesn’t need to shoot straight. All that shot coming from the end of the barrel is supposed to spread enough of a pattern to cover the target.
As amazing as Reynerson’s question sounded, he was right. Proof came at Hunter’s Run Gun Club in Port Allen when we put an “X” in the middle of a 5-foot x 5-foot square, stepped back 40 yards, put the bead on the X and fired.
A majority of the shot in this 28-inch, modified-choke barrel hit to the right of the X, a large majority of the shot.
A second shot, and most of the shot stayed in the upper right on the next target.
Even guns with removable chokes didn’t always square up in a pattern.
Reynerson made the point that each shotgun is different and each shotgun in the hands of a different shooter is different.
The point he made was that hunters need to find the just-right shotshells, and the just-right shot size, and the just-right choke to work with the shells and the shot to allow the hunter to make the shotgun a useful tool in the field.
Otherwise, the only folks you make happy when you shoot your shotgun are Mr. Winchester and Mr. Remmington or any other shotshell maker you decide to use.
In most cases, it’s the aiming point you’re after.
Reynerson pointed out that barrel damage might be the problem, and that means getting a new barrel.
After firing four different guns with different chokes and shells, it turned out the aiming point of each gun was different, that some guns performed better with a certain choke over another and shotshells, though not the same brand in the different guns.
Federal Ammo’s Mike Holm and Eric Carlson also addressed the need for hunters to pattern guns in a Pheasants Forever discussion. Though their expertise runs more into pheasant hunting, their methods and suggested outcome run parallel with Reynerson’s.
Holm suggested patterning a gun at 20 and 40 yards to better help the shooter understand what the pattern looks like at those distances. Draw a 3-inch circle on the board and from the middle of that circle a 30-inch ring (15 inches in diameter from the center of the 3-inch circle).
Holm said pattern density and pattern coverage should show half the shot load above and below the the horizontal and a 50-50 split off the vertical with density “consistent from edge to edge in the 30-inch circle.”
From the LDWF
Wildlife and Fisheries has restricted the Elbow Slough WMA to lottery winners for opening weekend. It will open the the WMA to dove hunters Sept. 11 and Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays for the remainder of the first split and throughout the second split. Nontoxic shot is required on this WMA.
Rockefeller State Wildlife Refuge will be closed to the public until 10 a.m. for the next six days, or until trappers complete the annual nuisance alligator take on the Vermilion-Cameron parishes tract.
LDWF fisheries managers began the drawdown on Chicot Lake this week and plan to lower the lake by three feet to control nonnative vegetation.