Hunting corn country several years ago with Mike Krei, then a field rep for the National Rifle Association, we were working a draw for pheasants when one exploded from cover. Using a 20-gauge over-and-under, Krei fired twice and missed, after which I swung my 12-gauge side-by-side Beretta into action.
My first shot missed, but then the ring neck sailed straight away at maybe 20 to 25 yards away, and my final round – a high-base 2¾-incher No. 6 – launched out of my fixed full choke barrel and the bird folded in a cloud of feathers.
Krei proved repeatedly that weekend that he was a far better wingshot
than I will ever be, and this was one of those moments of part skill and
massive good luck that occasionally blesses yours truly.
I hunted with that Beretta for several years. It’s a bird-busting marvel I bought at age 19. The price was right, the stock fit me very well, it had double triggers, roll engraving on the receiver, deep blue on the barrels, and the bores were both like mirrors.
Paulsen’s had taken it on trade from a guy who had put maybe a box of shells through it. His loss, my gain; I’ve put more blue and ruffed
grouse in my bag with that gun than I can remember, and against pheasants and chukars it has been a real performer.
But remember, I said it has fixed chokes. A few years ago, I developed
a real liking for O/U shotguns with interchangeable choke tubes. The Beretta is hardly retired, but I’ve found that the 20 is plenty, and these days I look forward to fall with a nicely balanced Franchi
Instinct chambered for 3-inch magnums, though I’ve never used them in the gun.
Choke tubes are a marvelous development, and I’ve got full, modified,
improved cylinder and other chokes for the Franchi. I hunt grouse with the I/C and modified chokes installed, with the action set to discharge
them in that barrel order.
With the right chokes, your shotgun becomes the most versatile tool in the gun rack. It can be choked for everything from mourning doves to
Canada geese and wild turkeys.
WITH UPLAND BIRD and dove seasons opening as early as next month, now is a good time to set up your scattergun with the right choke and shot combination to fill the cooler with fresh wildfowl.
For doves, I recommend nothing larger than 7½ shot, and more likely No. 8 or even 9 lead, or No. 6 or 7 steel. Also make time now with clay
targets to hone up your shooting skills before heading afield for these
I much prefer grouse hunting over all other gamebirds. I set up with the I/C and modified chokes because I’ll be hunting in cover and I don’t care to let thunder chickens get too far because they’ve got a habit of
sailing behind trees or large bushes the farther out they get.
Use the same choke set-up in a double gun for quail, and for those
who hunt chukar, I’d suggest a modified/full setup because they’re liable to get out ahead of you and they are fast. You may have to reach out If you’re hunting with a semiauto or pumpgun, I recommend the
modified choke for upland birds, including doves, at least for starters.
If birds are spooky and seem to be breaking cover, then you might consider going to a full choke. But if you’re hunting over a good dog
that will hold and not make birds nervous, that allows you to move in closer, and that’s where the I/C choke will work best. Of course, each hunter to his/her own choice.
SOME TIME AGO, Browning put together a comparison chart showing how choke choices would differ when using lead versus tighter and it is harder, remember, and I would never recommend using it through a full choke.
But here’s how it shakes out: A cylinder choke for lead or bismuth
translates to a skeet choke with steel or tungsten. The lead/bismuth skeet choke performs like an I/C with steel, and the I/C with lead/bismuth works like a modified with steel/tungsten, and so on. A modified with lead acts like a full with steel. Got it?
I confess to shooting a fair number of grouse with .22-caliber rifles
or pistols when they’re sitting on stumps or logs, usually during deer
or elk seasons, but there is really nothing to compare with being able
to tumble a big fool hen on the wing.
It’s a hell of a rush when they explode from cover, and they cook up
very well for the dinner table. Now’s the time to pull your choke
tubes, clean up the inside and out, wipe the threads with a soft cloth
and apply some good choke lube and then clean your bores until they
shine. Wrap a patch around the bore brush, scrub with Hoppe’s or Outers
solvent, wipe clean and then give your bore(s) a wipe with a lightly-
As the season unfolds and leaves begin to fall, you’ll want to look for
grouse to show up along old logging roads or trails, picking up pea gravel and catching any warmth from the sun, especially after a good stretch of rain. Remember, you can’t shoot them in the road, but grouse can be pretty predictable because they will likely trot back into the brush before taking flight if they’re spooked.
I chased one bird through the boonies after spotting it on a road
shoulder a few years ago. That thing wouldn’t fly no matter what, it
seemed, and then finally the bugger launched only to land on a tree limb
about 20 yards away. Birds that stupid deserve to land in the stew pot.
Once the bird is down, I recommend a quick field dressing immediately
to help cool it down. A small incision along the soft belly and you
can pull the guts out pretty easily. Always take along a pair of gloves
for this chore, and a small knife.
TURNING TO FALL’S other hunts, the .450 Bushmaster is an impressive cartridge, and Ruger recently announced that it is offering that caliber in their version of the bolt-action Scout Rifle.
It’s got a 16.10-inch stainless steel barrel that is cut with six lands and grooves on a 1:16-inch right-hand twist.
The barrel and action have a matte finish, and there’s a Ruger Precision Rifle Hybrid Muzzle Brake up front. The stock, meanwhile, is black
synthetic with a soft rubber butt pad that comes with spacers to adjust the length of pull. Ruger equips this rifle with a protected blade front sight and adjustable rear. It’s got a four round detachable box magazine, and the trigger guard and magazine well are glass-reinforced nylon.
Now, about that cartridge. The .450 Bushmaster is an awesome brush-country round. It launches a 250-grain bullet at better than 2,200 feet per second out of a 20-inch barrel, so expect to lose some speed out of the Ruger’s 16.1-incher, but not enough to make a difference to whatever is on the receiving end.
With a rebated base, the .450 Bushmaster’s parent case is the .284 Winchester sized out to take a .452-inch bullet. Now, that’s a big hole-maker, and against elk, deer or bears, it’s got a lot of muscle. AmSJ
By Dave Workman