Hunting

Chokes, ammo & calls

We had a great response to our request for members to share their wisdom in regard to their choice of ammo and chokes for Duck Season and their use of calls.

We had too many to fit in Field&Game magazine, so, as promised, here are the remaining responses.

Rob Treble, Seymour FGA

 How long have you been hunting?

34 years.

What is your favourite ammunition for duck hunting? 

Winchester duck load #3 for big ducks, Winchester duck load #5 for little ducks.

 Why?

It's a quality product that produces good patterns, it is Australian made, WET receives a rebate for every slab of ammunition sold and my black Labradors love the results and work.

Is there any situation where it works best?

Over decoys, out to 40 yards, but effective in all situations within my skill level. I don't take a shot over 40 yards.

What chokes do you use in combination? 

Cylinder, first barrel, modified second barrel. If I'm set up for close in over decoys I will change my chokes to improved cylinder first barrel and cylinder in the second.

Why?

Combined with the Winchester cartridges they produce rich patterns which meet the requirements of the lethality table in the SEP handbook.

What duck calls do you use and what is your favourite?

I have many and have tried most on the market. The ones I'm most comfortable and proficient with are Hammonds double reed mallard call black duck and mountain duck. Haydels TC87 crow call for teal. I use my voice to mimic wood ducks.

Describe your approach to calling?

Early season loud and heavy, a lot of single quacks in the pre dawn, as the season progresses enough to get their attention but not too loud or too much, once they are coming I stop calling.

Daryl Snowdon, Port Phillip FGA

How long have you been hunting?

First Victorian duck opening was 1985, so this year will be 31 years.

What is your favourite ammunition for duck hunting?

I am a huge fan of Winchester products, have grown up shooting Super X and Ranger ammunition, and with the move to steel Drylok became my go to load.

Because of my role with FGA and the Shotgunning Education Program I get to test and use a lot of ammunition and in recent years my favourites have become Winchester Duck Load, RC Atomic Line and Gamebore Super Steel, all 32-34 gram loads.

I have also settled on shot sizes US#3-US#5. As for a favourite it’s hard to choose, I like Duck Load #3 for larger duck (Black Duck) and Duck Load #5 for small ducks (Teal) but have had fantastic results with Gamebore Super Steel #4 and RC Atomic Line #3 (US #4). I can’t wait for the release of Winchester Duck Load in #4, this will be my new favourite load.

 Why?

The US #4 gives great pattern density, you can’t rely on 1-2 pellets to get the job done, especially on our smaller birds such as teal and Pink-eared duck your target area (heart/lungs and brain) are very small. The US#4 pellet performs well at all of the distances I regularly take ducks (out to 40m).

Is there any situation where it works best?

I do all of my hunting over decoys and take most of my shots in the 20m – 30m range.

What chokes do you use in combination?

I use the Carlson Waterfowl Close Range (Improved Cylinder) and Mid-Range (Modified) or the Briley S-54 Improved Cylinder and Modified depending on which gun I’m shooting.

Why?

I was never a very good choke changer, although I do own almost 100 of them, so shot EVERYTHING with Modified and Modified.

After becoming involved in the Shotgunning Education Program I discovered that the only thing that using Modified chokes while hunting ducks with steel shot was doing was handicapping me and wounding birds. I have since moved to a more open choke and smaller shot size with great results. I still shoot everything else with Modified and Modified.

What duck calls do you use and what is your favourite?

I own a bunch of different calls but the ones I use the most would be Haydels Calls, they are cheap and very effective. The most used ones would be the DR-85, BH-07 Black Hole, TC-02 Timber Cutter and TC-87 Triple Tone Crow for teal.

Describe your approach to calling?

Wing tips and tails! I never call at birds that are coming towards me, always at crossing or going away birds. I find less is more, I will only call to turn birds and then just stick to single quacks and feed calls as the birds approach.


Danny Ryan, Bendigo FGA

How long have you been hunting?

I started duck hunting in 1978 as an eight year old, I had been a spectator for a few years prior, my dad loaded cut down 2” cartridges for me with about 20gm of shot.

What is your favourite ammunition for duck hunting?

My present favourite is a mix of Nobelsport Italia 2 ¾ 35gm and 32gm #4 steel. I also still have a few of my hand loaded Hevi Shot loads from a few years ago with 36gm of Hevishot #4 and #2 that do the business for late morning high birds.

Going back a bit it (80’&90’s) it was my home load 36gm #3 in lead propelled by a fair bit of Vectan A1.

Why?

I tend to shoot more open pass shooting with most shots between 25-50metres and I like the versatility of the NSI 35gm #4 steel payloads.

I get very nice patterns with enough pellet strikes to ensure clean instant kills, this particular cartridge is fast but it is also nice and mild to shoot out of an eight and a bit pound gun without rattling my teeth out. The 32gm version is also a nice one to use as well where I have setup on backwaters/evening decoying shooting incoming type birds.

The Hevi shot is another story, many years ago I bought some shot out of the USA and components and gathered all the info I could plus trial and error with loading and plenty of patterning to see what worked and what didn’t, I even tested my loadings of some hyper velocity steel reloads at the time too.

There is no doubt some of the results I got where absolutely amazing, some surprising such as blown steel patterns when near 1700fps velocities, I had a nice 28gm Hevishot 7.5 load at 1450fps that was mind blowing, but settled on a heavier weight 36gm load of 4’s and 2’s at 1350. I must stress you cannot achieve these sort of loads without the right components.

If I could source the shot cheaper and get someone to load them for me (the shot won’t go through a MEC; so you have to individually weigh each component to get about 30 cartridges an hour) I’d use them all the time.

Is there any situation where it works best?

NSI 35gm Steel #4 covers every situation for decoying birds at 20M out to 50M passing birds out to the fringe of my designated ranges. The 32gm I use for river shooting and more backwater decoying type shooting.

What chokes do you use in combination?

I shoot pretty tight overall, modified (20thou) and improved modified (25thou) (1/2 and ¾) in Rhino chokes.

Why?

I get really nice patterns plus the porting/recoil reduction benefits of the chokes plus I like to ensure my dog doesn’t get too tired swimming around.

What duck calls do you use and what is your favourite?

I run three calls on my lanyard, my favourite is an old Scotch crow call that gives very good depth and timbre to my black duck calls, you have to purse your lips hard to get higher pitch for teal if required. The other two are Buck Gardiner acrylics; Mallard Magic and a Teal call. I am sure I need one more so I will soon add an Aussie made Poddy Bay.

Describe your approach to calling?

I don’t start calling at 3am in the morning; it upsets the neighbours, but depending on location and species I call with different methods. When backwater hunting waiting for birds to move into the location (I can’t see any birds) I will periodically give an invite/lonesome call, about once every 5-10 minutes, once I sight birds I up the ante with a bit of mixed hello calls and invite/feed calls.

On timbered/lignum/cumbungi swamps where my setup is more for pass shooting I rarely call when the action is hard and fast early but later on in the morning I try to work birds in flight.

With teal I try to get in the pips and high pitch notes with my teal call and I use the Scotch for the deep rolling chuckles and quacks for the black ducks; I manage to keep both calls between thumb and index finger and switch between, I have worked pretty hard over the years on a come back call for blackies that works for me.

I try to listen to birds and vary the pitch and tone until I hit on the mark and start turning birds, you need to keep varying strength and volume not just the same monotone call for time after time.  I discovered a few seasons ago my Mallard Magic call was not deep enough for our black ducks but when blown straight through it’s near perfect for wood ducks and when blown harder Mountain ducks so playing around and experimenting with things will sometimes bring reward.

With so many calls on the market now it’s much easier to find the one that you can use efficiently and YouTube can show you so many methods and techniques too.

Peter Ryan, Nth Island NZ and FGA correspondent

 How long have you been hunting?

40 years

What is your favourite ammunition for duck hunting?

Federal Premium steel and Winchester Super X lead (legal for shooting over land in NZ).

Why?

I trust them; they work and seem to be well made.  

Is there any situation where it works best?

Prefer the lead load (in fives) as it kills better. Sorry I know that’s not what the science says, but that’s how it looks out there.

What chokes do you use in combination?

It depends but generally Modified.

Why?

I don’t play around with chokes much preferring to get used to the pattern and know what it can and can’t do.

What duck calls do you use and what is your favourite?

Hammond (made by Allan Hammond, NZ) in wood, it has a more natural sound. 

Describe your approach to calling?

If they pass let them get a little way out before trying to turn them.

They prefer to come back on their own terms, not turn on a dime. Experiment until you find out what’s working on the day. 

Mark Daley, Bendigo FGA

 How long have you been hunting?

I have been attending duck season in Victoria from the age of 5

I have only missed the ones that were cancelled and started shooting at opening at the age of 12 (now 50)

I was fortunate to be in a hunting family attending duck openings with my father, brother, grandfather, uncles and cousins.

As always some openings good others not so good but it is tradition.

What is your favourite ammunition for duck hunting? Why?

Prior to the introduction of steel my preference for lead for duck shooting was Winchester duck load, Winchester black rangers.

Once we started using steel I have tried several brands but since doing the SEP course and done some testing I am very impressed with Winchester duck loads in #5 and Remington in #3

Is there any situation where it works best?

I use the Remington shells for mid-range and duck loads for decoy shooting or close tight swamp shooting

What chokes do you use in combination?

I always use Improved Cylinder and Modified as these under testing perform the best on the pattern testing boards

What duck calls do you use and what is your favourite? 

I have several duck calls but prefer the Hadels DR85 as I can get several types of calls from the one caller

Joshua Terpstra, Geelong FGA

 How long have you been hunting?

24 years

What is your favourite ammunition for duck hunting?

Winchester Drylok #3 3” 39gm

Why?

I find this cartridge has the knock down power to comfortably take care of all our game species. 

Is there any situation where it works best?

I use this shell when field hunting for Blacks and honkers and it takes down the big birds with ease.  I also use it when hunting the numerous swamps in the South West and I find it really gives me some flexibility in the range of shots I can take.  I have a lot of confidence in this shell and I believe confidence is everything in shooting.

What chokes do you use in combination?

Briley Modified and Improved Modified.

Why?

Again I believe it gives me some flexibility, it will hold a good pattern on the passing shots yet it won't destroy the birds over the decoys.

What duck calls do you use and what is your favourite?

I use and own a lot of good duck calls but I never hunt without my Haydels Carbon Kwacker- double reed, Duck commander teal (hen) call & Haydels  magnum 4 in 1 drake whistle. 

Describe  your approach to calling?

All depends on where I’m hunting but I always like to see the birds I am calling at, being able to read how the birds respond to the call in the air is just as important as good calling. When hunting the dry fields or on the rice I am usually ultra aggressive and really try and create as much noise as possible. When hunting my local Geelong swamps I probably do the opposite, they get over gunned a bit so the birds do become very call shy.   So when I do call its soft, not too repetitive and I often take the approach that less is best.  

Daniel Haines, Barmera Moorook FGA

How Long have you been hunting?

23 years
 


What is your favourite ammunition for duck hunting?
 

It used to be Winchester Drylok 36g in # 2 for Black Duck and Wood Duck shooting on creeks and #4 in the same load for Teal over decoys, but after the Shotgunning Education Program that has all changed. I will be using Winchester Duck Load #5 for Teal over decoys and #4 for other situations.

Why?
 

Because I was told that you go up 2 shot sizes for steel and I thought the more steel the better. That was the advice that everyone used to give me.

What chokes do you use in combination?

I use ¼ and ½ all of the time for steel as I was told that is what you had to do as well increasing the shot size. This combination did pattern well at the SEP so I won’t be changing that in the future.
 

What duck calls do you use and what is your favourite?

Unfortunately I am no good at Duck Calls and never use them. I have tried using an iPhone app and Bluetooth speaker a couple of times but it was more of a hindrance than a help.
 


Describe  your approach to calling?

I would love to be able to do it but it is something which I have never put the time into.

John Byers, Sale FGA

How long have you been hunting? 

44 years of hunting and a Field & Game member for 39 years.

What is your favourite ammunition for duck hunting?

At the moment the Australian Winchester Duck Load #5

Why?

Good dense even patterns and it kills very well.

Is there any situation where it works best?

Over decoys it is excellent, pass shooting I go to #3 in Duck Load. 90 per cent of my hunting is over decoys.

What chokes do you use in combination?

I/C & MOD generally and in some situations SKEET & I/C

Why?

These chokes give me the optimum patterns over the 30-35m range where I shoot the majority of my birds.

What duck calls do you use and what is your favourite? 

Poddy Bay off course!!!  My favourite is an old single reed Cocobolo call that was one of the original hand-made calls I ever made in 2003. 

It has a good deep rasp and blows with minimal air. I use it in conjunction with a Poddy Bay Classic double reed in Dargo Walnut and a Poddy Bay Swamp Master Teal call.

Describe your approach to calling?

I’m a subtle caller and like to use a single quack (lonesome hen to quote the Yanks) with the odd greeting call. Never believed in the American hail calls and have never seen them work well on Australian ducks. 

I also like to use a broken feeding chuckle interspersed with single quacks and clucks when the birds are working the decoys. Hunters who call incessantly annoy the hell out of me, I prefer to call birds when I see them and not annoy every hunter around me by calling non-stop when birds aren’t flying.

 


Bill Paterson, Port Phillip FGA

How long have you been hunting?

40 years

What is your favourite ammunition for duck hunting?  

Winchester #5 Duck load

Why?

It was highly recommended, they support the WET Trust and I have had good success with it.

Is there any situation where it works best?

A very good pattern at long range.

What chokes do you use in combination?  

Modified and Improved Modified

Why?

Shooting over decoys I don't want a very tight pattern, but I also want to be able to take those passing shots.

What duck calls do you use and what is your favourite?

Poddy Bay handmade call.

Describe your approach to calling?

I am not a good caller, so default to simple ones which seem to work.

Rick Gibbs, Barmera Moorook FGA

How Long have you been hunting?   

23 Years
 


What is your favourite ammunition for duck hunting? 

Gamebore 32g 3’s & 4’s Super Steel & Hyper Steel
 


Why?

They have been well priced in the past and perform extremely well.
 


Is there any situation where it works best?

Yes I would rate the Number 3’s very highly on longer crossing birds.
 


What chokes do you use in combination?

Improved Modifies & Full for steel
 


Why?

I believe they hold my pattern at the longer distances giving me cleaner kills.
 


What duck calls do you use and what is your favourite?

The fowl talkers call I find the best and easiest to use.
 


Describe  your approach to calling?

Just trying to imitate the Teal feeding call, the loan Blackie or sometimes if I can get it wright the Mountain Duck call.

Jim Godden, Barmera Moorook FGA

How long have you been hunting?

First went Duck Shooting at age five, first single shot shotgun at 12-13 so I’ve been hunting 32 years (bloody hell I should be a better shot by now)

What is your favourite ammunition for duck hunting?

Generally Winchester Super X but have shot with Diana and Eley, but Winchester would be my preferred mostly in #3 due to the old adage re steel; open your barrels and go up two sizes in shot (and that is all the local gun shop had)

Why?

Being a non-technical shooter my response would be that is what is carried by the gun shop and hence easiest to source. Being based in a regional location supply can be a problem so that’s why I have just about shot every different cartridge

Is there any situation where it works best?

Yep, when the duck falls from the sky.

What chokes do you use in combination?

Improved Cylinder and Modified

Why?

First under and over I owned (Nikko with 26” Barrels my 15th birthday present) ran these chokes, this was with lead as well.

So I naturally lean to this combination, it seemed to be reinforced with the introduction of steel to open your barrels up when shooting steel.

Lastly, given I hunt only (I don’t practice much) and for many years I would only get out once or twice a year I tend to keep my taken shots in closer, say 20-25m as I don’t want to be shooting at longer distances and risk wounded birds.

The SEP course reinforced that these chokes work well in my gun but with a #4 shot size.

Generally most of my shooting up until the last three years has been done on tighter wetlands (channels) so you are shooting in closer as the birds follow the flight lines, duck callers and decoys have been rarely used.

Since coming onto the evaporation basin at Loveday the callers and decoys have had to be pulled out of mothballs.

What duck calls do you use and what is your favourite?

Both of my Duck calls are hand me downs from my Dad and hence could be 30 to 40 years old, as to the brand no idea. One is smaller so is perfect for Teal and the larger of the two has a deeper tone for blackies, honkers are too big to pluck I let them go past.

Describe your approach to calling?

I only picked up the callers last year from using them as a teenager, so I have a lot to learn. As I mentioned above the wetlands I have generally shot on you wait for the birds to come to you so this hasn’t been a part of the sport that I have concentrated on.



 

 


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