Hunting & Heritage,Shotguns & Shooting  |  03/16/2012

Switching to the 20 Gauge for Pheasant Hunting

When I first hunted pheasant with a 20 gauge, I would shoot, then pull the gun down to see if it did anything, like you do when bowling. I mean, I had no faith in the thing. I’d been a 12-banger all my life and knew what that gun would do to anything it hit, so why change?
Well, at age 56, lugging around a heavy 12 ga. and its heavier shells on a 6-8 hour hunt has lost its appeal……and, as editor of three conservation/hunting magazines (Pheasants Forever Journal, Quail Forever Journal and Upland Tales youth magazine), I find myself walking afield a lot.
So, two years ago I purchased not my first 20, but nicest: The very petite, yet rugged, Benelli Ultra Light 20 semi-auto.
You know what I found out about shooting a 20 at roosters? The gauge don’t matter as much as the aim. If my aim was true and I didn’t pick stupid shots, the roosters came down in a heap.
And at just 5.2 pounds, the Ultra Light is ultra easy to carry for as long as I hunt. Shoot, I’ve lugged around heavier hiking sticks. The lighter weight gives my usual fast pull up and swing even more speed….and speed is the name of the game wing shooting. I like a semi-auto for speed too. Sure aim is critical, obviously, but even a good aim is no good if you get up and on a bird too slow….and a lot of hunters are slow spotting game, getting their gun up and swinging through.
I’ll tell you what, my shooting goes south faster than a duck in a November blizzard when I’m tired, and arm fatigue just kills my percentage. A light gun is great, especially when there’s little kick. But, at 6’, 230 pounds, a little kick never bothered me anyway.
So, all you 12-bangers out there take your best shot at me over the virtues of the 20. All in good fun, of course!

-Mark Herwig is editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at‚Äč