Wildfowl, including ducks and geese, can be tough game to kill due to their thick layers of feathers. A waterfowler must have a tight, dense pattern capable of cleanly putting pellets into the bird. This often means 3 to 6 pellets must hit the bird for a clean kill while in the air. Finding the best waterfowl shotgun that can repeatedly achieve these results is often the first step.
Decoy shooting is normally preformed in blinds or near decoys where distances tend to be inside 40-yards. The opposite is pass hooting, typically geese, which can include shots over 50 yards and some of the furthest ranges of any shotgun sport. Knowing which scenario applies to you helps in determining what shotgun is the best.
Waterfowl hunting requires more precision in point shooting than upland game or hunting game at closer ranges. Longer ranges make the target seems smaller and hard to judge the distance. More skill is needed to determine the proper lead in order to put the pattern on the bird. The distance the hunter must lead the bird to allow for the bird’s movement to travel into the path of the shot is all made with split second decisions.
Due to heavy loads that are often required for waterfowl hunting, smaller gauges than 12 gauge can handicap a hunter and produce more cripples. Both pump and autoloaders have been the staple of waterfowlers for many years due to ease of handling and their ability to handle magnum loads.
Waterfowl Shotguns for Hunting Ducks and Geese in Marsh Situations
Successfully hunting over decoys is dependent on the correct decoy type, placement, and quantity for the various duck species you are hunting. How to use a duck call effectively is also a large consideration in determining success. The proper concealment of all hunters in the blind, mobility of shooters, and shotgun loads are also big considerations.
Pass shooting situations are not limited by the size of the shotgun. Typically, 10 gauge is the standard, but 3 ½ 12-gauges are just as effective. Depending on the conditions, birds can be moving at 60 miles per hour and can travel in any direction. A proficient shotgunner must know the proper lead and angles for all distances up the maximum range of their shot. Variations in the wind also need to be evaluated.
A fairly stout repeating shotgun weighing in at about 7 ½ pounds and a barrel length of 28-inches is ideal for waterfowl hunting. These factors help in creating accurate shots when swinging and pointing a shotgun. A matted rib is also helpful to reduce barrel glare and provide a better sight plane.
An interchangeable choke system is handy when conditions change where range of game varies. Open chokes can be used when birds charge into the decoys, or a full choke can be changed out for pass shooting scenarios.
Recommended Waterfowl Shotguns
These are good choices for 12-gauge shotguns for decoying situations loaded with 1 1/8 ounce or 1 ¼ ounce loads good to 40 yards.
- Winchester SX4 Shotgun
- Benelli Super Black Eagle 3 Shotgun
- Remington 870 Pump Shotgun
- Browning Maxus Shotgun
- Mossberg 935 Magnum Shotgun
- Browning BPS Pump Shotgun
- Beretta A400 Extreme Shotgun
For pass shooting situations that require shots at or greater than 50 yards, magnum 3 ½ shells with larger steel shot or heavier than lead shot (hevishot , TSS, Heavyweight, etc.) is ideal. These are good options for 10-gauge and 12-gauge magnum shotguns for pass shooting waterfowl.
- Remington SP-10 Shotgun
- Browning BPS 10 Gauge Shotgun
- Marlin Super Goose Gun 12-gauge or 10-gauge
- If using TSS, most 28-inch barrel 12-gauge semi’s
- Ithaca Mag 10 Shotgun