Denver Front Range and Vail Valley Waterfowl HuntsIt’s hard to recall the number of times I’ve relied on advice from knowledgeable staff at Minturn Anglers. Whether I’m in their Denver, Minturn or Vail shop, I can always count on friendly discussions and useful information to guide my decisions. Just recently I was in the Denver store stocking up on ammunition for the coming waterfowl hunting season and, as usual, was impressed with the practical advice I was given.

I already knew that lead shot in shotgun shells had been discontinued because of toxicity issues. Initially lead shotgun pellets were replaced with steel ones, but the lighter weight required considerable adjustment for the hunter. Bismuth shot comes closer in weight, and newer compounds such as tungsten iron are being used for pellets for shotguns.

Regardless of the composition of the ammunition, the critical issue is the size of the pellets in the shell. Choosing the right size of shot must provide a balance between the pattern density of the shot, and pellet energy. The idea is to have enough pellets in the shot to get multiple hits on the bird, balanced with a pellet size that will have enough energy to penetrate for a clean kill. My choice of ammunition becomes a compromise between the shot pattern density and how hard the pellets hit.

The balance can be difficult. For example a size 4 load will provide a harder hit on a duck at 40 yards than a size 6 load of smaller pellets. But the larger shot mean fewer pellets and a closer pattern density. Obviously it was time for some expert help.

Minturn Angler staff reminded me that I usually hunt in a few favorite spots and that I like to focus on three or four species of waterfowl. They also had me admit that I am a creature of habit, typically hunting in the same way and at the same distance every trip. Until I start hunting in different or exotic locations, Minturn staff suggested I match my shells with my predictability in the kind of shots I make and the gun I use. In other words, don’t go looking for problems where none exist.

How practical! Within minutes, I was stocked up with the right ammo to start the coming waterfowl season.

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