What's the right goose load? Tom Sykes looks at some of the different shotgun cartridges for geese on the market
A wild goose chase can be exactly what it says on the tin, so when you get the birds in range you want the confidence that you are packing sufficient power to get one in the bag.
Goose shooting can take place in a range of different scenarios, from decoying at close range to foreshore flighting at higher altitude. This means that you may have to adapt the load to suit the specific needs of the day.
I have covered a range of shells and manufacturers here, so there should be a cartridge to suit all 12-bore goose shooters’ needs and as not all people who shoot geese use a 3½in chambered gun, I have incorporated a mix of 3in and 3½in shells.
It is worth pointing out that this is just an overview of some of the goose ammunition available to shooters. It is important to find a gun and cartridge combination that suits your individual needs. Only you can determine what is best for you, by testing shells through pattern plates or in the field.
The one piece of advice that I will always give to people shooting geese is to ignore the body and treat the head of the bird as a clay. The pellets will have a much greater chance of killing the bird cleanly if they hit the head, as opposed to fighting through the feathers, down, skin, meat and bone to hit vitals with a body shot.
And of course, when shooting steel shot always check that your firearm and choke combination meets the correct requirements for steel. If steel is fired from a gun that isn’t proofed for it, or through a choke that is too tight, it may result in injury to the shooter.
Gamebore Mammoth featured in the recent duck cartridge line-up as they are a good in-between shell for duck and geese. These 12-bore steel cartridges come in boxes of 10. The 36g loaded 3in shells come in shot sizes 1, 3 and 4 and if shot at an appropriate range and put in the right place, they definitely have enough stopping power to bring down even the largest of Canada geese.
Winchester Blind Side is different from the other steel shot in this selection as it uses Hex shot and diamond wad design. The Hex shot, which is square, allows up to 15 per cent more pellets to be fitted inside the cartridge, which can obviously make a difference on pellet strikes. These shells come in boxes of 25 in a 3in, 38g load that is available in shot size 3 and also a 3½in shell in a 46g load in shot sizes 3, 1 and BB.
The diamond-shaped wad is designed to create better patterns on the target with the Hex shot carrying more energy to inflict killing strikes.
Winchester Drylok is another firm favourite among wildfowlers. It has a water-resistant cartridge with plated steel shot and a lacquered primer to help the cartridges perform, even in the wettest environments a wildfowler may face. The 3½in cartridge comes in boxes of 25 in a 44g load and in shot size 1, making it ideal for shooting foreshore geese.
Hull Cartridge makes a line of 3in steel shells that come in boxes of 25 in a variety of load sizes to cover a range of situations. The Solway Steel Magnum comes in 36g loads in shot sizes including 1, 3 and 4. This is another good shell that will cover a wildfowler for both duck and geese on the foreshore, with a velocity of 1,410fps.
The Lyalvale Express Max Steel load is a competitive goose cartridge. The 3in loads come in 36g in No.1 shot, which has great stopping power for geese, whether decoying or on the foreshore. As with a lot of steel shot, the thick plastic wads are designed to protect the barrels from the steel shot and help to get a good pattern on the target.
Going a step up from the Gamebore 3in Mammoth is its bigger brother, the 3½in. These are 42g loads that come in boxes of 10 in a variety of shot sizes: BB, 1, 2 and 3. These steel loads are ideal for flighting geese that are commonly at a farther range than decoying birds. The bigger loads and heavier pellets help to bring down geese cruising at a higher altitude. These are a very common shell used by many foreshore fowlers.
As with the Gamebore 3in Mammoth, the Eley Lightning is a great in-between round as the 3in shell comes in a range of different load/shot sizes. Eley makes a lighter 32g load with No.5 shot as well as a 36g load in shot sizes 5 and 3. As with the Eley VIPs that were featured in the duck cartridge round-up, the Lightning uses Eley’s SSB powder which excels in humid conditions, making it an excellent cartridge choice for fowling. These cartridges are classed as a high-performance load and pack enough punch for clean kills.
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