When it comes to shooting high pheasants the most important thing is having experience.
Lead is important. However maintaining a good line is crucial as the birds can slide a long way in between you pulling the trigger and the shot reaching the birds.
And as it’s a rare style of shooting for many Guns, practice really does improve one.
Practice for the high pheasant at clay grounds
Few clayshooting grounds will do a 60-or 70-yard clay off a high tower. But ask for a crossing clay at that distance and you’ll get a decent idea of how far in front you need to be.
Barrel length is not that important a factor in range. But the length of the barrels will affect the handling of the gun, so you may well feel out of place shooting a gun with 25″ barrels.
Using longer barrels will help you maintain a good line. But don’t turn up on a rare high bird day with a heavy over–and-under gun with 32″ barrels when you’re familiar with a 28″ side-by-side game gun.
It’s best to stick and shoot with what you know in this instance.
Range of a modern 12 bore shotgun
Maybe George Digweed can break a clay at a distance of over 100 yards but you need to think about the actual range of a modern 12 bore shotgun. Breaking a clay at 100 yards plus is not the same as killing a pheasant.
The versatility and quality of modern cartridges mean that most shotguns are quite adequate up to 50 yards without a change of chokes. If you put the shot in the right place even a 28gram load will be effective.
What about the more extreme birds at 60, 70 and even 80 yards and over?
How easy is it to tell the difference between a 60-yard bird and a 70-yard bird when they are right up over your head.
You do hear of people shooting over-and-under guns with 32″ barrels, full chokes and 52gram loads killing one bird in 10. If you ask me most of those birds were simply out of range.
And it’s down to sheer luck if you hit anything above a 70-yard bird.
In my view you shouldn’t shoot with full choke. With a big cartridge you’ll blow your pattern – half and three-quarter should suffice.
Pellet size is more important than cartridge size. But again, shoot only with what you’re confident with. A larger pellet will retain its kinetic energy and killing power at longer ranges.
For the more extreme birds I would argue a 32gram No. 4 or No. 5 would be appropriate. You could go slightly heavier and move up to a 34gram.
But be prepared! On high bird shoots there tend to be a lot of shots. So ensure that your gun has been fitted properly and that you are ready to shoot with heavier cartridges. Otherwise at the day’s end you might have a painful shoulder and be booking a visit to the dentist. Having an extra recoil absorbing pad might also be an idea.
Choose a 20-bore and you’ll need to be at the top of your game. I’d recommend you shoot with a 12-bore. If you miss you won’t wish you were using a 20, but if you miss with a 20 you might well find yourself thinking you stood a better chance with a 12.
Guns specifically made for high birds
These are guns like the Perazzi HPX with 34″ barrels. Excellent guns but not suitable for everyday shooters.
But if you decide to go along this path, then you will need to practice with these guns to get the results you want. This is because although they are well balanced, the handling characteristics will be different from what you are used to. So will your sight picture when shooting, as much more of the barrels will appear in your vision.
Holland & Holland Royal Pigeon Gun £12,500
An unusual gun and excellent for high bird shooting with 30″ barrels, 2¾” chambers and three-quarter/ full chokes.
Pigeon guns from the big British gunmakers are highly sought after, being made specifically for live pigeon shooting which was a popular sport in the early 20th century.
Live pigeon guns were made to be heavier, sturdier guns for use in competitions, yet were made to the same high standards.
This gun was manufactured in 1918 and has all the appeal of a classic London gun of the era, but with the ability to quite happily handle heavier modern cartridges.
It is a full nine-pin sidelock and features bold acanthus engraving throughout the action.
There are double triggers, which will appeal to the more traditional game shot, and the dark, well-figured wood adds enormously to the overall aesthetic appeal of the gun.
The butt of the gun has been extended at some point in its lifetime, though very sympathetically, and the gun will be very reliable.
It is noticeably heavier than a normal Holland & Holland game gun, with very thick barrels and solid action body.
Though heavier, the gun is superbly balanced and comes to the shoulder quickly but allows for a very deliberate swing.
Browning DG4 207 Game shotgun £13,000
Absolutely ideal for a high pheasant day but also useful for all types of shooting. Superbly built and balanced and a pleasure to shoot with.
It has 30″ barrels with 3″ chambers, and a nice 8mm wide game rib which creates an excellent sighting plane.
This particular gun comes with Teague chokes which are the best you can buy as they are made individually for each gun they are fitted to.
There is a rounded pistol grip, which allows flexibility in the wrist on straight driven birds.
The fore-end has a delightful slim tulip finish, which is very comfortable in the hand.
Finishing is of a very high standard, with bold game scene and scroll engraving.
The ejectors are also very strong, really kicking the cartridges out rather than pushing them as is the case on some over-and-unders.
Arrieta Crown shotgun
This 20 bore side-by-side shotgun would enhance any shotgun cabinet and is ideal for high bird shooters looking for a challenge.
It is a full nine-pin sidelock, and has a capped Prince of Wales pistol grip stock. Unusually it is a single trigger gun and weighs in at 6½lbs, which is rather heavier than usual for a 20-bore.
This extra weight coupled with long barrels will help to generate a smooth and steady swing, making it ideal for higher birds. All the engraving on these models is finished by hand, which sits beautifully alongside the well-figured wood.
Three guns that all handle superbly