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Looking to plan a trip to SD in 2025. I live in PA and use a 28ga for stocked pheasants and grouse. I friend of mine told me not to use anything less the a 12ga for pheasants in SD. Any truth to this?? I get they are going to be way faster than a stocked bird but if you're slow, you're slow! Any info is greatly appreciated.

Thnx!!

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A 28 or 20(what I shoot) will smoke wild birds. I use #5' or #6's. Just use the correct choke for your intended distance. A dog is a must.


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Interesting, I've used a 12, 16 and 20 for SD, WI, MN, WA and MT wild pheasants, I use 1oz of 5s or 6s in all of them, not much difference. Light weight guns behind good dogs.


After the first shot the rest are just noise.

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12ga - 16ga - 20ga - 28ga

Which ever you shoot best. If you do your part each will kill pheasants.

Pheasants hit the ground running if you wound them. Sucks to lose them.

FYI- You will need lead and non toxic shot in SD depending on the areas you hunt. That may help you choose your gauge.


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I've been using a 16 SxS up there and prefer 1 1/8 oz 5s in the 1220-1250 velocity range. 1 oz 5s doesn't contain all that many shot pellets and needs a bit tighter choke to fill the holes in the pattern. If you look at the charts, it takes about 1 1/4 oz 5s to have the same pellet count as 1 oz 6s. When carrying the 391 12 ga I like 1 1/4-5s in the old 3 1/4 dram - 1 1/4 type homeloads.
Last year my son cheesy used a couple new 20s with 1oz-6s and since he's a pheasant magnet he got more than I did.

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Time of year, cover type, daily weather, hunting pressure, hatch success, non-toxic shot requirements, quality/type of dogs, personal desires, and a host of other reasons including luck will determine what gun/bore is best. One's individual goals, personal skill, expectations, and those of the group, if any, also play a factor. Over the decades I've had my best success with guns capable of an ounce and an eighth of #5 to an ounce and a quarter of #4 shot at 1200-1250 fps when using lead shot and something that handles 1 1/4 oz of steel #2 at 1400+/- when non-toxics are required.

Day in, day out in all conditions and times of year this has meant a 16 or 12 ga gun for the most part. I've used smaller bores and often bring one when hunting early season in North Dakota or Nebraska where shooting hours start much earlier than elsewhere and cover is not overly thick but doing so at other times and places often does limit one's opportunities. I have found the larger shot sizes to produce fewer lost birds as penetration and "shock" is better at all ranges and is especially important when it's cold out as velocities drop off as temps do. At close to medium range that same penetration often has the pellets exiting the bird meaning fewer pellets to dig out.

As for non-toxics, I've been more than satisfied with the above load of steel shot. An ounce and an eight of #3 steel is nearly as good and is what I use if limited to 2 3/4" shells. I've used pretty much all the other non-toxics but find they are not worth the extra cost over steel. The exception is if one is using something smaller than 12 ga then it is the only viable option.

Bring your 28 if you want, it might be just the ticket at times. But bring something more capable as conditions may work against you and you might find the larger bore more capable.

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Growing up and hunting pheasants in Iowa and SD for decades, I’ve come to some conclusions about all of this, for me anyway.

There is a lot of walking in non-preserve pheasant hunting. Like 5-6 mi a day or even more on uneven ground or in cattail marshes or in brushy corn fields with laid-over stalks which might trip you. You don’t need a heavy gas-operated SA or any 12 more than 6 lb 12 oz. A 16 should be no more than 6 1/2 lb and a 20 at 6-4 or even less. So you know about where an 28 would come in as to my preferences. And I could easily go less on these. For me, this means inertia operated SA’s or O/U or SxS with aluminum alloy recievers. And it means guns built with gauge-appropriate frames.

On SA’s I like 24-26” barrels. On two-tubers, I’ll go 26-28”

One doesn’t need an all steel gun that may be high quality and built like a tank but that at the end of the day carries like one also. Aluminum alloy receivers for these upland shotguns are fine (all the clay shooting competition sports are a completely different story as is waterfowl hunting from a blind).

Of course fit is always exceedingly important.

As to loads, a 1 1/4 oz 4,5,6’s in the 12; a 1 1/8 load of 5,6’s in the 16, and a 1 oz load of 6, or 7 1/2’s in early season will all work. Most will be in the 1220 to 1330 fps range. I will not shoot steel in my guns and opt for Bismuth or Tungsten Matrix. I know they are expensive but so was your 60k truck and the yearly layout for other gear and your dog. They are much more effective than steel and won’t send you to the dentist if you bite into one.

The loads I think are highly unnecessary are the newer 12 ga 2 3/4” loads of 1 3/8 oz at nearly 1500 fps. They will beat you up in an inertia gun and as Elmer Keith once commented, “what’s it good for?”

Look how persnickety one can get as they get older..😉

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Few Pheasants can survive being hit by a well pointed load of 5 or 6 shot. Be it from a 12, 16, 20 or 28. At reasonable ranges, I'v also found it makes little difference if it is from lead or bismuth. Reasonable being the qualifier. And few are good enough to consistently center Pheasants once they get around 40 yards out. Very few. And most claimed 40 yard kills are actually much closer.

TTS in 8 or 9's....If one is willing to pay.

And if you are where the Birds are....There is no need to shoot at every one that you may be able to scratch down. There will be enough that get up close enough to make the day.

Last edited by battue; 06/05/24.

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Agree George,

The price of shells by the time I drive to SD and back is little more than as a friend says...."Nothing more than another bag on the Queen Mary."


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You tube: Lilbrowhydaw and JCW Outdoors

If you are going to hunt public land or have a farmer that limits hunters, then these two shows are well worth looking at. If you are going preserve then not so much. If going preserve understand....the majority of your Birds will be released.

It’s no different than Pa…. You want to bring in hundreds of hunters, then you need to put out Birds.

You have your own Dog and want to hunt….then open up Dukxdogs Birddog Bunkhouse link.

Last edited by battue; 06/05/24.

laissez les bons temps rouler
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Thanks. No plans on going to a preserve. I can shoot released/stocked birds here in PA

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Then other than a private farm, this may be the best deal in South Dakota….

https://www.facebook.com/BirdDogBunkhouse57442/


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I’ve used 12s, 16s, and 20s on wild SD birds. Shot sizes from 2 thru 7 1/2 lead.

Like all other bird shooting I find that gun fit counts for much more than payload, velocity, shot size, or choke.

My last trip up I shot a limit three days in a row with a Mod choked 20 and 1oz Federal 6s. If you can hit center them it’ll kill them.

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Thanks for all the info. I love my CZ 28ga wingshooter and I about a month ago I bought a Benelli SBE 3 in 28ga so I'll be taking them both and will most likely throw in a 12 or 20ga to go along with.

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Let us know how it goes


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Originally Posted by flyphishr
Thanks. No plans on going to a preserve. I can shoot released/stocked birds here in PA

There are places in sodak that advertise wild birds. Wild in their case meaning they’re not now in a cage. Clues are seeing almost all roosters, poor flying, birds that flush are shot at and missed and they fly a big arc right back to the shooters. I’ve seen all of these.
I’ve hunted wild birds in several places in sodak where the birds were not wild, though they were advertised as wild. Nothing wrong with hunting pen raised birds, but I can do that in multiple places within an hour from my house, instead of a six hour drive.
I’ve used all gauges 28 and larger on pheasants. In my view, the 28 is a max 30 yard gun on pheasants. The other gauges stretch the yardage out to 40 or a tad more. I prefer 16 ga with 1 1/8 ounces of #5 or 12 ga with 1 1/4 #5. Good luck.

Last edited by dale06; 06/12/24.

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