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Thanks for the responses so far, but no one seems to have addressed my experiences with 9s staying in the bird much more than 8s or 7 1/2s. I'd appreciate any comments about that. I was attempting to convey, probably poorly, the whole bag of reasons I don't use 9s. I may have failed to emphasize how important the "flesh imbedded shot" issue is to me. I enjoy my birds on the table, and biting into shot takes away a great deal of that enjoyment. It happens from time to time, sure. But, not nearly as often with larger shot as with 9s.

I've no doubt that 9s work perfectly for any small game birds at 25 yards or less. It decks 'em. I've done so many times in the past, and seen my buddy do it. But, when you hit a going away quail, or woodcock, or dove, in the rear at 20 yards and you don't have him in the core of the pattern, and see him drop a leg but keep barreling away, then what have you got? You've got another load of 9s to now attempt to knock down a wounded bird at 35 yards? Not suitable at all to me.

Anytime we use anything other than a single shot gun on birds we should be considering what that second shot may be like, and giving it just as much weighty consideration as the first. We talk about hunting over dogs as if it guarantees close shots. Well, it does often close the distances to a degree on the first shot, at the flush. But, what then? How about second shots at a wounded bird, or even an opportunity to double, but the second bird is out of range of the 9s? How many will, or are happy to, say to themselves "Nope, can't take that shot with 9s"?

I'm slowly using up my stash of .410 reloads, with 9s, on rattlers and cottonmouths. Works fine on them, and if it leaves shot in the meat it's not an issue for me. I don't eat them.


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I don’t use nines on any game birds. Just not enough penetration to reach a vital. In the .410 I use 8’s, 7 1/2’s for 28 and above for birds. I do like 7’s for larger birds or later season when birds are bigger and feathers thicker. Early season Dove are well serviced with 8’s out to about 30-32 yards in my full choked .410. And to make sure of my ranges I do walk off and mark my shooting area with known distances from most angles of approach. The only times I shoot longer than that are when birds have clearly been hit by another and are leaving the field, perhaps to die unrecoverable. So I will try to dispatch them a bit beyond my normal shooting range. I hate waste of game birds.

I still use 9’s at skeet but nothing else. Plated shot does reduce feather dragging but it is expensive and hard to find for reloading. I long for the days when I could load copper plated 5’s for ducks and copper plated 2’s for geese. Those were the days to me.

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Stan, I’ve shot a lot of wild quail and have settle on #7 exclusively and also use it for dove and pheasants. It seems to be the closest to a perfect shot size for various birds. I too have experienced the poor penetration of #9 on quail and have seen way too many wounded birds fly off to die later. In fact, on the country I hunt I tell newcomers I don’t allow it to be used on our birds. Fortunately I have several lifetimes supply of #7 squirreled away for reloading.


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Stan,
Nothing really new to add from me, as I never really considered 9's for any bird. My go to loads are 8/7's right/left barrel early season Grouse and Woodcock and 7/5's later in the season. Speaking of which, Grousemas is just around the corner!
Karl

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Fewer shot in the bird at the table is reason enough for me to avoid #9 for any bird, large or small. For the same reason, I have never used #7 1/2 for pheasants or decoyed ducks. #6 is as good, even for close birds and there are fewer of them in the meat. Stan, my friend, thanks for bringing up this old debate.

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Originally Posted by Karl Graebner
Stan,
Nothing really new to add from me, as I never really considered 9's for any bird. My go to loads are 8/7's right/left barrel early season Grouse and Woodcock and 7/5's later in the season. Speaking of which, Grousemas is just around the corner!
Karl

I probably should have specified in my earlier post that I used 9 in my open-choked barrel and 7.5 in my tighter barrel for quail.

Early season pheasants got a 12 gauge with 6s in the open and 4 or 5 ( when available ) for follow-up.
Late season winter pheasants got 4 all around , as they flush earlier and have thicker plumage.
I anchored more than one bird with heavy 4s that were wounded by a companion.


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I always cleaned my own birds and could usually cut any shot out. Usually the shot would take a fragment of feather with it, making the entrance more evident. I won't say I didn't miss any, Stan, but I didn't miss many. Also took care of the bloodshot meat at the same time. When you have women and girl children involved in the cooking and eating of game, you make your life easier if you give them clean looking and "sweet smelling" meat to work with. I did use #9, along with 8s and 7 1/2s, but didn't show much preference between them, except didn't usually use the 9s on a dove field.
Mike

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I would like to watch someone "cut any shot out" of twenty five or thirty doves shot with #9 shot after a good shoot with friends. Wake me up in the morning so I can watch you finish up. I've been hunting birds for 65 years and I've never seen anyone "cutting the shot out".

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I purchased my first MEC loader, a used 600 Jr. as I recall, in 1969 from an avid quail and dove hunter; a guy named Bobby, a Viet Nam vet who'd lost part of his right hand in the war and who was upgrading his loading equipment. I knew nothing about reloading at the time and asked for "directions"; Bobby assured me that 1 1/8 oz. of #9 shot over a charge of 700X from a AA hull would be the perfect dove medicine. When I commented that I thought #9 shot might be a little light, his comment was that my 12-bore pattern would be so thick with shot that invariably I'd break a wing on virtually every bird hit; and although I'd probably be ringing more than my share of necks, recovery would be a very simple task. I found thru actual experience that his assessment was spot on; and as I gave most of my birds away anyway, I didn't care about imbedded shot. So I used #9 exclusively when dove shooting for several years before switching to mostly #8, and then to #7.5 for many of the reasons expressed herein (most of my shooting was confined to N. GA millet and wheat fields); but I've also killed wild quail, a few bunnies, and one old crow with #9 so #9 shot can be, and is effective when used in the right circumstances. Over the years I've experimented with a variety of shot sizes in 12-bore guns on dove, and whenever I'm serious about obtaining shot-free meat; I use #6 and even #4 shot, but #6 is my preference as the patterns are better. Either of those pellet sizes will penetrate a dove body thru and thru, and all it takes is one pellet strike. As to #7.5 and #8 shot pellets, I've lost count of the doves I've killed that had been wounded by those shot sizes; you start to clean the bird and discover a gangrenous area caused by a #7.5 or #8 shot pellet that failed to penetrate to the vitals and was imbedded and festering in breast muscle. I've often wondered how many birds are wounded in such manner each year that fly off and die from the resulting infections? I suspect very few recover well enough to resume flying. Based on my experience I doubt #9 shot wounds any more dove and quail that #7.5 and #8; and since a #9 is smaller, I suspect the recovery rate of birds wounded by #9 shot is higher than those birds wounded with the two larger shot sizes.

In my early un-informed and innocent reloading days, my arrogant B-I-L who was built like and seemingly as strong as a gorilla, called one day to inform me that he'd finally found a gun "man enough for him" and that he'd purchased all the shells the dealer had in stock. That gun was a 10-bore Spanish auto-ejector double gun with 3.5" chambers and 32" barrels; the shells consisted of 2 boxes (25 count) of paper hulled 3.5" magnums loaded with BB shot and 1 box of 2.875" magnum 4's. So I said great, now what are you going hunt with the gun (we didn't have geese in N. GA in those days); and he said he was taking the gun dove shooting as opening day was just around the corner. To which I responded, you're crazy; you can have the lead perfect but your pattern will be so full of holes the dove will fly thru unscathed. He hadn't thought about that little detail and asked if I had any suggestions. Being much more intelligent I said sure; meet me in at the shop (my reloading stuff was in the "shop"), so he did. Upon examining his Winchester shells, I declared a simple solution; all we had to do was pry open those star crimps, dump out the BB's, fill those hulls with #9, and reset the crimp. That's what we did, and with the hulls now filled to the brim with #9's we found the head of a 20 penny nail was the perfect tool to flatten the crimp; so using that nail and a hammer we tamped down and reset the crimps perfectly, then sealed same with dab of candle wax. He was now ready to take his prize gun dove shooting, but before doing so we felt it imperative that we test our reloading effort first. My B-I-L lived on a dirt road, so we stepped off approximately 100 yards; propped up a 55 gallon steel drum lid with a stick, and fired. Even at that distance the impact was sufficient to send the lid spinning. He commented on the recoil afterwards, but this was his new "man-sized" gun; so clearly additional recoil was to be expected, and was nothing a "real man" couldn't handle! Unfortunately we shot separate fields on opening day, but I saw my B-I-L afterwards and it was evident he had indeed found his "man-enough" gun. He was black, blue, green, and purple from his right elbow to the ear; I was able to restrain myself, but it was all I could do to keep from rolling in the dirt with laughter. He said that was the "kickinest" gun he'd ever fired, he'd actually been knocked on his butt several times; and even over the top of terrace row on one occasion. But by golly he'd bagged his limit! But give him credit for at least being stout enough to take the beating, as I learned he'd fired everyone of those doctored-up 3.5" shells; a normal intelligent man would have quit after the first shot.

I thought about that event afterwards and realized there's significant air space surrounding a 2 ounce stack of BB shot and virtually zero air space in a stack of #9's. I then recalled that our "reloaded" shells did feel quite heavy, so there could have been 3 ounces or more of shot in each one of those 3.5" mags; we never once considered that we should weigh the load. It's a wonder but the gun survived with zero damage, my B-I-L's bruises disappeared in a couple of weeks; and in the end his gun was proven "man enough". My father used to say that sometimes God Himself looks out for fools; He certainly did in that instance and we haven't tried that stunt again.

I also haven't hunted with or loaded #9 in years and years; but were I still shooting skeet, #9 remains my choice for 20-bore and smaller guns. Physical issues don't allow opportunities to shoot much anymore, but there's still a place for #9 shot in my opinion.

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"I would like to watch someone "cut any shot out" of twenty five or thirty doves shot with #9 shot after a good shoot with friends. Wake me up in the morning so I can watch you finish up. I've been hunting birds for 65 years and I've never seen anyone "cutting the shot out".

I suppose it's the difference in way we were raised Brother Eightbore, whenever I took home game taken with a shotgun, I make every effort to "pick" all shot pellets out of the meat as there's nothing worse than biting down on a shot pellet except for breaking a tooth when doing so.
My wife now refuses to eat small game because what I just described happened to her. Another reason to pick shot holes is to remove feathers and hair dragged into the meat by a pellet; which material will sometimes actually stop a pellet. No one wants to bite into a piece of game and find a pellet covered by feathers and hair. But apparently consuming shot is not harmful to humans as an elderly hunting bud went into the hospital for some issue and where he was X-rayed. The X-ray showed a number of shot shell pellets in his gut that he'd swallowed over the years; they'd just never been passed.

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