Since the bird’s introduction to North America, pheasant hunting has been a beloved pastime. It offers hunters an exciting pursuit across some spectacular country. There is a lot to consider when choosing a shotgun for your pheasant hunt. With a range of gauges and actions available, much of what determines your ideal shotgun is up to personal preference and the terrain you plan to traverse.
Find your gauge
The best gun for your pheasant hunt is something you can efficiently operate and carry with you over long distances. Pheasants don’t require a high-end firearm to hunt effectively. A popular, easy-to-find choice for hunters is the 12-gauge shotgun. 12s are great for a variety of upland hunting like quail, pheasant, and dove, as well as waterfowl or turkey. If you are looking for a versatile shotgun, consider choosing this gauge. A bevy of shells and loads are available at this gauge and tend to be cheaper and easier to find than other gauges.
Some hunters prefer 16 or 20-gauge shotguns for their small frame and lightweight. These smaller options provide lighter weight for your trek and a more agile firing experience. Though some consider the 16-gauge to be the ideal upland shotgun, finding reasonably-priced shells and loads for these may be a bit tougher than 12-gauge varieties.
Consider the action
Pump-action shotguns deliver reliability and ease of use for hunters, so they make a good choice for beginners and hunters who want something easy to clean and maintain. Pump-action is standard and can be found more quickly than other types of shotguns. They also work well in almost any weather.
Semi-automatic shotguns provide hunters the third shot without having to pump. That third shot may be what you need to take down your targets, though pheasants are usually out of range by the time you can get that third shot off. Advancements in gun making have allowed semi-automatic shotguns to become lighter. However, be aware the action can jam more quickly than a pump shotgun. Semi-automatic shotguns are incredibly versatile, so consider choosing one of these if you plan on using it for more than just pheasant hunting.
Break action shotguns allow for double-barrel varieties that some hunters prefer. Though double-barrel shotguns are typically heavier than their single-barrel counterparts, they make it possible for hunters to fire two blasts in quick succession. Some hunters even apply a wider choke to the first barrel and a narrow choke to the second.
Double-barrels are available side-by-side or over/underbuilds. Some hunters prefer to look down a narrow sighting plane with an over/under, while others choose side-by-side double-barrels for their wider expanse. Additionally, all break-action shotguns allow hunters to break and store their guns while crossing rugged terrain quickly.