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Deadly Dove Loads

by Scott E. Mayer   |  July 12th, 2011 35

Dove hunting in sunflowers.It will be dove season soon, and with the season will come a bounty of misses. Missing doves is legendary–so much so that I’ve seen hunters fire as much as a box of dove loads for each bird bagged. But there is a “magic bullet” to help you bag more doves that I’m going to share with you.  It’s steel shot.

Before you get agitated about steel shot, hear me out. Killing a dove is easy–hitting a dove is not. So to bag more doves, you have to increase your probability of hitting one. The easiest way to increase your probability of hitting one, is to put as many pellets at the highest velocity possible in the air.  More pellets in the air mean more chances of a hit, and higher velocity means shorter leads. When you’re dealing with a bird as swift as a dove, anything you can do to shorten the lead is going to help.  No one misses in front of a dove. The loads that best combine high pellet count and velocity are steel shot loads and here’s why.

Steel weighs less than lead.  That gives you a higher pellet count for a given shot charge weight.  For example, an ounce of #7 1/2 lead contains approximately 345 pellets. The same one ounce of #7 steel contains approximately 422 pellets–and that’s a hell of a lot more pellets. To get nearly the same pellet count as an ounce of #7 steel shot, you need to use 1 1/4 ounce of #7 1/2 lead. When it comes to velocity, you can drive a one ounce load at a higher velocity than a 1 1/4 ounce load.  See how nicely steel balances out pellet count and velocity?

I’ve listed my favorite 20-gauge dove handload below. It’s one I found in the many steel shot recipes at Ballistic Products and is one I like to call the “Dove Swatter.” I’m a garden-variety shotgunner, but with Dove Swatters, I’ve bagged as many as 12 doves with 20 shots. You don’t have to be a shotshell handloader to try steel shot on doves.  All of the major manufacturers load steel target loads that will work just fine.

Gauge Hull Primer Powder Charge Wad Shot PSI Velocity
20 Fiocchi Fio 616 Steel 24.5 grs. CSD20 3/4 os. #7 steel 9,600 1,500

Warning: The load shown here is safe only in the gun in which it was developed.  Neither the author nor InterMedia Outdoors assumes any liability for injury or damage that occurs from the use or misuse of this information.

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