WHEN WE were younger, it seemed like a badge of courage when you would mount your single barreled, lightweight shotgun and absorb an unusual amount of shoulder-kick when you touched-er off!
And when we switched from our 20-gauge guns to the larger 12-gauge ones, shooting "high brass" Winchester loads was quite a hoot, providing some new black and blue bruises that we often liked to show off!
Later in life, when we were often involved in some high-volume shooting such as sea duck hunting, we were smart enough to find out that many of the semi-auto shotguns, especially the ones that siphoned off some of the hot gasses released at the firing of a shell, actually reduced the recoil considerably.
Laying out in a low-to-the-water layout blind, we had acquired a relatively new Browning (square back) semi-auto 12-gauge that featured a 3-inch chamber for the new three-inch loads. This gun was not the ideal gun for what we were doing! It was long, heavy and, being confined to lying down in the boat, kicked like a Kentucky mule!
In fact, one day when a flock of diving ducks invaded our decoys, swinging that big gun up quickly at a duck that had flared, the gun butt slipped under my armpit just at the time of recoil. As a result the square back of the receiver came to rest against my nose, which split open with a cracked nose bone to boot!
Speaking of boot, that gun was a champion at that. Shortly after that it got swapped in for a smooth-handling over/under that did have a bit of a kick when using the short, 2¾-inch magnum shells, but was controllable and not that bad when we went back to the standard, high-velocity loads.
When the new steel shotgun loads were mandated by law for waterfowl hunting, they were like shooting powder-puffs compared to the lead loads. They had hardly any recoil but they were disgustingly ineffective for making quick kills on heavily feathered waterfowl. But we had to use them.
In a recent movement to improve these steel shot loads, the manufacturers discovered that by using lighter (smaller) loads of pellets, they could increase the speed of the shot enough to make them much more effective in killing, instead of wounding. But the trade-off was a smaller load of shot to increase the velocity.
We had field tested the new Hevi-Shot loads that featured a tungsten and steel amalgam that worked very well but here it was the much higher price to produce that was unacceptable to many of us high-volume shooters. We loved it but really couldn't afford it.
Then Remington Arms came up with a super-fast waterfowl load called "Hypersonic" steel. Out of my lightweight 12-gauge over/under shotgun it was a killer - on both ends. It did kill ducks and geese instantly if you hit them. But the recoil was enough that we had to have a stocksmith rebuild the pistol grip as my middle finger was getting bruised badly by the trigger guard each time I pulled the trigger.
But that wasn't bad enough. Swinging on a goose that was flying from left to right and being right-handed, when I pulled the trigger with my swing as far as it would go, I dropped the goose but also ended up on my back as the recoil had knocked my off my swivel-seat bucket! I hurt my back but it wasn't that bad to have me switch off those deadly loads.
But that next week it happened again, this time there was a burning pain in my lower spine and my sacroiliac was indeed out of place and the pain was so intense I couldn't get off the ground without the help of my almost 7-foot tall buddy, Tom Wolters!
So off to the emergency room I went and, after some consultation, had some pain patches applied and advised to use plenty of ice. We still had a few days left of our hunt and, with the help of my buddies, was able to continue by sitting in a regular chair taken from camp. I had to stay away from any internal pain killers to be able to continue hunting.
The key here was that I switched to my little, special 20-gauge Remington ultra-light model 870. Using three-inch regular velocity loads, the recoil was manageable and luckily the waterfowl were decoying well within the 20-gauge's range.
Then the situation really improved. Using some of the few Hevi-Shot loads that I had saved, that 20-gauge became a real goose killer! In fact I shot a triple with two shots! My first shot taking down two birds and the second shot the third on, all clean kills!
We noted that Hevi-Shot loads are expensive. Of course that's a relative statement. But now they've come out with a mix of the tungsten pellets and steel pellets, and are pushing them at a good velocity without much recoil. In fact, with my very light 20-gauge they are mild. And they kill like their more expensive cousins, the Hevi-Shot loads. Hunting with that little 20 and having incredible success with the Hevi-Steel loads has made waterfowling so much more fun and has dropped my hospital expenses to zero, but I do miss interfacing with some of the young nurses.
Hevi-Shot did it to start and put the kill back in waterfowl loads. And now the new Hevi-Steel loads combine effectiveness with affordable and the Dickster is back in action, kicking some butt instead of being kicked on my butt!
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.