We’re hunting ducks in the Jacobin Valley game reserve with our friends and colleagues from all4hunters.com in Emilia Romagna (Italy). The owner Matteo treated us to a delicious lunch after the hunt, but that’s another story.
Getting back to the plot, we made the most of a cold December morning to test the ballistic performance of shells loaded with pellets made of special alloys, an alternative to lead. The excellent results more than met our expectations.
It was a difficult hunt with extremely low visibility and very wily ducks
The valley greeted us with a dense fog that limited visibility a lot, and as a consequence also the maximum range of our shots. But we didn’t lose heart, and took extra care positioning our decoys in the freezing December waters at 5.00 a.m. in the morning.
We then retreated to our hide to wait, rocked by the sound of the water softly lapping against the banks and the calls of our decoys. We took the opportunity to check and load our 12 / 70-gauge guns with the shells we’d chosen to use, with copper, steel and tungsten pellets.
The first ducks took their time to arrive, perhaps due to the cold which doesn’t make for ideal flying conditions. Our decoys started calling, warning us of their arrival. We scanned the sky, well aware that this time it wouldn’t be easy.
The first ducks passed fast without warning. They appeared suddenly out of the fog, passing quickly and giving us just a few seconds to shoulder the gun, take aim and fire.
These are seasoned ducks that know a hunter’s tricks and have probably already survived other hunts. There are no words to describe the satisfaction of a shot that brings a bird down at the very limit of the range in these conditions.
Which guns and shells did we use?
We each chose quite different semiautomatic shotguns. The use of a 12-gauge was all but obligatory as we knew we’d be taking difficult shots, as was in fact the case.
Everyone used the same shells though, and we took the opportunity to test the special Baschieri & Pellagri alloy pellets. These are designed for places where the use of lead pellets is forbidden and to give hunters the best possible chance of bringing their game down.
Valle Steel and Dual Shock in the first barrel
For the first barrel we used Valle Steel shells loaded with steel pellets and Dual Shock, special shells loaded with a 32 gram load of No. 6/4 copper pellets. Mixing the pellet size in a load produces a very compact spread with the larger pellets pushing the smaller ones.
Shots taken at the very limit of our range: time for the Dual Shock Magnum
As the shots became more and more difficult due to the bad weather conditions, but more than anything because of the shrewdness and winter plumage of the ducks, we decided to change shells.
We loaded our semiautomatic with Dual Shock Magnum shells with 34 and 36 gram loads of No. 5/3 pellets, sacrificing a bit of velocity for more stopping power at limit ranges.
Last but not least the Mg2 Tungsten
It was almost midday and the conditions were still very difficult, we decided not to take some risky shots. For this reason we switched to MG2 Tungsten loaded with tungsten pellets.
The ballistic performance of this material is excellent as it weighs more than lead, the pellets are very hard and compact with notable penetrating power, ideal for waterfowl at the end of the season with heavy plumage.
The final verdict?
Our game-bag certainly wasn’t the biggest, but it was one of the best duck hunts of the year. We had to take shots at the very limit of our range, but they were in any case effective thanks to the excellent guns and shells that met our expectations.
For us it was obvious, if you know how to choose the right alloy as an alternative to lead for the various situations you might encounter on the hunt, you won’t miss traditional lead pellets.