More Thoughts on Ultimate Ruffie Shells

June 22, 2011 | By | 9 Replies More

Last month we asked for your thoughts about designing the ultimate ruffed grouse shells (plural). Based on those comments (thanks!) plus ones in a thread we started, we wanted to update things – from our perspective, of course.

In no particular order:

1. We’re not believers in spreader-type loads. We’ve used ’em, don’t like ’em. Your mileage may vary.

2. No way we’re using #8s. We’ve taken some grouse with #8 shot and they for sure don’t tear up woodcock like bigger shot can, but the smallest shot we’ll use for grouse at this point is #7.5. As one gent wrote, “I have shot a couple of grouse carrying #8s in their breast and will not use that small of shot.”

3. Re: the comment in the thread that “if you’re pulling feathers with #7.5s inside of 30 yards and not bringing down the bird, you just ain’t centering the bird,” all we can say is: uh, yeah. More often than not we’re not centering the bird…even though we’re trying! Grouse tend not to be the centering types.

4. Speaking of pulling feathers, a significant percentage of our ruffie shots are at birds going straight away or close to it. Those shots (and others) put the lie to the accepted wisdom that “all it takes is one pellet” to put down a grouse. Bigger, plated shot works better for those shots, one reason we like it.

5. At this point we like #7.5s usually for the first barrel only, maybe unless the cover is particularly thick and we’re taking two quick shots. We’ll use #7s in the first barrel or both barrels. For potentially longer shots in more-open cover – longer means 20+ yards because when the bird is 30 yards out it has usually vanished or doesn’t present a decent shooting opportunity – it’s #6. All shot we use in the grouse woods is plated.

6. We understand that non-plated lead shot spreads more, but aren’t convinced it penetrates as well. If you’re right on the bird, no problem, game over. But if you’re not, it’s a different story.

7. Penetration means through grouse and through cover. As we all know, there are very few clear shots at grouse!

8. Velocity isn’t as important to us as the size, type and amount of shot, and how it patterns – though last season we proved to ourselves that modern pheasant-velocity shells have no place in our grouse arsenal. We’ve also long since determined that low-budget shells don’t either. Premium shells with the right size and type of shot have worked best.

Lyman Says…

To finish this out (for now!) we’ll quote the Lyman Shotshell Reloading Handbook (5th Edition) from Serious Grouse Hunting, Book 1:

> #6 shot (1 1/8-ounce minimum load) is good for grouse out to 45 yards.

> #7.5s (1-ounce minimum load) is good for grouse out to 42 yards.

> #8 and #9 shot it lists as good only for smaller birds – notably woodcock and quail, out to maximum distances of 40 and 37 yards, respectively.

Lyman notes that the table’s recommendations are for shot that will “provide the necessary energy to penetrate to the quarry’s vital organs, while still maintaining the pattern density necessary to achieve the four or five pellet hits needed to kill cleanly.”

Note that Lyman didn’t address #7 shot because it’s not a common size.

Category: Ammo/shells, Ruffed Grouse, SBH

Comments (9)

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  1. Ned says:

    1 oz #6 early season (leaves, foliage, etc)

    1 oz 7-7 1/2 post foliage

    I use improved/mod early and switch to mod in the late season (spooky birds taken at greater distance)

  2. LRR says:

    The problem isn’t the shell or pattern. Go to skeet once a week from now til the season open, and shoot every station low gun. You’ll forget all about this shell thing real quick.

    I use 7.5 early, then 7.5 & 6 later. Chokes are C& I.C.,or C&C.

    Also, later in the season, when you get a bit more of a look, take shots at those far flushing birds if you see them. Often they’re in range, but look far out.

  3. UplandGuide says:

    If hunting Grouse and Woodcock I recommend to clients 7.5 shot, both barrels. If hunting Grouse only I recommend 7.5 in first barrel and 6 in second. Nickel plated shot is best, but, premium clay loads in 7.5 (AA and STS) work great.

    • Look no further for the ulitmate grouse shell. If you hunt the majestic king of the forest floor hopefully you are behind a brace of good staunch ground pounding shorthairs (if your not youve missed half your life)your shots will be under 35yds and similar to stations 1,2,6,7 or 8 that you should have been practicing low gun (unmounted) all summer,this load that I have worked up and had tested by ballistic products is second to none.

      20 ga. 2 3/4 fiochhi hull and primer
      1 1/8 ounce 7.5 copper plated
      21 grs longshot powder
      20 ga sporting wad /short/ from BP
      1290 fps

      this is Not a spreader ,but with half the payload in the shot cup and half out,it produces a unrivaled pattern with a loaded fringe (what 80% of birds are killed with) and a even core that wont render your centered shots unedible.
      I use this in a Beretta bl3 with skeet 1 and 2 for chokes. I have taken grouse cleanly in excess of 45yds on different ocassions. When the season gets late and the winter plummage is at its thickest simply swith to #7 shot. Trust me Ive spent hundreds of dollars and hours testing and paterning and this little jewel will knock em.

      • sproulman says:

        no need to use expensive premium shells on grouse.
        i use federal target loads low brass 3/4 oz,7=1/2 shot in my franchi 20ga.cost is 5 dollars a box at wal-mart.
        no need to go to 1oz or 1=1/8 oz.

        they pattern real good.
        secret is limit your shots to under 35 yds.
        use like a IC choke and practice your shooting.
        46 yrs hunting grouse in pa big woods and those expensive shells are not needed.
        you are not killing a turkey and it only takes 1 bb to head to kill a grouse.

        save premium shells for turkey/pheasant hunting.

  4. jim k says:

    i agree with sproulman.keep your shots around 35 yds on grouse and no need for expensive shells. federal target shells are all you need in 7 and 1/2 shot low brass 7/8 oz.

  5. Chaudhry says:

    #8, 3/4 oz 1200 fps for grouse
    #9, 3/4 oz 1200 fps for woodcock

    Target loads and same size shot all season with 28 ga choked C & IC

    Nothing over 25 yards. Rarely have to take a grouse at over 20 yards and the vast majority woodcock are between 10 to 15 yards.

    Open chokes and small shot with a decent bird dog works for me.

  6. jim k says:

    i have 46 yrs hunting grouse. no expert on shotgun shells only whaT WORKS.
    i like 20g for grouse.
    only time i used high brass in it was for turkeys.
    we used no.4 shot 7/8 oz and i killed a ton of turkeys.
    back to grouse.
    most grouse are shot at under 35 yds.
    expensive premium shells in my opinion are not needed.
    going over 7/8 oz shot is not needed also.
    most shotguns in 20ga shoot best with 7/8 oz load vrs 1 oz .
    there is 306 pellets in 7/8 oz shell.
    pattern your 7/8 load and most likely you will see well over 150 pellets at 40 yds in 30 inch circle.

    clean your grouse and see how many pellets it took to kill bird.
    most likely no more than 3 .
    i use federal low brass 7/8 oz shells i my 20ga.
    i did pattern the different shells and federals were the best.

    not knocking the more lead in air and more expensive shells.
    if you like that .go for it but io believe the 7/8 oz low brass is all you will need for grouse.

    i do go to no.6 shot in winter when my shots are at 30 yds but when the foliage is on , its 7 and 1/2 .

  7. Norm says:

    …… I am a very devoted advocate and fan of using #8 shot for Eastern Ruffed Grouse; this through a/my 26 inch barreled 28 bore double gun. … My shots are never taken at over 30 yards, never, mostly taken at 15-25 at best. … My chokes are set at Cylinder/Improved Cylinder. … A 1oz load (Winchester) of plain lead #8 shot at 1205 fps works just fine for me, this, every single time. … 410 pellets in the air all at once gives one the chance for a side or rear head hit shot. … It only takes one well placed (back; side of head) #8 pellet to bring any Eastern Ruffed Grouse down at 30 yards.

    …… I might also now wish to add something here. … I have been in pursuit of the Eastern species of Ruffed Grouse for some 53 years (1962) now come this Fall’s hunting season, this, here in upper New York state. … A small, but quick, light bore shotgun (16, 20, 28 or even the .410) loaded with light loads (3/4-1oz.) of #8’s is all it ever takes for successful Rough Grouse hunting/shooting here. … I do have to say thou that at age near 70 now I no longer pursue Grouse through to the very end of the hunting season here which ends the last day of February in New York state. … The late season hunting conditions after Thanksgiving in Northern New York change the entire picture of hunting up here.

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