Best Ammo For Upland Birds

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Best Ammo For Upland Bird: Types, Tips, and Top Picks


 Unlike waterfowl and shorebirds, upland birds are found on dry land, often hidden by heavy ground cover. There are plenty of different species of upland birds, the most popular of which are quail, pheasant, grouse, and woodcock. Each bird tends to inhabit different landscapes.

For example, pheasants tend to be found in row crops or grasslands, while quail and woodcock are found in more boggy, marshy areas. Different game types can require different types of shotgun ammo; most of the time, choosing the cheapest option is not the best. It might save you some money but not get the job done when your shot isn’t going where you want it to.

One important part of upland bird hunting is choosing the right type of shotgun ammo for hunting. At first, picking the right upland hunting ammo can be confusing. Below are some things that you might want to consider:

  • distance that the birds will be shot
  • the type of birds you are targeting
  • making sure your ammo fits local regulations. 

Understanding Ammunition for Upland Bird Hunting

 All this shot size and shell length jargon can get confusing if you are a beginner.

When hunters talk about the shell length, this simply refers to the size of the shotgun shell loaded into your gun. The shell's length can determine the gun's power, performance, and recoil.

Another common phrase to learn is shot size. This simply explains the size of pellets in the shotgun shells. When picking out the shot size, it is essential to know that larger shots have fewer pellets.

The specific gauge, shell length, shot size, and material must be based on the type of hunting you are doing. If you are after the best ammo for pheasant hunts, you might be looking for a 2 ¾ shell length between a 4 and 6-shot size.

Another factor to consider when purchasing hunting ammo is what the pellets are made out of. A material like lead packs the most punch but can be restricted in certain areas. Steel shot is the other option that is required in wetland habitats. Since it is a lighter material, you need a larger shot size to match the performance than lead. There are also other non-toxic options like Bismuth and tungsten.

Choosing The Right Gauge

Another factor of upland bird hunting that should be considered is your shotgun gauge.

The most common and versatile gauge is the 12 gauge. It can handle big loads and take down any upland bird and is typically the best choice for hunting pheasants and other upland birds. However, some hunters have one issue with the 12-gauge: its recoil is too harsh.

The next closest size is a 16 gauge. This size sits in a particular situation where it can be the right gun if you want more power than a 20 gauge but not the harsh recoil of a 12.

Next is the 20 gauge. This lighter gun packs less recoil than the 12 and 16, making it popular for younger or smaller-frame hunters. Even lighter than the 20 is the 28 gauge. This gauge doesn't have the power or range, but it is highly accurate, making it a fantastic option for hunting quail.

Selecting the Shot Size and Material

 It is important to base your ammo on the type of upland bird you are targeting. The shot size can impact the density and length of your shot. Here are some shot types that are common with each upland bird.


No 4 to No 6. This size works well because they are larger birds and are a bit harder to take down. The larger pellets are more effective through thicker cover.


No 7 ½ to No 8. This works well since quail is super fast, and this shot size provides a denser pattern.


No 6 to No 7 ½. Grouse are typically found in wooded areas, and a good mix of dense patterns and smaller shot sizes is necessary for areas with thicker vegetation.


No 7 ½ to No 8. To penetrate the thick bush or wooded wetland, you need a dense shot pattern and a smaller shot size.

Some additional factors to keep in mind are the material of the shot you are using. Lead is one of the best options since it packs the most punch.

However, in some areas, it is illegal to use lead. Steel is another great option that is a bit lighter than lead but still works great. Some alternative, non-toxic options include tungsten and bismuth.

Top Ammo Brands and Their Offering For Upland Bird

 Three major brands run the world of hunting ammunition. Those are Winchester, Remington, and Federal Premium. These companies have been around forever, and they make amazing products. Some of the popular options for upland game include:


Winchester Super-X Pheasant

This ammo uses heavy loads of No. 4, No. 5, or No. 6 lead shot. It is designed for pheasant hunting and has a high velocity and effective pattern, perfect for taking down tougher pheasants.

Winchester Super-X Upland & Small Game

This ammo is available in different gauges and shot sizes, making it perfect for upland birds, including grouse and quail.


Remington Premier Nitro Pheasant

This load uses copper-plated lead shot for great long-range energy, perfect for any pheasant in thick cover.

Remington Game Load Upland

This is a classic ammo choice for any upland bird hunter. These shells offer great balance and performance for smaller game and upland birds. They are offered in different gauges and shot sizes.

Federal Premium

Federal Premium Wing-Shok

This is an amazing pheasant ammo option known to take down the toughest birds. It is offered in shot sizes ranging from No. 4 to No. 6.

Federal Premium Upland Steel

A versatile ammo that suits any upland game hunter.

Comparing Performance and Price

 When it comes to ammo, if you buy whatever is on sale, you might be missing your shots.

There is a direct correlation between the quality of ammunition and its cost. These companies have spent decades working on the best performance they can offer. All that research and development provides the best possible products. When buying a discounted item, you might also buy discounted performance.

There is a good middle ground where performance and price work together perfectly. A good measure to look at is the price per round. This could range anywhere from 25 cents a round to 5 dollars a round. Just like most other products in this world, buying in bulk does offer the best price. So it is best to test out a bunch of different options to find what you like, then go buy bulk.

Field Tips For Upland Bird Hunting With Optimal Ammo

 All hunters want to improve their shot accuracy in the field. This can be the difference between a great day and a no-fun hunt. Field accuracy involves understanding your environment and the ammo you use.

One key strategy is adjusting your shotgun's choke to suit your target bird and its distance. For example, a tighter choke is recommended for distant pheasants. Hunters must judge distance and pick their aiming point accurately. Things as simple as a light breeze can impact your shot.


All hunters are different, and over time, they find the best ammo for their upland bird hunting.

Winchester, Federal Premium, and Remington are the best companies to buy ammo. All upland birds are different, so adjust your ammo to match the type of birds you are targeting.

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