Friday, January 23, 2009

Hunters endorse the use of Tungsten and special hybrid shot

By Jim Brewer For the News & Messenger

A fellow named Chesley Sullenberger went goose hunting last week in New York near the Hudson River. He used an Airbus A320 made for US Airways. He had a decent day. I think he got at least two. But there is an easier way to kill geese. Personally, I recommend shotguns.
When I first heard of the collision that sent several geese zooming through the jet engines of Sullenbrger's aircraft, I assumed that at 1,700 feet these were not resident geese, the pests that have taken over much of the eastern seaboard. Rather, they were undoubtedly migratory birds to be flying at that altitude. So barking dogs and scare crows which shoo away the local geese would not have had any effect on the unfortunate collision. It was just an unavoidable accident.
I also wondered exactly where the geese had come from. I used to think that geese and ducks flew more or less in a north/south direction when migrating. But that's not always the case.
Much of our waterfowl that flies over or lands in Virginia comes from the Midwest, as far as the Dakotas. My hunch is that the really cold air that came down from Canada about 2 weeks ago was responsible for moving the flock of birds that Sullenberger encountered. What a job he did landing that plane, by the way. Amazing.
The goose season – shotguns, not airplanes – is in full force here in the Commonwealth. In the Western Zone (west of I-95) hunters can bag five birds a day from now through February 14th. East of I-95, an area called the Atlantic Population Zone, the season ends January 24 and the limit is two birds per day. The duck season, by the way, ends January 24th statewide.
The US Fish & Wildlife officials have been generous with recent bag limits as they attempt to use hunters to thin an expanding population of resident geese, which are said to be entirely different birds than migratory Canada geese, Biologists say that migratory birds are a bit smaller, but otherwise look exactly the same, and their numbers are finally stabilizing after being threatened almost to the point of extinction.
The resident population, on the other hand, is made up of a bunch of homebodies. Geese that like to stay in one area. I don't have evidence to back me up on this, but the trend to warmer winters over the past 15 or 20 years may be a contributing factor. Local geese don't really need to fly anywhere. The weather has been mild and there are grain fields galore.
But the climate is getting colder, at least for the past two years. Perhaps that will push a few of our resident birds further south. We'll see.
To contain the geese, we really need more hunters, but many who shoot deer don't bother with geese. I guess it's the pain in the hunting pants factor. Goose hunting generally requires decoys, calls, blinds, a wallet full of licenses and special ammunition.
It's too bad because goose hunting is a great sport, the birds are delightful to eat when prepared properly and we need to radically reduce their numbers.
For those hunters who will be climbing into a goose blind in the next few weeks, I really encourage the use of Tungsten and special hybrid shot. As water fowlers know, non-toxic shot is required for ducks and geese, and most hunters use steel, primarily because it is less expensive. A box of 25 steel shotgun shells is roughly $25. A box of the new "Heavy Shot" can cost $30 or more for a box of 10.
But we don't shoot that many shells on a goose hunt. I would be ecstatic to know that I would get 5 or 6 shots, and that's only about $20. I spend more than twice that on a round of golf, not counting lost balls.
Steel shot is worthless in my opinion. It doesn't hold a pattern; it loses velocity rapidly; it has no clout for body shots; and the distance is severely limited.
The new hybrid shot, it's said, is as heavy as lead and does everything that steel won't do. Of course, if everyone shot a goose in the head and neck at 25 yards, there would be no reason not to use steel. But that doesn't happen often.
Geese fly much faster that you think, and most hunters don't lead the birds adequately. Therefore, many geese are hit in the body, and with steel, that often means a crippled bird. Tungsten will do the job and at much longer distances. Try it; you'll never use steel again.
And really, if you go goose hunting, use a shotgun.

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