Vic Harker presents his choice of the 10 best cartridges to guarantee clean, humane kills on those high-flying late season birds

credit: Archant

For the dedicated pheasant shooter, the month of January can provide the ultimate challenge. Only the strongest and perhaps the luckiest birds have survived – both wily and suspicious, they now keep their distance from the Guns whenever possible and only the shooter’s, or more usually the keeper’s fieldcraft, can make the difference between good shooting and a disappointing day.

Assuming everyone plays their part, the shooter’s careful choice of ammunition can provide the other ingredient for successful and enjoyable shooting. Here is my choice of cartridges for late season pheasant, which comprises the knowledge and expertise of some of the best and most successful manufacturers in the world.

credit: Archant

1 Hull Cartridge High Pheasant Extreme

A load that has gained an enviable reputation in recent years for both performance and consistency. Carefully matched components of the highest quality are blended together by the Bontoft family, displaying generations of experience in providing the British game shooter with not only what he wants, but the ammunition he needs.

Available in plastic and fibre wad 32, 34 and 36g No.4, 5 and 6, £348-£404 per 1,000.

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2 Hull Cartridge High Pheasant Extreme 20-bore

Advances in cartridge manufacture with the development of ever-more-effective components, encompassing both propellants and wadding, has ensured the 20-bore game load can be employed with even greater confidence. Hull Cartridge’s High Pheasant 20-bore load is a perfect example of this progress and can be highly recommended to the small-bore shooter.

Available in fibre wad 28, 30 and 32g No.5 and 6, £321-341 per 1,000.

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3 Lyalvale Express Supreme Game 12-bore

A game cartridge that has gained an excellent reputation for both effectiveness and consistency. This load can be confidently recommended for all 12-bore game guns with 2¾” chambers.

Available in plastic and fibre wad 28, 30, 32 and 34g No.5, 6, 6.5 and 7, £299-£374 per 1,000.

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4 Lyalvale Express Supreme Game Ultimate Power

A cartridge designed to provide tight, consistent patterns at long range. A single-base progressive powder provides high velocity with moderate recoil. Now available with a fibre wad and a fully biodegradable card obturator, obligatory for where plastic is restricted. A high-performance cartridge that combines long-range effectiveness with environmentally friendly materials.

Available in fibre wad 30 and 32g No.5, 6 and 6.5, £336-£359 per 1,000.

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5 ChedDite Elite

A superb load for the most testing circumstances where only the most efficient ballistics will provide success. As impressive in the field as on the pattern plate, from a legendary manufacturer with a wealth of experience few others can match.

Available in fibre wad 36g No.4 and 5, £366 per 1,000.

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6 Cheddite Special 20

A load that takes the 20-bore shotgun to new standards of efficiency. For the small-bore enthusiast who insists on the very best.

Available in fibre wad 36g No.2, 3, 4 and 5, £446 per 1,000.

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7 Eley Zenith

Long-range performance is provided by copper-plated shot that reduces pellet deformation to the absolute minimum. This ensures a more effective shot pattern with every pellet reaching the target in perfect condition. A pattern with every pellet counting is both more effective and, most importantly, more humane.

Available in fibre wad 30, 32, 34 and 36g No.4, 5 and 6, £359-£429 per 1,000.

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8 Eley VIP Game

A game cartridge that is available in every gauge from 28 to 12. Open the box and this cartridge shouts quality. On the pattern plate, this load’s potential was revealed, and two weeks later this was confirmed on some testing pheasants. A great cartridge at a very good price.

Available in PDP and fibre wad 28, 30 and 32g No.5 and 6, £309-£349 per 1,000.

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9 Fiocchi F3 GAME

A cartridge that has gained an enviable record among the game shooting fraternity. I found the 32g load with a fibre wad to be a perfect combo in most guns and circumstances. In my open-bored Brummie boxlock, this load was delivered effectively without the need for a tight choke, and is particularly useful in many old English guns.

Available in fibre wad 30 and 32g No.5 and 6, £269-£279 per 1,000.

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10 Fiocchi EXCELLENCE Pheasant

Fiocchi Pheasant makes a convincing claim for the ultimate long-range game load. A high brass head, this load delivered regular, well-distributed patterns in my gun, shot after shot. To be kept for only the most demanding circumstances, it’s an investment you will not regret when the birds are high, wide and handsome.

Available in plastic wad 36g No.5 and 6, £449 per 1,000.