Vic Harker provides 6 of the best cartridges for early season pheasants to brighten up those dark wintery days

1. Hull Imperial Game

Voted game cartridge of the year in 2012, this cartridge sent an imperious message to the market that it was something special, right from the beginning. A combination of excellent patterns with moderate recoil makes them particularly suitable for English game guns. This load has achieved, and continues to maintain, a dominant and esteemed place in the cartridge market. Available in 26g, 28g and 30g fibre wad 5, 6 and 7, £267-£279 per 1,000.

2. Hull High Pheasant

Hull Cartridge Company has been manufacturing high-quality ammunition for over six decades and to a standard that has allowed for few rivals. High pheasants are not always created by their ability to climb to great heights, but very often from the altitude they take off from. On some shoots, therefore, the birds are always high and the High Pheasant load in 30g or 32g is the answer for sporting shots at a sporting range. Available in fibre wad 4, 5, 6 and 7, £285-£291 per 1,000.

3. Eley Grand Prix

This cartridge has certainly been the nemesis for more English pheasants than any other. Longevity doesn’t always guarantee consistent performance; however, Grand Prix continues to enjoy an enviable reputation amongst the most experienced of the game shooting fraternity. With 28g or 30g fibre-wadded loads, Grand Prix is the ideal early-season load which tens of thousands of British game shooters, past and present, would attest to. Available in 5, 6 and 7, £255-£330 per 1,000.

4. Eley VIP

A development of this manufacturer’s high-performance clay target loads, VIP game cartridges provide high downrange velocity and deliver excellent patterns. Not all early-season pheasants represent an easy shot, and in any case, the experienced shooter avoids them. So, for the more testing early-season bird, keep some VIP game in your cartridge bag. Available in 28g, 30g and 32g fibre and PDP (photodegradable plastic) 5 and 6, £271-£304 per 1,000.

5. Gamebore Pure Gold F2

From another formidable northern manufacturer that skilfully tailors cartridge loads for specific guns and quarry, Pure Gold is an ideal early-season pheasant load that can be used in traditional English game guns. It combines a 65mm (2½”) case, 28g or 30g of the company’s Diamond Hard Shot, moderate ballistics, and an environmentally-friendly fibre wad. Available in 4, 5 and 6, £260-£291 per 1,000.

6. Gamebore Super Game

Another 2½” load that ensures those light English game guns can deliver a heavy punch. The downrange performance is exceptional for this type of cartridge, and it offers the option of fibre or plastic wads in 28g, 30g and 32g loads. Available in 5, 6 and 7, £239-£260 per 1,000.