When it comes to pheasant shooting, leaving the best until last is very much a matter of natural selection. Darwinian principles are at work throughout the game season, so by the end of January only the strongest have survived.

Veterans hardened by countless battles over the Guns, these birds will take some stopping. Add to that the extra dimension of the deep valleys to be found in the west of England and you are looking at one of game shooting’s biggest challenges.

I’m not a regular member of the higher and higher club but I have a good friend in the West Country to whose estate I have an occasional invitation to shoot some high, wide and handsome pheasants.

When I received the call recently I decided to be more prepared than I have been on past occasions. A combination of a John Jefferies Perazzi HPX O/U together with a selection of cartridges from three of the UK’s very best ammunition manufacturers ensured I would have little excuse, if at the very least I didn’t contribute to a fair share of the bag.

Hull Cartridge High Pheasant Extreme

Everything about shotgun ammunition from this illustrious north of England company inspires confidence, right down to the boxes it is packed in. The 32g load with a fibre wad through the tight choked Perazzi provided a well-distributed pattern on the plate, which translated into a superb long range game-getter on the real thing. At the same time, the recoil through the 8lbs 5oz HPX was negligible. This load is not only effective on high pheasants at extreme altitude, it is also very comfortable to use – definitely an all-day cartridge for the high bird specialist.

Eley VIP

Late season high pheasants over West Country valleys require an ability to judge distances accurately and time your shot perfectly. Carving great arcs in the sky won’t get you there. If anything, you need to shorten your swing and then move decisively at the precise moment in time and space when you have the best chance of killing your bird cleanly. Needless to say, when you pull the trigger you must do it with complete confidence, and knowing that you are unleashing 36g of shot from an Eley VIP cartridge helps in that department. There is nothing like the plate glass window effect this cartridge has on high pheasants when you put the gun in the right place. That’s all down to you, but Eley, the great British cartridge manufacturer, has certainly done its part.

Gamebore Black Gold Game Ultimate Performance

I talked about the Darwinian principle earlier and this includes the way man evolves the means to meet new challenges, which is certainly reflected in Gamebore’s Black Gold cartridges. The challenge is the higher and higher pheasant and the evolutionary result is the Ultimate Performance load. This 36g cartridge is just the thing to have in your gun when you are out to prove that survival of the fittest is not guaranteed where late season West Country high pheasants are concerned. On the last drive of the day in deepest Cornwall, our quarry were just black silhouettes against the sky but, using Black Gold, a number of pheasants who were heading for a night’s rest in a warm covert instead found themselves destined to end up in a hot oven.

In all it was a great day out with some really great British cartridges and a fine Italian gun.

Tech Specs:

Hull Cartridge Company High Pheasant Extreme

Load: 32g

Shot Sizes: 4 & 5

Case Length: 70mm 2 ¾

Price: Fibre £269 per 1,000

Eley VIP Extreme

Load: 36g

Shot Sizes: 4 & 5 Case Length: 70mm 2 ¾

Price: Biodegradable wad £330 per 1,000

Gamebore Black Gold Game Ultimate Performance

Load: 36g

Shot Sizes: 4

Case Length: 70mm 2 ¾

Price: Fibre £331.75 per 1,000