Vic Harker presents his selection of the best cartridges to tackle those high flying pheasants which, teamed with good judgement, will help ensure clean humane kills

There was a time not so very long ago when a 40-yard pheasant provided the ultimate test for both the shooter and his cartridges. The ambitions of most shooters have never stretched far beyond that distance, but evidence now suggests that with some modern ammunition birds can be taken at significantly longer ranges.

This month’s cartridge selection represents those that the manufacturers recommend for birds at longer ranges. It is, of course, the responsibility of the shooter in the field to judge and decide whether or not the shot they intend to take is both sporting and humane.

As to the matter of their own safety, they should check that the ammunition they propose to use is compatible with the gun in terms of chamber length and proofing. If you have any doubts, I’d recommend you take a visit to the local gunsmith to put your mind at rest.

1. Clever Game: For those shooters with short-chambered guns looking for a cartridge with extra knock-down power, Clever Game with a 2½” case and a 34g shot load could be the answer. Easy on you and your gun, and this load is a real game getter at the same time.

Available in fibre wad 34g, No. 4, 5 and 6, £310 per 1,000.

2. Clever Royal Game: A longer cartridge for pheasants at range, this 2¾” load with No. 4 shot is the perfect partner for your long-chambered over-and-under or side-by-side.

Available in plastic wad 36g, No. 4, 5 and 6, £317 per 1,000.

3. Eley Zenith: A cartridge that will put you at the top of your game, Zenith is an ideal high-bird cartridge. Its copper-plated shot ensures every pellet reaches the bird in perfect shape for maximum knock-down power.

Available in fibre wad 30, 32 and 36g, No. 4, 5 and 6, £350-£418 per 1,000.

4. Eley VIP: Top shots choose VIP when performance is very important – which, of course, is every day! Those precious moments on the moor or at covert side are further enhanced with this fast, clean, hard-hitting load.

Available in fibre and plastic wad 28, 30 and 32g, No. 4, 5 and 6, £306.50-£347.50 per 1,000.

5. Hull Cartridge High Pheasant Extreme: A load for high birds that continues to set a benchmark for both performance and consistency that few come close to matching. With more than 70 years of meeting the requirements of the most discerning sportsmen, Hull’s High Pheasant Extreme continues to maintain the highest standards of manufacture and performance.

Available in fibre and plastic wad 32, 34 and 36g, No. 4, 5 and 6, £346-£398 per 1,000.

6. Hull Cartridge High Pheasant Extreme 20 bore: All the qualities of performance and consistency for which this maker is famous, incorporated in a 20-bore load that takes small-gauge performance to new levels of effectiveness.

Available in fibre wad 28, 30 and 32g, No. 5 and 6, £318-£346 per 1,000.

7. Fiocchi Golden Pheasant: Another European manufacturer whose 32g load in a 67mm case and a high brass head is as effective as it looks. A nickel-plated shot load that holds its pattern at range, which is essential to the high-bird shooter, it can make the difference between an average day’s shooting or one you will remember.

Available in fibre wad 32g, No. 5 and 6, £306.50 per 1,000.

8. Fiocchi Pheasant Excellence: Another 36g load that, when used judiciously in suitable circumstances, can be both effective and humane – a crucial point that should always be taken into consideration when discussing ammunition for game shooting – and then paired with sound judgement and restraint.

Available in plastic wad 36g, No. 5 and 6, £445 per 1,000.

9. Lyalvale Express Supreme Game: A high-performance load from Express, Supreme Game with its 65mm case provides a hard-hitting cartridge which is very effective in short-chambered game guns. A superb load with a fibre wad combines an eco-friendly cartridge with game getting patterns.

Available in fibre and plastic wad 28, 30, 32 and 34g, No. 5, 6, 6.5 and 7, £296 - £371 per 1,000.

10. Lyalvale Express Supreme Game Ultimate Power: The famous Midland maker’s new top-of-the-range cartridges feature a denser and thereby heavier shot, a velocity of 1,480fps, and a progressive powder with great energy. On the pattern plate, results were impressive, and in the field even more so. I predict we will be hearing a lot more about this cartridge’s performance during the season.

Available in fibre wad 32 and 36g, No. 4, 5 and 6, £359-£412 per 1,000.

11. Gamebore Black Gold Game: An outstanding game cartridge combining a 28g shot load with a fibre wad and a muzzle velocity of 1,500fps, meaning your classic English gun will pack a punch. For those shooters looking for both tradition and performance, this cartridge may turn out to be the perfect choice.

Available in fibre and plastic wad 28, 30, 32, 35 and 36g, No. 4, 5 and 6, £310-£401 per 1,000.

12. Gamebore Regal Game: First introduced in 2014, this load is now a market leader among the game-shooting fraternity. A combination of clean, fast-burning F2 powders and nickel-plated shot ensures well-distributed patterns are consistently delivered to the bird. A 65mm case with a nickel head ensures clean, fast ejection for the next shot.

Available in fibre wad 28, 30 and 32g, No. 5 and 6, £299.75-£330 per 1,000.