Best Tree Stands for Bow Hunting 2021

Best Tree Stands for Bow Hunting

There is a wide variety of tree stands on the market and we’ve narrowed it down to the Top 5 bow hunting tree stands for you to peruse.  A quality stand is one of those bow hunting accessories which can make the hunt more enjoyable, safer, and at the end of the day, more successful.

There’s a range of prices in this Top 5 bow hunting tree stands list so you can match your budget to one of the best and definitely get your money’s worth.

1. Lone Wolf Alpha Hand Climber II Combo

Check Latest Price

There’s a lot to like about this lightweight climbing tree stand.  It packs to just 2.5 inches thick and is remarkably lithe at 14.5lbs. The cast aluminum platform offers a generous 4+ square feet of standing room, enough to give you the positioning and angle you want for the perfect shot.

Other important features of the Alpha Hand Climber II Combo from Lone Wolf include the unique 3-D platform design for better secrecy, the bow holder molded into the platform, the backpack straps that make transporting it much easier, and the comfortably contoured padded seat with included fasteners.  This tree stand fits trees with 6” to 19” diameter and is rated to 350lbs.

2. API Outdoors Grand Slam Extreme Climbing Treestand Model ACL405A

Check Latest Price

This comfortable and sturdy stand features Alumni-Tech design that combines lightweight materials with rugged construction.  The welded aluminum frame is very quiet and provides a secure 20×27 inch platform for mobility and comfort.

The padded climbing bar, armrest, and adjustable seat make this a good choice for long days waiting for that premium buck to swagger into range. Other top features include the power-grip chains for trees from 9” to 20” in diameter, the folding footrest for climbing ease and comfort, traction ridges on the platform and the triangular extrusions which act to enhance strength while reducing noise. It includes backpack straps and a bag for your bowhunting accessories.

The API Outdoors Grand Slam Extreme Climbing Treestand is rated to 300 lbs.

3.  Lone Wolf Assault II Hang On Treestand

Check Latest Price

Lone Wolf makes the list again, this time with a lightweight hang-on stand with 3-D camouflage platform and cast bow holder that fits most parallel limb compound bows.

At just 11lbs, getting this stand to your hunting zone is easy, especially with the included backpack straps.  Once you get there, the 14”x21” padded seat offers more comfort as you await your prey.

The one-piece cast aluminum platform offers 26”x19.5” of room.  A TMA-approved fall arrest system is included. The Assault II Hang On Treestand from Lone Wolf fits trees up to 22” in diameter and is rated to 350lbs.

4. Summit Viper SS Climbing Treestand

Check Latest Price

The seat on this Summit treestand is adjustable to fit your style whether bow hunting or gun hunting.  Or remove the seat altogether if you’d prefer, with just a few quick steps.

A solid front bar is useful for climbing and works as a padded gun and armrest.  The Summit Viper SS Climbing Treestand package includes a 4-point safety harness, Rapid Climb stirrups and the ropes and straps you need to secure your stand to trees up to 20” in diameter.

This stand is a bit heavier than most at 20lbs, but it offers a large 20×28.75 inch platform and comfortable padded seat that goes 18×12.  The comfortable backrest is 12×20.  The Summit Viper SS is rated to 300lbs and comes with a 5-year limited warranty.

5. Gorilla New Greyback 47027Climber Treestand

Check Latest Price

This is a deluxe tree stand, though heavy at 27lbs.  Still, if your trek from the truck to the tree isn’t too long, assisted by adjustable backpack straps you’ll have a very comfortable and roomy treestand to hunt from.

The platform is 18×30 inches, the seat is 18×12 and the backrest is 12×20. This is a versatile stand with 2 accessory bags that can be detached to take with you.

The steel construction accounts for the weight, and also the strength of the unit rated to 300lbs. Pivoting arm grips work well on trees from 8”  to 20” in diameter.  For quiet, comfortable stability, the Greyback 47027Climber Treestand from Gorilla earns a spot on our Top 5 bow hunting tree stands list for this season.

Climbing vs Fixed bow hunting stands – Which is better?

Hunters enjoy a good debate about equipment and you can always get one started by asking “Climbing vs fixed bow hunting stands–which is better?”

Both types have their supporters and much of it comes to personal taste, agility, comfort level, and hunting conditions.

In this guide, we offer an overview of how climbing stands and fixed stands work, then address the pros and cons of each one and end by suggesting who should use each type.

Climbing Bow Hunting Tree Stands

In recent years, climbing stands have grown in popularity as better designs make them easier and safer to use. Climbing bow hunting stands consist of 2 platforms, each with a brace that is opened, fitted around the tree, and re-secured.

A seat or step below the bracket fits snug against the tree and when downward pressure is put on the seat of step, the tension holds it firmly in place. When the seat or step is lifted, the tension is released and the platform can be moved up or down.

The hunter pushes the seat platform up and secures it against the tree, putting his weight onto it to hold himself. Using his feet, he loosens the lower/step platform and slides it up the tree.

He stands on the step and moves the seat up again. In this way, the hunter climbs the tree in incremental, inchworm-like steps until the right height is reached for the climbing bow hunting stand.

Fixed Bow Hunting Stands

Fixed bow hunting stands are also called hanging bow hunting stands. They feature platforms that attach securely to the tree with the use of chains or straps.

The back of the platform is usually straight or slightly curved to accommodate the curve of the tree. To hang the bow hunting tree stand, the hunter can climb the tree if the tree is suitable. Otherwise, a lightweight ladder or climbing sticks are used to hand and access the stand.

See below how to shoot a deer from a climbing standContinue reading

[Checklist] 7 of the Most Essential Bow Hunting Gear That a Savvy Hunter Must Have

Bow Hunting Gear

Bow hunting, or bowhunting as it’s commonly referred, is one of the most rewarding and personal challenges a true hunter will either love or hate!

There is no guarantee that you will find success when bow hunting, but it sure is worth the challenge.  On some days it may be the weather that affects your shot, on others… it may be your hunted prey that won’t cooperate.

While the bow hunting guides on this website won’t guarantee success, the bow hunting equipment guides, accessories and bow hunting tips you find will definitely give you the edge while bow hunting.

The more prepared you are for the hunt, the better your odds of successfully finding, stalking and killing your prey!

Bow Hunting Equipment Guides

In order to be successful at bow hunting, you should have the right equipment for what you plan to hunt, whether it be deer, elk or other prey.  Even if you are armed with the correct bow, it doesn’t guarantee you will be successful the first time out.   The key is to put in plenty of practice so you learn from your mistakes.

Hopefully, the next time out you will have a better chance at getting off the right shot and hitting your target!


When you are out in the woods or field with your bow you absolutely need to make every shot count.

Missing out on a large rack or a big hunk of meat because you came onto his turf unprepared is inexcusable, and that will never happen when you’re packing a lethal set of broadhead arrows.

Broadheads enhance penetration over field point arrows and greatly increase the damage done.  More devastating clean-through shots are the results, with shorter trails leading to your trophy.

Broadhead arrows are the choice of bow hunters who respect their game animals enough to take them out quickly.

Today’s field of manufacturers is crowded with outstanding technology, razor-sharp blades that are either fixed or mechanical, accuracy that is second to none, and varying sizes to match the game you’re setting your sights on.  Look for the best broadhead arrows in the business from top names like Allen, Grim Reaper, G5, Rap and NAP.

Compound Bows

Today’s top compound bow manufacturers keep pushing the technological envelope which leads to better performance in every generation of models.

Cam designs include single and dual set-ups as well as hybrids that deliver all the power while being extremely quiet.

Another feature to look for in the compound bow you choose, from top makers like Mathews or McPherson, is a draw weight that fits your build.

While many hunters want to pull 70-lb bows for the fastest speeds and flattest trajectories you’ll do better to choose the compound bow you can handle the best while still delivering good speed and power.

The fast 70-lb compound bows can be tough for those with a medium or small build to handle, and a 50-60 pound model would serve you better.  Even 35-50 pound bows will do the job.  The key is to find one you can be deadly accurate with since accuracy outperforms power in the field.

Other quality compound bow brands you’ll want to consider include industry pioneer Hoyt along with PSE and Jennings.  All of these compound bow manufacturers offer a wide range of outstanding products that will improve your performance while chasing the big game of your dreams.

Crossbow Hunting Bows

Men have been taking down dinner with crossbow hunting bows for more than a thousand years.

The tradition continues with absolutely the most extraordinary equipment ever produced.  Today’s crossbow hunting bows pack years of research and development into each model that actually simplifies the process for you – simply cock, aim and shoot while highly advanced engineering kicks into action and does what is was made to do.

You’ll enjoy tremendous accuracy from PSE Crossbows and Excalibur Crossroads while Barnett Crossbows and Horton Crossbows might give you the edge in speed.

But it’s really splitting hairs – which these crossbow hunting bows could probably do from 30 yards at 400 fps– because all of today’s top manufacturers produce models that would make Medieval man’s head spin.

Now that crossbow hunting bows are legal for use in most areas of the country perhaps it is time to see what all of the fun and hunting success is about!

Longbows and Recurve Bows

While today’s compound bows are hot sellers many hunters have never lost their love for longbows and recurve bows. Still, others are continuing the method migration from rifles and shotguns to a more traditional, natural and sporting way to hunt.

Before compound bows took center stage many archery companies like Hoyt Archery were turning out world-class longbows and recurve bows and today others have entered the field.

When you peruse the highest quality longbows and recurve bows you’ll find manufacturers that are very familiar to bow hunters.

Martin Recurve bows, PSE Longbows and recurve bows, and Bear Archery recurves shoot amazingly well and are creating a new generation of adherents.

Newcomers to North America include New Zealand based Archery Imports longbows that are stunningly efficient and a pleasure to shoot.  Accuracy, speed, power, and performance are all part of today’s best longbows and recurve bows.

Related: How to Pattern a Hunting Shotgun

Bow Hunting Sights and Range Finders

If you can see it better, you’ll hit it more often, and if you know how far away it is your aim will be much truer.  That’s the basic philosophy that drives the top makers of today’s Bow Hunting Sights and Rangefinders.

These technologically innovative products offer you advantages unheard of before – an enhanced vision with fiber optics and accuracy that lets you learn your ranges and increase your ability to put your arrowhead or bolt right where it needs to be.

When you walk into the brush or climb the tree stand with and Apex bow sight or an HHA Sports Trophy sight as part of your setup you know you’ll be on the money.

Copper John sights and Trophy Ridge models let you focus on good mechanics without worrying about distance and aim.  Peruse today’s top models and make your next hunt a memorable one.

Bow Stabilizers and Releases

If you are going to become the most lethal hunter you can be spending some time shooting at targets is part of the bargain.

But when your bow is vibration and your wrists are hurting it’s easy to call it quits before your skills are optimized.  That’s where the right bow stabilizers and releases are vital.

Bow stabilizers are crafted to absorb bow vibration so your hands don’t.  A by-product of the vibration reduction is a corresponding reduction in sound, and if you’ve ever had a deer out-quick your dart because he heard it coming you know how important a quiet shot is.

Today’s best bow and accessory makers also design and offer quality bow stabilizers and releases.

The favorites among today’s hunters include PSE bow stabilizers, which are also known as Vibracheck stabilizers, Limbsaver bow stabilizers, Trophy Ridge bow stabilizers, and Apex bow stabilizers.

They deliver the job of quieting the action and sound of your bow so you can give your full attention to making your shot calm, accurate and deadly.  Add one to your setup today and start shooting with more comfort, balance, and effectiveness tomorrow.

Bow Hunting Tree Stands and Blinds

Your silent partner in taking more deer this season will by your hunting tree stands and blinds.  Whichever way you go, they play an important role in concealing your presence and offering you the right shot for the situation.

Hunting stands from top manufacturers like Summit tree stands and Lone Wolf keep you comfortably situated, free to take your shot while remaining totally safe.  Also, look at quality models from API tree stands and Gorilla tree stands.

When hunting from the ground makes more sense hunting blinds from Ameristep or Primos give you concealment in the woods or field.  They offer portholes and windows covered with shooting mesh to let you get a stealth shot from virtually any direction.

Choosing the right hunting tree stands and blinds is an important choice when you want the best outdoor experience possible – one that includes bringing home a trophy animal of a freezer full of meat.

How to Measure Draw Length for Bow Hunting

How to Measure Draw Length for Bow Hunting

Most bow models are built to provide a three-inch range in maximum draw length depending on which draw length module is installed. You can determine which model you have by examining the brace height and the length of the cam.

Measuring Your Draw Length

With the help of a friend, place a full-length arrow on the bow and draw with a release or fingers according to your shooting style.

  • Draw to your anchor point.
  • Have your assistant grasp the arrow at the front of the riser and pull it off the string.
  • Let the bow down gently.

Now you can measure the arrow from your assistant’s fingers to the arrow nock. This is your draw length to use in selecting your draw length module.

Remember: When using an overdraw, your draw length does NOT change, only your arrow becomes shorter.

Note: You may decide to actually shoot a shorter arrow if your rest is located behind the riser. The actual length of the arrow should be the number you use on an arrow selection chart to determine the correct stiffness and arrow shaft weight.

Another Method

You will need a yard (meter) stick, a tape measure or any long, straight object:

  1. Stand in a comfortable upright position
  2. Raise your arms equally to a straight-out perpendicular position, so that your body resembles an upside-down “L”. Fingers should be outstretched and fingertips should be touching. Shoulders should be forward but not overly stretched and strained.
  3. Hold the measuring device in your touching fingertips place the other end in the middle of your chest.
  4. Now, measure the distance (in inches or centimeters) between your fingertips and the center of your chest bone.

This will be your TRADITIONAL Draw length.

Most people have a draw length of between 26″ and 29″. Smaller people will have a shorter Draw length and taller people will have a longer one.

Perfect Draw Control

Once you have determined the correct module, you can fine tune the draw length to give your bow a precise feel. *To adjust to your exact draw length, enlist the aid of a friend to loosen the allen screw on the opposite side of the riser.

*Draw the bow to your anchor point and have your friend rotate the PDC until the nylon screw is in contact with the cam. Let down and tighten the PDC to lock in place.

Draw Weight

Draw weight is defined as the maximum level of force needed to draw the bow back to the full or cocked position.

Modern compound bows come from the factory with adjustable draw-weight ranges of between 10 and 15 pounds. The most common two are bows with draw weights between 55 and 70, and 65 and 80, pounds.

That means that these bows can be adjusted within that draw-weight range to whatever setting the archer chooses. To measure the correct draw weight for you, take these simple tests.

Standing flat-footed, hold the bow at arm’s length and pull it back. If you have to “cheat”-lift the bow up above your head to achieve a full draw, it’s too heavy.

Next, do the same thing from a seated position, as if you were sitting in a treestand or ground blind. Finally, do it from a kneeling position.

Being able to draw your bow with the minimum of movement, even from weird angles, is important when bowhunting. Any extra body movement can spook an animal, so the less the better.

Draw Weight Adjustment

It is permissible to adjust the weight bolts up to 2 turns each – always equally, without releasing timing hub. However, if the tension on opposite ends of timing cables varies from one end to the other, the hub should be loosened and the bow should be tillered.

The timing cable is the small black cable running through the riser. The weight bolt is equipped with two fiber washers which, when properly greased, act as bearing surfaces allowing the steel washer to rotate freely.

The weight bolt hole in the riser is threaded with a super hard stainless steel thread insert and does not need additional lubricant unless exposed to extreme moisture. Do not use bearing grease which may allow the weight bolt to loosen on its own. Light lithium grease is recommended.

The bottom line when choosing a bow is simply this – does it feel good to you?

Hunting Weapons List- The Must Have Hunting Weapons for Serious Hunters

best hunting weapons list

This section will give you helpful information on how to choose the weapon you plan to use hunting. This information intends to be helpful not all encompasing.

Hunting Bows

hunting weapons
Bowhunting more than any other style of hunting can be more of an art than science. Each archer must adopt a shooting style to fit his/her shooting abilities and personality.

The selection of a bow and its accessories will be a personal and subjective choice.

Choosing a bow and its accessories is largely a matter of personal taste.

Many bowhunters eagerly make use of all the most modern compound bows and the latest accessories. While others prefer a more traditional approach and use long bows and use accessories sparingly. Either will give you years of enjoyment!

Though a hunter need not to buy the most expensive bow and it’s accessories it does make sense to invest in quality equipment.

If possible seek the advice of a hunter you respect or from a reputable source before purchasing your hunting equipment.

No matter what style of bow you choose compound or traditional you will need to determine three VERY important variables: eye dominance, length of draw and draw weight.

See our section on Choosing a Bow to see how to determine your length of draw and draw weight.

Eye Dominance

Bows are configured for right-handed and left handed people. Your choice should be determined by eye dominance not just by being left handed or right handed.

In most cases, hand and eye dominance match, but occasionally a right-handed person will have a dominant left eye or vice versa.

To figure out which of your eyes is dominant, point at a distant object with both eyes open. Now close your left eye, then your right.

When you look through your dominant eye, your finger will still appear to point at the object, but when you look through your subordinate eye, your finger will appear to shift to the side.

If your eye dominance matches your hand dominance, simply select a bow configured for your dominant hand. In the rare case, your hand and eye dominance are mismatched, it’s best to choose a bow based on your eye dominance rather than your hand dominance.

Though it may feel weird and cumbersome at first, in the long run, a person will become accustomed and become a better shooter. Research shows most successful archers sight with the dominant eye regardless of hand dominance.

Hunting Rifles

best hunting weapons

Choosing the right rifle and the correct ammunition will make your hunt with a gun much more enjoyable, and can really boost your odds of being successful.

When selecting a rifle for hunting, you should consider how it fits, the sights, how heavy it is, plus its action and caliber.

A properly fitting gun will help you fire a more accurate shot. A stock that is too long for the shooter can get caught on your jacket, in your armpit.

If too short, the scope could strike a person in the eyebrow, giving them what’s known as “scope bite.”

Read: How to Get Started in Long Range Shooting

Stock lengths can vary GREATLY with each model and manufacturer.

Downfalls of improper fit are the amount of drop you will encounter. While your cheek is pressed firmly against the stock of the rifle, your shooting eye should line up with the sites.

Too much drop will prevent you from placing your cheek against the stock, and the recoil could cause the stock to slam against your cheek. More than likely to leave a mark! A gunsmith can almost always change the length of the stock for you if needed.

If hunting in heavy brush where you must use short sights, buy a low power scope or a peep sight that has a large aperture. Either one can be aimed quickly and very accurately.

Variable power scopes within the ranges of 1.5x to 7x are ideal for this purpose. Open sights, which are standard on most rifles are difficult to line up quickly and more important accurately.

Another important consideration in choosing a rifle is weight.

  • Unlike the ancient hunting weapons, most rifles used for hunting today weigh between six and nine pounds. Lighter guns are more comfortable to carry, and the heavier guns have less recoil.
  • Heavier rifles are easier to hold steady and are better for stand hunting and long-range shots. It is recommended that you use a sling to tote your rifle when you are not hunting.

The action you choose will largely depend on your need for a quick second shot, accuracy plus your personal preferences.

Keep in mind not all calibers are available in each type of action. Actions can vary from the very reliable and sturdy single shots to fast shooting lever actions, pumps, and semi-automatics.

Most actions will function fine without oil for short periods of time. If you do a lot of shooting in very cold climates, you may want to consider using a graphite lubricant.

Important: Most states have laws that specify minimum calibers and cartridges for hunting Big Game animals. Therefore, it is important that you consider your state’s legal requirements when selecting weapons for hunting.


Shotguns and slugs are most commonly used for deer hunting in densely populated areas, many states don’t allow rifle hunting.

Some of the southern states permit you to use shotguns with buckshot only. The ideal shotgun for deer hunting is one that has a rifled barrel and special sights or a scope.

Rifled barrels shoot slugs more accurately than do smoothbores, but you have to make sure they are carefully patterned.

Rifling causes the slugs to spin and stabilize, allowing shots at deer up to 125 yards away. Slugs guns and ammunition are available in all the popular gauges with the 12 gauge being the most widely used.

Read: The Beginners Guide to Hunting with a Handgun


Muzzleloaders or “smokepoles” as they are commonly called can only fire one shot so you better make it count. Due to technology over the last few years, they have become very accurate and reach out to around 125 yards.

Many states have seasons allowing you to extend your time in the field.

Hunters can choose between caplocks and flintlocks.

Many hunters prefer the flinlocks, though the caplocks are likely to misfire less often. They come in a variety of calibers the most common being .50 and .54, which are the most preferred by hunters today.

You have a choice of round balls, conical bullets, and pistol bullets. Check with your local state to see which are allowed for hunting.

The A, B and 3 C’s of a Started Gun Dog


I read numerous magazine articles, read books and watched videos about training hunting retrievers in order to prepare myself for the arrival of my new chocolate lab pup last March.

Most of the information seemed rather straight forward, but still, I had lots of questions about training a pup to be a hunting retriever.

My goal was to train hard during the spring and summer months and then run my new pup “Storm” in the NAHRA Started Hunting Tests in the fall.

The more I learned about training, the more I started to question if my goal of finishing all four legs of the Started title in one season was too ambitious.

My greatest lessons were learned by participating in the spring and summer season training sessions and hunt tests that were conducted by Navesink River Hunting Retriever Club.

As a handler, I needed training on what was to be expected of me on the line.  I observed senior handlers and pros work their dogs, listened to their voice inflection and whistle use and studied their handling and temperament.

I took notes on what I thought the “good” handlers and dogs were doing and what I thought were the downfalls of some of the “not-so-good” handlers and dogs.  Then I began to formulate my training objectives and how I would conduct myself in order to produce a quality dog.

I must admit that on more than a few occasions, I almost lost my temper.

However, after realizing that this handler behavior would do Storm and me no good, I promised to monitor myself closely.  I decided that rather than place blame for Storms’ failures on her, I would turn them around and fix the problems by simplification and repetition.

The building blocks of a great retriever were being developed under my direction; I had taken on a very great responsibility.

A = Acclimate

During one of the first training sessions that I was involved with, I observed that some of the pups did not appear to have confidence in certain types of working environments.

Some pups didn’t like high grass.  Some didn’t like mud.  Some didn’t like water.  Some obviously had never seen a duck or turkey decoy and had never heard a duck call.

The one pup that stands out in my mind was one who seemed so confused by the relatively high grass in which we trained.

She ran out fine to retrieve, but it seemed like she hit a brick wall when she came to clumps of dead grass only three feet high.

I promised myself that within reason, I would expose Storm to every type of hunting environment possible.  We took daily walks together and we would walk and explore.

We played hide and seek in grassy fields, romped in the mud, rolled in the sand at the beach and when she determined the time was right, we went for a swim together.

All of these early days of play gave her the confidence to explore new places with the possibility of finding new things to play with and eventually to hunt.

I made it fun and never allowed her opportunity to put herself into a predicament that would cause her harm or damage her confidence level.

Gun shyness was always one of my biggest concerns.

I figure a hunting dog is not a hunting dog if he doesn’t love the sound of a gun.  The pups that I watched didn’t seem to have any problem with the sound of the guns going off, they just didn’t seem to equate gunfire to a retrieve.

I started Storm’s acclimation to gunfire just as many others do.  I purchased a twenty-dollar starter pistol and capped off a few rounds as she was on her way out for the retrieve.

I took her to hunt tests where she could hear guns, hear duck calls and see ducks.  I made the sound of the gun, the sound of the call and smell of ducks all a great game for her.

B = Birds

Let’s face it, the name of this game is almost all about birds!

In anticipation of getting my first pup, I saved every duck wing from every duck I shot during the fall season.  I made phone calls to game farms and researched a source of live pigeons.

After all, if a “duck dog” doesn’t live for ducks, he’s just a “dog”.

If you’re a waterfowl and upland hunter as I am, you get a dog to help you retrieve downed birds and to locate birds in the field.  That doesn’t mean you have to be a hunter to run pup hunt tests.

You must consider what these dogs were all bred for.  Aside from being great companions, they were bred to work.  As far as I can tell, they weren’t bred to retrieve plastic bumpers, they were bred to retrieve birds and birds are what you must give them.

When Storm was just 7 weeks old, I brought her home from the breeder.  The next day we played with a black duck wing and I let her bite, chew and retrieve the wing to her heart’s content.  We tossed it down the hallway and in the back yard.  At first, just short retrieves, but man she loved the game.

At 8 weeks old I bought her two baby quail to play with.  She didn’t know what the heck they were and I thought to myself “oh, this is great- I’ve got a dog that thinks she’s a mother quail.”

Soon, her predator instincts clicked in and she made a short meal of the quail (not by my design).  She even growled at me, when I attempted to take it from her and she ran when I approached her.

I assume that at only 8 weeks she was still trying to establish her place in the new pack.  Now worried, I thought I had produced a bloodthirsty dog that only wanted to play keep away.

We later graduated to live pigeons, dead ducks and live ducks during training sessions.  Again, it was all a game for her.

This ended the day when she refused to come when I called her and I watched from 70 yards as she plucked a duck in front of me, despite my pleadings and then shouting for her to ‘Come!”.

This scenario corresponded very nicely to her getting her adult teeth.  It was at this stage of our relationship that I new I had to establish more control and force fetch was soon to follow.

3 C’s = Control, “Come”, Confidence

This aspect of the AB and 3 C’s relates to three issues that I believe are the backbone of the Started gun dog.


First, you must have control over your dog.  This means that obedience must be firmly engrained in your dog’s mind.

We practiced basic yard work every day and we still practice.  We start each training session and end each training session with basic obedience.

They say basic obedience consists of three commands: sit, heel, come.

Most dogs are easy to train to sit.

I incorporated the whistle early in the obedience training.  For a Started gun dog, heel is conducted on a leash all the way to the line.  I encourage you to keep your dog on the leash, even at the line.

Release your dog only when the judge has stated to do so.

You may think your pup is steady, but the sights and sounds of any hunt test will cause many to break.  Try to set up your training sessions just like a hunt test; this will help establish better control over your dog.

Typically, Storm was a true lady in the yard, but when walking to the line in a hunt test, all bets were off.  It was almost embarrassing to have a dog walk to the line on her two hind feet.

I soon discovered that magic of a slip lead and how to cinche the lead up close to the base of her jaw and around the rear base of her head.

Now instead of her pulling my arm out of the socket while walking to the line, I maintained much better control, although essentially she controlled the pressure.  She then proceeded to almost tip toe to the line.


The command “come” is often the most difficult to enforce, especially without the e-collar.  This is where the check cord comes in play.

I’ll be the first one to admit it – I hated working with the check cord and I have the scars around my ankles to prove it, but how else are you going to get a stubborn dog to come to you when he’s twenty feet away and has a bird or bumper in his mouth?

Grab the check cord and pull’em to you, that’s how, but say the command “come” once and once only.  Give lots of praise when your dog returns.

Make them want to be next to you.  I once saw a “gentleman” beat his German Sheppard after the dog disregarded his repeated demands to “come”.  I think the dog must have known that he was about to get an ass whippin.  Now if I were that dog, I’m not sure I would have been in a great hurry to be by my master’s side either.

When you’re out for your casual walks, mix in a few “sit” commands, “sit” whistles and numerous “come” commands.

The “come” command means:  “git yer butt over to me now!”  Not when the dog feels like it.

I practiced a simplified drill with Storm for weeks prior to and during the force fetch process.  After she knew how to “hold” a bumper in her mouth, I put her out about 10 feet on a check cord and gave her the “come” command.

She had no other option, but to comply.

When she got to me, I told her to “heel” and guided her to the proper position at my side.  When force fetch was completed (more control) the problem of having her drop the bumper or bird 10 feet away was essentially over.  This drill also established the aspect of returning to heel, but now with a bird or bumper in her mouth.


You never know what your dog is going to do in a training session or a hunt test, regardless of how well you have prepared.

Hopefully, all of the training and practice you have completed have established a dog that is confident in his ability to negotiate different terrain and various different hunting scenarios.

Furthermore, as a handler, you will have established a calm demeanor that your dog will be able to sense.

  • Have confidence in your dog and in yourself.
  • Take your time on the line.
  • Listen to the judges.
  • Try to learn as much as you can, have fun and above all,
  • Remember that this is just a game.

Although the Started gun dog is generally tested on natural ability, later the dog and handler will need to bond further and develop as a team in order to make the huge leap to Intermediate.

Storm and I are now training towards our Intermediate title, but hopefully, we have firmly established a foundation during her early retriever training to make this process easier and successful.  We still train and play by our AB & 3C’s.

10 Questions to Ask When Choosing The Best Hunting Dog Breeders

The Best Hunting Dog Breeders

Your current hunting dog is now getting on in years. It’s time to acquire a new puppy.

You know what breed you want.

You look in the classified section of Pointing Dog Journal and see a number of ads from breeders. How do you determine which is the best breeder for you?

The key to getting a good puppy is in picking a good breeder.
If you select a quality breeder who has a successful training and testing program, has a history of producing puppies that are well socialized and possess the natural characteristics that go into the makeup of a good hunting dog, then you have an excellent chance of getting the right puppy.

Pick the breeder first, then the puppy

10 Questions to Ask Hunting Dog Breeders

Here are some questions to ask your prospective breeder before you put down your money for your new hunting puppy.

1. Does the Breeder Hunt

The first question to ask is, does the breeder hunt? What birds does he hunt and how many days a year does he hunt?

How old is the sire and dam of the litter of puppies that he has available?

Does he hunt the sire and dam, how often and on what birds? What is their hunting range, and style?

2. What Evaluation Programs Does He Use?

A good breeder has a planned program that includes evaluation of his dogs by outside judges.

You want to know:

  • What program and tests a breeder uses to determine the success of their kennel, and
  • What proof do they have that their breeding program is successful?

There are several good testing programs available. One of the best is NAVHDA’s natural ability test.

The Natural Ability Test measures seven hereditary characteristics which are fundamental to the makeup of a good, reliable hunting dog.

There are three phases to the test: The Field Phase, Tracking Phase, and Water Phase.

Puppies up to sixteen months of age are tested and evaluated for nose, search, water, pointing, tracking, desire to work, and cooperation.

The natural ability test is an excellent way for a prospective owner to judge the quality of puppies being produced by a breeder)

You can obtain the test results, referred to as a breeder’s report, for each breeder at a nominal cost from NAVHDA

These reports will show the test scores of all of the dogs produced by that breeder.

If a breeder’s test scores show a high number of young puppies passing the natural ability test, it is a good indication that your breeder is producing good prospects.

The breeder’s report will also show you all of the pups from that breeder that did not pass the test. If you are looking for a certain characteristic in your dog, you can see the scores of these characteristics.

Let’s say you do a great deal of waterfowl hunting. It is important that you get a pup that will excel in the water. The breeder’s test scores will show you the results of the water work on each pup tested by that breeder.

Jim Rieser, a well-known breeder of German shorthairs feels that the natural ability test scores on the breeder’s litters are more important than the sire or dam having a prize one utility score.

“The utility test is designed to test a hunting dog’s usefulness to the on-foot hunter in all phases of hunting both before and after the shot, infield and marsh, and on different species of game.”

A dog that passes the utility test is certainly a well-qualified dog. Jim Rieser’s point is that there is a great deal of training that goes into getting a dog ready for the utility test.

The natural ability results give the prospective dog buyer an indication of the natural traits that a puppy possess.

When you buy a puppy, you are looking for potential built-in characteristics and natural talent.

A breeder who has a long history of his pups scoring well in natural ability is a better indication that you are going to get a pup that will turn into a good hunting dog than a breeder who has a champion sire or dam with unproven offspring.

3. Socialization

Socialization of a young puppy is extremely important.

Ask the breeder how he socializes his young pups. Make sure that quality time is spent with the pups before you as a buyer get your new puppy.

4. Recommendations

Can the breeder you are talking to recommend other breeders of similar quality?

The successful breeders normally have a waiting list of buyers. They have a sound successful program and are not afraid to recommend other quality breeders.

Call the other breeders and inquire about the breeder you are interested in. Other breeders are far better able to judge the quality of the kennel and pups being produced than a customer.

5. What Are the Pup’s Strongest Points

What positive qualities does the breeder like in his dogs?

What does he like most about his dogs?

You can count on the breeder waxing eloquently about the superior qualities of his breed. That’s fine, you will get a good idea of what qualities he has stressed in his breeding and training program.

If these are the qualities you are looking for, then this is one indication that this might be the right breeder for you.

6. What Improvement?

What qualities does the breeder feel he needs to improve in his dogs? What problems has he experienced with his line of dogs?

These problems might have to do with conformation, hip problems, field work, retrieving or any number of things.

If a breeder tells you he has never experienced a problem of any kind, beware.

A good breeding program is always a work in progress. A top breeder, no matter how successful, is always trying to improve his breeding line. There is no such thing as a perfect dog.

A good breeder will be happy to discuss with you the areas that he is working on to improve his line of dogs.

7. What guarantees does the breeder offer to buyers?

This is a touchy subject with some breeders. Most of the good breeders offer a guarantee. Some breeders, like Jeff Funke, a top German wirehair breeder offers an unconditional six-month guarantee, from the date of purchase.

The minimum guarantee that you should expect is one that covers the health of the pup. You have the right to expect a sound healthy pup, with no genetic flaws, no hip problems, or any other physical problem that would inhibit the dog from hunting.

Ask the breeder if he has his dogs tested for hip dysplasia. The two most popular tests for hips are OFA and Pin Hip. Good breeders always test the sire and dam for hips before breeding.

Also inquire whether the pups have had their vaccinations, been wormed, and have had their dew claws removed.

A good breeder has confidence in his dogs and his breeding program. He does not want a person to have one of his dogs if the dog happens to be unsound or does not fit in with the owner’s needs or expectations.

8. When’s the Next Litter Available?

If the breeder has answered all of the questions to your satisfaction, and you have decided that you want to buy a pup from him, ask him when his next litter will be available.

Also, ask him who the sire and dam will be. Have the breeder send you the registration papers of the sire and dam showing their certified pedigree.

Most breeders have a brochure that features their kennel, with photos of their dogs and their breeding program. I also like to have a photo of the sire and dam.

Many people like to visit the breeder and see his kennel operation before buying.

Once you have qualified your breeder, it is certainly not necessary to visit the kennel to get a good pup. However, I find that I can make a good judgment of the kennel and the dogs with first-hand observation.

As a breeder, I am also impressed with customers who take the time and spend the effort and money to visit my kennel. I want to make sure that all of my pups are going to find a good home with a person who likes dogs and will hunt his dog.

A personal visit gives me an opportunity to size up and judge whether or not I want to sell a pup to this prospective customer. As a prospective buyer, you should be prepared for questions from the breeder about your hunting desires, your past experience and ownership and care of dogs.

9. What Kind of Dog Do You Want?

Finally, you need to tell the breeder what type of dog you want. Discuss with him how often and how hard you hunt, and what type of game birds you hunt most.

If you’re hunting the prairies you probably want a fairly wide-ranging dog. If you are hunting the grouse covers of New England or the Midwest you will want a closer working dog.

Do you want a hard-charging alpha type dog?

An alpha dog can be a handful to train and own. You want to match your personality and ability with the dog as much as possible.

One mistake that many dog buyers make is the false assumption that all female dogs are easier to handle. This is not always the case. In my line of German wirehair pointers, the males are the more laid back and easier to handle than the females.

Trust your breeder to help you select the pup that he feels is best suited to your needs.

Also, a good kennel and breeding program costs money. The initial price of your pup is the smallest part of your investment. Your dog food and vet bills over the ten to fifteen year period will far exceed the cost of the new puppy. You will also need to invest in other necessities such as the best shark vacuum for pet hair.

Be prepared to pay a reasonable fee for a new pup.

Plan ahead, most breeders have deposits up to a year or more in advance for their pups. Don’t wait until six months or less before you start your search for a pup.

Asking intelligent questions, getting tests results and dealing with a committed breeder will certainly improve your chances of getting a good puppy with the potential to become the hunting dog of your dreams.

Best Dog Food for Hunting Dogs

Best Dog Food for Hunting Dogs

Food is fuel, whether you are talking people or dogs and the greater your fuel needs, the greater you need for both more and higher quality food.

Now, I’m not going to write an article that is an advertisement for those $1 or even $2 per pound dog food out there. Some of them are worth what they are charging for them and some of them aren’t worth much more than the cheap stuff you can buy at the local grocery or feed store.

What I am going to talk to you about is exactly what you need to be feeding your hunting dog and why…

Check the Ingredients

First, let’s take a look at the ingredient list on your dog’s bag of food.

For your hunting dog to be getting the nutrition he needs the first ingredient should be chicken, lamb, or (if you are feeding one of those outrageously high dollar dog foods) something like buffalo, salmon or duck.

What you should not see is corn or meat-by-products. Corn is practically indigestible for dogs, at best it will make them feel full so they don’t eat their dog house or the other dogs.

Meat-by-products are often things like ground up chicken feet or pig intestines and other things that the meat industry needs to figure out a way to get rid of after they’ve pulled the “good” meat for your local grocery store’s meat market. I willl later give you some of the favorite got high quality chicken recipe for hunting dogs.

And the word “meat” is not very reassuring either since the makers of the dog food who list the term “meat” don’t really seem to want you to know what kind of “meat” they are using.

I mean, for all I know, their “meat” could be making my dog a cannibal … Probably not, but why take the chance.

There should also be enough of the high-quality meat in the dog food to give it at least 20% protein. Less will not give your hunting dog the nutrients he needs to be in top form.

Crude fat should make up another 10% (again, this is a minimum).

Dog Food Filler

All dog foods use some type of filler, but some are better than others. As I said earlier, corn is pretty worthless as far as nourishing your dog.

Oatmeal is much better, so if your dog’s food uses oatmeal as a filler, it gets extra points.

Many dog food manufacturers have begun adding fruits and vegetables and these are also something you want to look for to make sure your dog is getting a well-balanced diet from his food.

By reading the ingredients list on the bag, you can find out quite a bit about whether or not the kibble your dog is getting is going to give him what he needs. But there are other factors involved in feeding your hunting dog, as well.

Since food equals fuel, when the dog is actually working or hunting, his caloric needs are higher than when he is just laying around. That means you need to increase his kibble in direct proportion to the increase in his activity.

But energy isn’t the only reason your dog needs good, quality food. The better his diet the easier it is for him to develop muscles, grow a thick coat and stay warm in cold weather; even injuries will heal faster if the dog is well nourished.

Even if he is not working, during cold weather your hunting dog needs more food than in the summer – for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit the temperature drops, your dog needs about 7 to 8% more food.

Given that many times the difference in temperature can be as much as 30 to 60 degrees colder in the winter than in the summer (or more), you are looking at a dog that needs between a 25% and 50% increase in what you should be feeding them.

You don’t want to make the dog fat, but a little tiny bit of extra “padding” isn’t going to hurt and it will help them keep warm.

Another thing, be sure the dog gets adequate water. Water not only keeps them hydrated, but it helps them digest their food and utilize the nutrients in it.

Adding some warm water to their kibble is one way to make sure that the dogs are getting enough to drink.

When my dogs are being asked to expend extra energy or are sick and need a boost, I feed them what we call “puppy primer” (not that ANY of my dogs are puppies – most of them are 5 to 10 years old). Basically, it’s about 1-1/2 lbs of chicken or beef liver, thrown in a pan and enough water to cover it plus an extra 2 cups, or so.

Boil it until it’s done (no longer pink) and use a food processor, potato masher or whatever and mash it all up. Each of our dogs gets about 1/2 cup of this added to his regular kibble, two or three times a week.

Toss on an egg, 1/2 cup of yogurt or cottage cheese, a teaspoon of garlic and a tablespoon of salmon oil (other fish oil can be substituted, but mine LOVE salmon oil) and mix it all up with the kibble.

We don’t always add all of the ingredients, just what happens to be in the kitchen, but when we serve kibble with “puppy primer” there is not a bowl in the house that’s not licked clean.

Many people don’t like to change their dog’s diet, but we’ve very seldom had any problems with it, except with one of the dogs who is extremely lactose intolerant (she does NOT get any of the cottage cheese, even though she loves it).

If you think about it, up until just 20 or so years ago, many dogs ate table scraps for dinner and most of them lived on that pretty well, even though it meant they ate something different every night.

Changing foods didn’t cause them digestive problems and it probably won’t mess with your hunting dog’s tummy either. Just to be on the safe side though, I wouldn’t wait until the night before a hunt to change their food around.

Having a diet that gives him all the nutrients he needs will never make a badly trained hunting dog great. On the other hand, even a truly great hunting dog who isn’t getting the nourishment he needs won’t be performing to his full potential.

7 of The Best Flushing Dog Breeds in The World


1.  Spaniel

Sporting a long coat, a docked tail and keen senses, this breed is often talked of in hunting circles as the top bird dog breed for flushing pheasants.

Its sturdy 40-lb. frame and speed combine to give the dog a knack for quickly flushing a bird into the air, and its ability to work well both on land and in the water make this breed’s versatility tough to beat.

2. Cocker spaniel

Exceptionally talented at hunting pheasant, grouse, and woodcocks, this lightweight breed (they average a slight 20-25 pounds) is noteworthy for their ability to work areas of heavy cover impenetrable to bigger dogs. It is highly ranked among the top phesant hunting dogs.

The owners of long coats and docked tails, these dogs are great hunters, especially the English variety.

3. Boykin spaniel

A relatively unknown breed of spaniels, these compact dogs are skilled at flushing and retrieving both waterfowl and upland birds.

Slightly heavier than the cocker spaniels (Boykins average about 30-5 pounds) and wearing a long, curly coat, these docked-tail dogs are rather friendly and make good house pets.

4. American water spaniel

Almost as versatile as the Boykin and the springer, these spaniels are among the strongest hunters of both upland birds and waterfowl.

Topping out at over 60 pounds, these are the heaviest of the spaniels and the owners of a thick, curly coat.

5. Labrador retriever


Known for its ability to hunt waterfowl, the Lab is also very talented at hunting upland birds.

With their short coats, their solid, stocky physique (they weigh in at an average of 60-65 pounds) and the ease with which they are trained, it’s no wonder this is the most popular type of retriever.

6. Chesapeake Bay retriever

The owners of rough, thick coats, this breed is best known for its unparalleled waterfowl-hunting ability, able to retrieve game even in the most inhospitable of conditions.

An extremely rugged dog – they tip the scales at a strong 75 pounds – these are also competent at hunting upland game.

7. Golden retriever

Almost as easy to train as the Labrador, this breed is a wonderful hunter of upland birds such as grouse, pheasant, and woodcock (just like the cocker spaniel), and is equally adept at hunting waterfowl.

Averaging over 65 pounds and sporting a long coat of wavy hair, these dogs also have an extremely friendly temperament.

7 Best Water Retriever Breeds for Hunting Ducks & Goose


1. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

This dog is said to be legendary in the toughest of water and weather conditions. A very intense hunter of upland birds and is the quintessential cold-water duck and goose-retrieving specialist.

The Chessie becomes firmly attached to his owner and family.

Long time Chessie owners have said that starting at puppyhood, a fair but firmer hand is needed in training and discipline to earn the respect of this noble dog.

Trainers of Chessies say that an owner should expect them to challenge their authority. There are large variations in color, such as tan, light red, deep reddish chestnut, a light straw color termed “deadgrass,” brown, etc.

This dog needs plenty of exercises to prevent misbehavior. They are not aggressive but will not be bullied. Females: 55-70 lbs; males 66-84 lbs.

2. Curly-Coated Retriever

An excellent retriever of game from the water and a popular retriever in Australia and New Zealand, this dog excels at hunting in marshy terrain.

The Curly-Coat seems to enjoy inclement weather in which to hunt and is therefore not a good house dog.

They are action dogs that live to swim and are not deterred by ice, snow or dark and threatening skies. In fact, some have said this animal enjoys these conditions.

A Curly-Coat is devoted to its family but aloof to strangers. Highly intelligent, so it must be challenged early and thoroughly or else its intelligence will be used to further its own goals.

The breed has a will of its own but is highly sensitive; therefore obedience training should be consistent, not rough. They weigh 62-77 pounds, and are black or liver in color. The coat consists of very tight curls that are water and dirt resistant.

3. Flat-Coated Retriever

This dog was known as the favorite of the British gamekeeper since they excelled at the basic hunting tasks of flushing game, working any sort of cover, locating cripples, and retrieving from land and water.

The Flat-Coat is known to have an excellent nose. They stand approximately 24 inches tall and weigh approximately 60-70 pounds. The traditional color is black, however, liver is also seen.

Their personalities are enthusiastic, responsive and versatile and they are noted to be a devoted companion.

Intelligent and quick to learn, however, the Flat-Coat cannot be drilled repetitively on the same routine. They do not respond well to mechanical training methods.

4. Golden Retriever

Almost as easy to train as the Labrador retriever, this breed is a wonderful hunter of upland birds such as grouse, pheasant, and woodcock.

This dog is dually adept at hunting waterfowl. It is a good choice for the hunter who wants a versatile dog adept at upland hunting and waterfowl retrieving.

It has been said that the golden is not as rugged of a retriever as the Labrador or Chesapeake. Very trainable and has a somewhat softer nature than the Labrador.

An extremely friendly and affectionate dog, they average over 65 pounds, 20-24 inches in height at the shoulders, and has a long wavy coat.

Color ranges from light blonde to dark red, with the darker colors being more prevalent in field lines.

Avid hunters need to ensure that the pedigree of their puppy comes from strong field lines as the bench/show lines may not be as strong in the field as a hunter may desire. This dog loves all people and is therefore not a good watchdog.

5. Irish Water Spaniel

This spaniel was developed in Ireland as a retriever. They are allowed to compete in field trials due to their size and ability to fetch ducks, geese and upland game.

They have a curly liver-colored coat that water drains off like a poodle due to its tight curls, with a wooly underlayer that provides warmth to the dog allowing it to stay in the cold water for long periods of time.

The hair is short on the face and the end of the tail. The coat requires removal of burs when doing upland work.

This dog is obedient if given early and consistent training.

This breed should have a knowledgeable dog person as an owner to assert authority over it and develop its clownish personality.

A good foundation as a puppy will lead to a dog that shows intense devotion to the family and will curb its natural distrust of people.

The Irish Water Spaniel may be slow to mature leading to slower training. However, once a task is learned, they require little brushing up on the skill.

Its natural ability for pranks can either provide frustration or laughter for its trainer. The dog is a medium size for a retriever breed, standing about 20-23 inches tall and weighing about 65-75 pounds.

6. Labrador Retriever

This dog has been the most popular dog in America for greater than the last decade. They are popular since this dog learns quickly and is easily trained. It can fetch from land or water and can be taught to work before the gun, flushing and retrieving game.

There is also a society for pointing Labrador enthusiasts. Typically the Labrador Retriever has a calm and cooperative nature that makes it a fine companion.

This dog is solidly built with a water-repellent coat, short ears, and a thick otter-like tail.

The Lab typically weighs 55-75 pounds standing 20-24 inches at the shoulder. Colors are black, yellow (ranging from “white” to fox-red) and chocolate.

Avid hunters need to ensure that the pedigree of their puppy comes from strong field lines as the bench/show lines may not be as strong in the field as a hunter may desire.

Also, strong field trial lines may produce a pup that is too intense or high-strung, making the dog more than the average hunter wants to train or handle. This dog may not make a good watchdog, as typically there is no distrust in a Labrador’s generous heart.

7. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

The toller became the 150th recognized breed of the American Kennel Club on July 1, 2003. This dog is said to have originated during the early 19th century. It is known for its unique ability to toll or lure and retrieve waterfowl. It’s playful antics draw the waterfowl into the range of the hunter by piquing the ducks’ curiosity.

It is found, however, that most individuals’ use the dog to retrieve instead of actually tolling. The toller is noted to be good in cold water and will retrieve repetitively without boredom.

The toller typically has a burnished medium length red coat, often with a white-tipped tail. They are the smallest of the North American retriever breeds, weighing approximately 40-50 pounds.

They are seemingly docile dogs, extremely intelligent and devoted to their owners. The toller is suspicious of strangers and makes an excellent watchdog.

The secret to training a toller is to establish and maintain a rapport with the dog. Harsh training methods without praise will only bring out the stubbornness of this dog.

Shotgun Patterning: Why Do Hunters Pattern Their Shotguns?

Shotgun Patterning

why do hunters pattern their shotguns?

Pattern-testing is extremely important because it will reveal many things about a shotgun that can prove to be invaluable in the field.

Steel patterning plates work quite well with lead shot and soft nontoxic shot such as Bismuth and Tungsten-Matrix, but they should not be used when testing loads containing steel shot or other equally hard nontoxics such as Hevi-Shot and Tungsten-Iron. Pellets from these could bounce back and hit the shooter.

Pattern Plate From TeagueChokes

You can make your own patterning board by attaching heavy cardboard to a couple of eight-foot, wooden 2x4s with their ends buried about 18 inches into the ground.

You will also need plain paper measuring 36 to 40 inches wide. A roll can be purchased at most paper supply houses, or you might check with your local newspaper publisher to see if unused scrap paper of that width is available.

Use a heavy-duty staple gun to attach a sheet of paper to the backboard, and you are ready to shoot your first pattern. The soft backboard used on a rig of this type makes it suitable for testing all types shot.

I do a lot of pattern testing and find the Targomatic system from Baker Engineering ( well worth the $99 price tag.

See our content on – How to Become a Better Marksman & Stop Flinching When Shooting.

I prefer to pattern-test while sitting at a benchrest with my elbows resting atop something soft. In a pinch, a coat or duffel bag will do. It is important that the gun be held steady as its trigger is squeezed. If you find it too tiring to support the shotgun with your arms, try resting the back of the hand that holds its fore-end atop a soft support.

pattern-test while sitting at a benchrest


Testing heavy shotshell loads from the bench can become uncomfortable, so don’t be bashful about placing a sausage-shaped “sissy bag” from Brownells (661/623-4000, or Sinclair International (219/493-1858, between the stock and your shoulder.

why do hunters pattern their shotguns

What Distance Should be Used to Pattern a Shotgun?

Shotgun and shotshell manufacturers test their products by shooting a pattern at 40 yards and then drawing a 30-inch circle around the highest concentration of holes in the paper (the .410 is tested at 25 yards). They then count the pellet holes in the circle and compare it with the number of pellets in the load to determine a shotgun’s choke or a load’s performance.

Since patterns fired with the same gun/choke/load combo can vary from one to the next, the manufacturers usually fire a minimum of 10 patterns and average them for the final result.

What you have just read is quite useful for those who desire to compare the performance of their shotguns and loads to the industry standards, but for those of us who take most game birds closer to the muzzles of our guns, shooting at closer ranges reveals more useful information. Since most of the bobwhite quail I bag hit the ground 15 to 25 yards from the toes of my boots, I am more interested in how a gun/load combination performs at those ranges.

A shotgun used for wingshooting should place the center of its shot pattern either dead on the shooter’s hold point or slightly high. If you find that your gun is shooting too high or too low, it can be cured by changing the amount of drop at the comb of its stock.

Lowering the comb with a wood rasp (or having it done by a gunsmith) will lower your eye in relation to the muzzle of the gun and cause the gun to shoot lower. Increasing comb height by the application of layers of adhesive-backed moleskin will cause it to shoot higher.

Applying layers of the same material to the left side of the comb will cause the gun to shoot farther to the left (for a right-handed shooter) while removing wood from that side of the stock will cause it to shoot farther to the right.

Some guns may require more drastic measures. A practical option for a pump or autoloader with no rib on its barrel is to have a gunsmith adjust pattern point of impact by carefully bending the barrel in the proper direction. A barrel with a rib can also be bent, but since a portion of the rib will likely have to be broken loose and then resoldered back in place, it can be expensive.

Another option is to install an optical sight on a shotgun and then zero the gun like a rifle. This option is popular among turkey hunters, but I doubt if wingshooters will ever accept it in great numbers.

The best fix for any type of gun that doesn’t shoot where you are looking is to have an eccentric screw-in choke fitted to its barrel by Briley Manufacturing (800/331-5718,

When this type of choke is installed, its bore and the bore of the barrel are intentionally misaligned by the precise amount needed to shift pattern point of impact by the desired amount and in the desired direction. It doesn’t affect pattern quality.

Spending some time at the pattern board can also reveal a gun’s preference in loads and shot sizes. Just as deer rifles often shoot more accurately with some loads than with others, so it goes with shotguns–except in the case of scatterguns we often see differences in pattern quality.

Last but certainly not least in importance, testing a shotgun will reveal how the effective diameters of the patterns it shoots are affected by changes in choke constriction, shot sizes and load quality at the various ranges at which game birds are usually taken. For example, if most of your shots are inside 25 yards and the effective pattern diameter delivered by your gun/choke/ammo combination measures smaller than 25 inches at that distance, you should seriously consider switching to a choke with less constriction.

Moving to the opposite extreme, if the effective pattern diameter of your long-range load measures much greater than 40 inches at 40 yards, you might need to tighten up the choke in order to deliver adequate shot density at that range.

How to Choose a Place to Practice Shotgun Patterning

Hunters have a range of choices when it comes to choosing a place to practice shotgun patterning.

However, there are legal and safety issues to observe before one decides to go for shooting practice.

I would recommend you seek guidance from your local shooting range.

Practicing at a local shooting range has a lot of benefits. For example, ranges always observe local, state, and federal laws that govern shooting ranges. Moreover, a shooting range provides adequate distance needed to pattern a shotgun.

Apart from expertise skills acquired in a shooting range, you get top-range safety equipment for shotgun patterning. I am at talking about hearing and eyesight protection. Shotgunners know that a scope and a rangefinder are invaluable in patterning tests.

ear and eye safety

While some ranges are open to public shooting, others only allow private members.

You can choose either place depending on where you feel you can get the best shooting techniques.

It is advisable to observe the rules and commands when practicing in a shooting range.

It is important to learn what the range officer means by the commands “cease-fire” and “range is active.”

Also Read: Hunting With a Hand Gun- A Beginner’s Guide to Handgun Hunting.