What Size Shot for Pheasant 20 Gauge?

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Our Associate portal can be found here

Pheasant hunting is not a complicated process. All you have to do is spot the fowls, disturb the area as you shoot after the fleeing birds. Like clay hunting, targets are in the air and moving, meaning shot placement depends on how tight or widespread your pattern is. 

The essential part of this kind of shooting is understanding what comes out at the end of your shotgun muzzle. In this guide, you will know all there is to know about pheasant hunting to help you expand your hunting knowledge. 

For starters, to get the perfect wing-shooting pattern does not mean having a tight pattern. It would be best to aim for the largest spread at any range you are shooting at. Therefore, the challenge is getting the most extensive spread while it can only exist at a specific range. 

Understanding Different Shot Size

The more we delve into shot sizes, you will discover many opinions based on different experiences that hunters have on the field. In my experience, using any shotshell size between the number 1 and 7 ½ for hunting pheasants leads to a knockdown and successful harvest. 

But there is more if you want to understand shotshells and what the numbers represent. To give you a clear perspective, if the number on the shotshell is higher, it means the diameter is smaller. An example is a shot size 8 that will have less than 0.8-inches of diameter and, therefore, a mass lesser than one grain. The reverse is true, and the number 1 shot size pellets will have 0.16-inches of diameter. 

It implies that a single shell can hold more number 9 shot pellets than hold the number 1 shot pellets. Also, in terms of velocity., the number 9 shot pellets will drop in velocity than a number 1 shot. Therefore, you will have a more powerful shot with fewer pellets when using number 1 shots over the rest of the numbers as it retains most of its punch over a longer distance. 

There are no limitations to what shot size you should use; however, most hunters prefer between the number 4 and 6 shotshells, especially when using a modified choke choice. It is the perfect combination that you can use throughout the entire pheasant hunting season. A modified choke offers either lead or steel hunting ammo options that do not affect your rifle’s performance. 

Uses of Different Shotshell Sizes 

Number 9, 8, and 7 ½ 

The smallest available size starts from number 9, descending to the number 1 shotshell. The last three are the smallest in diameter and are quite useful for clay shooting as they have a wider spread owing to the number of pellets. For upland game, you can have much success when hunting woodcock and grouse. 

Numbers 6, 5, and 4

Here you will have exceptional results when hunting pheasants, quail, rabbits, ducks, squirrels, and sage hens. They pack a powerful punch and have a heavy shot load in terms of ounces. These three are also effective when hunting larger fowls like turkeys. 

Numbers 3, 2, and 1 

These are the best for long-range waterfowl hunting. The three are big-sized shots and travel at higher velocities meaning they pack a nasty punch. Even though they have fewer pellets than in other categories, they retain their speed and velocity over long distances and often lead to instant death. 

Three Best Gauges for Pheasant Hunting

12-gauge Shotgun

It is a popular choice for most hunters, and many will consider the 12-gauge shotgun because of the availability of ammunition and how inexpensive the ammo is compared to other gauges. 12-gauge refers to 12-bore, which means it has the potential and power to kill the challenging and tough pheasants throughout the entire season. 

12-gauge shotguns are lightweight, and the variety makes it possible to find a rifle that suits all body types. You can carry them to the field without breaking a sweat, yet it still offers some versatility to hunt various wild game. 

16-gauge Shotgun

There is no significant difference from the 12-gauge shotgun. So much alike, it is lightweight, and therefore you can carry it for longer hours while hunting without it becoming a bother. A 16-gauge shotgun that fits a small frame is ideal for most upland hunting. If you consider the ballistics, it is almost comparable to the 12-gauge shotgun yet somewhat lighter. Unfortunately, most 16-gauge shotguns are at present placed on 12-gauge receivers. However, if you can see past this minor flaw, you will enjoy pheasant shooting. Though not many, you can still find 16-gauge frames for 16-gauge shotguns. 

20-gauge Shotgun

If you are looking for the shotgun gauge that can accommodate all your pheasant hunting needs, then you should settle for the 20-gauge shotgun. A 20-gauge shotgun is much lighter than the other two meaning it is more field-friendly. With the decline in favor of the 16-gauge shotgun, the 20-gauge shotgun is the preferred smaller gauge hunting rifle for pheasants. The 20gauge shotgun is sleeker, slimmer, and fitter into the hands of a bird hunter. The barrel, forearm, and receiver are also slim, ensuring you control your shots and less recoil. Like other shotguns, the 20-gauge shotgun loads various shotshells, especially when used with the correct chokes.  


Hunting wild pheasants is a formidable prey that is also very hardy. The anatomy of pheasants is not like other fowls you will hunt in the uplands. Pheasants have a boy armor that can take a punch and still fly as if they are bulletproof. 

The layer includes feathers that are almost hair-like located on the pheasant’s backside. The feathers bundle together around fired pellets and slow down the impact, thereby inhibiting the penetration. 

When selecting a shotgun gauge, it is best to consider all the best combinations that lead to a successful hunt. These include ammunition, weight, gauge, action, and chokes that makes you feel comfortable for pheasant hunting. It is a matter of personal taste and preference. 

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.

Scroll to Top