A wide array of scenic destinations packed with speedy gamebirds. Add some unique premium loads and an adventurous spirit to make some stellar fall memories.
North American upland bird hunters should feel blessed with the wide array of native game birds, and some well-established introduced species. No matter what part of the country you live in, there are grouse, partridge, quail, pheasant, and ptarmigan to pursue. Only you can decide your next move, but I do know how to add some spice and increase your success. On your next adventure try loading up with some of the most-impressive upland loads to ever hit the market.
Kent Cartridge developed Ultimate Fast Lead to separate itself from other upland loads, with a combination of heavier payloads, high-velocity, and its proprietary premium lead shot called Diamond Shot. Diamond Shot is graded multiple times then polished to create consistent pellet size and uniformity, which leads to outstanding pattern uniformity.
Fast Lead starts with custom-blended, double-base powders developed for Kent’s proven Fasteel, which can deliver the high velocities on heavy payloads and maintain safety guidelines for pressure. Heavier payloads provide a greater pellet count. A good example is the 3-inch #5 in 12 GA; this 1 3/4- oz. load moves at 1,325 FPS and packs 297 pellets.
Kent Cartridge was founded by a group of sportsmen from the U.S. and Canada who hunted together and didn’t like the non-toxic shotshells available at the time. They researched a new shot option, which morphed into Kent Tungsten Matrix. They were able to secure the product development at Penn State but needed loading machinery and a place to load.
Activ Industries was going out of business in West Virginia, and the hunters put together a proposal to purchase the ammunition plant. At the same time, Kent Cartridge in England came up for sale, and it had machinery to manufacture Tungsten shot. Gamebore was the second company purchased, and the amalgamation of companies is now known in North America as Kent Cartridge.
The entrepreneurial spirit of the dedicated sportsmen, not satisfied with what was on the market, led to new products like Kent’s Tungsten Matrix, then Fasteel. The powders and components used in Fasteel paved the way for Kent to use the same technology with its premium lead shot, known as Fast Lead. Are you ready to experience the Kent Fast Lead difference? My advice is simple. Stock up with a case or two, and pick one of the following adventurous trips to focus your field testing:
Chasing Thunder Chickens. The Sandhills of Nebraska and the rolling prairie of South Dakota are bucket-list destinations for upland aficionados who seek speedy chickens with incredible stamina. It is amazing how far a flock of prairie chickens can fly when flushed from cover. Be forewarned that the wily chickens can be difficult to find, and long hikes are the norm.
Hard-hitting lead shot is a must for these flighty birds that are often in large flocks. Snow and late-season hunting mean large wintering flocks of birds that stage together. Kent uses clean-burning custom blended powders to provide consistent performance over a wide range of temperatures, and when the mercury dips well below the freezing point, you won’t have to worry about your choice of shotshell.
I like to mark flushes and harvest locations of prairie grouse in my HuntStand app, as the birds use the best habitat available from year to year, making it easier to locate them the next time out.
Cover Those Quail Coveys. From the rugged hills of eastern Oregon to the mesquite and brush country of Texas, quail are one of the most-exciting native gamebirds a hunter can flush. Robert Ruark described the passion, management, and tradition of quail hunting in his iconic book The Old Man and the Boy, which should be required reading for all quail enthusiasts. Southern-style quail hunting is still an institution with its well-trained dogs, mules, and double guns. Kent Fast Lead 20-gauge shotshells in shot sizes 6 or 7.5 are ideal for chasing bobwhite in the plantations.
Hard-Hitting Sage Advice. When you approach good sage grouse habitat, you face miles of trekking with the hopes of generating a flush. If all goes well, the birds will be in range, but these heavy-weight grouse are known for flushing well ahead of hunters. To take advantage of a hard-earned flush, make sure your shotgun is loaded with hard-hitting lead. Kent Fast Lead 12-gauge, 1 3/8-ounce loads have a velocity of 1,475 fps. The Diamond Shot is consistent and releases energy in the bird, and with shot sizes 4, 5, or 6, you can reach and cleanly kill birds that think they can jump the gun.
There are still some great places, such as Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, where you can chase North America’s largest grouse.
Ready For Roosters! The ring-necked pheasant is a highly sought-after game bird that was introduced to North America from Asia. These cagey and colorful fowl are fast runners and flush with a cackle and furious explosion of wing beats. The bright colors make the bird attractive on the outside, but the succulent white flesh is the best part of every hunt, taking you back into the field and the experience that brought the delicious bird to the table.
Land ownership information available in the HuntStand app is a hunter’s best friend, especially when attempting to obtain access to prime pheasant country.
South Dakota is world-famous for its abundance of wily roosters, but wild populations have established across most of North America.
Hungarian Imports. Northern Montana is the Land of Big Sky, and the remote, sparsely populated prairie and agricultural lands are ideal for producing Hungarian, or gray partridge. The first huns were introduced to North America in the late 1700s, but a major effort to establish the birds in new habitat occurred in the early 1900s.
Huns are present throughout the west and north-central states. Eastern Oregon is a sleeper, with incredible populations of partridge in the rolling hills. Fence lines, hedgerows, windbreaks, and wetland edges are prime cover that attracts and holds these speedy fowl.
The Honorable Mr. Ruff. Anyone who has heard a ruffed grouse drumming in the spring has a special bond with the bird. The greatest weakness for the old “bush partridge” is the fact they are incredibly fine table fare. Whether you enjoy walking the hardwoods in New York, pushing thick regrowth aspen forest in Minnesota, or searching the foothills and boreal forest, the ruffed grouse has wide appeal. Aldo Leopold summed up life for a ruffed grouse hunter when he wrote, “There are two kinds of hunting: ordinary hunting, and ruffed-grouse hunting.”
Don’t Sleep On Spruce Grouse. The spruce grouse is the Rodney Dangerfield of upland gamebirds—they get no respect. Often referred to as fool hens, the spruce grouse mostly relies on its camouflage to stay undetected. The bird is so confident in its disguise that it allows most danger, in the form of hunters, to approach extremely close. The dark meat is often scorned, as the late-season diet of the bird typically includes pine needles, which adds a subtle taste to the flesh. Early-season birds, however, feed heavily on cranberries, blueberries, clover, and forbs, making them a truly tasty dish. Regardless, when you’re in spruce grouse country, you are in a special place, with large expanses of mature forests with diverse coniferous trees.
The Franklin’s grouse closely resembles the spruce grouse but has been deemed a separate species. The male Franklin’s tail is entirely black, whereas the spruce grouse has a chestnut terminal tail band with white spots overlying. If you’re a collector, you will want to look up Franklin’s grouse in the northwest, or in southwest Canada.
Working Dogs—Man’s Best Friends. The one thing upland game bird hunters have a passion for, besides the birds, is a good dog. Man’s best friend plays a critical role in locating, flushing, and retrieving the prized feathered possessions of a walking hunter. Once you’ve experienced it, an upland adventure is never the same without a dog.
Scenic Vistas Galore. North American native game birds are a testament to good habitat. The best wild spaces are productive for hunters, as they are literal production factories for our handsome feathered friends, but they also offer some of the most-scenic vistas you could imagine. I’m thinking of blue grouse on top of a Colorado mountain, sage grouse in an aromatic prairie pasture, and quail scurrying through a vineyard in California.
All of the scenarios above conjure up mental snapshots of beautiful country and wild birds. Add a little moisture to help trap scent and allow your dog to stay on the trail, and you’ve found yourself a little slice of upland hunting heaven. We all dream of mornings with a cool breeze in our face, and the anticipation of flushing wing beats that are sure to come. Get out there and experience a few this fall.