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Best Shotgun Ammo for Ducks and Other Waterfowl

No matter how many great shots you made duck hunting last year, the shots you miss always stick with you. That’s why so many who hunt waterfowl are looking for an edge. It often comes down to matching your ammo to the distances and size of the bird you’re hunting. Patterning your shotgun is more important to hunting waterfowl than many think. There are several makes of shotgun ammo for duck hunting that you should pattern with. Let’s look at what many consider the best shotgun ammo.
APEX Ammo Mossy Oak waterfowl blend

Apex Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Habitat Blend

A unique 12 Gauge Blend of 1-1/16oz #3 Steel over 1/4oz #8 TSS for your habitat of choice.

The TSS/S3 Steel model combines the Apex S3 Steel with the added knockdown power of the world renowned Tungsten Super Shot (TSS). The “duplex,” also known as a blend, includes 1/4oz of the TSS, to maximize pattern density and help virtually eliminate cripples. When you look back on those hunts, you’ll know that little extra made all the difference.


Don't take this ammo for rabbit hunting. This is duck-killing ammo. The HEVI-Shot brand is popular for all waterfowl and for a good reason. It patterns well for most hunters and is relatively easy to find. The most lethal combination is the three-inch shell with a one and a quarter ounce load and BB size shot. The layered shell has 30 percent bismuth shot in front of 70 percent steel shot and leaves the barrel at 1,500 feet-per-second. Because the layered design packs such a punch, you can open up your choke and still make long shots. 

Bow Setup for Bear Hunting


Load up the hunting dogs because it's time to shoot ducks. This clean-burning ammo is great for semi-auto shotguns that tend to jam before the duck hunt is over. You will find the three-inch shell with a one and a quarter ounce load and number 2 shot is great for ducks close over decoys. The thicker wad minimizes contact of the steel shot with the bore, reducing wear on your barrel. This ammo can be hard to find but is well worth the drive to get.


Deer hunters looking for deer hunting tips turn to technology for an edge. The technology behind this shell looks great on paper and its performance in the field is top-notch. It seems that every duck hunt you go on, someone is using HEVI-HAMMER. The most popular shell for mallards is a combination of the three-inch shell with a one and a quarter ounce load and #2 size shot. The layered shell has 15 percent bismuth shot in front of 85 percent steel shot and leaves the barrel at 1,500 feet-per-second. A new upland load with a one and three-eighths ounce load works great on larger waterfowl.


Winchester Blind Side waterfowl ammo

The new hex cut shot does more damage and is more lethal than the traditionally cut shot. The high packing density technology of the Blind Side stacks 15 percent more pellets per shell, and the diamond cut wad increases the kill zone dramatically. You are probably familiar with the Drylok technology that Winchester uses in other ammo. When you combine Drylok technology with the rest of the technology Winchester used to make Blind Side, you are armed with serious waterfowl ammo. 

Ideal Tree Stand Height for Bow Hunting Whitetails


At 1,700 feet-per-second, the HyperSonic is the fastest shotgun shell on the market. It uses a special accelerator wad to maintain velocity and claims to reduce the lead on a duck by eight inches at 40 yards. That is subjective, of course, but the three-inch #2 shot with a one and one-quarter ounce load is deadly on fast-moving teal. There is a one and three-eighths ounce load for bigger birds. The speed of this shell takes some getting used to, but once you do, you should dramatically reduce the shots you’re behind on.

Establish a Pattern

All of the shotgun shells we mentioned above will kill ducks and geese. Before you buy a case of any shotgun shells, you should buy a few shells from different manufacturers and see how your shotgun performs. It seems every shotgun has its own preference regarding shotgun shells. You can spend a lot of money and miss a lot of ducks just to find your shotgun misses high left with the shell you’re using.

Before the season starts, take a few of the shotgun shells we mentioned above and pattern your shotgun. Use a 40 x 38-inch paper target with a duck background and patterning rings. After you shoot at the duck, you can see how much of your shot hits a lethal location. The patterning rings will give you an idea of how much shot is in a given circumference.

If you know how far your average shot is, you should choose the ammo that consistently puts the most shot on target at that range. If the distance of your average shot varies, you should choose the ammo that consistently puts the most shot on target from several distances. You will find that some ammo is great under 30 yards, but is all over the place at 45 yards. The bottom line is that you want to know where you’re going to hit when you pull up on a bird. 

duck hunter loading shotgun

Doing Your Homework

Every duck hunt has that guy who seems to have the edge over everyone else. Everyone marvels at him and dismisses him as a natural. Odds are, he has done his homework and knows what shotgun and shotgun shell combination works for him. Sure, he may change things up if he is hunting teal one week and mallards the next. The point is that he knows what shell works best for the species he is hunting and he knows where he is going to hit when he pulls the trigger. With a little homework, you can be the guy with the edge.

Mossy Oak duck hunting gear

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