What Size Shot is Needed for Pheasant Hunting?

A close look at what size shot is needed for pheasant hunting, based on the bird’s weight, body type, and feathers.

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Pheasant Hunting

In order to have a successful pheasant hunt, it is important to know what size shot is needed. Pheasant hunting requires a larger shot size than other types of hunting, due to the large size of the bird. The most common shot sizes for pheasant hunting are #4, #5, and #6.

Shot Size

Choosing the right shot size is very important when you are out hunting for pheasants. If the shot is too small, it might not kill the pheasant. If the shot is too large, it might injure the pheasant. The size of the shot also depends on the distance from which you are shooting.

#6 Lead Shot

#6 lead shot is a good all-around choice for pheasant hunting. It is heavy enough to kill a pheasant at range, but not so heavy that it will tear the meat. This size shot will also work well for quail and dove hunting.

#7.5 Lead Shot

7.5 lead shot is the preferred size for pheasant hunting. It is a good all-around size that can be used for a variety of birds and small game. The 7.5 lead shot is a little larger than the #6 lead shot, so it will provide more coverage and do more damage to the bird.

#8 Lead Shot

#8 lead shot is a good choice for pheasant hunting. It is a little heavier than #7.5 lead shot, so it will carry more energy and penetrate deeper. It is also a little larger in diameter, so it will create a larger wound channel.

#9 Lead Shot

Pheasant hunting generally requires the use of a shotgun. Different sizes and types of shotgun ammunition, or “shots,” are available, and the appropriate one to use depends on the game you are hunting and the shotgun you are using. Pheasant hunting generally requires #9 lead shot.

Lead shot pellet sizes are designated by numbers that indicate the weight in avoirdupois drams of 1/144th pound (a pellet of such weight is referred to as a “1/144th dram pellet”). So, for example, #9 shot is 1/144th of a pound times 9, or slightly less than 1/16 of an ounce (avoirdupois). In Imperial units, this works out to about 18.4 grains; in U.S. customary units, it is about 1.2 grams. The actual diameter of the pellets varies from manufacturer to manufacturer; common sizes for lead #9 shot used in clay pigeon shooting are between 0.085 inches (2 mm) and 0.090 inches (2.3 mm).

Non-Lead Shots

Pheasant hunting typically requires a 12-gauge shotgun using number 6 lead shot. An improved cylinder bore barrel is the best option. The larger the shot, the more pellets in each shell, and the more I can shoot without reloading as often. I can shoot lighter loads in my 12-gauge shotgun and still take down a pheasant.


Hevi-Shot is a brand of shotgun ammunition manufactured by Environ-Metal, Inc. of Duluth, Minnesota. It uses steel, tungsten alloys, or bismuth shot instead of lead shot to provide more pellet energy while maintaining patterns at extended range.

Steel Shot

The most common type of non-toxic shot used for hunting is steel shot. Steel shot is made of high-strength steel alloy and is available in a variety of sizes, from BBs to buckshot. The size of the shot you use will depend on the type of game you are hunting and the shotgun you are using.

Steel shot is less dense than lead, so it doesn’t penetrate as well. That means that you need to use a larger size shot for the same game when using steel shot instead of lead. For example, if you would use a #6 lead shot for doves, you would need to use a #4 steel shot.

Another thing to keep in mind is that steel shotshells are not as readily available as lead shotshells and they tend to cost more.