Veteran duck hunters Bobby Mead, Luke Mathis and Mike Jolly all shoot 12-gauge shotguns when targeting wood ducks, but the similarities end there. 

Mead’s shotgun is chambered for 3-inch shells, but he shoots only 23/4-inch shells, high-speed 11/16-ounce loads of No. 4 steel shot. He disdains sky busting, taking only shots that are in reasonable range and he said a 23/4-inch load does all he needs without punishing your shoulder. He typically hunts in target-rich environments and gets plenty of close-range shots.

Marsh and Jolly both shoot shotguns chambered for 31/2-inch loads. A member of the Hevi-Shot pro staff, Jolly’s favorite load is No. 4 Hevi Metal, which patterns extremely well and hits hard at long ranges. Hunting in North Carolina’s foothills, they don’t get as many opportunities as Mead does, and they need to make every shot count.

Other hunters take the middle ground and shoot 11/8-ounce loads of No. 3 or No. 4 shot in 3-inch shells.

High-quality loads make a difference, but most important are good shooting skills and making sure ducks are in range before pulling the trigger.