For several reasons the common eider pushes the limits of a duck hunter’s shooting equipment. This coastal heavyweight is North America’s biggest duck (drakes run 4½ to 6 pounds) and comes “armored” in plumage that’s legendary for the protection it affords against sub-arctic winters. Even so, the eider is one of the fastest flyers on record, capable of sustained speeds as high as 47 mph. If those attributes aren’t enough, consider that hunters must boat out to offshore shoals and islands, thereby enduring biting wind, pounding surf and drenching salt spray.
This is not to say that hunting eiders isn’t great fun—it most certainly is and not in small measure because the shooting can often be fast and furious, and with a daily bag of five or more birds there’s plenty of action. But you can’t get the job done right with wimpy gear or sub-par shooting skills.
I know that from personal experience. My first trip to Maine we did our best with steel shot and though we mostly managed to shoot limits, there were way too many cripples in the process. Eventually we resolved to go for head shots, and while that certainly was a better bet when the shooter did his part, some of us were slow to get into the swing. And along the way, we had to fight to keep the saltwater wiped off our shotguns or else “orange-peel” rust would start appearing in just a couple of hours.
More recently I journeyed to Stonington, Maine, to join industry friends Linda Powell and Terry Moore for a hunt with leaders of the state’s Ducks Unlimited chapter. This proved a real eye-opener in several ways and notably in the area of proper shooting tools.
As PR manager for Remington, Linda has hosted this hunt multiple times as a way to spotlight her company’s waterfowling products, and so of course we were outfitted with top-of-the-line Remington guns and loads.
For most ducks I think good-quality steel shotshells work just fine. But eiders are different—they’re bigger, more heavily feathered and they can fly like the devil. Shooting conditions, because of factors like wind, precipitation and rough surf (when hunting from a floating blind) can add even more difficulty. Naturally we must take our best shots at putting these sporty birds down cleanly, and so in this waterfowling venue I believe the extra cost is justified.
At 12.0 grams/cubic centimeter, the tungsten/bronze/iron alloy used in the Wingmaster HD pellets is 10 percent denser than lead, according to Remington. The advantage is that they outpenetrate steel, lead and many competing non-toxics.
The compound Remington uses for HD shot is also considerably softer than ultra-hard steel and other tungsten derivatives. As such, it is more responsive to choke manipulation and can be geared to give optimum patterns no matter what the shooting particulars. These pellets are less abrasive to bores and choke tubes than the harder non-toxics, but even so are not recommended for use in older, pre-steel-shot-era shotguns.
Remington offers 22 different Wingmaster HD waterfowl loads, including 10-, 12- and 20-gauge shells, ranging from BBs for geese to No. 6 for close-working ducks.
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