Many good youth shotguns available

| Friday, Dec. 29, 2006

The second or late hunting season is in full swing and even the weather is cooperating with slightly above normal temperatures.

Archers and flintlock muzzleloading rifle hunters are out to fill deer tags and small game hunters are out to bag pheasants, rabbits or grouse.

This past week was a great opportunity for young people to hunt as they were home from school for the holidays.

For most of us in my generation there was no such thing as a “youth gun.” My first gun was an Iver Johnson Champion in 16 gauge, a break-top single shot.

Although I was a fairly good size for my age and the shotgun fit me well, at age 12 I thought it kicked like the proverbial mule. I thought so at least until I first fired on a flushing pheasant and the recoil was never felt and the muzzle blast barely heard in the excitement of the moment.

Today, however, there are many good shotguns on the market for young hunters. To name just a few, Mossberg offers its Model 505 and the 500 Bantam model. Both guns have a shorter, 12-inch butt stock, making it easy for younger, smaller frame hunters to shoulder comfortably. Both guns are 20-gauge, an ideal choice for youngsters who are just starting out, and both guns use interchangeable choke tubes to suit a variety of hunting situations. During this late season a modified or full choke (most likely full) is an idea choice for “wised up” birds that tend to flush at the first sign of an approaching hunter.

Remington also offers a youth model 870 in roughly the same configuration as the Mossberg models, and it is an excellent choice for a first shotgun.

Break-top single shots are an old standby classic and if the budget is tight, these may usually be bought for considerably less than a pump or autoloader.

H&R Firearms offers its Topper Jr. and Topper Jr. Classic models, break-top single shots in either 20 gauge or .410, and both with 22-inch barrels and 12-inch butt stocks. While the .410 is a relatively low recoil gun, it is not for many reasons an ideal choice for a beginning hunter, primarily because of the .410's restricted shot pattern and small load, usually 3?4-ounce of shot in the 3-inch shell and less in the shorter shells. H&R youth guns come with modified choke barrels. The modified choke is close to an ideal all-around choke, giving patterns that are fairly open for close range shooting and yet tight enough for longer range shooting. These fine guns can be enhanced by adding interchangeable choke tubes, thus making them even more versatile.

The 20 gauge is a good choice for hunters of any age or experience. It is estimated that one-third of shotguns used in the field today are 20 gauge while 12 gauge, of course, dominates the hunters' choice. The advent of the 20 gauge Magnum (I believe in the 1960s) pretty much eliminated the old reliable 16 gauge, however, the 16 still has a small number of loyal devotees. The second small game season for pheasants and rabbits runs until Feb. 3. Grouse can be hunted until Jan. 27. For many this is a season to enjoy hunting at its best. Hunting pressure is usually lower than during the fall season and there is still an ample amount of game to be found — if you're willing to do some tramping around.

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