The Best Shell for a Combo Hunt

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dead waterfowl laying in a line on the ground

Picking your shells for opening day is a big decision, but it becomes especially tough when you’re combo hunting ducks and geese on the same hunt.

Each year, I like to start my season in Arkansas chasing ducks and specks. Opening weekend is one of the best times to hunt due to the abundance of teal, gadwall, wigeon and newly arriving mallards. On top of the large volume of ducks, the specks are there in HUGE numbers. Combo hunting ducks and specks is always a target rich experience.


Density Matters. If you throw a ping pong ball and golf ball at the same velocity, which will travel further and hit harder? This is the core of what our 12 g/cc tungsten shot is all about: Hit harder at farther distance. HEVI-XII is 53.8% more dense than steel, which translates to double the downrange energy! This allows you to drop down 3 shot sizes for the same lethality. This gives you 28% more devastating pellets on target. More kills. Fewer Cripples. Better Stories. Pack in with HEVI-XII and walk out carrying extra weight.

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12 gauge HEVI-XII packaging and shotshells

Right at sunrise we’re shooting teal at ten yards, but minutes later we’re likely to be shooting specks up to fifty yards away.

So, what shell do you choose to cover everything from teal to specklebelly goose?

I know what you’re thinking, “just bring duck loads and goose loads.” It’s not that simple. On a fast and furious hunt, no one has time load and unload their shotgun as different species are headed their way. You’re lucky to clock a teal in time to shoulder your gun, let alone swap shells.

I’ve always found that a smaller load with a heavier density is the best choice. If I was just hunting teal, I’d typically be shooting HEVI-XII 3” #6 (or 3” #4 if I’m shooting steel). For specks, I’d go with HEVI-XII 3” #2 (or 3” BB if I’m shooting steel). On a combo hunt, I’m aiming to split the difference. My go-to is HEVI-XII 3” #4. This load paired with a modified choke tube allows me to throw a very forgiving pattern without sacrificing any downrange energy thanks to the 12 density of HEVI-XII. Sure, a #4 load may be slight overkill for teal at 10 yards, but it is a lot better than BB. A #4 could be slightly undersized for a speck or snow at 40 plus yards, but I’ve had much greater success with a more forgiving/dense pattern than a larger shot size out of a tighter choke.

Find yourself a shell that can do it all and remember that density kills. HEVI-XII is 12.0g/cc. which is 53.8% more dense than steel. No more guessing on which shell to load up on the most anticipated day of the year, for me. It’s going to be HEVI-XII every time because I didn’t come this far to miss.