By Kyle Wintersteen
Your shooting might have been stellar in October, but when the mercury dips, everything changes. Don’t let fully plumed greenheads escape because your action froze or your recoil pad snagged your jacket. These tips will ensure your shooting doesn’t go as cold as a January breeze.
Clean shotguns meticulously. Frigid conditions can cause built-up gunk to expand or freeze, leading pumps to run less smoothly and autoloaders to cease functioning entirely. Arguably the biggest key to a reliable late-season shotgun is the thorough removal of all carbon fouling, oil residue and debris such as grass, seeds or dirt.
Go light on the lube. Apply the thinnest layer of synthetic lubricant you can to friction points along the action. Synthetic lubricants are less prone to freezing. Alternatively, you can run the shotgun without lubrication. That’s a tad harder on the gun, but it’ll function. Whatever you do, don’t go heavy on the gun oil. That’s an iced-up firing pin or action waiting to happen.
Avoid condensation. If a shotgun is in a 70-degree home one moment and exposed to subzero temperatures the next, condensation will form and promptly freeze. That doesn’t bode well for reliability. If possible (and legal in your area), store your shotgun in a well-secured garage overnight before a cold-weather hunt.
Pocket your shotshells. The slow-burning powders used in duck loads and other high-brass shotshells generate lower muzzle velocities in extreme cold. It’s generally a negligible decline — usually just a few dozen feet per second — but with steel, every bit of speed counts, and cold, dense air also saps pellet velocities. So, consider tucking your shells in a pocket during cold hunts and bumping up one shot size.
Adjust your gun mount. Thick, gunstock-snagging jackets save a lot of ducks when temperatures plummet. When heavy clothing is required, it’s best to “push” the gun out in front of you a bit before bringing it back to your shoulder. It’s a less fluid motion than your normal mount, but it sure beats catching a recoil pad on your coat and watching your buddies shoot ducks.