How to survive the cartridge shortage

A three-tier approach to overcoming the pandemic payload shortage. (Photo by: Kutsenko Denis /

These are the times that test the souls of men.

The peak of the migration is here. The birds of the north descend in droves. Skinny. Desperate. No circle once they have observed your spread. Just the neck, cupped wings, spread toes, the fantasy of waterfowl DIVING in the slaughter hole.

Still, at the local sporting goods store, there isn’t a box of ammunition in sight.

This is not an exaggeration. I just got back from my neighborhood big box retailer to check this out firsthand. The ammunition shelf is sterile. Eighteen feet of empty space behind dusty labels announcing steel shot of a dozen different varieties. A spider’s web hangs in a corner. As I lifted my phone to take a photo, a tumbleweed passed.

“Panicked shoppers,” the clerk explained, “After the ‘rona and the riots, people stole everything we had. For home defense. Even the birds. I nodded. The unrest always leads to an increase in ammunition purchases. And I guess if you’re hoping to defend your eight-month supply of Charmin from wandering looters, a few 3 “# 6 Blindside boxes would probably do the trick. But why are the shelves still bare now, 20 months after the pandemic? ? With the urban riots of 2020, a fading memory?

Two disgusting words; Supply Chain. A large ammunition maker explained the problem to its customers via email last fall. “The ammunition shortage is real,” they said, then explained in detail how the rising costs of metals, overseas plastic shortages and even the production of gunpowder had months, if not years. , delay. “In short,” the email concluded, “The powder is tight. The metal has doubled. The hulls are becoming non-existent… as we move through the season we will be missing one of these three . We just can’t predict what or when. Yes folks. This is grim.

So, is it time to panic? Time to despair? Time to hang up your waders and put on your quarantine sweatshirts?

No, my friends. Remember, you didn’t set out to hunt waterfowl because it was easy. And it will take much more than a shortage of ammunition to keep WILDFOWL’s readership out of sight. Because when the going gets tough, duck hunters get resourceful. Here is some inspiration to continue.

Look to history

This is not the first shortage of projectiles facing our country. My grandfather used to tell stories about the grieving dove hunt in West Texas when he was only twelve years old, at the height of World War II. Then, as now, shotgun shells were hard to find. So instead of passing doves like in pre-war times, he and his cousin roamed the backcountry roads until they found a row of gray birds basking on a fence.

His cousin would park the sedan a hundred yards away while my grandfather’s belly crawled along the ditch. Once within range, my grandfather carefully lined up the beaks of the mourning turtledoves behind the bead of his 20-gauge 12 model and… pouf! Six birds in the bag.

To preserve

Some of the best public waterfowl units near my home in Washington state impose their own ammunition shortage all the time. Fifteen rounds per fighter, per day is the maximum allowed in these units (a rule designed to reduce sky-busting). These limits are strictly enforced, and if you’re going to go over your limit of seven ducks for the Pacific Flyway (not to mention any geese that might pass), well… you don’t want to waste blows crushing cripples.

waterfowl hunters in a blind frame with shotguns
With an ammo shortage this season, hunters can think twice before wasting shells on overflights not close enough. (Photo by: CLP Media /

I once saw an adult man in waders chasing a one-winged drake sprinting in circles over a field of slick water for 15 minutes before the two, man and bird, collapsed in the mud of exhaustion. After a five-minute rest, the couple staggered to their feet, nodded in grim recognition, and the chase resumed. I don’t know if he finally got his bird, but he certainly didn’t waste a shell.

To borrow

In 1997, when my parents were away, my teenage siblings and I ordered two Meatlover’s pizzas. It wasn’t until the delivery man arrived that we were missing $ 3. So we opened up every drawer, tore up every sofa cushion, and explored every pocket of every pair of jeans until we found the difference. In exchange. (Delivery guy, if you’re reading this… sorry, we gave you a nickel tip).

I found myself in a similar frantic scenario with my ammo supply at the end of last season: scouring every nook and cranny, shaking every old hunting jacket, even fumbling under the wheel arches of my vehicle until I find 22 rounds passable for the next morning hunt. If you haven’t brought an eclectic ammo bag into the field lately, let me tell you, there’s nothing that will keep you on your toes like loading two 2 3/4 “rounds. # 6 for your first and third shots with a random 3 ½ Kent T’s charge sandwiched in the middle. Boom…! Boom boom.

random shotgun cartridges
Fire any shell you can find seems to be a common adage during the Rona years. (Photo by: JBunch /

To share

A recent national poll from Southwick Associates found that only 17% of hunters they spoke to said they were “happy” with the amount of ammunition they had. Without a doubt, my buddy John was in that 17%.

John has more ammo than anyone. Buckets and buckets of it, in his basement. On a recent goose hunt, John filled his pockets with three boxes of 3½ inch logs. He then slipped a fifty 3-inch # 2 cartridge strap over one shoulder. Then another to balance it, like an “x”. When I informed him on the way to the blind that he had the equivalent of twenty pounds of metal on him, he just smiled. Then offered to share if I missed.

If my assumptions about this magazine’s readership are correct, then John is not an outlier. In fact, many of you must have stifled a “burst of laughter” when you read this Southwick Associates survey. 17% ?? What kind of sane waterfowl would ever admit to being SATISFIED with their ammunition? There is always room for another case. Heck, you’re still working in the nine Federal apartments you bought with that off-season discount in 2009!

huge pile of empty shotgun shell shells
Earn extra points by bringing extra seashells on your next hunt. (Photo by: Anders Lindberg /

So, for all those big cats sitting on steel thrones amid tungsten mountains … I implore you: think generous John. Then go do the same.

Remember the good side

If the summer breeding estimates are correct, there are fewer ducks to shoot at anyway. Perhaps this is the year to photograph less and smile more, because every day in the swamp – even with a camera – is a day to be cherished.

So send me your extra ammo.

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