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As a waterfowl hunter, part of my daily duck season routine includes picking up spent 12-gauge hulls. If we don’t stay on top of it, hundreds, sometimes thousands of them can become scattered across the properties we hunt throughout the course of a season. Unless they’re salvaged, they’re simply rubbish – every one of them slowly rotting in a place it doesn’t belong.

Fortunately, they’re relatively easy to find and many even come right to you with a magnet. What’s harder to find and police, though, are wads.

Each shotshell launches a plastic wad some twenty to fifty yards out from the shooter while shells stay relatively close by. And since most hunters don’t bother to pick them up, they cause just as big a problem.

The first weekend after duck season you’ll find me making my rounds from property to property, searching for the illusive wads. It’s all part of the program.

What about you? Do you police your wads during and after the waterfowl hunting season?

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  1. Not a duck hunter, just an occasional trap/skeet shooter, but I’d honestly really like it if some company could make a biodegradable wad, or maybe even a hull. That sure would be nice.

    • Paper hulls are still be made although they are no longer popular with most hunters. Both Cheddite and Federal make them. The Federals still have a bit of a following with target shooters. As for wads, well of course you can go back to how we loaded them when I was a kid and use cork and felt wads with no shot column. There is company that claims that they are going to start selling a biodegradable shot wad with column. Supposedly it will be available sometime this year.

      There are others that are available now at a reasonable price. I imagine if there is a demand more companies and more size choice will become available.

      • The old ‘card over the shot, recoil pad under the shot’ worked great when the shot was lead or copper plated lead.

        I wouldn’t want to use steel shot without a plastic shot cup. And those aren’t exactly biodegradable, unfortunately.

        • Steel is no longer the only non-toxic shot available. Bismuth has around for years and of course there are others now. All more expensive but you can cut that cost down by hand loading. Where I hunt lead is still legal for upland hunting. Shot columns were around long before steel shot because they produce a better pattern. Shells without columns are not going to pattern as well. I think few hunters or target shooters are going to sacrifice pattern efficiency to be green. But if it becomes mandated there is a biodegradable shot column on the market now and many more would become available if clubs, reserves or the government mandated them. I wouldn’t care so long as they give us time to use up the old ones. I still have 50 pounds of lead #2s which are not of much use any longer.

        • Not that hard to make UV-degradable plastics these days, though.

          “Melts in the field, not in your shell”

          Surprised none of the manufacturers have done this. Maybe there’s some technical reason preventing it?

    • The sales pitch of the Winchester Traacker load is it’s blaze orange wad, making it easier to see in flight – kinda like learning to shoot a shotty with tracers.
      So if wads could be made easier to see in the air, could they be made easier to see in the grass? Or does Winchester have an exclusive patent on easy-to-see wads?

    • Most plastics are photo-degradable. Although that process involves sitting out in the sun for a decade or two.

    • Jim, I remember cardboard hulls, and they had some *problems*.

      Like swelling, that made them problematic for chambering and extraction.

      Plastic hulls were the cat’s furry ass because they chambered and extracted smoothly and without hassle…

  2. My wads are not deceptive and misleading. They are elusive (hard to find) though. 😁

    • You bastard!

      You beat me to it!

      (I have no comment on any wads I may have, or may have not, shot.)

      But, seriously, are biodegradable fiber wad cups not possible for steel shot?

  3. Rarely right away. They are all in the water. I tend to hunt the same ponds, so I’ll pick them up as they hit the shore throughout the year.

    • Are plastic wad cups made of a low-density plastic that causes them to float?

      I can see that as being both good and bad if they did…

    • “Everything is better with plastic.”

      Try nookie with a synthetic prophylactic on (Stronger! Less breakage!) and get back to me on just how much *better* it feels…

      *mutter* 😉

    • C@cks not Glocks could collect them to save the environment. They could recycle them to make all of their dildos.

  4. I hunt duck, dove and quail. Always tried to police up my hulls. Even the brass under my deer stands, though I no longer reload. Never thought about the wads. Thanks for pointing that out.

  5. I use lead shot for quackers.. overshot fiber, shot, felt cushion, overpowder fiber, about 90gr of FF.. and a good english flint.

    Oh, you were talking about opening up like an AA battery with them new breech
    loaders.. got all kinds of laws on those now.

    Good ole black powder is exempt from most of those laws (at least around here)

    Who is it that said something like ‘no amount of massed firepower can make up for a poorly aimed first shot’

  6. Biodegradable plastic bags, made from corn starch, have been around for decades. I submit that biodegradable plastic wads can be made, and they wouldn’t be cost prohibitive.

  7. The Lincoln Park gun club in Chicago shut down about thirty years ago. They shot right into lake Michigan. I found eight wads yesterday walking my my dog on the beach, Three miles north of where they used to shoot. That shit does not go away.

  8. Those dang “illusive wads” always look like something else, maybe that’s why they’re so elusive . . .

  9. Pick-up 3 is a popular motto at the beach. That means pick up 3 pieces of trash as you make your way in after you surf.
    The same should apply to duck clubs. Orange 🍊 colored wads could help.
    Another person’s mention of biodegradable plastic makes little difference: in ideal conditions, such plastic degrades in weeks but in many places it takes years – walk around some SoCal lagoons and beaches and you occasionally find plastic bags from stores that went broke 20 years ago and biodegradable bags were the law almost 30 years ago in California.
    For one, I take pride in pucking up after myself and often bring dog poop bags to pick up trash at my local range.

  10. For Dove fields and all hunts where I can find other peoples wads and mine laying around I pick up every one I see after the day is over. I spend about 30 to 45 min picking them up. Ass holes in KY are like ass holes every where else, they leave trash, shit, shells, wads, bottles, and clothing, even tampons and shit laying around in the fields! I can’t stand it. All they care about is that particular days hunt and themselves. They will pile up 200 people to a field so tight that no one is safe and you can’t hunt…………like Dove are gonna come in to a field with people every 20 yards or 10 yards apart.
    Any way, I was picking up after myself in 2017 and had the entire Lexington Dove field public area to myself……… was new and a mentor only hunt the first 3 days. Day 4 no one came out to hunt the field. I bagged maybe 5 Dove but as I looked around it was nothing but wads and trash. I set to cleaning up and dressing out birds also. Farmer who leases the land to the State came out when he seen me cleaning and asked me to walk over to his truck. Told me ….( Get in ) So i did. He drove us through about 20-30 more acres of fields all planted on the back side of the property. He said…( You hunt here next year come in that gate over yonder…….) I just looked at him like uh is that part of the Dove public field……he said no, it’s my Dove spot and you can hunt with us next year while everyone over there is banging away and drunk. Old guy said I was the only person he seen cleaning up after myself and others so he figured I deserved a decent spot.

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