Outdoor Journal: Poly-Choke gives hunter many options

Choke tubes have added a lot of target and game-getting accuracy to shotgunning since their introduc
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Choke tubes have added a lot of target and game-getting accuracy to shotgunning since their introduction in the 1700s, when Eur­opean gunsmiths produced choked shotgun barrels.

But it wasn’t until 1866 that one was ever patented, and then it never caught on because people believed that it produced too tight of a pattern.

Finally, in 1959, Winchester

introduced what is now the current system of screw-in chokes, the system manufactured by many of the major gun manufacturers for their shotguns. And it wasn’t too long after that, aftermarket screw-in choke tube manufacturers came on the scene.

However, in 1920, E.F. White of Hartford, Conn., developed the Poly-Choke, which enabled hunters and shooters to adjust quickly to all types of conditions. The early Poly-Choke had to be

machined onto the shotgun or put on by a gunsmith, but once installed on the barrel, it could be adjusted simply by twisting to the desired shot constriction.

Chances are, if you’re a serious senior hunter/shooter, you have a Poly-Choke on the end of that old Ithaca or Remington. And I’m sure it works every bit as good as the day it was put there.

Recently, Poly-Choke redesigned the original system, making it even more versatile because it is man­ufactured to match the choke tube threads of today’s modern barrels.

The Poly-Choke II is offered for everything from the Benelli Super Black Eagle II to the New England Firearms single-shot shotguns. And it comes in 12- and 20-gauge sizes, with and without a vent sleeve. The vent sleeve will reduce recoil and barrel jump.

The Poly-Choke gives the shooter total control of the pattern his shotgun will shoot the most effectively; and it does it with a split-second adjustment that does not require removing one choke tube and screwing in another. An average shooter will usually use four different degrees of chokes: wide open for woodcock or skeet out to 25 yards; an improved cylinder for 20- to

30-yard shots at grouse and hard-to-hit sporting clays; modified for 30 to 35 yards for pheasant and sporting clays; and the full setting, for 40-yard shots and over for ducks, geese, turkey, trap and sporting clays.

In addition to these traditional choke settings, the Poly-Choke II offers in-between settings to refine and improve your accuracy and success, actually giving you nine choices from extreme wide open to extra full. It’s like having a nine-barrel shotgun when going afield or to the range. And equally important is that this choke system will handle all loads, including slugs, Heavy Shot and steel. That’s a lot of versatility; and it can do it for the screw-in choke system shotgun you use.

AT THE RANGE

The true test of any gun is always at the range. In the case of the Poly-Choke II, it involved pattern control shooting at varied distances with each of the choke settings. The key to a good choke system is to get 70 to 75 percent of the shot pellets into a 30-inch circle at a given range. And it also needs to do it without a “hole” in the pattern.

This hole, something common in many older, single-choke shotguns, occurs when pellets are unevenly dispersed over a target, leaving an area in the middle of the pattern with little or no pellet penetration. Thus, the “hole” causes missed targets and/or missed/wounded game. The Poly-Choke II eliminates this, and can definitely make that old gun more accurate.

There were no holes in the patterns of the two Poly-Choke IIs,

12- and 20- gauge, I tested, and when I shot at the paper targets from different ranges, adjusting to a different choke, I found the patterns were equally distributed and more than sufficient for effective hunting and target shooting. I used a Benelli Super Black Eagle II

12-gauge and a Beretta AL391 Urika 20-gauge. All shots were taken from a bench rest position.

I used Winchester Supreme 23⁄4-inch Supreme No. 6 shot and Winchester Super X slugs. What really impressed me was the less than two-inch, three-shot group I got with those “pumpkin ball” slugs at 50 yards with open sights.

THE HUNT

It was almost 1 p.m. when I left the range and headed for a small, 100-acre wooded area in Saratoga County that offered all types of small game. I purposely chose this area because of its diverse cover where I could test the various settings of the Poly-Choke II on my 20-gauge in a true small-game hunting situation.

My first stop was a hedgerow bordering a field. The hedgerow was fairly open, but had plenty of brush piles for me to kick, so I choose my normal choke setting of improved cylinder. It was after stomping on a dozen or so piles that a cottontail broke out underneath my feet, and it was out about 20-plus yards before I was able to get the shot off. I was then halfway to the number of rabbits needed for my stew.

Crossing over through a heavy alder- and brush-covered field, I clicked on to the extremely wide- open choke. Any shot that I got here would probably be very close. And it was. In fact, the rabbit must have gotten confused, because it actually ran right over my foot and offered no shot. Sure wish I had the beagles along with me.

When I reached the hardwoods leading to the swamp, I noticed movement on the ground, and saw two gray squirrels, which would add some flavor to the stew. Changing my choke setting to full, I waited for the squirrels to separate — I only needed one for the stew. Until then, they hadn’t noticed me standing in the brush about 40 yards away, but when they did, one headed up the nearest tree, while the other started to run the edge of the wood line. My first shot was behind him, but my follow-up shot was on target, and he joined the rabbit in the game pocket of my hunting jacket.

Once into the swamp, I moved the choke setting to wide open, but I knew with the shoulder-high heavy grass and the ice cracking with every step I took, the only rabbit I could hope for would have to be either deaf or I would have to step on him.

But the grouse were another story. Just before I reached the other side of the swamp, I heard and caught a glimpse of one off to my left, and took the shot. I’m not sure I even shouldered the gun before I pulled the trigger, but I got it. I believe this was the fifth grouse I shot at this season, and first that I hit.

After retrieving the grouse, I made my way slowly out of the swamp and into a small open field where there were several piles of cut timber and tree tops — all perfect hiding spots for rabbits. Time to click the Poly-Choke back to modified.

One thing about stomping on piles of wood; when alone, you can’t always get the shot off. On two occasions, rabbits bolted from beneath the downed timber, and by the time I got into a safe shooting position and clicked off the safety, all I saw was that little powder-puff tail disappearing into the tall grass of the swamp.

It was getting late, and I decided to work my way back toward my truck along the edge of the swamp and alders — cover which again required me to adjust to the improved cylinder setting. It wasn’t too long before I saw a cottontail break from beneath a downed tree, but he was in the swamp before I could get the shot off. This happened again just as I was walking up the brushy hill toward the trail leading to my truck, and again, I couldn’t get a shot.

About 75 yards from my truck, there was an old, abandoned wooden shed, most of which was nothing more than a pile of old boards laying on the ground. As I approached, out popped a rabbit on the run, and this time, I was ready. One more rabbit for the stew.

On the way home, I reviewed the hunt and the use of the Poly-Choke II in my mind, and came to the conclusion that it does work quite well, and is definitely better than having to carry the various chokes with you. Talk to your gun dealer about the Poly-Choke II, which has a suggested retail price of $99.95. (www.poly-choke.com)

And if you’re interested in the rabbit stew, go to cooks.com, and enter “rabbit stew.” I like the second recipe, stewed rabbit or squirrel.

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