As a professional outdoor communicator, every once in a while, I have the opportunity to field-test some kind of outdoors related product - sometimes, it is fishing equipment; sometimes, it is an item used by hunters.
Recently, Jay Menefee, owner of Polywad, Inc. of Roberta, Ga., contacted me.
Menefee is an inventor and owner of a company that loads a lot of specialized shotgun shells.
Menefee's line of ammo includes Spred-R shotshells, Quik Shok sabot slugs and Vintager shotshells, which are designed for older shotguns that cannot withstand the high pressures sometimes generated by modern shotgun shells.
Now, Menefee has another shotgun shell that he is producing, one that he claims is truly eco-friendly.
He calls the shells, appropriately, GreenLite. And they are, in many ways, revolutionary.
This is the first modern shotgun shell that does not use any kind of plastic wad to hold the shot, which in this case is not lead but environmentally friendly soft steel.
This unique shell simply utilizes plain brown Kraft paper to form a pouch around the shot.
The wadless shell concept, which was co-developed by Menefee and Arizona resident Karl Kohnke, means that places like public shooting ranges, trap clubs and even desert stock tanks where these shells could be used wouldn't be littered with the non-biodegradable plastic wads on the ground or in the water.
This is especially important in the desert, where stock ponds are often the only reliable source of water for livestock and wildlife.
Menefee told me these shells were very low recoil, made less noise than regular shotgun shells and were much faster than traditional shells loaded with lead.
He advertises that the muzzle velocity in his 28-gauge loads is "1,000 miles per hour," which is actually about 1,500 feet per second. Great marketing idea though.
But to accomplish these things, something has to change, and in this case, it is the amount and type of shot being pushed out of the shells.
A typical load of lead shot in a 28-gauge shell is about three-quarters of an ounce.
In these GreenLite rounds, there is about three-eights of an ounce of a soft steel shot.
Wouldn't this reduced shot mean they would be less effective on clay targets and upland birds like dove and quail?
Since I own a Remington 1100 28-gauge shotgun, Menefee sent me out a few boxes of shells to try.
He suggested I go out to our local range and shoot a round of skeet first to test them out on fast-moving clay targets.
So, on Sunday morning, I went out to the Mohave Sportsman Club's 7 Mile Hill skeet range.
Unbelievably, I missed the first target I shot at. "These shells don't have any shot in them," I mumbled, feeling embarrassed that I had missed a target that I hadn't missed in about 10 years.
But I had not felt any recoil either, and I suspect I flinched, anticipating the recoil that is always there when you fire a shotgun.
Then I settled in and hit 23 out of the next 24 targets I shot at.
OK, they worked fine on the skeet field, but how would they work on upland birds like doves?
Since our annual dove season opened the next day, the answer to that question would be answered on wild birds at a stock tank on north Stockton Hill Road.
Joining me for the "test" were locals Jay and Ryan Chan.
A monsoon storm that pushed through the area the day before had dropped a lot of rain in the desert, scattering the birds. The wind was howling, coming out of the southwest with gusts up to 25 miles per hour.
That meant the birds around the pond were few and far between, and shots at birds coming in with a tailwind behind them would be challenging to say the least.
The first few shots didn't seem to have any effect on the birds I shot at.
Then I realized that I didn't need to lead them as far as I would with lead shot since the speed of these shells is so much faster.
Things then got a little better, and I even got an honest to goodness double on a pair of fast-flying birds. It took me 23 shells to bag my limit of 10 birds.
To put this into perspective, my hunting companions, who are both good shots and using 12-gauge semi-auto shotguns, both needed more than 30 shells to get their limits. And remember, they were shooting shells that held more than twice the amount of shot my diminutive 28-gauge had.
Bottom line, these shells performed exactly as Menefee said they would.
Little if any recoil, a lot less noise and enough ultra-fast moving shot in the air to drop a dove with ease out to 35 yards was exactly what I got.
These shells are perfect for the young hunter or lady who cannot take the pounding that most shotguns give shooters whether shooting at clay targets or upland birds.
While the shells are currently being made only in 20- and 28-gauge, Menefee says they are working on 12-gauge loads and expect to have them out within a year.
To try some of these special eco-friendly shotgun shells that retail for about $14 a box, contact Menefee at (800) 998-0669 or order them through his Web site, www.Polywad.com.