Benelli’s new 20-gauge Ethos proves it’s got the moxie for one of the South’s greatest game birds.
With Gal, the frenetically paced and bird savvy English pointer, locked on a covey of quail and creeping closer, our guide, Cody, kept her at bay with a few gentle voice commands. One other hunter and I crept up a few yards on either side of the guide but behind Gal and another pointer, and Cody gave the green light to Deke, a Boykin spaniel whose sole job it was to jump the already located birds: “Get ‘em up Deke!”
Half the excitement with quail hunting like this is that you never know how many birds are going to flush out of that point or where they’ll go. Sometimes it’s three; sometimes it’s 10 or 12. Not only is the number unknown, their trajectory is completely unpredictable and can change multiple times in flight. There’s that split second when the covey rises and the birds seem almost frozen in time, only to dart off at breakneck speed and leave you feeling like an uncoordinated buffoon.
This time five birds got up, three to the left and two straight ahead and slightly to the right of us. George, a product manager at Benelli, killed three birds with ease on the left side, while I managed to knock down one bird with two shots. Once those birds get up it’s all about pure reaction; thinking and aiming only slows you down and cripples your shooting.
What didn’t slow us down was the Benelli Ethos 20 gauge, a new introduction in 2015 and an addition to the original Ethos 12-gauge lineup. More than that, the Ethos is a sweet-swinging beauty, as graceful in motion as it is to look at. From the first time you throw it to your shoulder it’s got a natural, graceful feel. The AA-grade satin walnut stock is nimble and lightweight, perfect for a full day afield and perfect for fast moving birds and quail-appropriate loads. With a nickel plated and engraved receiver, the Ethos 20 gauge was an ideal complement to an old-world-style hunting experience at SouthWind Plantation near Attapulgus, Georgia.
An Old World Hunt
If you’ve ever hunted Europe, you’d get a good feel for the type of experience created at SouthWind Plantation. The property is located on 3,000 acres of picturesque Georgia pine country, with rolling hills, lakes and tall grasses that provide ideal cover for quail. The plantation also teems with duck, geese, turkey and deer, and the main lodge sits on a massive lake that’s stocked with 10-pound and greater largemouth bass.
There are several smaller lodges around the backside of the lake and a trap and skeet tower in one corner. When you get back to the lodge at night, you’ll eat and drink like a king: prime rib, fried gator tail and bacon-wrapped quail legs with a glass of The Macallan 12, a high-end single malt scotch whiskey, or an ice cold Yuengling from America’s oldest brewery.
SouthWind does offer hunting from Jeeps, but there’s also the opportunity to hunt from horseback while a team of guides pulls the dogs, ammo and water along in a mule-drawn wagon. It’s a slower paced hunt but allows you to take in the scenery at the rhythm of a horse’s trot. When the dogs get on a covey, a quick dismount and a short walk is all that separates you from the birds.
Benelli Ethos 20 Gauge Review
Except for size and weight, Benelli’s 20-gauge Ethos looks identical to its older 12-gauge brother and is built on the same tried and proven Inertia Driven System. The guns functioned flawlessly all week for us, including quite a bit of time blasting clay pigeons over the lake. The Progressive Comfort Recoil System, which incorporates three sets of interlocking buffers at the rear of the gun, makes a full day of shooting—especially with the 20-gauge—as painless as can be.
A pair of us would typically kill 40-50 quail in the morning and about the same in the evening, so there was plenty of shooting going on. I’d like to say it was a one shot, one bird kind of experience, but quail are a hard target, after all, and we couldn’t keep the ratio even. We didn’t run out of ammo, but we eventually ran out of excuses.
One of the standout features on the Ethos is the ergonomically designed trigger guard, which carries aesthetic appeal and also makes operation with gloved hands a bit easier. The safety is easy to activate with gloves as well. The optic system comes with three interchangeable colors (red, green, yellow) that can be swapped out without a tool and are efficient in all light conditions.
One of the challenges of the 20-gauge platform is making a softer-recoiling gun work efficiently with the Inertia Driven System. Benelli really put in the research and development time with this one, however, which means the gun will function flawlessly with 7/8-ounce to 3-inch loads.
At $2,199 the Ethos 20-gauge isn’t cheap, but it’s certainly worth the price. It used to amaze me when I’d travel across the country, either for duck or other game birds, and see so many Benellis in the hands of poor college students and working class folks. Here’s the reality, though: When you’re as passionate as many of us are about game birds, a Benelli is an investment worth making.
BENELLI ETHOS 20 GAUGE
Type: Semi-automatic, Inertia Driven
Stock: AA-grade satin walnut
Barrel: 26 or 28 in., Crio System treated
Receiver: Nickel plated
Weight: 5.6 pounds
Overall length: 47.5 or 49.5 in.
Buttstock: Progressive Comfort recoil reduction system
Sights: Interchangeable, fiber optic (red, green, yellow)