The Shell Stick

As you probably know, if you’ve read some of the past posts here on the SoCalHunt Blog, one of my pet peeves is litter in and around the blinds and hunting area.  One of the biggest sources of this litter is the obvious byproduct of waterfowl hunting with a shotgun, especially a pump or auto-loader, empty shell casings.

Almost without exception (unfortunately) just about any blind I’ve occupied in the past several season after opening day has had some degree of empty shell litter.  In fact, it is such a rarity to get a completely clean blind that I will usually mention that the blind was clean upon my arrival in my hunting reports here on SoCalHunt.  As a consequence of the operation of the pump or auto-loading shotguns most waterfowlers use, empty shells get thrown all around inside and outside the blind.  The multi colored plastic of the different brands of shells and their shiny “brass” bases lend unwanted decoration to the hunting site.  (I put “brass” in quotes for a reason, I’ll explain later)  Now I can understand not picking up every single shell ejected by your gun.   It’s almost impossible to locate every one.  Some land in brush or bushes, some hit the water and float away before the hunter has a chance to gather them up and some get stepped on and driven into the mud before they’re seen so I’m not ranting against the hunter that might leave two or three random shells around a blind.  It’s the 20, 30 or 40 random shells strewn about that tick me off.

I always carry a couple of plastic grocery bags out to the blind with me to dispose of my trash and I always make it a point to clean up any other litter I find, including the masses of empty shells found all too often in and around the blind.  As the sands of time flow through the hourglass and my body, especially my back, ages, it has begun to become more difficult to bend over 20, 30 or 40 times to pick up someone else’s empty shell casings.  Yeah…I’m an old fart.  Anyway, I don’t want to stop picking up empties just because it makes my back a little sore.

The key to the solution to this is something that I discovered about most shotgun shells that some might not realize.  Shotgun shell “brass”, in most cases, isn’t brass.  Its plated steel.  I’m sure there’s exceptions but I have yet to find one that is actual brass.  Maybe if you found a real old shell it would have a real brass base but then it would probably be an illegal shell for waterfowl hunting as it would probably contain lead shot.

The reason this discovery is important for my solution is that steel is magnetic and brass isn’t.  Since almost all shotgun shell “brass” is plated steel it is magnetic.

So, here’s the solution…

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I simply took an about 2 1/2 foot piece of broomstick and mounted a powerful “rare earth” magnet on the end of it.  I then wrapped some camo tape around the broomstick and, “Voila!”, a shell picker-upper.  Now I don’t have to bend over each time I have to pick up an empty shell.  The magnet is strong enough that I can sometimes pick up 4 or 5 shells at a time if they’re close together.

The magnet, which is the most important part of this devise, can be found at places like Lowe’s, Home Depot or Harbor Freight however most of these don’t have a hole for mounting them on a broom stick.  If you use this type you’d probably have to epoxy the magnet on the stick.  The one that I used for my shell stick I found on ebay.  Just search “rare earth magnet” on ebay and you should be able to find a few offers of round rare earth magnets with countersunk holes in them that are perfect for this use.   You can probably get a lot of 3 to 5 of them for around $6.

One more note on the magnet.  Be sure it’s a “rare earth” magnet as they have greater pulling power then a regular old magnet.  If you get a weak kid’s toy type magnet it probably will have problems holding the shells as you pick them up.

I hope this helps anybody who wants to keep things clean in the blind to make it easier for you and helps save your back.


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