Best over the counter hunting buckshot:
Which will deliver the best hunting pattern? Well, all shotguns tend to be a law unto themselves but in general loads with buffer and a shotcup pattern better than those without. Hard shot or plated shot certainly helps.
Here is a quick list of over the counter 12 gauge hunting buckshot loads put up with buffer and a full length shot cup.
Federal Premium with Flite-Control Wad - 00 buck only, 9, and 12 pellet loads.
Federal Premium buckshot - all shot sizes (except 3.5" loads-partial shot cup)
Federal "regular" buckshot - all shot sizes
Winchester Super-X #1 Buckshot 2.75 and 3 inch loads. This is a low cost 'sleeper' load and is among the first to sell out locally. All other WW hunting buckshot, including Supreme loads do not have a shot cup.
Remington Express 9 pellet OO buckshot round.
Remington Low-Recoil 8 pellet 00
The 3.5" 18 pellet Remington round uses the same shot cup as the 9 pellet load and has 8 pellets exposed to bore scrub. All other buckshot hunting loads from Big Green lack a shot cup
Hornady Buckshot - 8 pellet 00
There are a lot of buckshot rounds on the market that have fiber wads and buffer but nothing to protect the pellets from pellet flattening bore scrub. Some of the foreign made buckshot rounds, like Wolf brand loads, don't even have buffer. This is not to say your particular shotgun won't pattern well with any of non-shotcup or non-buffered loads, only patterning will tell you that.
In my experience, if you want to get 40 yard hunting performance with conventional small buckshot, you need at minimum a 12 pellet load of OO buckshot. Federal Flite-Control loads are an exception to this. For deer hunting I consider a 10 inch, 100% pattern at 25 yards a good minimum performance standard.