Deer Hunting With A Shotgun

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Shotgun deer seasons occur throughout populated areas of the Eastern, South and Midwest. Years ago, hunters used the same shotgun to hunt both birds and bucks. There were no fancy, specialized slug guns with fiber-optic sights or scopes, just smoothbores with pointing beads. The results were predictable. Hunters missed a bunch of bucks standing broadside at 20 yards!

That’s all changed. Guns with rifled barrels, shooting rifled slugs, are highly accurate and have greatly improved one’s odds during shotgun season. Many shotgunners are taking a tip from muzzleloading hunters and using saboted bullets. Another grand addition to the slug gun is a scope. An optic makes shooting a deer at 100 yards, once thought to pure folly for a shotgun hunter, both possible and probable.

Popular Calibers

Most shotguns manufactured specifically for deer hunters are chambered for 12 gauge, though some guns are available in 20 gauge. The 12-gauge slug is big and powerful, though a bit slow. Ammo manufacturers have helped to solve this problem by introducing saboted bullets. A sabot is a plastic shroud that holds a smaller bullet. For instance, you might use in a 12-guage shotgun, which has a ¾-inch bore diameter, a saboted .44 magnum jacketed bullet. The lighter bullet will fly faster and flatter (and hence drop less) than an all-lead slug at 100 yards.

In congested areas, some states allow only buckshot for deer. Buckshot loads consist of several lead balls inside a 3-inch shotgun shell. Buckshot loads can be deadly out to 40 yards or so, but after that, their energy is largely spent. Of course, buckshot is used only in smoothbore shotguns.

Shotgun Safety

With their relatively short range, shotguns are ideal for hunting in areas where people live close to deer woods. But since many hunters are concentrated in these areas, especially during opening week of shotgun season, you must be careful. One sure way to lessen the potential for a hunting accident is to always wear “hunter orange”. Few hunters who are clad in this very bright color will be mistaken for a deer. And remember, a deer’s colorblind eyes see orange as only tan or yellow.

Always point your shotgun away from vehicles and people, even if you know it is empty. Unload your gun after you get out of your vehicle, and unload it before you get back in the truck at the end of the day. Most states prohibit loaded shotguns in vehicles, and some states don’t allow shells in the magazine when a gun is in the car.

Handle a loaded shotgun safely in the woods. Check and double-check that its safety is “on” as you hike around. Never jump a creek or climb over a fence while cradling your shotgun. Many fatalities have occurred when a hunter slipped while crossing a fence and his shotgun went off.


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