If you have land surrounded by urban sprawl, or you live in a state that requires that you hunt deer with a shotgun, you will have a lot more luck if you properly prepare yourself and your shotgun before you try to bag that 10-point with your grandpa’s old scattergun.
Pick a Gun Any Gun
There are a million different configurations of shotguns to choose. Bolt-action shotguns, while rare, offer a high level of precision, while maintaining that rifle feel. This is a good option if you are used to hunting with a standard rifle. Single shot breach loading shotguns offer high precision and very low cost, but should you need a follow up shot, you will waste valuable seconds reloading. Pump shotguns are great for almost any shotgun application. One obvious advantage is that you can shoot virtually any kind of ammunition out of a pump shotgun, and since the action is manual, the shotgun will cycle no matter what. Semi automatic shotguns are gaining popularity in all types of shotgun sports. Their recent reduced cost and improved reliability make them an excellent option for hunting deer or any other game animal. Whatever your choice, you should pick a gun that fits you, your shoulder, and your lifestyle.
A Barrel of Fun
So here’s what not to do. Don’t grab your bird hunting setup and try to drop a deer. Birdshot is useless when hunting anything but small game and clay pigeons. You will probably just make the animal angry and it will run off. Look at your shotgun model. If you own a common shotgun, like a Remington 870 or a Mossberg 500/590 variant, then you are in luck. They make interchangeable barrels for most modern shotguns in production. Grab yourself a rifled barrel and you will have in your possession a weapon that has an effective range past 150 yards, well inside the range of most deer kills. If you don’t have access to a rifled barrel or your shotgun is an uncommon model, deer hunting with a smoothbore barrel is still quite possible. Make sure you buy rifled slugs rather than traditional ones.
When hunting deer, even at medium range, you might find yourself staring down the barrel and only seeing a front bead sight. While very fast, this is not contusive to the type of precision that most deer hunters prefer. At close range or in heavy brush, you might be okay with traditional rifle iron sights or ghost rings. Red dot sights would also work well. Designers created the red dot to be fast, and inside of 100 yards, fast is good. If you are like me however, out past 100 yards or so, I need a little help to see what I’m trying to hit. A low power riflescope might to the trick.
Slugs in the Wind
Slugs are large and heavy. This makes them susceptible to manipulation from windage. Obviously, increasing range exacerbates this problem. Make sure you adjust your shot for windage, or you might be chasing your kill a long way into the brush.
The Bottom Line
I’m not saying that given the choice, I would use shotguns to hunt deer every time, but there are situations in which a shotgun is your only choice. That being said, it’s important to know how to configure your equipment so you can move in for that kill on opening day.