Shotgun Hunting for Whitetail Deer
Some of the best whitetail deer hunting in the world exists in states which only allow shotguns to be used during the firearms season. Some of these states include but are not limited to Iowa whitetail deer hunting, Illinois whitetail deer hunting, Ohio whitetail deer hunting, and several others. Note it is these very locations where trophy whitetail deer are being put down each year. It is these states that continue to grace the covers of North American Whitetail, Buckmasters, and Deer and Deer Hunting. Reasoning is simple. In states that only allow shotguns to be used during firearm season deer are allowed to live longer life spans as they are a tad more difficult to shoot due to the limited range of shotguns versus rifles. If the whitetail deer herd is allowed to live longer then of course the bucks carry larger racks. Over the course of this article we will discuss why to use a shotgun, the evolution of the shotgun slug, shotguns for deer, recoil, shooting, optics for shotguns, and shotgun strategies to use on whitetail bucks.
As aforementioned many of the best states donít allow rifles to be employed during the firearms season, thus these are the states you want to hunt if you want to kill a monster whitetail buck. Itís the age old premise of ďYou have to go to where the big bucks live if you want to harvest one.Ē This is my primary reason why I would use a shotgun during the firearms season. Think of it this way. Would you rather hunt Zone 5 of Iowa for whitetail deer or Pike County, Illinois for whitetail deer or hunt with a rifle in an inferior state?
Today about 3 million of the nations 12 million hunters take shotguns to the field while whitetail deer hunting. Of these 3 million only 3% use buckshot rather than slugs. The modern slug shotguns have increased velocity, and developed high tech sabot slugs with rifled barrels turning the shotgun into a deadly means by which to harvest trophy whitetail deer.
There are a variety of slugs that are available to todayís shotgun whitetail deerhunter. The majority of shotgun slug hunters use full bore slugs rather than the saboted ammunition. Saboted ammo has a longer effective range and is more accurate when fired from a rifled barrel. 97% of all deer taken with shotguns are taken at less than fifty yards thus one could argue that you donít need saboted ammo however I would have to disagree. Anytime you can upgrade your material the hunter should do so. Their superior aerodynamics and ballistic coefficient and stabilizing effect of the spin generated by the rifling helped the projectile maintain its velocity, trajectory, and energy over a greater distance than did the bulky full bore slug.
Also barrels do make a difference when youíre using a shotgun for whitetail deer hunting. Odds are that a shotgun without a rifled barrel will shoot a slug more accurately with a open choke rather than the commonly suggested improved cylinder for slug shooting. Saboted ammunition is less effective than the common slug in unrifled barrels. Sabot slugs are designed for rifled barreled shotguns. The soft material of the sabot sleeves grips the rifling and imparts spin to the slug, which it needs for stability. Full bore slugs rely on a nose heavy design for stability during a relatively short flight. If your still hard headed enough to use a sabot shell in a non rifled shotgun barrel than at least add a rifled choke tube. These are easy to find and purchase at a reasonable price. This will add 2 to 3 of spiraled grooves to impart a rotation of up to 37,000 rotations per minute on a projectile that has already reached terminal velocity is asking a lot.
The modern day whitetail enthusiastic that is using a shotgun for firearm hunting really needs to take advantage of the modern day advancements associated with shotgun slug hunting. This year I purchased a beauty of a shotgun. I bought a Bennelli
Super Black Eagle Slug Gun with rifled barrel and then topped it off with a Swarvorski Scope. When I got that gun for Christmas I was so happy I couldnít stop grinning from ear to ear as I consider this setup to be the very best slug gun on the market equipped with a scope that will last forever and collect more light than any other in the industry. If your pocket book allows it this is the gun of preference. Be advised that a rifled barrel dictates that you can only shoot slugs out of it. Any other type shotgun shell will ruin the barrel and the gun. In other words donít go quail hunting with your new rifled barrel shotgun. The best slug guns have fixed rifled barrels which means they canít be used for anything but slug shooting, unlike models that can be interchanged. Most major companies offer at least one style of shotgun that is not interchangeable. With a stiff barrel, good trigger, and solid scope from one of the high tech slug shotguns offered in todayís industry a good shooter can hit bulls eye with holes on the target touching at 50 yards and hold a 3 inch group at 100 yards. With much practice a hunter can experiment at different yardages to determine just what your maximum shot distance is so the hunter will know his limitations. Iím just dying to see how far my new slug gun will shoot and will begin to experiment with the high tech gun within a few days. Maybe at that time I will update the article to let the reader know. As an outfitter I am not sponsored by any gun companies other than Thompson Center. While TC makes the greatest muzzleloader in the world when I use a shotgun I will shoot nothing but Bennelli. The Bennelli line is so incredible I have shot turkeys as far off as 72 yards with turkey shot, and canít wait to see what the slug gun will do. While duck hunting last winter I couldnít pull the Bennelli trigger faster than the gun could reload. They are nothing short of unbelievable. Go with the rifled barrel shotguns and high tech saboted ammunition if you want to do it right. Remember that skimping on weapons or ammo can cost you the buck of a lifetime.
Remember also when considering ammunition for slug guns that a 3 Ĺ inch slug will travel 50 feet per second faster than a 3 inch, and a 2 ĺ inch is even slower. As a basic rule, the longer the faster and more accurate but also the harder the kick. In fact the 3 Ĺ inch slug will kick like a mule but for hunters like myself, I donít care. I want the biggest, fastest, and most accurate slug containing the most knock down power on the market. I can stand a bruise on my shoulder if thatís what it takes. The leading slug ammo companies in the industry are Winchester, Remington, Federal, Brenneke, and Lightfield. All have 25 years of research and development invested on your behalf.
Twist Rates for Slugs at 1400 fps
1-25 inches 37,440 rpm
1-28 inches 33,428 rpm
1-32 inches 29,250 rpm
1-34 inches 27,528 rpm
1-35 inches 26,742 rpm
1-36 inches 26,999 rpm
For those of you that canít afford the higher end model slug guns Harrington and Richardson has developed a single shot slug gun with rifled barrel. This gun is a 10 gauge barrel borred to a 12 gauge. The gun has the same concept as a varmint rifle. With the thick heavy barrel it is very accurate, and can shoot far. This is a great choice for a hunter on a budget. Normally a deer is killed by gun with the first shot anyway so who needs 3 shells in the chamber? Also there is a theory that if you know you only have one shot you will concentrate to make that shot the best it can be. I also own one of these Harrington and Richardson 12 gauge slug shotguns. They are really unique in appearance and tend to look like something Clint Eastwood would throw up over his saddle on his horse and shoot an enemy off in the distance. A very unique gun at a lower price.
Recoil is one downfall of shotgun slug hunting. As aforementioned they kick like a government mule. A 12 gauge slug gun will kick harder than a 300 Win Mag rifle. There are ways to lessen the recoil of slug guns if you are uncomfortable with them. One way to reduce recoil is to make sure the gun fits the hunter. Smaller frame hunters need a smaller frame gun. Pump shotguns buck less than other types of shotguns also. Limb Saver is a company that has made some great products to reduce noise for archers but also manufacturers recoil pads that will greatly reduce the recoil of a shotgun slug gun. They are fitted for specific guns so you can order whichever one you want for whatever shotgun you have purchased and they are very easy to install. In fact Ithaca and Remington shotgun slug guns come equipped with these recoil pads from Limb Saver. The simple physics of these recoil pads counterweight that blunts the rearward push of the fun during recoil ad spreads out the effect over a longer period of time.
The shotgun deer hunter can also have holes drilled by a gunsmith to vent the gases before the slug leaves the muzzle. This also serves to limit the barrel jump and recoil the hunter feels.
Expert shooters with custom slug shotguns can hold a one inch group at 100 yards but the average gun with shooter is asking a lot to hold a 5 inch group at 100 yards. A slug gun and load that groups inside of 3 to 4 inches at 100 can be considered to be excellent. No matter what group you are shooting with your shotgun there are several things the whitetail deer hunter can do to improve the performance of the shotguns accuracy. I have mentioned this before but it is worth mentioning again. Smoothbore shotguns just donít perform like rifled barreled shotguns. As indicated you can buy a rifled choke tube but still it will come no where close to the performance of a rifled barrel. There are several after market rifled choke tubes the hunter can purchase. Make sure your twist rate is right for your particular load. A fast twist rate stabilizes saboted ammunition best while 1 in 34 rates are the best for sabots and short full bore slugs. With todayís loads you will see increased velocity with each inch of barrel length out to about 25 inches. After that length it really serves as a brake of types. Therefore extra long barrels are a bad thing for whitetail deer hunters using shotguns. The slug barrel needs to be pinned tight to the receiver due to a decrease of vibration. Also any whitetail hunter using a shotgun will want to lighten the trigger as well as stiffen it. Trigger pulls with an 8 to 10 pound pull are not acceptable, while 3 to 3.5 pounds is ideal.
Scopes for shotguns when slug hunting whitetail deer are needed and advised. We are passed the days of grabbing daddyís shotgun and shooting a buck. The whitetail enthusiast needs to take advantage of the best scopes in the industry. I have learned this the hard way. Cheap optics will always cost you trophy whitetail bucks. They donít provide enough light, magnification, and simply are not what you want. The scope on the gun is as important or more important than the gun. Spend the money on a good scope especially when your whitetail deer hunting with a slug gun. The recoil from a 12 gauge shotgun will destroy a cheap scope. I have watched those middle of the road scopes made by Fortune 500 companies eaten alive by 12 gauges. 12 gauge slug guns need the highest quality scope available or youíll be buying another scope after you destroy the first one from recoil of the slug shotgun.
It is vital to keep a slug shotgun very clean. Remember the slug is traveling down a tight barrel which if is holding residue will cause the gun to shoot inaccurately. Always clean a slug gun well and take care of the gun and all your guns.
No doubt about it if you want to take the buck of a lifetime your gonna need to get your hands on a good slug shotgun and scope and head for Zone 5 of Iowa or, Pike County, Illinois. Shotgun hunting can be fun but is unmatched in the aforementioned areas. Opening morning of gun season in Iowa 2007 we had 15 hunters in camp deer hunting with IMB Outfitters. The first 3 deer down the first hour of light were all over 180 inches. Meanwhile in Pike County, Illinois a 200 inch drop tine buck hit the dirt. If you want on these types of trophy whitetail bucks then pick the phone up and give IMB Outfitters a call.
I can still remember in 2007 on opening morning I got a phone call on my cell. My hunter said, ďI have a buck down but I donít know if he will make your requirements for 125 inches. I told the hunter to hold tight and made my way to his location. When I walked up to the deer and hunter I told him to relax that he had a monster down. Bless the hunterís heart. As a result of shooting the right gun, scope, ammo, and practice this hunter cashed in on a 183 inch Boone and Crockett whitetail buck. Are you about ready to do the same?