View Full Version : Shotgun for deer hunting

November 22, 2002, 06:00 PM
As a midwestern kid that has grown up and moved east, the thought of hunting deer with a shotgun as opposed to a rifle has never really caught on with me. However, after a couple years with the locals, finding the hunting spots, groups that don't use dogs and finally getting invited, it looks like I am going to at least go on a couple drives. Which is where this shotgun question comes in.

Some folks seem to use Full Choke, OO Buck while others have chosen the rifled barrel slug option. Most I've asked have stated it comes down to personal preference (aren't they all). I'm leaning toward the slug option (I'd have to buy a new gun or barrel at the least, but oh well :)) primarily because of 2 reasons. First, the thought of picking out pellets from the meat isn't appealing. I hated digging them out of pheasant breasts let alone a roast. Second is the thought of jumping a deer on a drive, shooting in the hind section with this and then having to take a second shot to kill or worse the deer running around with lead in his behind for awhile because I lost the trail in the swamps.

To those who have hunted deer with shotguns all your life, what say you?? I appreciate your insight.


November 22, 2002, 06:48 PM
hey snake, you're about 15 minutes from me. i live in the city of richmond. if you wanna go shopping for a shotgun, let me know and we'll get together.

i prefer hunting with a rifle, but the funny thing is that i kill everything with a shotgun. it's a great thing to have in thicker brush and other places where shots are close and when you have to be fast.

November 22, 2002, 08:49 PM
Cookhj - I'm sure the folks just down the road at GreenTop will be able to fill my needs on a new gun. Maybe Santa will give me some GreenTop gift cards again this year!!

So what do you shoot in the brush? I didn't think there was a rifle season around here, are you rifle hunting north or west of here?

Have you had any luck so far this year? One guy at work got all 4 of his during muzzleloader season while another took 2.

November 22, 2002, 09:28 PM
Snake, if you're truly hunting heavy brush, no need to get a rifled barrel. Your standard smoothbore with a modified choke tube will likely shoot Foster or Brenneke (sp?) type slugs accurately enough. I have a Mossberg 500 that I use in NY's shotgun only areas (when I'm not using a handgun). I have a rifled barrel with cantilevered scope mount and Leupold 4X that I use when hunting from a stand. But when still hunting heavy brush, I prefer my 18" cylinder bore barrel with standard rifle sights. It's much quicker to the shoulder. So for the situation you describe, I'd just get some Remington Slugger ammo (Foster type slugs) and shoot them through a modified choke. Ought to work just fine. Sorry, can't comment on the buckshot option: ain't legal here.

November 22, 2002, 10:15 PM
i use nothing smaller than 00 buck; in fact, i rarely use anything less than 3" 000 buck. i have an extra full turkey choke in my mossburg 500 and it shoots like a rifle out to 40 yds, and still gets good patterns at 60 yds. there are very few rifle counties east of I-95, so i'd get one of those hunting regualtions booklets like from wal-mart (there's one right by you on rt 360).

check out the prices at green top and a degoffs. greentop can be kinds high, so make sure you shop around. there are 2 gun shops near me, souther gun world on midlothian and town police supply at the corner of courthouse and hull street off of the chippenham turnpike.

shop around and you'll find something good for a good price.

greentop will bargan with their used stuff, so don't just settle for the marked price. you have to be a little bit of a schister (hope i don't offend anyone there).

good luck and let me know if you need any help with anything. if you wanna go hunting some, i can always hook you up!

Dave McC
November 23, 2002, 06:50 AM
There's a wealth of info in the Archives on slug hunting.

Buck isn't legal where I hunt, and not the best choice where it is unless distances are measured in feet rather than yards. If I were to use buck, I'd pattern a few full power brands and go with the tightest one. And I'd probably start testing with a Modified choke or looser.

Some folks load a slug first into the chamber, then buck for followups.

Most repeaters can be equipped with an extra bbl for slug work with rifle style sights and either smoothbore or rifled. The smoothbore is more versatile, in that shot can be used also. The rifled one, with proper slug selection, is more accurate, all else equal.

I use 870s for my deer hunting. Lots of other good choices out there....

November 23, 2002, 07:20 AM
Thanks for all the responses, I appreciate it. I actually looked through the archives before posting, but there was little information on the buckshot options vs slugs.

I was looking at the used Mossberg, Rem and Benelli shotguns the other night, so based on the stuff you guys are shooting, I'm covering the bases.

Does anybody shoot 2 3/4"? While there are more used guns available if I were use them, the thought of just having 12 or less pellets doesn't sit will with me. I'm assuming guys traded in these for the 3 or 3 1/2" option.


Al Thompson
November 23, 2002, 08:06 AM
I've hunted deer with a shotgun for a long time. I do tend to favor slugs over buck, but have participated in many dog drives where buck was the only load allowed.

My impression is that number 1 buck or bigger is required for a clean kill, though I've field dressed several deer that were taken by kids with 20 ga, #3 buck. You do lose some range with 20 ga.

Working with OO or larger, I've found the best patterns at extended ranges to be from modified chokes. Have not tried a turkey choke, but have witnessed blown patterns using full choke. In any event, you have to test your load/gun/choke combo.

Mostfolks here use the 2 3/4 shells. There is some campfire debate on 9 pellet loads versus 12 pellet loads, but most folks press the dove/duck gun into service for deer. I have a box (somewhere) or 3 inch OO buck that a friend gave me - never felt the need for them as my 2 3/4 loads never failed on deer at a reasonable range.

If I hunted deer with buck again, it would be with my 870 and a modified choke. If I had time, I'd test the turkey choke/buckshot combination.

If I wanted a flexable, lethal shotgun for lots of use, I'd get an 870 express, 26 or 28 inch barrel. Buy a set of those bolt on the vent rib rifle sights and check at "Dick's Sporting Goods" for Kent's K.O. slugs. Zero the 870 and go kill some deer. :)


November 23, 2002, 03:42 PM
Personally if a rifle is legal I will take that. If not then the slug. A shotgun with buckshot is a strange animal, some like 00 some like 000 some like 0 some like #1. Some wont pattern any. Also for a SURE kill buck is good to only 25-30 yards. Many a "dead" deer has run off packing buck.

A friend of mines son killed an 8 point one year that my ex brother in law had popped with a 12 gauge 3" 00 the year before.

Greg had hit in in the neck and soulder area with the first shot and the head on the second. He figured it for an 8 point. It ran off dripping blood.

Jarred got it with his .270 the next year. Deer was laying up in the same briar patch. When we dressed it out he had 17 double ought pellets in his head and neck................all nice and healed up. Some had gone all the way through and were under the hide on the off side.

I have seen some run off with a well placed rifled slug too.

November 23, 2002, 07:54 PM
Snake Lover,

I don't often deer hunt with a shotgun. If I do, it will be my Browning A-5 with 26 inch Hastings barrel. The area I hunt with a shotgun is VERY heavy cover, and swampy. Contrary to some, I load buck first, and the second shot is a Brenneke slug. I have found 00 buck to work well if shooting at very short ranges. With the Browning, I can lock the mag, flip out the buck, and chamber a slug if the first shot will be longer range.

Even in cover like this though, I prefer the Marlin 1894S in .44 Mag.

November 23, 2002, 08:53 PM
Nice enough day so went and bought a couple boxes of 00 Buck and headed to the range. I took my existing shotguns, Win 101 and an old Ithaca that belonged to my grandpa. Both guns only shot 2 3/4". The double is Full/Full and the Ithaca is Modified.

Since no one was there, (must all be hunting!) I moved up and started at 10 yards, then 15, 20, etc.. At the closer distances, really was just a big hole. When I got to the 20 yard line, results were ok, but not the "hole" like the closer distances. I would say neither worked that well much past 30-35 yards.

Anyway, now that I have a better understanding of what the buckshot shoots like, I'll have to convince a buddy to let me try his slug gun before I decide which way to go.

November 23, 2002, 10:12 PM

I used to live in southern Maryland that was shotgun only. Used a Remington 870 pump w/26" barrel. I used Remington 2 3/4"
one ounce slugs and took several deer over the years. These particular slugs were very accurate using improved cylinder choke. Either cylinder bore or improved cylinder at most. Any tighter tends to swage the slug reducing it's stability. I know several people who take 100 yd shots regularly with slugs.
Happy hunting!

November 23, 2002, 11:37 PM
I'm in VA, and have gone hunting in the "buckshot only" counties. I tested my Mossberg with OO and OOO buck, mixed reloads and handloads. Best patterns were out of an extended modified waterfowling choke. Even then, I could only get 1-3 pellets on paper at 50yds (all on a piece of paper @25yds). Consequently, I either pack my rifle to a central or western county, or I take a muzzleloader. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but in VA, every county that allows slugs also allows rifles. So shotgun only means "buckshot only". Most all of those "buckshot" counties also allow muzzleloaders. I'll take one good shot that I can stretch to 100yds over 3 that might make 40yds out of my gun.
I'm not knocking the killing power of buckshot, I just don't like my odds with it.

November 24, 2002, 12:05 AM
I have taken big game with both buckshot and slugs. I must say that my personal preference is with slugs. My current set up is as follows: Remington 870 Wingmaster with a 24" Hastings fully rifled barrel topped with a 1.75-4 Bushnell Trophy scope. I shot Winchester Partition Gold sabots at 1900 fps. Its a very accurate and flat shooting rig.

Long Path
November 24, 2002, 12:09 PM
I'm leaning toward the slug option (I'd have to buy a new gun or barrel at the least, but oh well ) primarily because of 2 reasons. First, the thought of picking out pellets from the meat isn't appealing. I hated digging them out of pheasant breasts let alone a roast.

The pellets will not be much of an issue. #1 buck is traditionally 16 pellet, with 00 being typically 9pellet or 12 pellet. In other words, there's not too many of them. Understand that they'll be in excess of .30 caliber; they're not hard to find. My recent observation of a 200 lb sow hit with 000 buck at 25 yds was that most or all pellets made complete penetration on a broadside shot. Instructive.

Put some sights on your shotgun, if you do use a shotgun.

Test your load on paper to see just where it hits. sometimes your shotgun will surprise you with buckshot or slugs, as opposed to birdshot. Remember that it won't kick near as much in the field as it does on the bench! (Hint: Use a sissy bag while testing high-brass shotgun loads at the range!)

November 24, 2002, 03:45 PM
For those who run deer with dogs is this legal, and if so were? Were I am from it is highly illegal and dogs seen chasing deer are shot. Shooting a dog running a deer was perfectly legal in Central NY and still might be but I think they changed that law. Just curious about were it was legal to run deer with dogs.

And by the way I prefer slug over anytype of game load. Right now I shoot a Mossie 500 with a rifled and ported barrel. Shooting Wichester Super X 3inch sabot slugs. I used to shoot a 29 yr old Mossie 500 with a smooth bore and 2 3/4 rifled Winchester Super X slugs.

I don't think there is a big diffrence in power between the 2 3/4 and the 3" . If I remember correctly though there is a 50fps at the muzzle diffrence in favor of the 3" AT least with the super X's.

November 24, 2002, 04:00 PM
Deer dogging is legal in most Southern states. Louisiana has a long deer dog season.

November 24, 2002, 05:44 PM
Running deer with dogs is legal here in Virginia, but hunting on Sundays is not.

Long Path - I shoot my .338 guite often and my .375 more than many guys shoot their .22, recoil doesn't bother me much. On your pig, the pellets didn't pass through and you would have to follow the path of each to find them. Even 3 pellets is more of a pain in the rear than 1 slug.

To those of you that use scopes and slugs, do you mainly shoot from stands/blocking positions? Do you also use those things in the brush when pushing deer in drives?


November 24, 2002, 06:05 PM
I use a RedDot scope on my slug gun. I guess calling it a scope is a bit of a misnomer because it doesn't magnify. It however jumped up and bit me and a doe today. I like the scope far better then open sights and far better then a magnifing scope however and it is very quick as far as target aquasition.

November 25, 2002, 02:57 PM
I've always hunted with 12 gage 2 3/4" shells til about 3 yrs ago. Prefer #0 or #1. Never # 4Buck (too small) nor # 00 or 000 (not enough pellets). My shotgun has 28" full choke barrell and have another with polychoke. Basic range is about 60 yds. tho you might go out a tad further. This has been a very effective weapon for deer. My longest kill was at 50 yds.
I've tried slugs but felt like they only extended range another 10-20 yards and they kicked like a mule. Uusally there are only 3-5 pellets actually in the deer, and they're close to the size of a .22 slug. That hasn't been a problem. For longer range type shooting I now use 6.5x55 rifle.
Recommend you try your picked shell on cardboard to determine your maximum range/pattern. For deer on drives, the shooting if one comes your way, will be very fast. The greater spread of a # 1 or # 0 would be beneficial.

November 25, 2002, 03:17 PM
My Rem 1100 with a 28" Modified barrel just loves Single Ought, it hates 00.

November 25, 2002, 03:58 PM
Here in NH we have two zones, one is rifle and one is shotgun and handguns only. when hunting these area's i prefure my scoped Remington 1187 3 1/2 inch mag shooting Remington sabots, I took this 227 pd 8 pointer last year in shotgun zone in NH.


November 25, 2002, 07:08 PM
Rmouleart - Nice deer, regardless of what it was shot with. Well done!!

Southla1 & scotjute - I'll have to look at my hutning catalogs to determine the difference in the 00 vs 0 shot. Thanks for the tip to consider.


November 25, 2002, 10:18 PM
Snake, I warn you the difference may be great between barrels even of the same length and choke. I have seen a few 28" Modivied barrels that throw 00 just fine.............mine happens to like single ought. Pattern them to see. That is the proof of the pudding.

Have an ex brother in law that dearly loves deer and shotguns. His choice since popping that big 8 point wiht a 12 gauge 00 load twice and the deer running off he switched guns..................to a 10 gauge 3-1/2 Magnum :D. He loads it with a bucket full of 00. If the deer is in a briar patch he cleans out the patch with the first shot and the deer with the second :D.

Seriously he has never had one get away since switching guns, but...................... time will tell.

Ron L
November 25, 2002, 11:03 PM
When I moved back to Michigan and started hunting deer, I found out that the lower half of the lower peninsula is shotgun/muzzleloader/handgun. At that time, the only shotgun I had was a Winchester 140 semi-auto that I used for years while bird and small game hunting and shooting informal trap. It had a 28" barrel with Winchokes. I found a scope mount for it and put on a fixed 3x Weaver, put the Improved choke in it and took a half dozen types of slugs to the range. I found that Brenneke's shot nice enough, around 1.5"-2" at 50 yards with this combo. Now, this isn't as good as a friend's 870 3/4" at 50 yards with the rifle sights, but it's acceptable, so I never thought about buying another barrel or another shotgun. Sure, the barrel is 2"-4" longer than a regular slug barrel, but I've never found that to be a problem. This gun only shoots 2 3/4" shells but deer have never noticed that it isn't a 3" or 3.5" magnum.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that just about anything could possibly work. A friend has a Remington 1100 with a 28" modified barrel with a bead sight on it. He threw a scope on the gun and uses it very sucessfully. Shop around and consider the possibilities but most important, fire different loads to see which the gun will like best and then stick with that load. Shotguns seem more finicky than rifles as to load preference.