So, which gear is the right gear for you? In this part of the Hunting Guide, I will share with you what I know about shotguns, rifles and handguns, sharing my take on whether they are suitable in certain situations. Before diving into each gear, I will provide short bullet points to give you a general idea on what I will discuss.
After that, I will share with you what tools you can use with a gun. Essentially, I will share about the 2 basic tools for guns, a shooting rest and a spotting scope.
- Shotguns are firearms designed to be fired while held against the shoulder
- They are designed for hunting at shorter ranges
- The bore of the shotgun which is the hollow part inside the gun barrel is smooth which helps to reduce friction
- Shotguns are popular for hunting small game and air targets such as birds
Shotguns are primarily used for hunting small game because of the ammo that is different than the rifle or pistol ammo. Instead of sending one bullet through the air, shotguns fire multiple smaller pellets at once, making it effective to shoot moving air targets. Although this is so, many success stories of hunting buck and other larger game come from using shotguns. This is because of how versatile the weapon is.
A good shotgun will be easy to move around and make quick shots. Shotgun bullets also known as shotgun slugs are also heavy and wide which cuts through the surrounding plants better. There are also highly specialized shotguns meant for deer hunting. However, you should consider that shotguns may produce intense recoil when firing and bruising of the shoulder. Hence, it is important to learn the right technique of carrying your gun.
Note that the accuracy of a shotgun is not as high as a high-quality rifle. The range is also not as wide. As mentioned above, shotguns are meant for hunting at shorter ranges. This is limited to approximately 75-100 yards while high quality rifles can shoot approximately 300 yards or more. Therefore, your hunting area is one of the main deciding factors in choosing your gun. This is because you will need to match the range of your gun to the space of the land. In some places, you are unable to hunt with a rifle so choosing a shotgun would be a great choice.
- Rifles are designed to be fired when held against the shoulder
- They are for hunting at longer ranges
- The bore of the rifle has spiral grooves cut into it known as rifling, causing the bullet to spin when fired which increases the accuracy of the shot
There are many kinds of rifles but the most common ones for hunting are the bolt-action rifle and lever-action rifle because of their reliability. The term “action” refers to the way the rifle ejects the empty shell after firing the bullet and loading the chamber again for the next round of firing.
For bolt-action rifles, you will need to manually move back the bolt of the gun, which is the sliding piece to eject the shell of the bullet by using a handle. You will also have to reload the gun between each shot before shooting again. Because the operation of a bolt-action rifle is manual, this can be more instinctive for beginners and thus helpful for the beginning of your deer hunting journey.
Bolt-action rifles have great accuracy because it allows the cartridge of the bullet to fit in the chamber tightly. These guns also have a variety of cartridges that are available. Furthermore, they are favoured because of the customization that can be done. For example, a common modification is to increase the accuracy and decrease the weight of the rifle.
A lever-action rifle is similar to a bolt-action rifle but rather than a handle on the bolt, there is a lever underneath the trigger guard. This is a benefit because your hands will not slip off the bolt handle as you are using a lever. These guns are usually used as brush guns in deer hunting which means that they are appropriate for areas that are heavily wooded.
Lever-action rifles use older technology. Although their popularity has decreased in recent years, they are still favoured because of some good reasons. One of them is because these guns to be light and convenient. This can be handy for when you are on the move. These guns are also good for taking close to moderate range shots.
Some hunters believe that shotguns are safer than rifles. This is because rifles shoot out at a further range, so they may be more dangerous to fellow hunters or bystanders. However, you should note that the more common dangers that hunters face in reality are not accidental shootings. Instead, they are dangers such as car accidents while traveling to and from the hunting site and falling from tree stands.
There are almost 6,000 hunting accidents each year due to falling from tree stands. This is six times more than the amount of accidents by firearms! Nonetheless, some states ban rifles for hunting to take precaution for safety purposes. Hence, make sure to find out your state’s regulations on firearms before purchasing them. You can clarify this by checking with your local law enforcement office.
- Pistols are fired from one hand without any support from the shoulders
- They are designed to be fired from a shorter distance
- The bore of the handgun barrel has spiral grooves cut into it like the rifle which increases the accuracy of shots
Handguns require more skill than the other firearms in hunting deer. The true test of the shooter is probably being able to master a handgun. This is because of the limitations faced by the hunter such as the distance which is limited to approximately 50 yards. This means that you will need to get that close to your targeted game! The limited distance creates a bigger challenge to the hunter but also a greater level of thrill and excitement.
Furthermore, shooting with a handgun will require you to have very steady hands. This is to ensure an uninterrupted pull of the trigger. Even at the slightest jerk, your bullet will deviate at a wide distance.
With the greater challenge, this also means that a significant amount of time must be put into shooting practice to become proficient. Even hunters who are already proficient at hunting with a handgun need to practice maintaining their proficiency.
Therefore, I would conclude that shotguns are excellend for small game hunting, while rifles are suitable for big game hunting. You should only use handguns sparingly because handguns cannot do much damage to your game, where it would likely injure the animal rather than swiftly killing it. Besides lowering your chances for merciful killing, your game may get away from you immediately reducing your chances of hitting vital organs.
There are 2 other tools you must use with your gun. Allow me to cover them briefly below.
A shooting rest is important when you are on the field to reduce human error when shooting game. It is only normal for your heart rate to start increasing and your adrenaline to rush to high levels when attempting the shot at a big buck. Hence, to avoid shaky hands which causes misfiring, you will need a shooting rest to stabilize your gun and improve accuracy when firing. This can also reduce the felt recoil when you pull the trigger. The three different categories of shooting rests are the monopod, bipod and tripod.
The monopod is the most basic shooting rest out of the three categories and hence the easiest to set up as well. Monopods are hand-carried in the form of a single stick with its top in a V-shape form to rest the gun upon. It is in the length for shooting from a sitting position. Though they are quick to set up and easy to carry around, monopods do not offer much support. They are the least stable out of the three.
The bipod is more stable than a monopod and quicker to set up than a tripod. They are attached to the gun and you just need to flip the two legs out. Bipods are also to be used from a sitting position. It is a helpful tip to fold your knees to your chest and place both your elbows firmly on your knees when taking the shot while sitting.
The tripod is the most stable of the three since it has the largest base area, given the three legs attached. They are used from a standing position as they have the height. Furthermore, tripods allow for the additional benefit of using cameras with it. However, they are the least portable out of the three due to the comparison of size and weight.
When selecting your shooting rest, all have their own pros and cons. You will have to decide based on their appropriateness to your hunting surroundings. For example, a tripod will be good to shoot over vegetation compared to a monopod and bipod. Whichever you may choose, make sure to select one that uses lightweight material to ease travelling as you will be carrying it with you. Also note that when setting up your shooting rest, it is important to hold it as still as possible and minimize any sound made to not scare away the deer.
A spotting scope is a very useful tool to increase your shooting efficiency. However, it is also one underutilized hunting equipment because people doubt the size and cost of it. So, do you really need a spotting scope for hunting deer?
A spotting scope is somewhat like a telescope but designed to produce images that have the specific clarity that hunters need to make a solid gauge on the specific details of the game. For example, being able to identify clearly the type of species and size of the deer. While binoculars are useful for magnifying the target, spotting scopes provide magnification with extra clarity. They also come with a tripod which grants stability. Furthermore, spotting scopes are more effective in low light than binoculars. This is because spotting scopes allow more light into the lenses than the small lenses of the binoculars, hence resulting in a brighter and clearer image. Since having a clear and accurate view of the deer is essential to shooting it, a spotting scope is a great help in taking the shot.
Spotting scopes are also handy because it can even be used to observe the weather conditions. These conditions can be different from hundreds to thousand yards away. Using a spotting allows you to detect the movement in the trees due to wind blowing and other views to make any decisions or preparations for the change in weather to come. While binoculars may allow you to see trees moving, spotting scopes will show you the direction and intensity of the moving!
It is highly recommendable to get a spotting scope for hunting because it changes the way you see things. You will start to be more aware of your surroundings and notice more patterns in nature that you have never known.
Hence, by selecting the right gear and choosing the right tools that goes along with it, your hunting success rate will increase significantly!