Deer Hunting Ammo Guide: How to Choose the Right Bullet
- 20 Sep, 2017
With the upcoming deer season upon us it is time to start gathering up the gear, picking out our spots, and preparing ourselves for the opportunity to harvest a deer this fall. Having the right gear is essential for success on the hunt, and it starts with having the right ammo.
Some considerations to make when selecting ammo for your deer hunt include: the rules and regulations in your area, the length of your shot, and the type of firearm you will be hunting with (shotgun vs rifle).
1. Rules & Regulations
Perhaps starting with the rule book in your area is the best beginning point. Here you will find important information regarding ammunition allowed in your area such as the stipulations on using buckshot and slugs as well as the type of firearm you are permitted to use. For example in many states there are shotgun and rifle zones; in some areas you can use both and in others you are restricted to only shotguns. Check with your state's Department of Natural Resources to find all of your rules and regulations, or simply stop into a local sporting goods store and ask.
2. Long Distance / Rifle
If shooting long distances is a priority, the best firearm choice is a rifle; if permitted, this will prove to be easier and more effective than using a shotgun. Primarily, a rifle will allow for the maximum distance shot.
When using a rifle remember that typically the higher the caliber the bigger the bullet. Some of the most popular rifle calibers for whitetail deer hunting include: .243, .25-06, .270, .30-30, .300, .308, .30-06, or .7mm. All of these calibers are suitable for hunting whitetail deer.
When it is time to find the right ammo, first ensure that you have the right caliber ammo for your gun, and then consider the weight of the bullet. Remember that:
- Heavier bullets increase accuracy downrange while maintaining velocity
- Lighter bullets will travel faster and therefore flatter
- A denser hide (deer) will require a bullet that can create a great deal of penetration in which a heavier bullet should be used
- A lighter bullet generally creates more expansion because of the fast speed it travels at, but offers less penetration
- A heavier bullet travels slower creating less violent expansion then a light bullet, this maximizes penetration
3. Short Distance / Shotgun
If using a shotgun, consider the gauge shotgun you have, and make sure you match this up to the ammo you are using. For example if using the popular 12-gauge shotgun, make sure you only buy 12 gauge ammunition. When it comes to shotguns there are two main types of ammo to use for whitetail hunting. The first is buckshot.
Buckshot is comprised of medium to large size pellets. Buckshot ranges in the size and amount of pellets found in the casing. The higher the shot size the smaller the pellet. Double aught “00” buckshot which consists of usually around 8-10 pellets is the most common for deer hunting. When thinking about buckshot from a hunter’s perspective, you have to think about the flight pattern of the pellets: the flight pattern grows outward in size as the distance to the target increases. On one hand this is an advantage for the hunter as it covers a larger target area, but at the same time can become a disadvantage if distances exceed ~30 yards. It becomes a disadvantage at this distance because the weight or grain of an individual buckshot pellet is extremely light and therefore does not retain the energy leading to poor penetration.
If you need to be able to shoot longer distances with your shotgun you may consider the alternative to buckshot - slugs. A slug is made up of a single projectile and is much heavier then buckshot. Due to the weight, distances up to 75-100 yards are easily within reach, and the penetration is also much greater then buckshot or even a 150-grain rifle bullet. When using slugs, the best thing to do is to try out a number of different slugs to find out which shoots best out of your particular shotgun. Going beyond just trying out different manufacturers’ slugs there are two types of actual slugs. The first is a rifled slug.
Rifled Slugs - (Click this link to shop rifled slugs)
A rifled slug is perfect if you do not have a rifled barrel for your shotgun. You can simply load a rifled slug round in your smooth bore (sometimes known as bird barrel) shotgun and the projectile will spin in flight (like a spiral football pass), increasing overall accuracy. Typically rifled slugs are hollow in the back, and about the same diameter as the shotgun barrel. The rifled slug is also affordable and as mentioned before does not require an additional barrel for your shotgun.
Sabot Slugs - (Click this link to shop sabot slugs)
The other type of slug for deer hunting is the sabot (pronounced SAY-boe) slug. The sabot slug is narrower and smaller in diameter than the rifled slug, and requires a rifled barrel. This means you would have to exchange your bird barrel for a rifled barrel, which is usually much shorter in length. The sabot slug is typically tapered out on the ends making it more accurate at long distances. Sabot slug have a "sabot" or shield behind or around the slug which actually pushes the projectile out of the barrel. Once discharged from the muzzle, the sabot falls off leaving only the slug traveling towards the target.
In conclusion, know your rules and regulations for your area, consider the distance you need to be able to shoot, and experiment with your shotgun or rifle to find the best bullet for your needs. If shooting at shorter distances buckshot may be the way to go, make sure you are able to use buckshot in your location as well. If longer ranges are needed you should consider a slug or using a rifle. Practice makes perfect, happy shooting!