Deer hunting is a time honored American tradition; we brought the concept of game hunting (a thing that was prohibited in numerous countries historically) to this country with us. There was a time when deer hunting was the only way to provide game for a family. Today, we may not need to hunt to provide sustenance; but venison is still consumed in many a household. It is a very healthy source of protein and has become a culinary staple. Millions of families prepare for hunting season every year; for many it is a standard part of the holiday season. Fathers (and mothers) pass on life lessons, gun safety, and a fundamental appreciation for wildlife to their sons and daughters though this recreational sport. When it comes to choosing the best shotgun for deer hunting, there are a few considerations.What exactly are you looking for? Range, accuracy, ease of use etc. these are all factors that contribute to the ultimate decision making process.

shotgun for deer hunting

Range and Accuracy

Shotguns are short range weapons, so if you are looking for a shotgun with some distance; a rifled barrel shotgun is best choice; note that all rifled barrel shotguns will be bolt-action. Their accuracy ranges from 100-150 yards. These are excellent for those who utilize deer stands but outside that 150 yard range, they will become ineffective. Smooth bore barrels are accurate to about 75 yards, so they are definitely designed for close up action. Rifled barreled shotguns are newer on the market and there are several out there that will suit your purpose. A smooth barreled shotgun may be a better choice for younger novice hunters. What they lose in accuracy will be made up for in ease of use and less kickback. It may mean working a little harder on your end to make sure they are at the right place, at the right time, to make that kill shot; but for them it will mean less aggravation and becoming gun shy.


There are several action types on the market, which is best for deer hunting? Withlever-action, pump, bolt-action or semi-auto action weapons available; bolt-action is the most reliable for the sport hunter. Bolt-action shotguns are considerably more accurate, and can be refined for an even higher degree of accuracy by the hunter.  While the other action types have their own positive points; if accuracy is an issue, bolt-action shotguns are going to give you what you want. Pump action shotguns are recommended for the young hunter, they have a faster reload time and usually have less recoil; for example a pump action .22 caliber is going to be much less intimidating than a .308. The goal when choosing action is to choose one that will serve the hunter it is intended for.


Slug gauge is determined by the gauge of the shotgun’s barrel; hence a 20-gauge shotgun is going to have a smaller slug than a 12 gauge shotgun. The gauge of your shotgun is not the only important information when purchasing shells; you must also know the length of your barrel. Purchasing a shell that is too long for the barrel of your weapon is dangerous, so make sure you know both of these things beforehand. Look for shells that are of the greatest length appropriate for your chosen shotgun, to gain the most accuracy. Slugs are actually a single projectile and are great for deer hunting. These slugs will only work in a riffled barrel shotgun. Smooth bore shotguns utilize another type of shotgun shell; these shells are filled with lead pellets and buckshot is recommended for deer hunting. A recent change to deer hunting is laws that ban the use of lead ammunition. Many manufacturers have started making environmentally friendly ammo. These “green” shells can be purchased easily online or in store front locations.

How Much Do You Want to Spend?

There are several factors that go into making a decision about the right shotgun for deer hunting, we cannot leave out cost. Know your budget before you start browsing. The Savage 212 and 220 are both excellent bolt-action shotguns and run in the $600-$700 range. Winchester has a SX3 model that will cost you around $1200; while the Harrington and Richardson Ultra Slug Model will run $300. It really depends on what you are willing to invest; and who you are buying for. Parents may want a lower cost weapon for their son or daughters first deer hunting shotgun. holds barred winner. Whatever your motivator, a little online research will go a long way, and get you the most bang for your buck.

Shotgun versus Rifle

While most will swear by the rifle as the best choice when it comes to hunting game; there are situations when a shotgun really is the only solution. As we know, bolt-action shotguns will get you the closest to a rifle. They have longer barrels and a higher degree of accuracy than their smooth-bored cousins. While there are those who shy away from using anything other than their rifles during deer season; shotguns are being recognized as a very useful way to enjoy all of deer season. We recommend giving them a go, and introducing youngsters to the world of hunting sportsmanship with one.


When looking for the perfect shotgun to accompany you on your deer hunting journey; bolt-action shotguns are the overall winner; where other types of shotguns have their positives, bolt-action wins for accuracy. They are perfect for introducing young hunters into the sport. They can learn gun safety and practice without experiencing some of the trepidation the older generation did, with powerful kickbacks and missed shots. Remember, it is not JUST the weapon that must be thought through; purchasing the wrong shell size can be a dangerous mistake. Look for environmentally friendly shells that do not pollute the environment. Deer hunting is a wonderful tradition to pass down and really does promote respect for our environment and all creatures, great and small, that coexist with us.


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