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The Pros and Cons of Hunting Deer with a Shotgun

With deer hunting being one of the most popular types of hunting in the country, a shotgun is becoming an increasingly valuable short-range weapon.

Shotguns use energy from a fixed shell that delivers many small, pellet-like projectiles that can take down a deer anywhere from 75 yards to 150 yards away.

Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of hunting deer with a shotgun.

hunting deer with a shotgun

Types of Shotgun

There are a few different types of shotguns, including pump-action, bolt-action, twin-barrel, and semi-automatic. Each type of shotgun is ideal for certain ammunition or applications.


Pump-action shotguns are the most popular deer-hunting shotgun since they hold multiple shells, usually around five shells. These shotguns are excellent for deer hunting because they allow you to eject and cycle rounds without moving your hands out of position, which is convenient if you’ve lined up your shot already.

Pump-action deer hunting shotguns are easy to fire accurately, and they’re reliable and affordable, making them an excellent choice for short-range deer hunting.

The only downside to a pump-action shotgun is that they are manually operated so that they may fire slower than other types of guns for deer hunting. Your aim may also be thrown off by the cycling process, so you’ll want to make sure you’re lined up for any follow-up shots.


Bolt-action is less common on a shotgun than it is on a rifle, but they provide great accuracy when deer hunting with a shotgun.

These shotguns for deer hunting do require you to move the bolt yourself, which may slow you down. For this reason, these guns are not very effective if you’re shooting at a herd of deer when you must fire off shots back to back.


A twin-barrel, or double-barrel is a pretty rare type of shotgun for deer hunting, but some people prefer the twin-barrel shotgun.

These guns are relatively expensive, but they offer excellent balance and an effortless swing, perfect for quickly aiming at a deer. One of the downsides of a double-barrel shotgun for deer hunting is that it only holds two shots at a time. You’ll have to reload, which may cost you your target.


A semi-automatic, also known as an autoloader, is an excellent shotgun for deer hunting since it uses energy from the gunpowder explosion, which automatically cycles the spent shell with a fresh round.

These guns are just as reliable as a pump-action shotgun, but they’re more expensive because you get the added convenience of not having to manually reload for every shot. A semi-automatic shotgun also allows for more rapid firing of buckshot or slugs, increasing your chances of success.

The Pros of Hunting Deer with a Shotgun

Easy Maneuverability

Shotguns have shorter barrels than rifles, which are the other most popular types of guns used for deer hunting, making them very easy to maneuver. You’ll need a gun that’s easy to handle and move around when hunting for deer since they are easily spooked by even the smallest movements.

Hunting deer with a shotgun, especially one loaded with buckshot, helps when you’re trying to slip through brush or even when you’re in a hunting blind or tree stand and need to make adjustments.

Shotgun-Only Hunting Laws

In some parts of the country, you’ll find that hunters are required to use a shotgun when hunting deer. Typically this happens in urban areas and in some special deer hunting zones, like public lands, refuges, and wildlife management areas.

This law results in much higher quality buck populations, and it makes conditions safer for public land hunters since shotguns fire at a slower rate. Deer populations decrease when semi-automatic and automatic weapons come into play because hunters are able to shoot at a faster rate.

Generally, shotgun-only laws make deer hunting safer for hunters in states with a lot of open spaces or in states where the population density is high because there’s less of a chance of accidents happening with a shotgun.


Not only are shotguns the only option for hunting deer in some places, but they’re significantly cheaper than other guns for hunting deer, like rifles. You can even outfit your shotgun with a scope for increased accuracy for a much smaller price tag than what you’d spend on a naked rifle.

Deer hunting with a shotgun

The Cons of Hunting Deer with a Shotgun


Shotguns, while versatile, don’t offer very long range for deer hunting. These weapons will generally work best when you’re within 200 yards of your target, so they’re best for hunting deer at a short range.


Recoil is the ‘kick’ you feel as the gun pushes back against you when a bullet is fired. Many factors, like the weight of the gun, bullet weight, powder charge weight, and muzzle velocity, impact the perceived recoil.

Shotguns for deer hunting can pack a pretty hefty punch. The recoil mainly depends on the type of ammo you’re using.

How to Choose a Shotgun for Hunting Deer

Now that we’ve discussed the different types of shotguns for deer hunting, let’s talk about what you should look for when you’re shopping for the best gun for your preferences.


The weight is an essential factor in choosing the best shotgun for deer hunting, especially considering that hunting includes walking around with your gun a good deal.

If your shotgun is heavy, you’ll begin to notice the weight more and more as you tire faster. Choosing the most lightweight option is probably best if you plan to be moving around a lot as you hunt.

The length of your shotgun’s barrel will affect its weight and accuracy. Longer barrels will weigh more, but the bullet will shoot out straighter and with more energy than shorter barrels.


The shotgun gauge measures how big the bore, which is the inside diameter of the barrel, is. You’ll find shotguns have 10, 12, 16, 20, and 28 gauges. The gauge of a shotgun is calculated by the number of lead balls of bore diameter required to make up a pound. The smaller the gauge number is the larger the shotgun bore.


The choke of a shotgun for deer hunting helps to control the spread of pellets which will improve the accuracy of your shot. You’ll find that some shotguns come with fixed chokes, while others allow interchangeable chokes.

You should consider the distance a pellet has to travel when you’re choosing the choke size. The longer distances you want to shoot, the tighter the choke should be.

Full Choke

A full choke has the most narrow dispersion, which is excellent if you want to hunt deer from a longer range.

Modified Choke

A modified choke will have a moderate constriction, which means the pellets stay together longer, making the shot string denser and more useful for longer ranges. A modified choke is best for hunting deer at a medium range.

Improved Cylinder Choke

With an improved cylinder choke, the shot string is allowed to spread more quickly, with only a slight constriction. These shotguns for deer hunting are best suited for short-range shooting.


When it comes to hunting deer with a shotgun, the ammunition you choose to use is crucial to your success. You should look for ammunition that features excellent penetration and expansion.

It’s important for the pellets to be able to penetrate through the deer’s flesh and then expand once it penetrates through the body. Generally, the best ammunition for deer hunting with a shotgun will be slugs or buckshot.

hunting deer with a shotgun

Frequently Asked Questions

How far can you shoot a deer with a 12-gauge shotgun?

You can typically expect a 12-gauge shotgun to have an adequate range of anywhere from 50 to 75 yards. You’ll be able to shoot a deer at these distances with reasonable accuracy.

What is the best shotgun round for deer hunting?

Most hunters prefer to hunt deer using a slug because it has superior range and flexibility when compared to buckshot.

Wrapping Up

Shotguns are excellent short-game guns, with their maximum range reaching anywhere from 75 to 150 yards. Whether you simply prefer hunting deer with a shotgun or you live in a region where it’s the law, we hope we’ve helped you figure out which shotgun best fits your needs.

Check out the Hunting in Minnesota section of our page for more information, including tips, tricks, and essential gear and equipment for your hunting trip.