6 Factors in Weapon Choice for Deer Firearms Season

Choosing Between a Rifle, Shotgun or Muzzleloader for Deer Firearms Season

Deer firearms season brings out hundreds of thousands of deer hunters from young to old and beginner to experienced. When the vast majority of folks think deer hunting season, the firearms season comes to mind first. Every deer hunter has a bolt action rifle. It is the most commonly used firearm type for hunting deer. However, your choice of weapon today is no longer limited to the traditional bolt action rifle.

Deer hunting has evolved and likewise, your choice of weapons have also. The muzzleloader shoots as good as a rifle and similarly, deer hunting with a slug gun is becoming common and even required in a lot of states across the country. The evolution of technology in firearms provides you with a number of choices when choosing your weapon for deer firearms season. Firearm choice is at the top, and for good reason, of every hunter’s deer hunting gear list. The question is how do you decide between a rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloader for deer hunting season?

6 Factors in Choosing Between a Rifle, Shotgun, or Muzzleloader for Deer Season

There are many factors that go into weapon selection. First and foremost, hunting regulations in your state or area will define your firearm choice. Certain states specifically dictate which type of weapon you are allowed to use for deer firearms season. For example, Ohio has a no centerfire rifle regulation. Other states, in contrast, allow either a rifle, shotgun or muzzleloader during firearms season.

You also have to check specific deer hunting season dates in your state. There are times when only certain firearms such as a muzzleloader can be used depending on the dates or season. For these reasons, hunting regulations are the most important (and limiting) factor in choosing between a rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloader for deer hunting season. Below are the top six factors that come into play for weapon choice when chasing whitetails.

  1. Hunting Regulations – Check local regulations regarding which weapon type can be used and when for deer firearms season. Most states have laws that restrict certain types of firearms during certain portions of deer season. 
  2. Shooting Ability – Ability to handle a firearm plays a big factor in weapon choice. You have to be comfortable with all aspects of a particular firearm including firing it, loading it, cleaning it and carrying it. 
  3. Anticipated Shooting Distance – What is your anticipated shot? Will you be hunting wide open agricultural fields with shots out to 200+ yards or will you be hunting thick brush where close shots are more likely? A rifle, depending on caliber, will give you a fairly consistent flat shot (minimal drop at least out to a few hundred yards.) However, a muzzleloader and most slug guns for deer hunting have significant bullet drop after about a 100-yards. Each of these shooting situations and many others dictate your choice of firearm. 
  4. Hunting Locations – Location and particularly terrain has a huge factor in weapon choice. Open, flat terrain would warrant a flat shooting rifle caliber whereas dense cover you would want a more brush busting weapon like a slug gun. 
  5. Follow Up Shots – Hopefully, as a hunter, you are dialed in and make a quality shot on the first attempt. But if you would happen to miss, are you ok with only one shot? A muzzleloader hunting setup is only going to give you one shot, at least in a reasonable time frame. A bolt action rifle or slug gun, on the other hand, can chamber another round quickly for a potential follow up shot. 
  6. Type of Hunter – The type of hunter you also factors into firearm choice. A 12-gauge Remington® slug gun is heavy and produces some serious recoil compared to a rifle. For a younger hunter or a smaller frame person, it may be difficult to shoot a shotgun accurately whereas a smaller caliber rifle is a better choice where allowed. 

Bolt Action Rifle Setup for Deer Firearms Season

One of the best bolt action hunting rifles for deer is the Remington® Model 700. A Bone Collector® favorite, the Model 700 comes in many different styles, configurations, and calibers. Calibers such as .270, .308, .30-06, and 7mm-08 are all good choices for deer season.

Michael’s 700 in 7mm-08 with Swagger Bipod.

Try the new Hornady® Outfitter™ ammunition, which is designed to perform flawlessly in tough field conditions, in any one of these great whitetail calibers for unmatched performance. Overall, this versatile deer hunting rifle combined with a Bushnell® Engage scope in 3-9 power produces one serious whitetail hunting rifle.

Hornady® Outfitter™ ammunition is designed to perform under the toughest hunting conditions while being accurate and hardhitting.

The Setup for Deer Hunting with a Slug Gun

The Remington® Model 870™ SPS™ SuperSlug is at the top of the list for slug guns for deer hunting. It is a 12-gauge rifled slug gun, which means, unlike a smoothbore shotgun this slug gun has a rifled barrel similar to a bolt action rifle. The barrel is also fluted to reduce the weight, minimize heat buildup, and overall improve accuracy. The thumbhole stock and recoil pad offer a comfortable slug gun shooting platform. By picking a Bushnell® hunting scope and shooting Superformance® Hornady® slugs, you can easily get dialed in out to 150-yards and be more than prepared for any shot this deer hunting season.

The Muzzleloader Hunting Setup Michael Waddell Trusts

Using a muzzleloader for deer season opens up additional opportunities. Outside of the main deer firearms season in most states, many have muzzleloader specific deer hunting season dates. You can capitalize on extra time in the woods with the right muzzleloader hunting setup.

The T/C® Triumph® Bone Collector® muzzleloader is the backbone of Michael’s setup. The innovative design and American built features of this muzzleloader make it one of the best the muzzleloading rifles for whitetail hunting. Along with his T/C®, Michael adds a Bushnell® 3-9x40 Trophy scope and shoots a Hornady® 250-grain SST® Speed Sabot in front of 110-grains of loose black powder. This setup gets him downrange knock down power and accuracy above any other muzzleloader hunting setup.

Choosing between a rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloader may be as simple as what you are allowed by law or it can be much more involved. The factors that go into which weapon you choose for deer firearms season have to be carefully considered. Each setup outlined for rifle, shotgun and muzzleloader are ones that are reliable and consistently harvest whitetails. Start with those and expand to your liking as you become more comfortable with each firearm type for deer hunting.  



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