Deer Hunting With Handguns
YouTube: Tristan Riddle

Deer Hunting with Handguns: Adding a New Challenge to Your Season

Handgun hunting for deer adds a whole new layer of challenge.

Deer hunting is already one of the most challenging big game pursuits out there. However, there are plenty of hunters who eventually find themselves looking for new ways to make the hunt more exciting. Many will opt for more traditional archery gear in this regard. However, one somewhat overlooked way to instantly inject more of a challenge into big game hunting is to use a handgun.

Because shooting a handgun accurately is no easy feat to begin with at the range. Successfully taking a white-tailed deer or even a hog with a double-action revolver with open sights is just as tough.

If you have been considering trying a handgun this deer season, we have plenty of tips on how to select a firearm and make that shot count when the moment of truth does come.

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Choosing a handgun for deer hunting.

It should go without saying, but prospective handgun hunters should look at buying a handgun in a larger caliber than normal. It does not hurt to look at the hunting regulations for the state you'll be hunting first. Because some states will have a minimum caliber size you can use. Others may have restrictions on the number of rounds you can have in the gun, which rules out some semi-automatics.

If you are planning an out-of-state hunt, just be aware many states require non-residents to have a concealed carry license (CPL) to carry or transport a handgun into the field. Just another reason why it's good to check ahead of time.

When it comes to the most popular handguns for deer, it seems double and single-action revolvers are by far the most popular. Choosing an action is more of a personal preference than anything else. Double action is always going to be faster for follow-up shots. However, there is a good argument to be made that you are probably only going to get one shot in most deer hunting scenarios anyway, making the need for a fast shooter a moot point.

In any case, the Ruger Blackhawk and Super Blackhawk are arguably the two most popular and affordable single-action revolvers on the market. However, many hunters opt for the double-action Redhawk and Super Redhawk instead because it is slightly more ergonomic to shoot.

Other popular double-action models include the Smith & Wesson Model 29, 629, 610, 640, and 686. For serious knock-down power, consider the S&W 460 XVR. Although be warned that ammo may be a bit difficult to locate. Some other revolver options include the classic Colt Python or the Taurus Raging Bull and Raging Hunter. You can get the Taurus in magnum chamberings like .454 Casull. Magnum Research, the makers of the iconic Desert Eagle also make plenty of guns that fit the bill. While we have heard of many people using the Desert Eagle for deer, you might be better served going for their "BFR" series of revolvers. Magnum Research even sells revolvers in classic rifle cartridges these days like .30-30 Winchester, .444 Marlin, and even .45-70 Gov.

We already mentioned the Desert Eagle, but handgun hunting with a semi-auto is much less common. Mainly because most of these guns are not chambered in calibers that are ideal for deer. Although anything in 10mm Auto like the Glock 20 will do the job. Some deer hunters opt to get a longer aftermarket barrel to give a little more accuracy if you are going to go that route.

The last type of handgun that is popular for deer is single-shot pistols. Most of these have longer barrel lengths for increased accuracy and are extremely safe. Two of the most popular options on the market come from Thompson/Center Arms in the G2 Contender and the Encore systems which can be customized nearly endlessly to suit any hunter's tastes. Many of these single-shot handguns are available in centerfire rifle chamberings for anyone looking for something powerful that is as flat-shooting as possible.

Calibers and bullets.

Whatever type of gun you choose, caliber selection is probably more important than the firearm itself. Ideally, you want a gun that is .357 Magnum or larger for best odds of a quick, ethical kill. Another solid choice is the .44 Magnum. Some hunters prefer .44 Remington Magnum or .41 Rem Mag instead. We already mentioned .460 S&W, but we have even heard of some hunters utilizing the mighty .500 S&W for deer. Just keep in mind the larger you go in caliber, the heavier and less ergonomic the firearm will be.

In addition to caliber choice being key, so is the type of bullet. You want something that will expand quickly creating the largest wound channels possible. Do not use bulk ammo on big game. It pays to shell out a little extra for premium hunting ammo that is specifically designed with deer and other game in mind. Something like Hornady Handgun Hunter or Federal Premium Barnes Expanders or Trophy Bonded soft points. In many cases this ammo is more expensive than even premium self-defense rounds. However, you will understand why this ammo carries a top price when you drop your first whitetail or mule deer with one.

Other tips for handgun hunting.

Setting up for deer hunting season with a handgun is a lot like hunting with a bow or crossbow. In most scenarios, you are going to be setting up for closer shots than you might take with a muzzleloader, rifle, or shotgun with slugs. Setting up a treestand on food sources or near natural funnels will probably offer you the best odds of success. Ground blinds are a great option too. Just remember your hearing protection if you are using an enclosed box-type blind. Especially if you are using a magnum chambering. Trust us unless you really want some serious ringing in your ears.

It also pays to spend a lot of time at the range practicing and perfecting your technique. Shooting a handgun is always going to be more difficult than a rifle. You need to work on the fundamentals just like with a bow. It is not a bad idea to invest in some snap caps and work on your trigger pull technique prior to hitting the range. Especially since handgun ammo is so expensive.

Lastly, consider investing in a rest or a pair of quality shooting sticks. They are going to help your accuracy considerably, especially for guns with a shorter barrel length. We owe it to the animal to make the most humane shot possible. Using a rest is going to help significantly with that.

Aside from hunting with an old-school longbow, handgun hunting for deer may be the greatest challenge you can try in hunting. If you have done everything else, consider giving it a try this season.

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For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels