How to Choose a Deer Hunting Shotgun

Pick the shotgun that's best for your hunting style.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to hunt a locale where it's legal to hunt with a rifle. It's all right, though. With all the available shotguns out on the market, you don't necessarily need a rifle. However, the next question is with all these shotguns available, which should you choose? Here's how to get started.

Know your hunting grounds

The area you're hunting is the primary factor in deciding what shotgun you should choose. If you're hunting a lot of agricultural fields or other open areas, you might be accustomed to having your range limited. If you don't want that to be the case, you should look into a bolt-action slug gun capable of flinging slugs past 200 yards. While they aren't exactly cheap, the Savage Model 220 and Model 212 are ideal. If you're primarily hunting in thick woods with visibility limited to less than 100 yards, it doesn't make sense to shell out the cash for a bolt-action shotgun. A cheaper (well, usually cheaper) pump-action or semi-automatic will work just fine. While they aren't known for their range, they can still reach out and touch something.

How does the shooter handle recoil?

How much experience do you have shooting firearms? Are you guilty of flinching? How old are you? If you're looking for a gun that has less recoil, stick to a 20-gauge. If you have a smaller frame, you should look at youth models or female-specific shotguns. Many brands have recently expanded on their selection of shotguns designed for women.


I don't look as cost as a deciding factor, but rather a limiting factor. If you're looking to stay on the cheaper side, feel free to browse the used firearms section. Look for classics like the Browning A5, which makes for a fantastic deer gun, anything by Ithaca. If you aren't looking for a used gun but want to take it easy on your wallet, there's always the Mossberg 500 and the Winchester 870. Don't forget to factor the cost of optics if you choose to equip your weapon with one, and don't be afraid to drop money on that, too.

Outliers and Miscellaneous

Nothing in life is certain, that's even truer when it comes to hunting. Ultimately, touch and shoulder a variety of shotguns to find the one you like. Keep in mind that even though the bolt-actions are designed to shoot farther than most shotguns, that doesn't mean you can't make 100-yard shots with iron sights.

Bare in mind the other game that you want to hunt, too. For example, a Michigan hunter is given the opportunity to hunt deer in November, turkey in the spring, and small game starting in September. You can easily do all of this with one gun. In my opinion, the only way you can go wrong is by looking at a .410. While you can hunt deer with these, stick to the big lead and don't use anything smaller than a 20-gauge.