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Deer hunting with buckshot

This is a discussion on Deer hunting with buckshot within the Hunting forums, part of the Firearm Forum category; I grew up shooting rifles. Now fifty years later I find myself hunting in Southeastern VA where buckshot is often the only deer medicine allowed. ...

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Old December 3rd, 2013, 05:10 PM   #31
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I grew up shooting rifles. Now fifty years later I find myself hunting in Southeastern VA where buckshot is often the only deer medicine allowed. I heard all the tales about how ineffective it was and had no respect for it when I first started using it. I have now killed deer for the last several years with buckshot. They have all been well hit and all were dead within a twenty-five yards. Most just went straight down. Some have even been with my 16 gauge using No. 1 Buck.
You must pattern your shotgun with the load that you are going to use and see how far you can get a good pattern and if your shotgun shoots to where it's pointed. None of my shotguns patterns 000 well enough to shoot beyond about ten or fifteen yards. Most of them pattern No. 1 pretty well to nearly fifty yards. With 00 it depends on the gun. Buckshot is lethal and effective if you've done your homework. It is not like picking up birdshot loads and going hunting. You need to see what will work and determine your maximum range. As the old sheriff said at the beginning of Cool Hand Luke, 'A man must know his limitations.' Buckshot has them, but it's not ineffective. It takes range time and a sore shoulder.

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Old December 3rd, 2013, 05:57 PM   #32
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Being a former LEO and an EMT, I've had a fair bit of experience with 00 buck shot. Would I use it for hunting deer? No way, but contrary to stories people have heard it is downright nasty on human targets and, despite how it is portrayed on TV it doesn't just hit the bad guy and stop there. A shot of 00 buck, within normal shooting range, will put huge nasty holes in the bad guy and whatever is behind him. It will go through a house wall, interior or exterior, like butter and still blow through a car parked outside. I have witnessed it with my own eyes. Those folks who think its a good choice for home defense are going to get a rude surprise should they ever have to use it in their house. I've seen suicide by shotgun in the mouth where the victim was missing their face and part of their head and still alive (although the victim died within hours), shotguns do weird things and that's a fact.

Definitely not something I would use to hunt deer with unless it was a survival situation but different strokes for different folks.
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Old December 4th, 2013, 07:10 AM   #33
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Buckshot is a great coyote load in that you often have to take a shot at a running animal and coyotes aren't nearly as tough as deer. Even on coyotes you rarely get full penetration which is what makes it a viable load, you often get less fur damage than from a (high velocity) rifle. (to Brandi's point humans are rarely shot with buckshot at 60 yds, at 5 it is nasty)

For deer it is marginal at best and was mainly used when running deer with dogs was in fashion.

Last edited by hackdaddy; December 4th, 2013 at 07:12 AM. Reason: addition
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Old December 4th, 2013, 08:01 AM   #34
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You are correct; confused 000 with #3. Sorry Tater and others, I was wrong and thank you for the correction.
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Old December 4th, 2013, 05:54 PM   #35
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I have hunted deer for years with buckshot and I have harvested 20 or more over the years. If I have my "druthers" I would rather use a rifle, but for along time I had to use buckshot to hunt deer in Virginia (long story for another thread or time). Even though buckshot is not my first choice, I would still use it if I had to. JMHO
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Old October 7th, 2015, 11:39 AM   #36
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Well, a few white hunters in Africa use buckshot to stop a lion charge at point blank range. At point blank, it is fair to say it can be devastating. I've been trying to get a handle on its use. It seems to me the whole deal is how tight the pellets stay together.
From the folks I've talked to, there is always the "one hundred yard deer killed with one #00 pellet." I have to accept their experience but that pellet at one hundred yards has about 40 ft. lbs. of energy.
I live in Florida. There are a lot of dog hunters and this kind of deer hunting is almost like beagles and bunnies. Deer goes crashing through the underbrush 20 yards off- you would pass up a rifle shot because there are dogs and hunters in the area and the single bullet will likely get deflected on underbrush.
At 15-20 yards the buckshot seemed to act in unison and bust through underbrush.
It therefore has a specialty use in a very limited habitat. If your shots are 40 plus yards use a rifle or slug.
I'd be interested in hearing both good and bad on buckshot. On the bad, I would like an honest account as to whether you patterned many loads and how many pellets grouped in how large a circle at what ever yardage you did the testing.
Sharing real world experience may enable us to learn from one another.
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Old October 7th, 2015, 12:56 PM   #37
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I have killed several deer with buckshot through the years and it is deadly used within range. Pattern your gun is the only way to know how it will work. Years ago I was doing a lot of nuisance beaver control shooting with buckshot. It is very effective for that use and shooting on water shows the pattern very well. IMO based on observation and personal use a 10 gauge magnum loaded with #4 buck is effective on beaver to 60-65 yards. Twelve gauge about 10 yards closer.
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Old October 7th, 2015, 01:59 PM   #38
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Deer hunting with buckshot

The few times I have hunted pigs/hogs with a shotgun I have used slugs. I know pigs are tougher than deer, not a fair comparison.
Anyway, I would not use buckshot for hunting deer. If a shotgun is my only choice, I prefer slugs.
Other times, most of the time, I use a rifle.

Last edited by j102; October 7th, 2015 at 02:01 PM.
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Old October 8th, 2015, 07:11 AM   #39
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Well the debate continues. It seems to me that most of the folks who favor buckshot also speak about patterning their loads. Those who don't favor it- doesn't seem they did any patterning.
I've been researching this subject quite a bit. A few white hunters in Africa use buckshot to stop a lion charge or head into thickets after a wounded leopard. POINT BLANK shooting. I think they are using side by sides and firing both barrels at the same time.
In Florida where I live we have the pilgrims such as myself. We sit in tree stands and use rifles. Then there are the natives who often use dogs. About 10% of the natives use a rifle, usually a semi-auto and the other 90% use shotguns. I'd say most of the deer are shot at 20-30 yards. Maybe half aim for the neck if they have patterned their guns and arteries, bone, etc. are hit and the deer drops. Quite a few take shoulder shots and up to 40 yards claim most #00 will penetrate the shoulder, both lungs, and end up against the hide on the far side. One fellow said at 40 yards he put 3 buckshot, #00 into a deer's lungs and the deer ran 50 yards before dropping. Finding a deer in Florida that runs fifty yards can be tough, in some areas you cannot see YOUR feet on the ground due to the cover.
There are always a couple that claim a single #00 pellet hit and killed a deer at 100 yards. I have had several folks claim such. It seems like a ballistic impossibility because even at 40 yards a single #00 has slowed in speed and is around 115 ft. lbs. of energy- what it is at 100 yards I don't know but it can't be much.
In sneaking in and out of my stands I've jumped a number of deer. By "jumped" I mean about 25' (8 yards) away when they explode out of cover. I use a 30-30 Marlin but I would figure a quick shot would likely deflect on underbrush or miss the deer. A load of buckshot covering about a 12" circle at 15-20 yards seems like it would be just the ticket. I hunt doves and have taken doubles and on a good day might hit 21-23 clays on a trap range so fast shotgun shooting is something I am used to.
What I'm in confusion about is effective range. I read a few hunting stories by Archibald Rutledge of South Carolina. He used dogs and sometimes drives with other hunters. Rutledge was a well known writer in his day. His great-great something signed the Declaration of Independence. I don't think he would stretch the truth but he wrote about killing good bucks at 60 yards. He may have simply had a very good shotgun. I think it was an Ithaca (side by side).
Another gray area is unrecovered deer. Nowadays if we shoot a deer and can't find it- that is a tragedy. I'm wondering if in yesteryear a guy might have shot deer he couldn't find and didn't care- so you only heard about the ones he shot and recovered.
On the 000 (bigger than 00). Since there are less pellets they need to group well. Off hand it seems the grouping isn't that good for hunting, that the 000 buck is more of a self defense load at point blank range.
Finally, from others I have spoke to, it seems like four to five pellets in a VITAL area will usually produce a fairly quick, humane kill. And, buckshot is really best around 15 to 30 yards. 35 yards is okay but once 40 yards is reached- you need a really tight patterning gun and you need to be a good shot. If most shooting is 40 or more yards then use a slug or get a rifle.
In any event- nothing like folks relating their real life experience. One guy told me he shot a small hog in the hams and it ran off un-recovered. On trophy hogs buckshot seems like a poor choice as in many instances a shoulder shoot is required.
In any event, any information on buckshot, its success or failure appreciated.

Last edited by red owl; October 8th, 2015 at 07:17 AM.
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Old October 16th, 2015, 02:16 PM   #40
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I concur with the OP....Buckshot has always given me poor results on game whilst at really close ranges it can be devastating ,i have had animals at 30 yds look at me after what would be thought a solid hit was certain and then run off....i guess some due to bi-laws have no choice but to persevere with it but given the choice my rifles win out every time.
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Old October 17th, 2015, 06:20 AM   #41
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Well, I've tried to learn all I can on this controversial subject. One guy said he patterned 2 3/4, 9 pellet load of #00 with a moderate choke in his gun and had all of them in a paper plate at 25 yards. He thought maybe copper plated would drive deeper so he bought 2 3/4, 9 pellet #-00 copper plates. THAT load didn't put any pellets in the paper plate- he could not believe the difference.
Off hand, I think that may be the whole issue. It just seems to me that the great majority of folks who use buckshot never spend much time finding what works best in their particular shotgun.
Another thing I've run across is HOW the buckshot is used. If you take a shoulder shot it must penetrate the shoulders and then the lungs. One guy said he shot a buck that way at 40 yards, three pellets penetrated the lungs but the buck ran 50 yards before dropping. Quite a few folks use a neck shot. As a rifle hunter I didn't think that was ethical. I was asked if I turkey hunt (yes) and do I take a neck shot (yes) and why. I said because the multiple pellets will hit a lot of vital areas. I think the same applied PROVIDED the buckshot is in a tight cluster. If a tight cluster hits the neck- the buck is going down on the spot- or so I am told.
On the range, it seems 30 yards is about ideal. In the Deep South where I live if you have a lease on a field with feeders, etc., etc., etc. then the shots are long and a rifle best but if you are sloshing through swamps the deer can be close. How close? I've had 8 feet. Not 8 yards, 8 feet. CLOSE RANGE.
It seems that once the range is over 40 yards the effectiveness of buckshot drops off very fast.
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Old September 24th, 2016, 03:07 PM   #42
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I had the unfortunate loss of a co-worker to a hunting accident. He was hit with a single 00 buckshot pellet 2" above the navel during a deer drive. The pellet hit him at 90 yards and shredded his liver. He bled out by the time he reached the hospital. Tragic no doubt, but preventable. Which is another story in itself. So, it is devastating on a soft target despite what people believe about energy levels.
As far as buckshot on deer, I believe it's very effective up to 40 yards. After that use slugs or a rifle.
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