Since I first started deer hunting at 14 years old, I’ve been a buckshot hunter. Almost all the deer I’ve shot were dropped with a single load of buckshot. I’m preparing to take yet another Michigan Whitetail this season with 00 Buckshot in my trusty 12-gauge shotgun.
Can you Hunt Deer With Buckshot?
Modern Buckshot is a fine option for deer hunting. 00 buck has been the preferred choice of deer hunting buckshot for well over 100 years. Although it’s greatly waining in popularity, buckshot continues to successfully take deer every season.
There’s something to say about the heritage of hunting with older methods. The traditional aspect of old-school shotgun hunting has an allure and thrill all its own.
Is Buckshot Effective for Deer?
Buckshot is highly effective for deer. A good load of buckshot will drop a deer in its tracks. While it doesn’t create the same wound profile as modern hunting rifles, buckshot is still considered both ethical and highly effective. It remains a popular choice in areas of the Great Lakes region.
A good load of buckshot can whoop the tar out of a Whitetail deer, but it certainly has its limitations. The key to buckshot is knowing its limitations, and knowing how to maximize its strengths.
The biggest point is to know your pattern. Every shotgun/shotshell combination throws a unique pattern. some will be small, some wider. Some patterns aren’t very consistent. That’s what you need to avoid. if you have a bad pattern, you need to try some different ammo.
If you don’t pattern your shotgun, you will have no idea if it shoots well, or how far your max distance will be. Patterning a shotgun is absolutely essential to shotgun hunting. If you want to know more, I wrote a full-length article on patterning a shotgun. Here’s a link to it.
What’s the Best Buckshot for Deer Hunting?
The best buckshot for deer hunting is Hornady Critical Defense 00 Buck, and Hornady Heavy Magnum 00 Buck. They are more powerful than most and are loaded with the Versatite wad system which increases the max effective range past that of other types of buckshot.
Any 12-gauge 00 buckshot going at least 1200 fps will work for deer, but Hornady’s buckshot is more effective because it’s faster and further shooting than anything else you can find. They have great options in both 2 3/4 and 3-inch shotshells.
The best buckshot for most situations has always been a 12-gage 00 buckshot. a traditional, full-power load is 9 pellets going at least 1200 fps. Hornady has an 00 Buck loaded with 8 pellets that clocks in at 1600 fps. one less pellet, but the increase in velocity absolutely makes up for it.
Bad buckshot may be slower, not have a shot cup, and not use a buffer material. Buckshot slows down quickly, so you need all the velocity you can get. A shot cup is a type of wad that holds the shot together for a tighter pattern. Buffer material fills the gaps between the large pellets in the shell. It lessens pellet deformation, making the patterns tighter.
Is Buckshot Legal for Deer Hunting?
Buckshot is legal for deer hunting in most states. Currently, Pennsylvania and Ohio do not allow buckshot for deer. Game laws change often. You should check The game laws for your state to be sure it’s legal in your area.
Some states have completely outlawed buckshot for deer hunting. This is an interesting change in public opinion on buckshot. The main thought among hunters today is that buckshot is unethical and ineffective for deer. But those are the hunters who have no first or second-hand experience with it.
The concern is two-part. First, there is the misconception that it will only wound deer. that certainly isn’t so. I have never had a deer run off after being hit with a load of buckshot. But, then again, I know how to use it.
If you want to know how to drop a deer with one shot of 00 Buckshot, I have an article detailing the best methods of that. Here is a link to it.
The second concern is that buckshot encourages mindlessly emptying a full magazine at a running deer. Some argue that it creates a “spray and pray” mentality. keep in mind that these are the same guys who think that a rifle with 6 rounds in the magazine is also unsensible in the woods. I have one word, Fudd.
The simple truth is, you should never shoot at a running animal. it’s too hard to make a good shot, and it’s easy to not pay attention to what’s behind your target. If you only take easy shots, you’ll find much more success and you’ll look like a better hunter.
How Far Can You Shoot a Deer with Buckshot?
Buckshot has a max practical range of about 70 yards for deer hunting. However, most buckshot will only prove effective to around 40 yards. Only the best buckshot has the velocity and pattern size to reliably reach further than 50 yards.
The big issue with buckshot is that it’s a short-range option. Your average Remington or Winchester 00 Buckshot will have a maximum range of between 35 and 50 yards, depending on choke and how that particular gun patterns.
Generally, the farthest shooting effective buckshot is made by Hornady. There isn’t a brand that makes buckshot that consistently shoots as tight of patterns as Hornady. with a full-choke, most buckshot is good to 40 yards for sure. But, as I said earlier, you need to pattern your gun before you know anything.
You can shoot as far as your pattern stays evenly spread and under 36 inches in diameter. Tighter patterns require you to aim more precisely and make a better shot. If you don’t practice with your shotgun, you don’t have much hope of making a far shot with a tight pattern.