In small game hunting, you can choose from a rifle, a shotgun or bow and arrow as weapons to hunt your prey. Each type has its own benefits so it is really up to the hunter which one to choose.
The benefits of a shotgun are the wide range of loads available for shooting. The type of load depends on the game you wish to hunt. For small game, different sizes of pellets can be used, for large games, slugs or buckshot is better.
Shotguns are typically used to fire a number of small round pellets and usually fired from a smoothbore barrel. If firing a single projectile, the rifled slug barrel is used. The energy of a single shot is fairly low compared to other bullets making them useful for hunting birds and other small game. A shotgun can also be used to hunt deer or hogs when slugs are used.
Shotguns can also be useful as a defensive weapon when using larger shot and a number of projectiles. This type of weapon has several advantages when used against still targets as it has great stopping power from a short range. A shotgun is also easier to aim because of the wide spread shot pattern it produces.
Since the long-distance travel of a rifle bullet poses a great hazard in semi-populated areas, the use of a shotgun for hunting has become quite common. Modern smooth bore shotguns using rifled slugs are accurate up to 75 yards or more, while rifled barrel shotguns with sabot slugs are accurate to 100 yards and beyond.
A hunter must pay close attention, though, to the ballistics of a particular make of ammunition to ensure humane killing of his prey. Slug ammunitions have relatively low muzzle velocity of about 1,500 feet per second, and have a blunt poorly streamlined shape. However, due to the massive weight of shotgun slugs, they can cause effective and lethal wounds that will reduce the time the animal might suffer.
For small game, the important factors to consider are the barrel type, choke, alloy of pellets, pellet size and cup or wads. Making use of the right pellet alloy will prevent the shot from deforming due to extreme initial acceleration. Large pellets have the capability to retain their energy better at longer distances but create a low pellet cloud density. On the other hand, smaller pellets can loose energy much faster but create high pellet cloud density.
The right combination of factors is important and can be found by trying the different shot sizes, different chokes and different velocities.
Use different shotgun shells for different game!
All-load, choke-tube autoloaders may be one gun for all purposes, but the same is not true for shotgun shells. Tailoring a shotgun shell to the game or the animal being hunted is critical for shooting success. Here are the different types of shotgun shells and the type of game they are suited for:
- Magnum: These shells have extra pellets and must be loaded at low velocities to keep chamber pressures down. Magnums are useful for hunting turkeys, waterfowl, or any type of shooting that requires a large amount of small pellets or enough extra-large pellets for dense patterns at long range.
- High Brass Loads: These shells are also called high velocity, high base, etc. They work well for shooting at long range targets such as big birds and pheasants.
- Low Brass Loads: These are also known as low base and field loads and are lower velocity shells with lighter shot charges suitable for shooting from close range. They are ideal for dove and quail hunting.
- Spreader Loads: Spreader or brush loads are ideal for hunting down quails, grouse, woodcocks and other close-cover birds. A spreader load spreads quickly to fill out as large a pattern as possible.
This information about shotgun shells should serve as a guide to determine the right shell for the hunt. However, patterning the gun is also as important. Successful shooters know what patterns their guns and chokes shoot with different types of loads because they spend time and effort in using a patterning board to tailor the loads to their own needs.