Friday, August 22, 2008
20 GAUGE (VS.) 12 GAUGE FOR DEER
TOP PHOTO ABOVE SHOWS ITHACA STORM DEERSLAYER MODEL W/RIFLED BBL 125 YARDS WITH FEDERAL BARNES EXPANDER 3/4 OZ COPPER SLUGS & LOWER 2 SHOT GROUPS IS AT 100 YARDS
20 Gauge or 12 Gauge For Slug Hunting Deer
There is an ongoing debate of sorts on the 12 GA (vs.) the 20 GA for deer hunting. The truth of the matter is, that both are entirely adequate. Although my very first deer was killed with a Remington semi-auto 20 gauge with foster slugs, all the rest of my deer with a shotgun have been with Ithaca Deerslayer 12 gauges.
Let’s take a look at the 20 GA. The old rule of thumb is that it takes 1000 foot pounds of energy at the target to humanely harvest a whitetail deer. The 20 gauge utilizing the Win Supreme 2 ¾ inch Partition Gold load uses a 260 grn bullet at apprx 1900 fps and a ME of 2084 ft lbs. This exceeds the 30-30 Winchester load and we all know the 30-30 is near the top of list for taking the most deer over the years. The 3 inch version of this load adds a 100 fps, and 225 ft lbs of ME. We are talking about premium slugs in a rifled barrel. I assume anyone purchasing a new shotgun for hunting deer would go with a rifled slug barrel version (vs.) the old IC, or straight cylinder bored bbl, utilizing Foster Slugs. As mentioned I killed my first deer (8 point buck) using a 20 GA and Foster slugs. That deer was taken cleanly through the chest at about 20 yards. In the days when most of us were relegated to Foster Type slugs, the 20 GA was probably a 75 yard gun. If truth be known, so was the 12GA except more so because of accuracy than energy levels. I never thought about it much in those days, since most deer were (and still are) taken under the 75 yard mark. Today with rifled slugs available from Winchester, Remington, Federal, Lightfield, Hornady, and Hastings, that range can be extended out to 125 yards or a bit beyond. Hastings now makes a 3.5 inch 20 gauge slug, that weighs 410 grains and has a ME of 2000 ft lbs. It shoots fairly flat and retains the energy needed for deer out to around 175 yards. Of course, now you have to factor in the reason you selected a 20GA in the first place………..LIGHTER recoil primarily.
I killed the majority of all the deer I have ever taken with a vintage Ithaca Deerslayer with a cylinder choke bbl and wearing a Weaver K2.5 fixed power scope. I switched from Federals, to Remington’s and then onto Winchester Foster slugs over the years. I found my particular gun, shot the Winchesters best. I rarely had any deer go more than 50 yards after taking one of those slugs in the chest. I gave my old Deerslayer to my son-in-law a couple of years ago for Christmas, and upgraded to a NEW Ithaca Deerslayer II Storm Model with a rifled bbl. I had a trigger job done on it, the stock shortened a little for me and a LimbSaver recoil pad put on it. I topped it off with a Nikon Prostaf 2X7X32 scope and have since switched the scope to a Simmons Master Series Pro-Hunter, also in 2X7X32. It was a natural transition for me to stay with the 12GA that has served me so well over most of my deer hunting adventures. The debate will continue over the 12GA (vs.) the 20 Ga, and my 2 cents will not change that much. I am NOT particularly recoil shy, and have on different occasions ran up to 20 /¾ OZ (360 grain) Federal Barnes Expander slugs through this gun off the sandbags in a T-shirt. I was no worse for wear from the experience. When hunting with this gun, I never have noticed the recoil.
As mentioned elsewhere on my BLOG (http://gunsandoptics.blogspot.com), my brother-in-law uses an old Remington Pump action 16 gauge with Foster slugs and has great luck with that combo. He rarely takes a shot much over 50 to 75 yards.
I think the debate is a lot of controversy over nothing. BOTH, the 20GA and the 12GA are adequate for the task at hand. I love the 12GA and always have, however if you want to hunt with a 20GA, I respect you for it. Different strokes for different folks. Both have had a lot of research and gains made in more streamlined, aerodynamic rifled slugs, and both will take deer cleanly inside their respective range. My Ithaca 12GA Storm model will put 5 shots easily covered by the palm of your hand out to 125 yards and on occasion out to 150 yards. That is not far behind most in-line muzzleloaders. I have had great success with the Federal Barnes Expander loads, however this next summer I am going to experiment with the Hornady SST 12 Ga loads. I try to stay on top of the technology, however part of me believes in the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
Proverbs 18:24 KJV "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly, and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother"