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Deer Hunting with a Pistol

Ken Reeves from Jacksonville, Alabama, is a Mossy Oak ProStaffer that hunts every which way he can. He hunts with pistols, bows and rifles. He's taken 100 deer with a bow and prefers a 7mm Mag rifle when rifle hunting deer. He also offers some tips on hunting reclaimed strip mines and in hot weather.


I've been hunting deer with a pistol for about 15 years. I saw outdoors writer Larry Weishuhn,  taking a lot of big bucks with his Thompson/Center Contender, so I decided to give it a try. My first deer hunting pistol was a Ruger Blackhawk 44 Magnum with a Simmons 2X scope. My Black Hawk was a used pistol that a sporting-goods store near my home had. There wasn’t anything magical about the pistol. I just knew I could kill a deer with it, and it was within my price range. The Black Hawk was already set up and ready to shoot, so I bought it. When I first shot the pistol, it was almost dead-on, and then I spent some time adjusting it. Every year since I bought it, I sight it in before I hunt with it, and it holds its accuracy. 

I consider pistol hunting deer like bowhunting with a gun, because I want to take deer at close range with both. I like hunting with a pistol. The first time I took it to the woods  and a doe came in, I got as charged up with adrenaline as I’d been the first time I had a deer come within bow range. The doe was at about 20 yards, and I shot her free-handed. I hadn’t planned to shoot offhand. I was hunting from a tree stand and had planned to use the tree as a brace for my pistol, due to how the trails came in to where I was. I figured I could hold the pistol steady and make an accurate shot. However, the doe came in on the opposite side of the tree from where I’d planned for see her. I didn’t hesitate to shoot offhand. I’d been practicing shooting offhand, as well as shooting with some type of brace or rest with my Black Hawk. The doe was only at 20 yards. When I squeezed the trigger, she fell where she had been standing. 

My first buck I took was a real surprise. At that time, I belonged to a dog/deer hunting club. This club alternated weekends – hunting with dogs one weekend and using no dogs the next weekend. The hunters with dogs had seen this buck before, but they said, “That ole buck always slips out of the hunt, and we've never been able to take him.” 

After scouting, I determined what that buck was doing. There was a 2-foot-wide, 1-foot-deep ditch with some water in it that ran out into a clear cut. When the buck heard the dogs running, he’d get down in that ditch, walk through the water, come out of the clear cut and escape. He was bedding in a pine thicket. This ditch went straight out of the pines, through the clear cut and into another block of woods. Using this strategy, that ole buck could get away from the dogs, and they couldn’t follow his trail through the water. 

I took my pistol and my rifle with me on the stand that day. I had my pistol in my hand, and my rifle was hanging on the side of a tree. I was facing away from the ditch when I heard a twig snap. The sound was just loud enough to make me turn around and look. I saw the buck standing in the water, about 18 yards from me, so I stood up. The buck walked out of the ditch right beside the tree where I was standing on a lock-on tree stand. When the deer spotted my moving, he started running. I shot and almost shot my tree stand, because the buck was so close. I shot three or four times, and I hit him square in the chest. When I climbed down out of the tree, I saw the buck’s blood sprayed on the side of the tree where I was hunting. This nice 8-point only went about 45 yards before he fell over. I was very excited about having taken that buck with my pistol. 

The longest shot I ever made was 122 yards with my Encore .270 pistol. I originally bought that pistol thinking I would use it when I went out West to hunt. Accurately shooting a deer at that distance was a real challenge. I was hunting from a shooting house, and I had my backpack on the window of the shooting house to use as a steady rest. I’d used my range finder to judge the distance. The deer was a big doe that needed to come out of the herd. Once I made the decision to take the shot and squeezed the trigger, the doe dropped in her tracks. Holding the pistol steady and getting the crosshairs to settle where they needed to be to make a lethal hit was very difficult. 

I'm often asked, “Why would you encourage other hunters to consider hunting deer with a pistol?” When I’ve got a deer in close, and I’m trying to take it with a pistol, I've found that I get a huge adrenaline rush. Pistol hunting is a lot of fun and is a challenging way to try to take a deer. You also have an opportunity to take a deer at 50 yards, instead of at 30 yards or less. I know that western hunters have opportunities and harvest deer with their bows out to 50 and 100 yards. But in Alabama where I hunt, the brush and the timber are so thick you'll rarely, if ever, have a bow shot at more than 30 yards. So, pistol hunting for deer is much like bowhunting for deer. I feel like I get an extra 20 yards to take a deer when I'm using my pistol instead of my bow. 

I've only taken that one buck with my pistol. All the other deer I've taken with a pistol have been does. In Alabama, we’re fortunate that we have plenty of deer. In many areas, we have too many deer. Although we can only take three bucks per season now, we can take a good number of does. That's part of the reason why I've take more than 100 deer with a bow.


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