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The GameKeepers Guns: The Versatile Shotgun

Bobby Cole | Originally published in GameKeepers: Farming for Wildlife Magazine. To subscribe, click here.

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Let’s imagine that you have just shot a nice buck and he ran off into a thick stand of cane along a creek bottom. You glance at your watch and plan to give him a few minutes to expire. You text your buddy and he is climbing down to come help you recover the buck. It’s an exciting few minutes. You’re not cold anymore, you can’t wait to lay your hands on the antlers.

When your friend arrives you both hurriedly arrive to where he was standing and find hair/blood. You don’t really bother finding the blood trail because you know the direction he ran and you expect to find him lying just inside the cane, dead. A quick glance at your watch reveals twenty minutes has passed. Not exactly a long time, but you shot him with a rifle and your confidence is overflowing. You can’t wait to post a pic on Facebook.

Forty yards into the search your hear the dreadful sound of the buck crashing through the thick brush and you get just a glimpse of him and a leg dangling as he attempts to leave the zip code. Because you were so confident, your rifle was on your shoulder and there wasn’t time for a shot. Your buddy looks at you in shock. Now you have a mess on your hands. What do you do?

It Happens 

As a hunter, we never want to wound an animal. We never want an animal to suffer. It’s our obligation to recover every animal and to be smart about it. By being smart I am referring to letting a wounded animal lay and not be pushed unnecessarily. There are times when you can immediately recover. There are times when you back out and go back the next morning. There are also times when circumstances dictate that you give them as long as you can and then proceed carefully. Learning to read blood sign is important and that’s a whole other article.

I am suggesting in this article that (where legal) you keep a 12-gauge and buckshot in your truck for just such circumstances. A shotgun is quick to point and a load of 00 Buck can be lethal and can correct a bad situation quickly. There are many loads to choose from and you can determine what’s best for you. The same gun you shoot ducks with the same improved cylinder or modified choke should perform admirably. A pump gun like a Remington 870 is tailor made for this versatile job, but any pump or automatic should work fine. Just be familiar with it and have the correct loads. 

It’s important to note that this tactic would be illegal during bow season and in many states using any kind of "shot" to hunt deer is also illegal. And recovering a deer at night with a gun and flashlight also brings up a myriad of legal issues and moral ones which you may have to deal with. I am certainly not suggesting you break any game laws, but I don’t advocate allowing an animal to suffer longer than necessary either. The point I am trying to make is be prepared for a worst case scenario when recovering a wounded deer. Whitetails are tough critters, especially bucks. Hunt long enough and you will have a horror story. Don’t take anything for granted. It only takes a few minutes to get back to the truck and get your close quarters weapon and hopefully you may not need it. You probably won’t, but that one time that you do…you’ll be glad you had it.

Lastly, if there is a young or new hunter. Take the time to explain to them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Take the opportunity to pass along the skills you have learned.

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