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October 11, 2007

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Slug Fest

I started deer hunting with a slug gun. Well, let me qualify that. It was actually an old side-by-side Stevens, and back in college, just before the deer opener my buddy and I would drive to an abandoned railroad culvert. We drew a deer silhouette on a piece of large cardboard and stood back about 30 yards. For ammo, I used discount Foster slugs—I don’t even remember the brand. If we put a hole anywhere within the silhouette, the gun was pronounced “on.”

Such was the state of slug hunting 30 years ago. Nowadays, deer hunters who use rifled shotgun barrels and the latest slug gun loads have the opportunity for a truly accurate shot on deer well past 100 yards.

But is that really a good thing? Last week I talked to a member of my gun club about the new breed of slugs. He was sighting in at 100 yards and marveling at how the packaging claimed ranges well past 150 yards.

That’s all well and good, but I know he’s hunting in a heavily wooded area and he’ll be lucky to see--much less shoot—a deer at 40 yards. Don’t get me wrong; I think the new slugs are great. I hit a deer with a Lightfield slug a couple of seasons ago and he dropped as if pole axed. That sure made getting my venison a lot easier. But I wonder if some hunters will be tempted to shoot at farther distances, where they may wound and not kill and where an errant shot may travel somewhere it’s not supposed to go.

The places I hunt, the farmer gives us permission because he doesn’t think his family or livestock have to worry about long shots. I counsel new slug-gun shooters to keep that in mind. You still have a duty to shoot carefully and precisely. What I like about shooting from a treestand on this property is that I can take a longer shot, but most of the time I wait out a deer, let him get a little closer and then make sure the shot is below the horizon. For me, the great advantage of the new slugs isn’t the distance they can travel, but their incredible accuracy. It’ s comforting to know that when I aim at the shoulder, that’s where the slug will go. Now, if I could just get that Ithaca 37 to kick a little less.

Slaton White



Here Here! Preach on!


The manufacturers have been pushing the 200 yard envelope for the last few years. Every new slug that comes out now seems to be touting this yardage as the holy grail of slug shooting.

Most slug shooters (and slug guns) aren't capable of making that shot. We all like to fancy ourselves capable of such long range gunning (for slugs) but @ $2.00-$4.00 per round how much does the average slug gun hunter really practice?

Wind drift and rainbow trajectory will always make slug gunning a short range deal. Add in ego and fancy marketing and you have a recipe for wounded game. Just because a slug touts good ballistics on paper doesn't always translate to clean kills in the field.

Scott in Ohio

Mr. White,

Up to this point I've only hunted deer with a rifle. I have just purchased a 1970-era used 12 ga. Ithaca Deer Slayer smooth-bore (I've always loved Ithaca 37's) along with foster slugs from five different manufacturers. I have not had a chance to shoot this gun yet.
Q1. Has it been your experience that slug guns, like rifles, tend to prefer one manufacturer's products over another?
Q2 The gun came with sling swivels and an older pachmyer recoil pad and I do not intend to add a scope to this gun. Have you "tricked out" your Ithaca with any other features that you strongly recommend? (e,g, ghost ring peep sight, different recoil pad such as a REM R3, etc.) I'd appreciate your suggestions on how I can "pimp my Ithaca."
Q3 I have a REM 11-87 mounted with a 4x32 Simmons scope that I have used on turkeys. I've considered buying a rifled screw-in choke tube for this gun to also use for deer. How do these compare to a fully rifled barrel?

-Thanks for your thoughts.


The last two deer I've shot with a slug were at 92 yards and 75 yards, respectively. Both dropped in their tracks, with the slug hitting them precisely where the crosshairs rested. Where I hunt slugs are the only option because the terrain is flat, and there is little timber - it is largely farm land covered with corn and soybeans, and the law says we have to use slugs. Slugs are devastating. They are also close range projectiles. Even with a rifled barrel most slugs lose so much velocity they start to tumble well before they reach the 200 yard mark.

Trent M.

I'm not sure why, but this article just strikes a raw cord with me. There are numerous oppurtunites to hunt deer in slug states where the deer might be more than 40 yards away. And even the old foster style slugs, out of a rifled barrel can be grouped well at 80+ yards.

Yes, there are alot of places that 200 yards is pushing it, and by and large, I think most people understand that. There will always be idiots.

To imply that somehow, in a slug state, I shouldn't be able to take a 100 yard shot with my slug gun is at best elitist, and at worst, assinine.

More a problem is people here in indiana hearing the word rifle, and automatically thinking the new PCR's that are allowed are anything more than 100 yard guns.

Idiots will always take stupid shots. Period.

Slaton White

Scott in Ohio: to answer your first question--yes, slug guns, like most rifles, can be partial to a particular type of ammo. I'd buy a couple of different brands and see what your gun likes best.
Question #2: Good as it is, the Model 37 kicks like an Army mule. I put on a Sims Limbsaver recoil pad. I also added a Leupold VX-1 4X scope (specifically designed for shotguns). It's worked very well. Other slug gun hunters I know use a Bushnell or Aimpoint red dot sight.
Question #3: I don't use a screw-in rifled choke, so I can't comment on its usefulness. I do use a fully rifled barrel, however, simply because it's more accurate.--Slaton White

Scott in Ohio

Mr. White, Thanks for sharing your thoughts and suggestions.

Anyone else out there willing to share their experience with a screw-in rifled choke tube??


what can anybody tell me about their experience with buckshot


i took


I took 2 small bucks this year at 30 yards with 00 buckshot 3 inch winchester loads from my Remington 870 express.Both deer dropped in their tracks and I recovered about 9 pellets from each animal.On the subject of slugs I would say stick to 50 - 60 yard shots and practice....a lot!


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hehehehehehehe this is fun hahah i bet you guys are pissed hahahahahahahaha y dont you shuve a slug up your asses