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Choosing the Right Weapon

Rifles: Choosing the right weapon and ammunition can make your hunt much more enjoyable, and can really boost your odds for success. When selecting a rifle, you should consider how it fits, the sights, how heavy it is, plus its action and caliber. A properly fitting gun will help you fire a more accurate shot. A stock that is too long will get caught in your armpit if your wearing a thick jacket. If the stock is too short the scope may strike your eyebrow, giving you what's known as "scope bite."

Stock lengths can vary greatly among the different rifle models. A gunsmith can easily change the length of the stock for you if needed. Another downfall to an iproper fit is the amount of drop you will encounter. When you have your cheek pressed firmly against the stock of the rifle, your shooting eye should line up with the sites. Too much drop will prevent you from placing your cheek against the stock, and the recoil could cause the stock to slam against your cheekbone. Ouch!

If you hunt in heavy brush where you must use short sights, you should buy a low power scope or a peep sight that has a large aperture. Either one can be aimed quickly and very accurately. Variable power scopes within the ranges of 1.5x to 7x are ideal for this purpose. Open sights, which are the standard on most rifles are difficult to line up quickly and accurately.

Another consideration is the weight of the rifle. Most rifles used for hunting weigh between six and nine pounds. Lighter guns are much more comfortable to carry, and the heavier guns kick less. The heavy rifles are easier to hold steady and are better for stand hunting and long range shots. It is recommended that you use a sling to tote your rifle when you are not hunting.

The action  you choose will depend much on your need for a quick second shot, accuracy plus your personal preferences. Keep in mind not all calibers are available in each type of action. Actions can range from sturdy single shots to reliable and accurate bolt actions, to fast shooting lever actions, pumps and semi automatics. If you will be hunting in sub-zero climate you should remove all dirt and oil from the gun's action because the oil will thicken and may cause your gun to jam. Most actions will function fine without oil for short periods of time. If you do a lot of shooting in very cold climates, you may want to consider using a graphite lubricant.

Important: When hunting whitetails, your cartridge should deliver at least 900 foot-pounds of energy at the point of impact for a clean kill. Most states have laws that specify minimum cartridge specifications for white- tail hunting. Medium calibur, high velocity cartridges are the best choice for deer hunting. .30-06 Springfield, .308 Winchester, .270 Winchester, and 7mm Remington Magnum are ideal cartridges for making clean kills when used at optimum ranges. Click here  to check the ballistic ranges for various caliber cartridges.

Shotguns: Shotguns and slugs are commonly used for deer hunting in densely populated areas, many states don't allow rifle hunting. Some of of southern states permit you to use shotguns with buckshot. The ideal shotgun for deer hunting is one that has a rifled barrel and special sights. Rifled barrels shoot slugs more accurately than do smoothbores. Rifling causes the slugs to spin and stabilize, allowing shots at deer up to 100 yards away. Slug guns and ammunition are available in all of the popular guages. The 12 gauge is the most widely used. You should NEVER use anything less than a 20 gauge for deer hunting.

Muzzleloaders: Using a "smokepole," you better make that first shot count or you'll be out of luck. Most muzzleloaders can only fire one shot, and take too long to reload, but some are accurate to about 125 yards. Many states have muzzleloader seasons, which allow you to extend your time on the field. Hunters can choose between caplocks and flintlocks. Many hunters prefer flintlocks, but caplocks are less likely to misfire. Most hunters prefer the .50 or .54 calibers. With muzzleloaders, you have your choice of round balls, conical bullets and pistol bullets. Check with your state laws, many states only allow the round balls for muzzleloading.

Handguns: Handguns, while not always the most accurate and powerful weapons, do present a challenge for hunters. You must be an expert marksman and should realize the limitations of handguns when shooting at deer. The best handguns to use are the long-barreled bolt action or break action single shots that are chambered for rifle cartridges such as the .30-30 and .35 Remington. Becoming an expert pistol shots requires a great deal of practice and patience. To improve the accuracy of your
handgun, you should consider purchasing a 1x to 4x scope if it is legal in your area.

Bow and Arrows: Bowhunting, while certainly not the easiest method of hunting, provide longer seasons for deer hunting. It is a real challenge for a hunter to bring down a trophy kill with a bow and arrow. The most commonly used bow today is the compound bow. Compounds use cams and pulleys to provide more power and speed to the arrows. A bows draw weight must meet your state's legal minimum. This is usually in the range of 35 to 45 pounds, but you may want to check to be safe. Despite the popularity of compound bows, several hunters still prefer to use the traditional bow. The traditional bow, which of course doesn't deliver as much power, is a real challenge.