Deer hunters evolve as they gain experience and confidence. They often begin hunting with a weapon passed down or borrowed. Usually it is a shotgun slug gun or a 30-30 something. The 30-30 rifle caliber has harvested more deer than any other bullet made. They are common and inexpensive. The Marlin and Winchester lever action versions of this rifle are safe, solid, and reliable.

This season, break out of your comfort zone. Every hunter has a favorite weapon that they hunt with. Plenty of practice and time afield has made these weapons comfortable. When you plan this year’s hunt, think about expanding your arsenal of weapon choices.

Shotgun slug guns have really improved. The days of shooting “Punkin Balls”, and Buck Shot have changed. The Savage Bolt action 12 and 20-gauge slug guns sport a solid scope mount and rifled barrel. They are affordable and accurate. The 20 gauge is a perfect choice for deer out to 300 yards or more. The smooth tuned trigger is lighter than most slug guns and the solid frame easily takes the hard recoil of the sabot slugs.

Pistols pack a wallop out to 100 yards.  The 35 Remington, and several other reliable calibers, make a fine choice. The Contender single shot pistol makes the challenge tougher. Accuracy is improved but you only get a single trigger pull. This will change your mindset when hunting since you have only one chance.

Single shot rifles also set the bar higher. With only one round, you tend to make a more perfect shot. I normally carry 3 rounds with my Ruger #1 single shot 30-06 rifle. The first is for the critter, the second is there if the critter needs to be put down, and the third is for me if I miss the first two. I slip 2 rounds under my watch strap on my left arm and practice quick reloading. One shot, one kill has been my experience.

Black powder muzzle loading rifles are also a fun “Old School” way to hunt. You can build your own from a kit or purchase a modern version. “Smoke Poles” produce slower bullet speeds and ranges are reduced. Whether a flintlock, percussion primer, or musket cap, there is a real fun and accurate challenge when using these primitive weapons.

Archery is an even bigger challenge. Years ago, I made my own bow of Osage Orange tree, deer sinew for my string, Alder wood arrow shafts, napped flint arrowheads, with turkey feathered fletchings. It took me 3 hunts, but I finally made a pass-through shot on a spike whitetail.

Recurve bows are accurate to nearly 50 yards and compound bows out to 100 yards. Honestly, I have never shot any critter further than 18 yards. The slower shafts allow deer to move out of the arrows path. Wind, branches, and other factors can make you easily miss.

Crossbows are faster and easier to shoot than other styles of bows. The bow is mounted to a rifle stock which makes shooting them easy and quick to learn. With a scope attached, accuracy is amazing but the shorter “Bolts” lack the same kinetic energy as other arrows. Less practice is needed to learn a compound bow. Personally, I have found more traditional archery more fun and sporting.

When hunting with a different weapon, new challenges arise. Practice makes perfect. Hunters need to do their homework and preparation to take on the new challenge. With each new challenge, the excitement which motivates hunters is increased. The Rookie Jitters come back and must be overcome. Confidence is measured with experience. These issues are what keeps hunting exciting for a lifetime.

“The most important things we learn are the things we learn, after we already know everything!” Every new challenge makes us better hunters. We learn from mistakes if we are smart. The best part about hunting is becoming the best at what we do. As legal, honest, ethical, and complete hunters, we celebrate all aspects of the sport we love so much.

Challenge yourself to be a better hunter!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at www.montanagrantfishing.com.