20 Gauge for Deer?


November 8, 2009, 04:50 PM
I am trying to go deer hunting. I small game hunt and ready to upgrade. I have a 22 and a 870 20 gauge magnum. I can hunt behind my house, tight woods, were my shot wouldn't be to long. Will the 20 gauge do the job? I have the magnum and can shoot 3" shells. Most people load up a slug and follow with buckshot. What should I shoot, slugs or buckshot? Also could you recommend some good slugs that would stop them in their tracks. And about how far could I shoot? I know I need to buy some and practice my shots, but wondering if it was worth it. When the funds get up I might buy a 12 gauge 870 or a good deer rifle.

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November 8, 2009, 05:02 PM
I took a 8-point buck with a 20ga rifled slug two years ago. The slug entered and exited the chest, shredded its lungs and it ran about 50 yards before dropping dead. I was using a Mossberg bolt action but I found it liked heavy, slower 2 3/4 shells better than high velocity or tru-ball.

November 8, 2009, 05:05 PM
I hope 20 GA is good for deer or alot of good fathers and grandfathers are wasting their money for their kids first deer gun. 20 ga rifled slug gun was my first deer gun and I am sure it is a first for many.

November 8, 2009, 05:31 PM
What about a regular slug out of a non rifled barrel? I am looking at the brenneke slugs. They have a 3" slug that looks like it packs a punch. Has anyone shot these? Also what about buckshot. Would it be worth to follow up with 20 gauge buckshot?

November 8, 2009, 06:13 PM
I like the brenneke. I use the 3" magnum out of my rifled slug gun. If your 20ga. is a smoothbore, make sure you use rifled slugs. Don't get hung up on the 2 3/4" vs. 3" shells. Buy a box of each and see which shoots the best.

November 8, 2009, 06:42 PM
About how far could I get a deer with a 20 gauge? I am hunting thick brush but also might go to my grandpa's which is more open.

November 8, 2009, 06:44 PM
When my old man took me with my 20 GA he said "don't take a shot over 100 yards as I would just scare the deer away".

November 8, 2009, 07:15 PM
Alright. I guess I'll buy some slugs, see how good I can shot, and bruise my shoulder. Would anyone recommend 20 gauge buckshot? If so which?

November 8, 2009, 07:38 PM
Don't get hung up on the 2 3/4" vs. 3" shells. Buy a box of each and see which shoots the best.

Good advice from dispatch55126.
I got my first deer with a 20ga Mossberg bolt action. Keep your shots to a distance you feel comfortable with. 50-75yds is a good average range to practice.

Would anyone recommend 20 gauge buckshot? If so which?

You need to check your local laws to see if it is legal to use. Some states outlaw buckshot. You did not mention your state.


November 8, 2009, 08:07 PM
I have taken several deer with the 20 ga slug out to 50 yards and so has my wife , and in the brush too.

November 8, 2009, 09:30 PM
+1 on the game laws regarding buckshot. If it is legal, 20-35 yards is about your maximum range. Take a 9" paper plate and shoot it at various ranges. the range where you can place at least 3 pellets of #2 buckshot is your max.
Use the same plates to range your slugs- the range where you can hit it 3 out of 4 tries is your maximum. In another words, a 20 ga slug will kill a deer much farther out than you can likely hit a deer.

Red Label
November 8, 2009, 10:08 PM
20ga is great for deer. I know as many guys who use the 20 as I do who use the 12ga. Some actually prefer 20ga as they say it has a flatter trajectory. Don't know about 20ga buckshot however.

November 8, 2009, 10:15 PM
The only reason I use a 12ga as my slug gun is that I have a M500 so I can swap barrels with with same action. However, if I was going to buy a dedicated slug gun, I'd probably go with a true 20ga. action to shave some weight.

November 9, 2009, 12:04 AM
I dont think using a 20 for deer would be a problem, it is still a large, heavy projectile. I dont really follow the logic for buckshot though.....only deer hunting scenario I know that people really choose buckshot is for deer drives with dogs, where you are usually shooting at a running deer.

November 9, 2009, 01:07 AM
1. Check your state regulations for buckshot for deer hunting. Personally, I would avoid it even if legal in 20 gauge loads. Standard seems to be #3 buckshot, which is (I believe) about .25 caliber, maybe .24. I would think 00 buckshot in a 12 gauge a better load by far for hunting deer at any distance.
2. I have seen several deer taken with 20 gauge rifled slugs (none by me, I use a 12 gauge), all deer were does or button bucks and were 80-100 pounds. There were exit wounds on broadside shots at roughly 50 yards.
You have more choices from ammo manufacturers for slugs now, even in smoothbore barrels. I have taken plenty of whitetails with a 12 gauge Remington 870 Express 21" Turkey barrel, receiver mounted scope and 1 oz. Remington "Sluggers" with the IC choke in place. A 20 gauge load would have worked just as well where I hunt (plenty of brush).
The Brenneke K.O.s seem like a pretty solid slug load.
Buy a number of 5-round boxes from different manufacturers, some aspirin and Icy Hot and have some fun looking for accuracy!

November 9, 2009, 08:01 AM
My wife will be using a 20 ga for deer hunting this year. Where we hunt, slugs are out so it will have to be buckshot. While I've never killed a deer with a 20, I have seen a few that were.

The 20 doesn't have as wide a selection of buckshot as does the 12 of course. All I know of are 3's and 2's (I have a box of each on my desk right now) but you might still be able to buy 4's in a 20. Generally the 3's come in a 2 3/4 in "short magnun" load. There are 20 of them in the Winchester shell (I assume the same in other brands.) I'm not sure how big 3's are but 4's are .27, so I assume that 3's would be slightly bigger probably .28.

The 2's come in a 3" magnun load. There are 18 of them in the Federal Premium according to the box. I'm going to assume again that 2's are probably .29, since I know No 1 (my favorite buckshot) is .30.

I wouldn't hesitate to use either No 2 or 3 out of 20 if that's what I had.

Generally I prefer modified choke for a buckshot gun. To tell you the truth I've never seen a mod choke gun that didn't shoot buckshot well. There probably are some, but I haven't seen them.

Good luck. Keep your range down to 30-35 yards. I always favored aiming right where the neck joins the body with buckshot. It seems to put them down for the count. You may have to hit them with a follow up shot but I've never had one try to go far.

November 9, 2009, 08:35 AM
Don't bother with buckshot. Get some Brenneke slugs and find out how far away you can keep all your shots on a small paper plate. Then go hunting.

Mr. T
November 10, 2009, 02:34 PM
The 20 Gauge will drop a white tail no problem. Good sabot rounds if you're using a rifled barrel will do just fine. Some of the new Remington loads have more down range energy than the old 12 gauge rounds do at 100 yards. The new rounds are travelling at 1990 fps compared to the old rounds travelling at 1450. I would have to agree with the statement by someone else that the standard size 2-3/4" rounds tend to be the most accurate. I have a Mossberg 835, that can hold a 4" pattern out to 150 yards. That is starting to approach rifle accuracy for some. Quite awhile ago, one of my little cousins was hunting for the first time and he used a Remington 870 youth model 20 gauge and on his first stand shot a 186" 12 pointer with a 23" inside spread with 2 shots to the neck. The deer didn't take 10 steps after being shot. 20 gauge is truely a lethal weapon; I've heard of people using them to kill bears with; if you can kill a bear with it, you can definitely kill a whitetail with it. Good Luck! P.S. stick with the slugs!

November 10, 2009, 09:33 PM
The 20ga with regular rifled type slugs is just fine for whitetails and the Brenneke's are even better. You said you would be hunting in thick brush so you probably won't be taking very long shots as it is.

Winchester 2 3/4 super X slugs in the 20ga will shoot flat out to 50yds and 2in low at 75yds with plenty of energy to kill a deer if you can hit the kill zone. The 3in shells are about the same trajectory wise but carry about 300 more ft.lbs of energy at those ranges. Like others I say buy a few different brands and see which one shoots best then try look up their ballistics so your not second guessing your Kentucky windage.:neener:

I personally would skip the buckshot and stay with slugs but I really have no experience using buckshot for deer hunting so my opinion is biased.

When the funds get up I might buy a 12 gauge 870 or a good deer rifle.

I say when or if the time comes and you need a little more range skip both and buy a nice Hastings or Remington fully rifled cantilever barrel and a shotgun scope for your 20ga.

My main slug gun is a 20 ga 870 express with a rifled barrel and a Nikon scope. I use Winchester Supreme Partition Gold with a 260gr sabot slug and they are accurate and flat shooting out to 125 yds, 4in low at 150 yds and 7in low at 175 yds. The Hornady SST slugs are good too shooting flat out to 150yds using a lighter 250gr slug.

Last year I shot an 8 pointer at 75yds with no problem and I would feel comfortable at taking a shot at twice that distance with this set up.

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