Editor's note: Field Editor Bryce Towsley put all of this gear to use on a recent whitetail hunt in Iowa. Catch up on that story here.
Savage Model 212 Slug Gun
Slug gun technology has come a long way. My first experience hunting deer was in the ’60s. I used a 20-gauge single-shot my uncle loaned me with the expectation I would never actually see a deer to shoot at anyway. He had a handful of shells and I picked the one they called a “punkin’ ball” to load that old shotgun.
It was a solid, round ball that had to be smaller than the bore to fit through the choke, so it would just rattle through. I know because I cut it out of the shell postseason and dropped it down the bore several times. Hey, I was 11: What would you have expected? I doubt I could have hit a bus, much less a deer with that rig. I picked it because “punkin’ ball” is a cool name and that was far more important than ballistics back then.
Today, we have some outstanding shotguns, optics and ammo for deer hunting. In Iowa, I used a very accurate Savage Model 212 bolt-action shotgun. It’s built on the Savage 110 action with a 22-inch button-rifled barrel, detachable box magazine, oversized bolt handle and an adjustable Accutrigger.
Federal Premium Trophy Copper Ammo
The ammo I used was Federal Premium Trophy Copper. This sabot load fires a 300-grain polymer-tipped, all-copper slug at 2000 fps muzzle velocity. If that sounds familiar, it’s because this is almost an exact ballistic duplicate of a three-pellet load from a modern muzzleloader.
Bushnell Trophy Scope
I mounted a Bushnell Trophy scope with a DOA 250 MZ ballistic reticle on the shotgun. This reticle is made to use with a muzzleloader out to 250 yards, and works equally well with this slug load. I simply verified the correct distances for each of the reticle aiming points by shooting at targets. As it turned out, they were tack-on, so it was easy. With steel targets there are no limitations. If you miss, the only thing wounded is your ego. On a calm day I could hit the 6-inch head on an MGM steel IPSC target at 250 yards almost every time from a shooting bench. However, I draw the limit at 200 yards for slug gun hunting and even closer if conditions are less than perfect. When in doubt, get closer or don’t shoot. I should point out that I can’t think of any way to improve on the equipment and any issues on this hunt were all my fault.
One night, we were very late getting to dinner because we were tracking a wounded deer for another hunter. Bushnell had sent us some of its wonderful new flashlights and headlamps to field-test. I had mine in my backpack so I was good to go. Mike Mattly and David Draper left theirs at the house and were trying to track with flashlight apps on their smartphones. I mocked them so mercilessly that they turned mean and I had to hide until their batteries went dead. Then I had the only flashlight and they were nice to me again. Fine print point: The best gear in the world is worthless if you don’t have it with you.
We used Primos Double Bull blinds to allow freedom of movement. During the rut the deer are unpredictable, and this let us move if the permanent blinds were not producing and it was too windy to sit unprotected. We also had Primos calls, shooting sticks and a lot of products to make us stink less. It was all good stuff. I will say the Trigger Stick gun support saw a lot of use for coyote hunting last winter. I highly recommend this system.