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New small game hunter... what to hunt with?

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  • New small game hunter... what to hunt with?

    Hi guys, I'm looking to get started in small game hunting. I have a small amount of experience with duck hunting, and my only gun is a 12 gauge, which I'm afraid is too much to go out looking for small game. I'd like to get something that will be very versatile and able to perform well with grouse, ptarmigan, and hares.

    Was thinking I should look into a 20 gauge. I was even considering getting one of the compact models marketed for youth or smaller shooters (I'm not small myself), thinking that it might be better for carrying long distances in brushy areas. I'm curious what more experienced folks on here would recommend.

  • #2
    That is a loaded question! Lol! There are so many options you could disappear down a hole of options never to be heard from again! I am, however, willing to share a thought. Do you favor utility over appearance? Here's why. A $10,000.00 custom hand engraved gem encrusted stock made from extinct hardwood in 410 gauge will kill just as good as a $200.00 single shot with a stock made from maple. Power to the folks that want the sparkly pretty stuff. My first was a Remington single shot 410. I took a bunch of jackrabbits, cottontail, dove, pheasant, and sometimes I managed to drop a quail or two. Do you like a multiple options or are you more comfortable with simplicity? Here's why. There are nifty small-ish combo rifles that have for instance, a 410 gauge barrel on top and a 22 long rifle barrel an bottom. Not much to them at all weight wise, but the single shot option could be problematic if you jump up more that 1 rabbit at a time. I believe this type is a great survival tool for a cabin, boat, or in the truck.

    Is your 12 gauge semi auto or pump? I have owned both, but seem to keep coming back to pump. They seem to be more robust over years of hard use for what I do. Either way find one that fits the intended shooter comfortably. You can use a 12 ga for all the game you want to shoot. Use lighter loads. Go to the range and see what the pattern is at different distances. If you blast a grouse at 5 yds there won't be much meat left, but if you shoot one at 25 the spread will be much bigger and not tear it up so bad. My go to shot size for pheasant is #4 in a 2 3/4 shell. You could try #7 or #8 shot and see where it patterns.

    Whole bunch of small game is harvested with a plain old 22 rifle. Your preference again as to bolt, semi, pump, single. This is my preference. Ruger 10-22, couple spare 10 round magazines in my pocket, and trusty large caliber revolver in my chest holster. Less noise and recoil than a shotgun and cheaper ammo.

    Whatever you decide, have fun!

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    • #3
      Mine is a pump action, and I definitely have a bias toward simplicity and lower cost.

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      • #4
        Simple and lower cost would be along the lines of a bolt action tube fed 22 lr. You can absolutely do what you want with what you have, but since it's the holiday season, that's a great reason to expand the collection. They get lonely when they are by themselves.....

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        • #5
          Your 12ga is fine, no need to go smaller unless you just want a new gun. My only tip would be to just use lighter loads like 1 or 1-1/8oz loads no need for expensive "heavy game loads".

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          • #6
            For a dedicated small game gun, it's hard to beat a .410 or a 20 gauge. Your 12 will work fine, but a smaller shotgun will do less damage at closer range. I have a single-shot really inexpensive .410 that can be broken down into two pieces for when I'm backcountry skiing and a pump 20 gauge for other times. A .22 would be fine as well, but that cuts out the possibility of wing shooting for ptarmigan.

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            • #7
              all of the above

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              • #8
                I Have to agree with Chez. Altho I've often thought the O/U 410/22 or 20/22 would fun.

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                • #9
                  I have a Remington 870 in .410 which is my favorite for birds. For rabbits (hare), I use my customized Ruger 10-22, hard to beat it.
                  Someday someone may kill you with your own gun, but they should have to beat you to death with it because it is empty.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by tracen8r View Post
                    There are nifty small-ish combo rifles that have for instance, a 410 gauge barrel on top and a 22 long rifle barrel an bottom. Not much to them at all weight wise, but the single shot option could be problematic if you jump up more that 1 rabbit at a time. I believe this type is a great survival tool for a cabin, boat, or in the truck.
                    What make is/are the over/unders that come with the shotgun barrel on top of the rifled barrel as I can't say I've ever seen one. Only ones I've ever seen are vice versa, like my old Savage 22/410.....(that I sold when I was a dumb kid!) Dad wasn't none too happy about that.....
                    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 4merguide View Post
                      What make is/are the over/unders that come with the shotgun barrel on top of the rifled barrel as I can't say I've ever seen one. Only ones I've ever seen are vice versa, like my old Savage 22/410.....(that I sold when I was a dumb kid!) Dad wasn't none too happy about that.....
                      Here are a couple.
                      http://gundata.org/blog/post/survival-rifles/

                      http://rockymountainbushcraft.blogsp...olding-22.html

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                      • #12
                        Ah. I re-read your reply. Thanks for keeping me honest to the fact I reversed the order of what was on top of what. I can see where that is an important detail to be able to sight in the 22. My mistake.

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                        • #13
                          I one of these for my sons first firearm.

                          https://www.rossiusa.com/product-list.cfm?category=3

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                          • #14
                            In addition to lighter loads as others mentioned- the mini 12 g loads are 1 3/4 inches if you are concerned about spoiling meat. I started hunting with a .22 and a 410 H&R crack barrel, and still think they are fine rabbit/small game rounds. One of the most fun shotguns I ever had was a 410 wingmaster I used for quail and doves as well as rabbits. I can't imagine not having a .22 rifle in the battery......so many to choose from and to fit a price line.

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                            • #15
                              I've shot plenty of small game with the 12 gauge, it will work fine for you when loaded appropriately, as will a .22 in most any iteration. Sill, I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the 28 gauge. In my opinion, the 28 gauge is the golden mean for small game. I gave my 28 to my son years ago, and use a single shot 20 gauge now, but I'd get another 28 if the price was right.

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