“I need a good brush gun.”
I’ve heard that line from deer hunters my entire life. Literally.
I get it.
Many hunters, especially in the south, hunt in heavy cover. However, even as a kid, here’s the question I always found myself asking, “If this guy hunts heavy brush, why is he carrying a rifle that’s capable of shooting long ranges?”
I grew up seeing guys hunting heavy hardwoods with what were literally high caliber rifles suited more for hunting Muleys!
The truth is, the first 20 deer I put a tag on were killed with my dad’s old 30-30. And it makes me ask a simple question: do you really need a rifle to hunt the hardwoods.
In my sincere opinion, the answer is quite simply, “No.”
A shotgun with a slug barrel is most likely your best option.
A Black Powder Lesson On Shotguns
The entire argument for me was laid to rest one time years ago, long before I came to Mossberg, on a early November whitetail hunt in Oklahoma. And it wasn’t a lesson taught from a slug barrel. It was something I learned from a muzzleloader.
We were filming a huge project back in the days where hunts went straight to DVD.
The night before I watched a super nice 9 pointer come down a terrace, cross into a shallow ravine, and make his way toward the winter wheat field where both me and my cameraman, a Montanan named William Johnson, were waiting. He was just out of range at 150 yards. Yes, I could have most likely dropped him at that distance without much hesitation; however, I felt that I could get closer the next evening because these deer had been hitting this food source every day as it was the only source of food for 2 miles.
Then next night William and I built a brush blind along an old barbed wire cattle fence and waited.
As we’d hoped, about 10 minutes before sunset, the same big 9 hopped that fence and began to work a scrape 98 yards from the end of my barrel.
I shot that great buck and dropped him immediately. Game. Over.
Upon caping the deer out for my taxidermist late that night, I looked at the exit hole. William and I sat there just staring at this massive hole from that sabot. I remember saying, “That’s a 265 grain traveling truck payload of force.”
We watched the footage many times in slow motion. I’d never sat a deer down that hard.
I’ve dropped many deer with a rifle, and I’m sure you have, too.
However, when you look at the end result of what a 265 grain sabot does when compared to a 150 rifle bullet, the proof is in the size of a exit hole that I could almost put my entire fist through.
The next year, I went back to the same wheat field, this time with my dad on the camera, and dropped a super Oklahoma 10 pointer with another 265 grain projectile. I was now a believer in heavy sabots for dropping heavy tined whitetails.
I found myself leaning more toward heavier projectiles. And the proof was lying in the back of my truck.
A Sniper’s Insight.
I’m not going to try and guess how much interference it takes to make bullet alter it’s course. I can tell you with certainty that you can kill just a many deer with a great deer shotgun as you can a deer rifle.
And to prove my point, I asked a friend of mine who is a combat decorated sniper. He’s also one of the most brilliant, educated individuals you’ll ever encounter. And believe me, he can intellectually bury just about anybody in an argument on ballistics.
Here’s the way I posed the question. I’ll not use his name.
“Let’s say that both a bullet from a rifle, and a slug from a shotgun, come into marginal contact with a limb. Just a tiny bit of interference, for the sake of consistency. In most cases, with all things being constant, would a 265 grain slug perform better than a 150 grain projectile from a rifle?”
His simple answer was, “Yes.” He replied, “It’s all about inertia.”
Now, see, that’s all I need to know. Right there.
That’s it for me. I don’t need to spend 30 minutes talking about curvature of the earth, minute of angle, ballistics, or humidity.
As a deer hunter, I need to know one thing: will one firearm set up outperform the other?
That’s all that matters to me.
A Slug Barrel For Big Bucks In Big Timber
If you encounter fields and hardwoods, then yes, something like a Mossberg Patriot is really a better choice. You may need to reach out to 250 or even longer yardages, and have a flat trajectory, while doing so with confidence.
However, if you’re hunting dense settings with no real possibility of shooting over 75-100 yards, a smaller, more compact shotgun with a slug barrel is the perfect deer gun.
My gosh, when you add in the FLEX capabilities that Mossberg now offers, you can put a tactical stock on that old 500 you have, with a pistol grip, too. Now you’ve got this mondo masterpiece of a deer gun for heavy brush contexts that is unstoppable.
And let’s face it, purchasing a barrel, and a FLEX kit, is far, far less expensive than purchasing a new rifle. Which means now you have more money to pour into something that really does matter … a great scope that works well in low light conditions.
To me, I’d far rather have a slug barrel brush gun that is a true brush gun, with a great scope, than an expensive rifle, with a cheap scope, that may not perform nearly as well when it taps that unseen branch resting inches between you and the buck of a lifetime.
Jason Cruise is a published author and speaker. He is the host of Mossberg’s Rugged American Hunter Series.