Pumpkin balls. I like the sound of that. Pumpkin balls. That's what we used
to call solid lead slug loads for our 12-gauge smoothbores way back when. Hell,
a bunch of us still do, well, simply because pumpkin balls just sounds cool.
But the days of stuffing a few rounds of 1-ounce lead slug loads into our 870
pheasant gun or variation thereof for opening day of shotgun-zone deer seasons
are long gone. Hallelujah! Or at least they should be. With the truly amazing
advances in rifled shotguns and ammo technology over the years, there is no
excuse for using a birdgun on big game anymore.
I remember as a very young man, not knowing any better, loading up my
30-inch, double-barreled, full-choked 12-gauge goosegun with some pumpkin
balls, all excited about my beloved, magical mystical November 15 southern
Michigan gun opener celebration. At the time, black powder guns and handguns
weren't allowed, and shotguns were the only arm we could legally use on the
exploding whitetail deer population in the lower tier of Michigan. I was
psyched for the big day.
Shooting Older Shotguns A Pain
At the range, I squatted onto a comfy shooting stool, laid my big double onto a
rolled up sweater, settled the front bead onto the vitals of the 50-yard deer
target, and attempting best I could to squeeze the scattergun's heavy trigger,
sent a big lump of lead downrange, then another. The life-size paper deer
target I was using was pretty big, and I was used to shooting some pretty tight
groups with my open-sighted rifles and handguns at such close range. But when I
strolled down to examine the big 3-foot by 4-foot target, there were no holes
to be found. I was stymied!
I wasted many rounds that day before I finally came to the conclusion that
my trusty birdgun was worthless for reasonable accuracy beyond 20 yards. I
remember having to use bowhunting tactics to get me close enough to use some
3-inch magnum, triple-ought buckshot to kill my gun deer for a few years there.
It was rather frustrating.
Compare that to my magical opening day in 2006 in the mystical swamps of
my sacred southern Michigan deer heaven. Using an absolute sniper of a 12-gauge
Browning, heavy, rifle-barreled boltgun with sabot bullets designed just for
it. It was a beautiful rifle with like a 3-pound trigger and a quality Leupold scope. I
literally took a dandy buck at 125 yards, a big doe at 150, another doe at 170
and my third and fourth does of the morning right around 200 yards. It was
An Awesome Browning 12-Gauge
At the range and in the field, this fantastic combination of shotgun and ammo
was producing rifle-like accuracy beyond 200 yards. Like I do with all my
firearms, I experimented with every brand of ammo I could get my hands on and
discovered the perfect combination for supreme accuracy from this particular
Browning 12-gauge, big game shotgun. For a guy who loves guns and the
challenging marksmanship discipline, I am in heaven.
I also have had phenomenal success with various pump and auto loading shotguns
with both fully rifled barrels and rifled screw-in chokes. With every ammo
manufacturer realizing that shotgun deerhunters want supreme accuracy, the
competition factor has driven the development of the very best guns and shotgun
loads in history.
Winchester, Federal, Remington, Lightfield, Brenneke, Fiocchi, and more --
all manufacture high-quality, supremely, deadly accurate big game shotgun
ammunition for rifled shotguns. I admit that there is that rare smoothbore out
there that will shoot some slugs very accurately. I did some deer control work
for years on a municipal airport property where the deer had become a deadly
hazard for the local airstrip, and I was able to thoroughly test a wonderful
Browning model 2000 smoothbore auto that shot the old Remington 1-ounce
"hollow point" pumpkin balls right on beyond 100 yards. With a
quality scope on this shotgun and these specific style slugs, I had discovered
my first authentic sniper shotgun for big game. It was very rewarding. I
rewarded myself with many succulent, well earned backstraps.
Time To Upgrade Your Shotgun
But nowadays with incredible advancements in rifled barrels and chokes, and the
upgraded ammo to match, a serious shotgun-zone, big game hunter really owes it
to himself, and the game, to invest in just such a superior arm in order to kill
game cleanly and get the most out of the sport. The same can be said about
black powder arms and handguns as well. It is very exciting to settle those
crosshairs on a deer at those longer ranges at which we have dedicated our
practice sessions to, and tip that deer over way out there with a well-placed
shot from these new age, big game arms.
Now's the time to do it. Examine and handle as many different makes and
models as you can. Ask around about your buddies' own experiences, and join in
on the upgrade. There is a sniper big game shotgun and ammo out there with your
name on 'em that will make you a more effective "reasoning predator."
Then you can pay yourself with those cherished rewards of more backstraps, too.
Goodluck and good hunting. Shoot-em-up and BBQ like ya mean it.
Ted Nugent is best known for his musical career where the "Motor City Madman" recorded 29 albums between 1967-1997, selling over 30 million copies. Ted has hunted for over 40 years and will share his love of the sport in this column. Ted writes two columns a month for sportsmansguide.com.