How to Choose a Shotgun – Selecting the Action: Selecting a Scattergun That Meets Your Needs

Many hunters start out by hunting upland game birds like grouse and pheasant. It follows that the first firearms purchase for many new hunters is a shotgun. With so many types, gauges, models and price points on the market, how does a hunter without a lot of experience pick the right one? By setting a few basic parameters to narrow the search. A good place to start is the action.

Most shotguns fall into one of five basic categories – single shot, double-barrel, pump action, bolt action and semi-automatic. There is little difference until after the first shot is fired. The difference becomes readily apparent when a follow-up shot is required, a common occurrence with wing shooting.


Single Shot and Double-Barreled Shotguns

With a single shot firearm, the action must be opened manually, the spent shell casing ejected, a new shell loaded, action closed and weapon cocked and shouldered before a second shot can be fired. With practice this takes mere seconds, but it can take a little longer for beginners.

A double-barreled shotgun is similar, but allows two shots between reloading. Some have one trigger to fire both barrels in sequence, some have two triggers side-by-side and some have one trigger in front of the other. With many models, the choke or even the gauge differs between barrels, making one barrel better for close-up shots and one more effective as birds get farther away from the hunter. Two-barrel guns tend to be more expensive — some fancy skeet guns go for tens of thousands of dollars — but they are very popular with upland game hunters and with target shooters.

Both single shot and double-barrel shotguns usually have a hinge break action. In other words, the hunter pushes a lever and the gun “breaks” open, hinging at the base of the barrel or barrels. Both of these types of gun are very easy to clean and maintain, and a great starting point for young hunters because of their simplicity, safety and reliability.


Pump Action and Bolt Action Shotguns

Pump action and most bolt action shotguns are repeaters (there are a few single shot bolt action models). In other words, after the first shot is fired the spent shell is ejected, next shell chambered and the gun cocked in one smooth, quick motion by cycling the action. This involves moving the bolt or forestock backward and then forward again.

Pump guns are more common and a bit faster, since they remain at the shoulder while the action is cycled, whereas many hunters need to move from the ready position in order to cycle a bolt action. Both types of guns usually hold several shells, although some jurisdictions mandate how many can be placed in the gun at any given time. Bolt actions are easy to clean; the process is slightly more intricate with a pump action.


Semi-automatic Shotguns

Semi-automatic shotguns are the tool of choice for most serious waterfowl hunters. With these guns, the action is cycled automatically when a shell is fired, powered by either recoil inertia or the escaping gases. All the hunter needs to do to fire a second or third shot is pull the trigger again. These types of guns are usually quite a bit more expensive than other types, and require more attention to proper cleaning and maintenance. Cleaning and maintenance of a semi-automatic shotgun is somewhat more complicated again than a pump action.

Whether choosing the type of action or any of the other variables among shotguns, it is important to think about the ultimate use. Will it be a gun for hunting rabbits in the bush? For shooting pheasants over dogs? Ducks and geese from a blind? For skeet and trap competitions? Is cleaning and oiling an enjoyable part of owning a firearm, or a chore to be minimized? Giving thought to these aspects helps determine the most suitable action, which in turn narrows the field of prospective models.





Review of some of the best shotguns

Coyote Hunting: A Look at Varmint Hunting

Hunters like going after coyotes. These wild canines are stealthy and clever, making it a real challenge to shoot or trap them. Ranchers consider coyotes a significant threat to livestock, and so it’s open season on the animals in most places where large populations of them are present. Animal rights activists, however, raise a very well-taken point about the ethics involved in killing an animal that is not hunted for meat and provides little profit from the sale of its pelt, but is often hunted primarily for sport.


Hunting Coyotes for Sport

Coyotes, with their high intelligence and keen senses, are challenging prey. They are difficult to lure into the open, preferring to remain close to cover. Hunters must use all of their superior mental ability in order to outsmart a coyote. Experienced varmint hunters plan every move. They are careful to control their noise, scent, and appearance. They are well aware that, once the coyote is alerted to the hunter’s presence, it will simply disappear into the landscape. Many frustrated hunters hear the animals howl, but never lure one close enough to see. Often, the coyote has seen the human first and slipped away undetected.

Writer, fly fishing guide, and experienced coyote hunter, Jeff Loftin, says young, inexperienced coyotes may be fooled easily by calls that imitate wounded rodents or breeding females, and rush into the area too quickly for a hunter with a scoped rifle to take aim and get off an accurate shot. He recommends carrying a shotgun as well as a rifle, so that close encounters are not missed opportunities.

Animals that are familiar with human tactics, including those who have been subjected to intense hunting pressure, come to recognize the artificial calls as mere ploys, and stay far away from them. They will often circle downwind of the call and out of range, determine the source of the sound, and then slink away.


Uses for Coyotes

A successful coyote hunt ends with a dead animal that must be dealt with. Fur buyers will purchase high-quality, light-colored coyote pelts in top condition. According to Richard Westfall, a fur buyer in Union County, Ohio, the top price for such pelts is around $20 each, with pelts of lower quality bringing as little as $2 apiece. Skinning the animals and preparing the hides for market is a time-consuming process, so hunters and trappers are unlikely to make much profit from selling furs.


Few people are willing to eat coyote meat, although some claim that the tenderloins, when soaked in milk and heavily seasoned, are edible. Many hunters bury the coyotes they shoot, and some simply leave them where they fall, expecting carrion eaters to dispose of them. Animal rights activists decry the practice of killing healthy, beautiful wild animals and leaving their bodies to the buzzards. It seems cruel, and they question whether it is necessary. Killing Coyote, a film produced by The Fund for Animals provides a thought-provoking examination of the practice of hunting coyotes for sport.


Coyotes Threaten Livestock

Traditionally, ethical hunters follow a code that does not include killing merely for fun, but mandates that the animals must be taken for food, for pelts, or to protect the lives of humans or livestock. Rick Moore owns the largest sheep-producing farm in Ohio. The farm has been in Moore’s family for eight generations. He explains that predation from coyotes can be a crippling expense for livestock producers.

“Agriculture is challenging enough without dealing with predators and wild animal problems,” says Moore. He explains that lambs are tempting prey for hungry coyotes. Small, unaggressive, and relatively easy to kill, lambs provide coyotes with food for themselves and their young. When there is plenty of other game available to the coyotes, such as deer and rodents, they may not venture into the open after sheep. However, some coyotes develop a taste for them, returning again and again to ravage the flock. Moore employs a professional trapper to keep livestock loss to predatory coyotes at a manageable level.

Moore says that coyotes live on the edges of open farmland, and successful hunting expeditions often result from setting up along the brushy margins where wooded areas meet cultivated land.

Coyotes are both beautiful animals that play a natural role in the wild environment and stealthy predators that will kill valuable livestock. Although selling coyote pelts is minimally profitable and coyote meat is not especially appetizing, hunting them does provide a valuable service to the agricultural community.