Georgia Hunting Land For Sale South Carolina Hunting Land For Sale North Carolina Hunting Land For Sale Hunting Land and Recreational Property For Sale

Wheelguns and Whitetails


Wheelgun Whitetail taken by the author

My breath wafted through the morning air, as a slow breeze caressed my face. The morning had been uneventful for most of the morning. A few birds here and there, but scarcely a mammal was present. I sat in a beautiful hardwood bottom waiting for a mature whitetail to show. Typically, I prefer hunting the woods over food plots or fields. Hardwoods are especially dear to me. Since my land is covered with them, it makes sense that I hunt these more. As the leaves give way to the diminishing sunlight, more and more of the forest becomes apparent.

This day was no different. I had hunted this stand many times, but today was different. I made the decision earlier this year that I would hunt only with my Prime bow and when I chose to use a gun, it would be a handgun. Specifically, my Ruger Blackhawk .44 magnum topped with a 2x Bushnell scope. While I have hunted with other handguns and taken several pigs with them, I desperately wanted to take a mature buck with my wheelgun.

Hunting with a handgun is very similar to hunting with archery equipment. The distances are similar, the tactics are similar only the weapon is louder.   While there are some handguns that are capable of long range shots, for my purposes, this defeats what I set out to accomplish. I didn’t want to drive tacks at one hundred and fifty yards and shoot a rifle bullet in a handgun. I wanted to hunt with a classic handgun. For my purpose I chose the Ruger Blackhawk in .44 Rem magnum. This particular handgun is single action only and comes with a 5 ½ “ barrel. And since my eyes are aging, I topped it with a Bushnell 2x scope. I would never recommend a scope with stronger magnification for a handgun, it just seems far too hard to find and hold on target. When hunting with a handgun, you have to think like a bow hunter.

My stand was set high between the bedding area and food source through a draw I knew bucks used to move from one to the other. I believed if I was patient, sooner or later it would pay off. As the morning drew on, I sat in the silence and solitude I long for. The silence was broken by the sound of hooves moving through the freshly fallen leaves. The buck appeared around the privet that lined the edge of the bottom. As soon as I saw him I knew he was a good buck, instinctively I reached for my Ruger. As I did the buck stopped and started looking around. I froze, waiting for the moment the buck lowered his head. I brought the gun to the rest, and found him in the scope. The buck was facing me so I centered the crosshairs on the middle of his chest. Just as I did, he looked in my direction.

Ruger .44 Rem Magnum

I slowly cocked the wheelgun, the cylinder rolled and a 240gr Winchester soft nose found its place. Gently squeezing the trigger, the morning silence was broken, the buck whirled and ran forty yards and crashed. The deed was done. Goal accomplished and a new thrill of the hunt discovered.

I have hunted with a handgun for several years, small game, and feral hogs. Elevating to mature whitetails made the challenge somewhat of an emotional challenge. I have confidence in my rifle, and bow. Because I have taken countless deer with them, but to switch to a handgun was something new. I believed I would have to commit to it and with good practice I had the confidence I could make the shot if presented. Like hunting with any weapon, knowing your limits is critical for ethical shots. With my handgun, I felt confident out to around  seventy five yards. I can hit consistently beyond this, but to keep my goals, I stayed shy of this number and set my stand for shots inside sixty yards. As it happened the buck was at 40 yards when the bullet hit him the effect was outstanding.

As hunters we are always looking at ways of elevating our game. Whether it’s a new technique or a new weapon, we are always looking for something to increase the challenge. Some change to bow hunting, black powder or in my case a handgun. If you haven’t tried using a handgun here are some pointers.

While the .357 is capable of killing a deer at modest ranges, most handgun experts recommend the .41 as the minimal caliber, there are several good calibers available in revolvers. I am partial to the .44 Rem. Mag. Its readily available, comes in a wide range of bullet weights. As with all guns, test different  bullet manufacturers and weights to see what shoots best in your particular gun. It just so happens the for my Ruger, the readily available Winchester 240 gr shoots the best so that made it easy.

Second is practice, while this may sound trite, there are so many things that can go wrong when shooting a handgun, especially in technique. The recoil takes getting used to, and the noise is so extreme that ear protection is a must. But the most important element is understanding that when shooting a short barreled gun, the slightest movement will impede proper bullet placement. This is where practice comes into play. Getting used to the trigger pull, balance, recoil and different shot positions are much more important than with a rifle.

Lastly, make the commitment to leave your testosterone at home, and use a rest and ear protection when hunting. I always wear my Walker Game ears to protect my hearing, and refuse a shot that doesn’t provide a proper rest.

Hunting with a handgun provides a great challenge and if you are looking for a challenge and bow hunting just isn’t for you. Take up the wheelgun and go chase some whitetails.