Top 5 Types of Game to Shoot for Each Gun Type: Matching Guns and Targets

Now that you’ve got your hunting gun, you might be looking for game to hunt. However, not all wild game are ideal targets for certain types of guns.


While the firearm you’re likely to use to hunt game can vary depending on the local laws in your state, you should also consider what you’re shooting at to make the most of your weapons platform.


In this guide, we’ll look at the different types of game, why specific types of guns might struggle to shoot them, and which type is ideal for hunting, given your preferred gun.

Can’t I Just Shoot All Types of Game With One Gun?

It’s technically possible to shoot any type of game with a single gun, as eventually, you’ll be able to hit your target or take it down after a couple of shots.


However, this doesn’t make it the most practical or humane option. There will be many situations when hunting different kinds of animals where a different gun type or caliber will get the job done.


For example, hunting small, quick, and agile birds isn’t ideal with a standard rifle because it’s cumbersome, heavy, and can’t aim in fast enough.

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The 5 Types of Guns and What Game to Shoot At

Depending on which gun you have, you’ll want to be hunting the corresponding types of game. Each type of game requires you to have a gun with different characteristics, which we will examine below.

Long Range Rifle

If you have a long-range rifle, you’ll know (and feel) that it’s heavy and takes a while to load. While this makes it stable for long-range shooting, it’s not the best for close-range engagements.


That said, elk, deer, and sheep are game usually found in the Northwest, where there are open fields and mountain ranges where you won’t be able to do any close-up shooting.


Hunting deer from long range with an excellent low-light rifle scope (Shooting Mystery has more information) is also ideal because you’ll have more time to set up your shot.


You’ll want to stick to long-range shooting with these animals because getting up close will easily startle them and cause them to run away, bringing you back to square one.

12 Gauge Shotgun

If you’re using a good ol’ reliable shotgun, you’ll be familiar with its strengths. It’s a point-and-shoot, no-nonsense, easy-to-use gun that puts a lot of lead downrange.


These characteristics make it ideal for hunting birds and small game like quails, turkeys, rabbits, and squirrels. While these animals are nimble and quick, they can’t evade a shotgun.

If you already have a 12 gauge shotgun, consider getting an interchangeable choke so you can easily switch between birdshot and buckshot.


This makes it a bit more versatile in balancing stopping power and the width of the shot spread, which can mean the difference between downing or missing small game.

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Big Bore Rifle

These types of rifles can come in different cartridge sizes, like 9.3×62 Mauser or .458 Winchester Magnum. One thing these have in common is that they pack a massive punch.


This makes it an ideal weapon for hunting big game like elephants, cape buffalo, or brown bears with tough skin and a lot of mass to punch through.


While you can technically take out these animals with a slightly smaller and more commonly found caliber, it isn’t exactly humane. You’d have to shoot it multiple times to kill it.

Varmint Rifle/Small Rifle

This is a pretty self-explanatory rifle that features a short pause between shots, a larger magazine, and short to medium-range optics ideal for shooting varmints.


Varmints ideal for shooting with this rifle include badgers, coyotes, weasels, raccoons, and similarly-sized animals. They are also usually found in larger numbers.


This is why you need a larger magazine when shooting varmints – you’ll need more rounds to down more of them and extra ones in case you miss your shots.


You also don’t need larger rounds to pierce through them, which is why most varmint rifles come in .223 Remington cartridges or smaller. It allows the magazine to hold more rounds, meaning fewer reloads and more shots downrange.


Pistols are usually the weapon of choice when it comes to close-range shooting, especially if you need it by your side at all times. It’s compact, lightweight, and easy to carry.


This is why the main use of pistols in hunting should be as a backup weapon for when you’re caught off guard or reloading your primary weapon.

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For example, if you’ve run out of ammo shooting a deer with your long-range rifle and a mountain lion suddenly appears, you won’t be completely defenseless.


Therefore, the pistol you have for use as a backup weapon should also be reliable and pack enough punch to down larger predators.


Frequently Asked Questions

You might have more questions after learning about different types of game to shoot for each type of gun. Here are answers to the most commonly asked ones.

What Is the Most Common Animal to Hunt?

The whitetail deer is the most common animal to hunt because they can be found across a vast stretch of land and provide a high yield.


The gun you’d ideally be using when shooting at whitetail deer is a long-range rifle or a shotgun depending on where you encounter it.

What Are the Easiest Animals to Hunt?

Squirrels, rabbits, pheasants, doves, and geese are the easiest animals to hunt because they are easy to find and aren’t too observant of their surroundings.


They are also found huddled in groups or just waiting in plain sight, meaning you don’t need to have master tracking skills to find them.

What Are the Most Dangerous Wild Animals to Look Out for When Hunting?

When you’re out hunting, other animals could be hunting you down too. Mountain lions, bears, and wild dogs are animals that could cause you harm.


This is why getting a sidearm for self-defense is really important. It could mean the difference between life and death.


Different game types require specific guns to shoot them with because of the situations you’ll find yourself in. Pick a type of game to shoot at, depending on what gun you have.


The critical thing to remember is to always keep a backup sidearm with you for self-defense. You don’t want to be caught reloading when you should be shooting.

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