While most big game hunting is undertaken with hunting rifles, crossbows or bows and arrows, there are still options to hunt for shotgun owners. Although there are limits to what game can be targeted with a shotgun, there are still enough that a 12 or 20 bore can provide a good days sport. We explore what kind of hunting you can do with a shotgun.

The versatility of shotguns means that they can be used to hunt almost any animal. However, their short-range and wide spread make them better suited for hunting small game and wing-shooting where the target animals make sudden and fast movements. Shotgun hunting is also favored in dense thickets and jungles.  

The primary reason shotguns are used to hunt small game and for wing-shooting is that while shotguns have a lot of stopping power, the spread of multiple pellets improves the odds of hitting small quick moving targets.  

Why Do People Use Shotguns To Hunt Small Game And Birds?

The appeal of using shotguns for small game hunting and wing-shooting is that the versatility of shotguns means that there is seldom a need to invest in anything but a singular shotgun to cover the majority of animals you can hunt with one. 

Therefore, unlike big game hunting, which often requires a large variety of rifles, different calibers, accessories, etc. Purchasing a shotgun for purposes of small game hunting and wing-shooting can prove simple and affordable. this makes it an ideal introduction to the sport for beginners.

Furthermore, while rifles with high levels of versatility may be more expensive than their less versatile counterparts, the opposite is true of shotguns. This is as a result of the range of gauges of shotguns. Which we will explore further below.

What Game Can You Hunt With A Shotgun?

Shotgun Gauges

Shotguns are sized by their bore diameter. The smallest shotgun used for hunting small animals such as rabbits and squirrels is a .410, while the largest shotgun used for larger animals such as geese or swans is a 10 gauge.

The gauge system can be confusing, but it denotes the number of lead spheres of that size it would take to make a pound of weight.

Generally speaking, it is agreed upon that for beginner hunters, hunters on a budget, or infrequent hunters, the two gauges to consider when purchasing a shotgun for purposes of versatility would be either a 12 gauge shotgun or a 20 gauge shotgun.

This is because the versatility of uses for these sizes and the availability of ammunition make a 12 gauge shotgun and a 20 gauge shotgun ideal for hunting different small game regardless of size and location.

This is because 12 gauge shotguns have bigger shells than 20 gauge shotguns while not being as unwieldy as a 10 gauge shotgun. Therefore, beginner hunters can comfortably use a 12 gauge shotgun for hunting larger-sized small game such as geese or ducks.    

However, smaller game such as rabbits, quails, and pheasants can be hunted with a 20 gauge shotgun while not sacrificing any stopping power to allow for the spread required to shoot small moving targets successfully.

What Game Can You Hunt With a Shotgun?

As we have mentioned small game and birds are best suited to shotgun hunting. In the table below we highlight the best gauges for individual game. rabbit, squirrel, quail, dove, grouse, ducks, geese, and turkey.

Game SpeciesGauge of Shotgun

Shotgun Penetration Of Small Game

Another appeal of using shotguns for hunting small game and for wing-shooting is that while shotguns fire multiple pellets to provide a wide spread, the velocity of these pellets will not spoil any meat provided that the correct gauge is used when hunting.

The reason is that provided that the correct combination of cartridge length, pellet size, choke tube, and distance of the target is observed, shotgun pellets kill the target as a result of the force of impact and not due to penetration like a typical bullet.

This allows birds and small game to be hunted without worrying about damage being inflicted on the animal’s meat or without having to spend a lengthy period removing pellets from the meat before it can be made edible.

What Game Can You Hunt With A Shotgun?

What Are The Best Shotguns For Hunting?

Although there are general components one should look for when choosing a shotgun, the multitude of shotgun manufacturers on the market can prove daunting.

As such, the following is a shortened list as compiled from Survival Gear’s YouTube video on the “TOP 10 BEST HUNTING SHOTGUNS FOR THE MONEY 2020”. For access to the full list and visualization of the shotguns in action, see the link below:

CZ 1012 12 Gauge Hunting Shotgun

As a semi-automatic shotgun, the CZ 1012 uses a gasless inertia operating system. This means, instead of redirecting the gas from the barrel to power the action, the CZ 1012 uses a spring within the bolt to store the energy during the shotgun’s recoil.

This stored energy is used to rotate and unlock the twin lugs from the barrel extension and eject the spent shell. Furthermore, the CZ 1012 can use a wide variety of gauge 12 ammunition available.

Franchi Affinity Compact Semiautomatic Shotgun

Another semi-automatic shotgun, the Franchi Affinity Compact, comes equipped with a fully adjustable stock to improve comfort and use. Like its regular variant, the Franchi Affinity Compact has the same inertia system for clean and reliable shooting.

The 24-inch barrel makes the compact lighter and easier to pivot than most other shotguns; couple that with its lightweight of 5.5 pounds, and the Franchi Affinity Compact is the ideal shotgun for new or physically smaller hunters.

CZ Redhead Premier Hunting Shotgun

As a combination between old-world craftsmanship and new-age advancements in shotgun technology, the CZ Redhead Premier prides itself as an all-purpose shotgun. This is because the CZ Redhead Premier comes in 12, 20, 28 gauge, and .410 variants.

Beretta A400 Xtreme Plus

As one of the most well-known brands in firearms, the Beretta A400 Xtreme is one of the best semi-automatic shotguns on the market.

It prides itself as having one of the most advanced recoils systems in production; this is achieved with the “kick-off cubed” and “kick-off mega,” reducing felt recoil by up to 70%.

Furthermore, the Beretta A400 Xtreme is highly customizable. It allows for “out-of-the-box” length of pull options, coupled with the ability to use all Unico’s 12 gauge ammunition, and it is understandable why this shotgun is known for its versatility.

Finally, the development of the shotgun was made in conjunction with aqua technology. This is a coating that protects the shotgun in various elements, perfect for wet conditions, such as those experienced by duck hunters.

What Game Can You Hunt With A Shotgun?


While shotguns may be used in various situations, beginner hunters should limit their use for scenarios in which they are best suited; those scenarios typically are small game hunting and wing-shooting.





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