A great deal of folks out there nowadays think that if their deer rifle isn’t shooting 1-inch groups, they may as well pawn it off on their unsuspecting brother-in-law, or sell it. Rifle manufacturers are also pretty quick to prey upon this stigma by advertising their guns as “minute of angle” and making a big deal about “out of the box” accuracy. In their defense, the newer economy guns being cranked out by modern manufacturers do live up to some of these claims. But in the reality of a deer hunter, that level of pinpoint accuracy isn’t truly needed.
There’s nothing wrong with building a tack-driving long gun and chasing after big bucks with it. By all means if that is your thing, more power to you. But MOA guns aren’t a necessity for deer hunters. There are plenty of guys out there in the Northeastern states who drop deer with pump-action shotguns, and more still who continue the fine tradition of hunting with lever-action Marlins or Winchesters. If MOA rifles were truly needed to put venison on the table, then those guys wouldn’t be filling tags at all.
The Boiler Room
You don’t need a rifle (or a shotgun) that puts every round into a 1-inch grouping at 100 yards. The primary target on a deer is the “boiler room,” where the heart and lungs exist inside the chest cavity. This area is approximately 10 by 10 inches. It is in point of fact even a tad bit larger. A gun that is capable of shooting 3-inch groupings is still enough to give you a clean one-shot kill. A good way of making sure your rifle or slug gun can do this, is the paper-plate test. Nail a paper plate to a stump at 100 yards and see if you can hit it three times. If you can achieve this, chances are you won’t be eating tag soup come the end of the season.
There’s another reason that you needn’t have your heart set on buying a fine-tuned MOA rifle to hunt deer. Hitting your target from the bench is one thing, but shooting at a live animal in the field is an entirely different thing. Firstly, the amount of adrenaline that finds its way into your veins as soon as you spot a deer is inevitable. Even the most steely-eyed veterans can attest to the feeling that occurs when that big buck steps into focus. That touch of “buck fever” causes your shot to turn out differently than it would on the rifle range. Wind and weather conditions in the field also vary. Chances are that when you went to sight that rifle in at the range it was a lovely day to go shooting, but that probably won’t be the case when you draw down on a deer, which will definitely effect your accuracy. And lastly, timing is everything. Any seasoned hunter will tell you that the amount of time you have to relax and make a perfect MOA shot grouping from the bench is a luxury in comparison to how quickly things happen in the field.
The key to proper shot placement when it comes to deer hunting (or any hunting for that matter) is practice. You don’t have to have the newest, most accurate rifle or scope. You don’t even need to have a scope. You do however, need to make sure you can make your firearm hit that 10×10 sweet spot, no matter what.