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Last fall my friend, Bob Rinelander, archery hunted a big white-tailed buck in a hunt area adjacent to Sheridan. Rinelander set up his blind and tree stand in hopes that the buck would come close enough for him to down the deer with an arrow. The duel went on for several weeks and, though Rinelander saw the buck several times, it never came within 40 yards for Rinelander to make a shot.

When the rifle season started in November, Rinelander decided to investigate trying his shotgun with slugs to collect the deer. With a little investigating Rinelander discovered a rifled shotgun that was inexpensive and a high-velocity load that might be the ticket. The shell, called a sabot (pronounced say-bo), had a muzzle velocity of 1,850 feet per second and was purported to be quite accurate.

Rinelander sighted the gun in easily.

“I've never had an easier time sighting a gun as this one,” he said. “The gun kicked no more than my Model 870. It took three groups and I was dead on at 100 yards. The last group was tight enough that the holes overlapped a bit.”

The next time Rinelander had a chance to hunt was a Saturday. He set his blind up and waited patiently. The buck he had been pursuing was busy chasing some does in a large, swampy field about 200 yards away, but finally the deer ambled back on the trail that Rinelander was guarding. Rinelander had to wait until the deer was closer than 100 yards, and then he waited for the buck to turn.

He steadied his gun and held for the buck's shoulder. He squeezed the trigger and the buck went down. Rinelander waited for five minutes, didn't see the buck move, so he approached it. When he was within a few feet, the buck lurched at him. Rinelander realized that the sabot must have gone a bit high and hadn't hit the lungs so he dispatched the buck with another round. He later discovered that the 385-grain slug had passed through both shoulders.

Rinelander's 5x5 buck was a real trophy. He took it to a taxidermist who declared it to be one of the biggest-bodied bucks he'd ever seen from the Sheridan area.

I was really happy for my friend to bag such a nice buck and was curious about the use of sabots in Sheridan County, since it has a lot of rural subdivisions adjacent to good white-tailed deer range. I assumed that the sabot would have a relatively short range, so it would be safer to use around areas like Big Horn and Story.

I called game warden Chuck Repsis and asked about the practicality of using sabots around more inhabited areas, and he replied that he didn't think it would be a good idea. He contended that the 358-grain slug would still carry quite a distance. He thought buckshot would be much safer since it only carried about 50 yards.

I wasn't satisfied with that answer, so I contacted my other ballistics expert, Chuck Holloway. Holloway confirmed what Repsis said. He mentioned that a study done in Iowa tried various calibers of rifles and slugs and found that if they ricocheted, the bullets and slugs carried long distances.

“It's counter-intuitive to think that a heavy slug will carry long distances at a slower velocity than a rifle bullet, but that mass makes for greater momentum,” Holloway said.

Maybe that is why the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is attempting to have sabots deleted from restricted-use areas. (There is a proposed regulation in the hopper.)

I'm glad my buddy Bob Rinelander got his buck, but I guess I will not run out and buy a rifled shotgun. Still, if you are planning to hunt a brushy area with shots of 100 yards or so, you might consider the combination.

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