Choosing a weapon for the hunting you want to engage in, is of primary importance when it comes to setting yourself up for success. Let’s consider the major considerations for choosing the right weapon. The first consideration is the law and how it pertains to the game you intend to hunt and hopefully harvest. Each state has its own set of games laws and becoming familiar with them is a necessity. If you are new to hunting some of these laws can be confusing. Please know that wildlife commissions and agencies across the country live and die by wild game hunting practices, they want you to be successful and safe. Therefore, they put tremendous energy into choosing seasons and the weapons you can use with strategic and intelligent science not just on a whim. It would be difficult for us to capture all these game laws in one place because they vary greatly across states but here are some highlights.
Some states have seasons dedicated to primitive weapons such as bows, and muzzle loading rifles. Since these are not so widely used by getting one you give yourself more opportunities to take game.
The caliber of rifle is regulated for certain game. For example, some states require you to use a .223 caliber rifle or larger for big game such as deer.
Some states do not allow you to use rifles at all but instead require you to use slug shotguns for big game. This lowers the opportunity for inerrant bullet travel in the field in states that are more flat than hilly.
Crossbows and compound bows are not the same. Some states have regulations for each. The next consideration is the more direct one. What sort of weapon do you need for the game you wish to harvest? That is big question and I will try to systematically break it down by weapons.
Shotguns are those that have what appears to be a very large projectile. They come in gauges and the most common ones are 12 and 20 gauge (12 being the larger of the two). What looks like a large projectile is actually a large amount of very small projectiles You can think of it as throwing a large diameter circle of pellets out that increases in size, but decreases in velocity and power the farther they get away from the weapon. These are good choices for small game such as squirrels, rabbits, quail and similar sized game. Shotguns are also readily used on such game because they do not require you to be as accurate as you would with other types of weapons. Shotguns tend to leave fair amounts of the pellets in the meat source that you will want to remove as you process it.
Rifles come in sizes as well. Rifles such as .22 and .17 caliber sizes are themselves also good choices for small game. They require a fair amount of accuracy because they only put out on projectile and it must hit the animal in such a way to take it down. Large rifles such as .243, .270 and above can be used for large game such as deer, elk, bear or moose. The large the game the larger the caliber for most hunters. Again these shoot one projectile so practicing to become proficient is important.
Bows are either modern versions which have pullies and more to help relieve the strain of pulling them back, or more primitive styles like recurves and long bows. You will not only have to be a good shot, but also a good hunter to utilize these weapons. They will require you to be much closer to the animal to make an adequate shot. A lot of people start out with a rifle to minimize the need to be a good hunter, then move forward to a bow once they become more proficient. A better method is to start with a bow and become both at the same time. You can then apply the same skills to either endeavor.