Shotgun, Rifle, or Bow?

When you’re new to hunting, questions can be as basic as ”What do I use to hunt birds?” Let’s take a look what you can hunt with a shotgun, rifle or bow in Alberta.


A shotgun is used primarily for hunting upland birds and waterfowl. Specially-designed shells have dozens—even hundreds—of pellets that shoot in a pattern to increase chances of success. Just think: shooting a single projectile at a duck would make it very difficult to connect…but throw out 125 pellets in a meter-wide circle, and your chances suddenly get much better!

Shotguns can also be used for hunting big game with slugs (moulded chunks of metal, nylon or plastic that fire individually, turning a shotgun into a rifle of sorts), or buckshot (shell that holds larger pellets) with a minimum diameter of .24 inches. This means you must use .24-calibre buckshot or larger.


A single projectile is for harvesting larger animals. The bullet transfers enough energy to harvest the animal cleanly. Centrefire rifles use a large calibre bullet (with a minimum of .24 calibre) and can be used to harvest big game in Alberta. A bullet flies flat and fast from a rifled barrel, providing the accuracy required when aiming at a specific spot on an animal.

Rimfire rifles, like a .22, are also used for hunting upland game birds. It may sound confusing, but you can shoot grouse, partridge, ptarmigan, and pheasants with a rifle, but the regulations prohibit using a single projectile from a gun to harvest migratory waterfowl.


A bow and arrow with a minimum draw weight of 40 pounds can be used to hunt big game in Alberta. Practice and knowledge of your equipment will allow you to place an arrow in the vitals of an animal, for quick and humane harvest. You can also use archery equipment to harvest game birds in Alberta.

Get to know the basics, but most of all get out and practice with the tools you have. Hunting season is always just around the corner!

Regardless of the method, make sure you are proficient. An ethical harvest is always your primary goal. Speaking of harvest, next up in our Start Harvesting series is Deciding What to Harvest.