Following up on my introduction to beaver hunting, I want to re-emphasize my caution about checking your local laws to make sure that what you’re doing is completely legal. Beaver control has become a necessity in much of North America, but shooting them is not always allowed or it’s restricted in a variety of ways. So, check your regulations. With that reminder out of the way, let’s look at what guns work best on beavers.
The bottom line is that just about every type of gun works for hunting beavers, from rimfires to big boomers and even shotguns. Just like any other hunting, what you use isn’t nearly as important as how accurately you place the bullet. But beavers are unique in that they’re normally shot in the water or right next to it, and if your shot doesn’t produce immediate immobilization, that beaver will dive and never be seen again. You won’t know if you got a clean kill and you’ll never be able to recover the carcass or the hide. Therefore, the goal in shooting beavers should always be instant incapacitation of the animal.
If you’re close enough and accurate enough, a rimfire round to the head will do it. When in the water, most of a beaver’s body is submerged and only the head is visible anyways (see the photo below). But rimfires just don’t have the power to make up for a shot that’s off even a little. Centrefires, such as the .223 Rem., are a step up, and I’ve had good luck shooting beaver with that caliber. However, I’ve learned the hard way not to take body shots at swimming beavers with the kind of bullets normally used in the .223. Trying to get a varmint bullet through an intervening “layer” of water and into the body has rarely worked out well for me.
When a beaver is in water, only the head is visible above the surface.
Body shots on swimming beavers are best left to larger centrefires with heavier bullets. Most deer rifles will work fine in that role, but you don’t need quite that much horsepower. I’ve found a big, relatively slow bullet to work best for all-round beaver use; I’ve settled on a .44 Mag. carbine with 240-grain jacketed soft point handloads. I launch them out of a Ruger #3, and although that rifle is no longer in production, the current 77/44 would make a fine alternative. Those big, slow slugs seem to get through water with a lot of killing power left, and will also drop an out-of-water beaver with authority.
The .44 Mag. in a carbine, such as this vintage Ruger #3, is ideal for beaver control.
Lastly, within their range limitations, shotguns work great, too. I use 0 buck when shotgunning beavers, but some of my friends do very well with BBs. When I know shots will be close, it’s the 12 gauge I reach for. But long-barrelled duck guns can be tough to maneuver in the overgrown habitat around streams, so if you own a tactical shotgun, such as Remington’s new version of the 870, this is a great place to give it a workout.
In the next post we’ll look at some basic tactics for using this hardware on beavers.