Perfect Deer Hunting Rifle Caliber For Our Neck Of The Woods

I know we should have really covered this topic earlier this season, but the time has gotten away from us and here we are in the middle of the 2019 whitetail rut and we haven’t discussed gun hunting. If you want to get in a fistfight with a gathering of two or more hunters, bring up the topic of the best rifle caliber for deer.

Under full disclosure, I’m an 06 fan. For many reasons, I love my Remington 700 BDL, but the most important thing is, every time I have put the sights on a target it has dropped within a matter of few yards. Case in point. During a post-Thanksgiving hunt last season I had doe tags to fill. I headed out with the sole purpose of putting meat in the freezer. The first night in my “killer” stand — yes, I name all my stands — I had a group of does come out behind me about 120 yards out. I picked out a mature one, put the sights on her, pulled the trigger and she dropped. Tag filled. The next morning on the way to the butcher shop, I stopped to do short work, wasn’t in the woods 100 yards walking along an old gas well road, and three doe jumped up and ran about 50 yards. I mewed at them, they stopped, I picked out a doe, put sights on, pulled the trigger, another tag filled.

Now, I say this not to brag, because you all realize outdoor writers and TV shows only share with you the times when they fill tags, and would be kind of boring to tell a story or show video of a woodlot with nothing moving. The point I’m attempting to make here is that I love my 06, because it kills stuff. Sorry to not be politically correct here, but that’s the bottom line. We need a gun and caliber we are comfortable with and that kills game as quickly as possible.

We can break down the type of deer cartridges needed based on the conditions of the hunt. Woods hunters don’t need long-range reach; they typically need compact, quick-handling rifles. Too often hunters who prowl the timber become infatuated with the wide-open spaces of the West. In turn, they opt for a rifle better suited to the Wyoming prairie than the pine thicket on the old home place. There are many different rifles suitable for deer hunting, and the same can be said for cartridges. They all work well, some are just a better fit for the woods and other in the field.

Yes, it’s been around since 1895, and it’s been killing deer ever since. The 30-30 Winchester is the ideal cartridge for a hunter who prowls the timber. It has plenty of power to kill any deer out to 200 yards, and that’s a good deal further than you can see in the woods.

Just as important is the fact that the 30-30 Winchester can be had in easy-to-carry, fast-to-action, lever guns. Because the lever action is butt heavy, has most of its weight toward the stock and not the muzzle these rifles are fast-handling and ideally suited to the snap-shooting and quick-handling.

Yes, we all dream of being a rifleman with a high-powered, bolt-action rifle capable of shooting the cents off a nickel at 400 yards. However, unless you’re hunting nickels at 400 yards, that type rifle is an unneeded hindrance. If you stalk the thick forest for whitetails, or sit a tree stand in the timber, don’t underestimate the 30-30 Winchester characteristics.

Modern ammunition for the 30-30 Winchester has greatly increased its effectiveness by utilizing sleeker projectiles that retain velocity, and other bullets that damage lots of tissue and penetrate deep.

There are many other great calibers like the 7mm, .308, .270, .300 Winchester Mag and the list continues. Between weight of the firearm, it’s knock-down power and good optics I feel there are many great calibers to take into the deer woods.

When using the right bullets and with good shot placement, any of the above cartridges are excellent for hunting medium to large sized game, such a whitetail deer. The flat trajectory of the .270 Winchester makes it great for animals that are more likely to require longer range shots.

The .30-30 Win., 308 Win., .30-06 Springfield and .300 Weatherby Mag. are all the same caliber, but vastly different cartridges. They can and often do shoot the same bullets, but at different speeds. The .30-30 can drive a 150-grain flat nose about 2,400 feet per second (fps). A .308 Win. will push a 150-grain spire point 3,000 fps, a .30-06 will move it 3,100 fps and the .300 Weatherby will send it screaming at 3,400 fps.

In as far as 7mm case is concerned, the ultimate bullet in a 7mm-08 is the 140-grain spitzer boattail. Driven 2,900 fps, it will carry more than 1,260 f.p. energy at 500 yards. Zero it 2.5 inches high at 100 yards and it will be dead-on at 230 yards and just 5 inches low at 300 yards. Aim at the center of a deer’s 16-inch vital chest and you score a killing blow to the heart/lungs every time. A 10 mph right-angle wind will deflect that bullet just 3 inches at 200 yards, 6 inches at 300 yards. You’re still in the chest with a center hold.

Just a few cartridges that fulfill most of these demands include: the .243 Win, .26-06, 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win and the .280 Rem. are all great caliber also. For deer hunters, there is a wide selection of calibers and rifle styles. At the end of the day it all comes down to what you feel comfortable with and can make a good clean shot with. One of the great things about our country is choice and we still have that choice when it comes to rifle calibers. Now, will my grandchildren have the same choices, or maybe better, only time will.


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