Smallest caliber for deer


July 27, 2006, 01:45 PM
What is the smallest caliber rifle you have or have seen anyone take a deer with? When I was a kid, an old farmer I knew used to get out to his barn real early and shoot deer that came into his apple orchard behind the barn. He used a .22 (sometimes with shorts) and used to pop them through the eye at a range of about 20 to 30 feet. I don't recall any of them needing a second shot. Good thing too since he only had a single shot rifle. Can't remember the brand but it was a bolt action and you had to pull a knurled knob out to cock it.

If you enjoyed reading about "Smallest caliber for deer" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!
July 27, 2006, 02:54 PM
My first deer was with a .22 Hornet, single shot H&R. Fairly good sized doe for Texas and she dropped right there with a heart/lung shot. Second deer with the same gun was a small buck and he ran a few yards, but not too far. I graduated to a 6mm after that.
And yes, 22 centerfires are legal in Texas; in fact all centerfires are legal for deer in Texas.

July 27, 2006, 04:23 PM
A good friend of mine uses a .22-250 for whitetail. I think he's crazy but he hasn't lost one yet (all one shot kills too!).

The smallest I've personally used is a .243. Worked like a charm :)

July 27, 2006, 04:30 PM
When I first started hunting I used a .222 Rem for about 15 years and took a lot of central Texas sized deer.

I have taken one with a 22LR once but it was close and at night with a spotli...nevermind.

I have also cut ones throat with a knife but then he was hung in a fence and couldn't get away.:D

July 27, 2006, 05:09 PM
I've never hunted deer, but I'd say about .223 Rem is about the minimum, as long as you use a 62 gr Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, Barnes Triple Shock, or similar premium quality heavy, non-fragmenting bullet.

July 27, 2006, 05:25 PM
I live in a shotgun state, Massachusetts, so I believe they still allow a .410 slug for deer hunting.

I also hunt neighboring Connecticut and that state allows rifles of 6mm or larger on private land. On State land it is 20 gauge slug minimum,no buckshot allowed for deer.

July 27, 2006, 06:37 PM
My uncle used a .218 Bee (that he bought from my dad...Dad used a .257 Roberts) at about 100 yards...Neck shots...Used that rifle for 30 years and never needed a second shot that I know of.

July 27, 2006, 08:16 PM
"And yes, 22 centerfires are legal in Texas; in fact all centerfires are legal for deer in Texas."

Does that mean that someone could legally hunt deer with the .17 Remington??:what:

July 27, 2006, 08:35 PM
If they so chose to!
There are no ft.lbs of energy or barrel length qualifications either. You could use a J-frame .38 or a Glock 9mm if you wanted. I don't think many do though! The great thing is, you can really handgun hunt with 4-5" barrelled .44 mags or .45 Colts (and .357s, my Dad has a Colt Whitetailer 6" .357 in fact) if you want which is perfectly humane and deadly should you do your part, but so many states don't allow that type of hunting unfortunately.

Oh and also, my nephew shot his first deer, a decent sized buck, with a .22-250 right in the neck and he dropped right there.

July 27, 2006, 11:57 PM
a lot of people argue, but i think 223 is a solid starting point. many think it underpowered, but like any cartridge, with a proper load for intended application and good shooter discipline it will take whitetail humainly

July 28, 2006, 01:41 AM
My experience dropping one at almost 200 yards with a .224 Weatherby last year proved they work pretty darn good on a local blacktail.:) Mine was a conventional shoulder lung heart shot. Anything smaller in caliber/power and I would think you'd have to get the CNS for an instant drop.

July 28, 2006, 02:04 AM
What whitetail, I wouldn't take anything less than a .270 to Northern Canada, but a .223 does pretty well around here. It all depends on size of deer and hunting conditions.

July 28, 2006, 11:39 AM
Colorado has a minimum caliber of .24 and minimum 70 grain bullet (elk is 85 grain minimum) with 1000 ft. Lbs. energy at 100 yards. This pretty much keeps the low end at .243 winchester. I have used the .243 with mixed results. Bullet strength makes all the difference. 70 grain blows up on a shoulder of a deer or even an antelope. I prefer 100 grain snd prefer noslers.

July 28, 2006, 03:32 PM
I, and my grandpa before me, have killed a lot of deer with a .257 Roberts. I know people hunt with .22s, but I don't understand WHY. A .243 has very little recoil. Surely they're not scared to shoot a bigger gun? Time to hang it up and quit hunting, if so. I figure if a kid can't handle a .243, he don't need to be huntin'. My first, with the .257, was taken at age 11. It's the smallest caliber with which I've hunted, but I've killed deer with a .357 magnum, which is less powerful than the .257 by a good margin.

30-06 lover
July 28, 2006, 04:00 PM
The smallest I've seen a deer taken with was a 243, but the smallest I've used is a 6mm.

rock jock
July 28, 2006, 07:33 PM
I use a .243 pretty regularly for Texas-sized deer.

I suspect that those folks who say their grandpappy or so used a .22lr never heard about all the deer that got away.

July 28, 2006, 08:32 PM
I suspect that those folks who say their grandpappy or so used a .22lr never heard about all the deer that got away.

Unfortunately, this is probably very true. It's also illegal. However, someone that can regularily take squirrels with head shots at 40 yards should also be able to take a deer, humanely, at the same range. The next time you kill a deer, hang its head up and shoot at it with a high velocity .22lr. The results will suprise you. They did me. People used what they had and what most people had was a .22. It's not called the poachers best friend for nothing. Deer were almost hunted out during the Depression. I bet a large percentage were killed with the lowly .22. I've also put down several "buckshot" deer with a .22 revolver. It will kill them with proper placement.

My hunting buddy gets one every year with a .223. We have small deer around here, though.

I do not in anyway condone the use of .22lr for deer hunting. My current favorite rifle is a .308. If I was hungry and a .22 was all I had, and I really couldn't scrape up any money for food or more shells, I bet I wouldn't miss. I bet people back in the Depression didn't miss much, either. They couldn't afford too.

July 29, 2006, 09:34 AM
I have killed many deer with a .222 some out to 150 yards.

Soon after i got out of the service I went with a guy in Louisiana one night, all illegal I might add, for him to prove to me how he killed them with a .22 rim fire. He spot lighted the deer from the top of the levey, they were eating clover near the bottom of the levey (about 50 yds). He shot one in the neck just below the head, he fell with out a kick, the other two simply flinched and he shot another which also dropped without a flinch and the third took two or three hops to the side and stopped and he dropped him. All three were shot in the neck just below the head. He quiickly cut their throats and threw them into the covered back of his pick up truck. He told me that sometimes they would come back too and have to bleed to death.

Shooting one in the eye from close range would probaly work but I think if the deer were looking at you his brain would be behind his nose. I shot one looking at me once with a 30-30 and it hit him in the nose, tore his head up but I don;t think a .22 would have been fatal.

The .222 and .223s and other .22cal and smaller will kill a deer with the right hit but if you are a little off he will run off and probaly not be found. I know some farmers in KY who shoot um in the gut with .22s so they will run from the bean and corn fields and die in the woods. Seems cruel but it happens.

August 2, 2006, 11:40 AM
You would never catch me out with anything less than a 270. I know SOME feel it's fine, just not ME.

Why go too small? Why risk it.

Shoot whatever you can handle, because placement is everything. Even a Nitro grazing an ear results in a lost deer.

August 2, 2006, 12:28 PM
Can't remember the brand but it was a bolt action and you had to pull a knurled knob out to cock it.

Sounds like an old single shot Stevens like I have.

August 2, 2006, 01:01 PM
I know alot of people here will say that a .223, or even a .22 are adequate for taking deer. However, since I believe in a "clean kill" with minimum suffering, I would never use anything less than a .243, and preferably something bigger. I have a .22 that I can routinely hit a dime with at 50 yards, and deer come right up into my back yard (range 40-100 yards) but even so I'd never shoot one with the .22. All I need is to be off ny a little bit, and now I've got a wounded deer. Give me some horsepower, anyday.

August 2, 2006, 09:25 PM
Years ago, I knew a sheepherder who lived in some of the most remote and wild country in all of Wyoming. He herded sheep all summer, guided a little in the fall, and trapped all winter.

He swore by his Winchester 25-35 and proved its value many times over. Whether it was minimum or not is irrelevant to me. It always got the job done.

August 2, 2006, 10:28 PM
.17 HMR, and the deer was DRT.

Range was around 100 yds. However, I don't endorse this caliber for anything larger than the smaller varmints. All calibers are legal for deer here.

August 2, 2006, 11:10 PM
Here in PA all center fires are legal, (you could use a .17:what: ) When I was younger I saw deer killed with ,22LR ,22WMR, and I know a young lady that has used a 223 for the last 4 years and has killed with it every year. I'm very surprised at how well it works for her. I personally think that the bullet should be at least 1/4" in diameter, as in .243 or .257. I would rather have a 7mm or .308, myself.:)

August 3, 2006, 03:45 AM
My vote for the minimum deer caliber (in a centerfire rifle) goes to the .243 Winchester. The .243 has taken plenty of deer, but I consider it the absolute minimum caliber that I would BUY a deer rifle in. I would take deer with less if I have to, but if I was buying a deer rifle it would be AT LEAST a .243 Winchester.

August 8, 2006, 10:15 PM
The caliber is not really the issue.

The next time you're at the range, look at the difference in the bullet hole in your target, and compare the .22's, to .243, .270, .30cal.

There is really not that great of difference.

The construction of the bullet, and of course placement is CRITICAL.

I lost 2 deer last year with a 7mm-08 using some Hornady 139gr SST's that fail to expand unless they hit bone. Those lost were broadside hits at 60 and 107yds. (consecutive shots in sequence on deer in a food plot.)

I lost "0" deer with my .22 Hornet. 7 killed in past three seasons at ranges from 15 to 187yds (ranged with laser range finder). Approximately 3 doz over past 20yrs.

Most 40-50gr bullets in .224 are designed to hold together and remain accurate in .22-250 and .220 Swift, and therefore are pretty tough bullets in the .22 Hornet. The deer taken at 187yds was a traditional heart/lung shot with a Remington 45gr HP at 2,850fps over 12.5gr of Hod. Lil'Gun. Bullet wound channel was about like a 100gr from my .243wcf., and after taking out two ribs on exit, left a quarter size hole, and a blood trail that got heavier as it ran, till deer dropped. Deer ran approx 35yds. I was holding for the heart but a crosswind I didn't adequately account for "drifted" the bullet approx. 8" from where I was aiming. This is about 80yds further than I originally thought the shot was. (I paced it off that evening after retrieving the deer and checked the distance later with a laser rangefinder.)

The reason for using a .22cf is that accuacy is usually superlative, recoil is minimal, and you can see the placement and effect of the shot due to lack of sight picture disturbance. That, and the curosity factor.

However, DON'T use a .22cf if you are prone to "BUCK~~~~~FEVER~~~~~", and pulling your shots.

For what it's worth, I've dispatched several dozen vehicle-accident injured deer with .22lr. Much cheaper and less "dramatic" at an accident scene than a .357mag or .40S&W with 145gr or 155gr Silvertips. Just a muffled "POP" from a rifle instead of a BLAST! and attendant FIREBALL from a centerfire handgun. (most incidents occured at night). To my way of thinking, it seemed more "surgical" and professional without all the "drama".

Anthony T.
August 8, 2006, 11:10 PM
The caliber is not really the issue
I disagree, when a bullet is flying a around 3000 fps, a single caliber makes a world of difference.
That, and the curosity factor.
I dont think that we should risk injury and pain to a deer, which is a gift from god, out of curiosity.

To the general public:
I'm the greatest shot in the world, I can kill a buffalo with a 17hmr! My god, people need to grow up, who cares that you can kill a deer with a 22lr. It only makes you look cool in your eyes. Any real hunter would think youre stupid, mental or something. If you can't handle the recoil of a 243 then maybe you should quit hunting and take up water polo or something. 22 was not made for big game hunting, when will people get over it? Its just like the guys deer hunting with 416 rigbys and stuff. I hope you think youre the baddest man around because youre shouder is beat out of place! So stupid. Not meaning to ramble, I just get tired of hearing this type of stuff.

pete f
August 9, 2006, 06:27 AM
It also depends on where you hunt. We often get deer upwards of 300 pounds live wieght here in Mn, you get to Wisc and Michigan and you find the same thing. bigger deer. I have killed a couple of Texas and Missouri deer that were not much bigger than a big lab retriever with antlers. I have seen several deer in Mn with 3006 shots that did not pass thru. hitting bone and breaking up. That said, on our property we do not allow 6 mm. they are legal, but we have had too many walk away from marginal hits. And yeah marginal hits happen, lots of people act like they don't but we all know they do.

We prefer 250 savages, 257 roberts, on the small side, If hunting down on the river banks where 20 yard shots maybe long, we often carry 35 rems or 44 mags when flushing deer later in the season.

August 13, 2006, 12:45 AM
Minimum for deer is what ever you shoot good.Years back while helping a feller that raised deer thin out his heard we used 22lr, but this fall my wife is going hunting for the first time and i wont let her use less than 30 cal. I have brought them down with single shots from a 22 short and have had one take 5 rounds from a 45/70 all through the heart and lungs and still wouldnt go down until he ran a mile and a half and i put round number 6 right betwixt his running lights.I also tagged two one year killed with the same 243. My aunt shoot one a one shot kill later that day my uncle had the same rifle and used the other 19 rounds in the box on a single deer. His was smaller but had a thicker layer of fat that was blowing up the bullets before they could penetrate.

one shot one kill

August 13, 2006, 01:01 AM
A buddy of mine used to poach deer in washington apple orchards with a .22mag. Worked like a charm with a good shot. I always did wonder why he kept bumming ammo off me......

August 13, 2006, 10:04 PM
I have shot numerous deer using a 22-250 with no problems at all. Iam not talking neck shots at 50 yards either, these are shoulder shots at 200 (at the most;) ) Maybe because they were small hill country deer

It did fine on hogs also

22-250 is the smallest I would go

August 18, 2006, 10:12 PM

August 18, 2006, 10:57 PM
Instead of the .223 route I've been going the route of .357 mag.

Why not a .357mag in a lever rifle? Its small in terms of rifle cartridges, performs incredibly well from an 18" barrel (buffalo bore 158gr JHPs get 2153 fps from a 18 inch barrel Marlin). Also allows practice with .38spl! Most of the lever guns also allow 15 rds in the tube...not that you need them, but is also great for practice.

I think its a viable choice in a 'small' rifle caliber. In a handgun there is nothing small about it, but in a rifle its a whole different round.

Otherwise I'd say .223 is the smallest 'humane' route to go, then again it also depends on your aim, and the deer you are trying to take.

Just something to think about.

August 18, 2006, 11:19 PM
The next time you're at the range, look at the difference in the bullet hole in your target, and compare the .22's, to .243, .270, .30cal.

There is really not that great of difference.

Well, you ignore velocity/energy and the construction of the bullet involved. A bullet must penetrate and it must expand, two mutually exclusive properties. In order to do that properly in a normal lead jacketed bullet on deer sized game, longer the bullet is to its diameter (sectional density) the more it will penetrate. Of course, there are magic bullets like the all copper Barnes X. Forget Fackler and Jeff Cooper, this ain't handgun shootin'. If the big bullet thing holds any water in defensive handgun shooting, and it's not the answer there either IMHO, it's a totally antequated concept in modern high powered rifles. We went from big holes to high energy when smokeless was invented in the late 19th century.

Most .22-250s are rifled to stabilize varmint weight bullets and they are rather explosive and lack sectional density. Now, there's the matter of energy. If you can load an accurate heavy and heavily constructed .22 bullet in the .22-250, you have the energy due to velocity. But, the old rule of thumb is 1000 ft lbs on target for deer and stuff like the .223 and down are marginal to ineffective by that old yard stick. A .25-06 can fire a 120 grain bullet (plenty of sectional density in the caliber), even Nosler Partition and Barnes and other controlled expansion bullets to over 3000 fps for energies of around 2200 ft lbs at the muzzle. My own .257 Roberts handloads are of this power level pushing a 117 grain Hornady Interlock to 3050 fps. Lots of ELK have fallen to the .25-06 let alone deer! It's plenty for deer and in fact in Texas the .25-06 has been a quite popular long range deer load in the past chambered in guns like the Remington Sendero. There's much more to a cartridge than how big a hole it puts in the paper at the range.:rolleyes: A rifle is a kenetic energy weapon and it's that energy that does the killin'. The bullet must perform, though, for it to translate that energy into a dead deer.

The .22-250 has a cult following, but in my mind it is FAR from a good deer caliber. Why would you want to shoot it in favor of the .25-06? The recoil of the .25-06 is quite mild so that's not an answer. I mean, if you can have your gun in any caliber and it's going to be a deer rifle, why mess with marginal calibers? You can't get TOO MUCH rifle after all. I've killed deer with a 7mm Remington Magnum. While you may say it's over-kill, I can tell you none of those deer walked away from it! It might be "too much", but it kills 'em dead. I have one friend that hunts with a 375 H&H! I don't really know why, but he likes it for DEER.

I really, really like my .308, though. It's chambered in the stainless Remington M7 and I think it's neigh on the perfect hunting rifle for me. It's almost as if it were MADE for deer and hogs. Plenty of power, plenty of bullet, and not as much meat destruction on shoulder shots as my 7mm belted magnum. It's an accurate, light, compact little gun that's easy to carry, easy to shoot.

September 1, 2006, 03:17 PM
I shot my first deer (8 pt, 170 lb) when I was 12 with a single .222 Rem round at 40 yards, he dropped like a brick. That little rifle got lots of use by my dad & brother in my absence in subsequent years.

It's really too light for deer, but with a well placed shot, they don't seem to understand that.

Given a choice though, I wouldn't go hunting with less than a .243 Win.

I AM gonna get a .22 mag soon, and not for hunting squirrels. :evil: -FNR.

September 1, 2006, 03:58 PM
..i know for a fact,,up to 1000,whitetails deer have been taken
with my friends family gun,,,savage 99,..222,cal the gun and the hunter
has fed three familys,,and dont forget the ole 22 hornet

September 1, 2006, 04:12 PM
Depends on your state laws, distance of shot, placement of shot, environment in which you are hunting...on..and...on...and...on. It depends also on the person making the shot and how profecient this person is with the weapon of his choice, end of story. You can use a 300WINMAG on a bipod in a blind for a 400yd shot or a .357 revolver at 50yds (rested shot), or a 5.56MM at 200yds. Depends totally on your laws and your pref for the surroundings and how much weight in a weapon you want to lug around in the field. I think I read that the .30 Win (30-30 if you will) has killed more deer in the state of Michigan than any other gun except maybe the 30-06. I could be wrong so...dont quote me on that stat. The 30-30 is about a 200yd gun on BIG white tails IMO. Most shots here occur at less than 100yds anyway in my experience.:)

September 3, 2006, 07:15 PM
..i know for a fact,,up to 1000,whitetails deer have been taken
with my friends family gun,,,savage 99,..222,cal the gun

Either that gun has been around for 200 years, or the people you know have been doing some poaching.

Otherwise according to the laws of physics and time...that is quite an unbelievable claim.

September 3, 2006, 08:46 PM
i have the exact kind of .22 you are talking about.... mine is a stevens 66a (<---- probably the same as mantis has) , made for Sears in the 50's

i have seen someone take a deer with a 204 ruger, , i guess that isnt that special though....

If you enjoyed reading about "Smallest caliber for deer" here in archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join today for the full version!