1st Deer Rifle Advice??


November 10, 2006, 01:41 PM
Ok - my almost 15 yr old son wants to learn how to hunt-----will be an experience for both of us since , while I am an avid clay/pistol/22 shooter, I've never had the opportunity to get into hunting - nothing against it---just never the chance.

So----what would the wise-ones here recommend (for both of us) for eastern PA-whitetail as an all-around caliber/manufacturer??

I do have a Savage 223 (Choate/26-in/Bush scope) for some target/chuck work...so not a stranger to bolt actions.....luv the Accutrigger!

My budget is say ~$600 or so (not including glass)

Thanks much!

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Mr Weebles
November 10, 2006, 01:55 PM
Savage Model 11 in .308. It has the Accutrigger.

Mine is the synthetic stock version and I absolutely love it.

It cost me around $400.

November 10, 2006, 01:57 PM
Let's see...

Both new to hunting...

I'm going to suggest a Tikka T3 or a Savage. Great bolt actions, great accuracy, good triggers, good prices. (Personal nudge to the Tikka) I like bolts actions for young/new hunters. It makes them concentrate on the quality not the quantity of their shots.

I'd then stick with a lighter recoiling 7mm08 or up to a .270. Great performers on most game and not over-powering for your needs.

Then if you don't hand load, I'd start with Federal Premium ammo and see what grain shoots best.

Good luck, and welcome to one of the most rewarding sports.

Thanks for getting a youngster involved in hunting. The tradition counts on the youth of today.

November 10, 2006, 01:58 PM
Dunno what the terrain is like in your neck of PA. A good quick rifle for PA- especially good for shotgun lovers- is the Remington 7600. Hard to go wrong with one in .30-06.


November 10, 2006, 02:10 PM
Glad to see you are getting into hunting. It is a great sport.

For your son, I would suggest a .243 in something like a Savage. There are lots of choices in your price range. My first rifle was a Mossberg .243 which I used for deer hunting in PA (central part of state). He can join you on woodchuck hunts with that rifle. If your son is comfortable with a bit more recoil, I'd go with a bolt action rifle in .270, 30-06, or .308, but don't go any larger such as 300 win mag. Just too much power for whitetail hunting unless your son has plans for elk hunting. Nothing wrong with a 30-30 either for deer hunting in a Marlin 336. Great rifle! The Marlin 1894 in 44 mag would not be a terrible choice either for woods hunting and it runs around $400 new.

Lots of places to hunt in PA, although it is getting tougher in the eastern or southeastern part of the state. You'll probably be heading out to one of the state game lands. Good luck. Be safe. There will be a lot of hunters most likely.

You might try visiting the HuntingPA forum. Good info there.

November 10, 2006, 02:26 PM
You already know about the kind of rifle Savage makes. Another Savage, or another bolt rifle from any major manufacturer will be fine, just step up in caliber to pretty much anything from .243 to 30-06. I wouldn't worry about recoil too much. Whn I was younger than your son I was shooting bolt rifles in .308 which is close to 30-06 recoil. For all around use on deer, hogs, similar sized game it's hard to argue against the 30-06, 308, and 270.

An alternative to the bolt guns would be a lever-gun. The classic 30-30 lever action from Marlin or Winchester(now available used only) will balance well and be easy to carry for most folks. While they aren't new, cool, or hyped they've always been great general use hunting rifles and are well worth considering.

For glass my preference is the Burris Fullfield II 3-9 or 2-7 power scopes. They're great scopes and really offer quite a bit of value for right around $200. Regardless of brand most deer hunting in the eastern US will seldom require more than a 2-7 or 3-9 variable power, or fixed 4 power scope with a 30 to 40mm objective lens. Nikon, Leupold, and the Bushnell Elite line are also good scopes makers to consider.

Those are my preferences. Take a look at all the recommendations you get. Consider your terrain and figure whether a scope or good aperture sights would be best in your area. Then head to the gun store and see what rifles fit and balance best for you and your son. My compliments to you for actively participating and helping your son with his new interest - we need more dads like you out there. Best of luck for many enjoyable hunting seasons together.

November 10, 2006, 02:44 PM
.243 or .270 would be great for beginning hunters and shooters. .30-06 is a great cartridge, but it can be a thumper if you don't have a good recoil pad. A heavy recoiling gun is a quick way to discourage a new shooter and .243 is plenty for deer.

Variable power scopes like the 3-9 are nice, but are also more delicate. If you get a variable power, don't buy a cheap one or they could break/ lose their zero. A fixed 4x or 6x power scope should be plenty for hunting in PA. Unless you are hunting in ruged mountains like the Rockies or vast open plains, you will probably never have a shot over 200 yards. If you do see deer over 200 yards away, get closer. It will teach you how to stalk, and lower the chance of you missing (or worse) maiming the deer.

Congradulations on getting into a great American tradition, and good luck.

P.S. I'm getting ready to head out tomorrow morining to see if I can't change my luck from my last trip.:(

November 10, 2006, 02:44 PM
I'm an advocate for military cartidges for 1st or only rifles, just in case. :)

I'd go with any of the bolt rifles suggested, chambered in .308.

November 10, 2006, 03:18 PM
Somebody mention a Savage Model 11 in .308Winchester... Nothing against .308, but I have a Model 11GL (left-handed with sights on the barrel) in .243Winchester.

Mine has the AccuTrigger and I like it real well. I lightened it as far as it'd go.

While mine currently wears an forty year old fixed 4X scope in see-through mounts, the one change I would make is to mount a Williams Foolproof rear sight as that's my personal preference. That said, through the scope I've shot a sub-1" group at 100yds and can make clay birds disappear with regularity. I just prefer apertures to scopes as a general rule, but not as a hard and fast rule.

All that said, I wouldn't rule out a .30-30 levergun... Marlin or Winchester either one. It's a 200yd rifle/cartridge if the operator is capable, knowledgeable, and inspired. If you look back over my posts, you may notice I tend to brag on my Winchester '94 (1971 manufacture) with the Lyman #2 tang sight. Marlin and Winchester both can be mounted with Williams Foolproof rear sight. If you can find a Savage M340 or Springfield M325, those are bolt actions chambered in .30-30 and, especially the Savage, are great shooters. I like mine too. And with the crankbolts, if you handload, you can load 150gr spitzer SP's and extend the rifle's range to 300yds, but most woods shots won't be nearly that long so standard factory loadings fired from iron-sighted rifles should be plenty.

one eye joe
November 10, 2006, 03:28 PM
look around and find a rifle that feels good to both of you. I like the CZ 550, although Savage, Ruger, Remington and others make good rifles in your price range. Since you probably don't reload, the .308 would be a fine all around choice. You might go with the .30-06 and use managed recoil loads if your son is recoil sensitive. Just get something you will both enjoy.

November 10, 2006, 03:46 PM
It may be tough to buy two rifles for $600 unless you do some serious looking at Gunshows or just get lucky. Not sure if you meant one rifle within budget or two. You really don't have a lot of time before the buck season opens on Nov. 27th. Any centerfire caliber between 243 and 308 would be just fine. I lean toward the ones I mentioned earlier. A used savage 340 in 30-30 would be great. It was also chambered for .222.

If it were me, I would perhaps try to bridge the gap between a varmint (groundhog) rifle and a deer rifle as the rifle will give you the best flexibility since you don't have rifles just lying around the house at this time. Your 223 is a tad small, but it will work if you make a solid hit. Not an advocate of the .223 for deer hunting, I'm just trying to be a realist in your situation.

November 10, 2006, 05:10 PM
Peruse the used gunracks for Marlin 336 30-30s. You can probably find a couple that are within your budget. I have one and I just love it. A buddy of mine bought his boys little Savage bolt-action 30-30s. I got to handle one last week and I thought it was a nice handy little hunting rifle, though it requires drilling and tapping for a side scope mount. You really can't go wrong with the 30-30 as a deer cartridge. Recoil is light, ammo is readily available almost anywhere, and this new Leverrevolution stuff has only increased its' versitility.

Don't skimp on the scope. Buy a good quality 4X or low-range variable (2-7 at most) and mount it low. Good luck.

November 10, 2006, 05:19 PM
My dad bought me an 06 for my first rifle and I hated it. It kicked very hard (at the time) and I did not like to shoot it. Shortly there after I move to TX for college and a friend let me steal a Rem 700 in 6mm Rem (about the same as a .243) from his collection becuase he knew I was poor and need a rifle. That gun taught me how to shoot. It had almost no recoil, was accurate, and I kill more that my fair share of deer with it. I still have it and still love it. I hope to let me son use it when he is old enough.

You might also look at the Howa/Weatherby Vanguard/1500 series and the Remington ADLs. They are good solid choices.

Hope this helps you out and have some fun hunting.


November 10, 2006, 05:20 PM
You should be able to get a good used Remington 700 for six bills. I'd suggest either a .308 or a .30/06 (personally, I'd go with a .30/06 due to the greater variety of factory ammo).

He's 15... in three years he'll be 18 and recoil won't mean a thing. A 15 year old can handle 150 grain .30/06 factory loads with no problem. And the capability to move up to 180 or 200 grain loads will mean you're set for just about anything short of griz.

I gave my younger son a Winchester Model 70 in .30/06 for his 18th birthday, and he shoots better than me now... he's 21. A word to the wise - in just a few years, it'll be Dad that can't keep up.

I'm a strong advocate of finding used rifles (and revolvers, for that matter) in really good condition, regardless of what make and model you end up with. A nice lever gun would be good also. Hard to beat a .30/30 for whitetails.

Have fun together! Soon he'll run head on into the two deadly liquids: perfume and gasoline. Treasure your time now, you'll probably see a lot less of him over the next few years.


November 10, 2006, 05:23 PM
Don't rule out a .30-06 (or another robust caliber) just because of recoil. I hunt deer with Remington's Managed Recoil in .30-06, and it's very tame. Plenty powerful for deer, too. I've had very good luck with it.

November 10, 2006, 05:27 PM
I live and hunt in eastern pa. Where I am able to hunt, is pretty hilly and really dense woods. I think the farthest that I can see is roughly 70 yards and the deer I have taken have been between 30 and 60 yards. I have a .243 that I use for groundhogs, but when I'm in the woods, I normally use a H&R 12ga tracker 1 smooth bore with rifle sights. It's nice to carry and does the job well for me. A 20 ga loaded with slugs would work very well if your range is limited. If you are fortunate to be able to see and shoot further than that, one of the H&R/NEF Handi rifles would do a good job. They come in a wide range of calibers. Being a single shot, will help enforce careful shot choice and placement. The 30/30 handi can be loaded with spitzer bullets and make it a very nice 250 yd rifle. You could also get a couple of them within budget.

just looked, we are practically neighbors. I live in Northampton county just north east of Bethlehem.

November 10, 2006, 05:28 PM
My son and I both hunt the PA woods with Remington Model Sevens. His is a .243, mine a .308. The Model Seven is a great platform. And for the PA woods, a fixed 4X is plenty. If you decide on a variable, go lower power, like a 2-7X compact.

Of course, a Marlin 336 in .30-30 is also an excellent woods/walk-around rifle, especially if set up with a scout scope. Do a search on this board for "lever scout" and you'll find plenty of examples.

November 10, 2006, 06:59 PM
He's 15... in three years he'll be 18 and recoil won't mean a thing. A 15 year old can handle 150 grain .30/06 factory loads with no problem. And the capability to move up to 180 or 200 grain loads will mean you're set for just about anything short of griz.

In my opinion, that's painting with a broad brush. Everybody's different. I'm 32 years old now, but I shot hard-kicking guns time to time when I was a teenager and I didn't like it one little bit. Now, I like to shoot highpower rifles, but I don't like to shoot rifles that kick my teeth loose every time I light one off. Again, everybody's different. That's why I recommended starting off with .30-30Win. and .243Win., but they're not the only low-recoil choices bigger than a .223Remington. I'm aquainted with the couple who own my favorite gun shop... the guy (who describes himself as not being a recoil junkie) shoots an older .243Winchester and his wife, a small petite lady just a little older than me, shoots a .260Remington and she likes it. I do shoot .30-06 and like it, but I'm shooting it in an M1 Garand which isn't legal to hunt with in several states including mine. I do agree though about the .30-06's versatility. I just don't agree that every 15 year old kid can handle it due to a disparity of perceptions and experiences one individual to the next.

I'm a strong advocate of finding used rifles (and revolvers, for that matter) in really good condition, regardless of what make and model you end up with. A nice lever gun would be good also. Hard to beat a .30/30 for whitetails.

I like finding those deals too. The 1971 Winchester 94 .30-30 I brag on time to time... I bought it used. I only had $180 in it out the door several years ago and it wasn't long before I swapped out the rear sight for something like $70 more counting the gunsmith's $10 to drill the forward hole in the tang.

You can find some rifles used that just are more right to you than whatever's new on the racks. That's one thing I've had happen with that 94 I was just talking about. When that happens, some of us not unlike myself, will just figure that gun's not going anywhere. I recall a conversation with a two older gentlemen I'm aquainted with... they were observing that when you hear people bragging about their rifle nowdays, it's usually an older model and you don't hear nearly as many guys bragging about a new rifle. I'm thinking it don't matter which pursuit the rifle was made or bought for either.

November 10, 2006, 07:40 PM
$600 limit? for both guns? easy!

2 k-31's + st marie clamp on scope mount. you'll have $200 left over for ammo+glass! the 7.5swiss is similar to a .308, so it shouldn't have a problem with whatever your doing. (this is my hunting rig, btw)

another option is a finnish m39 mosin nagant. good specimens (unissued condition!) can be had for ~$300. several manufacturers make scout mounts for the m39.

November 10, 2006, 07:53 PM
Dunno what the terrain is like in your neck of PA. A good quick rifle for PA- especially good for shotgun lovers- is the Remington 7600. Hard to go wrong with one in .30-06.
My thoughts exactly - although depending on his size, build, and experience, I might suggest a .270 for the 15-yr old.

November 10, 2006, 07:55 PM
The .250 Savage is a good beginner's deer cartridge.
Very accurate, light recoiling, and an excellent deer killer.
I have dropped many of the deer I shot with my Ruger 77 in .250 on the spot.

I can't say that about the .30-06 I used before I bought the .250.

On the other hand, .250s being in fairly short supply, I bought my 14 year-old son a used Remington 788 in .308.
He used Rem Managed Recoil ammo earlier this year in MI's Youth Deer Hunt, but now has it sighted in for 150 grain reloads that he and I made together. The loads are about the equivalent of .300 Savage loads and the recoil doesn't bother him.

November 10, 2006, 08:47 PM
I just picked up a Marlin 336 30-30 for $175 at a pawnshop, and I'm thrilled with it.

Recoil is very moderate, and I believe you can even buy "Reduced Recoil" ("Controlled Recoil"?) ammunition for the kid. If you want to reach out further, you can use the Hornady LeveRevolution spitzer ammo.

Do you need the gun for this deer season? If not, you might want to buy right after the end of deer season, when Joe Smith pawns his rifle for beer money.

For under $500, you can easily get two solid-steel and walnut Marlin 30-30s (maybe a 16" for the kid if you're lucky), two sets of WGRS aperture sights to spruce them up, and enough left over for plenty of ammo and a pizza.


November 10, 2006, 09:10 PM
its a no brainer. Marlin 1894 in .44 Mag, or Marlin 336 in 30-30. Deer hunting. That is why Marlin makes them.

November 10, 2006, 09:16 PM
I'd say that all the recommendations so far have been good ones. For the son's rifle, you may want to look at the .270. Recoil is not that bad and it gives him a bit more "margin of error" in case of a misplaced shot vs the .243. The .308 and 30-06 are also great calibers. Recoil may be a bit much for starters, though. This is subjective, of course.

As far as manufacturers and budget, I will reiterate previous posters on the Savage/Stevens line. You could probably get close to your budget on "package deals" and not have to worry about buying glass (for hunting purposes). I've found Savage to be a very accurate rifle.

As someone else posted, a 30-30 is a very good starter caliber and would probably bring down any deer you would want to hunt in PA. Low recoil and a tried and true favorite amongst hunters in my area.

November 10, 2006, 09:18 PM
If you plan on putting a scope on it, I'd suggest the Marlin 336. Excellent deer rifle and what I use every year. The .30-30 does the job nicely. If you plan on using it as a brush gun with iron sights, I carry a Winchester Model 94 top eject that works great, but wouldn't really recommend it for the youngster. The top eject is a little more tricky and a pain to put a scope on with it setting what I consider crooked. The Marlin will be slightly heavier then a winchester, but has more of a nice feeling lever slide with me never having a failure to eject or stovepipe like I've had the top eject 94 do on me from time to time.

One of Many
November 10, 2006, 09:53 PM
If you can find a used Savage 99 lever action in good shape, I would recommend it for hunting deer, as long as it is in a caliber that is readily available in your local area. They have not beem made for several years, and the really nice older ones have become collectors items, but the collectors disdain the more recent models with the detachable magazines. Mine shoots groups smaller than 1.5 inch at 100 yards with factory ammo, so the old myth about lever guns being inaccurate is just that - a myth.

For heavy brush areas where close shots in dim light are the norm, I recommend a Burris scope with the electro-dot reticle. Mine is in 1.5-6X with a duplex reticle, and the center of the crosshair can be illuminated.

Don't be afraid to spend more for a good scope than you do for the rifle. I think I spent close to $450 for the scope and mounts I installed on my Savage 99 - I spent $400 for the rifle.

Buy several boxes of ammo from the same lot number, so you have enough for sighting in and practice, with at least one complete box left for the hunt itself. Different lot numbers can result in a shift in the point of impact.

November 10, 2006, 10:00 PM
New England Firearms make a good cheap single shot. I would use a .243 or .270

November 10, 2006, 10:32 PM
Speaking of New England, those are marketed under two names- "New England" and "H&R 1871".

The HandiRifle models are good. I have the .45-70 and it's a cannon. They're available in .30-30 and .44magnum too.

The guy who owns the gun shop I go to... he says he got away from those because of ejection issues and having to send 'em back to the factory all the time. I think this is more of a problem with rimless cartridges. I've never heard of the ejection problems anywhere else and never seen it firshand. However, the way they're made, I know from experience they are quite dependable with rimmed cartridges so that's what I'd stick with.



November 10, 2006, 10:32 PM
I would look at the Stevens 200 line of rifles they have short and long actions. I would maybe look at the 30-06 chambering, for you son you can always use the
Remington Managed recoil factory ammo if needed. Or look at a 25-06 or 243, which would work for ground hog/ rockchuck etc.

Another Idea is the Marlin 336 rifles in 30-30 or 35 Remington, would work great.
With the Hornady LeverEvolution line of ammo, you can be ready out to 200-300 yds. Which from what I understand will be about what you need. Anywere from 50-200 yds, so you would be good there. I just bought a brand new on for $314, and mounted a Leupold VxII 1-4x20 with low mounts and makes a sweet rifle. I shot a group today sighing in that was right at 1" at a 100yds from sand bags with 150 FP Federal Power-Shok, that stuff is under $10 a box of 20 here in Texas.

Those are some ideas which would get you 2 rifles for under $600 or just slightly over. Minus the cost of optics.

November 10, 2006, 11:18 PM
I recently got a like new Savage 110 in .270 that came from the factory with an inexpensive Simmons scope setup on it. Savage made kits like this that I think were sold at Wal-Mart and other places. At any rate, I paid $275.00 shipped for it.

Other than needing some loctite on the scope mounts, its a GREAT gun. .270 is enough for deer, and most common game in north america.

Take a look at em.

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