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223 for deer: never again!

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Macchina, Nov 22, 2020.

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  1. Macchina

    Macchina Member

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    I lent out a few rifles this year to a friend and his son and by chance switched scopes on my 2 main deer rifles and haven't sighted them in yet. I was left with a 44 Mag 1894 and my slew of ARs. I have been hunting since the opener with my 44 Mag rifle but this weekend I took out a nice scoped 16" 5.56 AR loaded with 64gr Federal soft points.

    I finally saw a shooter buck on Saturday at only 35 yards. I shot him in the lungs and he trotted about 10 yards and I shot him again in the chest. I was on the ground so I crept up about 10 yards to see if he was down and I saw him staggering so I shot him again (I don't know where this shot hit, I shot at fur at this point, most likely rump). All shots he was stationary and within 50 yards.

    I didn't hear him go down so I waited a few minutes and went to look for him. He wasn't within sight and the sun was setting so I went back to the spot where I first shot him and not a speck of blood was to be found. I searched in the direction he went and never found a speck of blood. I searched for an hour and came back the next day and searched another hour. Never found blood, and I walked a grid for about 300 yards and never found anything.

    I checked my rifle that night at 35 yards and I was within 1" of POA. I KNOW I hit that deer 3 times.

    My first shot with any of my normal deer rifles would have planted that deer. My follow-up shots would have put him down within a hundred yards and sprayed blood everywhere. To not find a spec of blood really has soured me. I am sick and ready to rip up my tag. I have screwed up in the past when I was young and wounded deer but this was not one of those times. I had him stationary in my scope at buckshot distance and no blood was found. I am writing off .223 forever because of this. I know he was hit by how he was moving but to not bleed or drop is just crazy. I feel like I shot him with a 22 LR...
     
  2. LoonWulf
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    LoonWulf Contributing Member

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    Thats a bummer!

    Ive never used the 64gr federal ammo, but I shot quite a few Axis deer with the 64gr power points, and other .223 stuff.
     
  3. Alex Clayton

    Alex Clayton Member

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    Well kind of hard to do much with a post like this. The .223 has a HUGE variety of ammo. Different ammo for different use. LOT of Deer fall to the round when a good hunter is using it. To those who regularly drop Deer with their favorite load I suspect they would read something like this and shrug. Don't know anything about the OP but I have known a few hunters who's idea of hunting was to shoot "at" game.
     
  4. stillquietvoice

    stillquietvoice Member

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    Sorry to hear that, it's hard to lose one that you k kw was hit well. I lost one about 20 yrs ago in a blizzard. It still bothers me.

    Shot a small doe last season with 223 60 gr nosler partition. Almost lost her cause she fell into a hole from a downed tree. High wind blew it down and pulled out the root ball.
     
  5. troy fairweather

    troy fairweather Member

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    Sometimes deer just won't die, I seen one last year big 3 times with a 300wm they found it the next day a good 1/4 mile from were it was shot.
     
  6. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    I've had deer shot through both lungs with a 3" exit hole run over 100 yards after being hit with 165 gr 30-06 loads. Watched 'em drop in their tracks after being hit with 60 gr 223 bullets.

    Put an expanding bullet through an animals lungs and it has 15-20 seconds to live. What it does during that time is hard to predict. Some lie down and die, some run. A deer can cover a lot of ground in 20 seconds and be hard to find
     
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  7. doubleh

    doubleh Member

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    I once saw a deer shot five times with a 30-30 before he gave up and became venison. No, I wasn't the one doing the shooting but I was also carrying a 30-30, the only rifle I could afford at the time, and it made me question my choice. I know there have been literally tons of deer taken with that caliber. I suppose this was just an exceptionally tough buck. The OP's deer could have been a exceptionally tough one too.
     
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  8. VoodooMountain

    VoodooMountain Member

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    It happens with all cartridges. 223 isn't optimal but works
     
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  9. Macchina

    Macchina Member

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    I am a very careful hunter. I watched this deer for about 3 minutes before he was in the clearing I picked out. I grunted to stop him and my first shot would have been easy with my bow, let alone a scoped rifle. It was a perfect stationarity shot in every way. So close too.
     
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  10. Macchina

    Macchina Member

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    It's not that the deer didn't drop right there, and I was using hunting specific ammo. It's that I shot the deer 3 times and he didn't bleed a drop. I've never seen this in 20 years of deer hunting. Even a bow shot deer will at least bleed a few drops before taking off.
     
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  11. troy fairweather

    troy fairweather Member

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    All depends were they are hit to bleed, or shots that don't exit sometimes won't bleed.
     
  12. WestKentucky

    WestKentucky Member

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    I once hit one HARD. He hunkered and stumbled like he was about to fall over. Crossed the creek a few times, circled back on his blood trail, I lost him after 3 miles. Found him rabbit hunting a month or so later. It happens. Sometimes organs just aren’t where they are supposed to be so maybe your shot was in a normally good spot but this animal is built funky? I hope you find him.
     
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  13. Oldschool shooter

    Oldschool shooter Member

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    Here in Michigan .223 is not even legal to use for deer hunting. Hate to hear stories like this, and I'm sure the OP feels bad about it, especially knowing he hit it 3 times. I don't want to start any arguments, and I know you don't need a bi boomer for deer, but .223 just seems a bit light for the job, IMHO.
     
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  14. Macchina

    Macchina Member

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    I'm in Michigan. 223 is legal for deer here...
     
  15. Oldschool shooter

    Oldschool shooter Member

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    When did that come about? Used to be that you could not use 22 caliber of any kind for deer.
     
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  16. Random 8

    Random 8 Member

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    You're preaching to the choir with me. I've heard far too many stories similar to yours, from some very good shooters and hunters including a SWAT designated marksman to discount them all. A bullet needs to penetrate and do sufficient damage to kill a deer humanely. IMHO, it should also exit to ensure good blood trailing. The .223 may do this most of the time with proper bullets, but I've heard of failures (and 6mm soft points) frequently when things go a little bit wrong. Personally I owe it to the deer I hunt and the tradition I practice to use enough gun. Get yourself something that throws a 6.5-30 caliber bullet at 2500-2800 fps, use a quality cup and core of 140-160 grains, and never look back.
     
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  17. Oldschool shooter

    Oldschool shooter Member

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    Until recently, I've used mostly 30-06 or 270. The ladt few years I've been using a 6.5x55. Plenty of power without alot of recoil. I know many deer have bern taken with .243 and .223, I just think they are better suited to varmints.
     
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  18. Ru4real

    Ru4real Member

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    If I was in your position, backed into a spot needing to use my 223, I’d be head shooting out to 200y. I’d pass on further shots and closer shots without a nice clear sight picture.

    I practice Aim Small, Miss Small. I understand not everyone does.
     
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  19. Olympus

    Olympus Member

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    Took a nice, big doe two years ago with a 22 Hornet shooting a Hornady 45gr softpoint. Tucked it in behind the shoulder and it absolutely jellied the insides. My dad missed a nice buck this year at 30 yards with a 308...TWICE! He shoots a single-shot Encore too. Deer never moved after the first shot so he loaded another round and shot again. Came back to camp and blamed the gun, so I shot it behind camp and punched the exact center of the target at 50 yards.

    Sometimes you just miss...
     
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  20. entropy

    entropy Member

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    Wrong round for that close a shot. Should have used a 55 gr. V Max. Deer don't go far when their lungs are turned into jelly. Your 64 gr. soft point would have been fine at 100 yards, but they probably passed right through without expanding, leaving neat little .22 caliber holes in the lungs.

    BTW, the 55 gr. V-Max kills deer out to at least 225 yards-the one my son shot at that range went under 50 yards. Most of the ones that he's shot with that bullet under 100 yards have gone a step or two.

    I always aim at the Aorta. (the top 1/3 of the heart.) If you're up to 4" low, you hit the heart, and the bottom of the lung or lungs, depending on angle. If you're up to 6" high, you still double lung it. If you are up to 4" forward, you hit a shoulder if lower, and the front (what would be the top) of the lungs, possibly the windpipe, too. If you are up to 6" behind, double lung again. If you can't put it in the area I described (obviously you can from your story) practice till you can, and study the internal anatomy of deer. (there are several target sold that show it)

    This is the best one- I learned on it, and I made sure my sons did, too. My older son shooting 13 deer with a .223 Axis one year was what convinced me to try .223. (it was illegal when I grew up in Minnesota.)

    https://www.amazon.com/Champion-Tra...d496-f366-4631-94d3-61b87b52511b&pf_rd_r=N0EB

    This one will suffice if you can't find the above one:

    https://www.championtarget.com/all-products-2/visicolor-real-life-targets/1000447.html

    I agree with drobs, in this post,

    from this thread:

    https://www.thehighroad.org/index.p...eer-and-cartridge-bullet-choice.877682/page-2

    There is one bullet I recommend for any big game, from any caliber it is made in: The Nosler Partition. They make a 60 gr. one for deer. ;)

    I don't like to quote myself, but this post I made about a deer's alert status may or may not have had something to do with your results :

     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2020
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  21. Bfh_auto

    Bfh_auto Member

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    Totally agree. High shoulder, neck and head only for 223.
    Any of those 3 drop deer.
    Wait I use those 3 for everything I shoot...
    Lung shots are for bow hunters and I don't bow hunt.

    OP sorry you lost your deer. I've lost one and it made me sick. I don't lung shoot anymore.
     
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  22. Macchina

    Macchina Member

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    I don't know when it changed, I recall it changing but think it was a wh6ole back. From the 2020 handbook:

    All Firearm Deer Seasons - North of Limited Firearm Deer Zone

    Deer may be taken with handguns, rifles, crossbows, bows and arrows,
    shotguns, and muzzleloading firearms, including black powder handguns. It
    is legal to hunt deer north of the limited firearm deer zone with any caliber of
    firearm except a .22 caliber or smaller rimfire (rifle or handgun).
     
  23. Ru4real

    Ru4real Member

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    I’ve seen killers turn into chokers. I hope it doesn’t happen to me. Like golf, often the longest challenge is the 6” between your ears.
     
  24. Oldschool shooter

    Oldschool shooter Member

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    Thanks for posting this, Macchina.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2020
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  25. entropy

    entropy Member

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    Many hunters in this area (WI, MN, and maybe MI?) do not shoot head and neck shots due to CWD and the potential species crossover version, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) . I'd rather lose a deer, which with the exception of the overnight loss of the one buck mentioned above, I've never done with an Aorta shot, than risk even the possibility of CJD. Where CWD is not an issue, I fully agree- Head and spine shots make sense with a .223. (And many other calibers.)
     
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