Deer Hunting Calibers (And Doing My Part)

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by ZenRooster, Oct 2, 2021.

  1. ZenRooster

    ZenRooster Member

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    OK, please forgive the common question, but I simply cannot find the answer on my own.

    A little background: I’d like to start deer hunting. I’m really a handgun guy, but I do have a few lever action rifles / shotguns for general cowboy action plinking fun. While researching between handguns and rifles and their many popular calibers for deer hunting here in the southeast, I keep reading, over and over and over, the phrase, “the [whatever] caliber will be great, as long as you do your part.”

    By “do your part,” I assume that means hitting where I’m supposed to hit. But isn’t that the point with ANY caliber — to hit where you’re aiming?

    It’s that single caveat that confuses me. It almost implies that there are some calibers where you can totally miss the mark, and it will still result in an equally dead deer. (Is that assumption true?)

    So what exactly does “as long as you do your part” mean?

    And if I “do my part” (hit where I aim), then does it really matter if I’m shooting from a new Colt Anaconda in 44 Magnum or a Winchester 70 Super Grade in 6.5 Creedmoor?

    Thanks in advance for clearing up my confusion.

    Regards,
    Chris
     
  2. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    With a 44mag, I have to “do my part better” than I have to with my 300wm. Plain and simple. I can push a 200grn ELD through a lung and have it explode the vitals into jelly and watch a deer crumple in a few yards, whereas the same placement with a 300grn XTP is far, far less forgiving. The deer will still die, but it will travel farther, and may not leave as much blood trail.

    Equally, shooting a 243win, I know I will get explosive performance in the vital cavity, but also am far less likely to have an exit wound. I can use a harder bullet and exit - which creates less trauma and doesn’t kill as quickly, so less damage to bleed out... or use a more violently expanding bullet and not exit at all, so a bad hit might not leave any traceable trail - or deep woods/brush might hide a body which clears 30yrds before falling... so even among high power rifle cartridges, there’s a difference in criticality for where the bullet is placed between 243win and 300wm...

    Equally again, a .357mag is leaving the muzzle with less energy than a 44mag will hit past 100yrds, so similarly, I need to be even closer on the mark with a 357mag, lest the deer run even farther, likely leaving even less blood trail.

    So yes, there is a difference. Some cartridges require us to “do better at our part,” while others can be more forgiving.
     
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  3. rabid wombat

    rabid wombat Member

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    Chris - you answered your own question. The implication of “the [whatever] caliber will be great, as long as you do your part.” is the bullet is sufficient when properly placed on target. Another way of looking at it, the hunter is typically the weak link, not the ammunition…
     
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  4. LoonWulf
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    LoonWulf Contributing Member

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    +1

    +2


    If in doubt lean towards more forgiving.....
     
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  5. horsemen61

    horsemen61 Member

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    ^^ all of this above of the 2 choices I saw you list I’d use a 6.5 Creedmoor if possible all day long and twice on Sunday
     
  6. Boattale

    Boattale Member

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    Lean towards a rifle in any medium powered or up centerfire rifle chambering paired with proven bullet construction you have confidence in you can hit where you aim. Deer are not hard to kill - when hit in the heart/lung/front shoulder area. Gut shot, butt shot, leg shot deer are another matter altogether. Regardless of how many deer have been killed with pistol caliber rifles, there are indeed better choices and yes it does matter. For one thing, the 6.5 Creedmoor that you mention has a much longer point blank range than any pistol caliber round. Making range judgements considerably less critical.
     
  7. gotboostvr

    gotboostvr Member

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    As long as the cartridge is "enough" I feel bullet choice is more important than cartridge choice. Location of the impact trumps all though.

    Using a soft bullet in 243Win may be a bad choice, something like a Partition would be a good call in a fast, light cartridge on deer sized game. Move up to a 308win, and a normal soft cup and core bullet makes sense for the same target.
     
  8. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    Most centerfire cartridges 24 caliber and up will kill deer just fine. I'd say 26 caliber and up for larger North American game. Where I hunt deer and black bear seasons run together for the most part I prefer something 26 caliber or larger.

    Some cartridges make "doing your part" easier. Some cartridges like 44 mag will kill game just fine, but you're limited in effective range. Others are just bigger than needed where recoil and cost to shoot limits practice time. But some guys just like the challenge of getting closer, or just like a particular rifle even though it is bigger than needed.

    For most people common cartridges like 6.5CM, 7-08, and 308 just make the most sense. All 3 are very accurate, will take game farther than most hunters have the skills to shoot, have mild recoil, and are relatively cheap to shoot and practice with. If nothing bigger than deer will ever be hunted the 243 and similar are in the mix as well.

    At the end of the day almost all of the cartridges will kill what you hunt. It comes down to using the one you like. It may be a rifle in an odd ball cartridge that you like just because it was Grandpa's. Or you may just have an eclectic style and want to hunt with something no one else is using. Or you could be like me and want to just keep things simple and stay with the basics.
     
  9. someguy2800

    someguy2800 Member

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    Anything that pokes a sufficiently large hole in the lungs, heart, or central nervous system will produce a dead deer. Some cartridges just make it easier to place that shot than others at distance due to being flatter shooting, less wind drift, easier to shoot ect…

    As noted the 2nd factor too contend with after the shot it is recovering it. If your hunting in heavy brush and the deer runs 200 yards after being shot with no exit wound and no blood trail, then just finding it afterwards can be a several hour long ordeal or perhaps not finding it at all. In a desert with no brush to obstruct your view that’s probably not so big of a problem.

    Where I hunt you can usually only see 10 yards from the ground and 98% of shots are under 150 yards so I favor big bores with heavy bullets because they give me the blood trail I need to find the deer. If you live somewhere with wide open spaces I would concern myself more with getting something flat shooting enough to reach out 300 yards and minimize errors in yardage.
     
  10. .308 Norma

    .308 Norma Member

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    No, absolutely not. I used a .308 Winchester for deer hunting for years, then a .270 Win, and then a .30-06 for years after that. Now I'm using my .308 Norma Mag (same ballistics as an .300 Win Mag) of course. But I'll guarantee you that if I gut shoot, or knock a leg out from under a deer with my .308 Norma Magnum, he won't be any deader than if I'd have gut shot him, or knocked a leg out from under him with my .308 Win.
    The only thing that's true about that "assumption" is that if you gut shoot, or knock a leg out from under a deer with any cartridge, it will result in an "equally" dead deer - eventually! But I doubt it would take any longer for a deer to die that was gut shot with a .30-30, than it would for a deer that was gut shot with my .308 Norma Magnum.
    My .308 Norma Magnum is a little more forgiving than my .308 Winchester when it comes to estimating ranges, but that's about it when you're talking about deer hunting cartridges. And even that doesn't mean squat if a deer hunter can't handle a relatively hard-kicking rifle like a .300 Win Mag or a .308 Norma Mag., and doesn't practice with it. My dad, almost 60 years ago, started me off with a semi-auto, .308 Win because, in his words, "I didn't want to start you off with a rifle that would make you flinch because it kicked too hard.":)
     
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  11. ThomasT

    ThomasT Member

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    Remember cartridge's don't kill deer. Bullets do. Use a good soft point bullet and place the shot well and you will kill your deer. And no cartridge will make up for poor shooting. If you aren't sure of the shot then don't take it. Period. Learning to hunt and close the gap is the real problem. Making the kill shot is the easy part.
     
  12. Lnf Crzr

    Lnf Crzr Member

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    I have a Friend who has used a 357 magnum carbine (16 or 18”) with 125 xtps from 35yards to 180yards.
    We talked one day about this and I asked if he had issues with tracking Or Slow death issue as I feel it’s always best for the deer to get a quick fast “Extinguishing” of Life.
    He stated he agreed that the animal deserves to be shot only when the Correct shot presents itself… and Accuracy was Paramount. Over the years he dropped down in caliber and found that the Deer shot with Accurate Placement- are just as dead, Weather he is using a 30/30, 45 colt Carbine,44 magnum carbine or… The wee little 357z. (one of my Favorites)

    Bullet choice is important of of course- I used a incorrect Bullet 41 mag handgun one year. Good placement, Poor Bullet. Did Not enjoy seeing that Deer suffer.

    Accuracy and waiting for the right time to Squeeze that trigger- is what counts. Deer have been dropped with far less powered Cartridges- Yet much to do is with the placement-Not-displacement.
     
  13. Lnf Crzr

    Lnf Crzr Member

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    Ps- That friend of mine shot many (6 I think) with his 357 carbine. All but 2 dropped, and those two ran but only 60 yards.
     
  14. Barr

    Barr Member

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    Best general advice for a first time hunter is something from .270 Win to .308 caliber. 7mm-08 is a wildly popular choice for moderate recoil and power. .30-30 is a classic, 7-30 Waters is 10% more of a good thing (trajectory).

    Spend the time to practice w a 6-8” steel plate at 100 yards in various field positions and get to know the rifle. Know the elevation at 50 and 150 yards. Field and bushcraft are much more useful than the finer ballistic points. Be patient for the right shot.
     
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  15. Lnf Crzr

    Lnf Crzr Member

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    Just seen Post Barr- Excellent point. I re read mine….

    Edit 180yards to read 130yards -Typo
     
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  16. Reloadron
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    Reloadron Contributing Member

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    Matching caliber and bullet to the game depends on where you are hunting. You mention the southwest. Most if not all of my deer hunting was done in West Virginia where in the areas we hunted you seldom had a shot over 100 yards. I used my old Ruger 44 Carbine with a 240 grain hollow point and occasionally a 444 Marlin lever gun. Neither of which would I be comfortable with at 200 to 300 or more yards in the US Southwest. Matching gun to game gets consideration as to likely distances and terrain.

    Doing your part simply means after matching gun to game make sure your gun is sighted in using the ammunition you plan to hunt with. Holding your point of aim and squeezing along with breathing is what good shot placement is all about. There is likely a dozen or more cartridges suitable for deer, just make sure you consider terrain and likely distance included with doing your part.

    Good Hunting....
    Ron
     
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  17. theotherwaldo

    theotherwaldo Member

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    My suggestion is to select a round and a rifle that you would be willing to practice with - so that you would be able to do your part... .
     
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  18. Steve S.

    Steve S. Member

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    Deer are easy animals to harvest quickly with proper bullet placement - they are not tanks and they are not magic. Open their heart/ lung area (their hydraulics and O2 source) with just about any centerfire round and they will expire quickly. IMHO we way, way overthink cartridge when bullet placement is paramount. No different than an arrow, one has to disrupt and bleed the chest cavity - open the boiler room, shut down the circulation volume of fluid and O2 - no magic - they will go down in quick order.
    What we as hunters are ultimately trying to accomplish is to shut down an animal’s computer - their brain. We are taught not to endeavor head shots for many different reasons so we do the next best thing, we take out the O2 pumping organs and indirectly turn off the computer - when the computer goes black, that is that!
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2021
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  19. LoonWulf
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    LoonWulf Contributing Member

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    I disagree slightly, specifically on questionable body shots.
    Exit wound size can result in more stuff coming out, and gruesome as it is, the more stuff inside that ends up outside, the sooner the critter dies and the easier the trail is to follow.

    The 30 mags will drive a 180-200gr bullet at 3000fps +, that SHOULD be enough bullet weight to blow clean thru most deer side to side (I've shot axis end to end with similar), and the exit wounds will be noticeably larger than a 150 at 2400, or 170 at 2300 (on the high side). IME the added velocity also causes noticably more shock to the animal.

    Again not poking holes in the guts at all is massively preferable to poking BIG holes in the guts, but screw ups happen.
     
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  20. Seedy Character

    Seedy Character Member

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    1. Hunting bullet meant for deer. Not varmint and not match.
    2. Shot placement
    3. PATIENCE!

    I have shot multiple deer with a .44Mag handgun, .44Mag carbine, .223, .30-30, .30-06 and 7mmRemMag.

    Only 1 deer has ever gone over 20 yards, after being shot, most dropped where they stood. None were shot more than once.
    The 1 was shot through heart and lungs with the 7Mag and ran 100 yards up hill.
     
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  21. Lnf Crzr

    Lnf Crzr Member

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    I’d rather see a guy proudly carry his 243 that he has practiced with, Got good quality ammo for… knows trajectory and knows his limitations on when,how far and If he should take the shot. Compared to the 300weatherby he has fired 2x , scared of and isn’t sure if it’s sighted in.
     
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  22. South Prairie Jim

    South Prairie Jim Member

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    If you remember to bring ammo and hit what your aiming at then what's the problem ?
     
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  23. Barr

    Barr Member

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    This knowledge brought to you from a tree stand during SC Ye Ol' Smokepole season. Hunting a new piece of property that I scouted three times this summer. That bushcraft thing I mentioned, mine is lacking but developing. Anecdotally I can share the three deer shot with a 7mm-08 received DRT party invitations to my deep freeze.
     
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  24. Lnf Crzr

    Lnf Crzr Member

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    When I was younger

    I Found a group of evergreen/spruce in a triangle of location to each other…that had low bows. After about 30 min I had approximately 5’ from ground up trimmed. Then fashioned all cut limbs as a Blind stuck in the Ground.
    As I Squeezed in and waited the rest of the day…. I had a Secluded Good Smelling Bushcraft hunting spot on edge of field / woods overlooking a heavy traveled path.
    I realized as Deer started to show up I was covered in many ways to take my time, And focus on shot placement. I squeezed the Shot and with a sufficient cartridge (Not as important) - The hunting/bushcraft skills resulted in a dead deer.

    The best weapon is between your ears… Keep that sharp,and make sure to have the rite tool for the job, be it a handgun rifle or axe. A05E684A-F187-4387-9509-CEFAF32DF141.jpeg
     
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  25. nick22

    nick22 Member

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    Any centerfire the .243 winchester and up with Nosler partition barnes TSX or the like will kill all day long. If you are beginning to hunt big game knowing where to aim on something other than the obvious broadside shot 1/3 of the way up the body and tight to the shoulder. If the deer is quartering away shoot for the offside shoulder. If it's coming straight at you and you have a heavier rifle a frontal shot is very effective putting your round into the base of the neck,the heart isn't far from that.
     
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