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How much horsepower does it take to reliably put a deer down?

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by whatnickname, Jun 13, 2018 at 4:39 PM.

  1. whatnickname

    whatnickname Member

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    Back in the day, the gun rags at the time were all about kinetic energy. The popular opinion back in the 60s was 1300 foot pounds was the minimum energy needed to put a deer down . Since that time two things have occurred:
    1) Bow hunting has become much more popular
    2) Bullet technology has improved by leaps and bounds

    Research this subject on the internet today and you will see some "experts" say that kinetic energy doesn't have all that much to do with it. People reliably kill deer with bows that produce around 65 foot pounds of kinetic energy. Some of these same folks advance the argument that terminal ballistics are what kill deer. Assuming correct bullet selection and proper shot placement, some go on to say that as long as the bullet is still turning out the velocity within which the manufacturer has designed the bullet to operate, you get a dead deer every time. Granted bullet selection and shot placement are probably worth more than kinetic energy, but I'm wondering what the practical answer is from folks that have actually walked the walk.

    I hunt on ranches in Western Oklahoma where distances can stretch out. I've killed dozens of deer over the years and most were taken at distances under 300 yards. Most of my deer were taken with stuff like the 270 Winchester, .25-06, 7MM-08 and the 308 mostly with Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets of appropriate weight. I also own several belted magnum rifles. I'm not recoil sensitive either. I was a competitive rifle shooter for better than 20 years. All of my shots were dead on the money...high shoulder and neck shots. When the animal was quartering away, I lined up on the off-side shoulder and sent the round diagonally through the rib-cage. I can hit deer well out past the 400 yard mark, but I've passed on many shots out around 500 yards because of concern about bullet energy and out of respect for the animal and the sport. Have I let stuff walk that I should have taken a shot at? Just to make it interesting, the 100 grain Nosler Partition bullet in .243 is rated to expand at 1800 fps on the low end. Does the terminal ballistics idea make the .243 a 500 yard deer round? I have no preconceived notions on this subject. I'm just wondering if I'm holding on to an old idea that has been long outdated and irrelevant. Your thoughts?
     
  2. Bones741

    Bones741 Member

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    I would think that if the bullet is still chugging along at the velocity it's designed to expand at and you are capable of making the shot, and it is a clean shot, than sure why not. But it doesn't leave much room for error if your really strething a givens bullets legs.

    To me energy figures provide only some info. The way i see it is energy figures are a good way to compare bulllets, and how much "power" a given round has such as one caliber being capable of delivering twice the energy as another. But the energy figures doesn't tell everything about performance. For example a 180 gr fmj from a .308 going the same speed as a 180 gr nosler partition is going to have a much different effect on game,even though they have the same kinetic energy.

    A given bullet could have way more then nesscary energy, but if it doesn't deliver it in the proper manner those numbers mean nothing. Numbers don't kill things, big leaky holes do.

    Edit to add:
    To answer the thread title : I don't know. It comes down to your own hunting ethics and what you think will get the job done in a proper manner. My standards of taking game may differ from your standards of taking game. Aslong as I can properly disrupt vital organs reliably at a given range and provide a quick humane death.... Whether it comes from a handgun,rifle,bow, or shotgun.....than that's enough horsepower for me.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018 at 6:04 PM
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  3. mcb

    mcb Member

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    A bullet and broad-heads kill using very different mechanics and the KE an arrow has at the target is not comparable in any way to the KE a bullet has at the target.

    Take a bullet and try to push it through a piece of raw hide. Take a good broad-head and try the same thing.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018 at 11:00 PM
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  4. SharpDog

    SharpDog Member

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    Well, that would mean that the effective range of a 30-30 would be right at 100 yards:

    upload_2018-6-13_17-46-29.png
    http://gundata.org/blog/post/30-30-ballistics-chart/

    However,

    emphasis added

    https://blog.cheaperthandirt.com/the-30-30-deer-rifle/

    In addition, many deer have been taken with .357 magnum pistols:

    357mag.png

    http://www.ballisticsbytheinch.com/357mag.html

    So, assuming a 6.5" or so bbl length for the .357 mag pistol. I think that the numbers would come to about 950 ft. lbs. for a deer (also note that this is muzzle energy, not at distance ... so you're assassinating the deer ?).

    IMHO, it is likely much less than that since deer are really not any sturdier than humans and plenty of people have been killed by less powerful numbers. So I would take the 950 ft. lbs. as an upper limit.

    This just in: it has come to my attention that 30-30 and .357 mag. are obsolete cartriges and no longer work on deer so please disregard this post.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018 at 6:05 PM
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  5. Loyalist Dave

    Loyalist Dave Member

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    You didn't define what "realiably put a deer down" means to you. Do you want it to drop in place? Do you want to find it within 30 yards of where it was hit? Do you want a good blood trail and thus if you recover it within 100 yards with tracking is that good? Because it's possible that a round vs. range plus placement combination would be "reliable" in lethality, but take too long to take effect to be acceptable to some or most hunters, no?

    Judging from where you wrote that you like to place your shot, you like them to drop or to be pretty close...me too :thumbup:

    Folks in the past should've had a lot more training in physics when talking about bullets vs. game, and especially with archery thrown in. They spoke of the kenetic energy of the arrow instead of looking at the pounds per square inch that the thin, razor blades of the broadhead deliver, upon impact. :confused: Consider if I hit a little league pitcher hit you with his fastball, going a mere 60 mph..., ouch, but OK, but now consider if you were hit with a 5.25 ounce knife, point on, at the same speed. Same mass as the baseball, but.... :confused:

    Now a bullet needs much more energy on impact because it doesn't have the amplification of a razor edge for the velocity and mass at impact. A bullet smashes through, and unlike an arrow which is meant to keep the razor edge intact while passing through the deer, the bullet is meant to deform but not to fragment, to increase the area of damage.

    Now I shoot a load that is at best 1124 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. I use a patched round ball of soft lead, and the deer drop in their tracks or..., I can seen them when I stand where they were hit. I've only had one deer, already full of adrenalin as it was avoiding fox hunters, not behave so. All my friends using the same projectile report the same results, whether it's a broadside shot or a shoulder shot. My farthest shot was 110 yards and the ball went through, broadside, taking out both lungs. The deer went 15 feet and collapsed.

    Now the old rule-of-thumb, was to work up a load in a muzzle loader what was accurate, AND when the owner got the rifle to "crack" (which we know today is breaking the sound barrier), the load was thought to be optimal. So that's 1200 fps at the muzzle, which would give me a whopping 724 ftlbs. That's plenty lethal out to 100 yards.

    Now in your case, you're dealing with jacketed rounds, scientifically developed, AND you can actually choose a design that performs and impact velocities under 200 fps. I'd say especially with the modern bullets, keeping shots at 300 yards is prudent, unless you've done some planning. For getting out to 500 yards, the variables sort of amplify. Lots more chance wind will mess with your shot, barrel accuracy error amplifies at distance, manufacturing variables in the projectile are amplified when present, velocity variations from cartridge to cartridge, etc etc. Those would be my thoughts, for me, and I have much better eyesight than most my age, and I was taught how to reach way out and hit a very distant target when I was in the service...., again, that's me.

    Now I can't say, nobody can, whether those factors will effect you. You might be very diligent, use only match ammo or hand-load ammo tailored specifically to your rifle, practise a lot under all sorts of conditions, and so you know you can make that quartering away shot at 400 or maybe 500 yards. So if you feel you've done the "homework" then go for it.

    "A man's got to know his limitations". Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry, in Magnum Force 1973 It applies to what we do. Right? Your question shows that you're a diligent, and not just "assuming" that since the bullet looks "good on paper" it will not be a problem . :thumbup:

    LD
     
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  6. whatnickname

    whatnickname Member

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    I hand-load almost exclusively and have for some 50 years now. I've lost two deer in my life. One was when I was a youngster...just got excited and put the bullet in the wrong spot. The other was a 200 yard shot on a doe with a 264 Winchester Magnum / 129 grain Hornady SST. Heard the bullet hit her and heard her hit the ground. I get over there and she was nowhere to be found...two foot puddle of blood and no deer. My goal is to drop them in their tracks and with the two exceptions noted above, that is exactly what has happened.
     
  7. Captcurt

    Captcurt Member

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    A 22 LR will put down a deer as fast as anything. It all depends on where you hit them and what kind of bullet. Foot pounds of KE looks good on paper but paper never killed anything. Proper bullet placement with the proper bullet gets the job done. It doesn't matter if it is 500 or 2000 ft-lbs.
     
  8. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    Another can of worms. I'm not up to playing in this one. Have fun, guys. :D
     
  9. huntsman

    huntsman Member

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    Math gives me a headache.

    I will admit I used to believe in a 12 guage Brenneke classic magnum and now I believe in a 20 gauge copper solid for deer killing. Where I hunt 75 yards is a really long shot.


    I still believe in using enough gun but modern technology and new laws have redefined enough for me.
     
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  10. JeffG

    JeffG Member

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    Killing game is not as simple as it may seem; mathematically, kinetically or otherwise. Bullet placement and bullet path are the biggest factors. Some of us hunters use handguns that don't hold numbers with rifles. Archery kills through laceration and blood loss.

    I have killed deer with a 25/06 cast 90gr bullets going 1900fps. I shot two does in the same field at one point, on farm tags. Each had a clean hole through the heart. After the shots all they didn't even run. All I had to do I wait for them to tip over. The energy level of that round is minimal.

    I limit my shots to well under 100 yards. Not because I can't make the shot, but because trophy judging, and getting to the fallen animal quickly is important to me.
     
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  11. Bfh_auto

    Bfh_auto Member

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    To answer the title. I think one horse can put any deer down as long as it can run fast enough.

    I feel shot placement and appropriate bullet construction for the impact velocity has a much bigger impact on terminal performance than energy.
    There is something to be said about shock. If you can disrupt the nervous system long enough for them to realize they are dead.
    I take shots based off my gut feeling. I have taken deer at 435 with a 22-250 so I think you would be good with a 243 at 500 if it's standing still.
     
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  12. Don Dayacetah

    Don Dayacetah Member

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    IMO, 30.06 with a 180 grain soft tip bullet should be the minimum. But everybody has their own favorite caliber and bullet weight. GBA.
     
  13. dh1633pm

    dh1633pm Member

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    A 2015 VW GTI has just over 200 horsepower and will certainly kill a deer. Just ask how I know. I have hunted with all sorts of calibers over the years. 7.62x54R, 7.62x39, 308, 44 mag, 45-70, 30-06, 6.8 SPC, and 300 BLK. Not to mention 20 Ga and 12 Ga shotguns. All works. I think JeffG said it well. I also want to add that it depends on the size of the deer. Those tiny deer that are prevalent in some parts needs a little less oomph. But still need well placed shots. As for the GTI, that deer went down and didn't get up.
     
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  14. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    If I were shopping for a whitetail caliber rifle...
    I wouldn't go below .243.
     
  15. mcb

    mcb Member

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    What is "below" 243?

    Are you referring to bullet caliber, bullet weight, bullet velocity, muzzle energy, energy on target, momentum on target, TKO value, or some other parameter or combination of parameters? "Below" a given cartridge is done what vague.
     
  16. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    Common calibers below .243.
     
  17. TN Outlaw

    TN Outlaw Member

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    A 180gr 30/06 would be the MINIMUM for putting a deer down?

    Them some big ole deer!
     
  18. mcb

    mcb Member

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    Is 300 BO below 243? Its larger caliber, heavier bullets but less kinetic energy? 30-30 is similar in that it is heavier and larger caliber but still slightly less kinetic energy than 243.

    What about 44 Magnum. It significantly larger caliber and significantly heavier bullets but still not more kinetic energy even from a carbine? Even traditional 45-70 would fit this bill of being larger caliber heavier bullet and still slightly less energy than your benchmark 243 Winchester.
     
  19. Fine Figure of a Man

    Fine Figure of a Man Member

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    Shoot them where you're supposed to, know your equipment and use common sense.
    There is no definitive answer to the OP's question and no chance this thread ends well.
     
  20. TN Outlaw

    TN Outlaw Member

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    Yes, this is kind of a trick question that cannot be indefinantly answered.

    What's the minimum horsepower for what distance of impact? What caliber bullet? Bullet design? Barrel length?

    People have killed deer with rocks and sharp sticks for years and years. I personally know a man that has killed nearly 30 deer with a 22LR (although I don't agree with it) and never had one make it more than a few steps. Shoots them at the base of the skull and pumps a few more into their heart after they hit the ground.

    38spl and 357mag handguns kill lots of deer each season. It doesn't take nearly as much "horsepower" to reliably drop a whitetail deer as most people think. How much it takes to do so farther away will raise the amount some. Some cartridges kill from hydrostatic shock and some from blunt force trauma to organs and tissue and one takes less power to achieve than the other.

    Theres not really a clear answer to how the question was asked.
     
  21. Armored farmer

    Armored farmer Member

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    Trying to attach a number necessary to mortally wound an animal is folly.
    Imho the ability to put a hole in the vitals is key.
     
  22. CraigC
    • Contributing Member

    CraigC Member

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    Energy tells us nothing useful and shouldn't even be part of a productive discussion about terminal ballistics.
     
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  23. Bwana John

    Bwana John Member

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    "How much horse power?"

    I hear they want to change the regs for zone V-8 to forked horn or better.
     
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  24. JeeperCreeper

    JeeperCreeper Member

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    Like most things in life... "It depends"

    I'm happy if it's above 1000 ftlbs
    I question it when it gets below 800 ftlbs

    For no reason other than "because" and that's the shortest answer I can give...
     
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  25. Duster340

    Duster340 Member

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    My car has 330 horsepower and dropped a large buck in it's tracks DRT. It did however result in $3,700 in damage.

    So I'd say 330 hp is adequate. ;)
     
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