Deer Hunting is one of the most wide-spread shooting sports in the nation. Every year thousands of Americans take up their rifles, shotguns, or bows, don their camo duds, scent themselves with fox urine and essence of varmint and go sit in the freezing cold weather, fully intent on converting Bambi into freezer fodder.
It’s the type of thing that keeps the folks over at PETA crying into their vegetable soup (liberally laced with animal by-products that you needn’t point out to them.)
Truth of the matter is, deer hunting is the most humane way of keeping deer populations at healthy levels to prevent over-population and the resulting starvation and disease. It’s also what takes man back to his predatory roots before the days of processed meat loaf and Whataburger. In the deer woods, we become part of nature and bond with our forebears.
Whether you’re after a trophy wall mount or several weeks of economical dinners, deer hunting is a natural past-time that has been handed down from generation to generation, going back to the dawn of time. It’s part of being a Survivor.
How to Hunt Deer
If you want to get started deer hunting, there are a number of things you’ll need to address. You’ll need a weapon of some description with which to culminate the hunt, a place to conduct the hunt, and a license to make sure you get to keep the critter once you’ve shot it.
We mostly help people with the weapon, and depending on what part of the country you hunt in, you may choose a rifle, shotgun, bow, or even handgun. Since most of the populace uses a rifle, we’ll address that. Other methods are secondary and less ideal for beginners. Rifles tend to drop deer quicker than other weapons, especially at longer distances. In some parts of the country, shotguns are used if the hunter is in close proximity to houses or buildings. Shotgun projectiles don’t travel anywhere near the distance of rifle bullets.
The two most common rifle calibers used for deer are the venerable .30-30 Winchester, and the .30-06 Springfield, both of which boast over 100 years in existence. The .30-30 was introduced by Winchester for their famed 1894 lever action rifle, and its popularity hasn’t diminished much since then. The cartridge has been made even more prolific by the manufacture of thousands of Marlin’s sturdy model 336 lever-actions. The .30-30 is very useful on deer-sized game at moderate ranges of 150 yards or less, although with new Hornady LeveRevolution ammo, it can be accurate at extended ranges.
The .30-06 was introduced for the US military’s bolt action 1903 Springfield rifle, and was later made in the 1917 Enfield, the 1903-A3 rifle, and M1 Garand, used extensively in WWII. The result of this is that following both world wars, there was an abundance of surplus military rifles available to the civilian market, and thousands of American shooters found themselves in ownership of a reliable rifle in .30-06. The selection of bullet weights available at reasonably high velocity made it an instant classic cartridge for everything from groundhogs to brown bear and moose. It is an excellent deer cartridge.
Most of the best deer cartridges available today are prodigies of the .30-06 or its newer, smaller cousin, the .308 Winchester, which is basically a shortened version of the original .30-06 cartridge.
The .30-06 case has been necked down to create the .270 Winchester, .280 Remington, and .25-06 Remington. Since these cartridges shoot lighter bullets, they tend to have higher velocities while boasting reduced recoil. Due to this, the .270 has become a very popular cartridge with deer hunters. It recoils less than a .30-06, but has increased range because of its higher velocity, and has plenty of bullet for killing deer reliably.
The .308 Winchester was introduced for the military’s M14 rifle, and has since been necked down to create the 7mm-08 Remington, .260 Remington, and .243 Winchester. The .243 is a very high-velocity cartridge, but is sometimes not as reliable at killing deer, since it shoots a relatively small bullet.
There are many other cartridges used for taking deer, including the high-velocity .22 rounds, such as .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington, .220 Swift, and a few others. These have been used with mixed success, since they shoot very small projectiles, and are typically not recommended for beginning hunters, since deer wounded with these bullets may not be mortally injured.
There is a vast assortment of lesser known cartridges, such as the .257 Roberts, .250-3000 Savage, 6.5x55 Swedish, and 7x57 Mauser, just to name a few. All of them make admirable deer rounds, but they are not easily encountered in either the gun rack or the ammo counter at most sporting stores, so we won’t address them here.
There is also an entire class of Magnum cartridges, more suited to hunting bigger game animals or hunting at extreme ranges, but they aren’t usually used for deer since they are more expensive to shoot, and have substantially more recoil than standard rounds.
Most of these cartridges will be found in bolt action rifles, but they are also found in single shots, semi-automatics, and even pump rifles.
Bolt actions are usually the most accurate platform for hunting, since they have a one-piece stock, while semi-auto’s and pumps boast faster follow-up shots.