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Old 08-06-2009, 02:00 PM
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Minimum caliber for hunting deer

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I have mostly hunted with lever guns and my AR-15. I have taken wild pigs with my AR. All where head or neck shots except 1. All pigs died perty quickly all shots where with in 50 yards or so. I am concidering takeing it deer hunting using either Federal 60 partition, Winchester 64g Power point, or Cor-Bon hunter 62g Barns triple shok. All of which the manufacture claims that they are to be used on deer. In the past I would have said no way too small. However my neighbor just shot a 200lb ish pig with his scoped AR with Cor-Bon 62g Barns stuff while working on a farm. He shot it from about 200 yards away. The bullet completely passed through both shoulders hog died quick as any other bullet according to him. When He goes hunting he brings a .270. Any way would you accept deer and hog hunting with a .223 if not what would you concider to be the minimum caliber.

As a side note I know thousands of deer have been harvested with .22lr. My grandpa use to hunt with em.
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Old 08-06-2009, 04:20 PM
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Location: SW Washington
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You might check the TX game regs to see if a 223 is legal for deer in your state. Certainly the right bullet would do the job on whitetails. The AR is not that light a rifle, so you can carry more gun at equal or less weight.

The 243 Win and 25 cals are widely used...25-06, 257 Roberts, etc.

Personally, I wouldn't use anything less than a 243 Win, but I also hunt Mulies. The small calibers don't really interest me, so I'm usually carrying my 308 Savage 99, my 356 Win Marlin 336, my 9x57 Mauser or my new 358 Win Ruger Frontier. There's a chance of bagging a bear where I hunt deer, so I like to have a bigger gun.

How about a DPMS in 7mm-08...or a 6.8 spc upper for your AR?

Last edited by leverite; 08-06-2009 at 04:22 PM.
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Old 08-06-2009, 04:22 PM
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I've killed a deer with my 223 before. The 60 grain Nosler Solid Base went thru his near shoulder breaking it, and destroyed the lungs. The bullet stayed intact and exited the deer just behind the opposite shoulder. At a range of about 65 yds when shot, the 6 point buck only went about 25 yds before dropping dead. If you aim well, and keep the ranges short enough [under 150 yds], it should be OK. Personally, It should only be used by experienced shots, not beginners.
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Old 08-06-2009, 04:36 PM
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Location: South Carolina
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Im planning on purchaseing a rifle in either .270 or .30-06 for regular deer hunting out here in west Texas. Ive always used lever guns back in Florida. I don't have any extra money to spend on a new rifle right now. Ive got a lever gun in .45-70 and one in .44 mag. I was kinda hopeing to use my AR-15 out to 250-300 yards. I know I can make the shot but the more I think about it the more I think its too light to be shooting at critters that far away with it and Id be better off using one of my levers and just trying to get closer.
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Old 08-06-2009, 05:18 PM
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.223 is leagal in Texas. The regs are basicly, that rimfire amunition may not be used, and all handguns must be of .44 cal or larger. In practice they are a little leanient about the pistols because of the .357 mags and the T/C type rifle round pistols. The rimfire thing they are pretty strict about. Many deer are taken with .233 annually in Texas. It is very capable if used correctly. I personnaly dont care to hunt with my AR. I would recomend a penetrating bullet with .223 though. Shots from the rear flank may not make the vitals any other way. Never butt shoot a deer with a .223. It wont make it.
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Old 08-06-2009, 05:29 PM
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This is a hotly contested I'll just state these are my opinions and leave it at that. I agree with Leverite... minimum is a .243 or 6mm with a suitable bullet and used by a compentent rifleman.

I know a guy that took a bull elk with a .222 using zipeddo bullets, the same guy killed a whitetail doe in his garden with a pellet gun. So am I saying these are ethical arms to use for those animals? Certainly not, but both animals are still dead.
Still Learnin' as I go!

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Old 08-06-2009, 05:33 PM
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Idaho
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If you are more confident with your levers, and you can get close enough; I would use one of the levers!
I hunt deer with a .220 Swift, but if I had either of your levers, I would prefer them because I love to get CLOSE. I also like open sights, or are your levers scoped?
I would leave either home to hunt with a .44 mag pistol, but again, I do not have one any longer.
But we are talking about YOU, so you have a 45/70?
That gun will make you a better hunter for when you get the .270 or .06; because you will have to get closer; (my bowhunting days made me a much better muley hunter).
When you can afford your new rifle in either of those calibers, get one that will shoot consistent, all these guys will help you stay away from the junk. If I had a good .270 or 30-06; I would never look for another gun
Also, you will probably not have to go through watching a wounded deer run off, which may happen if you try too long a shot with your .223.
I assume that the 45/70 would outperform the .44, but have not studied either enough to know. ( because I do not have either ) so based on that lack of preference, I would use the gun you are most confident with.
Clean kills and close shots are what makes hunting fun for me, and from the tone of your question and comments, you are a responsible hunter who will make the correct choice and choose what is most capable of quick clean kills.
I get heaps of huey for using the .220, but I know what it will do; and it is better felt than telt; (as you can see from my other posts)- but do yourself a favor and do not try deer with your .223, especially after posting that you are less than confident with it.
After choosing what you know will do the job, HAVE FUN!!!

Last edited by Twelveknuckles; 08-06-2009 at 05:37 PM.
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Old 08-06-2009, 05:43 PM
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For what it's worth, the Nosler Manual shows that a 60 grain Partition with a muzzle velocity of 3000fps will have a muzzle energy of 1199 ft-lbs. At 100 yards, you will be down to just below 2600 FPS with approx. 900 ft-lbs of energy. By the time you get to 300 yards, you are down to about 450 ft-lbs of energy. All of this is assuming you can reach 3000 fps at the muzzle.

I don't think I would take a shot past 100 yards. A one shot, quick, clean kill with little suffering and a low chance of losing wounded game is the goal. Get within 100 yards and only take the perfect broadside shot, or get a bigger gun.

Just my $0.02.
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Old 08-06-2009, 05:57 PM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Jefferson Parish (via N.O.)
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Have posted something like this before, but I'm going to post it again.

You can kill deer with darn near anything that shoots if you've got the courage to NOT SHOOT. Any idiot can shoot, but the guy who knows when NOT TO SHOOT, waiting for shot that is optimum for the sub-optimal caliber he's chosen is going to do just fine.

Some people just can't pass up a shot, either becasue they only get one or two deer hunting days a year, they delude themselves into thinking their micro-gun can do a macro-job, or because they can't bear to walk out of the woods at the end of the day without a deer.

I don't even fit into the catagory of being able to shoot with a micro-caliber as I just do not get that many hunting days a year. But I can put in a day's hunting, pass on an offered shot if it isn't nearly perfect, come out of the woods at the end of the day feeling happy/at peace that I decided NOT TO SHOOT.

Have an understanding of the ballistics you hold in your hands, understand the rqnge and type of shot that you should wait for, and have the guts to pass on anything outside of those limits, you'll do fine.
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Old 08-06-2009, 06:12 PM
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458 Winchester! Then you don't have to bother with cleaning em. You just bring along a few skewers, some veggies, and you've got Shish Kabob...
Our Government "If we didn't have mis-management, we wouldn't have any management at all"
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Old 08-06-2009, 06:16 PM
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I am not aware of any restrictions on rifle or handgun calibers for hunting in Texas, save for the general prohibition of rimfires on whitetails which has been previously mentioned in this thread. In fact handguns do not get mentioned in the 2008 Outdoor Annual that I can find under the section defining legal means, except the mention of a cap and ball revolver not meeting the definition of a muzzleloader. Haven't seen the 2009 regs yet.

If someone is aware of a restriction on handgun calibers please point me to it as I quite often carry a .357 for hunting in the field (as well as generally having on in my pocket most of the time, anyway).

Zap..... I could endorse the Barnes X bullet for the .22, if I had to pick a starting place. I have used the 53gr. X bullet in a .22-250, a long time ago, and that deer is still dead Also, I have seen first-hand the results of the Winchester 64gr. PowerPoint on small hogs. They work, and even a small hog is a fairly tough animal. This was broadside through the shoulder, not just a neck shot or through the ear.

Generally we have a lot of fairly small deer in TX. A great many that I have killed weren't as big as my Labrador Retriever. On my lease they get pretty big ....

I have had some trouble with bullets not holding together with the .257 Weatherby, so a bigger caliber isn't necessarily a perfect answer. It can be, but doesn't always work out that well.

I have a few friends who shoot pigs with stuff ranging from the .22 hornet to .223s, and I have killed a few with a .22 rimfire. It sure can be done, just requires a patient shot and some good knowledge of the critter's anatomy.

A .22 centerfire will work on the critters we have. In many respects your .223 is actually a little easier on bullets than the faster stuff, and probably more forgiving. Throw the ft-lbs stuff out the window, it is not meaningful. If the bullet will hold together while expanding to penetrate to the vitals, you should have a dead deer. Take your time and concentrate on squeezing the trigger

A blanket recommendation I can give to all beginning hunters is to start with a .257 Roberts, so start saving your pennies. For this year you can get by with the .223 if you have to.

Originally Posted by faucettb
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Old 08-06-2009, 06:30 PM
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Texas is home of the .224TTH, after all (TTH = Texas Trophy Hunter) From what I have heard/seen, Texas deer are fairly small in comparison to other parts of the country and in lots of places, you'll need something with some range on it. 6mm RemMag (the parent of the .224TTH) is supposedly better at range than the .224TTH because of better BC with the 6mm. Like others here, I've seen deer killed with .22LR but I wouldn't recommend that to anyone. My personal preference is 6mm (.243) is as small as I'd use for deer/hogs, if I had to. The 6.5mm (.260 Remington) is what I will be using this year for whitetail/hogs (120gr up here in North AL... no hogs up here and 140gr when I go back to South MS where there are plenty of hogs where we deer hunt). However, for long shots out in Texas, the .243Win should be fine and the ammo should be as common as anything.
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Old 08-06-2009, 06:34 PM
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Texas Hunting Regs

there is no 44cal requirement in Texas, only no rimfire.
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Old 08-06-2009, 06:40 PM
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It depends where you are in the state. Since the state stretches quite a ways from north to south, you have some very different weather patterns. To the north and west where the winters are colder the deer do get quite a bit larger. Don't have exact figures but based on my hunting I will say they can almost double in average size. Then you get down to the Rio Grande valley and the size tends to start creeping up a bit again, but not as big on average as a north or Texas deer.

There are quite a few areas that are pretty badly overpopulated and that restricts size, too. Also with the drought we are in in the central part of the state the deer just don't get enough to eat.

Last points in favor of smaller calibers, we do tend to hunt from stands where a steady rest is available. And deer season running anywhere from 2 to 4 months does take some of the pressure off of the individual shot.

I guess if I had to sum it up, shooting spikes, does, and pigs it wouldn't bother me the least in what caliber I had. To try and punch a buck tag on my lease for a 'big-un,' .25 and up is my choice.

.243 Win and to a lesser extent the 6mm Rem are quite popular. The issue with those chamberings is that you need to use 100gr. bullets, and reasonably good ones at that. They are both capable of enough speed that too-light or soft bullets will fragment and not penetrate. Seen it in the field, it does happen.

My wife shoots a 6mm Rem, but it was because the stock on my Roberts is way too long for her. She uses factory 100gr. Core-Lokts, is a careful and deliberate shot, and so far has had good results. However, on shots that I believe (based on past experience) that my Roberts would penetrate through-and-through, the 6mm may not exit.

Originally Posted by faucettb
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Old 08-06-2009, 06:41 PM
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As mentioned by others, only restriction is no rimfires on whitetail, mule deer, sheep, and antelope.

Game animals and game birds may be hunted with any legal firearm, EXCEPT:
  • white-tailed deer, mule deer, desert bighorn sheep, and pronghorn antelope may NOT be hunted with rimfire ammunition of any caliber
See it here:
This is 08/09, but this section stays the same, year after year. My place in Real County has whitetails you could kill with a .25 ACP, if you're careful!
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Old 08-07-2009, 01:25 AM
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I'd say no less than a 7 Mag, but hey, thats just me
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Old 08-07-2009, 05:03 AM
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i think that you've got the right idea, as you've obviously put some thought into what bullets to use and appropriate ranges. i see no problem with it as long as you choose your shots wisely... but then i'd tell anybody that regardless of what they are shooting for a cartridge.
if approached with the proper attitude about the types of shots a person is willing to either take or pass on and a respectful attitude is maintained towards the game animal i think that a person could be very sucessfull with a .223
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Old 08-07-2009, 05:24 AM
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There are so many great chambering options for AR rifles, I'd look around and get a new upper for your AR. The 6.5 and 7mm TCU and 6.5mm Grendal come to mind but there are others available.
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Old 08-07-2009, 06:32 AM
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Here, in Kentucky, any centerfire cartridge is legal for Deer. However, I think the smallest suitable cartridge for Deer sized game is the 7.62 X 39 m/m
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Old 08-07-2009, 06:47 AM
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Davers -that would be .30 cal. 7mm, 270, 6.5, 25 are all 'smaller' and I doubt you would hear a recommendation against any of them. A 7.62x39 is a 30/30 equivelent and I have never heard one of them termed "barely" enough. No flame intended.
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