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Deer Rifles – my experiences

Over the last 30 years I have used lots of different rifles for deer, antelope, and the occasional elk if I got lucky. Can't say I have ever had a BAD experience with any of them, these are just my experiences so don't get stupid if my opinion differs from yours.

My first deer was a big fat mule deer doe I shot near Cascade Montana. I used my Grandpa's Model 88 in .284 Winchester. Shot was about 250 yards. Right behind the front shoulder, down she went. A lot of the hunting magazines and gun writers talk bad about the Model 88, they often say it has a crappy trigger and mediocre accuracy. All I can say is that this gun has put a lot of meat in our freezer over the years and I have made some exceptional long range shots at antelope using it. Years ago my Dad had a friend load him up a couple hundred rounds for it and I am pretty sure they are all loaded with plain old Winchester Power-Points or something very similar, nothing fancy. Anyway, I like it a lot except that shells are hard to find and they are expensive. Never really been a problem though, Dad still has enough of those reloads he got to last at least the rest of his life.
I would LOVE to someday have a .284 bolt action.

The next year I carried the gun my Dad got new as a graduation present. It is a pre-64 Model 70 Winchester in 30-06 Springfield. All I really have to say about the 30-06 is that it just plain gets the job done. A very useful caliber. Shells can still be had for $15 a box if you watch the sales and they are available anywhere. Dad has killed deer, elk, antelope, bear, moose, and a couple buffalo with it. It has the original iron sights on it and never had a scope mounted on it. Dad took it on a guided elk hunt a few years ago. When he pulled it out, I guess the guides were ribbing him about iron sights and gave him his Indian name “Old Iron Sights”. He went on that same hunt with the same guides several years in a row. To make a long story short, they don't tease him anymore. He has shot that gun for 50 + years just the way it is and is quite deadly with it.

I used a borrowed Model 94 Winchester 30-30 while I was stationed at Ft Bragg to take a couple of deer. All my shot were inside a hundred yards and the deer dropped just fine. The woods were so thick there was no need for anything else. The 30-30 is a fun gun to shoot but it never appealed to me enough to buy one. A really good round, just not my personal preference.

My next deer rifle was an T/C Omega .50 Cal muzzleloader. I shot 2 does with this rifle and was amazed at how accurate it was. Good rifle , wish my ex wife had not stolen it along with the other 22 guns she took.

Next was the .223 Remington. I had a Bushmaster AR-15 and thought it would be just the ticket for deer out of my treestand on the 24 acres I used to own in Missouri. The brush was too thick to see over 50 yards anyway so shots were really close. Shot a doe in the neck at 40 yards. Good round, but I think it is too light for most deer hunters. A guy just has to know the limits of his rifle and stick to shots he knows he can make.

Next was a Marlin 1895G in 45-70 Government. I shot a mule deer buck at about 125 yards with it. The shot went in behind the front shoulder and angled thru his body and just exploded his liver. I was surprised it did not bust his guts, but it never even touched the stomach ( I still cant figure that out). What surprised me was a . 45 hole on entry and a .45 hole on the exit and I was shooting a fairly hot loaded 300 grain bullet. Anyway, I have reserved this gun for fun shooting and it is what I carry when I am hiking.

At some time through the years I have been handed a 7mm and a 300 Win Mag to shoot and have gotten deer with them both. Excellent performance from both. Only thing I don't like is expensive shells and long action. I have also shot one with a 270 Winchester before. It did the job, felt pretty much like the 30-06 to me.

I got to shoot a doe a couple years ago with my friends 300 Ultra Mag. WOW, that is a lot of gun. I felt like I had just shot a groundhog with a tomahawk missile. Way to much gun for deer I think. Would be an awesome gun for elk out in the open, but shells are extremely expensive and if I got one I would rarely ever shoot it. I just can't justify the expense. Maybe if I got a really good deal on one, but it would have to be a helluva deal.

In the last couple of years I have been using a Remington 700 in 30-06, and and my latest toy has been a model 700 in 308 Winchester. Both give me excellent accuracy and performance on game with 150 Grain SST's. I like the Model 700 just a hair better than the Model 70 Winchester. No reason why, I just do.

Well, you might be wondering what I like the best. Maybe it is just my age, but I like the .308 Winchester the best for anything up to elk. It has a shorter action than the 30-06 and with the 150 grain bullets and I have not seen a hair of difference between the two on deer or antelope. I will probably keep the 30-06 sighted in for 165's or 180 grainers for elk. The 45-70 gets fed 405 Grain lead flat points and is carried for grouchy bears in the back country. The 7mm, 300 Win Mag, and 300 Ultra Mag will certainly do the job well, but I personally feel “over gunned” a bit. In all reality, honestly, it really doesn't take much of a gun to put one thru the heart and lungs of a big game animal. Just take your time and make a good shot, at a reasonable distance. Don't think because you can make a 400 yard shot off the bench in July that you are going to do the same in November with your heart pounding, freezing weather, the wind blowing, or snow falling. Shooting in the field isn’t the same as off a concrete bench with sandbags. With the 308 recoil is not a problem, shells are cheap, and there are a lot of different loads and bullets to choose from if you do not reload. When my grandsons get old enough to go out, I will be setting them up with 308's as their first big game rifles.

Anyway, I really look forward to your comments............
 

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Excellent post, I enjoyed reading that, thanks. I, too am a fan of the .308 and off the top of my head, I'd guess that I've shot more deer with it than any of the other 15 or 16 calibers I've also used. I suppose it's simply not glamorous enough for everyone, seeing as how there's a plethora of .300 SMs that look sooooooo much better on paper, along with all those high speed 6 and 7mms too. But over 35 yrs of deer hunting have taught me (and maybe you too?) that no deer is made of paper, and no matter how teeny weeny your groups are at the range, the truth of the matter lies right where the bullet meets the hide. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!:D

Again, excellent post.
 

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Good post KLR! Very good read, and I can;t say I would disagree with anything (except the trading of the 30-06 for the .308 - personal preference thing there - I wouldn;t).

All-in-all - good story...... :D
 

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Your first post here I see. Welcome here.

I agree (in theory, not practice, since I don't actually have any experience) with your statement that it doesn't take much of a gun to kill a big game animal. I'm planning on getting my first ever deer this coming season with a .303 British. That's not far off your .308 win.

Unfortunately, up here, you both cannot hunt big game with a .223 (.243 or bigger) or an AR in any caliber (restricted firearm - range use only).

See you around the forum.


Matt
 

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Good post! I enjoyed reading it except the .223 part as another has said. To each his own. I've been hunting for about fifty five years and, like you, have tried a bunch of calibers. They all have worked. I have finally settled on the 6.5x55 Swede and will never switch again. Good hunting!
 

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From personal experience. My dad owns a 220 swift built off an FM Mauser action back in the 60's. He just re barreled it last year. He has killed over 100 whitetail with it. ( Keep in mind where I hunt the whitetail rarely field dress over 150lbs.

I remember hunting out of a treestand with my dad about 15 years ago ( I was 6) and seeing him drop a doe with a 140 yard neck shot and another doe running up a hill after he made the first shot. She stopped in a clearing about 220 yards away. 55 grain ballistic tip (3700 fps) lung shot. The deer ran 75 yards with a blood trail leading right up to it. I will never forget that day.

I killed my first deer when I was 5. 100 yard neck shot with a .17 Remington. I have killed close over 10 deer with a .17 Remington ( All neck shots). My furthest shot being 150 yards. Two years ago my dad happened to be hunting for a doe and carrying his 17 Remington which i bought him for him for fathers day while I was in high school ( I shoot it a lot too). He ended up killing a 152 inch 9pt with a 21" spread from 160 with a neck shot.

I have killed over 20 deer with either a 22-250 or 220 swift. 90 % of my shots are neck shots most averaging a little over 130 yards. One deer I killed lazed at 212 yards ( Neck shot with my 4x12 Leupold). Several have been over 160 yards. The 5 or so deer that I've shot behind the shoulder with my 22-250. I have never had one run over 50 yards. I shot a 170" 15 pt in 2003. 55 grain Ballistic Tip @ 130 yards. The deer ran 35 yards and left a trail of lung tissue the entire way.

All and all I guess it just depends on what the shooter is comfortable with. I know that as a 5 year old my dad felt a lot more confident about me shooting a .17 with a than a 25-06. I had shot that 17 over 100 times before I killed my first deer and didn't worry about recoil one bit. On our hunting lease we've seen a lot guys lose deer with 300 Win Mags and .338's because they shoot right through the deer or cant shoot their rifles.
 

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Great post!

The .284 Win is a great case, and when you neck it down one half millimeter you get an awesome bench rest round, although the .284 Win is a great round in its own right.
 

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+1 on the 308 Win for deer. My grandson is about to turn 3, but right after he was born I bought him a 243 WIn, Savage.

He'll start off with the 243 and as he gets bigger and more experienced, I can easily put on a 308 take off barrel I have wrapped up in my gun safe.

This should work for him long after I'm gone, unless they start hunting deer w/ killer lasers in the future.
 

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Welcome

Great post, no matter if it was you 1st or 1001st.

I too am a fan of the 30 cal pills. .308, .30-06, and .300 win mag are the cals that grace my safes. I have used all 3 to harvest whitetail deer in PA. One that holds a special place in my heart is my fathers Winchester Model 70 Featherlight in 30-06. After he passed in March of last year, my sister and I started the process of going thru his belongings. I knew my dad had this rifle, but he had put a synthetic stock on it several years ago. My sister found the original wood stock tucked back in a closet of his. Looking @ that stock, I wish it could talk. A little nick here, tiny scratch there. Im sure it would have wonderful stories of times spent in the woods. So I re-united the stock with the rest of the gun, replaced a busted scope, and look forward to sighting that rifle in this year, and taking it with me on the 1st day of PA deer season 2010. Returning it to the woods, where it can create some memories for my kids to wonder about someday.
 

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yep there are a lot of great deer cartridges out there. i too am coming around to the mindset of using the more moderate cartridges... i really like the 'ol 6.5x55 swede and a couple of years ago i picked up a 700 classic in 300 savage that i absolutely love! easy shooting, doesn't ruin a bunch of meat and just an all around nice package. i use 43gr of TAC with a 150gr sierra prohunters in reformed mil-surp 308 brass and get sub 1" 5 shot groups and great brass life... even with the skimpy pad on the classic it's not bad to shoot in t shirt weather.
don't get me wrong i love my 300 win mag and i have a ball shooting porcupines out of trees with 120gr ballistic tips in my 7mag... i've taken deer with my 25/06AI with barnes tsx bullets and been satisfied with the bullet performance (i hate wasting venison, especially to bloodshot)

variety is indeed the spice of life!!
 

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Deer Rifles – my experiences

..... With the 308 recoil is not a problem, shells are cheap, and there are a lot of different loads and bullets to choose from if you do not reload. When my grandsons get old enough to go out, I will be setting them up with 308's as their first big game rifles.

Anyway, I really look forward to your comments............

KLR,

I choose the 308 for my son's first deer rifle, too! He's been using in now for almost 8 years - He has never mention or asked for anything else!
 

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YOU SAID, "Don't think because you can make a 400 yard shot off the bench in July that you are going to do the same in November with your heart pounding, freezing weather, the wind blowing, or snow falling. Shooting in the field isn’t the same as off a concrete bench with sandbags."


Outstanding comment and so well put. :)
 

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Great post. I like how you complimented all cartridges and touched on the ability of each to take game with proper shots, from the "lowly" 30-30 to the "macho" 300 Ultra.
 

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Great post. I too have pretty well settled on the .308 Win for much of the hunting I do now. I've shot 7 deer with BLR and only 1 hasnt fallen on the spot, a 220lb 8pt that I shot at 45 yds running flat out during a drive this last November. Only reason he made it the next 40 yards was because they were straight down hill and he had gravity on his side.
 

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Wonderful first post, I myselft like the standard old military cartridges. 6.5x55, 7x57, 7.9x57, 30-06, .308 and 45-70. Only non military cartridge I've ever hunted with was the .270 Winchester. Know your limits and your shot placement.

Water-man, like your avatar.

CD
 

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i aggree excellent post.. me i pick the 06 and tried to learn it an its best rnd..of course the marlin 30 30 backed it up.
choose a gun that suits your purpose,,learn the use of it completely..
you better off than the fellow with fifty guns to choose from but doesn t really have time in with none ofem..jmo..
ps if my eyes were better ,,id mabe have iron sights on an 06 for a good survival gun.. less hard to mess up the sighting,,than a scope.jmo
 

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I haven't used all that many for whitetails.

- various .45cal and .50cal muzzleloaders, I got a few deer with the .45cal and a few with the .50cal. I have a really sweet shooting .50cal Hawken style that I like a lot. One of the two deer I remember hitting and not recovering was with a .45cal Kentucky style muzzleloader. I have a .50cal muzzleloader barrel for my T/C Encore Pro Hunter that I haven't used for hunting yet.

- .30-30 and .35 Remington (both Marlin 336)... I switched up a lot with these when I was young. My dad had a .35 Remington and my uncles had .30-30s. I didn't own anything so I borrowed whichever according to who I went hunting with. Very rarely, my dad would let me use his .35 Remington in Model 760. Two seasons, though when he was using a .30-06, which he gave me the .30-06 and took back his M760. Oddly enough, one of the two deer I remember hitting and not recovering was with that M760... to this day, I still don't understand how we didn't find it. With both the .30-30 and the various .35 Remington, I put a few deer in the freezer. Very reliable and consistent cartridges when you put the bullet where it should go. My dad swears by his 760 and other than a couple seasons with a .30-06, he hasn't ever wanted to use anything else.

- .30-06 Rem Model 742, complete with the faulty ejector (given to me). It put a few deer in the freezer as well. Used it with 180gr SP (round nose) for years and it was completely devastating to whatever it hit. I killed one deer by hitting it in the hind quarter as it ran away after I missed the first shot. It literally (the correct usage for 'literally') put a hole through the hind quarter that I could put my fist through (because I actually did it). The deer didn't make 100yds. That was also the last deer that I ever shot at more than once (other than a finishing shot). I also accidentally shot through a 2" diameter sapling one time and still got complete penetration of the deer. I later switched to 180gr PSP for a few years because I started hunting open woods and fields more and they worked just fine as well. I honestly don't know what happened to the 742 but for Christmas one year, my dad bought me a Model 7600 .30-06 and it was a fine rifle. I think he felt sorry for me using that 742 and it stovepiping almost every shot. It eventually got stolen and I went back to a few years of using one of my uncle's .30-30s. I then lucked into a deal to buy a used Browning A-Bolt .30-06, which I still have. I've gotten a few with it as well and I let my cousin borrow it for a couple years when he didn't have a rifle to hunt with. He got his 158" 8pt with it.

- .270Win. I got a deal from a guy and bought two .270Win, one Rem Model 700 and the other a Win Model 70, at the same time from him. This was a pretty good deal (price-wise) and it let me keep one here with me and I leave the other one at my dad's so for a few years I didn't have to travel with a rifle to go hunting with my folks. I still have them. Unfortunately, I bought them right at the start of about 5 years where I had almost no time to hunt and what time I did have was with a muzzleloader. I can't remember ever killing a deer with either .270Win, although I have no doubts that it would work just fine.

- .260 Remington, T/C Encore Pro Hunter. Just got this one a year ago this month with a .50cal muzzleloader barrel and later ordered the .260 barrel. This past season I got 4 does and a buck with it. It's hands down this is my favorite rifle/cartridge now. Mild/moderate recoil and it has been fantastic in the field and in the tree stand. On deer, it has had fantastic terminal performance.

Plans for the future: I think I'm going to either get a medium bore barrel for my Pro Hunter (most likely 35 Whelen if I go this route) or a medium bore bolt action of some sort (not sure but either a 35 Whelen or a 9.3x62 with an outside chance of .338 Win Mag if I go this route). But this rifle wouldn't be for whitetails although I may use it on occassion as such. I'm hoping to get it for elk :)
 

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from the "lowly" 30-30 to the "macho" 300 Ultra.

Well to that comment I say...... SNAP INTO A SLIM JIM




I wouldn't call it macho. I just don't get that. It's a very lovely caliber, with great accuracy potential, and the ability to push the heavy .30 cal pills to decent speeds. If it makes any difference, I have a box of factory Rem 150gr Core-Lokts, that is loaded to .308 speeds.
 
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