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Deer are the most hunted large game in America. The market has responded with a seemingly endless selection of rifles for hunting deer.
Personal taste does play a large part in choosing a deer rifle; that said, not all deer rifles are created equal.
Follow our guide to find the best one for you.
At a Glance: Our Top Picks for Deer Rifles
- OUR TOP PICK: Ruger American .308 Win. Black Composite Stock Rifle
- RUNNER-UP: Tikka - Tikka T3x 6.5 Creedmoor
- BEST BUDGET OPTION: Browning AB3 Composite Stalker .243 Win Rifle
Comparison of the Best Deer Rifles
Our Top Pick
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Best Budget Option
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What is the Best Caliber for Deer Hunting?
Practically every hunter has their own unique preference, based on what they're used to, what they've had the greatest success with, what has been available, or simply sentimentality.
Things to look for are velocity, energy transfer, and availability. Any caliber from .243 up is good, though for deer there isn't much point in accepting the increased recoil and cost of ammo above .30-06.
In the USA, calibers that are current or former standard military issue tend to reign supreme. Foremost among these for deer hunting is the .30-06.
Designed to outgun the Spanish over a hundred years ago, the .30-06 is one of the most popular and versatile calibers on the planet. It is great for larger deer, but not everyone likes the recoil.
This is where another favorite with a military background comes in, the .308. It is a classic mid-power round that shoots flat and is ideal for mid-sized game like deer.
The .243 design is based on the .308, but with the case necked-down to accept a smaller bullet for greater velocity. It is an excellent round, especially for smaller deer. The .243 gives you great versatility; it is perfect for everything from rabbits to deer, all the most practical game for the table. Like the .308, It is also an outstanding long-range round.
The 6.5 Creedmoor is a recent entrant into the deer caliber game, but it has taken the shooting world by storm. The ballistic performance is better than .308 or .243 in every way, but unlike those rounds, you won't find it in every rural mom & pop sportsman's shop in the country.
What Makes a Great Deer Hunting Rifle?
A lot of personal taste goes into choosing the perfect deer gun. Your regular shooting environment and local laws will also determine what rifle is best for you.
Many types of action are available from the rare pump action rifle to the lever action, from the semi-auto to the bolt action, to name a few. Bolt action rifles are the most common hunting rifles in the world today. They are extremely reliable, accurate, and quiet to operate.
Lever action rifles have that old west charm and the benefit of never needing to change your hand position to chamber a round. The lever can get in the way when shooting prone, however.
As semi-auto designs have become more reliable and accurate, their popularity in deer hunting has increased. A good sportsman should be able to take a deer with one well-placed, clear, confident, and ethical shot. The need for a second shot ideally should not arise. Nevertheless, as the popularity of semi-autos increases, so do the options available.
Review of the Best Deer Rifles
Given the considerations above, we have done the research so that you don't have to. Read on for our picks for the best deer rifles available today.
Ruger American .308 Win. Black Composite Stock Rifle
Ruger was founded in 1949 in Connecticut by Bill Ruger. The company has come to dominate the American market by offering affordable prices for very reliable and well-designed firearms. The Ruger American rifle is no exception. The main feature of this rifle is that it is one hundred percent sourced and built in the USA.
This version comes with a 22-inch cold hammer-forged barrel with a 1:10-inch twist rate with six rifling grooves. The barrel is bedded with Ruger's proprietary Power Bedding to free-float the barrel for the best possible accuracy. Sights are not included but a base is. The bolt is a full-diameter, one-piece three lug design with a 70° throw for ample scope clearance. The bolt also has dual cocking cams for smooth, easy cycling from your shoulder.
This rifle comes with a four-round detachable rotary magazine. The trigger is Ruger's adjustable 'Marksman' model with either a three pound or a five-pound pull. The rifle has a comfortable tang safety. The lightweight, black synthetic stock comes with a rubber recoil pad and sling swivel studs. The weight is a decent 6.12 pounds and the length of pull is 13.75 inches.
This is a very affordable rifle and the ideal choice for the true patriot. Support American manufacturing with the Ruger American rifle. The top features of the Ruger American rifle are the highly engineered bolt, the adjustable trigger, and the great safety design.
Tikka - Tikka T3x 6.5 Creedmoor
This is my personal favorite rifle. Tikka was founded in Finland in 1893 but has been owned by Sako since 1983. Despite being a manufacturers' budget brand, Tikka surpasses the quality of most other manufacturers out there. Every rifle they sell is guaranteed to have 1 MOA accuracy straight out of the box.
This model has a detachable ten-round box magazine and a universal rail. The short 20-inch barrel has a 1:8-inch twist rate with four grooves of rifling. The rifle features a heavy-duty recoil lug to take pressure off the screws. The bolt shroud is also unusually heavy-duty to keep the moving parts safe.
Besides the fine workmanship on the receiver and barrel, the synthetic stocks on Tikka rifles are very highly engineered. They are foam filled to reduce noise caused by brushing foliage in the woods. They have a non-slip grip, but most importantly, they are modular. You can buy separate pistol grip replacements with various different geometries depending on your hand size and shooting style. The forend width can be adjusted in a similar way. A recoil pad is included. The rifle weighs a fairly normal 7.5 pounds.
This is easily my personal choice in a great deer rifle and a great all-rounder. The quality can't be beaten anywhere near the price point. The best features of this rifle are the 6.5 performance, the adjustable stock, and the overall quality.
Best for the Money:
Browning AB3 Composite Stalker .243 Win Rifle
Browning was founded in 1878 by everyone's favorite firearms designer, the god of guns, John Moses Browning. The company is now owned by the estimable FN Herstal, with which John Moses worked closely during his lifetime.
The AB3 is an upgrade on the legendary Browning A-bolt. It offers both high performance and affordability. The heart of any firearm is the barrel, and the AB3's 22-inch barrel is a work of art. It is made from cold-rolled steel that is then precision button-rifled with a 1:10-inch twist. It is triple-checked by quality control before the interior is finished and air-gauged to ensure a consistent diameter throughout the bore. The chamber is hand-reamed for the tightest possible tolerances and the most precise headspace.
This rifle comes with a 5-round detachable magazine. The bolt slide is chromed and the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope rings or mounts. The safety is top tang style for the best ergonomics and indexing. The bolt lift is only 60° for fast cycling and scope clearance. A special bolt unlock button allows the bolt to be opened with the safety on.
The receiver is steel and finished with matte bluing. The stock gives a 13 5/8 inch length of pull and includes an Inflex recoil pad. The pad deflects the butt away from your face when shooting. The stock also features textured grip, a palm swell, and sling swivel studs.
The top features of this rifle are the bolt throw and the Inflex recoil pad.
Best 243 Deer Rifle:
Savage Axis II XP Compact .243 Win 20" Rifle
As noted above, Savage is a venerable American firearms maker that produces some of the most accurate out-of-the-box rifles you can buy. This is a compact model in fabulous pink for that special lady in your life, or possibly for yourself.
It comes with a 20-inch, carbon steel button-rifled barrel with a twist rate of 1 in 9.25 inches. The chamber has thread-in barrel headspacing. The receiver is also made of carbon steel with a matte black finish. Like the Savage detailed above, this model comes with Savage's adjustable AccuTrigger trigger system. Just in front of that, there is a practical, 4-round detachable box magazine. This capacity is more than sufficient for most hunting scenarios.
Savage has updated the ergonomics on this model to make it comfortable for small-framed shooters. It offers a 12.75-inch length of pull. At 6.2 pounds it is also incredibly light, thanks partly to the synthetic stock. A big perk of this rifle is that it comes with a Bushnell Banner 3-9x40mm scope. This is a pretty standard all-around option. The rifle and scope should make a good pair as they are produced by subsidiaries of the same parent company.
Savage is an excellent choice if you want an affordable, super accurate rifle. This is a great choice for smaller shooters, especially with the adjustable trigger and included scope. The finish may not scream luxury, but if you want a real tool that you can rely on and knock around a bit, you can't beat a Savage like this one.
Best Air Rifle for Deer Hunting:
Gamo Whisper Fusion Mach
What Recent Buyers Report
The reviews say it all! This rifle delivers in performance and quality, serving as the perfect partner for deer hunting. With an easy-mount and a robust build, the rifle boasts accuracy and precision. The power, adjustable trigger, and high-velocity shots are impressive, but the real highlight is the minimized recoil, which enhances stability. Featuring a whisper fusion technology, it is relatively quiet and makes for a great investment.
Why it Stands Out to Us
Gamo owns the market for pellet gun air rifles. Whether you’re a professional hunter or an amateur hobbyist, this rifle is bound to suit your needs. It pairs a solid, well-designed framework with excellent features that make it a must to include this unit on our list. The accuracy and precision that it delivers are matchless, ensuring perfected aim each time. Being compatible with a great variety of pellets, this rifle is a must-have as it takes out the target with a single aim.
Not many rifles come with an excellent set of features to step up your hunting game. But with this product at your disposal, get ready for pin-point and accurate shooting. Designed to reduce noise, recoil, and vibration, this rifle will become a favorite once it adapts to your hands.
Remington Arms of Hunstville Alabama was founded in 1816, making it the oldest firearms manufacturer in the USA. It has developed more cartridges than any company in the world and today it is America's largest producer of rifles and shotguns. The company's success has been bolstered by various cherry military contracts, including those to use this rifle, the Remington 700, as a NATO sniper rifle.
The barrel on this model is a 20-inch heavy-contour tactical-style model with a 1:10-inch twist. It is carbon steel, matte blued, and is threaded for flash hiders. Despite the heavy barrel, the whole rifle still only weighs seven and a half pounds. The barrel is dual-point pillar bedded. Metal surfaces on the rifle feature a durable, satin black oxide finish.
This rifle features Remington's X-Mark Pro externally adjustable trigger. The magazine is a four-round hinged floorplate design. The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts. The black synthetic stock has high-end Hogue over-molding for sure grip. The fore-end has a tactical-style semi-beavertail for extra stability. There is a SuperCell recoil pad on the butt. The length of pull is a standard 13 3/8 inches.
This is an excellent rifle if you like that modern military sniper rifle vibe. The top features of this rifle are the ergonomic stock and the overall lightness.
Few rifles can boast to be as much of an American classic as the Springfield M14/M1A. The M14 was standard military issue from 1959 to 1970, seeing service in the Korean War and Vietnam War. It was an attempt to update the venerable M1 Garand with a lighter cartridge for full-auto fire. This option was rarely if ever used.
After the original Springfield Armory was shut down, rights to the name were bought and the private Springfield Armory was founded in 1974. It has produced the M1A, exactly like an M14 but without full-auto, ever since. This SOCOM 16 model is designed to provide less felt recoil and less muzzle rise. It has a very short barrel at 16 inches, making it an ideal brush gun.
The barrel wears a proprietary muzzle break. The traditional M14 is a bit tricky to mount optics on, but this model has a forward rail to let you mount long eye relief optics with little trouble. This is not critical, however, as the stock iron sights are a solid, classic design that every American should probably be comfortable shooting. The front sight has an XS tritium insert to provide a clear sight picture at night. Magazine capacity is a comfortable ten rounds in a detachable box magazine.
The top features of this classic American rifle are the forward rail and the short barrel.
Best Semi Automatic Deer Rifle:
PSA Gen 2 Pa10 18" Mid-length .308 Win Rifle
Hunting with modern sporting rifles (i.e. AR-style rifles) has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. Palmetto State Armory is one of the biggest firearms retailers in the country, so they have the market data to know how to build the kind of AR that people want.
This turns out to be pretty close to mil-spec. This .308, AR-10 rifle has an 18-inch A2-style barrel including an A2-style muzzle device. The twist rate is 1:10 inches. The mid-length gas system uses a gas block integrated into the classically-styled front sight base. The forged 7075 T6 aluminum receiver is flat topped with a full rail. The receiver includes feed ramps, forward assist, and a dust cover. A charging handle is also included.
The bolt is made of 9310 steel and the carrier uses 8620 steel. Both are nitride treated. The gas key is treated the same way and is staked. The lower receiver is made of the same aluminum as the upper. It houses a single stage, mil-spec style trigger. A 20-round PMAG is included.
The handguard is a mid-length polymer unit. The grip is a classic A2-style. The buffer tube is aluminum and supports a classic M4-style 6-position telescoping stock. PSA's approach to the AR-10 is to give you compatibility with most AR-15 components.
This is a great mil-spec, AR-15 compatible AR-10. It is also a great platform on which to customize your perfect AR-style rifle.
Savage is a classic American firearms manufacturer founded in 1894. They have been through tough times but have bounced back. Now, they offer some of the most accurate out-of-the-box rifles available today. This rifle has many of the design features that contribute to that accuracy, such as Savage's crisp and adjustable AccuTrigger trigger system.
The one thing that contributes more to accuracy than a good trigger is the barrel, and this is where Savage really shines. This rifle has a free-floated, button-rifled 22-inch stainless steel barrel. The twist rate is one in ten inches. It is supported by dual pillars bedded into the stock. The rifle includes a four-round detachable box magazine. Weight is a bit high at 9.22 ounces and the length of pull is a standard 13.5.
The stock is black synthetic. Besides the accuracy, the major perk of this rifle is that it comes with a Nikon scope. The magnification range on the scope is pretty standard at 3-9x with a 40mm objective lens for good light transmission. The reticle is a bullet drop compensator, giving you multiple aiming points depending on the range you are shooting.
If you want a practical, knock around truck gun that is super accurate but doesn't look like much, this rifle is for you. Many hunters rave about the .270 caliber and this is a great platform for it. The top features of this rifle are the accuracy and the included scope.
Henry was founded in 1996 in Brooklyn by a father and son team. They have revived both the Henry name and the classic Henry designs, albeit with some mechanical updates. If you love that old west style and like to keep life simple by shooting the same ammo in your magnum revolver and rifle, this is the gun for you. It is a lightweight reproduction of B.T. Henry's classic 1860 rifle.
The lever action design gives a follow-up shot that is almost as fast as a semi-auto. Unlike the original rifle, this one has a round barrel rather than an octagon. It is 20 inches long and blued. The choice to update the old-timey octagon barrel is a major factor that helps keep the rifle down to seven pounds. The rear sight is an adjustable, classic semi-buckhorn with a diamond insert and the front sight is a simple brass bead. The receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope.
The tube magazine has a ten-round capacity, but for a long day of hunting you probably just want to load three or four to keep the weight down. The rifle has a transfer bolt safety. The furniture is made of chequered American walnut with a matte finish. It comes with swivel studs and a solid black rubber recoil pad.
This is a great quality rifle with a classic flair. The top features are the low weight and large capacity. It is perfect for the straight-walled-cartridge hunting laws being introduced in some states.
This is another reproduction rifle for those hunters who want an old West look or have to deal with straight walled cartridge laws. In fact, this model is SASS approved for cowboy action shooting events.
The 20-inch octagonal barrel wears a classically styled, fully adjustable semi-buckhorn rear sight with a reversible white diamond insert. The front sight is a simple brass bead. Under the barrel is a ten round tube magazine. The straight-grip stock and forearm are crafted from choice American walnut. This matches well with the brass barrel band and the iconic Henry brass receiver.
The weight is a bit high at 8.68 pounds. The action is crisp and smooth. As you might expect, this model can shoot both .357 magnum and .38 Special rounds.
This is a gorgeous rendition of a classic American rifle. Whether you want to join a cowboy action shooting event or must abide by straight wall hunting laws, this is a beautiful choice. The lever action also gives you extremely quick follow up shots. The ten round mag makes it feasible for this rifle to work double shift in home defense. The top features are the classic aesthetics, smooth cycling, and ability to shoot both .357 and .38 Special.
Pros and Cons of Deer Hunting with a Rifle
Hunting demands many factors to be kept under consideration, including the hunting grounds and your hunting game. However, the most important thing to be kept in mind is the weaponry used. If you’re passionate about hunting, you must be familiar with the pros and cons of using a rifle, in comparison with other weapons.
Let’s have a look at the pros first.
This is the greatest benefit of using a rifle, which maximizes the chances of getting your prey shot dead as well. With a more precise aim, you can camouflage easily and target your prey from a distance without noticing. Using a rifle, you can take down an animal with a single shot.
With a solid grip, scope mount, and reduced recoil, rifles have certain improved advancements that make hunting much easier. It doesn’t require much practice and delivers better results in terms of high-velocity shots and versatility.
Accessibility and Price
As rifle practices for hunting have flourished, it’s easier to purchase one at an affordable price. The equipment is cheaper, easily available, and doesn’t demand much as compared to crossbows.
However, on the dark side, rifles have their own drawbacks, such as:
As the rifle practice has increased tremendously, almost everyone is out shooting with a rifle. Owing to a long-distance shooting range, many hunters prefer rifles, so it pretty much blows out the thrill. With everyone aiming, the chances of killing your prey become really scarce.
Crossbows are silent weapons that can target the prey and kill it with hardly any noise. However, rifles and guns produce a loud sound as the bullet escapes. If you miss the aim, the noise can scare away your deer and other animals, which proves to be pretty futile.
Shotgun vs Rifle for Deer Hunting - Comparison Overview
If you’re new to the hunting game, we can totally understand your confusion on deciding against a shotgun or a rifle. While everyone has their own opinions and personal preferences, have a look at our comparison overview to help you find a clear answer.
These are pump-styled guns loaded manually with shells that fire ‘shots’ or ‘slugs.’ Slugs have larger projectiles and are very effective because they are deadly weapons. Shotguns are good to get accustomed to hunting because they kill the prey on the spot.
Another promising feature is their versatility. Shotguns can be used not only for deer specifically but come in handy for hunting birds, rabbits, etc. as well.
On the negative side, they fail to provide greater demand for accuracy and precision. Moreover, shotguns lack the ability to shoot from long distances, and the deep sound might also be problematic for amateurs.
A bolt-style rifle is generally considered to provide refined accuracy and pinpoint targets. Rifles are adapted to long ranges so you can easily hunt from a distance. A majority of the rifles incorporate whisper technology to minimize noise levels, which boost your hunting game. Promising high-velocity shots of pellets and projectile shooting, they are able to travel more accurately than shotguns.
However, you would need to consider the cartridge size and ammunition to meet your needs for the perfect shot. This is where shotguns tend to offer greater options and choices in terms of shooting.
If you're like me, you have probably found three or four guns that really appeal to you and will spend some time clicking back and forth between their specs and pics, wondering how to decide. Whichever rifle you end up with, we wish you good luck and safe hunting.
People Also Ask
Hunting is not something that every person can do. It requires a great deal of courage, practice, and knowledge of nature to enjoy the thrill and exhilaration of this hobby. For those new to this field, we’ve answered the most frequently asked questions about deer hunting. Read along to find researched answers to all those queries stuck up in your mind.
What is the Best Caliber Rifle for Deer Hunting?
The caliber of the rifle is actually the internal barrel or bullet diameter, which determines the angle of firing the projectile. Perfect striking energy and accuracy with reduced recoil make a caliber suited for deer hunting.
Based on these features, there are many bullets such as the 25-06 Remington, 7mm Remington Magnum, 222 Remington, 223 Remington, and the 204 Ruger that are ideally compatible for deer hunting, ensuring minimum recoil, light-weighted body, and ballistic co-efficiency.
Where to Shoot a Deer with a Rifle?
With large-bodied animals, it’s not that hard to aim for different body parts, but the real question comes down to the part that will enable a quick and humane kill. For this purpose, remember to aim for the vital organs such as the heart, lungs, etc. for minimal meat loss.
Aiming from a broadside or quartering presentation, you can get good exposure to the vitals if you shoot just behind, right at or above the shoulder. It minimizes error risk and gives considerable blood loss for a follow-up trail. While aiming for the skull, head, or neck are most effective, they require high precision with a low margin for errors.
How to Sight in a Deer Rifle?
To aim perfectly and get the shot right, you need to know how to adjust your rifle for better sight in. Start by mounting your scope, and resting your forearm and the buttstock to enhance stability and reduce pressure effects. Once you’ve got a fairly good grip, it’s best to achieve alignment by bore sighting.
Practice with a short-range target (25-50 yards). Look through the bore and aim your target. Then, adjust the scope sights until it shows the same image as the bore. When aligned perfectly, the scope should be targeted to where the rifle points, and you’re good to go!
What is the Smallest Caliber Rifle for Deer Hunting?
There are numerous ranges of caliber sizes available on the market. A smaller sized pellet enables comfortable shooting, lesser noise, higher velocity, and reduced recoil.
A majority of people agree that .223 REM is the smallest caliber they would go. A .243 Win or the .22-250 REM could get the job done with plenty of power on a close range. Smaller caliber rifles are cheaper, and it works if you know your shooting game well.
When Does Deer Rifle Season Start?
Every state has its own timings and schedule for deer hunting. The hunting dates are distributed based on the weaponry used e.g., archery, muzzleloader, and firearms have their separate days to reinforce hunting.
Deer hunting is usually a biennial season setting, and for New Hampshire, the rifle hunting season starts on November 11 and closes on December 6, 2020. The hour duration is usually one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
Other Tips and Things to Remember
If there's one hunting subject that engenders different opinions, it's which deer rifle to choose. Let's bypass the "emotional imperatives", and try to settle on some generally-accepted facts:
There are many variables -- and therefore it's not ONLY the rifle that you have to consider when making a purchase, it's the weight of the bullet, type of action, scope... lots of things. While not everything can be covered in a short article, here are just some of the basics to consider in choosing the best deer rifle.
The first thing to consider is WHO is going to be using the rifle. Age and gender play a big role. For instance, no sane person is going to select a 45/70 buffalo gun with a 300 grain bullet for a kid or a woman (but sadly it does happen -- you know, the old, "Me Tarzan, You Jane" bit -- even though "Jane" may be poorly-equipped to handle anything even close to it and isn't going to be hunting for a T-Rex anytime soon).
If a young person or woman starts out by being handed a super-high-powered rifle, the first shot fired will be their last. The noise. The tremendous recoil. The missed target. These all will provide an immediate negative impact (literally and figuratively) on the first-time shooter. Don't give anyone a rifle that'll scare or frighten them. Make sure it's something that they can handle and "the caliber be damned."
Many savvy hunters will start a kid or woman out with something as simple as a .22. The new shooter will be able to handle it, and recognize how its mechanism operates. And, after a bit of "break in," will then be able to emotionally and physically tolerate something bigger. Of course it's ESSENTIAL that any new shooter take a gun-safety course. That's a "gimme." Safety is "job one!" Never forget that.
OK -- we've now gotten past the initial "training" time, and are ready to move forward. Generally speaking, a .243 or .270 will work just fine in most instances for a kid or a woman, and it'll surely get the job done. These calibers have good range, and don't have the kick or recoil of something like a .30-06 or a 7mm mag.
Type of Terrain and Range of Shot
Select a deer rifle that's going to be right for the type of terrain you're generally going to be hunting. For instance, if it's going to be short range (25 to 50 yards), with heavy brush and cover, a good choice might be a 30/30 or .35 caliber. Stick to lever action, or auto-loader, and no scope. These rifles work "fast" and "easy," and will get through heavy brush quickly and accurately. They're light, they're easy to operate, and pack enough wallop to bring down your deer.
The most popular caliber to use longer shots (100-200 yards) in generally open areas is the tried-and-true .30-06. Indeed, after over 100 years, many hunters and marksmen still consider the Springfield Model 1903, .30-06, bolt-action Army rifle to be among the most accurate rifles ever manufactured (all you lovers of the Mauser Model 98, or .308, or .300 mag notwithstanding).
The '03 Springfield was updated in WWII, and used as a sniper rifle -- any of you who saw "Saving Private Ryan" will recognize that fact. If you can find one (they're classics and are not cheap), it's one heckuva deer rifle.
But most any other .30-06 bolt action rifle will work equally well. The '03 Springfield just happens to be a personal favorite. If you want something that'll work for even longer range (up to 600 plus yards), use the hot, flat-flying 7mm mag. (We know a deer hunter -- actually caribou in this instance who nailed one with a 7mm mag at 650 yards -- with OPEN SIGHTS, standing position, in Quebec -- once-in-a-lifetime shot, but he says he does it all the time. Yeah. Right).
Everyone has their favorite manufacturer --Remington, Browning, Winchester, Mossberg -- they're all good. Make sure, if you want super-accuracy, to use a bolt action only. Auto-loaders and lever actions work just fine, but they don't have the accuracy of the classic bolt action system.
As for scoping -- same general story: Nikon, Bushnell, Leupold all make excellent scopes and the cost can be very high -- depending on the light they draw in and their amplification. If you're going to do medium-to-long range shooting, you will need a scope. The new pinpoint laser scopes are terrific -- but can be expensive.
As for bullet weight, that'll vary. For short, heavy range cover, use 180-220 grains, which will blow through brush and thick cover. For mid-range out to 200 yards, 165-185 grains will be optimum (the '03 Springfield, .30-06, 172 grain bullet load is classic). For real long-range use a 150 grain bullet in conjunction with a .243, .270 or 7mm mag.
Hunting Area Restrictions
If you deer hunt in areas where RIFLES ARE PROHIBITED (and there are those areas in populated areas so check carefully before you head out), you'll need to opt for a shotgun. A shotgun with a slug barrel. Nothing long range, but lots of deer hunters love to use these shotguns because the slug has tremendous stopping power.
Many deer hunters long for the days of Jeremiah Johnson, and prefer a muzzleloader, like a Hawkens or equal. One shot, big caliber, big stopping power, and with all the modern appurtenances in manufacturing, loading, and firing, it's quite accurate. Muzzleloaders can be used during regular deer hunting season, or the muzzleloader-only season, which usually occurs after the regular gun deer season.
Weight and Materials
The "newest of the new" rifles have composite materials in much of the construction. The rifle is lighter, less prone to erosion, rust or breakage. Some like the "heft" of wood and steel. Others don't. It's strictly what YOU are most comfortable with, however, and there's no "right or wrong."
Choosing a Hunting Rifle for Kids and Women
My partner Dave Miller has one of these rifles, even though he looks like a lineman for the Packers, Dave carries this rifle and zaps every deer he shoots with it “dead right there,” indicating time and time again the 7X30 Waters is out of proportion in knock down power from the paper ballistics.
The favorite rifle of the wife of Jack O’Conner was Eleanor’s 7X57 Mauser. With it she matched the game taken by the great outdoor writer, who pontificated the use of the 270 Winchester. The 7X57 is almost a dead equal to the 7mm-08 so it turns into a personal choice when choosing a rifle to match the recommended calibers here. If I bought one for myself it would be the Ruger Number 1 light Sporter, but Aunt Sandy would steal it from me so fast I’d never get to use it.
Is there such thing as a big bore youth and ladies rifle? You bet there is. First, if you like primitive firearms and need one for Mom, you need go no further than a 45 or 50 caliber black powder rifle. A 150 grain load makes both of them a 444 Marlin, but the 100 grain load equates to a 44 magnum with far less recoil.
The “Little Big Man” the 44 magnum itself, invented by the Gun Writer, Elmer Keith as a powerful hand gun cartridge, the famous 44 magnum is a fine woods deer cartridge in a rifle. Field performance is far better than a 30-30 or the 243 in the “DRT” department, and is only limited by trajectory, so keep your deer shots inside 150 yards. As far as noise and recoil, let’s put it this way. If Aunt Sandy shows up at the Fort Polk Range with the now famous H&R handy gun known as “Pink Tiger” there is a riot. The women shooters instantly look at their husbands, in a glare of envy, while they watch Aunt Sandy picking off water bottles all the way out to 200 yards. The single shot versions are also legal in Louisiana and Mississippi during the Primitive Weapon season as a bonus.
Sandy uses Hornady 225 grain flex tip “Leverevalution” ammo arguably the finest hunting rounds for the 44 magnum. I have never heard a complaint from a woman or a youth hunter from age 10 on up, about the shoot ability of a 44 magnum. All you will really get is broke from buying the ammo to feed the interest in shooting.
Before purchasing a deer rifle, do your "due diligence." Consult with those whom you know have been deer hunting for many seasons, and a local gun shop. They sell them all, and they can give you specific tips and suggestions to help you in your decision. You'll get a very wide range of opinions and, at times, some very heated arguments.
Do you need "bells and whistles", or a million other options? In the end, choose the rifle that fits YOUR needs and YOUR abilities without regard for what someone else thinks is best.
The bottom-line is, getting that elusive Yooper's "30 Point Buck" and, with the right rifle, you might! (By the way, someone actually got a legitimate 30 pointer this past season).