The Minimum Ethical Hunting Cartridge For White-tailed Deer Hunting

| Last Updated May 4, 2020

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What is the minimum ethical hunting cartridge for White-tailed deer hunting deer? Well in many states (Check your local regulations for the state you hunt) you can hunt deer with any center fire cartridge.

Technically you could legally hunt deer with the .25 automatic pistol cartridge, but this would be ridicules. A good rule is the 243 Winchester and the 30-30 Winchester which are fine standard minimums and will humanely harvest the biggest buck in the country.

I think you will find that the newer .260 and 7mm08 Remington cartridges are fine light recoiling rounds and extremely accurate. With the popularity of the AR-15 rifle, the civilian version of the great M-16 military battle rifle X-GIs may want one for deer hunting. Although legal the 5.56 NATO or 223 Remington is considered too light for deer by most experts, the rifle itself may be had in more powerful cartridges from the new 6.8 Remington right up to 300 short magnums, all of which are better for deer hunting.

For the traditionalist who likes the lever action Cowboy rifles a 357 magnum or 44 magnum carbines by Marlin will bring back the days of the old west and put meat on the table just like in the days of yesteryear. Pass it on.

So What's The Best Rifle and Cartridge Combination For Whitetail Deer?

OK, if you’re an experienced deer hunter and you want the best deer rifle and cartridge combination, what would it be? Well some say there is no perfect deer rifle and cartridge, so as close as you can get to perfection is the old standard 30-06 Springfield and perhaps a Remington model 700 in one of it’s many configurations.

Most white tailed deer are taken inside 50 yards, therefore in many cases a long range or magnum rifle is not needed. All quality gun companies make a rifle similar to the Remington so this becomes personal preference. If you chose a 7mm08, 308, 270, 280 or 30-06 you have a rifle that will harvest a buck cleanly all the way out to 300 yards.

It all depends on how well you shoot. A 30-30 Winchester has taken more deer than any other cartridge due to it’s popularity and availability since 1894. However in the last 75 years the 30-06 has reined the king of the deer rifles. Hard kicking magnums over 30 caliber are certainly not needed to harvest a whitetail. However the group of lever actions by Marlin known as big bores do have a good place in the deer hunting world. I really like my 444 Marlin and you may want to try one…Pass it on.

My name is Caleb and I am obsessed with hunting, fishing, and foraging. To be successful, you have to think like your prey. You have to get into the mind of your target - and understand Big Game Logic. If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at Read more about Big Game Logic.