That’s the nice way of asking about one of the great debates without asking, of course. Because if we ask for your favorite caliber then everyone’s cool and gettin’ along like family at Thanksgiving. Ask which one is the “best deer hunting rifle caliber” and then it’s going to turn into something like the fight scenes in Braveheart.
I grew up hunting with a Winchester bolt-action .243, which I still have and love, and my father was a fan of the .308. Honestly, I think just about anything between those two calibers will do the deed quite easily on whitetails. Today I’ve added a few others including a Mossberg MVP in .308 and Steyr Pro Hunter in .30-06, along with a handy little Winchester .30-30 lever action I bought at a pawn shop a few years ago.
We asked our loyal DDH Facebook readers (and will again!) what their favorite deer hunting rifle caliber is, and here are some of the responses:
Alan Price I have a Winchester and a Marlin 30-30. I killed a lot of deer with both of them. A .30-30 is the perfect gun for the area that I hunt. It’s thick and brushy, and most shots I’ve taken over the years have been less than 50 yards.
Steve Brooks Depending on the situation I use the Marlin 336C in .35 Rem for thick brushy woods or my .270 for more open range. Mostly, though, I hunt with archery these days.
Blake Johnson The .243; it works well on deer and bear in western New York.
Hans Anderson All of them. Any one that kills deer. If it was a question of which one don’t I like it would be easier.
Patrick Johnson Any caliber you shoot well. One shot, one kill.
Eric B Andersen The .260 Remington and .270 Winchester are my favorites.
Jason Kenyon I use a Savage Model 14 in .243. Love this gun. So accurate.
Cindy Williams My husband and I both use a 270 Ruger Ultralite bolt action. We have not lost a deer or hog with these guns but we are not shooting long distances.
Bill Skelley For me the best all around rifle is a 30.06 Remington pump. I also shoot a .35 lever action Marlin for close order in the woods.
Jr Tracy Harrison I love my Savage .308 for deer or elk. Have put many on the table with it. My husband uses a Remington 7mm. Has to get slow ammo as to not blow through them.
Shannon Higgins A .30-06. Remington 700 Mountain Rifle with a 3×9 50ml Vari x 3 Leupold scope, shooting 180-grain Federal ammunition, a deadly accurate and beautiful handling rifle. I’ve shot a lot of deer with this combination and works great. But really, any caliber with a well placed bullet works!
Junior Thomas Personally I like the 308. I shoot a Remington bolt action with a nikon scope and have never had any trouble with it. Light recoil and plenty of knock down power and a great variety of ammo and and you can buy good ammo for less than 20 dollars per box
Chris DeMuro But you can’t beat .308. I usually use .308 (168-grain) for hunting the edges of big open fields. I’ve taken deer out to 600 yards with it. In the woods I use a model 94 Win 32 special. It’s a shorter weapon and is easy to manipulate in a stand, blind, or the thick hemlocks. It also will shoot through really thick brush and drop a deer like a champion. However, caliber doesn’t matter if you don’t understand the ballistic characteristics of your ammunition or you don’t know how to shoot. Most guys I talk to have no idea what they are doing but are convinced that they have everything under control because of the brand name of their gun and optics. Take the time to master your weapon. What type of reticle are you using? Is it graduated in milradian or minutes of angle? What incriment is your win age and elevation? The old method that most amateurs use, “just hold a little high at longer distances”, doesn’t alway work if you can’t and don’t calculate how much bullet drop you are going to have for the specific round you are using. So you can use any caliber to hunt as long as it is legal for your state. Understanding internal and external ballistics, crush factor, tear factor, kinetic energy at the target for various distances, and being able to surgically place your shot based on the position of the animal is what gets it done. Semper Fi. Kill like a champion!!!!
Eric Olsen .35 Remington/Marlin. Just because every deer I have put down has been through brush and I have put all of them down! Even at distance, I love that rifle! And the sentimental value of it being my dads has some influence.
Vincent Eddings Finally, a gun writer who doesn’t think a .223 should only be used for squirrel hunting. I liked this article; there are tons of cartridges that will take whitetail. They ain’t moose.
Cody Meltzian Very few are saying .300 Win Mag but then again this is deer. But I hunt deer where elk are so I take a 300 Win Mag, but I have taken .270 and .243.
Jason Boa My go-to is the .243 using 100-grain ammo. It’s awesome, great bush rifle. Knocks anything over, i personally limit my shooting with it to 250m though. Have a .308 for the longer range but have knocked a deer over at 330m with the .243.
Russ O’Dovero Winchester Model 70 in .30-06. Absolutely love it. Accurate, with plenty of velocity, energy and bullet weight to penetrate bone, (shoulder, etc.), and is comfortable to shoot. If I hunted up in Canada, (huge bodied deer), or out West, (long distances), I might go 7 Mag or .300 Mag, but for northern Wisconsin woods hunting, the .30-06 is kick ass!
David DeCant Can’t use rifle in Jersey, but I like the .270. Flies fast and flat. More then enough for whitetails.
John Kangas Best deer rifle is one that does the job fast and that you can shoot well.
Dennis Gareis I read a good article a few years ago about how hunters argue over what is the best caliber. The author’s response was a question: What is the difference between a 30-06 and a 270? Answer: The thickness of 12 pages from this magazine. In other words, .03 of an inch. Still fun to talk about them though!
Francois Gravel This is so true. I have two old 303 Brit. And two .308 and a .300 Win Mag. Had awesome results with all of them. Lots of factors determine which one to go with. People don’t realize it’s not only about the caliber but also situation and skills. I’ve shot deer with 12 gauge and a .22 .
Dennis Gareis In my opinion, the most important factor will always be: Which gun can you shoot most accurately for a quick, humane kill!
Matt Gladwin The .270 is so underrated in the ’06 community. But I love a flat fast gun over a bit more diameter.
David Prewitt The .243 is my favorite. I’ve killed many a deer with mine. It was a gift from my father-in-law and I have dropped every one I ever layed the cross hairs on with it, a Savage 110 left handed .243. Wonderful gun! The 30/30 served me well before I got the .243. Not much need for anything bigger than those where I live. Anything bigger than .270 is too much. I prefer to save the meat, lol.
David A. Smith Jr. I shot a Remington .300 win mag that I bought when I hunted the MS Delta and needed it for the distance. I have an old Rem .308 my grandpa gave me a long time ago. My son uses the .308 now. That is a sweet shooting gun. I killed many deer with both.
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