Editors Blog

What’s the Best Caliber for Deer Hunting?


Tim Anderson of Mossy Oak Camouflage talks with South Texas hunting guide Billy Bob Galbreath after downing a dandy white-tailed buck with his favorite rifle. Anderson was hunting with Galbreath at Vatoville Outdoors near Sonora, TX.

From today’s mail comes a question from Dave Roettger, a Deer & Deer Hunting subscriber who enjoys gun-hunting. Dave writes:

“My wife and I purchased land in the Upper Peninsula. My son-in-law’s family lives and hunts across the road. My residence is in Sheboygan County, Wis., which does not allow rifle hunting. I would like to purchase a rifle this season to take up north. I’m pretty set on a left-handed Ruger bolt-action because one of the guys in camp has this gun chambered in .30-06. Everyone in camp shoots the same caliber and others outside shoot .308, 7 mm, etc. which means I hear all sorts of things about what to shoot and what not to shoot. I’m a person who buys a firearm and keeps it for life.

“I enjoy Deer and Deer Hunting and started to reading the new issue yesterday. I thought who better to ask and I’m hoping you can provide some general information.”

First off, thanks for the note, Dave. Any time you can extend your season and hunt somewhere else, consider it a blessing beyond measure. It is especially cool that you will be able to now gun-hunt in two states every year.

Although I can provide some insights, it appears as though you have already made a pretty good selection.

I’ve never personally shot a Ruger, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about them from my industry buddies who have have them. I, too, prefer the .30-06, however I also very much like the .270, the .308 and the 7 mm Rem Mag. For whitetails, I really don’t think you can beat those four chamberings. The differences between them are negligible for deer hunting as well.

That all being said, the .30-06 is perhaps the most versatile. You could hunt just about anything with that caliber. Elk, moose, etc.

I should also note that bullet choice almost outweighs caliber choice when dealing with those four calibers I mentioned. The gun will only perform as good as the bullets you feed through it.

No matter which caliber you choose, I would highly recommend using a premium bullet.

Some of the loads that I would recommend include:


Winchester PowerMax Bonded

1. Winchester Power Max Bonded

This bullet packs its punch because of the bonding process. The core and the jacket expand together without breaking or separating. This results in a bullet that has a very high weight retention which means maximum energy. A great choice for deer hunting.


Federal Vital-Shok

2. Federal Premium Vital Shok Trophy Copper

This is one of Federal’s best loads for deer hunting. It offers devastating downrange performance because grooved shanks increase accuracy in a wider range of firearms. The polymer tip and boattail design increases the ballistic coefficient for higher velocity and energy. The copper-alloy design provides 99 percent weight retention even after deep, aggressive penetration and expansion. Nickel-plated cases prevent corrosion and aid in easier, faster extraction.

3. Hornady Superformance

4. Barnes Vor-TX

Norma Oryx bullet

Norma Oryx bullet

5. Norma Oryx

Imported from Sweden, the Norma Oryx load features a bonded jacket/core that provides reliable performance and accuracy. I shot this cartridge a few years ago while hunting whitetails in Kansas and dropped a buck at nearly 400 yards. Despite the incredible mushrooming perfomance, the weight retention is still on the plus side of 90 percent. That’s incredible.

What about the rest of you D&DH readers? What are your favorite rifle calibers, guns and loads? Let’s hear from you! Just click REPLY to add to this discussion.



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