By Josh Boyd
There is something remarkable that comes from holding a well-weathered deer rifle, with its many seasons apparent by the scarred stock and faded bluing. If a rifle of this nature could talk, the stories that it could tell would be boundless in their value to outdoorsmen and women far and wide. These rifles have been with us through our triumphs and our failures, our ups, and our downs.
Whether you bought it new off a store shelf, or had it passed down to you by your father or grandfather, a quality deer rifle has a knack for becoming a family heirloom of sorts, carrying an almost mythical status. With each successive season, the rifle begins to further show its age. However, for what an aging rifle loses in face value, it gains in sentimental worth.
Throughout the years, these workhorse rifles carried by the masses into the deer woods season after season have come in many calibers; each one with unique properties that lend themselves well to efficiency when harvesting deer.
One such caliber that shines above many in its resounding history in the deer woods is the .30-30 Winchester. The .30-30 is well-loved and has a devoted following among a significant number of deer hunters. This caliber is well-known for its ability to pack plenty of downrange energy when coming into contact with its target. The .30-30 is also popular because of its relatively light recoil in comparison to most deer rifles.
If the .30-30 Winchester had a downside, it would certainly be its lack of practical use at long range. Although this cartridge has a reputation for getting the job done efficiently, the rather steep trajectory of a .30-30 can be limiting.
Another go-to classic for many deer hunters is the .30-06 Springfield. The .30-06 was initially developed by the United States military for service use and later found its way into the hearts of the nation’s sportsmen. The .30-06 Springfield has also sustained its immense popularity due to its valued capabilities as a go-to, all-in-one big game rifle.
The .30-06 Springfield also carries added popularity due to the relative ease associated with locating ammunition for this caliber. When in search of ammo for your .30-06, look no further than the local hardware store, a local market that sells firearms, or virtually any sporting goods store. All should carry a supply of ammunition for a select number of calibers, .30-06 being one of them.
Not to be left off the list, the .270 Winchester is another go-to caliber for deer hunters. Originally developed by Winchester in 1923, the .270 saw itself rise from modest beginnings up to its modern-day stature as one of the premier calibers for deer hunters and other big-game hunting enthusiasts alike.
The .270 Winchester is widely renowned for its relatively flat shooting trajectory, making it an obvious choice for shooters whose shots commonly fall in the intermediate distance range. As with the equally popular .30-06, many brands feature their own .270 Winchester offerings and ammunition is remarkably easy to come by.
Another popular firearm for deer hunters is the .308 Winchester. The short action .308 Winchester came onto the market in 1952, and along the way has picked up a substantial following as the deer rifle of choice for many hunters.
Much of the .308 Winchester’s popularity stems from its remarkable ballistic qualities. The .308 is known for its tack-driving accuracy, which lends itself well to hunting scenarios that require rather lengthy shots. Additionally, inside of 200 yards, the .308 Winchester is a markedly flat shooting caliber, with little in the way of shot drop compensation required at these distances.
Now we come to the often debated .243 Winchester. You will undoubtedly find scores of individuals that deem the .243 as lacking what is necessary for a sufficient deer hunting caliber. However, with adequate attention to shot placement, the use of a .243 can be absolutely deadly out to 200 yards with little need for concern.
Much thought should be given when using a .243 as to ammo selection. There is a wide range of ammunition currently made for the .243 platform, many of which vary in intended use. The .243 is a popular round among varmint and predator hunters, therefore numerous lighter grain .243 offerings exist. When choosing to hunt deer with a .243, it is wise to seek offerings with higher grain weight. 100 grains or more is typically a safe bet when going afield in pursuit of deer with a .243.
Where a .243 really shines is in the hands of a youth hunter. The .243 Winchester features minimal recoil and is a perfect first deer rifle for a youngster seeking their first initial adventure in the deer woods. Because recoil is minimal, the risk of the development of bad shooting habits, such as flinching, is significantly reduced.
A deer hunter’s rifle caliber of choice is often a highly personal decision. No wrong or right answers exist, as long as the chosen caliber can be utilized in a way to facilitate clean, accurate, and ethical shots. No matter your choice, any of the above-listed calibers are sure to be a reliable means of stocking the freezer for years to come.