Deer are the most sought-after game animal in the U.S. Hunters across the land take the sport seriously and invest heavily in the best gear they can find to maximize their chance of bagging the big one. So which caliber cartridge will provide the best opportunity for that memorable event?
Which cartridge is the best for deer-hunting has been the topic of discussion around campfires and cabins for decades. Every hunter will stake his ground as having the right cartridge for the short hunting season where that one shot has got to count.
The candidates include the .243 Winchester, the .30-30 Winchester, the .30-06 Springfield, and the 7mm Remington Magnum. The .308 Winchester is considered too large for deer as is the .45-70 Government by many. We leave off the list those who prefer pistol (.44 magnum) or shotgun (12-gauge Slug/Buckshot)
In picking the best cartridge we consider two things: the performance of the cartridge and the skill of the shooter. Too weak a cartridge and the distance to the target will spoil your chances. Too strong a cartidge and recoil may not enable the amount of control needed for accuracy.
The .243 Winchester is accurate, flat-shooting and has mild recoil. It has developed a great reputation for taking down deer. For small-framed hunters, especially women and youth, it is highly recommended.
The .30-30 Winchester was developed more than 125 years ago and so has been taking down deer for more than a century. Its best range is under 150 yards. For quick-pointing lever action rifles you can't go wrong.
The .30-06 Springfield just may be the cartridge that has killed more deer than any other. It is flat-shooting with manageable recoil and their are many rifles from all the best manufacturers to choose from. For hunting beyond 150 yards the .30-06 is a great choice.
And finally, for those real long-range hunts the 7mm Remington Magnum shines. Beyond 250 yards the high ballistic coefficients keeps the trajectory flat. And despite its power the recoil is still manageable by most hunters.
Those are our choices for the best cartridges. Depending on your physical size and the type of hunt you may find the perfect cartridge to bring in that trophy season after season.