I prefer larger calibers for carry guns, but it isn't required to shoot the heaviest loads in them. You can load a big gun down like a small gun, but a small gun will always be a small gun. The noise level of a 44 with medium level, or 44 spl level loads is far more pleasnt to shoot than a 357 magnum, and have much more room at the top end if you want it. I do in fact live in bear country, any time I walk out my door is potentially a day I could run into a bear (the G kind, as well as the B kind). I won't carry smaller caliber guns, they won't do the work a larger caliber gun will when it comes to large critters. Age has some bearing on what I like to shoot, heavy loads just aren't that much fun any more, but I keep them in the gun when out in the hills. I also find single action revolvers more pleasant to shoot with any given load than a DA because of the grip shape. I find myself carrying the Ruger 45 more often, and the Smith 29 less as time goes on.
I shoot small game and grouse with 30-30, 348 and 45-70. You just have to tailor the load to what you're doing. Round ball loads at low velocity work great, dont tear up the game, and are quiet to shoot. light cast bullet loads work well also.
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt-