While the 17hmr does impressive damage to cans and prairie dogs, I wouldn't have much faith in its penetrating ability on deer. The 22lr, on the other hand, tends to make simple little holes but actually penetrates fairly well. I suspect it would not only damage less meat on small critters than the more explosive 17hmr, but it would be more likely to reach something vital on bigger game.
As others have said, I'd be leery of a handgun as my means of getting food if my life depended on it. A takedown rifle like others have mentioned might be good, or maybe a carbine with a folding stock.
Last edited by idek; January 4, 2013 at 04:05 AM.