A 357 magnum is a good versatile choice, whether your concerns are two or four legged predators in the swamps of the southern USA. If you plan on using it for hunting, make sure you check with your states hunting regulations on minimum barrel length for hunting. In my state the minimum is 5 inches. Taurus revolvers, will get the job done. I owned the Taurus model 608. It holds 8 rounds, and was accurate and reliable for me. You should be able to find a used one of these in your price range. May be a tad heavy for hiking, but with the right holster, it shouldn't be a problem.
If your concern is more with the two legged variety of predator, the Taurus model 617 is smaller 7 shot 357 magnum, that again you should be able to pick up pre-owned, in your price range.