A Ruger American costs $750??? Are you sure you're not thinking of the M77 MK II? The MSRP on the American is only $449, and I have yet to see one sell for more than $375+tax. http://www.ruger.com/products/americanRifle/models.html
But if you're dead set on the Axis, it will by all means be sufficient for what you said you will use it for. As for caliber choices that they offer in the Axis for a deer and emergency black bear gun, anything .25-06 or bigger should do fine.