View Full Version : is 223 enough for east coast whitetails?

February 10, 2002, 12:07 AM
My Grandfather and I have to thin the deer population on our farm.
We are losing entirely too many X-mas trees to the buggers.
I have several rifles but want to use one that isn't too heavy, Rem 6mm varmint rifle or LTR, as I'll have to tote it around while I'm working. and my 1917 sporter in '06 is a bit much for 150 yard max shooting. I was considering my AR since Fish and Game told him that any gun was alright. Anyone here use a 223 on deer?
I'm also considering an Enfield 303. Quieter is also better.

Bud Helms
February 10, 2002, 01:18 AM
Well, it's considered marginal by those that are looking for a clean, ethical kill. A hunter is obliged to do that. 'Can't recommend it due to the chances of wounding vs killing. Of course, a good shot makes up for a lot of other shortcomings.

February 10, 2002, 02:26 AM
The Game Commission said a semi is okay for crop damage?


February 10, 2002, 09:51 AM
How are you losing Christmas trees to deer? From rubs?

Art Eatman
February 10, 2002, 10:42 AM
Lemme put it this way: If I were going to use a .223 on deer, it would only be a neck shot; or a heart shot when I was absolutely sure of the hit.

It's too easy for that small bullet to break up on a leg or rib and have a messy surface wound--and the deer goes off and dies a long way off.


February 10, 2002, 10:45 AM
...or a head shot.

February 10, 2002, 10:50 AM

February 10, 2002, 02:55 PM
Thanks fellows, I'm either going to use my grandfathers 303 or my 308. This reminds me of a guy at the local gunshop bragging of how he used a 22wmr to bag deer "at the quarry". If a 223 is underpowered this guys was being reckless!

Art Eatman
February 10, 2002, 06:48 PM
I have a cousin-in-law who hunts deer with a .22WMR. However, it's in the swamps, and he goes for between the eyes at ten to fifteen yards. He also can hit running squirrels with a .22 rimfire, so I'd have to say he's above-average in his skill level.

Situation, judgement, skill level...All that stuff.

I'd go the .303 or .308, myself.

:), Art

The Terminator
February 10, 2002, 07:13 PM
The 223 is a maimer and a crippler. I would not use it, even though it is legal where I live at. I personally think that the 243 is minimum for deer. Like you say, you have a 303 and a 308 at your disposal. I use a 308 as a personal favorite, along with my 30-06. Either with 150 grain bullets is an excellent deer stopper.

My cousing killed a huge 10 pointer this past season using a 303 British. Good luck.

February 10, 2002, 09:27 PM
Maimer and crippler?? I hope you were kidding! I also live in GA, and I would have no problem hunting deer with a .223. However, I would limit my shots to less than 100 yards, and I would only take neck-shots. The .223 is more than adequate for most eastern deer, as long as the shooter does his part. The two most important factors of clean kills, regardless of caliber, are bullet selection and bullet placement. 55-60 gr hollow points traveling at over 3000 fps are devastating on the soft tissue of a deer's neck, and kills the animal as quick as any other cartridge. You have to realize, though, that you must be willing to pass on deer you are unable to make clean shots on. If you doubt your shooting ability, then the larger calibers are your best bet. However, don't expect the cartridge to make up for your mistakes as a marksmen. A .223 to the neck is MUCH better than a .308 to the gut!

The Terminator
February 10, 2002, 09:44 PM

We are just going to have to disagree. I've been hunting all of my life, and I know that the 223 is good in a survivalist situation. I also know that a lot of hunters are using it when they don't need to be. I was involved when the 223 was given the OK in Georgia as a whitetail round. A lot of politics in this decision, in 1989, that allowed all centerfire rifle cartridges to be used. Prior to that it was on the "not legal for deer" list, that also inclused the 30 Carbine, 222, and a few other underpowered cartridges.

The places at which a 223 will kill cleanly are very limited, as you pointed out by discussing "neck shots". As you mentioned, a shot other than the neck would likely have to be passed up. A good hit on a deer is either in the shoulder or in the vitals. Both places will stop as well as a neck shot, but not with a 223 being used. If you want to compare shots, lets put both shots from each caliber in the same place. A gut shot with a 233 is just as gut shot as a 308, no? Check as far and wide as you wish, I don't think that many will agree that a 223 is a good round to hunt whitetail deer with. Best -

February 10, 2002, 10:26 PM
Don't get me wrong, because I do agree the .223 is not a sufficient whitetail round. I merely argued the point the .223 can be used to kill deer cleanly, provided the hunter precisely places shots. I personally hunt with a .280, 7x57, and a .30-30. I would never suggest the use of a .223 as a hunting round, just that it can be done. Now, on to the debate of the .243....:)

February 13, 2002, 11:13 PM
In most people's hands the 223 is not enough for deer. But in some folk's hands it is more than enough.
I know folks that hunted for years with a 22mag and never had a deer walk more than 2 feet before dropping.
Here in NY we can use any centerfire cartridge and I use the 223 from a treestand with a rest. I shoot em in the head. I do not shoot at a moving deer and I don't shoot offhand. This year I let 2 bucks go because they wouldn't stop long enough for a good shot. I don't hunt with anyone that will shoot at a moving deer with a rifle.
I know guys that shouldn't hunt even with 12 ga shotguns because they couldn't hit themselves in the butt even if they stuck the barrel in a back pocket.

Art Eatman
February 14, 2002, 08:55 AM
And so biganimal wisely brings us once again to what's meant by some movie feller who said, "A man's gotta know his limitations." :D


February 14, 2002, 05:54 PM

If you want a handy, light weapon for toting around the farm, then I recommend a .30-30 Winchester M94 rifle.

Jamie Young
February 16, 2002, 08:41 PM
I know a couple people that have done it with AR's under 50yds. I wouldn't do it with the 55gr Ball ammo though. I'd go with some of My wonderful 69gr hpbt rounds. Bigger is better though.

In your neck of the woods I'd stick with a Shotgun.

You wouldn't happen to need any help would you? I live pretty close to you:D Seriously, and I know plenty of people that would take the meat. If your willing email me.

February 16, 2002, 09:00 PM
Use enough gun.
Use it well.
Enough gun for you
Maby not for me.


Sgt Pepper
February 16, 2002, 11:00 PM
Since you are culling deer, you are not looking for the "perfect" shot. You are looking to take down the deer with a single shot regardless of where you hit it. Use the 30-06. There will be no questions about killing capabilities, no worries about perfect shots, no issues about the size of the animal, and no chasing maimed deer around. Why do you think it is a bit much for short range?

Jamie Young
February 17, 2002, 01:44 PM
Depending on the layout of his Farm a 30/06 may be dangerous. Some dope fired a Rifle and put it threw a car door, which hit the baseball cap of an infant while the car was moving. I believe it was somewhere in that area. I read it in the Trenton Newspaper in December.

February 17, 2002, 01:58 PM
whatever rifle you are using, you must be sure what is behind the animal you are shooting at, if you miss (can happen to anyone, but some miss more than others) most bullets will travel several kilometers (.22lr <2km. 30-06 <5km) this have resulted in many nasty situations.

February 17, 2002, 02:36 PM
This input has been great fellows.
Followups re: various queries,
AT this point it will be the 303 or 308
most likely 303 since the other is a Remmy LTR( heavyrifle but has an adjusted trigger)
I thought the 06 was a bit much gun since the 303 or 308
have nearly the same performance at the short-medium ranges
I will encounter. As for the bullet carrying too far due to misses:
I have been cost effectively pracicing my marksmanship from various non bench positions with my 22lr so that when the time comes I won't miss, also our farm is in a valley so I have a 450 yard backstop free of inintended bullet recipients.From the bench I've been fairly consistent at tagging soda cans out to 400 yards from my bipod so I'm not a greenhorn to shooting. I've been keeping an eye out for fresh droppings and fresh trails so I have a better idea of their habits and due to the lack of snow so far, so good with the lack of damage. You guys are a really valuable resource.
Oh, Salt: I've promised myself that I'm buying a reloading press before I buy another gun.

Art Eatman
February 17, 2002, 03:08 PM
Reloading is a Good Thing!

:), Art

slick slidestop
February 17, 2002, 07:06 PM
I personally don't like the 223 for hunting deer, but I will say that a young boy whose father is on my deer lease (he lives there) shoots deer at 250 yards (verified with range finder, distance from cliff to feeder) on a regular basis and has never lost a deer in the 5 years I have hunted there.

I don't know what ammo he uses, but he shoots heart/lung shots at 250, and ear or neck shots 100 yards and in.

I personally would not use anything smaller than a .243, and I shoot a 7mm Rem Mag for those distances.

Btw we hunt in an area of Texas that 250 yards is an average shot, and you could (I wouldn't) shoot 500 yard shots or more.

I want my animal to drop as quickly as possible, nothing hurts me more than to walk up to a deer who suddenly tries to scramble to his feet only to have to shoot him again:(

Art Eatman
February 17, 2002, 07:21 PM
I've killed quite a few deer. Most were one-shot kills.

I lost one in 1973, and can still give you chapter and verse of the whole scene...:(


February 17, 2002, 07:22 PM
...nothing hurts me more than to walk up to a deer who suddenly tries to scramble to his feet only to have to shoot him again
But thats the only part of the hunt when you get to pull out your Ruger Redhawk... ;) :(

Jamie Young
February 17, 2002, 10:34 PM
Thats a topic I almost brought up a few days ago "UnClean Kills". I've seen it with Small game and heard plenty of Deer Hunting Stories. Clean Kills are always better :)

February 18, 2002, 02:50 AM
If you are culling deer, and there might be folks living close, then use a .30-30,or try a 12 gauge slug. If people aren't a concern, then use whatever you please. It is real simple. If you have to cull deer and worry about people, use 12 GA. 00 buck.

February 18, 2002, 08:53 PM
For years I hunted with a 22-250 on deer. i have never lost one and almost always dropped them within a few feet of where they were hit. I have plenty of friends who use the .223 it is marginal but if you put the bullet in the heart/lung area it will kill them.

The farthest I ever had to track a deer was after I shot one with a 30-06.

Just remember that people drop deer in their tracks all the time with a bow and arrow. A .223 is fine if used responsibly and with in its limits, just like a bow and arrow.

February 18, 2002, 09:32 PM
OH the great debate.
It never ceases to amaze me how folks will advocate the .223 as the ultimate battle cartridge for 150 + lb. humans dress in battle gear but will not accept thte same performance on a 75 to 100 lb. deer running naked.
Varmit size cartridges with well designed fast bullets will kill deer like hot lighting with a well placed shoot. With a poorly placed shoot there is no future in anything more powerful or larger caliber.
I, myself, mainly use the 6.5 X 55 or the 25-06 for deer but I have cleanly killed deer with rounds as anemic as the .22 LR (behind the ear) and as powerful as a .60 muzzle loader at 15 yards (chest shot). Both deer dropped on the spot.
This brings to mind the writings of a Christain missionary to the Cree Indians of northern Canada. The folks hunted caribou twice a year when the great herds passed thru their territory. You can be sure a cartridge or a weapon that did not perform would not last long. We are talking survival food here. Their favorite weapon for these 400 to 500 lb animals was the Ruger Mini-14 in .223.

Perhaps the question here is not;

"Is the .223 good enough for eastern deer?"


"Why would I intentionally use a .223 for eastern deer when there are so many better cartridges?"

February 23, 2002, 01:00 AM
Well, riddleofsteel, I prefer the .308 for either deer or human. Although I have known a half-dozen guys who use .223 Mini-14's on whitetail all the time....never more than one shot (they know their business) and I don't argue. I have seen the deer bodys, they damn-near fell dead. I have to admit that though I am from the school that bigger is better. On hogs on up, bigger is better, on deer and such, a better shot is better, no matter the caliber. don't mean to agree or argue....Just what I have seen....

Art Eatman
February 23, 2002, 07:50 AM
Been using an '06 since before there was a .308. I started out with it because my father gave me an '06. How easy can it get? "That's what my daddy uses," said the sixteen-year-old.

As I learned more about the whole deal, I came to the conclusion that "overkill" is sort of like insurance. I'm not always going to make that perfect hit that makes a deer DRT. A cartridge which is more than some minimum capability can still anchor an animal, even if it's a bad hit.

Further, a clean kill is important to me because of what I have come to see as a requirement for ethical behavior on my part. That is of no concern if the problem is dealing with a Bad Guy.

Dunno. It all seems simple, now. Of course, it only took a few decades for me to become the all-wise, all-knowing sage that I am. :D


slick slidestop
February 23, 2002, 05:48 PM
Originally Posted by Riddleofsteel:

"OH the great debate.
It never ceases to amaze me how folks will advocate the .223 as the ultimate battle cartridge for 150 + lb. humans dress in battle gear but will not accept thte same performance on a 75 to 100 lb. deer running naked."

Well, probably most people are not worried about a "clean kill" while in Battle as I would not either.

That is a totally different scenario.

When in peacetime and hunting a defenseless animal, I want that animal to die as quickly and painlessly as possible.

If I am in a war fighting for my life, I could care less If I had to gut shoot someone..... at least in the heat of Battle.. I'm sure afterward I would not be overjoyed of someone elses suffering

February 24, 2002, 02:20 AM
Quietest, cheapest ammo, most lightweight rifle fastest follow up shot if we have more than one deer to eliminate. I simply asked a question from a nonhunters position. I've decided on my grandfathers enfield, for the record.
Riddle of Steel do you usually hunt from your high horse as well?

The Terminator
February 24, 2002, 02:40 AM
I think that you have made an excellent decision. I recommend Federal 180 grain Tropy Bonded Bear Claw ammunition. It generates 2680 lbs of energy at the muzzle, and when sighted in at 200 yards is only 2.4 inches high at 100 yards and 4.0 inches low at 250 yards with 1610 lbs of energy retained. An impressive cartridge for up to 250 yards. Good luck.

Byron Adams
February 24, 2002, 09:26 AM
A young man at my Church(18) did not like the recoil of his 270. He traded for a NE rifle in 223 and loaded the Hornady 60 grain SP. He shot and killed two deer in the N GA mountains and both went but a few yards. Range was about 65 yards.