View Full Version : .243 for mule deer?

February 15, 2006, 06:54 PM
I just wanted to know how many of you out there have used a .243 to hunt mule deer. I live in Co. and want to hunt next season but the only rifle I have is a S&W model 1500 in .243. Some pepole have told me that it is to small so I thought I would ask. Thanks

February 15, 2006, 07:02 PM
The .243 is the minimum you can use for mule deer in CO.

However with the right bullet and good shot placement you should have no problems. It's a fine little round.

May I suggest Barnes X, Nosler Partition or some such, in about a 100gr weight.

February 15, 2006, 11:35 PM
My first three mule deer were taken with a .243 it is a very capable rifle if you get good shot placement. I had a neighbor who reloaded his own .243 and I talked him into loading me some 105 grain bullets to hunt with. I took two shots to bring down my first mulie, buck fever almost got the best of me. It only took one shot on the other two. The .243 was my first rifle I ever bought, I've accumulated quite a few since then and just use my .243 on coyotes and pronghorns now.

I would not be afraid to go after a mulie again with the rifle and I would use a bullet in the 80-100 grain range now. My only recommendation is to practice, practice, practice, bullet placement is the key so know how your rifle shoots. The .243 is plenty of rifle to handle deer so don't go buy a bigger rifle, unless you just want one and you have plenty of time to practice before the season.

February 16, 2006, 03:01 AM
.243 is a minimal, but very capable mule deer cartridge. H&H has some great advice: If you stick with heavy premium bullets (90gr. plus in Barnes TSX, Nosler Partition) then you don’t give up anything to most of the common deer calibers. I’ve helped skin out a dozen or more Muley’s killed with the .243. Little recoil, flat shooting, good cartridge. You’re probably approaching the upper limit of the size of game you should plan on cleanly taking with it, though. Don’t go off thinking you're ready for Elk or some such.

February 16, 2006, 05:01 PM
Mule deer are not that big nor are they that tough. I went hunting on the Eastern Plains this past season and a buddy got a buck that had antlers that were very close to atypical. I was surprised at how small the buck was as we field dressed it.

A .243 round in 85 to 95 grains is plenty. Part of the effectiveness of a .243 is in the velocity you achieve with a bullet in that range. Adding 10 grains to that will only reduce your velocity and your flat shooting range.

Ken Waters used a 95 grain Nosler partition in his favorite hunting load for the .243. Thats what I have loaded up for this coming season.

Do a look up on poster Art Eatman. He has many deer to his credit and swears by the .243

I am hunting in the Colorado plains with a .243 this season.

Jack O'Conner
February 17, 2006, 10:25 PM
My brother and I shared a Remington .243 slide action for a decade. Many Wyoming mulies have fallen to our well placed bullets. Minimum is a term which means nothing to a hunter standing over a dead deer. The term has no relevency to success.

We have tried many ammo brands and bullet weights. I like Black Hills Ammo featuring Nosler 95 grain Ballistic Tip for antelope and 95 grain Nosler Partition for mule deer. The Partition is a genuine all-the-way-through the deer bullet. I've never recovered a single bullet. Always a good sized exit hole.

Most of our shots are fired at 225 yards or less. Typically, it is late morning and the buck is either snoozing or nibbling on sage. We wait for broadside presentation whenever we can as this will destroy both lungs in an instant. Hunters who say unkind things about this cartridge are typically woodsmen who have had a bad experience with penetration at forest distances. This can be avoided with the Nosler Partition or Hornady Interlock bullet. Or a woodsman should follow historical predictability and choose a slower, heavier bullet with plenty of exposed lead. Several good forest and foothill cartridges come to mind.

The biggest mulie my brother ever toppled fell to single 100 grain bullet from a box of bargain priced PMP ammo. This ammo comes from South Africa and is hard to find these days. But 5 years ago, a box went for $8.99. Accurasy was quite good.

In summary, I have found the .243 to be a deadly cartridge for even the largest mulie. Thickness of chest wall is nearly identical whether 160 lb. doe or 275 lb. big buck. These animals are not armor-plated.
Good hunting to you.

Art Eatman
February 18, 2006, 12:26 PM
Jack, you're correct, but the factor that's most important is that you were picky and chose your shots.

Just my opinion, but I think a lot of "not enough gun" comes from folks who sorta aim at the middle of the big brown area and at any old angle. I've helped carry deer to hunters' cold-storage lockers. Looking at a lot of the deer hanging there is what gave me this opinion...

:), Art

February 18, 2006, 01:24 PM
Jack O'Conner

Let's be fair here...

You hunt in Wyoming where the deer are plentiful and probably on private land. You can pass on the less than desirable shots and less than desirable deer. That generally allows you to take your time and place your shots like a well disciplined hunter should.

A female hunter, with five witnesses, shot a sizable running Mulie buck, 5 times in a pie plate sized group, at 200 yards with a .243... she was an awesome shooter... The buck ran 200 yards before it fell.

Many hunters in the field would have thought they'd missed all five times... and many have... so the buck would never be found... especially in the trees.

I advocate "more gun" for the average hunter. Not for the selective hunter...

As I've said before, the 30-06 has been used to kill every animal on the planet, but that doesn't make it an elephant gun... nor is it a good choice for Cape Buffalo.


Why do I always find myself agreeing with you? :rolleyes:

Could it be because I am always right? :D :D :D

Art Eatman
February 18, 2006, 05:31 PM
Aw, ain't it nice to be wise and handsome as well as suave and debonair?

Or is that swayve and deboner? :D

A buddy of mine found a 1960 copy of the Sports Afield "Gun Annual" In it is an article on hunting in Africa with the .30-'06. It listed the game (including lion and buffalo) and the loads used. Mostly Sierra 150- and 180-grain Spitzers. Most all the plains antelope. The particular buffalo shown looked to be on the small side compared to what H&H has shown us.

I sure got grumpy looking at prices, though...Gee, deluxe Weatherby rifles were as much as $348! Ruger Mark I .22 autos for $37.50!


February 18, 2006, 08:06 PM
Yeah and gasoline was .26 cents a gallon and diesel was .10 cents... :mad:

Ohhh! for the "good ole days" :D :D

Dave Haven
February 18, 2006, 09:59 PM
And $1.00/hour was decent wages.

February 18, 2006, 11:41 PM
people actually get paid Money for work?? WOW! I have always been paid in [email protected]#? Can you get ammo with $

Art Eatman
February 19, 2006, 11:18 AM
Naw, Dave, maybe $3.00, which is near what I got as a fresh almost-young college grad beginning in 1962. Union carpenters at Cobo Hall in Detroit got $7.00/hr.

:), Art

Jack O'Conner
February 19, 2006, 03:50 PM
Suprises me that .243 always brings out strong opinions one way or the other. Yet we remain polite and kind to each other which is form of unity when you think about it.

My wife has toppled many mulies and 'lopes with our .243 but I had a custom 6.5mm Swede made for her. Not that it kills mulies better or faster. But the old Swede is a very deep penetrator and is quite possibly the best moderate recoil elk cartridge of all time. Admittedly, 7mm-08 is a worthy contender for this niche. I can't explain it, but 7mm-08 is virtually ignored by the hunting magazines.

.243 is very fast and with the right bullet can be a very deadly mule deer cartridge. Same can be said for 22-250 and 220 Swift. Or 25-06 and 270! You're allowed to disagree with me. But I feel it comes down to placing a good bullet into the chest so both are lungs are destroyed in an instant.

I do not choose our .243 for hunting forests and foothills. I much prefer 30-30 or 35 Remington because the heavier bullets at slower velocities are better performers at forest distances. By better performers I mean to say: deadly and predictable bullet mushroom with less meat damage.

Does this mean the .243 is an expert's cartridge? I think not. You may think differently. But there is no doubt that .243 has a recoil level that is easy to master. This factor helps produce precise bullet placement. Whether used by a beginner or middle-aged hunter like me, the .243 is a popular hunting cartridge that grows in appeal each and every year.

Good hunting to you.

February 20, 2006, 06:49 PM
Jack O'Conner

Reading your posts makes it clear that you are obviously NOT stupid... :confused:

So you're probably just wrong... ;)

:D :D :D

Jack O'Conner
February 21, 2006, 08:40 PM
Your'e correct. I'm NOT stupid. A Building Inspector is a middle-aged man or older that knows he can't keep up with a 27 year old framer. So he studies, takes courses, and achieves credentials to promote upward into the inspection career. Smart builders become Inspectors.

.243 always brings out strong opinions. I'm forecasting that this discussion will be repeated in 6 months or so.

If you guys really knew me, we'd be great pals. Really.

February 21, 2006, 11:11 PM
If you guys really knew me, we'd be great pals. Really.

I don't doubt it for a minute... :)

February 22, 2006, 01:12 AM
I have hunted in and taken mule deer in Utah for the better part of the last 26 years and for a lot of those years used mainly 2 rifles, a Ruger #1 in 30-06 and a Remington 788 in 6MM the balastic twin of the 243. Yes I have also taken deer with my Contender as well as a 54 caliber Lyman Great Plains.

There has been a lot of mule deer fall to the 788 and it has more than a few times in my hands and the hands of others dropped mule deer and the only time I took a second shot was when just as I shot she ducked her head and I pierced her ears just above the top of the skull, the second shot made it where you could not have brain tanned the hide. I loaded my 788 it with Nosler 105 grain flat base when they were avaivable and when they weren't went to the Speer 100 grain and more than one occasion you could put one hand on the deer and the other on where the bullet went into the dirt behind it.

Yes you have to place your bullet in the right spot but I had the funny idea that, that is part of hunting. Learning how to hit what you are aiming at with one shot and passing on the Texas Heart Shots(the ones where all you can see is the south end of a north bound animal).

February 22, 2006, 10:17 AM
The .243 is great for a hunter that has the time to take a well placed shot, preferribly broadside at a normal sized buck.
My father's encore pistol in .243 drops deer the same as my .308. They can't tell the difference, and we have yet to recover a bullet shot into a deer with either round. He loves the remington 95 grain accutip and the 95 grain winchester BST. he is giving up alot in velocity by using a 15" barrel pistol and STILL the deer drop as fast as with any other cartridge.
That being said, for a once in a lifetime hunt out west i would use more gun. ( the .270 would be at the top of the list ) If I lived out west and hunted mulies on an annual basis I would seriously consider the .243 or any other .308 based round as an excellent deer cartridge.

February 22, 2006, 11:38 AM
Ohhh! for the "good ole days"

Yeah, and you could buy rifles at OTASCO & Sears (I was but a wee lad at the time, though, not an adult).

February 26, 2006, 09:59 PM
A female hunter, with five witnesses, shot a sizable running Mulie buck, 5 times in a pie plate sized group, at 200 yards with a .243... she was an awesome shooter... The buck ran 200 yards before it fell.

I hate to be a skeptic but im not buyin that unless you were one of those five witnesses. I shot four deer with the .243 and my brother took two when i had one. Every deer except one that i gutshot dropped within 50 yards of a single hit from a 100gr Nosler Partition. My longest shot was about 200 yards and the closest was made by my brother at about 40.

In my opinion the .243 is definetly adequate for Mulies you just have to select your shots. I've seen deer shot with 7.62X39, .243, .303 Brit, .30-06, .270 Winchester and 7mm Magnum. As far as i know the deer cant tell who has the bigger gun if you put the bullet into its heart or lungs (with the possible exception of 7.62X39mm which IMHO isnt a deer round).

February 27, 2006, 12:24 AM
Had a hunting buddy that used a 243 for three years. He was a very very good shot and 5 of the 6 white tail deer he shot those years ran a while before falling. His bullet placement on the ones that ran were good and all of them were hit at around 100 yards away. Only one that didn't run. he put the bullet in its head. My friend loved the rifle, but switched back to a 30 cal cartridge for deer.

February 27, 2006, 12:48 AM
Shot placement is critical with the 243. I personally use an A-bolt 7mm WSN which covers white tails up to caribou because of the variety of loads for the application. It would be great for trading on up. Good youth rifle. Being 50+ I don't want to chase down a almost kill. The 7 gives you more room for error. My .02

February 27, 2006, 12:58 PM
Even when hit in the heart of lungs with a larger caliber round, deer can still run 50 - 100 yards before they drop. I haven't noticed a significant difference between any of the deer I have shot or seen shot by others and the caliber used. I've seen some deer hit with the .243 just sit down on the spot and die, and I've seem some deer hit well with 12 ga slugs run for 100 yards.
The only ways to ensure the deer will drop instantly is to sever the spinal cord or take a brain shot. Some guys can do it almost all the time and the deer drop on the spot. It's too small of a target for most of us to try in my opinion.
Any deer hit in the heart and lungs with an appropriate bullet will drop eventually, and the .243 will do it as well as larger rounds. I am not claiming that it will penetrate the length of a deer or break both shoulders but it will do very well with a well placed shot.