View Full Version : What cartridge is too small for deer?

The Terminator
November 19, 2008, 10:19 PM
I'm asking because I want to know who agrees/ disagrees with me or others. Maybe we can keep this from getting nasty. :D:D

My list of too small, and centerfire is the:

30 carbine,
.204 Ruger
.223 WSM

I think that they all are too risky, underpowered and unable to offer any compensation for shots that are not 100% accurate If you are using one, and consistently have good results, I'd like to hear your experiences. No lies.:D:D What about you?

November 20, 2008, 05:13 AM
You need to realise that there's more to the question than the capabilities of the cartridge used.

Any one of those cartridges is very capable of taking deer if used by a capable hunter and shooter. In the wrong hands, they can all fail.

I wouldn't be afraid to hunt deer with a .17 Remington, but I'd be very, very picky about what shots I took. A 25 grain bullet at ~4000 fps to the neck or base of the ear would work just fine, and I wouldn't shoot beyond the range that I could confidantly and reliably do it. 100 yards or so would be about it. since I also don't want that little bullet to run out of juice before it gets there.

However, if I don't want to be that choosey about my shot, then I'll hunt with something larger. A .243 or 7mm mag leaves me a lot more options.


November 20, 2008, 05:18 AM
I wouldn't feel comfortable with anything smaller than a .223.

phil mcwilliam
November 20, 2008, 05:28 AM
I have harvested over a dozen deer for meat with a 22-250. Nice easy, but accurate medium range shots without any major problems. If I was out after a trophy deer I wouldn't take anything smaller than a 243 & would recommend 25-06 or larger.

November 20, 2008, 06:08 AM
Please do not take the following as advocating the .22 lr, I'm only presenting it because it is a fact. I personally think that deer hunters would be better off using .243/6 mm and up for deer. However I have defended the high powered centerfire .22s abilities to kill deer size game, because I have done it many times and seen it done many times, it only requires good shot placement and a properly structured projectile.

Now back to my opening statement about the .22 lr, I have killed deer with the .22 lr and .22 Magnum rim-fires using heart lung shots. These deer were illegally shot at night using a spotlight (this happened close to 30 years ago I was young and fool hardy, it was wrong, please don't try it) we would turn on the spot light, shoot a deer behind the shoulder with the .22 lr or .22 Magnum, turn the spot light out and wait till we heard the deer fall over. None were lost or got away that I can remember. Animals don't live long after projectiles adequately penetrate their heart/lung area.

I think that they all are too risky, underpowered and unable to offer any compensation for shots that are not 100% accurate If you are using one, and consistently have good results, I'd like to hear your experiences.

This statement was the reason I related the story above to make the point that whether it is hunting or defense Penetration and Shot placement are the keys to success. The .300 Ultra Mag is little compensation if you shoot one through the guts and it runs far enough away to where you can't find it.

Again, please everyone don't shoot deer with under powered rifles and if you do use a .22 centerfire(.22-250, .223, .220 Swift, etc) please use a bullet thats structured for deer and not varmints.

If I was out after a trophy deer I wouldn't take anything smaller than a 243 & would recommend 25-06 or larger.
Very good advice, advice that could apply to all deer hunting not just trophy deer.

November 20, 2008, 07:19 AM
I wouldn't use the 204 cal. for whitetail because I feel that A 32gr. bullet is just to small. However under the right conditions A neck shot would work very well. As for the others I would use the 223,22-250,223wsm,222 and the 30 carbine with confidence as long as I can take A well placed shot at A reasonable distance.

November 20, 2008, 08:10 AM
I'd go .223 or higher. The other cartridges can certainly take a deer, but I strive for a clean, one shot kill. Those other cartridges can certainly do that but I think that a larger round gives you a better margin of error.

November 21, 2008, 06:08 PM
It also really depends a lot on location and size of the deer. Northern tier states really require a bit larger caliber than say Texas or other southern states where the deer tend to be quite small.

November 21, 2008, 06:16 PM
And at 25 yards or 200? Heck if I had a .22lr in my hand and Mr.Treehead stepped out 20 yards away it would be a real conflict in my soul to either honor the law (no rimmy for deer) or put a pill right in his noodle bowl.:rolleyes: This is where integrity comes in, huh? Hungry=DEAD not hungry... he walks.

Brian Pfleuger
November 21, 2008, 06:34 PM
I'll go back to my answer from the other thread.

If you have to ask, it's too small for you.

November 21, 2008, 06:42 PM
Nate's post runs parallel with first hand accounts of Depression-era hunting in Missouri. Apparently the little rimfire worked well enough to drive the deer population pretty low, in the years that followed.

The top three on Terminator's list have put plenty of meat in the freezer, when they were shot well. When they are not, bad times will follow. The same could be said of the .30-30 and nobody with any sense questions its adequacy for deer.

November 21, 2008, 06:47 PM
I'm not sure why you would want to shoot a deer with a 22 caliber unless that is all you have. In the real world you don't have a perfect angle or a perfect rest and it may be a deer you don't want to pass up. There is a lot of ways to get to the furnace if you shoot something heavy enough to do it.

November 21, 2008, 07:15 PM
Lets see,

#1 it depends on where you hunt

#2 it depends on how you hunt

#3 it depends on how you shoot.

#4 it depends on whats legal.

#1 Deer vary greatly in size, and size is more of the issue than the breed. A south texas deer, might weigh in at 75 pounds, dressed. A northern UP or Minnesota deer might run 275 or more dressed.

#2, are you shooting bean field deer at 500 yards? Are you hunting Alder thickets and Aspen sprouts, where you are going to jump deer and have to anchor them while they are running? Are you sitting in a stand in an orchard, picking and choosing and then popping the one you want?

#3 Do you shoot running deer, do you shoot for the head, neck or aim for body shots, heart lungs ?

#4 its all moot if your state says 6 mm and up or something similar.

Personally I think deer hunting should require larger than 6 mm, not inclusive. but thats me.

Now, I hate interfering regulations too, and thus i am happy that for example my .22 hornet is now legal for shooting in this state. (mn) simply because common sense should rule, but then I see guys buying sledgehammer rounds for their .338 winmag or people here who think a 375 is not big enough for water jugs, and I get willing to say that you can hunt deer with anything that has between 1750 muzzle energy and 3200 fp of muzzle energy.

mostly I think its a matter of how you look at yourself as a hunter.

I tend to think of myself as a very restrained hunter who only wants to shoot what i know I can kill, and I want to leave as much left for eating as possible, thus, blowing huge holes in the animal, leaving massive ammounts of meat blood shot are just as revolting to me, as shooting and hitting an animal with a gun that does not have enough pop to kill it cleanly and finding I have a wounded animal under stress that I will not find until much later, which has loaded its meat with all sorts of by products of stress and injury.

T. O'Heir
November 22, 2008, 02:33 AM
Hunting deer with any .22 calibre cartridge is about the bullet used. Factory ammo tends to be loaded with varmint bullets. Varmint bullets are not suitable for deer sized game in any calibre.
Don't think there are any .20 calibre bullets that aren't varmint bullets.
I wouldn't think twice about using my M1 carbine for deer with my handloads, only, at less than 100 yards. The .30 Carbine with HP or SP bullets will kill a deer with little fuss, shot placement, of course, but not with factory loads.
"...shots that are not 100% accurate..." That's the shooter. Unfortunately, there are no marksmanship requirements to pass a Hunter's Safety course in most North American places. Up here, there are no public ranges either. Pass the course, write the Ministry's test and pass the 'practical' test and that's it. If you can't shoot, you can still hunt using either a bow or a firearm. Shooting skill isn't a requirement.

November 22, 2008, 04:39 AM
.223 in a good 62 grain HP is about low as i go. Most the time its a good tracking job so i usually go for the head. My sister shoots my 223 AR and takes deer with no prob. You can have a m198 howitzer but if you shot placement sucks your screwed just as if you had a 270

November 22, 2008, 05:40 AM
I taken several deer out to 200 yards with .223 in a mini 14 and a colt ar. I taken a few with a 22-250. I going to try a m1 carbine this year. I have never had to shoot more than one time. As long as it's legal to use in your area I feel bullet placement has more to do with a clean kill more than the size of the round. The farthest any deer has traveled for me was one I did have to track for about a half mile that I'd hit solidly with a 265 grain soft point from a .444 that was hit in the lungs from a distance of 40 yards.

November 22, 2008, 10:43 AM
Wyoming requires a 23 or larger caliber and a oal of 2 inches, meaning the .243 is the min. here. I'm fine with that,

Yeah shot placement, shot placement, but in reality the G&F have to set the rules for everyone, cant have differant rules for differant shooters.

When I was a kid, I use to hunt deer with a 25-20, I didnt have any problems but I didn't know any better either. I certainly wouldn't recommend the 25-20 as a deer cart. (though its tons of fun cotton tails).

November 22, 2008, 03:53 PM
My first deer was w/a 22LR (was squirrel hunting and didn't expect to take a deer) instant kill, deer facing me, bullet through the throat cutting jugular and hitting the spine. I also took a deer with my AR once just to do it, another DRT. Not bragging but I'm a pretty good shot and have been hunting a long time. That being said I won't be taking anything on your list deer hunting again. Too many things can go wrong no matter how good you are.

November 23, 2008, 10:54 AM
For typical bottlenecked rifle cartridges, I vote for 243 Winchester. I have a 6 mm Remington myself.

If most of your shots will be within 100 yds., why not just use 357 Magnum or 44 Magnum? Of course, out of a rifle, one can get a "free" 400 fps due to the extra barrel length.

November 23, 2008, 11:13 AM
T O Heir/ I have harvest deer with factory ammo from a 30 carbine 25 years ago NO PROBLEM with SJSP ;)