View Full Version : first deer rifle

March 23, 2009, 05:15 AM

I have been shooting ever since.. before i was even old enough to hold a .22lr, i grew up in a family big on hunting, my grandfather was a sheriff, we were pretty close, and i learned a lot from him in my short time on this rock, barely 23 years this month

ironically, i have never actually gone hunting for anything other than small game with my treasured 10/22, i have been planning to go for some hog with my 870 express, the 19.5" smooth bore with a 3" rifled choke and remington "accutip" sabots seems like a good setup for the heavy cover to be found in florida, they shoot amazingly well through this setup, i was not too sure at first, but i can consistently nail oranges at 50 yards with open sites, very adequate, at least in my opinion

crap, im getting off topic here :D, i tend to ramble, back to the point...

i decided i want my own center fire bolt gun, for the purpose of getting my first deer, and all though it will spend most of its time stalking the notoriously small deer to be found here, i do plan to get more north, and find bigger targets at longer ranges, so the caliber needs to be somewhat of a compromise in one way or another i assume, cant have your cake and eat it too, right?

i dont mind recoil at all, but i dont see the point of pointing something like any .30 magnum round at a 100-150lbs deer, sure.. it will drop him in his tracks, but so would a .30-30 without the abuse to my shoulder, but at the same time, i would not feel comfortable with the same gun at longer range and bigger game, you get the idea

so, caliber is up in the air, i have no experience to go by, only what i hear locally, which is unreliable in my opinion, so i ask someone that may know first hand? what is the minimum you would take for a typical northern white tail hunt, it seems rare to take a shot at very much more than 100 yards, but what about 250/300 yards? or am i under estimating some commonly used calibers here (.30-06 for example)

as for rifles, i have narrowed it down too, a Browning x-bolt, Ruger m77 "hawkeye" and of course, the m700, i have handled and fired them all, except for the m77, they all fit me nicely.. though i would have loved to fire the m77, i think i and leaning towards it the most, it just "clicked" when i picked it up, if you know what i mean

so, that could help narrow down a caliber, by.. whatever they are chambered in, i would prefer to keep the barrel somewhat shorter, around the 22" mark would be nice, if possible..., likewise i do not want a wood stock or stainless-steel finish of any type, i am very open to other rifle suggestions, naturally, those rifles listed are just ones i know that i like, and would prefer if possible

sorry for the slightly long "question", and i apologize if it is in the wrong section, but this subject really excites me :) i am looking forward to some good smoked venison a la deer, that i put on the table myself, the way it should be... except with a rifle, rather than some sticks and rocks

thanks for your time!

March 23, 2009, 05:57 AM
Looks like you have done a ton of reading on the subject before this post. If you think you want to shoot a deer wait until after that and then you will want to hunt a elk or moose. Why not go ahead and get a .30 caliper gun and get it over with or go ahead and get a smaller caliper and then by a new gun every time you want to go kill a new larger bigger deer. Then when you decide to go shoot a larger deer with a small caliper because you decided you cant afford the new gun and then pay or the hunt afterward. Then maybe yu will want to shoot a grizzly, well best of luck then.

March 23, 2009, 06:28 AM
go with a .30-06, its killed everything on this continent.

March 23, 2009, 06:48 AM
I agree you can't go wrong with a .30-06, or a .308 for that matter. You can just find some 150-165 grain ammunition for FL deer. But don't discount other cartridges like .243 Win or .270 as both would be excellent choices on deer as well. Anyway have fun with you decision and let us know what you get.

March 23, 2009, 07:20 AM
After hunting the Florida deer for ages, you need nothing more than that Remington 870 and OO buck. Plenty of deer have fallen to that combo. The heavy cover restricts ranges and the cover also keeps times to aim short. The 12 GA OO combo will drop FL deer where they stand out to 75 yards, if you can see that far.

As time has gone by, the FL deer have gotten smarter and stay in the heavier cover.

The other thing to consider is that Florida is heavily populated and it is a safety issue to use short range cartridges.

I have hunted Florida with a 12 GA, 243, 308 and still find the 12 GA the most useful. My personal deer gun is a Win Mod 12 2-3/4 30" full choke. I am partial to full choke for OO buck. Hard hitting.

March 23, 2009, 08:08 AM
ARRRRRGGGHHHH!!!! I feel like charlie brown fighting the kite eating tree sometimes. Yup, sure, he's gonna shoot deer so hand him an 06. Did ANYONE read the post?

The 06 is a great round but it's over powered and too much recoil for what he needs.

I would suggest any cartridge that falls from a 243 to a 7-08. Far less recoil far more pleasant to shoot, will kill any game animal you are likely to try. Ruger has both the .257 Roberts and the 6.5x55 swede chambered and both are near perfect for your listed needs. Remington lists the .243, .260, & 7-08 both choices would be near perfect

March 23, 2009, 08:09 AM
I've been shooting Rugers for some time and I always go back to the original M77 with the tang safety. You can find them used for a very good price.

As far as cartridge, anything from 6.5x55 up to 30-06 should do without forcing you to deal with more recoil than necessary; however if you've been shooting a slug gun as you say, recoil doesn't seem to be a problem.

If I were you, I'd find a used M77 in 270 or anything else in the above spread and take the money you saved to buy a high quality scope. That should last you a lifetime.

March 23, 2009, 08:20 AM
Right on bro I hope you get what your looking for but I think I READ correctly and 100-150 pound deer? I took a quick peak at the xbolts I would get something like 270, 280, 308, 7mm those would give you your distance with out the over kill of a 30 06 or 300 win mag, In the end those calibers all do the same damage though, just enter and exit. I use a 6.5x5.5 swedish mauser thats been through ww2 but its since been spoterized and such. Its also a very flat shooter. I do suggest how ever picking a larger caliber oppose to the smaller-medium for other game such as elk, moose, bear. I have a 300 win mag, 6.5x5.5 mauser, 45-70 lever action marlin. all of which im able to hunt bear moose or elk with (obvoiusly with the muaser Ill have to use its max loads for elk and moose but not for black bear), which I suggest because bear hunting is just too much fun to pass up, alot more exciting than deer+ alot more meat. I do alot of farm land hunting so I have actually only harvest one deer with a rifle. The other 7 have been with my compound bow, or my crossbow. You want to get as much out of your rifle as possible and not just limitting it to one game, that way you dont have to purchase another if you get invited to go elk moose or bear hunting. Saying that the 270, 280, 308, 7mm will be able to harvest elk moose and bear but its just nicer to have a bit bigger chunk of lead. Im rambling now but! with those catridges your going to be shooting their max loads. where if you get a 300 30 06 or something you can go all the way down to a 150 grain and then say next week you go bear hunting you can switch to a 220 grain load. alot of versatility their.catch my drift? any who good luck Im sure you will be happy with what ever you choose!

March 23, 2009, 08:37 AM
In Florida, I like the short lever action carbine in .30-30...
I would buy a beer for anyone that shows me a clean killed deer from 75 with buck shot.
I would stop at 40 yards unless I plan to track blood trails for hours to a spoiling deer. Slugs, on the other hand are packing a heck of alot of thump at the 70-100 yard range. 20 or 12 but not with buck.

March 23, 2009, 08:37 AM
Be different and get one of the finest calibers there is. The 6.5x55 Swede. Ruger, CZ & TIKKA make rifles in this loading. It can handle just about any game in the lower 48. Low recoil and very accurate.

March 23, 2009, 08:49 AM
Hard to beat a .30-30 for brushy areas and up to 150 yards. If shooting further more often, you might want to consider a .308 (which can do anything reasonable from close range out to long range).

March 23, 2009, 09:27 AM
The only gun of which you mention that I have any experience with is the Ruger. Generally, they are not known for accuracy. Some people have had "luck" with em but in general, a $300 Stevens 200 will out shoot em. So will the other you mentioned.

For caliber the 30-06 and the .308 just lacks "style" in my eyes. My favorite is the 7mm-08 and the 6.5's hold my attention. The down side? Ammo is harder to find but still readily available most places.

Art Eatman
March 23, 2009, 10:40 AM
My Florida hunting has been in the Appalachicola River bottoms. Swampy and jungly. Two ways to hunt: Either in a stand at the edge of a clearing whre there are travel paths, or sneaky-snaking and easing along and standing for a while. Some call this "still hunting".

Not much in the way of long range shots, so somewhere along a .243 to 7mm08 would work fine, or any other cartridge in that general range.

I don't really like short barrels very much, in part on account of the noise. That said, my pet .243 is a 19" carbine. :) Seven pounds, total, with sling, scope and ammo. It's been sub-MOA since I bought it in 1971-ish.

My 7mm08, I sorta splurged. A Rem 700 Titanium. 6.5 pounds, "fully dressed". Good trigger, sub-MOA. The recoil is not at all onerous.

I'd definitely want a scope. A fixed 4X is plenty good, since field of view is the big deal. And with few shots beyond a hundred yards or so on something as big as a deer or hog, you don't need "prairie dog precision". But a lot of critter movement is at first light and then late, at dusk. Iron sights at those times of day don't work all that well.

My 2ยข

Brian Pfleuger
March 23, 2009, 10:49 AM
You don't need "power" to hunt deer.

It's hard to beat something in 25-06. It entirely adequate for everything up to and including elk, maybe bigger. No punishing recoil, plenty of power.

March 23, 2009, 10:54 AM
A 30/06 is a little much for deer, especially Florida size. A 270 is a great deer cartridge for longer ranges. But, a 7MM08 is a fantastic choice because you can get a nice compact short action. And, if you want to hunt something bigger you can still load heavier bullets.

March 23, 2009, 10:57 AM
The only gun of which you mention that I have any experience with is the Ruger. Generally, they are not known for accuracy. Some people have had "luck" with em but in general, a $300 Stevens 200 will out shoot em. So will the other you mentioned.

Tell me what kind of accuracy you need for medium game hunting please. The M77 I've used for years is a MOA shooter and my #1 RSI is 1.5" @ 100 yards with a very low power scope on top. My buddy's Savage is a 2" shooter, but he's not an internet guy where every rifle magically becomes a MOA shooter. Accuracy is so overrated for hunting. Fit, balance and reliability are the hallmarks of a hunting rig. You have to try to find a modern rifle that won't shoot minute of deer vitals out to 300 yards, but only a handful of hunters shoot past that distance (internet hunters aside).

March 23, 2009, 11:07 AM

You do seem quite knowledgeable for a starter rifle. Why don't you try the T/C Encore in one of the middle calibers? Their quality and accuracy is legendary, plus you can always trade or buy up or down to other shotgun, rifle, and muzzleloading barrels. They make quite a nice travel pack as well.


March 23, 2009, 11:08 AM
Killkenny, I want to apologize for responding with cutting remarks. I strongly believe in what I wrote, but I didn't mean to make it personal. I'm leaving my remarks for posterity, but please understand I didn't mean to attack you.

March 23, 2009, 11:34 AM
Any body that hunts in the South these days is just as likely to see a pig instead of a deer. If you want to kill the pigs as well as the deer I would stay with the .270 or 30-06. A 400lb Florida deer is not going to happen, a 350 to 400 lb hog is a real possibility and hunters should be armed for them.

March 23, 2009, 11:46 AM
Any body that hunts in the South these days is just as likely to see a pig instead of a deer. If you want to kill the pigs as well as the deer I would stay with the .270 or 30-06. A 400lb Florida deer is not going to happen, a 350 to 400 lb hog is a real possibility and hunters should be armed for them.

Sectional Density and proper bullet construction allows for many rounds that were once considered less than ideal to be used for big feral pigs. The 6.5x55 is a great example of that and has been used to kill animals much larger than 400lbs in Europe for many years. The 7x57 has accounted for a tremendous amount of elephants.

March 23, 2009, 11:55 AM
I'd choose

a. 7mm-08

b. 6.5 x 55/.260

c. .270

in that order.

March 23, 2009, 01:27 PM
Hamour, The 400 pounder does exist but it is quite a stretch to say "real possibility"... Rear rarity is much more like it. And you will likely have been in a freshly harvested peanut field or in an orange grove of dropping fruit after dark to find them or you will have spent a good while in the swamp working in deep... Hog hunted for 5 years thus far and a 200-250 pounder is a real good hog that we see 1-in-5 at best...

March 23, 2009, 01:46 PM
Of the rifles you mention I'd lean toward the M700 the SPS Stainless would be good for the swamp.
My preference in bolt action is the Winchester M 70. Check one of those out if you have the chance.

As several people have mentioned, You might consider something other than a bolt action. A Marlin 336 in 30-30 is a heck of a good choice for short quick shots. The Remington 760 pump comes in a variety of calibers and would also be a good choice.

What ever caliber floats your boat will do fine. I'd go with the .243, unless I found a great deal on a rifle in another sub-.30 round.

March 23, 2009, 01:57 PM
If you look at all of the old military cartridges from the turn of the century until the .308 WW, you will find that they all will work well with the proper bullets. 6.5 x 55, 7mm mauser, 30-06, .270, 8mm mauser etc. The reason I said the .270 or 30-06 is the OP was asking in a manner that suggested a new commer to the rifle ranks. I figured any standard load in the .270 or 30-06 would be easy to aquire and work great for his intended targets. Sorry if any one favorite cartridge got shorted.

All the old military cartridges shoot dang near equal ballistics out to 250yds or so and in accurate rifles will kill all animals here in the South. .270 and 30-06 just have ease of bullet aquisition at any small town.

As far as 350 to 400 lb hogs being rare, this is a true statement. I have personaly killed two in that range and seen several others killed. One in Louisiana and one in east Texas. The big boys are where you find them. Any river bottom associated with grain production has the potential to produce monster hogs. Or a cattle producing area that feeds with growth hormone treated feed. Mr. piggy gets some of that and he will get big.

So while rare, not unheared of and weapon/bullet decisions should reflect this.

I used to shoot my Texas deer with a Colt CAR-15 and Speer 70gr bullets. They did great on deer in the woods for 20 years, but when the hogs started appearing I went back to my 30-06 and .308 rifles. I dont ever want to be undergunned at the wrong time.

Peace to all whose favorite cartridge did not get mentioned by me!

March 23, 2009, 03:21 PM
Peace to all whose favorite cartridge did not get mentioned by me!

The point was bullet construction and SD matter more than cartridge selection after a certain point....say above the quarter bore mark. I don't have a favorite cartridge, just like I don't have a favorite child:D. I love them all equally.;)

March 23, 2009, 04:00 PM
+1 on the .257 Roberts. No special reason that others haven't mentioned, and in truth it has no magical advantage over other, similar rounds. It's just a mild-recoiling, reasonably powerful round that IMHO has a certain panache. Good enough reason for me! :)

March 23, 2009, 04:09 PM
A lot of good information, im not even sure where to start in response to all of it :eek:

one thing that caught my eye, a few people mentioned and i never thought of actually, for some reason anyway.. it seems like the perfect solution, BUY MORE GUNS :D i was, unwittingly attempting to do something i know is not completely possible, have one rifle that will do everything, it may not be the most cost effective way of doing things, but i would no complain one bit, having to buy another rifle to hunt another prey, you can never have too many, right?.. well maybe

i have considered my 870 for deer, since my cousin took his first deer last year with his semi-auto 12g, full choke 00 buckshot at about 30 yards, the only problem is that my 870, with a full choke and 00, has a hard time getting a "basketball" size spread at 40 yards, the barrel is just too short, which could easily be remedied with a new barrel, i sold the factory barrel when i replaced it, was suppose to be my "home defense" type weapon.. just turns out that i love it so much i use it for other things, i have spent a lot of time shooting it, getting comfortable and trying to find its limitations, as well as what i could do with it, hence the rifled choke and slugs "testing"

that said, i cant bring myself to feeling comfortable with a shotgun in my hands, for my first deer hunt, maybe at some point, when i have a better idea of whats going on out in the bush, but until then i think i will carry a rifle, although im still not sure which one, even more so now :D a lever gun has a big appeal, i have fired them on a number of occasions, they put a smile on your face like no other firearm, and the .30-30 is a proven round, no question

i do plan to own a lever gun, but for now i think i will get a bolt gun, its just what i have my heart set on, so to speak, its to bad none of the rifles i mentioned are chambered in .30-30.. why is that anyway? As for what has my attention right now, the 6.5 rounds seem very interesting, i dont know much about them, have no idea what the 6.5x55 is, but i am snooping around to find out more, likewise the 6.5 "creedmooe" caught my eye, being the only 6.5 i can find the m77 "hawkeye" chambered in, anyone have any advice on this cartridge? if that would suffice for my needs.. and its not difficult to find ammunition for it of course, that may be the way i go, nothing wrong with breaking away from the norm, the "cool factor" of people asking.. what the hell your putting down range

ammunition is another thing, i am trying to frequent local gunstores, and anywhere that sells ammunition, to see what kind of availability some calibers have, i dont mind having to order it online and waiting for shipping, as long as the price isnt too crazy on it, and the "newer" calibers scare me a bit, i jumped on the .17hmr band wagon when it came around, i am very happy i did.. i love my Savage, but i was worried that i would drop $300 on a gun that.. one day may have nothing to be fed, i don't think this is an unfounded worry in this case, unless the "creedmoor" has been around longer than i think, and i don't know a lot about how some calibers go "extinct" and why some don't

i like the basics of the creedmoor, i don't suppose its too risky since at least one reputable manufacture is producing it? not to mention rifles being chambered for it, though that doesnt mean it wont, one day go the way of the t-rex, if no one shoots it.. they stop making it?

thanks for all the helpful advice, its giving more a lot more to think about, i am trying to put effort into this, not just jump right in and start shootin

March 23, 2009, 05:57 PM
your line at the bottom of your post says it all. A .308 is an excellent choice for just about everything. Unless you are shooting past 400yds most everything listed (except the 12ga and 30-30) will do the trick, you have to know your personal limitations and unless you practice beyond 200yds or at least know your ballistics like the back of your hand don't take the shot.

March 23, 2009, 06:39 PM
The 6.5x55 Swede is the standard caliber for the Swedish Mauser. There are very few people that have used it that don't like the heck out of it.
It isn't chambered in as many rifles in the US as in Europe. So you'll have to look a while before you find one. CZ America supports that round and their rifles are worth looking at.
I'm sure other people will chime in. If you do go with the 6.5x55 you'll be happy with it.

March 23, 2009, 06:44 PM
You answered you're own ?,do yourself a favor and get the rifle you like in 30-06 you can shoot 110gr-220gr bullets. It is the closest to being all things for most purposes.Availability of ammo is crucial these days, you will be able to purchase 06 ammo just about anywhere.You can add additional "boutique" calibers later.May I suggest a T/C Contender or Encore then you can shoot any caliber you would ever want to.

March 24, 2009, 03:55 AM
Bright and early this Tuesday morning, even though it is indeed still dark out at 4:30, i called a friend at a local pawnshop that deals in a lot of Ruger and Savage rifles, he actually has a Hawkeye on the rack, in .308... however, it is the "tactical" version, i really like the Hogue stocks, the caliber is suitable for what i want i suppose, and its rather short and maneuverable, i don't really desire a "tactical" rifle for hunting.. but aside from the two-stage trigger, which im told is very nice, it is not much different than any other Hawkeye is it?

i am going to see it in person this afternoon, and if i like it, i may have him sit it aside for me until next month, when i have the money to purchase it, hes cutting me what i think is a good deal, $900 out the door, brand new, which is at the top of my budget but still not over it, he also has quite a selection of rifles of the Savage flavor, my 93R17 has been a great rifle for years now, i will check out everything he has, hopefully within a few more weeks i will have made my final decision

i suppose i am going to take the path of "buying more than one" it seems so obvious to me now, if i do go with the .308 first, i think it will serve me well, if the need does arise for something different, i will spend more time researching and add to my little family :D

thanks for all the advice so far, it has not gone unnoticed, i may not have directly replied to every tip, but rest assured its all knocking around inside my head, i will be sure to let everyone know what i decide on, when the time comes

March 26, 2009, 03:55 AM

I am now the proud owner of a Ruger m77 Hawkeye Tactical, in .308, brought it home last night and spent most of the time getting familiar with it and drooling over it, so i did not get around to posting

I am up bright and early again in anticipation of heading out to the boonies later, i have a RedHead "Pursuit" 4-12x40 scope on it for now, its just one i had.. i plan to buy a better scope later, but for now this one will do just fine, and i have 150 rounds to put down range for a good break in and siting, i used a laser bore sight to get it close at 50 yards, then adjusted to what should be 100... we'll see

thanks for bearing with me, i feel pretty confident about this setup already, fired one round into a pond, a "test" fire :D felt really nice, recoil was very smooth and comfortable with 180 grain cheapo core-lokt, i will give further impressions later.. i am already in love with the trigger though :o

March 26, 2009, 07:34 AM
Congratulations and good luck with your new purchase. I have not been on the forums for a few days, but I just got caught up on your original question. I have not hunted for a few years, but am getting ready to start up again with my son, we live in New Jersey so shotguns only, but I am originally from Maine and that is where I did all of my hunting.

I have been fortunate to be able to shoot a couple of the guns you mention, they are all good choices. But the rifle that I bought and have used since I was 14 is the Marlin 336CS in 30-30. You did mention that you might go with a lever gun, but no one mentioned that Marlin in the 336 configuration is also chambered for the harder hitting, although still not as far reaching .35 Remington. From what I have read, the .35 would fill the bill for you as a brush gun while hunting both deer and hog to include also black bear. Plus the availability of ammo is a little more common than some of the other suggestions. And Marlin just in the past couple of years has come out with a .308 MarlinExpress caliber that is getting real good reviews.

Obviously I am a lever gun type of guy, but I too am in the market for a long range gun, just not for hunting, but for some competition. With that, Savage is a make that I am looking at too because I shoot left handed in a right handed world.

Anyway, that is just my two cents and again good luck with your new purchase,


PS If I offended anyone with my opinion on caliber choice, please remember I was only suggesting another route, not putting down anyones favorites.


March 26, 2009, 07:46 AM
if all your worried about is enough to kill a deer... without killing your body parts.... .223 or .243 is plenty.... both will kill a whitetail...depends on which is the smallest that your state will allow for deer.. in wisc was .243 but here in wv is .223... i have one of each. .... but... still.. my deer rifle is a 30.06

March 26, 2009, 07:48 AM
Yes, it is very hard to argue with choosing a 6.5x55, excellent choice for sure.

March 27, 2009, 05:31 AM
I am immensely pleased with this rifle:D < that grin doesn't come close to expressing the smile i have on my face at the moment, i don't know anything about measuring group size, but at 100 yards on paper, it puts 3 rounds into a circle the size of a quarter (25c) the other 2 rounds were about 1/2" to an inch off, but that was my fault.. the rifle can shoot better than me at this point, but thats what practice is for

it is very comfortable for me to shoot, feels natural in my hands, the bolt is a little "catchy" still, but i assume thats because its new and has not been cycled much, everyone tells me it will get smooth over time

I can't really think of anything to say about it, which is good in my book, no surprises, its exactly what i was hoping it would be.. now i just have to find out exactly what round i should put through it for deer :D, i got it sighted in with 180grain core-lokt, then tried a box of Federal "gold medal" match grade stuff, with a little adjusting i got some good groups, more than i would need for a shot on a deer at the distance i will be taking them

I am not sure if its legal to take a .223 for deer here, i know a few places don't allow you to take them into their hunting grounds locally, but either way, i would not trust the .223's killing ability given a bad shot... not that i think i would miss, but you never know what could happen, if i miss my spot i want something that will cause enough damage to still get the job done before i loose the deer, but i did not want something that was brutal/expensive to shoot a lot, because i plan to spend a lot of time at the range so i don't miss :D

I still plan to get some other rifles for different setups/situations i may decide to embark upon, a good levergun is on the top of my list now.. but i am probably going to go for a handgun first, after i save up some more money that is:o

March 27, 2009, 09:25 AM
While others will give you the exact spec... (think leap year:rolleyes:)
1moa is one inch from outside edge to outside of 2 shots aimed at one point at 100 yards this measurement goes back the laying invisible lines on the earth as lats and longs...
Good group... now go do that with 10 3-5 round groups and go to the dentist for a few shots of novacaine to wipe the unbreakable smile off yer mugg... makes folks nervous!:D