These 5 cartridges are often overlooked by deer hunters, but they offer a variety of benefits of interest to all deer hunters
As a guide and outfitter, I have had clients shoot different types of deer with several cartridges ranging from the 22 Magnum to the 470 Nitro Express.
Deer are not particularly hard to kill, but you want to stay within the law where you live and use something that suits your situation. Deer can vary in size from under 100-pounds to over 300-pounds. Hunting conditions and terrain effect how close to the deer you can get. These are the type of things you’ll want to think about before deciding.
Matching the cartridge to the conditions makes sense. Consider the size of the deer, the accuracy of you and your equipment, the ballistics of the cartridge and the range at which you can shoot when choosing a cartridge. Mind you, I am not advocating “trying” inappropriate cartridges on live animals.
These five cartridges are proven to be effective on deer,and worth considering as your next deer cartridge.
1) 35 Remington
At 107 years old, this cartridge doesn’t seem to get people excited.
With a large frontal diameter, heavy weight and reasonable velocity, this cartridge used to be considered excellent for moose, bear and elk. Nowadays, more outstanding bullets are available that perform fantastic on deer-sized game.
This cartridge is available in quick handling, quality built rifles including pump-actions, semi-automatics, lever-actions and a few bolt actions. It is also available in specialty handguns.
The trajectory may limit your effective range to somewhere between 100 and 150 yards, but that is the range that most deer are shot within. Low recoil and moderately priced ammunition and reloading components make the 35 Remington one of the cartridges you should try on deer.
2) 250 Savage
Also known as the 250/3000, this old cartridge has what it takes for deer hunting.
Its extremely mild recoil and fairly low noise level make the 250 Savage deserve serious consideration for a youth, beginner or small framed shooter’s first rifle. It also is a serious consideration for any experienced shooter that wants accuracy and power but is not longer tolerant of heavy recoil.
With 100 grain to 120 grain bullets, this cartridge can easily take deer at 150 to 200 yards, depending on your accuracy capability.
The classic Savage 99 lever-action, Ruger’s Model 77 and the Savage Classic American are all readily available on the market in this caliber. This is a classic cartridge that hunters should try on deer.
3) 257 Weatherby
This is one of Weatherby’s most popular cartridges as well as the one that is most commonly found in rifles manufactured by other companies.
The 257 Weatherby offers moderate recoil considering its extremely high velocity. There are bullets in 110, 115 and 120 grains that have great ballistic characteristics making this a very flat shooting rifle.
If you and your equipment are up to it, it would not be unrealistic to take a deer standing 400 yards away. If your hunting style includes longer ranges this cartridge can serve well on antelope, deer and mountain sheep, among other similar sized game.
4) 7X57 (7mm Mauser)
This cartridge was born prior to the turn of the century and has been extremely effective all along. Ballistically similar to the 7mm-08 and 280 Remington when handloaded and fired in modern rifles, the 7X57 has plenty of power with reasonable ballistics and moderate recoil.
Factory ammo tend to be loaded on the light side in respect for older military rifles. This ammo typically features 139 or 140 grain bullets at 2400-2600 feet per second. Even with those specs, this is a formidable deer cartridge.
Specialty and boutique amm0-makers and handloaders can get premium 140 or 150 grain bullets up to 2700 feet per second. This cartridge holds its energy for quite a distance and will provide better penetration on larger deer. It can also serve well for larger game when loaded appropriately and used within reasonable parameters.
5) 35 Whelen
Typically thought of as a bear, moose and elk cartridge the 35 Whelen does an exceptional job on deer. The factory loading from Remington features a 200 grain Core-Lokt bullet that will expand and penetrate on deer sized game.
Handloaders can up the velocity with 200 grain bullets such as the Hornady 200 grain FTX and the 250 grain Nosler Partition. When 250 grain Nosler Partitions are handloaded close to 2700 feet per second, a rifle sighted 3-inches high at 100 yards will shoot out to 300 yards with little elevation correction.
When a shooter really knows the ballistics, the range can be extended further than that. You can also load the 35 Whelen down if that suits your deer hunting conditions. Don’t save this caliber for bigger game, get it out and use it on deer too.
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While most of these are fairly common, the technology and advancement of cartridges continues, presenting more and more new possibilities when it comes to deer hunting.
It’s up to you to experience and decide on what cartridge works best for your needs, but this will at least get you headed in the right direction.