What is Best Caliber for Deer Hunting

What is the best caliber for deer hunting? Well it’s a question that has been asked around camp fires at deer camp for years. Almost all deer hunters have debated the question and all have their own opinions.  And you know what those are like.

I think we all know there isn’t a way to confirm this question with a 100% correct answer. 

We can narrow it down to a few best ones though. There are just so many factors to be considered. Maximum effective range, recoil, available factory ammo, etc.. We all have our own favorite deer hunting calibers. 

Lets take a look at some of the great ones.

best caliber for deer hunting
From left to right: .300 Winchester Magnum, .30-06, 7mm WSM, .243, 30-30

Table of Contents

Best Caliber for Deer Hunting

Here are a few of the calibers to deer hunt with.

30-30

I got a 30-30 when I was a young boy. My mother worked at a gun store and I would go to work with her and see the deer heads on the wall. I told her I wanted to go deer hunting and for Christmas that year I got my beautiful Lever action Marlin 30-30. I got my first deer with it and killed a lot of deer with it over the years.

There is no telling how many deer have been taken with a 30-30 but I bet it ranks in the top 5 easily. It is the most popular of the lever action rifles. 

It’s great for hunting in thick brush and has a maximum effective range of about 150-200 yards. It is not a good choice for really long ranges though. It is easier to maneuver  in the woods because it has a shorter barrel than most deer rifles.

It has a light recoil which is why a lot of young hunters use a 30-30.

marlin-lever-action-30-30
Me and Dad on a deer hunt in Madison county in Georgia, around 1980. I have my trusty Marlin lever action 30-30.

.30-06

If I were a betting man, I would say the 30-06 has probably killed more whitetail deer than any other caliber.  That is pure speculation on my part though. The 30-06 is a great caliber in my opinion for deer hunting. 

The 30-06 cartridge is a 7.62x63mm size cartridge. It has an effective range of 800-1000 yards. It was designed by the military in 1906. Recoil is tolerable. It does a great job on deer and other large game.

.30-06 Springfield
My .30-06 Springfield

.308 Winchester

best-deer-hunting-caliber
My Winchester Model 100 .308 did a number on this Gwinnett county Georgia buck.

.308 Winchester is a great caliber for deer hunting. It is a 7.62x51mm cartridge. It is the most popular sniping round. The Army says the maximum effective range is 800 yards and the Marines say 1000 yards. 800 is probably a little more correct, but I’m a US Army Calvary guy any way. 

Recoil is tolerable and the 308 is predictable in the wind. It is one of the most popular hunting cartridges in the world.

.243 Winchester

The 243 cartridge was first introduced in 1955. It is a 6x52mm cartridge. It is perfect for most beginner deer hunters. It is a great cartridge for young hunters because it has low recoil and the noise level is tolerable. 

It is a good accurate cartridge but I would prefer more knock down power to ensure quicker recovery of game at long distances. Excellent for young hunters and all hunters as well.

.270 Winchester

The .270 Winchester cartridge came out in 1925. It is a 6.86×7.04mm cartridge.  It is flat shooting and has low recoil and is accurate. It is a great choice for big whitetail bucks. 

I have a Browning A-bolt .270 Winchester that I love. It is flat shooting, accurate and an all around great rifle.

flint-river-buck
This is a Flint River WMA buck I killed with my Browning A-bolt .270 Winchester.

7mm WSM

7mm WSM
This is a coyote I took with my Winchester 7mm WSM before going to church.

The 7mm WSM hasn’t gained the popularity that some of the others have since it came out in 2001, but don’t let that fool you. It is faster than the 7mm Remington Magnum with all bullet weights. The price is high on these cartridges which haven’t helped it’s popularity. 

7mm-08 Remington

The 7mm-08 came out in 1980. It is a great choice for deer hunting. It has a recoil and report just a little more than a 243 and is a great choice for youngsters and veterans. It is a flat shooter and a good caliber.

.280

The .280 Remington came out in 1957. Also known as the 7mm-06 Remington and 7mm Express Remington.

 The .280 cartridge is a great all around cartridge for hunting deer. It is basically the same as a  .270 with the option to reload heavier bullets than the .270.

.300 Winchester Magnum

The .300 Winchester Magnum cartridge was introduced in 1963. 

I think I still have a scar from when I shot a buck in a Walton County Georgia swamp and the scope on my 300 Win mag popped me in the eye. I felt like Mike Tyson had lit me up there for a minute.

Anyway, the .300 Winchester Magnum is a great cartridge for long range shots on big game and provides plenty of knockdown power. I will say it is not for the meek.I have never shot one with a muzzle break so that may help reduce the recoil a bit. It has a bit of a kick to it. It tends to be a longer barrel and a heavier gun.

6.5 Creedmoor

6.5 Creedmoor came out in 2007. Designed specifically for long range target shooting but has become popular in big game hunting. It has less recoil than the .300 Win Mag. Check out this great 6.5 Creedmoor cartridge profile

.300 Remington Ultra Magnum

Introduced in 1999, the .300 Remington Ultra Magnum is a brute to say the least.

It delivers a heavy punch at long distances and shoots flat and accurate. Great for all North American big game.

6.5 Grendel

The 6.5 Grendel came out in 2003. It is 6.5x39mm. It is for medium to long range 200-800 yards with accuracy. It is was designed for the AR-15 platform. It has a light recoil and will do the job on most North American big game.

I was an expert marksman in the Calvary. I may have to try this 6.5 Grendel.

.25-06 Remington

Standardized by Remington in 1969. It’s a .30-06 cartridge necked down to a .257 caliber.

It is a very versatile cartridge for big game hunting in North America. It has great accuracy at long distances. It is a favorite of many big game hunters.

So What is the Best Deer Hunting Caliber?

We all have our favorite deer hunting calibers, and it will always be a highly debated topic. There are many great ones to choose from.

I think the most important thing is to hunt with a caliber and rifle that you feel comfortable with and know what shots you are capable of making with that rifle. A well placed shot is key. Being confident in your shot means a lot. 

If I’m out west hunting mule deer, I want a caliber that has tremendous knock down power. But I also want a caliber that can reach out and accurately hit my target.

When you choose a caliber do your research and pick a caliber that has a maximum effective  range for where you will be hunting. Practice with it to gain confidence.

You owe it to the animal you are hunting to make a good shot. Check out our blog post Best Deer Hunting Rifles Reviews.

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