Choosing Your Perfect Deer Hunting Rifle

by John Eaglesmith

One of the most important decisions for you to make in your hunting career is what deer rifle you should purchase. The keys to achieving your deer hunting goals come in the form of the best firearm for you. When you go to pick out a firearm, you want the one with the best style, action, sighting, size, and ballistics for your hunting area and physical capabilities. Whether or not you make the kill is largely reliant on whether or not your deer hunting rifle matches up best with the criteria above.
Your Specific Hunting Environment

The two main types of deer hunting environments are the deep woods/dense brush and open range country. You may be hunting in an area that has a mixture of both these environment types. Every hunting environment has different styles of shooting and require rifles with different characteristics.
Deer Hunting Rifles for Deep Woods or Dense Brush

Deer hunting rifles that work best in the woods are rifles made for medium or short range shooting. Most of the time, you’ll only be shooting from a distance of twenty-five to two hundred yards. So, having a deer hunting rifle that’s relatively light (nine pounds or less, including the scope) with a short barrel length (twenty two inches or less) is best. It’s important to be able to move quickly and easily through densely wooded areas. You may also want to consider rifles that have automatic functions and are easy to reload. It’s fairly common, when deer hunting in rough country, that you end up needing to take multiple shots in quick succession in order to make your kill. I would recommend using heavy bullet cartridges, .270 caliber or greater, with at least a 120 grain bullet, in order to penetrate any brush that might be in the way of your intended target. Any cartridges that travel more than 2200 feet per second have a higher chance of being deflected by the brush, and are therefore not well suited to densely wooded terrain. If your hunting terrain only allows shots to be taken within 50 yards or less of the intended target, you may want to consider using an open sight. If not, I would recommend a scope with four power, or a variable scope that can get down to 3X. You may want to conduct a few experiments at your local rifle range to figure out whether or not open site shooting suits your hunting style.
Deer Hunting Rifles for the Open Range

The best deer hunting rifles for open areas are made for long range shooting, and most are best at shooting 300 yards or farther. In this situation, mobility is less important than being able to shoot accurately, and the ability to make long distance shots. That said, most open range deer hunting rifles are heavier than their deep woods counterparts, and have a longer barrel. The best calibers and cartridges for open range deer hunting, are flat shooting, and high velocity. 6MM (.243) calibers or higher will work well, and bullets from 100 grains or heavier will be best. When shooting larger caliber rifles, heavier bullets are generally best for accurate shooting. The minimum required scope for most shooters is a 6×9 variable scope.
Personal Shooting Style and Abilities

When you start looking for the best deer hunting rifle for you, you want to make sure that you keep the above considerations in mind. Make sure that you are comfortable with the way that you’re shooting, and how you shoot when using a high caliber or magnum caliber rifle. Do you really want to lug ten or twelve pounds of long rifle with you around your deer hunting terrain?

You can probably go to your local hunting rifle dealer and try out a variety of different deer hunting rifles, and get a better feel for what you want and what “fits” you.. You may also want to consider asking any successful hunters that you’re friends with what kinds of rifles they use, and their reasons for using them. If you’re really interested in learning about their firearms, you could ask your friends to let you hold and handle their rifles, and ask what they like and dislike about their rifle.

Choosing the perfect deer hunting rifle takes time and consideration. The type of shots available in your hunting terrain and your personal preferences all have to be weighed, but when you are matched with the perfect firearm you will feel the confidence to make your shots nearly perfect every time.


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