What Is A Good Caliber For Deer Hunting?

The best deer hunting caliber has long been debated between hunters. The debates start just before deer season and continue beyond.

You’ll often hear it discussed around campfires and on the way to a hunt. It’s one of those things where you’ll receive 11 different answers if you ask ten hunters. There are no hard and fast rules, but some calibers are better than others. 

Best caliber for deer hunting

 Rifle caliber is one of the things you should consider when you’re on the lookout for a hunting rifle; while a lot of it comes down to personal opinion, there are a few popular deer hunting rifle calibers. Let’s look at some of the best calibers for hunting deer. 

260 Remington

Some competitive shooters use the 260 Remington; it offers a  medium grain expanding bullet, light recoil, and good accuracy. Still, it can be challenging to use at longer ranges and may be best for medium-range hunters. 

264 Winchester Magnum

While the 264 Winchester Magnum is popular with some, the Remington Sendero SF II is the only available rifle, and ammo is hard to come by. It’s not widely loved or popular like other calibers on this list, but there’s nothing flatter or with better ability to carry. 

204 Ruger

This round can kill deer and is accurate with minimal recoil if you have good shot placement, but it’s not great for hunting. The bullets aren’t constructed well enough to hold for clean kills. They’re also very light, leaving them vulnerable to wind changes. 

222 Remington

The Remington 222 was the first rimless round released on the commercial market; it’s long been loved by some hunters. I don’t recommend it generally due to the light bullets. But they can be used to kill a deer if you’re an experienced marksman. 

223 Remington

If you’re looking for a close-range shooter, a 223 is a good choice. Several famous competitive shooters use 223 heavy bullets in an AR-style rifle, but you should consider ethics. If you’re not shooting at close range, you’re more likely to injure your target badly. 

243 Winchester

Though the 243 is most well known among hog hunters, it’s also a solid choice for whitetail deer hunters. It’s an all-around caliber with good accuracy and a lack of recoil. It’s best kept for mid-long range hunters. 

244/6mm Remington

The 244/6mm Remington is similar to the Winchester, but limited availability is an issue. Factory ammo can be hard to get ahold of. 

257 Roberts

This is another casualty of limited availability, this is an excellent caliber for deer, but very few people use it. It has low recoil and great accuracy. Under usual conditions at the mid-long range, it’s a reliable caliber for a kill shot. 

25-06 Remington

This old classic gets passed over these days, but it has excellent long-range capabilities and accuracy, with light recoil. It’s based on the 30-6 Springfield cartridge from the neck down. 

6.5 Grendel

The 6.5 Grendel is designed for platform AR-15 rifles, with mild recoil and effective performance. It’s ideal for mid-ranged hunters looking to take down big game such as deer. It does have issues with ammo supply, but these are slowly improving. 

6.5 Creedmoor

 This caliber has taken the world by storm; long-range capabilities are excellent as it’s designed to be anti-drag, combating the usual effects on a bullet at long range. They’re reported to be effective at over 550 yards. 

270 Winchester

The 270 has been a standard factory round since 1925 and has only grown in popularity. It offers extreme accuracy, long-range capabilities, and incredible kills. It does have more recoil than others on this list, but it’s readily available and reliable. You can purchase it in bolt-action, pump, semi-auto, and lever-action rifles. 

7mm-08 Remington

 This caliber has a near-cult following, and for a good reason. It has excellent takedown power, almost no recoil, and incredible accuracy. It does experience some issues with drag, though. So you should be mindful if you’re looking for a long-range caliber. 

280 Remington

The 280 Remington has excellent availability online and in stores, though it hasn’t had much commercial success. It’s often compared to the 270 Winchester despite being ballistically superior.  It’s not the most common caliber, but it’s effective enough.  

7mm Remington Magnum

The 7mm Remington Magnum is the best starter caliber if you’ve just got ”Magnum Fever”. There are plenty of options for ammo, and the 7mm is accurate and powerful, making it a favorite among hunters. It can be an uncomfortable shot, though, so be mindful of that. 

30-30 Winchester

The 30-30 is hanging in there as one of the most well-known calibers used. It’s best for medium-range hunters, but it’s great to take down pretty much anything. I wouldn’t recommend a 30-30 if you’re looking to shoot over a maximum of 200 yards. 

308 Winchester

There are many good reasons why the 308 is still one of the most popular calibers on the market; it’s one of the most successful short-action rifles in North America. The recoil can be a challenge, but it’s hard to beat in terms of accuracy, long-range capabilities, and knockdown. Ammo is also plentiful, and the 308 is available in a single shot, semi-auto, lever, pump, and bolt-action rifles.

30-06

The 30-06 is an old reliable, first coming onto the scene before World War I and remaining popular. I know many whitetail hunters that won’t use anything else due to excellent availability, ammo, knockdown power, and range. The only issue is how uncomfortable it can be if your stock isn’t perfectly fitted, but its terminal ballistics can handle almost any prey.

300 Winchester Magnum

The initial loads for the .300 Winchester were 150- and 180-grain bullets; at 500 yards, the 300 Win Mag is a flat-shooting machine.

The 300 Winchester Magnum is a bottlenecked magnum rifle cartridge created by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in 1963. It’s still going strong today, with a surprising number of hunters using the 300 as their primary deer rifle. It’s exceptional for long-range use.   Some branches of the US army use the 300 Winchester Magnum as it has a range of more than 1200 yards when used effectively. Just imagine what that can do when you’re hunting whitetails! The recoil can be challenging, especially if you’re not an experienced marksman.  

300 Remington Ultra Magnum

The Remington Ultra Magnum has great takedown power, but it has poor recoil and limited factory ammo. You can launch heavy bullets with high densities at high speed; it can take game at longer ranges than the .30-06 Springfield. The price for this power is savage recoil. 

Wrapping up 

There probably isn’t one particular best rifle caliber for big-game hunting; over the years, I’ve chopped and changed what deer hunting cartridge I use, trying out the most calibers at one time or another. It’s up to each hunter to experiment to learn the limitations and capabilities of their rifle. 

There are many great options out there, and I’ve listed a few of them here, so you have an idea of where to start. Every hunter has their own opinion; only trial and error will help you learn what your favorite is. 

Trey

About the Author

Trey is a lifelong hunter and avid camper. He lives outside Denver, CO with his wife Kaci and their lab mix Ziggy. They spend as much time as possible outdoors - hunting, fishing, and camping.

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