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September 28, 2007

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Watching the Deer Drop

It just occurred to me that this title may be insensitive. That's OK; I'm insensitive. But I digress. Deer season is about to get under way, and I thought the following might be useful.

For about a dozen years, I hunted whitetails in South Carolina every year. Because I was hunting in a private plantation, and because South Carolina has extremely generous bag limits, I could shoot two deer a day for four days. This adds up to a fair number of deer. During that time I carried a number of different rifles, the smallest of which was a .257 Roberts, the largest a 7mm Weatherby Magnum. I could see no difference whatsoever in "killing power" between the various cartridges.

This experience has extended itself elsewhere. I've killed whitetails and mule deer as small as 70 pounds and as large as 300 with cartridges as small as the 6mm Remington and as large as the .340 Weatherby. No difference. Deer, of any size, are not hard to kill. There are animals that do require some horsepower, but not these.

If called upon to kill a deer these days, I will choose either a 6.5x55, or a 7mm/08, or if there may be a long shot, a .270. All you have to do is shoot good and the deer will drop.


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Hey, deer season has been going on for a while out on the west coast. Some zones in California are already over.....The world does NOT spin around whitetails!!!!


Ha. Mule deer are not deer, they are vertically challenged elk.


Very timely and well said. I agree.


Whitetails are for guys who are too fat to hunt Mulies


Your a moron. Whitetails are for guys all over the ccountry. What if you dont have Mulies? What if you live in the southeast? I'm sure your real educated. Go out and hunt a Mulie. I would love to hunt a Mulie, I just happen to live in the southeast.


Surely you jest Mr. Petzal.

Today's hunter needs a .300 win mag , or maybe the latest super duper super short magnum to kill a whitetail.

Damn your shoulder full magnum ahead!


While I've only taken 3 animals with my .35 Whelen, all of which were inside 60 yards, none dropped any quicker than all the other animals I've ever shot with my .270 Winchester.

With very few exceptions on the .270's part, alot of my shots are limited to 75 yards or less in Pennsylvania's woodlands. At these ranges, the .35 Whelen delivers much more energy with a much larger bullet diameter.

However, I usually see a heart shot deer go about 20 yards, give or take a couple yards, regardless of cartridge used.

the other Chris

I was taught to hunt whitetails by being handed a 30-30 and being turned loose on a large track of mountainous timber. The only advice I was given was “…don’t shoot a doe or I’ll beat your ass”

I still do most of my hunting this way because I love it. However, times have changed a bit and I am hoping to make my kids’ entry into the hunting world a little easier. South Carolina sounds about perfect. All of the plantations I have checked out so far are very reasonable and competitively priced. Does anyone have any recommendations? I am at the point of flipping a coin.

I have seen a whitetail doe shot with a 300 win mag (right behind the shoulder broadside) and take 100yrds to drop. A second deer, shot head on in the brisket with a .223 dropped as if he had been hit on the head with a sledge hammer. This happened on the same day, a few years ago in an apple orchard (now a housing development!) in West by God Virginia. I have seen many deer killed but these two stick out in my mind the most in regard to killing power.

Oh… before someone rips me a new one, I was not behind the trigger of the .223. That was part of an argument, which because of the circumstances described above, I did not win.

B. Cameron

Rifles for deer? Only in my dreams (and off-season on nuisance permits). I carry my old-reliable 870 12ga, swap the smooth tube for a rifled barrel with open sights, and use 1oz CopperSolids. I'm strongly considering the benefit of an 870 in 20ga, because let's face it: I just love my shoulder too much and the deer still die.

Hunting a nuisance tag around here, the .270Win is my go-to; friends use .308s or .300Savage.

Truth of the matter though - that 870 is my go-to gun for just about anything. No rifle could ever match it for hands-down versatility.

Charles  Benoit

The .270 gets my vote. Moderate recoil with adequate penetration power. Plus,the cartridges can be found in just about any store that sells ammo. Regards, Charles


30.06 - yes Dave - Straight down almost every time.


And if you hold your mouth just right, and pull the trigger at exactly the right moment -it still might not drop every time.

No matter the cartridge. It is an animal and some have a different will than others to live. Also, I think people tend to think if they hit lung or heart; the deer is dead. Not alwasy so. Whitetail deer have been shown to live from heart shots that were not dead on, lung also.


B. Cameron,

Hard to match open sights on a 12ga when hunting deer in tight conditions huh?

My first year was all buckshot, and all 4 deer I shot went down.
Only one went about 100 yds. The shots were all within 60 yds though. I almost got the rifled barel but it was so much I opted for the 30.06. I haven't regretted it.

Dean J


From those of us in Southwestern Pennsylvania, where there aren't any mule deer:

Stop being a moron.

Matt in MN

While I don't have tons of experience, I've shot whitetails with 12 guage slugs and my .30-30. There were exceptions but in general they seemed to drop quicker with the slugs. But with either, none went more than 50 yards. So I agree with Dave, but in a situation where you really want to anchor them, an argument could be made for the bigger, bagger guns (provided you can shoot them, the big "if")


I think Dave's point is summed up well in the last sentence of this post: "All you have to do is shoot good and the deer will drop." Most people shoot lighter-kicking rounds better than the shoulder-breakers. There are plenty of really good, light-kicking rounds out there that are perfectly capable of killing a deer right now out to the realistic limits most of us shoot at deer. I've shot a boat load of deer and the long shot has been 92 yards. I didn't need a 300 mag (which is a good thing, because I don't own one).


Clay must be out hunting or something. Otherwise we know he'ld have checked in by now! As he says; it aint the arrow it's the Indian!
I say Shot placement, shot placement, shot placement! I am no wimpus but I find it easier to place my shots with the .30-06 or lesser recoil levels than with the HolyMotherofallShoulderSlamminEardrumbustin Magnum things out there.
I am also looking at a 20Ga in the near future for the same reason; where I live is a shotgun only zone and 12Ga slug loads are hard on the shoulder too.

By the way, for those who don't regularly check out the Field Notes blog, please do so now and add your voice to help our beleaguered New Jersey fellow outdoorspeople. Real important. Thanks

B. Cameron

Tommy: No buckshot up here in NY, we have to use slugs for large game. I used to shoot punkin's from the smoothbore, but I switched to the rifled and haven't looked back.

This past fall saw me dropping a mature, 225lb 8-pt from 80 yards (paced, not ranged)... anytime now the taxidermist should be calling back. :-)

JA Demko

The venerable .300 Savage has done a fine job of dropping whitetails for me. I've never had to shoot one twice. Likewise, I killed a fair number of deer with a Remington Model 600 in .243. never had to shoot one twice with it either. Killed a couple with a .30-30 TC Contender and one with a S&W 686 .357. One shot all.
If you put the bullet where you want it, the deer falls down and dies. I've missed deer too, and a miss with a more powerful gun would still have been a miss.




I'm going hunting for mules tomorrow morning, here in Colorado. I've been using a .270 ever since an elk got away from me after getting shot in the shoulder with a 30-30. We think we found that elk's carcass the following year, just inside 200 yards from where we gave up search. This .270 has done the job ever since. I'd really like to buy a 30-06 for elk and moose, but the .270 hasn't yet allowed a single animal to get away. Actually, it hasn't even required a second shot to make a kill. I really wish I could post a picture onto this blog of the deer I hope to harvest over the weekend. Wish me luck.

Black Rifle Addict

Dave, Dave, Dave...another what caliber/rifle will kill the whitetail best article. You are just asking for another blog debate aren't you?

Walt Smith

I know a fella who shot 2 bucks the same year with a 300Rem.Ultra Mag at less than 150yds. both deer flipped in the air hit the ground jumped up and ran off, never to be found.Thats why I'm not impressed by the magnums. I'll stick with my 30-06, my deer stay on the ground where they belong.

Dr. Ralph

Whitetail are very thin skinned animals. It makes me chuckle inside when everyone gets on me for my .30 cal carbine kills but the deer around here weigh less than an average man. If a 130 gr. FMJ is enough gun for a 200 pound man believe me my 130 gr. lead round noses will drop any deer I encounter in Middle Tennessee... especially since 90% of the deer I've killed have been closer than 40 yards. I have actually rolled 110 pound deer over with 30-06 ballistic tips. One shot end of story ...


You are so right! Neither bullet diameter nor cartridge capacity make up for BULLET PLACEMENT!!!
Want that sucker to be right where you pulled the trigger? Wait until he turns broadside and bust both shoulders! He ain't going far! I use to have to do this when I had a really small (less than 10 acres) lease and most of the adjoining land owners didn't like seeing "Bambi" die on their side of the fence. High lung shot craters 'em pretty quick too!
I killed a deer with a .22 Hornet. He was thirty yards off, turned to look at a doe behind him! Stuck that little 45 gr. hand loaded sucker right behind his left ear! Gutting time!
I shoot the Hornet,.270 and .30-30. I've tracked some a ways, never over a hundred yards or so.
Don't need nor want to clear land and gather acorns with a "Mangrum".


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