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Best Whitetail Deer Hunting Rifle
What's the best whitetail deer rifle? Is it the .308? The .270? Maybe the 30/30, 30/06. 35 Remington, 7mm-08, and on and on and on.
What about action? Are bolt actions truly superior? Lever-actions faster? Single-shots more accurate? Semi-auto's and pumps too problematic?
Got news for you. The best rifle for whitetail hunting is the one you can shoot accurately, handle easily and you just plain like. Nothing else really matters.
Oh of course the caliber needs to be adequate, and legal. And the gun needs to be well-built and reliable. But when it comes to specifics, pick what you want to spend your money on.
For a few decades there's been a tradition in my family that for a first deer hunt a certain rifle is used. It's a single-shot built on a modest shotgun frame that a family friend made a barrel for. It's chambered in .357 Magnum, has a 3 power scope on it and is not the prettiest thing in the world. But, it has been used to kill at least 50 deer, and probably a lot more.
And yet there are those who are going to tell you that you just can't do that. You have to have the latest and greatest, or the time proven and true, or so and so's favorite or whatever. Nonsense. The reason so many deer have fallen before this simple little gun is because before a new hunter is allowed to hit the woods with it, they have shot it hundreds of times. It's why it was chambered for .357, because we reload. And since the .38 Special is probably the cheapest and easiest round to reload and works just fine in .357, it's possible to practice with hundreds of rounds for next to nothing.
And practice is what really matters. Understanding what the rifle you carry is capable of, and even moreso, what you are capable of, is what will lead to your success in the woods. Worry more about scent control and stand placement than the gun if you want to put meat in the freezer and antlers on the wall.
Pick a rifle that fits your comfort level first. A rifle that you can afford, that suits your personal taste, and that fits your body. If you're recoil sensitive, take that into account, if you have a limited ammunition budget, consider that cost. Consider what else you may want to use this rifle for. If you maybe want to use it for the occasional coyote hunt or you'll also be hunting pigs, or maybe want to go after something like elk or bear and this will have to be the rifle you use. Then examine the different loadings commercially available or the prospect of loading your own. Then start looking at different guns and calibers and find the one that fits your personal needs.
There are a number of different calibers that will fill any criteria you set. My personal favorites are the 30-06, the .308, the 35 Remington and the .45-70. You might not even consider one of these, and yet, oddly enough, you will still be able to kill a deer. You might even decide that you want to use a muzzleloader, or a shotgun and slugs or even a bow. And you will still be able to kill deer, even though the article in your favorite magazine or that guy on the message board said you "Have" to use this rifle in this caliber or you're doomed to fail.
But really, what these people are telling you about is collecting guns, not hunting. Not that there's anything wrong with collecting guns, not in my house at least. But when it comes to putting meat in the freezer, go ahead and satisfy your personal tastes, then worry about what some other guy thinks you should be using.