Don’t tell your friends what I’m about to tell you because they’ll just be jealous, but… you probably own the world’s deadliest deer rifle.
What I mean by this is that your current deer rifle, if it is legal in the jurisdictions where you hunt, is potentially perfect for reducing to possession any and every whitetail, mule deer and blacktail deer at which you fire. Probably every elk and moose, too. Bang. Tag. Drag.
But first you have to do your part, which is no small thing…
Arguing for the Deadliest Deer Rifle
Let’s back up a few steps and acknowledge that we hunters have been arguing over which rifle/cartridge is the deadliest deer rifle since at least 1864. Any earlier than that and my memory gets fuzzy.
The argument goes essentially like this: the 30-30 Winchester shoots faster and hits harder than the 44-40, so it’s superior. But the 30-06 shoots faster and flatter than the 30-30, so it’s better. Although… the 308 Winchester shoots almost as fast and flat as the -06 with less recoil, so it’s the world’s deadliest deer rifle. Unless you consider the 300 RUM which delivers the same bullets with MORE deer killing energy hundreds of yards beyond where the 308 even dreams of flying… But none of that matters now because the 6.5 Creedmoor shoots much more accurately and remains supersonic past 1,250 yards with longer, lighter, wind defying bullets and it doesn’t recoil even as much as the 308. BUT the 30-30 has killed more deer in more places than any other cartridge, so it is absolutely, positively the ultimate, deadliest deer rifle. End-of-argument.
Additional Details About Deadliest Deer Rifle
Those are the main points. There are dozens of minor points like ammunition costs and availability and the rifling twist rate needed to stabilize a 150-grain bullet with a 5% gilding metal jacket and bonded lead core launched at 3,117.3 fps in a 7 mph quartering wind at 28-degrees F. on a Saturday morning in a light snow under a full moon at a 27-degree downhill angle. We can deal with all that later. With this column I want to assure you that your current rifle — assuming that it functions and is safe to fire and you have at least one viable cartridge to expend on a deer — is your deadliest deer rifle.
At this stage of your reading you might begin to suspect I’m trying to make fun of deer hunters, but I’m not. That would be self-deprecating because I have been a deer hunter for 49 years, which is almost as long as Hillary has been running. During those 49 seasons, I’ve carried and fired a lot of rifles chambered for a lot of different cartridges. And I’ve raised the temperature in a lot of tents and cabins arguing for and against them. So I’m serious. All this hard-earned and closely observed experience has taught me everything I need to know to identify the deadliest deer rifle.
What’s Really Needed in the Deadliest Deer Rifle
So here are the particulars: In order to kill a deer, a rifle must deliver to its vitals some kind of projectile that will break down its central nervous system. This can be accomplished by a direct, traumatic strike to the brain or spinal column forward of the withers. Alternatively, a bullet can so compromise the cardio pulmonary system that it fails to circulate fresh, oxygenated blood to the brain. Blood pressure drops, deer loses consciousness, brain cells die, and you have your winter meat supply. I’m sorry if this sounds coldly clinical, but this is how Nature works. Deer don’t die because they were pounded by 8,000 foot-pounds of energy carried by a Very Extremely Low Drag Xceptional bonded partition plastic-tipped bullet launched by the world’s most efficient short-action cartridge that can be found in any sporting goods store for $17.95 a box. They expire because some kind of ragged, metallic rock broke their vital organs, as this earlier blog explains. In some habitats and terrain a short, light rifle might deliver that rock most effectively. In others a heavy, long barreled rifle might.
Revealing Deadliest Deer Rifle
So now we’re on the cusp of the Big Reveal — the world’s deadliest deer rifle. This might surprise you, even shock you but… the world’s deadliest deer rifle is the one you shoot so accurately, with such confidence and with such an effective bullet that you hit your deer’s vitals every time.
I apologize if I’ve disappointed you by not listing a Winchester, Browning, Ruger, Savage, Kimber, Mossberg, Tikka, Sauer, etc., or failed to specify a 6.5 Creedmoor, 280 Rem., or 300 Win. Mag. as the world’s deadliest deer rifle. But I’m serious. It’s not the rifle brand, model or even cartridge that determines the best. It’s the rifle you like, the cartridge you have faith in and shoot well. Yes, rifle/cartridge combos other than yours might shoot faster, harder and flatter. They might carry more easily or slip through the woods with less hassle. They might be capable of dropping ten consecutive bullets into one hole at 100 yards and they might digest 5,000 rounds without burning out the barrel. But if you can direct your too heavy, too light, long, short, slow, fast, inefficient, weak, powerful, pretty, ugly, expensive, cheap, new, old rifle/cartridge/bullet to the chest or spine of your deer, you’ve arguably got the world’s deadly deer rifle.
Compromises Required for Deadliest Deer Rifle
Now, if you think you don’t have the world’s deadliest deer rifle but don’t have the cash to buy another, don’t despair. But do get ready to compromise. Essentially, you’ll have to overcome whatever deficiencies your rifle/cartridge suffers in the terrain you hunt by becoming a better shot and a better hunter. This is not what most of us want to hear. Getting closer to game is harder than shooting it from longer distances. That’s why our search for the perfect deer rifle never ends. Rather than improve our hunting skills, we seek technology to compensate. The deadliest deer rifle — the perfect, ideal, best-of-the-best deer rifle — is supposed to do the work for us. So we get fixated on something like “I need a Mossberg Patriot Revere in 300 Win. Mag. zeroed with a Leupold VX-5HD 3-15×44 firing Swift High Grade Ammunition’s 180-grain Scirocco bullet at 2,919 fps.”
There’s nothing wrong with this desire for something newer, bigger and better. It’s what helped us to progress from pit traps and spears to rifles and magnums. But at some point we must accept the limitations of technology. Hunting is not just about catching sufficient protein to cling to life. It’s about recapturing our place in the world, our organic integration with Nature. Hunting is about participating in the wild world, day after day, searching for our deer while we soak it all in. We marvel at the silent swoop of an owl, the bittersweet fall of a red maple leaf, the there-and-gone camouflage of a bobcat, the sixth sense pause of a buck that won’t step from behind that tree. Being in the fields and woods, pitting ourselves against our prey on Nature’s playing field stimulates us, educates us, fulfills us and reaffirms our natural role as hunter-gatherers. We become participants, not just spectators. And we participate within self-imposed limits, equipment limits, regulatory limits. Hunting does and should involve certain rules and restrictions that cannot be overcome by any “super rifle.” The day we invent the perfect rifle, scope, cartridge and bullet that gets every deer we see, every deer we want, is the day hunting dies.
You’ll Have to Hunt — Lucky You
So, regardless the rifle/cartridge you shoot, you’ll have to do a certain degree of plotting, searching, planning, waiting, stalking, sneaking. You’ll have to learn the ways of the woods and the deer. You’ll have to hunt. And when you hunt within sure striking distance of the tools in your hands, you will reduce to possession that heart-pounding buck or doe — with your world’s deadliest deer rifle. Bang. Tag. Drag.
Fields, marshes, meadows and woods have so engaged, thrilled and uplifted author Ron Spomer that he’s been known to hunt deer in them with nothing more than a binocular.