Best Caliber for New England Deer Hunting?!

What is the Best Caliber for New England Deer Hunting?

  • .308

    Votes: 22 35.5%
  • 7mm-08

    Votes: 3 4.8%
  • 6.5 Creedmoor

    Votes: 4 6.5%
  • .243

    Votes: 4 6.5%
  • Other

    Votes: 34 54.8%

  • Total voters
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What do you think is the most ideal caliber for hunting white tail in New England bush/woods when you are on the ground and NOT in a tree?

In the middle of trying to get my first hunting rifle [pretty set on a Ruger American Compact] (and begin the process towards my first big hunt). Doing research I was planning on going .308 but I also plan on using this gun a lot at the range and people told me the recoil could be too much for a long day at the range. Then I was thinking .243 but then was told that the round is too small for woods hunting and a twig might make it bounce away? So that led me to 6.5 Creedmoor as a kind of middle ground.

There is a lot of info out there it seems but not much specific to NH, VT, or New England in general.

Not trying to get some magical do everything gun, just something I can comfortably use at the range for extended periods and reliably use on a deer hunt!
 

one-eyed Jack

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All of the above. More deer (so they say) have been taken in NE with the .30-30 than any other cal. I have taken most of my deer with the .35 Rem in NH and Me. and with buckshot and slugs in Mass. Any round will deflect on branches. Shot placement is the key factor. Just go .30- 06 or .308 and you will be fine. Jack.
 

Tackdriver

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No personal experience with the 6.5, but For most hunting any of the others will work.

For sure my softest shooting hunting rifle is a Remington 308 with a 20”barrel, and a deceleration recoil pad.

All calibers will deflect when hitting brush.

I’d suggest a 308, rifles and ammo are cheap and easily available. There are many loads to choose from and reloading it is easy.

Regards,
Dave
 

Heathen

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12 gauge slugs for MA and .308 or 30-30 for the states with rifle. All are common calibers that you should be able to get ammo for in every gun shop you walk into.
 

Fritz the Cat

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For the past 30 years I have been hunting with my Marlin 336 chambered in 35 Remington. The Speer 180 gr does a great job on deer. I find the lever gun fun at the range and often use it for metallic silhouette matches.
If I am going to the range to try to put 10 bullets through one hole at 300 yards, I need a rifle set up for just that pursuit. A Remington 725 in 22-250. Heavy barrel, heavy stock, huge optic, no fun in the woods but perfect on the bench.
If I had to choose just one rifle I'd probably go the 308 route and set up a scout style rifle. It'll be good in the woods and on the bench
 
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.44mag and .357mag are what I use in Maine with great success; plus they match sidearms and are common enough. No "long shots" in the Maine woods.

I hunt with a few guys shooting .45-70 however I can't justify the expense and prefer ammo to match my sidearm.
 

JRT

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The answer is probably the 30-30 or .45-70. This year I bought a new rifle in 26 Nosler. I killed my NY and PA buck this year with 26 Nosler. The second one in PA was knocked over, I have never seen anything like that in my life. Hit it in the shoulders and it flopped right on the ground, got up and ran 20 yards and died.
 

Dan-o

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My new favorite in rifle territory is 7mm/08. 3, one shot deer in 2 years. Shot a big doe in ny last year, 225yds from a rested position, destroyed heart. Also a 6pt buck, 30yds+/- double lung, ran 50ft. Big doe 2weeks ago, 75 yds 1 lung, ran 100yds, lights out! Love my kimber! Massive tissue damage on all 3.
 

whacko

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12 gauge slugs for MA and .308 or 30-30 for the states with rifle. All are common calibers that you should be able to get ammo for in every gun shop you walk into.
This

First any surveys of white tail deer calibers for use "IN THE WOODS" that doesn't include 30-30 or 12 gauge slug is a list created by someone that has to spend more time actually in the darn woods. Proof is in the 82% voting "other".

Second.....Op specifically said "woods" of new england. If you are actually in the woods your not gonna get a shot off past at the MOST 75 yards because you are not going to see a god damn deer past that distance anyway. Inside of 75 yards a 1 ounce foster slug is deveststing! Honestly if mass opened up to rifles I'd still use a 12 gauge slug. I've taken deer after deer after deer with 12 gauge slugs out of a old browning auto 5 with a smooth bore iron sight barrel and they all went down hard!

I'll add terrain dictates. If I were hunting a corn field or farmland I'd want the rifle. But.....op said woods........and imo and based on experience hunting thick Laurel patches in mass the best "brush gun" is a 12 gauge loaded with foster slugs. I talk with alot of new hunters and prospective hunters in mass.....and they go on and on about zeroing their shotgun at 100 and 150 yards. I ask why would you do that? If you spend any actual time in the woods your sight line is at BEST 75 yards.......most of the time less than 40 yards. Bottom line....when your plan is to hunt thick woods.......just take the darn shotgun and leave the rifles for the guys in tree stands on farm field edgea.

But if your dead set on a rifle for range and deer hunting.......30-30 lever action rifle. The Marlin 336 and Winchester 94s carry like a dream in the brush.......and oh by the way....you mentioned projo deflection by a branch........flat nosed heavy projos work best in the brush......so foster slugs from a shotgun are actually best ......followed probably by the flat nosed projos from a 30-30.......the old lever guns are not called "brush guns" just because they are short and light........the bullet is actually designed well for shooting in thick brush.
 
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BigTimber

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No personal experience with the 6.5, but For most hunting any of the others will work.

For sure my softest shooting hunting rifle is a Remington 308 with a 20”barrel, and a deceleration recoil pad.

All calibers will deflect when hitting brush.

I’d suggest a 308, rifles and ammo are cheap and easily available. There are many loads to choose from and reloading it is easy.

Regards,
Dave
This.
 
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I have hunted with a .308 and .30-30 and they're both great rounds but honestly I don't believe spitzer bullets or even flat-nose .30-30 have any business shooting through brush. I'd say most of my shots here have been around 30-40 yards with the max having been about 70 or so... mostly through, or at least near, fairly significant brush. In "playing around" I've found .308s go all over the place through brush, .30-30s don't fare much better, and being that I don't get to pick my shots (and they tend to be <100yd) I'd rather have a heavy round nose or flat nose hunk of lead that knocks brush down and stays on target rather than being directed off course.

I take my .308 up into a stand sometimes but only because I'm hunting over a field and a (private, dirt) road so there's nothing to shoot through, and maybe - maybe - I'll find a target across the field which is about 250yd. Hasn't happened yet.

Check Youtube I'm sure there are plenty of people who've done "brush tests" with various caliber. If you're rifle hunting in Maine and New Hampshire, that is definitely a serious consideration.
 

Beretta92FS

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Go with the biggest caliber you are comfortable shooting. Having said that, shot placement is more important than caliber, so whatever you go with, make sure to PRACTICE, a LOT, with that gun, hence the importance of comfortable shooting.

.308 is possibly the more cost effective, and you can get a lot of practice done throughout the year with cheap .308 FMJ rounds, and only sight in the rifle with expensive hunting ammo prior to the actual hunt. But it is important to take the time to sight in the rifle with actual hunting ammo.

If your hunting includes MA and you want only one gun, get a 20 gauge shotgun with rifled slut barrel.

I just got this guy with a .308 last week. If I expect rain or heavy snow, I bring out my 6.8 SPC (don't want to get my expensive .308 gun wet). Either will work if shot placement is right.



My 6.8 SPC setup:

 

PatMcD

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All of them; none of them.
What that means is this: IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT CALIBER YOU USE! ANY centerfire caliber will humanely kill a whitetail deer, providing they are hit where they should be. A 17 Remington will drop a 200-pounder in his tracks if he's shot with proper bullet placement. A 458 Win Mag will wound a 100 pound doe if it's NOT employed with proper bullet placement.
Would I choose a 17 Remington or a 458 Win Mag as the "perfect" or even a "good" deer caliber? Probably not, but they'd work.
The sweet spot for medium-sized game of deer size falls in the .24- .35 size bullet range. That is a TON of caliber choices.
Not limited to
.243.
250 savage,
257 Roberts,
25-06,
6.5x55,
260,
6.5 Creedmoor,
270,
7x57,
7-08,
280,
30-30,
300 savage,
30-40,
308,
30-06,
303,
8x57,
35 Rem,
356,
358,
35 Whelen.

There's probably another dozen or so Magnum calibers between in there I didn't include.

I've shot deer with 6.5x55, 30-06, and 35 Whelen. The deer didn't know the difference.

P.S. I voted 7-08 in your poll. It's perfect for deer hunting.
But any would work perfectly as long as the shooter does his part.
 

one-eyed Jack

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When my sons hunt the bogs in Maine or use a tree stand where the shots can be very long, they switch to scoped .300 Win Mag and .338 Win Mag. The AR with a 6.8 SPC upper also makes for a good woods gun. Jack.
 

whacko

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All of them; none of them.
What that means is this: IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT CALIBER YOU USE! ANY centerfire caliber will humanely kill a whitetail deer, providing they are hit where they should be. A 17 Remington will drop a 200-pounder in his tracks if he's shot with proper bullet placement. A 458 Win Mag will wound a 100 pound doe if it's NOT employed with proper bullet placement.
Would I choose a 17 Remington or a 458 Win Mag as the "perfect" or even a "good" deer caliber? Probably not, but they'd work.
The sweet spot for medium-sized game of deer size falls in the .24- .35 size bullet range. That is a TON of caliber choices.
Not limited to
.243.
250 savage,
257 Roberts,
25-06,
6.5x55,
260,
6.5 Creedmoor,
270,
7x57,
7-08,
280,
30-30,
300 savage,
30-40,
308,
30-06,
303,
8x57,
35 Rem,
356,
358,
35 Whelen.

There's probably another dozen or so Magnum calibers between in there I didn't include.

I've shot deer with 6.5x55, 30-06, and 35 Whelen. The deer didn't know the difference.

P.S. I voted 7-08 in your poll. It's perfect for deer hunting.
But any would work perfectly as long as the shooter does his part.
All of this is true. Absolutely.

However the op said not in a tree ......looking for:

1. On the ground in the woods
2. Something he can use for enjoyment at the range

Based on #1 I recommended 12 gauge slug. Short range hard hitting and less "deflection" through brush. However the slugs get to be more work than fun at the range due to recoil.

Based on #2 I recommended 30-30 because it's "ok" in brush and can still be enjoyable and reasonably economical at the range.

That list you provided includes Cal's that are a but more difficult ammo to find in a shop and cost more.

That's my 2 cents.
 

BlackwaterFence

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I still hunt with the first rifle I bought 30 years ago.
It's a Marlin 30-30 iron sights. From a tree stand, I prefer 30.06
I hunt Northern NH and ammo for those caliber are readily available
 
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.....other. I vote for .50 BMG... Go big or go home.

But if it were me, I would opt for a .270. because I don't want to dislocate my shoulder... But for someone else... .50 BMG.... But I would opt for the .270 or the 30-06. Lots of rifle choices available, lots of ammo choices available, the .270 is plenty big enough for whitetail and the 30-06 is big enough for any game in north america.

I prefer the 30-06 over the .308 when hunting is the primary purpose as there are a wider array of hunting cartridges available. The 30-06 also has more down range energy. Snipers in WWII were taking out krauts at 1000+ yards with the 30-06. It's plenty of gun for anything in North America.

Another thing to consider, the ammo is cheaper... You get into an oddball caliber like the 6.5 and it's going to cost you some loot just to practice. Plus ammo choices will be more limited.

Someone else suggested the 30-30. Not a bad option either. But I would prefer the .270 or 30-06 myself. More options depending on the game. The 30-06 has ammo options that are light enough for coyote and range all the way up to ammo heavy enough for moose, elk.

The 30-06 is the most versitile cartridge in existance. Of that, there is no argument. Only the ignorant would say otherwise.

If you want a gun that's "fun at the range" then I can't recommend a slug gun. Slugs are just too expensive. My 12 gauge slugs cost me 4 dollars every time I pull the trigger. They also beat the piss out of the shoulder. That ain't "fun".

.308 seems to have a wide following, but I prefer the 30-06 for hunting. I think .308 gets love because the military and police use it. I think it's good choice for the range, but the 30-06 is a better option for hunting and feels just as well at home on the range.

.308 gets love because when you want to shoot sub-moa at the range out to 1000 yards, and your handloading, the .308 has demonstrated that you can squeeze a slightly smaller group out of it than a 30-06. But that don't mean dick in a hunting scenario. The knockdown power and ammo choices are what's important here and in that rhelm, the 30-06 reigns supreme. That 1/2 inch advantage the .308 may enjoy in group size at 1000 yards won't mean dick to the game you drop with the 30-06. Especially since ranges in hunting will be well inside of 100 yards 90% of the time. As others have said - in our woods you can't see farther than that. The understory is too thick. Even from a tree, you're not looking out much past 100 unless you're hunting fields. I would be completely comfortable with a 30-06 out to 500 or 600 yards. Assuming you're well practiced - a requirement that will be the case with any cartridge.
 
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I can't believe 30-30, 30-06, and .270 didn't even make your list!

That said, we can't use rifles in MA. THAT said, my father took a lot of deer up in Maine with a 742 in 30-06. He took at least one with a .357 revolver, and eventually got a 30-30 Winchester. He said he wished he had gotten the 30-30 about 30 years earlier. He said it is that much lighter and easier carrying around the Maine woods, and still plenty accurate and powerful for anything up there. I'd say that makes sense to me as well, first-hand from someone who's been there.

I'd guess a .357 or .44 carbine/rifle would work well also (thinking Henry or Ruger Deerfield carbine), but I could be wrong.
 
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I can't believe 30-30, 30-06, and .270 didn't even make your list!

That said, we can't use rifles in MA. THAT said, my father took a lot of deer up in Maine with a 742 in 30-06. He took at least one with a .357 revolver, and eventually got a 30-30 Winchester. He said he wished he had gotten the 30-30 about 30 years earlier. He said it is that much lighter and easier carrying around the Maine woods, and still plenty accurate and powerful for anything up there. I'd say that makes sense to me as well, first-hand from someone who's been there.

I'd guess a .357 or .44 carbine/rifle would work well also (thinking Henry or Ruger Deerfield carbine), but I could be wrong.
amen.. Those are like the cream of the crop in hunting cartridges right there.
 

Sparkey

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What ever you choose make sure you are proficient in shooting. Practice shooting off hand and fast and from different positions.
I hunted with a Winchester 94 in 30-30 with peep sights for years dream to carry kills deer.
The last few years I have been using a Browning lever in 308 with a Trijjicon accupoint. Which I love very fast target accusation. Plus the box mag makes it easier to load/unload then the Winchester .
 

whacko

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.....other. I vote for .50 BMG... Go big or go home.

But if it were me, I would opt for a .270. because I don't want to dislocate my shoulder... But for someone else... .50 BMG.... But I would opt for the .270 or the 30-06. Lots of rifle choices available, lots of ammo choices available, the .270 is plenty big enough for whitetail and the 30-06 is big enough for any game in north america.

I prefer the 30-06 over the .308 when hunting is the primary purpose as there are a wider array of hunting cartridges available. The 30-06 also has more down range energy. Snipers in WWII were taking out krauts at 1000+ yards with the 30-06. It's plenty of gun for anything in North America.

Another thing to consider, the ammo is cheaper... You get into an oddball caliber like the 6.5 and it's going to cost you some loot just to practice. Plus ammo choices will be more limited.

Someone else suggested the 30-30. Not a bad option either. But I would prefer the .270 or 30-06 myself. More options depending on the game. The 30-06 has ammo options that are light enough for coyote and range all the way up to ammo heavy enough for moose, elk.

The 30-06 is the most versitile cartridge in existance. Of that, there is no argument. Only the ignorant would say otherwise.

If you want a gun that's "fun at the range" then I can't recommend a slug gun. Slugs are just too expensive. My 12 gauge slugs cost me 4 dollars every time I pull the trigger. They also beat the piss out of the shoulder. That ain't "fun".

.308 seems to have a wide following, but I prefer the 30-06 for hunting. I think .308 gets love because the military and police use it. I think it's good choice for the range, but the 30-06 is a better option for hunting and feels just as well at home on the range.

.308 gets love because when you want to shoot sub-moa at the range out to 1000 yards, and your handloading, the .308 has demonstrated that you can squeeze a slightly smaller group out of it than a 30-06. But that don't mean dick in a hunting scenario. The knockdown power and ammo choices are what's important here and in that rhelm, the 30-06 reigns supreme. That 1/2 inch advantage the .308 may enjoy in group size at 1000 yards won't mean dick to the game you drop with the 30-06. Especially since ranges in hunting will be well inside of 100 yards 90% of the time. As others have said - in our woods you can't see farther than that. The understory is too thick. Even from a tree, you're not looking out much past 100 unless you're hunting fields. I would be completely comfortable with a 30-06 out to 500 or 600 yards. Assuming you're well practiced - a requirement that will be the case with any cartridge.
My slugs cost me about .80 cents a bang. Smooth bore......remmy sluggers.

But yes.....after 5-10 practice shots I'm done.
 

whacko

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Exactly. That's about as much practice as I can take from a 12ga with slugs.
I all actuality the only time I consider a range trip actual work is double checking the slug barrels before deer season. The old a5 buckstalker hits me hard even set on high brass.

It's odd though because I've never felt it when actually shooting a deer.
 

hv55maxx

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my choices for each category:

Bolt Action: 30.06

MSR: 6.5 Grendel

Slug: 3" 20 gauge (think Savage 220, but a cantilevered barrel on a scatter gun you already have is efficient and cost effective)

Lever: 45-70 (ultimate brush gun)




Considered a high end muzzle loader? Those things can be damn accurate and will often qualify you for any and all shotgun, rifle, and muzzle loader seasons.
 
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