In a recent issue, Safari Magazine asked its readers to weigh in on their favorite rifles for hunting deer. As expected, the question resulted in a lot of strong opinions and made for some interesting email strings. Here are some of the responses:
I just finished your Favorite Deer Rifle article in Safari Magazine. The question you posed: “What is your favorite deer rifle?” generated a goodly amount of pondering, brought back a lot of memories and, of course, posed a question nearly impossible for me to answer. My wife and I were married in 1971 and, after many months of saving all my change (sometimes I had to stop after work and exchange the few dollars in my pocket for quarters) I saved enough to buy a new Model 70 Winchester in .30-06 ($110). I was pretty sure at that time I would only ever be able to afford one big game rifle in my life and I better buy one that I could use on any animal in North America. This was my
“favorite deer rifle” until 1989, when my youngest son (who was then — from the get-go — and still is, an avid hunter) wanted to use “dad’s gun” to hunt deer and dad was forced to buy another so he could have a gun to carry along on the deer hunts.
This turned out to be a used Winchester Model 94 .30-30 which then, over a few years of use, turned out to be my “favorite deer rifle.” The only problem I ever had with it was trying to sight it in; I could never get a small enough grouping to determine which way the open sights needed adjustment. So, I just kept shooting deer with it. I did miss some, but the second shot with the lever action was always quick enough to keep me from being thoroughly embarrassed (much more than I can say for a lot of my shotguns).
As the years passed, and the ability to add more guns to the growing collection under the bed improved, I added a Winchester Model 70
.25-06, which was supposed to be my antelope gun. I did shoot one antelope with it but, like so much of my other hunting equipment, it seemed to replace my original .30-06 in the hands of my son and I would say it (in addition to taking a couple of nice caribou) has become his “favorite deer rifle. And could turn out to be mine if I ever get another opportunity to shoot it. Like you, I have added a couple of .308 Winchesters to the mix (Winchester Models 88 and 100 – you can see I’m kind of an “old school” guy in addition to just being an old guy) and I’m pretty sure either one of them could be my “favorite deer rifle” at some point in the future. It is a nice shooting round and might have been as good a choice as the .30-06 (almost).
I guess my final answer, if I’m forced to give one, would be “my favorite deer rifle is whichever one I have in my hands when I’m deer hunting;” which is pretty wishy-washy – but I bet might serve as a catalyst to consensus. Thanks for reading my rambling and adding some enjoyment to my afternoon. Roger Christianson
I, like you, have used various combinations of actions and calibers over the past 51 years of mostly mule deer hunting in Utah and other Western states. Shooting distance generally from 150 to 300 yards. It’s hard to beat (and I seem to always go back to) the .270 Winchester, with a 130-grain bullet. Jack O’Connor can’t be wrong! Rick Lovell, SCI Life Member
My favorite deer rifle is a Weatherby Mark V chambered in .270 Weatherby Magnum. If I had to choose a second place cartridge, it would be .300 Weatherby Magnum, also Mark V. I look forward to reading your article. Thanks. Jared Kocurek
It is a Ruger bolt action in .308 with a 16-inch barrel. I hunt out of a ground blind and a longer barrel keeps hitting the inside. I have used .243, .284, .30-30, .44 Mag, .358, .270 & .30-06 (plus .375 H&H & .458 Lott in Africa).Then Mark Hampton got me into handguns. But now at 76 I just use a rifle. Doc Heeter Past President Mid Michigan Chapter