Off-season white-tailed deer hunting question: What’s your favorite rifle cartridge?

Jason Lesmeister hunts white-tailed deer in Iowa, so he prefers a modern sporting rifle shooting the 450 Bushmaster cartridge. He says it’s faster and shoots flatter than a shotgun slug and is exponentially more accurate. In Iowa, regulations don’t allow necked-down rifle cartridges, so the 450 Bushmaster is a perfect option.

In my last blog I asked the question: “What is your favorite species of fish to pursue?” Readers delivered many answers, as I anticipated. Now I am curious and asking a new question: “What is your favorite caliber of rifle with which to hunt white-tailed deer?”

The question was one Rob Drieslein and I would ask on our live radio show just a couple of weeks prior to the deer opener, and we got many diverse responses.

I would say the tried-and-true .30-06 was the most popular rifle cartridge in Minnesota, followed closely by the .30-30. Of course, I often made jokes about the .30-30 bouncing off big bucks, which elicited some caustic responses from listeners. I had to use the delay button more than once when callers would use an expletive to describe me after I jokingly disparaged their favorite rifle cartridge, the .30-30.

The gun a hunter inherits from his father or grandfather often dictates preference to a particular rifle cartridge. Some hard-core ballistic aficionados can quote statistics to back up their partiality. So if you were limited to one caliber for deer hunting the rest of your life, what would it be?

Mine is the 7mm-08, which is modeled off a .308 Winchester case that has been necked-down to accept a 7mm bullet. In 1980, Remington popularized the cartridge by offering it for their Model 788 and Model 700 rifles. The first 7mm-08 I purchased was a Lone Eagle pistol chambered to this caliber. It had a recoil I could handle and amazing accuracy. When Remington chambered their R-25 rifles to 7mm-08, I purchased one and have been using it for deer hunting ever since. I love this caliber.

Now, my son Jason will tell you the .450 Bushmaster is the perfect whitetail deer cartridge. He is a hunting guide in Alaska and uses big rifles up there for bear and moose. But for deer hunting in the Lower 48, he actually chooses this caliber. The .450 Bushmaster cartridge was designed for the modern sporting rifle for those who wanted some knock-down power in a non-necked-down cartridge. Jason spends a lot of time hunting deer in Iowa, where necked-down rifle cartridges are not allowed, so this option is perfect for him.

Ballistically, the 450 Bushmaster is very flat out to 200 yards. When the rifle scope is zeroed at 150 yards, the user can expect a rise of about two inches at 100 yards, dead-center at 150 yards, and a drop of about 5 inches at 200 yards.

So for some hunters, state regulations and the type of terrain one hunts will have a bearing on a person’s favorite caliber. For others it’s tradition and for some it’s whatever gun was on sale when they started hunting. Might be a .308, a .300, the .270 or maybe even the .243. In some states now, you can even go out and hunt whitetails with a .223 caliber.

So what’s your favorite?

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Tim Lesmeister, Whitetail Deer

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