All the rifle I need
When it comes to preferred rifle calibers for hunting deer there are as many preferences and opinions as there are hunters in the woods. Some would say they wouldn’t consider hunting deer with anything but a lever action Winchester or Marlin in 30-30, .32Winchester or .35 Remington calibers.
However, today it seems the darling of the hunting fraternity seems to be the 6.5mm Creedmoor introduced by Hornady in 2007. In my personal opinion the Creedmoor won’t replace the .30-06 for hunting deer, bear or elk and it never will. Nevertheless, many feel it is a great choice for deer, antelope, and even coyotes. Make no mistake, there are dozens of rifle calibers that will kill deer but, all preferences aside, my personal choice for deer hunting is the .243 Winchester.
I fell in love with the .243 Winchester more than 50 years ago when I wanted to buy a rifle for woodchuck hunting and, the .243 seemed like the perfect choice. At the time I could have bought a new Remington for about $90 (yes, it was that long ago) but my brother, who was really into guns, suggested I consider the Sako Forrester. The problem was the Forrester cost almost twice as much as the Remington.
“You won’t regret it,” he told me, and I never have.
With a checkered French walnut stock and deep bluing, this rifle was a joy to own. On top of that, with my handloads at 100 yards, I could cover a five-shot group with a nickel. It was as accurate as it was good looking.
Over the years my Sako was responsible for the demise of hundreds of woodchucks, but I never used it to hunt deer. Frankly, I didn’t want to take the chance of marring the beautiful stock by subjecting it to a season of deer hunting.
At the time, the rifle I used for deer hunting was custom made by my brother when he was apprenticing as a machinist back in the early 1960’s. He built it using a 1917 Enfield barrel and action and chambered it in a .308 Norma Magnum caliber. Fitted with a Bishop walnut stock and decorated with a diamond shaped cherrywood inlay and pistol grip, it was a beautiful gun with enough power to take anything on the North American continent.
‘Trouble was it was just too much gun for deer and it was fairly heavy. As the years passed, I decided I was never going to hunt moose or elk and that I only needed it to hunt deer so, I was considering something lighter. That’s when I got lucky.
Sitting in the corner of my brother’s gun room was a wooden rifle stock. I asked him about it and he said he took it off a Remington Model 7 rifle he bought and replaced it with a synthetic stock. “You can have the stock it you like,” he said. He didn’t need to ask twice.
I was able to purchase a barreled action and easily fit it to the stock. I considered getting it in the 7mm-08 caliber but ultimately settled on the .243. My reasoning was simple. I had a variety of bullets in that caliber and the dies and equipment needed to handload all the ammunition I would ever need.
The rifle is very lightweight, has little recoil and is a pleasure to carry in the woods. However, it’s not as accurate as my Sako Forrester. My groups with the Sako are mostly an inch or under at 100 yards, the little Remington can’t match that accuracy, but it’s been accurate enough to account for more than a dozen deer.
I still have the Sako and it will continue to be my go-to woodchuck rifle, but for deer, the little Model 7 gets the nod.