Hunting a rifle before hunting deer

Published 10:47 pm Monday, October 6, 2008

With a hint of fall in the air, Alabama deer hunters usually move into a frenetic pace as they prepare for the upcoming season.

For those who are considering a new deer rifle, Larry Teague, editor of Buckmasters GunHunter magazine, said quite a few variables go into the decision of what firearm to choose.

“In some places you have short shots,” Teague said. “In some places you have long shots. In Alabama, you have both. You have thick woods. You have power lines. You have rights of way. Depending on where you’re hunting, you can get a rifle for each area, or you can get a rifle that will work for both.

“Hunting guns for Alabama is kind of a misnomer, because they would work anywhere else. The calibers of .270 Winchester, .30-06 and 7mm Magnum are all traditional whitetail calibers. The advantages of the .30-06 is, as everybody knows, you have wide range of bullets and the ammo is available everywhere. If you’re out in the middle of nowhere, you won’t have trouble finding ammunition. The availability is about the same for the .270.”

The problem with those bullets and larger calibers is when you have somebody that is recoil sensitive, either a little or a lot. It doesn’t take much “flinch” to foul up a shot.

“When you are shooting .30-06, the Magnums or Ultra Mags it will have more recoil than a small stature individual or female shooter can handle,” Teague said. “For woman or youths, I would drop down to a 7mm-08, one of my favorites. A .260 Remington is also very good.

“The .243 may be a little light for Alabama deer. There are arguments on both sides. The .243 will kill deer all day long in central Texas where a 130-pound buck is a big one. In Alabama, where you’re looking at a 175- to 200-pound buck, that’s completely different. In my opinion, you need a bullet with more mass and a little more energy.”

Compared to a lot of hunters in Alabama, myself included, Teague’s body mass would put him in the lightweight category.

“The smallest I would hunt deer in Alabama with is a .25 caliber, which is one of my favorites,” he said. “The .25 is an ideal bullet size for me. That’s what I carry most of the time. It’s a combination of low recoil, it has enough energy and enough mass to take any whitetail. But you’re not overdoing it, either. So, you don’t get punished by heavy recoil.

“Now, if I were going to shoot down a right of way at a 300-yard deer, I probably wouldn’t choose a .25 with the possible exception of a .257 Weatherby Magnum – the fastest .25 caliber out there. It’ll fly along at about 3,800 feet per second. It’s a tremendous caliber, and it will take a deer way out there.”