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View Poll Results: What is the smallest caliber that is effective and humane for hunting white tail deer
.204 Ruger 5 2.49%
.223 or greater 78 38.81%
.243 or greater 94 46.77%
Other 24 11.94%
Voters: 201. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 03-05-2007, 12:46   #1
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Poll: What is smallest humane caliber for white tail deer?

Setting aside legal issues of calibers for white tail deer hunting, which of the following calibers is the smallest caliber that you think should be considered as "effective" and "humane" for purposes of hunting? Note: this is NOT the same question as asking which cartridge is MOST EFFECTIVE at hunting deer, that's a different poll. The focus here is on what is the SMALLET caliber that can consistently, humanely kill white tail deer assuming adequate skill for proper shot placement. It's understood that deer can be and have been shot with .22 LR, but since presumably that takes an extremely lucky or precise shot, which most of us would not be capable of in most circumstances, I am not listing .22 LR as a REALISTIC option for hunting deer humanely).

My own vote is for .223. I believe that (if state laws everywhere would cooperate), that with some of the high-powered ammo options available today, .223 with reasonable shot placement can be highly effective for taking white tail deer. A search through the various threads on this forum alone can provide evidence for that, as I've seen post after post just in the Mini-14 forums indicating that folks have found .223 cartridges that are devastating on white tail deer. Another place for good evidence is in the customer comments on various types of .223 ammo at places like Midway USA. With some of the heavier grained .223 bullets, such as 69, 75 or even 80 grain, with good quality hollow-point hunting rounds being used, it seems like .223 should be a very capable round. That's not to say other rounds might not be MORE effective, but for those who want to use .223, I think it's perfectly adequate provided you use quality ammo.

Last edited by timlt; 03-05-2007 at 12:56.
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Old 03-05-2007, 13:31   #2
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It is legal here and I use the .223 when the situation arises. My theory is bullet placement is everything as my personal experence tells me there will be no blood trail. There will be no long shots from MY Mini for that reason, I use a single shot.
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Old 03-05-2007, 13:51   #3
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Old 03-05-2007, 14:16   #4
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I personally wouldn't go smaller than a 243 for whitetail. I just don't have confidence in anything less putting them down where they stand. The smaller the caliber the more precise your shot has to be for a humane kill.
The shock of a larger caliber can make up for marginal shot placement, thus hedging your bet on a humane kill.
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Old 03-05-2007, 15:05   #5
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FatDaddy, it seems like .243 (or something similar in the 6mm range) is the standard recommendation for a minimum white tail cartridge, so you're in good company there. On this forum, with the prevalence of .223-oriented shooters, it won't surprise me if there ends up being a majority saying that .223 is the minimum. If taking a larger poll of say, the entire NRA membership, which has a more varied representation including larger-caliber hunting-oriented shooters, my guess is that the poll would come out closer to .243 as the minimum.

Here in WA state, where we are very top-heavy with regulations, .243 is the minimum (or maybe it's 6mm--I forget exactly--but in practical terms it's .243 or something roughly equivalent). I was so envious recently when Jeff Quinn wrote about being able to take his new Mini-14 and go deer hunting with it in Tennessee.

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Old 03-05-2007, 16:57   #6
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i didn't think it was legal to hunt deer in mich with a .223. i'll have to see if i can find the old rule book. could be mistaken. still, imo, 6mm is about the minimum with perfect shot placement.
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Old 03-05-2007, 16:58   #7
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Where's the .303 button?? My vote is for .223.
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Old 03-05-2007, 17:16   #8
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I have seen some small deer in the south. Here in Ohio we get some large bodied corn fed deer.
I think 25 caliber ot larger. Ofcourse Ohio is a shotgun only state so for hunting at home it is a non issue. When I take time off work and pay out of state fees I am not trying to be a minimalist. I use a 308 and love the large selection of 30 caliber bullets.

I have some friends that are planning on recreating a 1940's deer camp. Old guns and flannel shirts! I have a Savage 99 in 300 savage I will take and a Rem 81 in 300 Savage as well I will take along just in case.
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Old 03-05-2007, 18:11   #9
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.243 is minimum but I prefer larger. Not out of ego ( ego can also mean using subpar equipment ) but because not every shot is going to be perfect or well placed. A .223 can be used effectivly but leaves too many chances for bad things to happen. Lousy shots can happen with any bullet but as I get older, I am really becoming a wimp when it comes to wounded animals. I suggest using the biggest caliber that one can handle, there is no such thing as overkilling a deer. Shot placement still counts whether one shoots a .223 or a .375 H&H.
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Old 03-06-2007, 03:22   #10
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22 Short with solids (not hollow points) works IF you plant it between the headlights AND keep the range under 50'.
22 LR works if you plant it between the headlights and the range is under 20 yards. (I have neighbors that have "past experance" with both of these).
22 Hornet works at ranges under 50 yards
22-250AI works at ranges up to 400yd
That said, I prefer to stay with cartridges from the 7x57/7-08 and up (30-06 being my favorate). As stated above, it's not what you hit them with, it's where you hit them.

IIRC Michigan regulations state ANY RIMFIRE larger than 22 cal OR ANY centerfire cartridge (this being for the northern 2/3's of the state, the southern 1/3 is ML, shotgun or straight wall handgun only)
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Old 03-06-2007, 10:46   #11
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I would say nothing less than a .243

Personally I would rather go with the .30-06 when deer hunting, but any of the .308 class cartridges should be just fine.
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Old 03-06-2007, 12:42   #12
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Wow I'm surprised by two things this far into the poll:

1. That there aren't more advocates of trying to take deer with .22LR. It can be done, and HAS BEEN done, a lot. It's quite a challenging shot though, and the probability is that you will badly wound the animal and it may suffer for quite awhile before it dies.

2. That the numbers of folks rating .243 and .223 as the minimum acceptable calibers are almost neck-and-neck. Here on PU, where there's a high percentage of .223 shooters, I thought .223 advocates would overwhelm all options. But apparently this is something a number of folks feel strongly about, given the almost equal numbers who draw the "minimum" line at .243.
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Old 03-06-2007, 14:43   #13
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Old 03-15-2007, 17:13   #14
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I wrote a paper on this subject for one of my classes this year. I can see the arguement both ways, but with correct bullet selection the .223 does fine. What I really still wonder is why you never hear anything about bow hunting but people constantly bash using smaller caliber bullets. I hope no one takes this the wrong way, but I don't see how shooting anything with an arrow is humane.
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Old 03-15-2007, 18:03   #15
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My savage .223 has taken four big bodied MI whitails but I carry my marlin 336 in .35 Rem more often when in rifle zone. I live in shotgun only zone so H&R ultra slugger has more under its belt than any other gun I own! .223 works but have to be patient and take careful shots.
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Old 03-15-2007, 18:24   #16
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To answer the Poll, .243, but in truth just about anything can be used to harvest a deer "with accurate shot placement". That being said, I tend to stick with the 30-06 nowadays. Except during bow season, hehe.
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Old 03-16-2007, 07:14   #17
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[quote=Killer@nz;421671]Where's the .303 button??

Nz-
My thoughts exactly!!!!
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Old 03-19-2007, 03:58   #18
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I personally have killed deer with a 223 and have witnessed many more killed with a .223 I will however say that if you do choose to use a 22 cal for deer you should be absolutely certain of your shot placement. and try to limit your shots to around 150 yards
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Old 03-19-2007, 04:06   #19
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Originally Posted by V-Max View Post
I wrote a paper on this subject for one of my classes this year. I can see the arguement both ways, but with correct bullet selection the .223 does fine. What I really still wonder is why you never hear anything about bow hunting but people constantly bash using smaller caliber bullets. I hope no one takes this the wrong way, but I don't see how shooting anything with an arrow is humane.

actually an arrow with a broadhead is more capable of producing larger wound channels then even the largest of rifle calibers. Also an arrow shot from the modern compound bows and crossbows available have better penetration characteristics compared to bullets shot from a rifle. Arrows will kill animals just as humanely and efficiently as a rifle can. You obviously never bow hunted so I just wanted to set ya straight.
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Old 03-19-2007, 17:20   #20
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I'm not a big bow hunter, but I have sat a few seasons. In my person experiance and from other sources such as outdoor tv channels, the chances of dropping a deer are not the best. I see tracking the deer as part of bowhunting. I think .223 is just as capable as a bow if not more.
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Old 03-23-2007, 01:50   #21
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Originally Posted by V-Max View Post
I'm not a big bow hunter, but I have sat a few seasons. In my person experiance and from other sources such as outdoor tv channels, the chances of dropping a deer are not the best. I see tracking the deer as part of bowhunting. I think .223 is just as capable as a bow if not more.
Tracking an animal is part of hunting no matter how you want to see it wether you hunt with a gun or a bow. Just because you have to track an animal doesnt mean its was a inhumane kill.. more times than not even when everything is totally in my favor and the deer should have dropped in its tracks and it didnt and Id have to track an animal. with bow hunting Ive hit deer and they dropped dead with in a matter of yards where I never lost sight of the animal. Then even with a .223 ive hit the deer just right and it had dropped in its tracks. you just cant judge a kill by how the deer reacts to the hit wether it be with a bow or a gun.

A hunt that the memory is still quite vivid because I just could not believe what happened I had shot a small doe with a 30-06 loaded with 180 grain nosler partitions from about 15 yards sqaure in the shoulder just as I shot I saw a spot of blood right where the bullet had hit then as she begun to run on 3 of her legs the front right leg which the shoulder that had just took a round was flailing freely as she ran I looked and the tree that was just behind her had a massive amount of blood spatter on it which I knew the bullet passed through and she was gonna leave a nice blood trail. After tracking her for about 100 yards or so the blood trail had stopped and as much blood that was on the ground at this point she had to have been just about bled out after searching that general area with a few others in our hunting party for about 3 hours I had given up on the search I just wasnt gonna find her at this point im quite dissapointed because the shot was perfect she should have dropped soon after being hit but that wasnt the case but then just as we gave up lookin one of the guys in our group found her as he was walking back to his stand this deer had traveled another 75 yards from where she had seemingly initially bled out. while field dressing the deer the bullet had oblitterated the right shoulder sending bone fragments all through out the vitals damaging the both lungs and the liver around what was left of the heart which only about half of it was recognizable it looked like chunky tomatoe sauce with that much damage to the vitals that deer should have died within seconds after being hit but it managed to run a total of around 175 yards before expiring goes to show you just how hardy and resiliant a deer can be when the adrenaline is pumping. that deer was long dead before it gave up

This is a prime example why you cant judge wether a shot is humane or inhumane by wether the deer runs and has to be tracked or if it dies within feet of where it was shot. you may have experience hunting but when you have asmuch experience as I do you will then realize you are being extremely judgemental about the subject and you will also realize just how wrong you were. As a hunter you should really be a little more open minded on this matter than how you came off in your original post. I'm in no way trying to sling mud at ya but rather trying to open your eyes a bit, Alright?
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Old 03-23-2007, 16:41   #22
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I didn't mean I don't support bow hunting or anything like that, but I knew calling it "inhumane" would draw some heat. All I mean by this is that as hunters, we have much better ways of killing an animal but choose to use a bow for sport. You have much better chances of an instant kill using a rifle. I was just using bow hunting as a comparison with using a .223. Both are less effective than let's say a .270, but will work. Why is using a .223 frowned upon by the same people that support bow hunting? Thanks for the input HighDesertWolf, but I don't think I was wrong. When bow hunting you are knowingly and willingly passing up using a better means of killing an animal. Bow hunting might not be inhumane, but less humane. Yes sometimes you do drop a deer, yes sometimes a deer will run after being shot will a .308, but in general using a rifle is a better way. Hunters are buying in to political correctness and downplay what they really do; hunt for enjoyment. It's fine with me if someone enjoys the additional challenge of hunting with a bow, but don't try pretty it up. I kill deer, I don't harvest them. I kill the deer because I like to hunt. When I bow hunt I don't try to tell anyone I am doing to best I can to insure a humane kill.
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Old 03-23-2007, 17:59   #23
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I think I would rather be shot by a .308 than a broad head.

Vmax is right though. This political correctness is spreading like the plague, and it is just as bad. I am a sportsman. I hunt. Which means I am going off with the intent to KILL an animal, not wound, torture, disfigure, etc, etc, etc. And worst of all is the fact that I had to say it.
Anyway, this poll is proof that you all have honor also. You are voicing you opinion as to what you would use......what you know you can get the job done with.
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Old 04-02-2008, 10:48   #24
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At 300 meters, a 5.56 with 55 grain (AKA .223) can down a man(180lb-200 lb) with a center mass shot. Therefore I feel It can handle a 180 or lower lb Whitetail. 150 yards and in with a 22 hornet (.224) if you place it the same as an arrow shot, you know, let him move that front leg forward and let me have that double lung with optional heart upgrade. But thats just one man opinion.
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Old 04-16-2008, 20:54   #25
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Originally Posted by mykool View Post
At 300 meters, a 5.56 with 55 grain (AKA .223) can down a man(180lb-200 lb) with a center mass shot. Therefore I feel It can handle a 180 or lower lb Whitetail. 150 yards and in with a 22 hornet (.224) if you place it the same as an arrow shot, you know, let him move that front leg forward and let me have that double lung with optional heart upgrade. But thats just one man opinion.
Ditto. inhumane for deer but not for people???? Kind of hypocritical.
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