There is no doubt that deer are the most widespread and popular big game animal in the U.S. Today, whitetails are found all across the nation, from the forests of New England to the farmland of the West, across the Great Plains and north all the way into Minnesota. Deer are found in remote wilderness areas as well as the fringes of the largest cities. If you’re living in North America, odds are you live very close to whitetail deer. And if you’re a big game hunter, chances are you spend time each fall pursuing them.
Selecting a cartridge for deer hunting is largely a matter of opinion, but there are a number of qualities that make some cartridges stand out from the crowd. First, it must be powerful enough to humanely kill even the largest deer, but recoil shouldn’t be so great that it precludes smaller-framed shooters from becoming proficient with the cartridge. Each cartridge should have a proven track record on game, and should be versatile enough to use out to moderate ranges. Lastly, nostalgia and popularity also played a role in making selections for our list. If it’s a cartridge American hunters love, we had to include it.
Are there good deer cartridges that didn’t make our list? Absolutely. But discussions regarding the best deer cartridges of all time have been going on around campfires in this country for over a century. Here’s a list of the top ten finishers.
- The 6.5 Creedmoor is a relatively new cartridge that was designed specifically as a target round, but it has caught fire among hunters who appreciate its many qualities. It’s extremely accurate, and the current crop of .264 hunting bullets make this a standout cartridge despite its status as a newcomer in the hunting world. Whether you hunt with a bolt-action or prefer an AR platform, this cartridge is a good choice for deer hunting. Recoil is light enough that most shooters can handle rifles chambered in this round, and even at long ranges the Creedmoor is an effective deer cartridge.