Best Bullets: Best Ammo for Deer Hunting

Which One Do You Use Most?

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap
.223 Rem

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1 | .223 Rem

This is the lightest round I’d personally use for deer hunting. That said, the .223 is more than capable of handling whitetail-sized game. This caliber doesn’t pack a huge punch, but it’s great for youth and small-framed shooters.

Typical Muzzle Velocity: 3,200 fps

Typical Weight: 55 grains

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.243 Win

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2 | .243 Win

Introduced in 1995, this is one of the most popular options among the smaller calibers. Don’t overlook this option or write it off as an entry-level gun only. Sure, it’s ideal for young and smaller shooters. But it’s also great for mature hunters, too. I killed my first deer with it, and several since then. It’s very accurate, low recoil and is very reliable. I feel that this round performs best around that 85- to 100-grain range.

Typical Muzzle Velocity: 3,250 fps

Typical Weight: 85 grains

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.25-06 Rem

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3 | .25-06 Rem

This is just one of those classic guns that’s been around for a long time (approximately 50 years). My grandfather uses the .25-06 as his primary whitetail gun. And I’ve packed the same one on many a hunt, too, because of it. It’s a very dependable, flat-shooting caliber that delivers great down-range energy.

Typical Muzzle Velocity: 3,350 fps

Typical Weight: 100 grains

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6.5 Creedmoor

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4 | 6.5 Creedmoor

This is the “new kid on the block.” Born in 2007, it isn’t an old ammo option. But it’s certainly climbed up the caliber ladder in short order. It has light recoil and significant long-range capabilities. Perfect for rifles with high twist-rate ratios, it’s shockingly accurate and very aerodynamic to say the least.

Typical Muzzle Velocity: 2,700 fps

Typical Weight: 140 grains

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.270 Win

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5 | .270 Win

The .270 has been around for 94 years. For 94 seasons, big game hunters have been heading afield with this trusty caliber in-hand. That’s what I call heritage. And it’s most certainly proven itself time after time. It’s a smaller-diameter bullet that scoots downrange in a hurry with truly impressive speeds and energy.

Typical Muzzle Velocity: 2,850 fps

Typical Weight: 150 grains

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.280 Rem

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6 | .280 Rem

This gun is nowhere near as popular as the .270. And I don’t know why. In my opinion, it actually outpaces the .270 in most categories and scenarios. If you look at pure performance, this is the gun to have between the two options.

Typical Muzzle Velocity: 2,900 fps

Typical Weight: 165 grains

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7mm-08 Rem

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7 | 7mm-08 Rem

This caliber was introduced approximately 40 years ago. It offers the light recoil of a .243 or .25-06 and the versatility of a .308. With an approximate .280-diameter bullet and lots of powder to burn behind it, it also has a very flat trajectory, especially out to several hundred yards. Another reason it’s so popular — it has much less recoil than that of a .308 Win or .300 Win Mag.

Typical Muzzle Velocity: 2,550 fps

Typical Weight: 140 grains

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.30-30 Win

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8 | .30-30 Win

The .30-30 Win is almost 125 years old. So, it isn’t crazy to say that the .30-30 has likely killed more deer than any other caliber. I know I’ve killed my share with it. You won’t take this gun to the open prairie or wide-open ag field. But it is most certainly capable in wooded-timber settings. It’s solid inside of 150 yards. Being that associated firearms are lever actions, and its heavy-bullet design, some refer to it as the ultimate brush gun. I can’t really argue against that. I concur.

Typical Muzzle Velocity: 2,400 fps

Typical Weight: 150 grains

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.308 Win

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9 | .308 Win

If I had to guess, I’d say this one probably makes the top five or six most-used calibers by black bear hunters. It’s that common. It’s the best of all worlds. It offers knockdown power without the heavy recoil.  It’s easy to find on shelves — which is big with today’s ammo availability.

Typical Muzzle Velocity: 2,800 fps

Typical Weight: 150 grains

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.30-06 SPRG

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10 | .30-06 SPRG

Now over 100 years old, the .30-06 is a primo option for hunting black bears. It’s another favorite on this list that is among the most-sold calibers in the country. It’s a great all-around gun that can do just about whatever you ask it to (within reason).

Typical Muzzle Velocity: 2,900 fps

Typical Weight: 150 grains

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.300 Win Mag

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11 | .300 Win Mag

This thing kicks like a dadgum mule. But it’s a surefire bear rifle. You don’t always get a pass-through with this round, but the energy transfer inside the body cavity is astounding.

Typical Muzzle Velocity: 3,250 fps

Typical Weight: 150 grains

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.350 Legend

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12 | .350 Legend

Yeah, it’s the other “new kid on the block.” Brand new for 2019, how could we ever say it already makes the “best” list? Well, it’s just that good. And we feel it has a place here. In my opinion, it ousts the .450 Bushmaster as the king of straight-wall options. And that’s huge for states such as Ohio, Indiana and other straight-wall states. Time will tell though. It all depends on how the public reacts to it.

Typical Muzzle Velocity: 2,300 fps

Typical Weight: 150 grains

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Deer hunting bullets are likely the most talked about topic in the whitetail world. The research certainly suggests it’s the most talked about. But why? Why are they so captivating? The reason is both simple and complex.

There are many avenues of discussion when talking deer bullets. Ballistics. Bullet Style. Grain weight. Muzzle velocity. Metal type. Cost. The list goes on. But one thing is for sure — people are as divided as the Grand Canyon over their ammo preferences.

That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to help clear the air and un-muddy the water. What are the best ammo options? And we’re not talking brands here. We’re talking best calibers for deer. And honestly, these are just my personal favorites, as well as those that seem to be most popular among the hunting crowd.

But I urge you this — decide for yourself. Don’t take my word for it. Use this as a beginning point. Do your own tests. See what shoots best through your guns. Find your favorite caliber. And let us help you along the way. These are our favorites (in no particular order).