Best Caliber for Deer and maybe larger

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    So, like I said I am trying to make this the year I actually get out deer hunting, did it twice when I was a kid in upstate NY but that was almost 25 years ago. I am looking at a rifle that is good for deer and possibly Elk. Right now I am looking between 7mm, 30-06, or 6.5 Creedmoor. I don’t care much about preserving for the mount, more concerned with the ability to possibly go after larger game.

    Hopefully I am not about to start a riot.

  • Regular Contributors

    You are about to start a riot for sure, 30-06 has probably taken down more elk than any other caliber combined. Let’s just say this which will catch a lot of flack, my wifes cousin is an outfitter here in Texas. If you plan on bringing a 6.5 to a deer hunt he will tell you to leave it at home and you can use one of his rifles. From his experience with clients they have to call the dogs more for guys who were using the 6.5. Now all the 6.5 believers are about to come crawling out of the wood work here talking about how no animal they have ever shot with the 6.5 has taken a step after shooting it. The larger calibers give you some more room for error. There really isn’t a “right” answer.


  • 270 win mag is a great round for white tail and can be used to take elk. It is the smallest round that I’d want to take elk hunting. 300 win mag would get both jobs done. I’d think 308 would as well.

  • Regular Contributors

    @matt-westerhaus I agree the .300 win mag is a great round, also one that can be used on just about anything that walks in North America.

  • Team Orange Power User Canning Masterbuilt

    30-06 is a tough round to beat, it is very versatile. You can buy loads from 110 grain up to 220 grain with (my opinion) 150, 165 and 180 being the best for this rifle. I shoot 165 with good results. I have always said if I was going to own one caliber it would be 30-06.

  • Team Blue Big Green Egg Masterbuilt Canning Kamado Joes Regular Contributors Power User

    bocephus I’m with you on the 3006. It’s one of the most versatile riffles made. With all the different grains of bullets made for it you can hunt anything. If I was able to own only one riffle this would be it. My son who is 12 started hunting with one of mine last year. He harvested 2 bucks with no tracking. He handles the recoil just fine.

  • Team Blue

    30-06-or 270 are good in my eyes

  • Team Blue Power User Traeger Primo Grills PK Grills Canning Sous Vide Community Moderator

    Jonathon head on over to Meateater they have a lot of articles on just this question. Everyone is going to have there own opinion on this obviously and you know what they say about opinions. I’d agree with what has been said here, 30-06 or 308 will def. get the job done. If you want to step up to any bigger game a 338 Win Mag would be a good choice. You biggest limiting factor at the moment is ammo availability.

  • Team Blue Regular Contributors Traeger Canning

    bocephus I’ve harvested many deer & elk here in Colorado’s High Country. I’ve always used a 30-06, with 150 gr for deer and 180gr for elk. However, some of my hunting buddies swore by .308 & the .300 win mag. I my opinion the 30-06 is probably a little cheaper and also more available than some of the other rounds at this time. Jonathan if you are buying a new long gun you’ll probably be sending quite a few rounds down range just sighting it in. So cost may be a factor.

  • Team Blue Regular Contributors Power User

    I personally use a 7mm Mag Weatherby. It will take down all the game that I hunt, including Elk and Bear. Being stainless steel, it makes a great brush gun here in the wet NW. I do own an old lever action Marlin 30-30 that has shot many deer, but that was from long ago when my grandfather had it.

  • Team Orange Power User Canning Masterbuilt

    Guns are like meat processing you think you can get by with the minimum then you look around and wonder where all the stuff came from.

  • Power User Canning Team Orange Regular Contributors

    Ii think that a 30-06 is a versatile option to consider

  • Big Green Egg Team Blue Regular Contributors Cast Iron Power User

    Out of the ones you listed I would go with the 7mm Mag. I am very partial to a .270 and not the magnum cartridge. I have shot many deer with a cheap Savage chambered in 270. I also shot my one and only bull elk with it too. But I did buy a Savage 7mm Mag that is almost identical to my 270. My Dad and 2 brothers all shoot 7mm Mag and they have for over 25 years.

  • Regular Contributors

    Also right now is probably the worst time to be buying a new rifle with ammo the way it is, but its slowly showing up or well staying on the shelves.

  • Regular Contributors

    There are lots of calibers that will kill deer and elk effectively.
    No rifle or cartridge caliber can compensate for poor marksmanship or poor shot placement.
    I would argue more game is lost due to the poor marksmanship/shot placement than to someone who wasn’t carrying a rifle chambered in the “best caliber”

    I would recommend borrowing a rifle now if you have to and spend some serious time at the range. Also remember, deer hunting is different than shooting off a bench at the range. Sometimes while hunting you are shooting from awkward positions in bad light and crappy weather.

    After your rifle is sighted-in, target practice under realistic field conditions is a better way to prepare for a hunt than just popping off rounds from a bench with sandbags or a rest.

    As far actual chamberings, I like the .270 Winchester (non-magnum). Great for deer and with heavier bullets adequate for elk. As others have mentioned, 30-06 is a excellent choice and the recoil and ammo price won’t beat you to death like some magnum calibers can. If a rifle recoils so hard you can’t stand to practice with it, it makes it more difficult to get proficient with it.

    During normal times, calibers like .270 Win. 30-06, and .308 Win. are readily available at stores like Walmart and other small-town businesses that might not carry more exotic calibers.

    These days, ammo availability can be hit or miss on most calibers, but getting better around here.


  • .270 is my favorite deer round. I have no experience on it with elk, but would say it is on the small side. I also have a .300 win mag that will put any deer or elk down. I also notice it is one of the last rounds to go off the shelf at the store so availability is better than the more popular rounds.


  • Jonathon there are several calibers out there that will get the job done. I have a .270 WSM, 30/06, .300 Win. Mag. I shoot Federal Trophy Bonded Tip ammunition in all 3 rifles, I have harvested game of all sizes with all 3 calibers. My go to deer/elk rifle is my .300 Win. Mag. I shoot 180 grain Trophy Bonded Tip ammo out of this rifle, and I have harvested game from pronghorn antelope, to elk with this rifle and everyone of them were 1 shot kills, and I feel this combo of caliber & bullet will harvest anything on this continent. Every animal I have harvested with this bullet acts like they have been hit right between the eyes with a sledge hammer. If I can give you a bit of advice, it doesn’t matter the caliber/bullet combo, if you can’t shoot your rifle well, and put the round where it needs to be, neither caliber or bullet type matters.


  • 270WIN is what I use for culling nuisance deer…good out to 300yds for me and drops them where they stand. 150gr bullet here. Custom load.

  • Team Blue

    cdavis the 30-06 is not necessarily my personal favorite, but is probably the most versatile, you hit the nail on the head there. I decided to keep my mouth shut on all the rest though, for now.

  • Team Blue

    processhead I could not have ever said it better!

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