Choosing your rifle caliber when hunting comes down to the size of the game you’re after and the distance you’ll be from them. If you’re unsure which to pick, heed our tips below!
Hunting Rifle Caliber for Different Games
Maintaining ethical practices while hunting is so important. Leaving an animal with a wound or debilitating injury is never the goal.
With this in mind, you want to be sure you have a high enough rifle caliber to take down whatever game you are after, in one shot.
Caliber is the diameter of the bullet that you’re using. And the higher the caliber, the larger the bullet.
It is imperative that you use the exact caliber that your rifle is designed for. Otherwise, you run the risk of a misfire or even a gun explosion. Using a caliber that is too big for your rifle could result in injury or death.
When selecting the caliber you’ll use on your next hunting trip, consider both the animal you’re hunting and the range at which you’ll be hunting them. These are both factors in what bullets you should use, and you have a few options for every combination of the two.
Types of North American Game & Recommended Calibers
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- Small Game (Squirrels, Rabbits, Varmints, Short Range): .22 Long Rifle rimfire (LR) or .22 Winchester Magnum Rimfire (WMR)
- Small Game (Predators, Long Range): .223 Remington, .22-250 Remington, .220 Swift, or .243 Winchester
- Deer (Short Range): .243 Winchester, .30-30 Winchester, or .300 Savage
- Deer (Long Range): .25-06 Remington, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, 7 mm Remington Magnum or .300 Winchester Magnum
- Black Bear, Caribou (Medium Range): .25-06 Remington, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, 7 mm Remington Magnum or .300 Winchester Magnum
- Hog: .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield
- Elk: .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-60 Springfield, 7 mm Remington Magnum or .300 Winchester Magnum
- Grizzly Bears, Brown Bears, Moose: .300 Winchester Magnum, .300 Weatherby, .338 Winchester Magnum, or .375 H&H
- Black Bears: .444 Marlin or .45-70 GOVT
Styles of Bullets
In addition to the caliber, you’ll notice the style of bullets varies. Depending on the animal, they may have a thin or tough hide, and differing bone structure.
Varmint hunting requires a bullet with a thin jacket and softcore. Large game hunting requires a bullet with a thick or tapered jacket, usually bonded to the bullet’s core.
Thick or tapered jackets provide for deep penetration. The best deer hunting caliber is a bullet that typically have a softer point, as deer don’t have the thicker hides and tougher bones of moose and bears.
Animal Anatomy & Vital Areas
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It will help tremendously to study the anatomy of the game you plan to hunt. You’ll gain an understanding of where the vitals are, and any pockets near them where a bullet could penetrate and not kill the animal.
This can then give you an understanding of shot angles and where a bullet needs to hit to produce the best results. Knowing what types of shots you can and should take will result in a clean, quick kill.
Choosing your rifle caliber is the first step before heading out on a hunt, but you’ll also want to educate yourself on the game you’re after to ensure a successful hunting trip.
Do you often go hunting? Do you have any tips on how to pick a rifle caliber that’s suited for the game you hunt? Share them in the comments section!