Okay, I know I’ll probably get flamed for this, but I think it’s something that needs to be discussed. I know it’s discussed every hunting season by at least one Outdoor magazine and in every Gun Shop and in every Deer Camp.
The topic of these discussions/heated arguments in deer hunting circles is…
The simple answer is Yes…and…No.
First of all, the 243 is a necked down 308 that uses a .24 caliber bullet (6mm). As everyone knows, the 308 is a great round for Deer and other Big Game. That doesn’t make all of its offspring great Deer rounds though!
I’ve owned a .243 and a 6mm. The 6mm was a Ruger 77V and was without a doubt the most accurate rifle I ever owned. But I only used it for Varmints and never once tried it on Deer sized game.
I overheard some folks ask, how far will a 243 kill a deer? Well, I did use a 243 with 100-grain bullets one year to take a small buck at about 60 yards. He was feeding along, calm and perfectly broadside. Without a doubt, it can go as far as 180 yards.
The shot was perfect double lung and he leaped forward at the shot and piled up 50 yards later. Not everyone has had the same experience with this round.
In the past, the 243 suffered from poor bullet construction. Sometimes the bullets blew up on impact, sometimes they didn’t expand at all while other times they did exactly what they were supposed to do.
Bullet construction has come a long way over the years, but I still do not consider the 243 an ideal Deer cartridge, especially for beginners. Deer hunters can improve the performance of the 243 by reloading the round with premium bullets.
Sadly, the 243 Winchester is what beginners are handed a lot of the time as their first Deer rifle.
One of the problems I see now is beginners headed out to the field with the light 55 to 85 grain loads for the 243. Most of these loads have fragile bullets as they are intended for thin skinned varmints, not a tough old ridge running White-tailed Buck Deer.
Part of the problem is that so-called ‘experts’ behind the ammo desk and Gun writers are pushing these rounds on unsuspecting Deer hunters because they think lighter and faster is the way to go.
Another problem is that if you’re not practicing regularly, you may not be as familiar with the rifle as you should be. Many beginners (okay, most) will get a terrible case of “the shakes” when it comes down to the moment of truth when that buck deer comes into view. Heck, even most of us old-timers do! The difference is, those of us who have hunted for years and are experienced, have learned how to control “the shakes” and focus on the shot.
A poor hit on a Deer is made even worse when using a small bullet in a round like the 243. The extra damage caused by a .26 or 7mm caliber can mean the difference between finding a marginally hit animal or not.
In my opinion, the minimum caliber that should be allowed for Deer hunting is the 243 with a 95-grain bullet. I can’t believe the States that allow 22 calibers to be used for Deer.
Yeah, I know they’ll kill a Deer but so will the 22 Rimfire and even the little 17’s. Why not allow them to be legal rounds to hunt Deer with? Having said this, it doesn’t mean I think the 243 should be used by beginners.
To me, the 243 is to Deer rifles what the 410 shotgun is to wingshooting. Sure, it will get the job done, but it’s not for beginners!
How many of you that consider the 243 the ideal rifle for beginners would consider the 410 ideal for beginners to use Goose or Turkey hunting? Even though the 410 is used every year to take both, I don’t know anyone who would put 410 in the hands of a new hunter when going after those two birds.
The fact of the truth is that the margin for error is nil when using a small caliber like the 243. Everything has to be just right and everything, including the bullet, has to do its job. There are other low recoil rifle rounds that give you extra “knock down” than the 243 Winchester round. (FYI: this is no measurement of “knock down” power, just of .ft .lbs of energy)
Speaking of bullets again, if I were going to be hunting Deer with the 243 Winchester, I’d choose either the 95 and 100-grain bullets in a strong design like the Nosler Partition.
Forget about using fragile bullets like the Ballistic Tip, even in the heavier bullets, for Deer sized game. A hit on a shoulder blade or other bone could cause the bullet to explode on impact.
In the hands of an experienced and seasoned Rifleman, the 243 is more than adequate for Deer sized Game.
I once read an article by an Outdoor writer, I think it may have been Jack O’Connor or Jim Carmichel, that told a story about a man who used the .243 for Elk. He killed Elk every year with his rifle, everyone being a neck shot. He saw no need to buy a “real Elk gun”.
Does this make the 243 an ideal Elk Rifle? Methinks not!
However, in the hands of that Gentleman, it certainly was.
And so it is for Deer Hunting. I know a guy who kills 2 deer a year for his freezer. It doesn’t matter what they are as long as they’re legal. He has used a 243 Winchester for over 20 years and it’s the only “Big Game” Caliber rifle he owns.
Every deer that I’ve seen him kill has been a neck or head shot. He’s hunted out of the same two stands year after year for the last 20 years. His shots range from 30 to 300 yards. In his hands, the 243 is the perfect caliber for Deer.
A seasoned hunter knows how to control his/her excitement when they see their buck. The seasoned hunter has the patience to wait for the “perfect” shot placement opportunity. The seasoned hunter knows which bullets perform best in his/her rifle and they can put those bullets where they need to go at the moment-of-truth.
Many new hunters cannot do these things due to a lack of experience. They don’t have the experience to wait and to recognize when a Buck is nervous and about to bolt. They haven’t learned how to control their breathing when putting the crosshairs on a Buck. Look out for the 7 mistakes deer hunters make.
It’s for this reason and mainly this reason alone, that I do not consider the .243 Winchester an adequate rifle for Deer hunting in the hands of a Beginning Deer Hunter.
As I stated above, there are other great choices of low-recoiling rounds for deer hunting that pack a bigger punch than the .243. Check ’em out before buying your potential new hunter a .243.
Nothing’s worse for a new hunter than to shoot a deer and not be able to recover it because of a marginal, or a poor, hit. Put the odds in their favor by using a larger round! If you must give a beginner a 243, then, by all means, make sure you use premium ammo like Fusion 243 ammo. It’s a reliable bullet and one that will work well as long as the shooter does his or her part!
In the following video, watch and listen to GunBlue 490 expert advice on why .243 wincheester still rules in deer hunting.
When I talk about baiting all of you hunters know what I’m referring to. For those of you who don’t, baiting would mean using the distribution of some sort of food attractant (corn, apples, carrots, etc.) to bring deer to a certain location in order to be able to have a clean shot and ultimately kill the animal.
I know baiting is a controversial subject and also a subject that gets plenty of time on numerous hunting forums and other hunting-related websites.
I just basically wanted to touch on the already widely debated issues of baiting and also get into another area that maybe hasn’t been hit upon yet.
First, I have to say that I don’t have a problem with baiting at all. I can’t honestly look at anyone and tell them that I’ve never hunted over some sort of bait pile before. I have and I will admit to it.
In recent years though I haven’t used baiting as a means for bringing animals into my setup. It is just a personal choice for me.
I would rather outsmart a deer by figuring out its route to and from food sources and bedding areas, sitting up on that area, and outsmarting them at their own game.
Now I have hunted a couple of setups this year that did have bait at them, but not bait that I put there.
My brother is a baiting fool and the bait was already there before my arrival. I have to be honest though and say that it didn’t keep me from hunting there, but I would not have put in the effort to bait that location. Again, my personal choice.
There were a few reasons while talking to a friend, that baiting was brought up as a topic. One was that it was a hot topic on a local outdoor forum that we frequent. This, in turn, got his mind wandering to a different area of the baiting controversy that hadn’t been really touched upon yet.
I’m not talking about an anti-hunter. I am speaking of the person who supports hunting but does not participate in the sport.
With the amount of discrepancy between hunters about the ramifications of baiting, how does one that doesn’t hunt perceive baiting? I would think not positively.
Most would deem it as an unfair advantage and point to the fact that it is taking “the fairness” out of the chase. They would point to the simple fact of using a necessity that all animals have to fill their bellies, to legally kill game.
Do I agree with that viewpoint?
To a degree I do. Do I think that baiting should be banned? Heck no. I think baiting increases your chances for scoring, but by no means is a guarantee for a kill. Trust me on this one. I can say that from first-hand experience. I have never shot a deer over a bait pile before. It hasn’t happened yet.
I know what is coming next. “I haven’t shot a deer over a bait pile before?” you say. What about a cornfield or a bean field? This brings up the next baiting argument. To that argument, I say this.
Agricultural fields such as corn fields and bean fields can be acres in size and are not in such a concentrated area like a bait pile is. The two can’t be compared as the same thing. They are much different, with a lot more odds against you, if you’re hunting an open bean field then if you’re sitting in a woodlot over a bucket full of sugar beets.
See what I mean?
So I think baiting definitely has a place in the hunting world, but not one that I normally choose to participate in. So my question to all of you is this. What do you think of baiting and do you think it is ammunition for the anti’s, and more specifically, do you think the general population that supports hunting views it in a negative light? Let the comments and the discussion begin. I can’t wait to see all the different viewpoints.
This subject came to mind when I received an email from a reader asking what mistakes he should avoid when starting out deer hunting.
Geez, talk about a loaded question (no pun intended)! After a little thought, I’ve come up with the 7 most common mistakes I believe new deer hunters make.
While it’s obvious that most of these mistakes are often belong to a beginning deer hunter, I’ve seen veteran deer hunters also make some of these mistakes (myself included).
If you see one that should be on the list, drop me a line. So, here are my top 7 mistakes I see deer hunters make. In no certain order.
Now when I say scout, that’s exactly what I mean. I don’t mean lollygagging around the woods taking potshots with a .22 a few days before the season. I mean getting out weeks before the season opens and scouring your hunting area real good.
Even if you’re familiar with the lay of the land, you’ll be surprised from time to time by what you find. Lots of things can change from season to season, that’s why it’s important to get out and scout!
The funny thing is, the definition of ‘proficient’ changes from hunter to hunter. Some may believe it’s being able to shoot a 2″ group at 100 yards.
Others think if they can hit a 12″x12″ piece of paper at 50 yards, that is all they need. When I was a kid, my dad used to hang a one-gallon paint bucket on a limb at about 50 yards. If he could hit it with his open sighted 30-30 Marlin, then his gun was “sighted in” and he was perfectly happy.
And he killed a lot of deer with that gun, few were rarely shot past 50 yards though.
I think most of us would agree that a scoped modern rifle should be able to put at least 3 rounds inside 3 inches at any range up to 100 yards. If the gun can do that, then the shooter should practice proper breath control and trigger squeeze.
For bowhunters, I believe they should be able to keep all their arrows inside a 5 or even 6-inch group out to 40 yards. Obviously, I’d like to see them also keep at least 3 arrows in a 3-inch circle out to 40, but I had trouble doing that at 40 yards with my old compound.
Only when I started shooting instinctively did my accuracy improve greatly. I just could never develop the form to shoot accurately with sights out to 40 yards.
Over the years I’ve learned that many times I found that a lack of patience was really a lack of confidence in most cases. Funny that you have no trouble sitting in a blind until noon if you’re seeing deer, or if you think you’ll be seeing them.
But a lot of people have a problem sitting still even an hour or so before they get up and start walking around. Which by the way, is another mistake beginners make!
I can’t tell you how many deer I’ve watched impatient hunters spook because they were out of their blind or treestand by 8 or 9 and started walking around.
If you’ve done your scouting properly, there should be no reason for you to be out plopping around the freakin’ woods at 8 or 9 a.m. You’re better off going back to camp and making coffee for everyone else who will be filing in a few hours.
I think beginners and even some veterans should have their deer calls taken away. I’d bet that the majority of deer hunters have never heard a real deer in the woods.
And of those hunters, the majority of them have never listened to a pro on a CD or DVD call deer. They may have seen one of the TV show cowboys do it, but few have taken the time to hear real deer call in the woods.
Even if you’re using an excellent grunt call like the MAD Grunt/Snort/Wheez call, you can easily over call and spook deer!
Usually, one of two things happen”
I’ve been deer hunting for nearly 30 years now and I’ve heard deer vocalize only a few dozen times over the years. Of course, I probably spend a lot more time scouting and deer hunting than the average Joe as well.
Deer make soft subtle sounds, even a buck trailing a hot doe doesn’t grunt near as loud as many commercial call sound. Plus, deer don’t make a continuous sound every step they make!
Like over calling, a lot of deer hunters are relying on that magical deer in a bottle to produce a buck for them. Many deer hunters subscribe to the theory that more is better. That just isn’t true!
I dearly loved to watch the late Ben Rogers Lee. I use to have nearly all of his deer hunting videos and I learned a lot from watching them.
However, I cringed when he would pour a whole bottle of his deer scent on a tarsal gland or rag and say something like “Now you can’t get too much of this scent on the ground, use plenty so the Buck can really smell it”.
I know he was just selling deer scent, but then again the guy didn’t have a problem killing deer. He knew them just as well as he knew the habits of Turkey. But beginners thought his ‘secret to success’ was all that deer scent he was pouring out!
Deer can put bloodhounds to shame. If you’re going to use scent, use only a few drops. I think the majority of deer hunters would do far better without scents than with them. Most don’t know how to use them properly or when to use them.
I personally don’t want a deer to know I’m anywhere around when he comes by my stand. Sure, I’ve had scents work and I’ve had them spook deer, especially when using a Doe in Estrous scent during the rut.
Many small bucks that have had their butts whipped will spook. So will does. They know that if a Buck is present, it’ll be cold nosing them and pestering them for a long time. So they will avoid another doe who smells like she is ‘in’.
That’s why most of the time you’ll find me using a deer scent like Wildlife Research’s Trails End #307. I’ve used it for many years and it doesn’t seem to spook deer in my area during the rut. I’ve also seen it attract several deer that I know of, including a few bucks.
There’s a saying in the business world that goes something like “If you fail to plan, then you’re planning to fail”. The same could be said about deer hunting.
Do you have backup stand locations for different wind directions? What if there are hunters in your area, do you have an alternate plan? Have you ever went hunting and forgot your weapon at camp or home? Have you ever forgot your release or shells?
You should have alternate hunting stand locations mapped out and know which wind directions they are good for. Plus, a simple checklist that you check before heading out will keep you from forgetting an important part of your gear.
Over the years I’ve heard of more than one story about a deer hunter who went ahead and sits in their stand even though they had forgotten their weapon or ammo only to have a buck walk by within range. I bet you’ve heard one or two stories about unprepared hunters.
When I say ‘cheap’, I mean poor quality equipment. I can’t tell you how many people just want the cheapest piece of equipment they can find. Whether it’s the cheapest bow, treestand, game camera or rifle, it seems their only requirement is that the equipment is cheap.
How many times have you seen someone ask a question in the forums like “What’s the best and cheapest bow?” or “What’s the best and cheapest cold weather hunting clothes?”
It’s okay to save a buck (no pun intended), but simply being a cheapskate because you’re tight is a whole different matter.
Poor quality hunting equipment can come back to bite you when you need it the most. Like scopes, rifles, bows, clothes, boots and other deer hunting products, sometimes it’s better to save up a little while longer and buy the good stuff.
Don’t get me wrong. Although I see beginners make most of these mistakes, making these mistakes don’t seem to know the difference between a beginning deer hunter and someone who’s been hunting for decades.
The only thing I can see is that serious deer hunters make fewer of these mistakes than the weekend warriors. I believe it comes down to how serious you are about deer hunting. The more serious you are, the more you’re likely to learn from your mistakes and not repeat them.
Okay, be honest, how many of you that live in States or Provinces that have late deer hunting season have forgotten about deer hunting?
If you’re like I used to be, you’re probably thinking about the upcoming fishing season or you’re hunting Small Game and Waterfowl.
But you could be missing out on the best time to take a good buck.
The truth is most hunters give up deer hunting after the second weekend.
When I hunted in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas, they had something like a 21 day gun season the best I recall. After the second weekend, the woods were empty! It’s like I had them all to myself. If you saw anyone during the late bow season, they were probably lost!
When I lived in Oklahoma, ‘back in the day’, there was a 9 day rifle season at the end of November. December was a late archery season.
It wasn’t until I started hunting in the late season that I found the deer easier to pattern and easier to kill.
Here are some late season deer hunting tips I learned along the way.
I spent many a frozen morning in my stand waiting on deer. Most of the time, this was wasted time and there were times I was so cold I had to call it quits. I once read an article by the late Ben Lee where he said deer bed up until mid-morning because they don’t like to feed on frozen vegetation. I think that’s true!
Also, the mornings are cold and deer know if they wait, it will warm up. They know they can reserve body heat by waiting to feed later in the day. Besides, these are the best excuses I can come up with for sleeping in!
Whether you’re shooting a bow, muzzleloader or modern rifle(or shotgun), practice in the clothes you’ll be wearing. Bulky clothes can make you shoot differently than the same clothes you had on when you sighted your weapon in.
Bowstrings are notorious for catching on bulky clothes and guns seem to get snagged on the extra clothes as your raising them to shoot.
You may also want to think about reducing the poundage on your bow. It’s hard to pull a heavy poundage bow when your muscles are cold!
During the late season there is a “secondary” rut. Not as noticeable as the first, but enough to make the bucks go bonkers. The secondary rut is for the Does who did not get bred the first time around.
From what I can tell, the secondary rut is also drawn out. So you may see Bucks chasing Does anytime during the late season. Give your rattling antlers and deer calls a try this time of year.
In late season, Deer need food and lots of it to maintain their body heat and survive the Winter. Bucks will be trying to put on some fat before the hardest part of Winter hits as will the Does. This is why it’s the easiest season to hunt in my opinion.
Find a good food source, find the trails leading into these food sources and sit back and wait for the right Deer!
If you’re into still hunting or stand hunting bedding areas, look on the South slopes or areas facing South. These areas warm quicker and sooner than in other areas.
You’ll find your Deer here working on their tans and staying warm.
Cold fronts seem to affect Deer movement more in the late season than at any other time in my experience. Deer will really be up and feeding heavy a few days prior to the arrival of a cold front and the days following a cold front.
Also in my experience, it seems the amount they’re up and moving is also dictated by how severe the front is. Weird, but that’s been my experience. They seem to “sense” whether or not the approaching front is a “weather maker.”
When the temperature plummets, it’s time to break out the cold weather clothes. I still prefer wool clothing on those days with the exception of my Windbreaker coat.
I have a friend who swears by the Arctic Shield line of clothes. Whatever you wear, remember to dress in layers.
One December I was hunting before the arrival of a major front. The day was really, really cold. It was one of those days when the Sun was out, but you’d thought that it had lost all the heat.
It was like the Sun was just making an appearance for the heck of it. No warmth was coming out of that big orange ball on this day!
I had taken my camo sleeping bag and put it on while in my treestand. It was one of the warmest late season hunts I’d ever had! (I don’t recommend this, however, if you do use it, make sure you use a safety belt if you’re hunting from a treestand)
On late season hunts, I bring along some water, sometimes Coffee and high energy snacks. Keeping your tummy full will help you stay warm during the day.
Before climbing into your stand, make sure there is no ice. Ditto for treesteps if you’re using them. I take a piece of carpet and lay over the seat and platform to keep the snow and ice off of these areas.
Remember, there are few leaves on the tree now and you’ll most likely be outlined against the sky when a Deer looks up. I switch to either a Winter camo pattern or an Urban-type camo as both are not as dark and stark.
If you plan on using a muzzleloader, keep it outside. Taking a muzzleloader from a nice warm home or vehicle into frigid air will cause condensation to form in the barrel. Even if you snap a few caps the moisture is likely to come back.
This affects those who are still using traditional blackpowder more than those who are using modern primers and black powder substitutes.
There you go. You State’s Deer season may still be underway. Get out there after them! It’s my favorite time to hunt deer!
I have to admit, as I get older, it’s getting harder and harder to think about scouting for deer when it’s 100 degrees outside.
I’m usually thinking of my next fishing trip or how high my electric bill will be! I’ll bet that many of you are the same way, whether you’re old or young!
There is pretty much two worlds of thought about scouting for deer in the Summer. Some believe that it does no good, believing any bucks you might see will be long gone come October or November.
Others believe scouting for deer in the Summer is helpful because it will show you what quality of bucks you’ll have come fall.
In my opinion, both trains of thought are right and wrong. Allow me to voice my opinion.
In years past when I scouted heavily for Deer in the Summer, I knew that most of the Bucks I saw would be gone by early Fall.
Bucks just will not hang out in bachelor groups all year long. Especially the younger ones. They seem to wear out their welcome among the other Deer pretty quick!
So they disband and go their separate ways. Many will not see each other again unless it’s in one hunter’s freezer.
I’ve found this to be especially true if there are a lot of Does around. It seems the Does know that these little Bucks will be pestering them relentlessly in a few months and they try and run them off.
In areas with few does, I’ve found that the little Bucks will hang around longer, sometimes right up to the gun Deer season.
Simply put, they’re unpredictable year round. If you see a large buck in your back yard all Summer long, chances are he’ll be gone in Sept. or October.
Other times, I’ve watched big Bucks in fields and pipeline and power line right-of-ways and those bucks were still hanging around the general area come to the rut.
Many hunters who hang out scouting cameras wonder where the big Bucks they see in the Summer have gone when it comes hunting season.
Truth is, they’re out partying with the girls! Or trying to find girls to party with.
It seems that the more remote the areas I scout and find big Bucks, the more likely it is they’ll be hanging around when Gun season rolls around. But when you’re talking big Bucks, nothing is written in stone.
They may get hit by a car or die of natural causes. They may get whipped by a stronger buck and be forced to leave their core area. They may wake up one morning and feel pressured to leave by who knows what and they beeline out of the country. Big Deer have a mind of their own.
I’m always amazed at how cautious the big Bucks are even in the dead of Summer. They’re generally the last ones to exit cover and the first ones back in. It’s like they never relax entirely. The bigger they are, the more cautious they are. They didn’t get those big ole racks by being smart only during hunting season!
You have to remember one thing when looking for Summertime Bucks. They’re carrying around antlers on their heads that are covered with velvet that has millions of nerve endings and blood vessels in them. They know they have to protect their velvet from bugs and things that might scuff up their headgear.
They prefer to stay in semi-open terrain where there are breezes to keep the bugs and branches to a minimum.
I find many bucks in the same general area as Does during the Summer. Fields are a great place to glass in the mornings and evenings.
My favorite places to search for Summer Bucks are pipeline and power line right of ways. This is true especially if I’m scouting a new area or want to see what quality of Bucks the current area holds.
In some states, you can actually spotlight Deer at night. Just be sure to check your local regulations before doing this!
Summertime scouting for deer also gives you the chance to pattern the Does. Chances are they’ll stick around the entire year. It helps to try and learn their patterns as well.
Of course, as the food sources change, so will the patterns. In agriculture areas, those patterns don’t seem to change as much as they do in Deep Woods. Keep that in mind when you’re scouting your hunting area.
Don’t overlook watering holes. Although Whitetail Deer don’t water like Cattle, in arid regions, especially as the Summer temps rise, they’ll visit watering holes a lot more often than people think.
I’ve actually watched Does playing in an old Slough one year while Squirrel hunting. So expect the unexpected.
I’ve heard some people say that you’re wasting your time scouting in the Summer. This isn’t exactly true. If you only hunt the Gun Season or Late Season, then there might be some truth to this.
In States that have early hunting Seasons, Summer scouting can allow you to pattern and kill a Buck before some Hunters even start thinking about putting stands out.
The bachelor groups will still be around in August and even early September in most places. This gives early Season Hunters a chance to pattern and take the Buck of their choice before he goes bonkers and heads out to parts unknown.
The more you get out and learn what the Deer are doing in your hunting area do under certain times and conditions, the more you’re likely in the right place at the right time. Don’t ignore scouting for Deer in the Summer, it can be a great time to get out before the Season and see what your hunting area has to offer.