The deer rifle remains the quintessential tool of the American deer hunter. Close your eyes and think about deer hunters and you’ll picture a figure cloaked in camo, with a bright orange hat and a rifle slung over his or her shoulder. Here are five rifles—a few classics, a few destined to be—that will serve their owners well when the time comes to take the venison from the field to the fridge.
Famed for its Encore and muzzleloader offerings, T/C delivers first-in-class bargain performance in a bolt-action configuration with the Venture. Key features include T/C’s 5R rifled precision barrel with a match-grade crown, a trigger externally adjustable between 3 ½ and 5 pounds, Hogue traction panels, a Melanite-coated bolt in an easy-to-work fat bolt design and guaranteed MOA accuracy. The sporter-style stock is made of a rugged composite with a grip improved by the textured traction panels. The single-stack three-round box magazine allows for flawless feeding. The Venture is also available in a Weather Shield Metal Finish for added durability. The rifle is available in 16 popular calibers—all but three or four suitable for whitetails—ranging from .204 Ruger to .338 Win. Mag. Short mag offerings are available in .270 WSM and .300 WSM. The MSRP is $449.
The A-Bolt has been a staple in the Browning line for many years and has probably accounted for as many dropped whitetails as any other line of modern rifle. The Composite Stalker model is new for 2012 and delivers a fully weatherized and rugged offering to the line-up with a steel, glass-bedded matte-blue receiver, matte-blue free floating and hand-chambered barrel, and a durable composite matte-black stock with etched checkering and a palm swell for improved comfort and grip. The A-Bolt’s 60-degree bolt lift allows for easy cycling without having to worry about interference between the battery and scope. The non-rotating bolt sleeve runs the full length of the bolt, combining with three locking lugs and a recessed bolt face for the ultimate in lockdown strength. The trigger is set at 4 pounds and the detachable box magazine feeds through a hinged floor plate and holds three rounds. The A-Bolt Composite Stalker is also available with the optional BOSS—Browning’s Ballistic Optimizing Shooting System, which allows for fine-tuning shot accuracy via adjustments to a weighted attachment (conventional recoil and muzzle brake versions are both available) at the end of the barrel. The Composite Stalker comes in three action lengths and depending on the caliber and configuration weighs between 6 pounds, 4 ounces and 7 pounds, 3 ounces. Its MSRP is between $600 and $1,030.
Take a look at what most rifle-toting deer hunters carry in the woods with them today and you’ll find a disproportionate number of bolt-actions, popular and prized for their supreme accuracy. However, few guns match the beauty of traditional Western styling and cool-factor performance than a lever-action. Largely restricted to shorter-range, rounded loads, the lever-action loses out in popularity to the longer range capabilities of the bolt-action, even though the majority of whitetails across the country are taken at distances of less than 100 yards—a range the Model 94’s .30-30 or .38-55 chambering can well handle. The Model 94 is most closely associated to Winchester’s reputation as “the gun that won the West,” and has most likely accounted for a good number of “winning” days in the deer woods, too. The Sporter version boasts a traditional straight-grip walnut stock with a crescent butt and a blued-steel buttplate married to a 24-inch half-round, half-octagon blue barrel similar to those used in the original rifles. The receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts, but comes with a semi-buckhorn rear sight and fine gold bead front. A spur extension for the hammer is included. The MSRP is $1,400.
The Model 700 remains one of the best-selling rifles of all times and in the SPS (Special Purpose Synthetic) variation delivers years of performance history in a package that boasts the ultimate in durability for the rugged terrain common to many deer haunts. The SPS features an improved, ergonomic synthetic stock, a blued carbon-steel barrel, a blued receiver drilled and tapped for scope mounts, a 3- or 4-round hinged floor plate magazine depending on the chambering and swivel studs for quick sling attachment. The 700 SPS is available in 11 deer-capable chamberings including a new one in 7 mm Rem. Mag. Depending on configuration, the SPS tips the scales at between 7 pounds and 7.625 pounds. The MSRP is $702.
Still viewed largely as a shotgun manufacturer by much of the shooting public, Mossberg has been building innovative and fine performing rifles for years, and perhaps just as importantly, it is been doing it with the same attention to performance and affordability that its brings to its line of scatterguns. The classic walnut stock configuration weighs in at 7¼ pounds and boasts a 24-inch fluted barrel, matte-blue finish on the metal work and the LBA (Lightning Bolt Action) Adjustable Trigger, and it is available in six long-action calibers, four short-action calibers and three short magnum calibers. Top deer-size caliber offerings include .243 Win., .270 Win., .30-06, .308 Win., 7 mm Rem. Mag., .300 WSM and 7 mm WSM among others. The 4x4 can also be had with laminate or synthetic stocks, the latter shaving a half-pound from the overall weight. The MSRP is $624.