The whitetail deer, along with his cousin the mule deer, account for a healthy amount of our North American big game hunting. Thousands of products, from scents to specific camouflage to hunting blinds are produced annually, but one simple fact remains: for those of us who choose to pursue deer with a rifle, the bullet is the one piece of gear that seals the deal. There are many makes and models available, but a few stand out in my experiences as being perfect for the job. Mind you, a whitetail or muley is not particularly difficult to kill; they are not especially thick skinned, and their nervous system allows them to be "switched-off" with a certain amount of hydraulic shock. Still, the vitals must be penetrated and sufficient tissue damage must be delivered for the quick, humane kill we all seek. Here are my personal top five.
Remington Core-Lokt In spite of the tsunami-size wave of premium bullets that have appeared on the scene in the last 25 years, the venerable Core-Lokt has remained a dependable choice for deer hunters for generations. A simple design, of the classic cup-and-core engineering, Remington’s “Deadliest Mushroom In The Woods” has given me solid performance since I started hunting deer, and will continue to do so for generations to come. Why? It’s a bullet that is tough enough to get the job done on any deer ever made, yet soft enough to give the expansion that destroys the vital tissue. It’s available in many calibers, in both loaded and component form. Inexpensive and a great value, I’ll be heading afield with the Remington Core-Lokt in the not too distant future.
Sierra GameKing This bullet gave me the first "accurate" handloads I’d ever developed, and they still work wonderfully. Sierra has always been synonymous with accuracy, and the GameKing boat tail bullets surely add to the reputation. My own particular favorite is the GameKing hollowpoint, with the crimped nose in the form of an X. It was designed to deliver the accuracy of the MatchKing bullet, but with a thick jacket for proper penetration. I’ve used it in my .308 Winchester, and I’m looking forward to loading them in my 6.5-284. The higher ballistic coefficient will aid in the longer shots, or for those on the windy plains of the western states.
Hornady Interlock Built with a cannelure that helps to keep the jacket attached to the lead core, the Hornady Interlock is a wonderful deer bullet. Affordable and effective, they are capable of excellent results on deer and deer-sized game. I’ve used many different types of Hornady Interlocks, in many different calibers, and have never had a problem. I have a serious soft spot for round-nosed bullets; they seem to have a visible difference when it comes to how they hit game animals. The round-nosed Hornady Interlocks work perfectly here in Upstate New York, where our shots rarely exceed 100 yards. Whether a 160-grain 6.5mm, a 175-grain 7mm or the big 180 and 220-grain .308 caliber, I’ve had great results with the classic round-nose Interlocks.
Nosler Ballistic Tip For years, this was Nosler’s ‘other’ bullet. With a polymer tip—color coded to easily identify caliber—and a boat tail base, the Ballistic Tip is capable of superb accuracy. It got a bit of a bad rap when used against game larger than deer, say moose or elk, but on deer and similar sized game it is a perfect choice. It is a rather frangible bullet, but it works perfect for odocoileus virginianus and its brethren. Make sure your have enough sectional density for good penetration; choose bullets of middle weight and heavier for caliber and you’ll be a happy hunter.
Nosler Partition Of the premium bullets, Nosler’s original design works on just about any animal shy of elephants, and deer are no exception. The beauty of the Partition is that the front core is soft enough to give reliable expansion on even the smallest deer, but the rear core will stay intact to deliver the bullet into the vitals irrespective of shot angle. The design has been a proven winner since the late 1940s, and I like them in my compact .308 Winchester when I hunt the Catskill and Adirondack mountains, where the possibility of a shot at a black bear exists, in addition to the big bucks that haunt those hills. They retain their weight well, and while you may not need a bullet as strong as the Partition, the added insurance engenders a whole bunch of confidence.
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