Teague: Choose Deer Ammo Wisely
By DAVID RAINER
With a hint of fall in the air, Alabama deer hunters usually move into a frenetic pace as they prepare for the upcoming season.
For those who are considering a new deer rifle, Larry Teague, editor of Buckmasters GunHunter magazine, said quite a few variables go into the decision of what firearm to choose.
“In some places you have short shots,” Teague said. “In some places you have long shots. In Alabama, you have both. You have thick woods. You have power lines. You have rights of way. Depending on where you’re hunting, you can get a rifle for each area, or you can get a rifle that will work for both.
“Hunting guns for Alabama is kind of a misnomer, because they would work anywhere else. The calibers of .270 Winchester, .30-06 and 7mm Magnum are all traditional whitetail calibers. The advantages of the .30-06 is, as everybody knows, you have wide range of bullets and the ammo is available everywhere. If you’re out in the middle of nowhere, you won’t have trouble finding ammunition. The availability is about the same for the .270.”
The problem with those bullets and larger calibers is when you have somebody that is recoil sensitive, either a little or a lot. It doesn’t take much “flinch” to foul up a shot.
“When you are shooting .30-06, the Magnums or Ultra Mags it will have more recoil than a small stature individual or female shooter can handle,” Teague said. “For woman or youths, I would drop down to a 7mm-08, one of my favorites. A .260 Remington is also very good.
“The .243 may be a little light for Alabama deer. There are arguments on both sides. The .243 will kill deer all day long in central Texas where a 130-pound buck is a big one. In Alabama, where you’re looking at a 175- to 200-pound buck, that’s completely different. In my opinion, you need a bullet with more mass and a little more energy.”
Compared to a lot of hunters in Alabama, myself included, Teague’s body mass would put him in the lightweight category.
“The smallest I would hunt deer in Alabama with is a .25 caliber, which is one of my favorites,” he said. “The .25 is an ideal bullet size for me. That’s what I carry most of the time. It’s a combination of low recoil, it has enough energy and enough mass to take any whitetail. But you’re not overdoing it, either. So you don’t get punished by heavy recoil.
“Now if I were going to shoot down a right of way at a 300-yard deer, I probably wouldn’t choose a .25 with the possible exception of a .257 Weatherby Magnum – the fastest .25 caliber out there. It’ll fly along at about 3,800 feet per second. It’s a tremendous caliber, and it will take a deer way out there. If you want to shoot a little farther or a little flatter, I really like the Remington Ultra Mags, the 7mm and the .300. They will hammer you, but they’re the flattest shooting things out there.
“But there is another aspect to consider – can you shoot a magnum caliber effectively? There are these things called muzzle blast and recoil. It takes a toll on you and you don’t even know it. The more you shoot these rifles, the more you develop an unconscious fear of these guns. When you get into the field, you’re more apt to jerk the shot and make a poor shot. I get a lot of people calling me and asking what caliber to use. The first thing I ask is can you tolerate recoil, can you take a kick? If you can’t you don’t need to be shooting these calibers. A lot of people say they can and they really can’t. That’s why I really like the .25 caliber because it has a mild kick and gets the job done. And everybody can shoot it. For Alabama deer, it may be the best caliber of all.”
With the variety of calibers and bullets available, Teague said it’s very easy to become confused about the proper selection of a rifle.
“Probably the best way to look at this whole deal is not to look at what caliber you should be shooting,” he said. “It really should begin with what bullet do I want to shoot, and what speed do I need that bullet to fly. You can go to any of the manufacturers’ web sites and they will have ballistics charts. You try to determine where your normal shot will be on a deer – 100, 200 or 300 yards. You look at the trajectory of each bullet. You look at the trajectory and then determine if you have enough downrange energy to kill that animal swiftly. Most modern ammunition is tuned to mushroom within a certain velocity range.
“Instead of saying I want a .30-06, you look at a .30-caliber bullet because there are a number of calibers that shoot a .30-caliber bullet. It just takes some homework to determine what would be the best choice for the distance and terrain you’re hunting.”
For those who are adept at hand-loading bullets, the possibilities are almost endless.
“Usually the number of people hand-loading varies from five to 10 percent, but hand-loading is making a comeback right now because of the high price of ammunition,” Teague said. “You have to reload a lot to save any money. After you load a couple of boxes, you start to realize significant savings. Plus, you get to use a bullet you like, which is a whole different story.
Teague said there are basically two types of bullets – the traditional lead-core, copper-plated bullet like the Remington Core-Lokt and the Winchester Super-X and the premium and super premium ammo like the Barnes TSX, Winchester XP3, Nosler Accubond, Hornady Interbond and Remington Core-Lokt Ultra.
“Now what’s the difference?” he said. “The old-style, copper-plated lead bullets expend a lot of energy inside the animal and you won’t get a good pass-through. With the newer ammo, you get good pass-through and a good blood trail. If you’re hunting an area where a deer can run 60 yards and get lost, you’re going to need a good blood trail. You’re going to pay more for the premium ammo, but in the grand scheme of things the cost of bullets is small compared to the other expenditures.”
PHOTO: Deer hunters in Alabama use a range of ammunition from the (left to right) .243, .25-06, .270, .30-06 and .300 Ultra Mag. Larry Teague, editor of Buckmasters GunHunter magazine, considers the .243 too light for Alabama deer, but cautions about the recoil factor for the large calibers like the Ultra Mag.