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Mule Deer Cartridges: The .30 Magnums

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June 13, 2012
Mule Deer Cartridges: The .30 Magnums - 11

Mule deer bucks are big-bodied animals that live in big country, so when it comes to selecting the best rifle and cartridge combination, a very persuasive argument can be made for going large.

Magnum-class cartridges in .30 caliber make a lot sense for mule deer. They have the range and velocity to deliver killing hits at extended distances—this is a simple formula that I’ve used a number of times with good success.

I shot my first big mule deer with a .300 WSM at 410 yards. The wide-racked buck had been snaking through some buckbrush in the early morning light as he made his way back from a watering hole to his bedding area. I was perched on the side of a mountain watching him below me and once he moved into the clear, a single hit from the Winchester 150-grain XP3 bullet anchored him.

Is it possible to go too big? I’ve used the 7.82 Lazzeroni Warbird on mule deer, which strikes like Thor’s hammer. It launches a 150-grain bullet at 3,775 fps and at 400 yards that bullet is moving at the same speed as a .30-06 at the muzzle. But to get this of level performance you need at specialized cartridges that require specialized equipment and a more refined set of skills to use well. The Warbird and other ultra-magnums are expensive, generally require muzzle breaks and, put simply, aren’t for everybody.

While on paper they might look like the ultimate killers, a lot of hunters have a hard time shooting them consistently. The muzzle blast and recoil require practice and dedication to master. When someone heading West on their first mule deer decides to “gun up” with a magnum, that’s a big red flag.

So, I tend to draw the line at the .30-caliber magnums. The .300 WSM, .300 Win. Mag., and .300 Wby. are all more than “enough” for mule deer. Stepping up to the .338 magnums is an option and they will certainly work, but these are more gun than mule deer require, especially given the risk of deteriorating marksmanship. 

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from bberg7794 wrote 2 years 3 weeks ago

This post should have been titled, "The Specialized Uses Of .30 Caliber Magnums In Extreme Range Shooting.

Advocating that a .30 cal magnum is good choice for hunting mule deer is only going to perpetuate several unhelpful myths, like a) mule deer are nearly impossible to kill, b) everyone is capable of shooting at long distance, and c)you will find the recoil tolerable enough to make an accurate hit. This is a huge disservice to young and future hunters, who have been bombarded in print with such stories.

Yes, some people find the recoil of a .30 magnum tolerable enough and yes, some people are practiced and skilled enough to make a lethal hit at long range, but it is a small percentage of all mule deer hunters. It is our obligation to teach young hunters that shot placement is everything and each and every hunter should "know" their own maximum lethal hit distance because they have sent several hundred rounds downrange from field positions with their own rifle. Our game animals deserve nothing less.

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from X2DKkiller wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

Horse, I love the 300WBY what I was gettin at was if you shoot a 30mag shoot a bigger bullet than a 150.

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from horsethief wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

I have hunted mule deer and white tail deer in western Kansas with a 300 Wby Mag and have no intentions of switching to another chambering. What has not been mentioned is how well a 180gn bullet from a .30-cal mag cartridge holds up in the sometimes excessively tough wind. The answer is: very well. I know that with the 3100ish fps muzzle velocity that I will not have to hold off very much even in the wicked winds straight out of the south. Any of you anti .30 cal mag guys ever considered the world of hunting is different from what you've experienced?

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from GSPx2 wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

I have often looked at purchasing a .30 mag, but have always come back to my .30-06. I have bagged whitetail and muledeer at ranges from feet to one shot kills at 540 yards, with no complaints. Especially since Hornady came out with the Light Magnum/Super Performance line. My rifle shoots their 150 gr at 3085 fps chronographed. Close to the 300 Win mag or WSM without the length of action, recoil or excessive muzzle blast. I think I will just stay with the tried and true ole' .30-06 for any deer I hunt. Maybe boring, but always faithful.

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from nmmuledeerhunter wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

I read this and I thought, "Why in the world would you need a .30 caliber magnum for mule deer?" My brother has killed three 175"+ mule deer at over 350 yards with a .270 using 130 grain Nosler Partitions. I have kille a couple of big bucks at repectible distances using a 160 grain Partition from a 7MM Rem Mag. So, again, why is a .30 Magnum such a good choice? Or even necessary....

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from shouldershot wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

As he sort of said, everybody needs to draw their own line honestly when it comes to recoil. The .30 mags certainly offer advantages if you shoot them well. It is always a compromise at some point

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from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

The 25-06 is a very capable mule deer cartridge.

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from marksman wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

I totally agree with X2D. I have hunted mule deer over 30 years. I grew up shooting them with a 243 and 100 grain bullets at ranges out to 300+/- yards. Most shots were one shot kills with 2 holes in the hide. I have since "outgrown" my 243 and have moved on to a 280 with 140 grain bullets and a 308 shooting 155's. What do you know, same exact results as the 243.

While guiding, it has been my experience that some hunters that shoot the big magnums because the are lacking in other areas and are stroking their own egos. Many are so scared of the recoil and muzzle blast they are pulling every shot they take and end up making bad shots on live game.

For John: just a few weeks ago you were talking up a storm about the 6.5 Creedmore and what a capable round it was on African game, several much larger than mule deer. Stands to reason it would perform extremely well on mule deer if it can take down an eland with one shot.

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from 25-06 guy wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

Never hunted mule deer (yet) but when I do I'll have my 300 SAUM spitting 150 Nosler Accubonds.

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from X2DKkiller wrote 2 years 5 weeks ago

Mr. Snow, I would not shoot a 150gr bullet out of a 30mag of any kind. I would go with a 165 or 180. I live in big mule deer country in Idaho and have shot plenty of em and the only one I ever shot with a 30cal. was my .06 the rest with my 7mmWBY with 160 Partions and 1 with my 243. The long shots you hear about I think are glorified by people. The longest shot I have taken was 450yrds. the rest were under 300.

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from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 5 weeks ago

I've shot a couple mule deer with my 300 Win Mag and two with my 30-06.No doubt the 300 mags do a good job but I have used my 264 Win Mag for all the rest. The 264 in my mind is one of the best cartridges for mule deer in the wide open.

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from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 5 weeks ago

I've shot a couple mule deer with my 300 Win Mag and two with my 30-06.No doubt the 300 mags do a good job but I have used my 264 Win Mag for all the rest. The 264 in my mind is one of the best cartridges for mule deer in the wide open.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from marksman wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

I totally agree with X2D. I have hunted mule deer over 30 years. I grew up shooting them with a 243 and 100 grain bullets at ranges out to 300+/- yards. Most shots were one shot kills with 2 holes in the hide. I have since "outgrown" my 243 and have moved on to a 280 with 140 grain bullets and a 308 shooting 155's. What do you know, same exact results as the 243.

While guiding, it has been my experience that some hunters that shoot the big magnums because the are lacking in other areas and are stroking their own egos. Many are so scared of the recoil and muzzle blast they are pulling every shot they take and end up making bad shots on live game.

For John: just a few weeks ago you were talking up a storm about the 6.5 Creedmore and what a capable round it was on African game, several much larger than mule deer. Stands to reason it would perform extremely well on mule deer if it can take down an eland with one shot.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from X2DKkiller wrote 2 years 5 weeks ago

Mr. Snow, I would not shoot a 150gr bullet out of a 30mag of any kind. I would go with a 165 or 180. I live in big mule deer country in Idaho and have shot plenty of em and the only one I ever shot with a 30cal. was my .06 the rest with my 7mmWBY with 160 Partions and 1 with my 243. The long shots you hear about I think are glorified by people. The longest shot I have taken was 450yrds. the rest were under 300.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from nmmuledeerhunter wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

I read this and I thought, "Why in the world would you need a .30 caliber magnum for mule deer?" My brother has killed three 175"+ mule deer at over 350 yards with a .270 using 130 grain Nosler Partitions. I have kille a couple of big bucks at repectible distances using a 160 grain Partition from a 7MM Rem Mag. So, again, why is a .30 Magnum such a good choice? Or even necessary....

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from GSPx2 wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

I have often looked at purchasing a .30 mag, but have always come back to my .30-06. I have bagged whitetail and muledeer at ranges from feet to one shot kills at 540 yards, with no complaints. Especially since Hornady came out with the Light Magnum/Super Performance line. My rifle shoots their 150 gr at 3085 fps chronographed. Close to the 300 Win mag or WSM without the length of action, recoil or excessive muzzle blast. I think I will just stay with the tried and true ole' .30-06 for any deer I hunt. Maybe boring, but always faithful.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from X2DKkiller wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

Horse, I love the 300WBY what I was gettin at was if you shoot a 30mag shoot a bigger bullet than a 150.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 25-06 guy wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

Never hunted mule deer (yet) but when I do I'll have my 300 SAUM spitting 150 Nosler Accubonds.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

The 25-06 is a very capable mule deer cartridge.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from shouldershot wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

As he sort of said, everybody needs to draw their own line honestly when it comes to recoil. The .30 mags certainly offer advantages if you shoot them well. It is always a compromise at some point

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from horsethief wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

I have hunted mule deer and white tail deer in western Kansas with a 300 Wby Mag and have no intentions of switching to another chambering. What has not been mentioned is how well a 180gn bullet from a .30-cal mag cartridge holds up in the sometimes excessively tough wind. The answer is: very well. I know that with the 3100ish fps muzzle velocity that I will not have to hold off very much even in the wicked winds straight out of the south. Any of you anti .30 cal mag guys ever considered the world of hunting is different from what you've experienced?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from bberg7794 wrote 2 years 3 weeks ago

This post should have been titled, "The Specialized Uses Of .30 Caliber Magnums In Extreme Range Shooting.

Advocating that a .30 cal magnum is good choice for hunting mule deer is only going to perpetuate several unhelpful myths, like a) mule deer are nearly impossible to kill, b) everyone is capable of shooting at long distance, and c)you will find the recoil tolerable enough to make an accurate hit. This is a huge disservice to young and future hunters, who have been bombarded in print with such stories.

Yes, some people find the recoil of a .30 magnum tolerable enough and yes, some people are practiced and skilled enough to make a lethal hit at long range, but it is a small percentage of all mule deer hunters. It is our obligation to teach young hunters that shot placement is everything and each and every hunter should "know" their own maximum lethal hit distance because they have sent several hundred rounds downrange from field positions with their own rifle. Our game animals deserve nothing less.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)