There’s something special about mule deer. As my friend and cohort, Andrew McKean, pointed out last week, you never forget the first time you lay eyes on a monster mule deer.
The headgear they carry is enough to entrance any hunter, especially one like me who cut his teeth on eastern whitetails. But when you look at the country they inhabit–windswept rolling prairie, alpine ridges, raw badlands–it’s easy to see why hunters fall under their spell.
At least that’s the effect they have on me. So when I’m asked about mule deer cartridges I tend to think more emotionally than logically and that’s what brings us to the .257 Weatherby.
There isn’t a cartridge out there that captures the essence of hunting the open country of the West like the .257 Weatherby. It’s a hotrod round, encased in nostalgia that came on the scene during the glory days of mule deer hunting, when access was easy, game was bountiful and life seemed, through the lens of retrospection at any rate, simpler.
With bullets in the 100- to 110-grain range, the .257 attains muzzle velocities from 3,450 to 3,600 fps. These speeds, combined with a 3-inch 100-yard zero, put a hunter dead-on at 300 yards and at 400 yards these bullets drop somewhere from 8 to 10 inches–the very definition of flat shooting.
But times have changed, and so has our understanding of performance and accuracy since the 1940s and 50s when Roy Weatherby did much of his cartridge development. The fact is cartridges have evolved and from a rational standpoint there are “better” cartridges for mule deer. (And I’ll talk about them in upcoming posts.) But that misses the point of the .257.
It’s magic and mystique remain unequalled and its certainly no slouch when it comes to killing mulies and for these reasons it is still the quintessential mule deer cartridge.