Paul Harrell’s Top Five (Six) Guns for Deer Hunting
Russ Chastain 11.24.18
We’ve seen Paul Harrell talk about everything from shotgun penetration through car doors to using a 45 ACP for cougars and bears. This time, he’s talking about a subject near and dear to my heart: Deer hunting. Specifically, his favorite firearms for hunting deer.
He starts by explaining some of the difficulties with doing this sort of list: Deer hunting occurs in/under many different laws, terrains, and conditions… and any caliber he doesn’t cover will surely hurt someone’s feelings. And so he concludes that instead of choosing calibers/cartridges, he’ll just talk about his own favorite firearms for deer hunting.
Keep in mind these are in no way recommendations; these are just the guns that work best… for me.
The conditions under which he hunts are best summed up as brushy woods with 30- to 60-yard shots, or in open woods with shots up to 200 yards.
1) Brushy woods: Marlin Model 1894 lever-action rifle chambered for 44 Rem Mag
For the first two decades of my deer hunting “career,” I hunted almost exclusively in brushy woods and carried a Ruger 44 magnum carbine. That rifle served me very well and helped me bring home a lot of venison. For that reason, I naturally concur wholeheartedly with Paul’s selection here: A short, light, fast-handling rifle in a hard-hitting caliber.
The longest shot on a deer I ever made with mine was 115 yards, and that’s about the reasonable limit of the cartridge. 240-grain jacketed soft- or hollow-point bullets work well, so long as they are designed to expand.
2) Open woods: Marlin Model 444s lever-action rifle chambered for 444 Marlin, with handloaded ammo
This is another rifle which shoots a large bullet at relatively slow speeds; think of it as a 44 magnum magnum. It’s excellent for killing deer quickly, but it’s also a hard kicker.
3) Wide-Open woods: Ruger M77 bolt-action rifle chambered for 338 Win Mag
The 338 Winchester Magnum is an excellent cartridge, and my first long-range deer rifle was chambered for the same. It’s my go-to cartridge for hunting deer out west. It shoots fairly flat with a nice big bullet. What’s not to love?
4) Mossberg Model 500 pump shotgun, 12 gauge 3″ chamber smoothbore barrel, extended magazine (6+1 capacity)
Paul likes to tote a scattergun for truly short-range deer hunting, but can reach out to 50ish yards with his favorite slugs (Remington 2-3’4″ 1-ounce rifled slugs).
5) Pedersoli Kodiak .72 caliber muzzleloading side-by-side double-barreled rifle
This is another hard-hitting gun, and definitely not one you will find in just anyone’s gun cabinet. He uses round balls that weigh about 525 grains — which is 1.2 ounces — propelled by 110 grains of FFg black powder.
Oh, and please DO NOT SEAT PERCUSSION CAPS USING YOUR GUN’S HAMMER. This is silly, and in my opinion completely out of character for Paul Harrell. Seat them by hand, and if they are loose-fitting, just pinch each one before seating it, so it won’t fall off while you hunt (with the hammer at half-cock, neither touching the cap nor fully cocked).
6) Magnum Research BFR 5-shot single action revolver with 10.5″ barrel chambered for 444 Marlin
He decided to go one extra by including a handgun, and as you might expect, it’s a beast of a gun. And he shoots it more accurately than the smoothbore slug gun at 50 yards.
I love his choices. Do you?