The 10 Best Rifle Cartridges

What cartridge are you using to kill deer with?  Have you ever questioned whether it is up to handling the task at hand?  Outdoor Life has put together the 10 best deer cartridges.  Are you using one of them?

The whitetail deer is the most popular big game animal to hunt in the United States so it stands to reason that a huge number of rifle cartridges are well suited for the job.

To paraphrase Will Rogers, I never met a cartridge I didn’t like and as a gun guy with a hard core interest in cartridges and bullets I have tried to use as many different cartridges to hunt deer as possible. Somebody pointed out that to use them all would require a lifespan longer than Noah, who is reported in the Bible to be 950 years old when he passed. Still, I am no quitter. I could tell you about the performance of obscure cartridges like the .25 Remington or the .309 JDJ, but instead here are my top ten picks of cartridges you have probably heard of.

My guess this is the new king of the whitetail cartridges and has likely accounted for more deer today than any cartridge. Opinions are like armpits, everybody has them and they all stink except mine. When it comes to whitetail cartridges, those opinions are all over the map. But one thing that any serious gun guy will agree with is that you can never go wrong with the .30-06. From the thick woods of the Northeast, to the Senderos of South Texas or the cold prairies of western Canada, this cartridge gets it done.

It’s on the lower end of the bell curve of whitetail cartridges, but a lot of hunters use it. It’s the preferred cartridge for new hunters who might be a bit recoil shy and a huge number of experienced hunters use it because it performs.

I remember one crusty old hunter stopping at our deer camp after shooting a black bear and a huge whitetail with a .243. He was bragging about how much he liked it. My uncle said, “It’s got a lot of velocity.” The old guy responded, “I don’t know nothin’ about all that, but I’ll tell you one thing, it’s faster’n hell.”

I was the first person outside of Federal to see this cartridge after I picked one up off an engineer’s desk during a plant visit. The engineer turned ghostly white and said he would be fired if management knew I saw it, so I kept the secret.

They fired him a couple of weeks later for something else, so I guess his destiny was already written.

Over the years I have used the .338 Federal on a bunch of game and seen it used a bunch more by my hunting companions. I shot one of my best black bears with it, as well as a lot of deer and hogs. The last thing I shot was an axis deer. I can’t recall anything that was not a one shot kill. It works for deer as well as bears, moose, elk, hogs and just about anything else you might hunt in America.

As a huge fan of the .358 Winchester it pains me to say this, but… the .338 Federal might well be the best short action deer cartridge on the market.

I wouldn’t use it for years because it was just too common. Too bland. Then I corrected that mistake. It’s pleasant to shoot, very competent in killing deer and available in a wide range of rifle platforms. If you like hunting with an AR style rifle, this cartridge is the obvious choice. [Continued]

Monthly Guide to Great Food Plots

More and more hunters and landowners are planting food plots on their hunting grounds.  It does not take as much land (as little as 2 percent of the total amount) as you would think to plant and maintain a food plot that will be attractive to whitetails.  It will not only attract deer, but it will make an overall stronger, well nourished herd.

In order for a food plot to be effective it has to be well cared for.  There is so much more to a food plot than dropping some seeds on the ground and then waiting for deer to arrive.  Producing a healthy and nutritious plot that will attract and hold deer does not happen overnight.  It is an ongoing battle the entire life of the plot.  Work that is noticeable when hunters begin to see whitetails visiting his food plot.

Before seeds can be planted most land will have to be corrected in the way of adding lime to the soil.  Lime will bring the Ph level in the soil to where it should be.  Before you can expect a good food plot you first need to have a Ph reading of at least 7.0 in most circumstances.

Landowners have many options available to them when it comes to getting their soil tested.  The easiest way I have found to do it is by ordering a kit that comes with instructions from a private company such as the Whitetail Institute.  After taking a soil sample you then send it back to the company. In about 10 business days you will get the results back along with recommendations on making your soil the best that it can be for your needs.

Another method for obtaining Ph levels is done by having a local farm service company test the soil for you.  This is an inexpensive method.  When you get the results back the same farmers co-op that done the testing for you can help with whatever work that needs to be done with the soil to prepare it for planting.

Just because the soil is up to standards the first year of planting does not mean you can forget about it.  That is a good way to ruin something good.  Every two or three years you should go back to the plot to retest the soil.  If the tests show that your soil needs corrected, by all means do it.

In order to have a food plot that will attract deer you have to have a plot that has a thick stand of plants that will provide eye appeal to wildlife.  I am sure you can relate to this.  It is a lot easier to sit down and eat a meal that looks good on the dinner plate compared to one that does not.

One reason a food plot does not achieve it’s full potential is because too many seeds are put into the ground.  The more seeds that are in the ground the harder the plants will have to fight to survive.  It is best to put down the amount of seed that each individual company recommends for that particular seed mix and no more.  Do not trick yourself into believing that more plants will attract more deer.

Winter kill-off of some plants should be expected.  This is especially true with annuals like clover and alfalfa.  in early spring before the plants start to show signs of turning green go in to your plot and spread a light dusting of seeds to replenish what you have lost over the winter.

When you restock what you have lost be careful to not over-seed.  When these new seeds take on sprouts they will have to compete with the mature plants for water and sunlight. This can put a lot of unneeded stress on the new plants that can hurt their growth.  More is not always better.

In order to have a healthy plot you will need to fertilize the plants twice a year.

The first fertilizer should be put on in the spring one to two weeks after the plants turn green.  The second time that fertilizer should be applied is around the last week of August – the first week of September.

For my plots that consists of peas and beans (legumes) I like to spread a low nitrogen fertilizer like a 00-14-42 at 200 pounds per acre.  For my clover and alfalfa plots I tend to go a little heavier with the fertilizer, about 350 pounds per acre.  This could be different with your particular plots and soil.  Refer to your soil tests and the bag that your seed mix is bought in for fertilizing recommendations.

Never put fertilizer on plants right after a rain or when there is dew on the plants.  This could cause the plants to get a chemical burn.  If possible fertilize your plants one to two days before a rain.

Just like with the grass that is growing in your yard it is best to mow your food plot when the plants are not stressed.  If it is at all possible mow your plot when the sun is not beating down on it, or in extremely dry weather.  Mowing in hot and/or dry weather will put strain on the plants that they do not need.  The best time to mow your food plot is right  before a rain.

Whether your plot is a no-till or tillage plot it has to be mowed.  Mowing will make the plants healthier and control weeds that you might have growing beside your plants.

I like to mow my clover and alfalfa twice a year.  The first time I mow is when the plants reach the height of about 14-inches.  I prefer to mow them down to a height of about 6-inches.  The second mowing usually is done in late August, early September.  If the plants get too tall I will mow more often.  Anytime a plant gets to a height above 14-inches the protein levels drop off dramatically and they need to be cut in order to keep their nutrition levels where they should be.

A landowner has several options on what to use to mow their food plot.  If you have a no-till plot that you cannot get to with a rider or push mower, or a plot with a lot of debris on the ground it is fine to use a weed eater.  My preferred method is an old lawn tractor I bought at an auction several years ago.  I do not mind if the old mower gets dinged up or scratched in the line of duty.  Set the deck to a height of 6-inches.  If you have a large food plot that is over three-quarter acres in size I recommend mowing it in thirds, waiting three days between mowing.  Several small food plots in close proximity to one another should not be mowed on the same day either.  The reason behind this is you want the mowed plants to have time to recover while the deer feed on the plants that have not been mowed yet.

Grasses and weeds in a plot are not friends and can quickly take over a food plot if they are not managed.  Not only will they get out of control, but they also compete for water, sunlight and fertilizer that is intended for the plants you have worked so hard to get to where they are.  For the best possible plot, you will have to spray for weeds, especially if your plants are perennials.

Weed killers can be dangerous if not handled properly.  Follow mixing instructions that are included with the herbicide.  Always wear protective clothing that includes rubber gloves and eye protection.  When purchasing a spray make sure it will kill what you want and not kill you plot.  Consult the label on your seed bag for herbicide recommendations, or talk with the company from where you purchased the chemicals to make sure they will work for your needs.  Herbicides normally come in two forms.  One is to kill grasses.  The other is to kill broadleaf weeds.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to purchase the correct one for the job.  Do some research so you don’t but the wrong weed killer.

For large plots that re more than an acre in size herbicides can be applied with a sprayer that attaches to an ATV.  I use a 25-gallon tank that has a ten foot boom.  A boom is often an optional item that is purchased separately from the tank.  A sprayer will work with or without the boom.

For smaller plots a hand held sprayer will work, but they are time consuming and often do not give an even spread of the chemical.  This will leave a few weeds and grasses growing.  It is important not to overlap your spraying.  This will cause stress to your plants, possibly more than they can handle.

You will notice best results if you tackle the weeds before they get too big.  Weed control has to start before weeds become a foot tall.  If they get over 12-inches in height take your mower that is set at 6-inches and mow them.  Come back in two days and spray.  If you can wait until the ground temperature reaches 58 degrees you will see better results.

I cannot say for certain how often you will have to spray.  The weather and soil plays a big role as to how fast weeds and grasses grow.  Whenever weeds or grasses reach a height of 12-inches start the process all over again.

Man made plots are great for deer.  They offer food with high nutritional values, but they do not always last for the entire year.  In order for deer to have a healthy food supply year round wildlife also have to rely on Mother Nature and the food she provides.  We can do our part to help her ensure that natural food is available and nutritious.

Even though it is best not to plan too many seeds, the more natural food that is available, the better.  Natural foods can be apple, persimmon, oak and other hard and soft mast trees.  Shrubs that produce berries and cover what whitetails need can also be considered natural foods.

To get the most of the trees on your property prune the apple trees and fertilize the mast producing trees at least once a year.  The drip line of a tree is where the water runs off the branches of the tree at the furthest point from the base of the tree trunk and makes a circular line around the tree.  This is where fertilization needs to take place.  Start by making a 1-foot deep hole with a 1-inch metal bar every 12 to 15 feet apart.  This is all done around the drip line.  Once you have made the holes fill them with a 15-15-15 fertilizer.

If you have the opportunity and more importantly the space, plant shrubs that deer like.  These should be planted in rows.  Honeysuckle shrubs offer berries that deer love in August and September as well as provide cover.

It is a good idea to go around your hunting property in the winter and select trees to be cut down.  After you cull and cut trees make sure their branches are within easy reach for deer to browse on.  If you do not know which trees to cut  or keep consult a professional forester for advice.

Understand that in order to provide nutritious, healthy food for deer you will have to work all year long at it.  When that year is complete it all starts again.  Put together a time line and follow it.  Realize that different parts of the country will green-up at different times.  Below is what works best for me in my home state of Illinois.

January thru February – Select trees to cut that will provide browse for deer.  If you have apple trees to prune now is the time to do it.  Leave the branches for the deer to browse on.

March – Buy seed and test Ph levels.

April – Replenish seed killed off in the winter.  Spread lime.

May – Preparing and planting the plot.

June – Spraying weed killer and mowing takes place when plants reach 12-inches in height.

July – Do any mowing or spraying if needed.  Plant fall seeds.

August – Fertilize perennials.

September – Mow plants one last time to a height of 10-inches.

October thru December – Hunt.

Hunting Deer in Sub-Freezing Conditions

Rutting activity turns on around the first day of November, give or take or a day or two. Hunters plan their work vacation to coincide with the whitetail rut. For a few days each year, grown men and women choose to spend entire days sitting in a tree, waiting for a shot at a mature buck.

For the most part, temperatures during the rut are mild. Bucks are on the prowl searching for does, having little regards for their own safety. No wonder this is when most big bucks are killed. However, late in the season is a close second for the best opportunity at killing a mature buck.
Late in the season with just a few weeks remaining to fill a tag, many hunters have decided to call it quits for the year. Combine the hunters who have put their bows up for the year and are waiting for the next season to open. During this time of the season there are very few hunters still after it compared to just a few weeks earlier. With the lack of hunting pressure, whitetails will get back in a predictable routine.

Deer will begin to move early in the evening later in the season. During this time of the season most deer will be done feeding and back in their beds by the time the sun rises, making a morning hunt very tough. I recommend forgoing the morning hunt, and waiting until the afternoon before heading to the woods.

The deer that arrive first at the food sources I hunt over are often mature bucks that did the majority of the breeding during the rut. Bucks lose up to 30-percent of their body fat during the rut chasing does, breeding and fighting other bucks. This takes a toll on their bodies, and in order to survive the winter, they have to put weight back on.

Late in the season, grain fields have been harvested already and any remaining grain on the ground has already been ate. To be able to provide food for the deer and turkeys throughout the winter, I plant a few small food plots. I concentrate on planting brassicas like sugar beets, turnips and rape. The starches in these plants turn to sugars after the first hard frost. Deer will devour these plants from the leafy forage to include the sweet bulbs.

When you plant food plots to hunt over late season, take into consideration where your stand or blind will be. You want to be close enough for a good shot opportunity. Plots do not have to be very big. I have taken nice bucks off of plots smaller than one-quarter acre.

Try to plant your food plots in an hour glass shape. This will cause the deer to have to funnel through a small opening, hopefully offering a close shot. Just make sure your stand or blind is in a position so you have a shot as the deer pass through the narrow opening.

Another thing to take into consideration before you plant your food plot is how you will get to and from your stand without being noticed. There is not a lot of cover to conceal a person this time of the year. Because of this, you will want your plot in an area that you can travel to undetected. For example, one of my favorite stands I hunt from, I walk in a dry creek bed with high banks. This prevents the deer from seeing me coming and going.

Not all hunters have food plots, or maybe the deer have cleaned them out. A hunter can still find what the deer are feeding on if there is fresh snow on the ground which there normally is late in the season. Just follow the deer tracks through the snow.

Locust trees drops large bean pods. Deer could care less about them in the fall, but in the winter when food is slim, deer love them. It is common to see where whitetails have dug and pawed through the snow to get down to the pods.

I have even seen oak trees holding acorns and apple trees still bearing fruit late in this season, but this is not common. If you can find such trees, you have found a goldmine. But, when the mast starts to drop, a hunter will not have much time to take advantage of it before the deer and other wildlife eat it all up.

To be a successful hunter late in the season, you have to be warm, but still be able to draw your bow back. Wool is the best choice. It can be a bit expensive, but it blocks the wind, is very warm, and even insulates when wet. Also, it is quiet so you don’t have to worry about rubbing up against something and spooking deer.

Because my hands and toes easily succumb to the cold, I always have hand and toe warmers at the ready.

Scouting and determination are the two keys to late season success. Know what the deer are feeding on, and hang a stand or erect a blind to arrow an unsuspecting buck. Finally, be patient and the deer will come.

What To Do With Those Deer Hides? [Video]

Deer season is well under way, and with any luck you have filled a deer tag or two.  A few venison dishes have been enjoyed, deer camp has been cleaned, waiting till next fall for the fun to begin all over again.  However, you probably have a few deer hides you do not know what to do with.  Sure you can take them to the back 40 and let the coyotes have their way.  Or, you can utilize the hides any many different ways.  Lets explore the options you have.

Whitetail hides make exceptional leather garments especially gloves and coats.  There are many companies in the United States that will trade gloves for your deer hides.  One of the biggest in the country is North American Trading in Wisconsin (715-695-3533).  If you would rather not have a new pair of gloves they will also purchase your deer hides.  Give them a call for more details.

Not in the mood for gloves?  How about a nice wall decoration?  Most taxidermists can tan a deer hide at a minimal cost.  A soft, tanned deer hide looks beautiful hung on the wall.  A couple of years ago I shot a nice buck and had the head mounted and the hide tanned.  I hung the hide on the wall and directly above the hide I placed the mounted buck .  I have received countless comments on how nice this looks.  If your taxidermist does not want to bother with tanning the hide, which some do because they are busy with more profitable projects, there are several tanneries that will do it for you at a reasonable rate.  In the past I have used Moyle Mink and Tannery with great results (208-678-8481;

For the do it yourself person you can still come out with a nice tanned hide.  Just do not expect the softness you would get if it was done by a professional.  This past fall I purchased a bottle of Deer Hunter’s & Trapper’s Hide Tanning Formula for $8.00.  This one bottle is enough to tan one deer hide and is easy to use.  I imagine you have seen these little orange bottles in your favorite sportsman’s catalog trapping supply house or outdoor shop.  In about four days you will have a hide ready to display.  Not only will this product tan deer hides, but I also used it to nicely tan a bobcat and red fox this past winter and still have a half of bottle left.

A word of caution.  I do not recommend using a tanned deer hide as a floor rug.  It does take long before the hair begins to fall out after being walked on.

It is possible to even make a profit on your deer hides.  Many local fur buyers purchase deer hides.  Contact your fur buyer to see how they would like it prepared.  Many would just like them salted, rolled and frozen, but check first.

There are many companies who purchase deer hides to tan and later sell at their store or on the internet.  Without a doubt one of the biggest in the country is Moscow Hide and Fur located in Idaho.  They pay top rates of any company I have worked with and a whole lot more than your local buyer.  The only thing is that they may be a little more picky than others.  This is because they are a reputable company.

For example, my local buyer pays $5.00 for a frozen deer hide.  Moscow Hide and Fur will pay $25.00 for a large hide that is at least 55-inches long and $15.00 for a small hide that is only 45-inches long.  However, they want the hides they purchase to be fleshed.  Go to their website for more information.

Groenewold Fur & Wool Co. travel the Midwest stopping at many locations buying all types of fur including deer hides.  They will grade your skins and hides on the spot and give you a check immediately.  This company normally pays more than a local buyer, but less than Moscow Hide and Fur.  However, Groenwold does require that the hide be fleshed, there are no shipping fees and you are paid on the spot.  Go to their website, or call 815-935-2381 for more information and the routes they have scheduled this spring.

No matter the route you take with your deer hides, rather to sell them, have them tanned or trade them for gloves always make sure you have your deer permit and hunting license available.  It will be very difficult to do anything without these two documents.

Coon Creek Outdoors has a good video on preparing a deer hide for tanning if you want to tackle the job.

How to Use a Shock Collar on a Rage Broadhead [Video]

Either you hate them or you love them.  I’m talking about Rage Broadheads and the shock collar that goes on them.

People complain that their Rage didn’t open, or it opened in flight.  That might be because the shock collar wasn’t used correctly.

The collar has slits in them.  The blades do not line up with the slits, but rather the flaps on the collar.

Check out this video to get a better understanding.

Successfully Bowhunt the Whitetail Rut [Video]

The whitetail rut is gaining speed and will be here before you know it.  Are you ready?

More big bucks are killed during the rut than any other time of deer season. Some hunters luck into killing a big buck, and others put the odds in their favor. Here are 5 tactics that will help you be a successful hunter during the whitetail rut.


This is the time of season bucks are constantly looking for does. The best place for a buck to begin his search is where the does spend the majority of their time during the day, bedded down.

Begin by going to a favorite food source of the deer, and enter the surrounding woods and other terrain. Search for probable bedding grounds like slightly brushy benches, groves of pine trees, overgrown pastures, CRP fields, and tall grass fields.

Try and locate the does actual beds on the ground. They are easily recognized by their oval depressions of various sizes, and matted down areas on the forest floor.

Mark the bedding areas that you locate on an aerial photo or topo map of the area you intend to hunt. Next, look on the photo or map for possible travel corridors connecting the bedding areas you have located. These routes could be creek beds, through thick vegetation, and gullies.

Bucks will always cruise downwind of a bedding area hoping to catch a whiff of an estrus doe. This is the perfect place to hang a stand. As the rut heats up, mature bucks will go from bedding area to bedding area along the travel corridors you found on your photo or map of the area. You need to hang stands along these routes, too.

Not all does come into estrus at the exact same time. If you come across does that seem to not have a worry in the world, that are content to just eat likely means they are not “hot” yet. Move on until you find active does that can’t stand still, and are often looking to see what is going on behind them. These are the does that are more than likely ready to mate.

If you do not kill a buck by the time these females are out of estrus, return to the carefree does you located a few days earlier. They are likely in estrus by now.


Hunters tend to stay away from the deer woods when the winds are fierce, and for good reason. Deer can’t hear, see, or smell as good as they would like.  Whitetails often stay bedded down until the high winds subside. But, when the rut is in full swing, deer do strange things, and hunters should to.

High winds seem to get bucks on the move for a couple of reasons. First, smart does that have not yet come into estrus yet think they can avoid the bucks with the wind concealing their movement and noise. Second, high winds often bring in a cold front following hot temperatures. Whitetails enjoy the cooler temperatures, and take advantage of them by getting up and moving.

Bucks will eventually smell these does that are in heat as they try to outsmart an old buck. Before you know it, deer are all over the place.


Most of the bucks you see early and late in the day will be smaller bucks. This is the time of the day does will be moving a lot, and it is difficult to narrow down where they will be. Mature bucks know this, so they save their energy until the does return to their beds. When the does bed, big bucks will begin to cruise downwind of known bedding areas.

Hang your treestands in funnels, and along overgrown fencerows that connect deer bedding areas. The best chance to kill a buck is the first time you hunt from a stand. For that reason, save these stands until the very best time, the peak of the rut.

You might go a couple of days without seeing a buck, but when you do he will likely be a mature buck.


Hunters are going to have to get aggressive with their tactics, and this includes when you are calling. When it is all said and done, calling will provide more shot opportunities.

Calling softly with dull grunts with long intervals between calling is not aggressive. In order to call in more, and bigger bucks, you have to add some emotion. When you spot a shooter buck that is out of range, call with a series of deep grunts with lots of bass to get him interested. This might be enough to get him to commit.

If a few deep grunts are not enough, sound off with a series of blaring grunts, and finish off with a snort-wheeze.

Most of the bucks will respond positively to calls, but some bucks will feel threatened, and hightail it out of the area. But, what do you have to lose if the buck does not respond to the call, he wasn’t going to offer you a shot anyways.


As the rut progresses, and the chase and breeding phases begin, smaller bucks are not seen very much. Rub and scrape lines are not seeing much activity. Mature bucks can be seen cruising for, and breeding receptive does. Decoys work well near field edges, food plots, doe bedding areas, and travel corridors that connect these locations.

A buck and a receptive doe decoy is a good choice during this phase of the rut. Use a dominant buck scent for the buck decoy, and estrus doe scent for the doe. Place the scents on the ground around the decoys. Keep the decoys upwind of your position, and within shooting range. Keep the decoys clean, and spray them down with scent elimination spray.

Your calling sequences should be a combination of buck grunts and doe bleats. This should be enough to get any monster buck in the area excited.

Decoys alone will help, but add calling and scents to the mix, and you have a potentially deadly combination.


There is no magic tactic that will allow you to kill a mature buck during any part of the season. But, these 5 tips I have shared with you will put you in a better position to fill a tag.

Realtree Outdoors has some good advice in this video about bowhunting the whitetail rut.


Successfully Bowhunt the Whitetail Rut [Video]

The whitetail rut is gaining speed and will be here before you know it.  Are you ready? When it comes to hunting mature bucks during the rut, you have to try to understand what he’s after and where he will be. Obviously the big bucks, and even smaller ones, are seeking and chasing does in estrous to find one or more to breed with during this exciting time of the season. But why are they in specific areas and what’s the difference between the biggest mature bucks and younger ones trying to sow their oats? Steve Bartylla provides his insights on this fascinating autumn ritual in this latest episode of Hunt ’em Big.
Hunt ’em Big, Season 3, Episode 4.

The Best Chile Con Carne Recipe [Video]

The days are getting shorter, and the temperatures are rapidly dropping.  This means three things are currently happening.  Hunters are looking for that big buck, Chile con Carne is on the stove, and maybe some football.

Do you have a favorite Chile con Carne recipe?  If not, check out this recipe from the folks at Deer Hunting.


Where Should Bowhunters Shoot Deer? [Video]

Bowhunters are always debating where is the best place to aim at a deer in different shooting situations.

Deer & Deer Hunting’s Editor-in-Chief Dan Schmidt talks about where the best place is to shoot a deer in an episode of Deer Talk Now.

In the video, Dan takes a look at the Wraith Broadhead from Bloodsport Archery also.

When will the Whitetail Rut Take Place in 2017 [Video]

The whitetail rut will be here before you know it. Will you be prepared for it? Do you know the rut forecast for this year?

A Deer & Deer Hunting exclusive! 3 Things You Need to Know About the 2017 Whitetail Rut with Charles J. Alsheimer. Learn more about when, where and why bucks will go bonkers during the rut, and plan your days off from work accordingly with the exclusive insights of America’s top white-tailed deer behaviorist.