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.

Skin a Deer in 60 Seconds [Video]

Gaining popularity is using a golf ball to aid in skinning a deer. When I first heard of this idea, I chuckled. But it works. Here are the techniques, followed by a video.

It all begins with finding the perfect location to hang the deer. The perfect setup will allow you to hang the deer, and have room to move a vehicle in and out. The tree or other support brace has to be high enough to hang the deer by the neck, keeping the entire deer off the ground. In order to keep an outstretched deer that is properly tied-off off the ground, it will take a limb, or other support brace that is 8 to 10 feet off the ground.

Whatever you tie the deer off to will have to be able to hold the weight of the deer, as well as handle the pulling force of your vehicle. You will need an area that will allow you to drive at least 30 yards in one direction without any obstructions.

More than a knife is needed to skin a deer using this method, but chances are you already have the items. A ball trailer hitch, a knife, two sections of rope; one at least 6 feet, and the other at least 12 feet (I prefer synthetic winch rope tested at 3,500 pounds), and a friend or two to help, and, of course, a golf ball.

The process of hanging the deer, making the cuts, and skinning should take about five minutes. The deer needs to field dressed, and thoroughly cleaned out, including cracking the pelvis. Things will go more smoothly if the deer is still warm. If not, be ready to make a few cuts, and a couple of tugs when needed.

The deer should be tied to the tree limb with the shorter length of rope. All of the knots I tie are done using the Bowline knot. There are other knots that you can use, but this is the easiest for me. Google the knot if you are not certain how to make it.

With the rope tied to the branch, pull it tight. With a friend lifting the deer’s head up, tie another Bowline knot around the deer’s neck just below the skull. This is easiest done with the deer lying in the back of a truck. Pull the truck forward and let the deer ease out.

Only three simple cuts are required to skin your deer. One cut is needed on each front leg. Cut completely around each leg just above the joint. Pull the hide up a bit to make sure it is not connected to the joint or lower leg. The third cut is around the neck about four inches below the ears. Be sure the skin is free from the neck, and pull it down so that you have a few inches of hide to use.

Place the ball in the center of the pulled down hide, and squeeze the skin tight around the ball. Next, tie the rope around the hide at the bottom of the ball using a Bowline knot. Pull the knot as tight as possible.

With the truck backed up to the deer, and the golf ball in place, tie the other end of the rope to the trailer hitch using whatever knot you want. Drive the truck slowly forward as the hide peels off. Remember, this will be easier if the deer is still warm. You should be left with a deer free of its hide, just waiting for you to cut the backstraps out.

Knowing this new technique, you will never have to dread skinning a deer.

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? 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.

A Better Way to Skin A Deer [Video]

Ok, so maybe there is not wrong or right way to skin a deer as long as you get the job done.

But, it is always nice to see a quick, effective way to skin one without getting hair everywhere.

Dearmeatfordinner has a good video you should watch if you are looking for a better way to skin your deer.  Check out this video.

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.

19 Archery Shots in Less Than 4 Minutes [Video]

Derik Still has compiled 24 archery shots to under 4 minutes of excitement.

Everything from squirrels, wild turkeys, deer and bear are shot from either a treestand or from the ground at an average distance of 24 yards.

As Derik said, new archers can use this video as a reference as to where they should aim.

Check out this cool video.

Learn How to See More Deer this Season [Video]

Are you wanting to see more deer this season. has some good advice that will put you on the right track.