Tag Archives: big game

Are Deer Hunting Cartridges Arbitrary?

How many times has picking the wrong rifle cartridge ended a hunt prematurely versus being unfit to hunt due to cold or poor conditioning? Nobody has ever gone into the woods to hunt deer with a .243 only to give up after seeing a big buck because they didn’t have a .300 Win Mag. Almost ritualistically, we continue to rehash the same arguments over guns and ammo at the expense of other items that have more bearing on actual hunting.

Type of hunting cartridges.

Image: 1source.basspro.com/

My point isn’t that big game rounds aren’t different, but that most white-tailed deer hunters are unable to take advantage of their differences. The task of deer hunting west of the Mississippi doesn’t really discriminate between a .243 or a .300 Win Mag. Because of modern bullet construction and the fact that most white-tailed deer are taken under 200 yards, a deer shot in the vitals with a .243 is just as dead as a deer shot with a .300 Win Mag. Yet we keep asking ourselves the same stupid question: What is the most effective deer round? The only answer to that question is, how much recoil can you stand? Everything else is basically meaningless.

Image: www.statesymbolsusa.org

Image: www.statesymbolsusa.org/

In my early 20s, I bought a 7mm Remington Magnum because I loved the look and feel of the gun, an older Sako Finnbear. It was an aesthetic choice. All I knew about the cartridge at the time was that it was plenty capable of taking a deer. Since then I’ve killed a couple deer with it, but never at distances greater than 100 yards. Where I hunt in Pennsylvania, it’s rare that you get a shot over 100 yards unless you want it that way or you’re hunting over an agricultural field. So what is a 7mm Remington Mag? At 50 yards, a 7mm Mag produces an obscene amount of energy—around 3,000 ft-lbf. What distinguishes a 7mm Mag from a .30-30 is that the 7mm Mag has the same energy at 500 yards that a .30-30 does at 50. They are vastly different cartridges. But again, I’ve never taken a shot over 200 yards, so I might as well be shooting a .30-30 (or any other deer cartridge for that matter) because I’m nowhere near being able to make use of its downrange energy. It’s not a problem, but it goes to show how arbitrary rifle calibre selection is when you’re shooting under 200–300 yards.

Most big game cartridges offer perfectly adequate performance under real-life hunting conditions. The constant hair-splitting over the ballistics of big game cartridges is mostly hypothetical nonsense that benefits gun makers but not hunters—it simply sells guns. To me, a discussion about the merits of different Vibram boot soles is more valuable and interesting than whether the .270 or .308 is a better deer round. We’ve somehow managed to equate hunting with shooting when, in many aspects, the shot is the least important component of the hunt. Guns don’t kill animals; smart hunters do.

5 Perfect Deer Knives

A deer knife should be between three and four inches, comfortable in the hand, and capable of holding its edge for the duration of the task. Not all knives will hold an edge, so it’s important to consider the kind of steel being used (just because you can get a knife razor sharp doesn’t mean it will hold an edge). In general, thinner blades will sharpen better than thicker ones, but keep in mind a deer knife is not a shaving razor. You want to be able to cut through muscle, tendon, cartilage, skin, and even bone if need be. Does your knife need a gut hook? No. Why? Because on a good knife, a gut hook is redundant, ugly, and tends to get in the way. Cutting open your deer without puncturing the stomach or intestines is easy assuming you don’t have a Rambo knife. Here are what I consider five perfect deer knives.

EnZo Trapper

EnZo with curly birch handle [Image: www.casstrom.se]

EnZo with curly birch handle. [Image: www.casstrom.se]

The EnZo trapper combines Scandinavian looks and blade geometry with the strength of a full tang bushcrafting knife. It is widely thought to be one of the best hunting/outdoor knives on the market today. The 3-3/4 inch blade is ideal for dressing deer and serves as a general purpose field knife. If you find a new one for $100 (as you sometimes can), don’t hesitate to pick it up. EnZo Trappers are also available in kit form for those of you looking to build your own.

Buck 110

Buck 110 [Image: www.youtube.com]

Buck 110 [Image: www.youtube.com]

The popular Buck 110 folder has dressed more deer than all the knives on this page combined. But what led to its rise as an icon for American outdoorsmen? The answer is versatility. Because of its robust handle and safe locking mechanism, it is stout enough to use with a baton or even as a hammer (I’ve done it, and I’m not proud). Yet the blade is thin and nimble enough for precision tasks like skinning, deboning, and slicing. The Buck 110’s combination of finesse and power had never been available in a folding knife before, and it changed the knife-making landscape forever.

Bark River Gunny Hunter

Gunny Hunter [Image: www.knivesshipfree.com]

Gunny Hunter [Image: www.knivesshipfree.com]

What I love about Bark River’s Gunny Hunter is the design’s fine synthesis of robustness and ergonomic comfort. It feels like an extension of your fingers when you hold it. One of the important differences between the Gunny and the Gunny Hunter is that the latter’s tip has been slightly lowered to give it more belly. At 3.7″ it is perfectly capable of dressing anything from rabbit to elk. The version in A2 steel offers both ease of sharpening and excellent edge retention. This is your knife if you’re looking for something to take into the big woods that will also perform basic bushcrafting tasks.

Morakniv Clipper

Mora Clipper [image: www.ebay.com]

Mora Clipper [image: www.ebay.com]

The Clipper is that knife you buy thinking it will be your beater but you end up liking it more than your “preferred” knife. Mora knives offer pure utilitarian value at the lowest possible price—it almost doesn’t make sense to buy any knife other than a Mora. At only $15, the Mora Clipper or Companion will perform as well as a knife that costs ten times as much. I personally don’t like the rubber handles or plastic sheaths, though.

Helle Symfoni

Helle Symfoni [Image: www.workwearcanada.com]

Helle Symfoni [Image: www.workwearcanada.com]

Maybe you can tell by now I’m a bit partial to Scandi knives. I like the Scandi grind for two reasons: They’re incredibly easy to sharpen because the bevel acts an angle guide, and two, Helle knives are proof that you don’t need a big, heavy knife to dress large game. The Sami people of Scandinavia have been dressing reindeer and moose with traditional three and four inch puukko knives (what Helle knives are based on) for millennia. Helle knives are incredibly lightweight and easy to carry. The Symfoni is a sleek, triple laminated, stainless knife with a razor sharp 3-1/2 inch blade. The blade’s medium length and thinness make it ideal for dressing deer and other medium to large game.

There is simply no reason for your deer knife to be longer than four and a half inches. Don’t be the guy who shows up to deer camp with a Rambo knife—show up with something sensible and efficient.