North America holds some of the most varied hunting conditions on the planet, from mountains to deserts to swamps, plains and forests, with a significant variety of game. The good news is, under any given conditions—and for any given animal—there are lots of good choices and relatively few that are wildly unsuitable. What is perhaps most important is that your choice gives you confidence. One of the few curses of my occupation is it’s a rare blessing when I have a chance to actually use my own rifles, but I definitely have my favorites—or at least my “ideal choices.”
- The whitetail is not only our most popular big game animal, but also our most widespread, and it’s hunted under an incredible variety of conditions. I reckon that any reasonably fast, versatile cartridge from, say, a .25-06 to a fast .30 would do for almost any whitetail situation, but I’m not altogether certain that one size fits all. Certainly, it doesn’t for me. In close cover, where a longer shot is unlikely, my favorite is a lovely 7x57 “stalking rifle” made by Todd Ramirez. That’s what I normally use at my place in southeastern Kansas. There’s only one spot there where a shot beyond 200 yards is even possible, and most shots are much less. The rifle has detachable mounts, and I usually use a 2-7X Leupold, but on dark, cloudy days in the timber I clamp on a 1.5-6X Schmidt & Bender.
In more open country I want something with more reach—specifically for Coues whitetail, which, although smaller, are often taken at longer ranges. Although I run the risk of being called overgunned, my favorite is a .300 Weatherby Magnum. My Rifles Inc. .300 is an old friend, as is its Zeiss 4.5-14X with Rapid-Z reticle. Lately, I’m equally likely to use a Blaser R8 with a .300 Weatherby Magnum barrel (which also wears the same optic/reticle setup).
I consider the whitetail to be extremely tough pound-for-pound, and I want a bullet that will expand and do some damage. My 7x57 shoots Hornady Interbond very well, so that’s what I use in that rifle. The .300s can do a bit too much damage on a close shot, but I use them when I expect a longer-range opportunity, so accuracy is critical. I’ve had great results with Hornady’s plain old 180-grain Interlock, but I’m also getting awesome accuracy and performance with Federal's 180-grain Trophy Tip.