velocity or bullet mass and caliber, how much is required

Discussion in 'rifle related' started by grumpyvette, Feb 22, 2011.

  1. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer. Staff Member

    lethality, the water bucket analogy

    I heard rifle lethality explained once this way

    think of your big game target for the purpose of explaining your choice in a rifle selection,
    as a large 5 gallon steel bucket for deer, a 10 gallon steel trash can for elk or moose,
    and perhaps a 40 gallon steel drum for large African game like elephant.
    the games life force, and its ability to function after bullet impact can be thought of as the remaining water the containers filled with.
    your object, as a responsible and ethical hunter is to drain the water from the container as rapidly as possible
    now from a purely physics stand point punching a hole in the container will tend to drain some or most of the liquid contents.
    but merely draining part of the contents can be considered a WOUNDING and NOT necessarily 100% dependable shot,
    so your shot placement on the containers surface DOES mater a great deal.
    small caliber high velocity projectiles may cause some rather significant percentage of the fluid volume to splash out instantly ,
    especially on the smaller container sizes, but they also tend to leave a single entrance hole to drain the remaining fluids.
    keep in mind the sizes of the containers in this analogy.
    medium calibers at lower velocities may punch a hole in both the entrance and exit surfaces,
    but may not cause a great deal of water to be splashed out over the top on bullet impact.
    yet the presents of two drain holes if properly located will drain the contents dependably.
    medium calibers at higher velocities may punch a hole in both the entrance and exit surfaces,
    And may cause a great deal of water to be splashed out over the top on bullet impact.
    yet the presents of two drain holes if properly located will still drain the contents dependably,
    thus at least in theory draining the contents slightly faster,
    heavy calibers will generally produce both an effective entrance , impact and exit drain hole,
    but think about the shot placement carefully, in this analogy.
    no matter what caliber is used if the bullet impacts the upper 1/2 of the container its unlikely to be fully drained.
    granted this concept is overly simplified but it may help you understand why larger calibers tend to work.
    Id also point out that years of experience have taught me that even ideal shot placement is rarely instantly effective,
    if your targets still moving keep accurately placing shots, and know your games anatomy

    Last edited: Nov 21, 2018
  2. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer. Staff Member

    Back in the mid 1960s marlin introduced the 444 marlin rifle,

    it was at the time one of the first larger bore lever action rifles, available for decades.
    at the time remington was the only manufacturer of ammo, and they loaded the 240 grain soft point that was then used in the 44 mag,
    the 444 marlin and 45/70 and 450 marlin are excellent choices for thick timber hunting,
    where shots over 150 yards are very rare,...



    but are at their best at under 250 yards, and require careful projectile selection,
    and sighting in at about 3.5" high at 100 yards to maximize the point blank range efficiency
    that bullet was designed to expand well at 1300 fps, the problem was that the 444 marlin pushed that projectile too 2200 fps,
    this resulted in explosive expansion, which was acceptable on a lung shot on a deer but totally un-acceptable on larger game like elk, moose, or bear.
    this flaw became rather obvious very rapidly and while the 444 marlin gained a very good reputation with deer hunters,
    it was not until HORNADY started producing a 265 grain projectile with a much thicker jacket!/
    that the 444 marlin started to make itself, a much improved reputation on larger game.
    the 265 grain hornady transformed the cartridge performance on larger game. greatly improving penetration.
    theres also 270 grain bullets,
    several other manufacturers sell 300 grain 44 caliber projectiles

    the point here is that the projectile used is one major factor,
    along with your knowledge of the games anatomy,
    your ability to shoot accurately, that makes a huge difference in the results youll get

    now if your looking for a big bore lever action three popular choices

    the 44 mag generally throws , a 240-300 grain bullet to under 1600 fps
    making it a decent 120 yard rifle choice
    the 444 marlin throws similar bullets at up to 2350 fps
    the 45/70 can throw a 300 gain-430 grain bullet at slightly lower velocity but with a significantly heavier projectile. making both a 250 yard rifle choice.

    I can tell you that powders like
    , RL7,
    IMR 4064,
    and IMR 3031
    over a 215 fed primer,
    all produce very good accuracy in marlin 444 or 45/70 rifles. Marlin&Weight=All&type=rifle&Source
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  3. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer. Staff Member

    I stopped at the local gun-shop to purchase some rifle bore solvent , as I had purchased a quart recently,
    but one of my brain dead grandsons dropped and broke the bottle rummaging through my desk in the garage.
    while I was there I stopped to browse the rack of new rifles they had on display .
    now when I was younger browsing the rifle rack display was a bit like looking at playboy fold outs...
    you knew you would like to play with almost everything you saw, but you also knew you could never afford too!

    well, while I was looking for anything rather new or interesting, mike a neighbor walked in, with his 7mm mag rifle, he was looking to trade it in.
    I asked him why, and he said I just want something new, Ive never been all that impressed with the 7mm mag and just wanted an upgrade.
    I asked him what he had in mind?
    he was not all that certain, but was thinking about a 300 mag..... I wished him well, and hoped he got some value out of his trade-in.
    Mike is one of those guys that never got into hand-loading,
    who buys any ammo on sale, and I doubt even looks a the brand or projectile weight,
    and Ive never once seen him clean a rifle bore!
    I'm not a fan of the 7mm mag either, but its certainly one of the better choices,
    as its basically a bit flatter shooting that a 30/06 with similar 175 gr and 180 gr projectile weights.
    It would be hard to beat a 30/06 or 7mm for most deer and elk hunting, and a 300 mag adds about 75-100 yards of range, but most big game is shot well under 300 yards,
    personally I prefer the 340 wby, or 375 H&H,
    for anything large that might require a 300 yard plus shot,
    but most guys don,t handle the related recoil levels well.
    that level of power is certainly not required,
    but its never failed to put down an elk either
    theres certainly advantages in my experience,too selecting those two caliber choices.

    but you can,t expect to select another mans favorite big game rifle or caliber,
    any more than you might expect to select his best potential match in a favorite wife.

    I doubt his success ratio improves with a new rifle but it certainly won,t hurt a bit!
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018
  4. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer. Staff Member

    Originally Posted by mrbb [​IMG]
    ......some things just RUN after being hit and don't care by what caliber rifle or bullet!

    yeah, that becomes rather obvious as you gain enough experience, but at the same time theres a very noticeable trend , you'll eventually be forced to see, that,
    theres a gradual, but noticeable improvement in how effective a rifle is at dropping game as the bullet mass and impact energy levels are increased.
    the issue is simply that most guys have only shot a few large game animals, most guys are not as good of shots as they imagine themselves to be,
    and if your experience and conclusions are based on a rather limited sample base, its easy to come to erroneous conclusions, based on that limited info.
    many guys don,t grasp the difference between lethality, and a rifles ability to instantly or at least very rapidly destroy an animals ability to stay on its feet, with a well placed shot
    I doubt theres anything walking in north America.a 30/06 with the proper ammo and shot placement,
    that can,t be killed with one shot, but, at times having minutes between a bullet impact and the complete shut down of an animals ability to express its disapproval of your presents on your body, matters, Id have a lot more confidence
    facing a charging Kodiak bear with a 378 wby and 300 grain soft point bullets

    have to point out a fact that all too many guys either ignore or never considered,
    the projectile does ALL the work and damage! where you hit on the animals anatomy,IS CRITICAL
    rapid lethality depend on where you place the projectile and how much damage is done.
    and how much damage to vital organs and/or skeletal structure,being done,
    should obviously be considered the major factor in potential lethality expected.
    small fast expanding projectiles are devastatingly lethal... IF placed correctly,
    IF THEY destroy the heart/lung area but the deer can still run very fast and
    well for up to 10 seconds or so , and they may not leave much of a blood trail,
    larger more heavily constructed projectiles, like a 180 grain 30 cal, or a 250 grain 358 bullet open slower and in a far more controlled manor ,
    they may not do as much damage to the lungs,initially but they are 100% lethal if shots are well placed.
    and frequently leave a blood trail.
    and they do tend to be much more consistent and reliable at busting skeletal structure,
    provide deep penetration through muscle and they do tend to leave exit wounds more often.
    if you hand-load you can custom fabricate ammo specifically matching your requirements.
    traditional brush cartridges like a 45/70 or 444 marlin can provide exceptional penetration,
    (especially if loaded with heavy for caliber cast bullets,)(these can be depended on to exit deer )
    or be loaded with fast expanding hollow point bullets to give rapid expansion.
    (1) where you place the shot is critical (know the games anatomy)
    (2) use of a heavy for caliber projectile tends to greatly aid deep penetration
    (3)the larger caliber and heavier the projectile, used the more consistent deep penetration
    (4)deep penetration is a plus only if you use it to destroy vital organs,(heart/lungs)
    and critical structure like spine and shoulders, (see #1)
    Ive used or seen guys I know use most common caliber rifles
    if your using anything pushing a premium quality bullet that has a .210 or higher sectional density,
    to over about 2300 fps
    that weights at least 100 grains, and not getting decent results, on deer,
    your issue is related too less than ideal shot placement in most cases

    Last edited: Nov 21, 2018
  5. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer. Staff Member

    if you were to study this chart of tested bullets and cartridges,(below)
    it should be rather obvious that the higher sectional density (heavy for bore diameter projectile designs)
    and more heavily constructed bullets, tend too penetrate significantly better and more consistently,
    if you look carefully the best results tend too be projectiles that are not designed to expand rapidly.
    full metal jacket bullets like many cartridges used for hunting elephant have exceptional performance,
    but too many people its surprising that heavy hard cast revolver bullets or moderate velocity rifle bullets
    can also provide exceptional results.
    if youve hunted very long youll likely remember finding a few rifle bullets under the far side hide
    remember many rifles have double the velocity and energy , or more of a revolver
    thats not all that common with heavy hard cast bullets shot from a long barrel revolver,
    you generally hear those exiting bullets, punching brush on the far side of game after its shot.
    Ive used a 310 grain lee hard cast gas check bullet in my 44 mag pushed to about 1350 fps
    and a 330 grain hard cast gas check bullet in my 445 dwsm pushed to about a similar velocity
    both revolvers have 10" barrels, Ive yet to recover a bullet, they exit.


  6. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer. Staff Member

    theres always been a trade off in the rifles weight,(ease of carrying )
    velocity, (flat trajectory , or reach,)
    its impact power,(weight and diameter of the projectile )
    and as a result of the choices made , its recoil.
    theres plenty of evidence that a small properly placed projectile can produce a lethal wound,
    theres also a good deal of physics that say a larger mass projectile moving at reasonable velocity ,
    can produce a deeper and larger diameter wound, the trade off is increased recoil.
    you can,t dispute simple physics, a larger mass at a similar velocity hits a harder blow on impact.
    (and generally induces more recoil on the shooters shoulder.)
    and once the projectile from your rifle of choice,
    can from any reasonable range or angle produce a lethal wound, on the game hunted,
    and the trajectory over the vast majority of the ranges your likely to be confronted with allows easy shot placement,
    theres no reason to select something with more velocity or a heavier projectile.
    the projectile does all the work on impact and the technology, of bullet design, has improved in recent decades
    your ability to tolerate recoil generally will vary with the rifles stock design,
    use of a sling and recoil pad, muzzle brake ,and it varies with your position you shoot from, your body size,
    total experience and training to some extent.
    having confidence in your choice is a significant factor in your ability to successfully hunt.
    Ive seen a 257 Roberts drop elk rather quickly at about 150-to-180 yards a couple times, moved less than 30-40 yards
    Ive seen an elk act like a shot from a 7mm mag was marginal, as it ran over 80 yards with a lung/liver destroyed,
    yet the next two shot with the same rifle dropped inside a few steps.
    being a bit pragmatic I watch what other people used and see the results they have gotten.
    Ive consistently seen good results from a 358 win with a 250 grain bullet and a 340 wby with a 250 grain bullet,
    Ive seen a 270 win with a 150 grain bullet and a 30/06 with a 200 grain bullet year after year produce one shot kills,
    it eventually became obvious to me that there was some advantage in the heavier projectiles,
    the game, well hit in the vitals, was much more likely to drop in a few steps
    but damn near any rifle in skilled hands would work.
    Id also point out, to be fair, that in over 50 years of hunting,
    Ive rarely shot game or seen game shot at ranges exceeding about 250 yards.

    If you are hunting in Colorado, the Minimum Cartridge/Caliber question has been answered for you, by the Colorado Dept. of Parks and Wildlife:

    a. Must be a minimum of .24 caliber (6 mm).
    b. Must have a minimum 16-inch barrel and be at least 26 inches long.
    c. If semiautomatic, a maximum of six rounds are allowed in the magazine and
    chamber combined.
    d. Must use expanding bullets that weigh a minimum of 70 grains for deer,
    pronghorn and bear, 85 grains for elk and moose, and have an impact energy
    (at 100 yards) of 1,000-ft.-pounds as rated by manufacturer.
    7. HANDGUNS a. Barrel must be a minimum of 4 inches long.
    b. Must use a minimum .24-caliber (6 mm) in diameter expanding bullet.
    c. Shoulder stocks or attachments prohibited.
    d. Must use a cartridge or load that produces minimum energy of 550-ft.- pounds at 50 yards as rated by manufacturer.
    a. Only legal muzzleloaders allowed in muzzleloading seasons.
    b. In-line muzzleloaders are legal.
    c. Must be a single barrel that fires a single round ball or conical projectile.
    d. To hunt deer, pronghorn or bear, conical bullets must be a minimum of .40 caliber, and round-ball bullets must be a minimum of .50 caliber.
    e. To hunt elk or moose, conical bullets must be a minimum of .50 caliber, and round-ball bullets must be a minimum of .54 caliber.
    f. From .40 caliber to .50 caliber, bullets must weigh a minimum of 170 grains
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2018
  7. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer. Staff Member!/!/

    lots of guys fall for the marketing on the NEWEST AND LATEST, being the best,
    the marketing departments of most rifle vendors would have you think theres huge, improvements being made almost every year,
    the truth here is that the nearly 100 year old 270 win is still very competitive,
    with the newer calibers if correctly selected hand-loads with the newer powder and projectiles are used.
    your more than likely debating a difference in recoil energy between about 16 ft lbs and 21 ft lbs depending on the ammo and rifle weight
    even the higher energy 270 which gives you a significant advantage in range and power
    with the higher recoil is a ridiculously low recoil rifle even my 12 year old grandson easily handles
    don,t get the idea the 6.5 mm shoots significantly flatter than the 270,
    if each cartridge has good hand loads and keep in mind easily 80% of all game is shot at well under 300 yards

    reload data
    figure 3000 fps 140 grain
    figure 2800 fps 140 grain
    figure 2700 fps 140 grain
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
  8. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer. Staff Member\

    Wildlife - Deer News
    Answering Questions About Guns, Ammo, and Man's Best Friend
    by Charles Ruth
    Wildlife Biologist
    Deer/Turkey Project Supervisor

    ABSTRACT: Harvest of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) through regulated hunting is the most important tool available to deer resource managers. As wildlife professionals, we are often looked upon as outlets for information concerning not only biological concepts, but hunting in general. The hunting community can pose unique questions and in some instances, hunting related information is not supported by data. The purpose of this study was to attempt to answer questions most often posed by sportsmen. We attempted to determine; the importance of a trained dog in locating dead and wounded deer, the distance deer traveled when shot, the effects of shot placement, and differences in the effectiveness of various firearms and ammunition. Statistical significance was based on a probability level of P = 0.05.

    We determined that on this study site, the mean distance of shots taken at deer was 132 yards and that there was a significant difference between shots that resulted in a deer (127 yds.) and those resulting in a miss (150 yds.). Overall it required 603 shots to harvest 493 deer resulting in 81.7 percent shooting success. There was no difference in shooting success with respect to antlered (81% ) or antlerless deer (83% ). Approximately 50 percent of the 493 deer ran when shot and the mean distance traveled was 62 yards. Antlered and antlerless deer traveled the same distances.

    Of the 221 deer that ran when shot and were located dead, 61 left no discernable sign in the vicinity of the shot. An additional 19 deer were wounded by the shot. Using a trained dog expedited the process of recovering these 240 deer.

    Deer were assigned to 3 groups depending on how difficult they were to recover. There were significant differences in the distances deer ran depending on whether they would be recovered; (a) easily (46 yds.), (b) with some difficulty (85 yds), or (ac) not recovered without the aid of a dog (147 yds). Overall, a trained dog increased the harvest approximately 20 percent at this site because it almost totally eliminated unrecovered dead deer and crippling loss. We determined that deer shot in the shoulder ran significantly shorted distances (3 yds.) than those shot in the heart (39 yds.), lungs (50 yds.), and abdomen (69 yds.). There were no significant differences in the efficiency of weapons when grouped by caliber. However, deer ran significantly less frequently (42%), less distance (27 yds.) and left sign more often (88%) when struck with soft type bullets than when struck with hard style bullets (60%,43 yds., and 81%).

    Harvest of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) through regulated hunting is perhaps the most important tool available to deer resource managers. As wildlife professionals, we are often looked upon as outlets for information concerning not only biological concepts, but hunting in general. The hunting community can pose unique questions and in some instances, hunting related information is not supported by data. The purpose of this study was to attempt to answer questions often posed by sportsmen. We attempted to determine; the importance of a trained dog in recovering deer, how deer react versus shot placement, and differences in the effectiveness of various firearms and ammunition.

    Objective to determine

    • Importance of trained dog in recovering deer
    • How deer react vs. shot placement
    • Differences in firearms and ammunition
    Study Area
    Data for this study was collected at the Cedar Knoll Club which is a private hunting club located in the coastal plain of South Carolina. Although Cedar Knoll is a private club it has cooperated in a number of University sponsored white-tailed deer research projects since the late 1980s. The area is typical of the coastal plain of South Carolina with the majority of the area being in some form of intensive timber management. Due to timber management, habitats can best be characterized as being exceptional for deer and for the purposes of this study it cannot be over emphasized how thick habitat components are. An intensive deer management program has been in place since about 1984 and includes various techniques like burning, mowing and fertilization of native vegetation, plantings and direct supplemental feeding.

    Study Area

    • Coastal plain of South Carolina
    • 4,500 acre private hunt club
    • Intensively managed
    Essentially, the bulk of the data for this study was hunt type data. Still hunting was the method employed and hunts were conducted in the morning and evening. Hunters were placed in elevated permanent stands based on wind direction and recent use by deer. All stands were equipped with seats and rails to improve safety and facilitate marksmanship. Deer were harvested with scoped center-fire rifles. After each hunt, participants were picked up at the stand. If a deer was shot and it did not leave the hunters sight, it was removed to the club for processing. If the deer left the hunters sight after the shot, a trained dog was used to determine if it had been hit and to attempt to recover the animal. For this study all shots at deer were recorded as was an estimate of the range of the shot. The distance the deer traveled and the type or amount of sign was noted. Information concerning the recovery or attempted recover of all deer was recorded as was the involvement of a trail dog. If the deer was recovered it was assigned to one of four categories describing how difficult the animal was to recover. Other data included the caliber of rifle and type of ammunition. Shot placement was determined for all harvested deer when they were processed.

    Data Collected

    • Number and distance of shots
    • Trail dog necessary
    • Deer hit, yes or no
    • How far did deer travel
    • Deer recovered, yes or no
    • Weapon and bullet characteristics
    As it relates to recovering deer, please keep in mind that there are a number of factors that potentially enter into the likelihood of recovery. Habitat type is one of the key elements affecting how easy recovering deer will be. This particular study area is characterized as being exceptional deer habitat on the basis that most of the land use was in intensive timber management. Southeastern habitats that are under intensively forest management typically are very dense in the under story especially early in the rotation, therefore visibility and accessibility can be greatly limited. Second, we must consider that the times during the day when deer normally present themselves to the hunter are not times that offer good visibility. Most deer in this study were taken around sunup or sundown. Finally, wildlife openings or food plots tend to be long and narrow. All of these factors combine and lend themselves to situations in which hunters can have trouble determining exactly were a deer was standing and the direction it traveled.

    Shot placement

    As it relates to recovering deer, please keep in mind that

    • Habitat type affects recovery
    • Deer are often shot in poor light
    • It can be difficult for hunters to determine where the deer was standing and the direction it traveled. Particularly on long, narrow roads or food plots.
    Results and Discussion
    A total of 493 deer were harvested during the study including 305 antlered deer and 188 antlerless deer. Hunters fired 603 shots to harvest these deer and were therefore, about 82 percent successful with their shooting. There was no statistical difference between shooting percentage depending on the sex of the deer. We feel that this is a pretty good shooting percentage considering the variable experience levels that the hunters had.

    Shooting Percentage

    Deer type # Deer Shots Percent
    The mean distance of all shots taken at deer was 132 yards. For shots that resulted in a deer the average was 127 yards. On the other hand, shots that were unsuccessful had a range of 150 yards, significantly further than the distance of successful shots. Intuitively you would assume that marksmanship suffers with increased distance to the target, however, who would have expected a statistical breakpoint between roughly 125 and 150 yards.

    How far were shots?

    • Average distance of all shots = 132 yards
    • Shots resulting in a deer = 127 yards
    • Shots resulting in a missed deer = 150 yards
    • Significant difference in distance "deer vs. missed deer"
    Of the 493 deer that were harvested, 51 percent dropped when shot and 49 percent ran. If there is no consideration given to shot placement, it would appear that how deer reacted was largely random on this study area.

    How did deer react?

    • A total of 493 deer were taken.
    • 253 deer dropped in tracks, 51%.
    • 240 deer ran when shot, 49%.
    • If shot placement is ignored, how deer react is a coin toss.
    Recovering Deer
    Using a trained dog to assist in the recover of deer is a technique that has gained in popularity in recent years. Recovering deer in the traditional sense can be inefficient when conditions such as darkness, rain, thick terrain or when wetlands or water bodies exist. Also, a trained dog can almost immediately determine whether a deer is hit which ultimately saves time attempting to recover something that is not there. For this study a dog was used anytime a shot was taken at a deer regardless of what the hunter thought or said about the shot.

    We were able to estimate the importance of a dog in recovering deer by assigning each animal to one of 4 classes based on how difficult it was to recover. Certainly, assigning deer to these classes was subjective and depended largely on our experience. However, tangible considerations were important in this process and included the distance the deer traveled, the amount of sign where the deer was shot and the type of habitat that the deer entered after leaving the vicinity of the shot. Also, the general feeling from the hunter concerning where the deer was standing, the direction it traveled and their confidence level concerning the outcome.

    Recovery data

    • Class 1 – didn't leave sight, no dog required.
    • Class 2 – ran short distance, left good sign.
    • Class 3 – longer distance, poor/no sign, rough habitat.
    • Class 4 – judged unrecoverable without dog, considering all factors: distance, sign, habitat.
    If we look at the data in table form, it appears that assigning deer to the classes based on difficulty of recovery worked well. Note that dramatically fewer and fewer deer were assigned to the classes which represent the more difficult recoveries. Similarly, the average distance deer traveled varied between each class with deer traveling progressively and significantly further as recoveries became more difficult.

    Recovering deer

    Class # Deer Yards Traveled
    Class 1
    Class 2
    Class 3
    Class 4
    If we keep the distance data in mind and look at the more subjective characteristics it seems that the Classes make pretty good sense. Deer that were assigned to Class 1 either did not run or did not leave the hunter's sight, therefore, a dog was not necessary. Obviously, anyone would recover deer assigned to this class. Deer that were assigned to Class 2 would have also been recovered very easily. These deer ran short distances, often into relatively open habitat and they left very good sign. The average hunter would have no trouble recovering Class 2 deer if an attempt was made.

    Class 3 deer on the other hand, ran significantly longer distances than Class 2 deer and these deer left little or no evidence that they were hit particularly near the area where they were standing. Also, Class 3 deer generally entered thick terrain were visibility and access was restricted. The average hunter would get his buddies and struggle to locate Class 3 deer without a dog. It is our opinion that many Class 3 deer would not have been recovered without a dog, however they were assigned to Class 3 rather than Class 4 based on the criteria.

    Class 4 deer were judged unrecoverable without the use of a dog. It turned out that only 24 deer were assigned to this class which represents about 5 percent of the animals harvested on the study area. Deer in this Class traveled significantly further than Class 1, 2, or 3 deer. There was no evidence that the deer was hit where it was standing and generally, any sign that was discovered before the deer was recovered was sign that was located by the dog. In addition to significantly longer distances, Class 4 deer traveled into extremely thick habitat that often included wetlands or water.

    Importance of a trained dog in recovering dead deer

    • Class 1 deer did not run or did not leave hunter’s sight. Dog not necessary, anyone would recover deer.
    • Class 2 deer ran short distances, left good sign and good visibility in habitat. If an attempt to recover deer was made it would have been located easily without a dog.
    • Class 3 deer ran significantly further than Class 1 or Class 2 and left little or no evidence of hit. Trailing condition involved heavy cover, wetlands, etc. The average hunter would get a friend and struggle to recover deer without a dog.
    • Class 4 deer were judged to be unrecoverable without use of a dog. These 24 deer traveled significantly further than Class 1, 2 & 3 deer. If sign was found it was always well away from the scene and typically this sign was found by the dog. Recovery involved extremely thick habitat, wetlands, water, etc.
    Thus far we have discussed the characteristics of recovering deer that were found dead. However, during this study an additional 19 deer that were not dead but had been wounded by the shot were recovered using a trained dog. Deer that were still alive typically had suffered a wound to one or more of its legs, a wound to the lower most abdomen or flank or some other significant wound did not involve major organ systems. As with Class 3 and 4 deer, these deer traveled into extremely thick habitats that often involved wetlands or water. Normally the dog located the deer bedded in dense cover. In some cases the dog would bay the deer which would allow us to determine where the deer was and we would be able to work our way to the location and dispatch the animal. In other cases, the deer would run after being located by the dog and travel some distance before bedding again. This process was repeated until the deer would hold at bay allowing us to determine were it was, traverse to the location and dispatch the deer. Distance determination was not possible for these deer because they traveled too far and erratically.

    Overall we feel that a trained dog accounted for 15-20 percent of the deer harvest during this study. This can be determined by recognizing that the dog was responsible for many of the 61 Class 3 deer that left little or no evidence of being hit, all 24 of the Class 4 deer that were determined to be unrecoverable without a dog, and 19 deer that were still alive and had been wounded by the shot. Also, by using a dog every time a shot was fired, the efficiency in recovering deer and differentiating deer that are hit from those that are not was greatly increased.

    Importance of a trained dog in recovering live deer

    • An additional 19 live/wounded deer were recovered using a dog.
    • These deer suffered wounds to various body parts including legs, mandible, lower abdomen, etc.
    • Thick terrain, wetlands and/or water involved in recovery.
    • Deer traveled too far and erratic routes for distance determination.
    What about unrecovered deer?

    There were 15 unrecovered deer:

    • Superficial wounds
    • In many cases this was determined only by the reaction of the dog.
    • Dog trailed an average of 297 yards.
    Importance of a trained dog in recovering deer - bottom line.

    • Dog accounted for many of the 61 Class 3 deer, all 24 Class 4 deer and all 19 live/wounded deer.
    • This represents approximately 75 -100 of the 493 deer harvested on the property, i.e. 15 –20%.
    Shot Placement
    In this study we were also interested in documenting the importance of shot placement because this is often a point of debate among sportsmen. We have already seen that deer run nearly 50 percent of the time when they are mortally wounded. Certainly, shot placement is the most important factor related to how deer react after being shot. Several types of trauma can lead to the rapid death of an animal that is struck by a bullet. Significant trauma to the central nervous system, the respiratory system or the circulatory system will all prove effective.

    For the purposes of this study, bullet placement consisted of neck, spine shoulder, heart, lungs and abdomen. Since animals that were hit in the extremities or hit superficially were still alive they were eliminated from this particular analysis in favor of more traditional bullet placement locations. In this study deer shot in the neck and spine were immediately rendered immobile and succumbed quickly. Deer that were shot broadside in the shoulder ran a mean distance of 3 yards while animals hit in the heart, lungs or abdomen traveled 39, 50 and 69 yards respectfully.

    So what shot placement is the best. Neck shots worked well in this study, but they can be problematic because the target area is very small and there is a risk of wounding associated with the target. Potential problems include a shot to the esophagus or mandible. Also, spine shots can be ruled out as a recommenced shot because few shots are consciously directed at the spine. In other words, most spine shots result from shots that miss their mark high and incidentally hit the spine.

    Based on the data collected in this study we feel that the best shot placement for deer is the broadside shot directed at the shoulder. Traveling an average of only 3 yards, deer shot in the shoulder traveled significantly less distance than deer shot in the heart, lungs, or abdomen. Also, with such a short distance of travel, deer shot squarely in the shoulder did not generally leave the hunter's sight. In this study, the broadside shoulder shot essentially gave results similar to what most hunters expect from a neck shot. Presumably the broadside shoulder shot works well because it strikes part of the heart and or lungs which itself is a mortal blow. However, a shot through the scapula damages the brachial plexus which is part of the central nervous system thereby rendering the animal immobile. It knocks the animal out and it never regains consciousness. Also, the shoulder is a very large target offering room for error; a high shot hits the spine, a low shot the heart and a shot to the rear hits the lungs.

    Effects of shot placement

    Shot Location # Deer Yards Traveled
    Firearms and Ammunition
    Hunters are often very opinionated with respect to firearms and ammunition and similarly, there are many misconceptions related to the subject. It is still common for hunters to place more emphasis on their firearms and ammunition than on shot placement. The old saying "I use this magnum because you can hit them in the butt and blow their head off' is still common. Also apparent are skeptical remarks implying that smaller caliber center-fire firearms are less effective and result in deer running further and increased crippling rates.

    During this study there were in excess of 20 different center-fire cartridges used to harvest deer. To reduce variability the various cartridges were group by their respective caliber. This resulted in the delineation of 5 caliber groups; .243 cal., .25 cal., .270 cal., .284 cal., and .30 cal.

    In order to gain some objective measure of how these calibers performed on deer, we looked at the distance deer traveled. This included all animals regardless of whether they died in their tracks or ran. We found no significant difference in the performance of these caliber groups when comparing how deer reacted. Mean distances deer traveled varied between 14 and 40 yards but there was no apparent relationship with increasing or decreasing caliber size or the inherent differences in velocity or energy that is related to the different caliber groups.

    Firearms and ammunition

    Caliber # Deer Yards Traveled
    .243 (6mm)
    Custom versus Factory
    Recently there has been an increasing interest among hunters related to custom firearms and the super accurate shooting that accompanies these weapons. Questions often arise concerning potential differences between factory made and custom made equipment. Since we recorded the type of firearm and ammunition, we were able to check for differences between factory made and custom made firearms. Once again, the distance deer traveled was used as the determining factor and there was no statistical difference between custom and factory firearms. Regardless of the weapons make, deer traveled about 30 yards.

    Firearms and ammunition - Factory rifles vs. custom rifles

    Make # Deer Yards Traveled
    The final question that we addressed in this study dealt with differences in the performance of different bullet types. With the popularity of hand loading and super accurate shooting sportsmen often debate the merits of different bullet types. For the purposes of this study and because there are so many different bullet types, we placed bullets into 2 categories. Group 1 consisted of softer type bullets. In other words, bullets that are designed to rapidly expand on impact. Bullets falling into that group included ballistic tips, bronze points or any other soft point bullet that is of the appropriate weight for the caliber, for southeastern sized deer. For example, a 150 grain ballistic tip bullet in a .30 caliber rather than a 200 grain bullet in the same caliber. Group 2 bullets were just the opposite and included some of the premium types of ammunition loaded with controlled expansion bullets including Partitions, Grand Slams, Barnes X, and various types of solids. Also, bullets that are generally accepted as being too heavy for southeastern sized deer were placed in this group. For example, a 200 grain bullet in a .30 caliber weapon is generally considered too much for southeastern deer. Overall, Group I bullets could be characterized as being explosive on impact, where as Group 2 bullets were controlled in the manner they expand.

    Firearms and ammunition - Bullet types

    • Group 1 – Rapidly expanding bullets such as Ballistic Tips, bronze points, etc. Any soft point bullet of appropriate weight for a particular caliber for southeastern deer.
    • Group 2 – Harder or more controlled expansion bullets such as Partitions, Grand Slams, Barnes X, etc. Any bullet that is heavier for a particular caliber than is generally recommended for southeastern deer.
    Again, using the distance that deer traveled as a measure of performance we found that deer struck with the more explosive type bullets traveled a mean distance of about 27 yards while those struck with hard or heavy bullets traveled an average of approximately 43 yards. This represents a significant difference with deer struck by hard bullets traveling further. The second method of monitoring bullet performance dealt with the percentage of deer that were dropped in their tracks by the respective bullet groups. Again, explosive type bullets significantly outperformed the hard/heavy bullets with 58 percent knock downs compared to 40 percent. Finally, and more subjectively, we looked at the percentage of deer that ran and left poor sign. Again we found a significant difference between the two groups indicating that deer struck with more expanding type bullets left poor sign only about 12 percent of the time compared to over 21 percent for the hard/heavy group.

    Firearms and ammunition - Bullet type results

    Type # Deer Yards traveled % Dropped % Poor sign

    • Shooting percentages about 82%.
    • The farther the shot, the lower the chance of getting the deer.
    • Deer ran about 62 yards on average.
    • Shot placement is determining factor. All things considered, broadside shoulder shot worked best compared to others.
    • About 50:50, deer run vs. deer don’t run.
    • Trained dog expedited recovery of all deer that ran.
    • Dog very important in recovering 61 deer that left poor/no sign, 24 deer judged unrecoverable, and 19 live/wounded deer.
    • Dog accounted for approximately 15 – 20% of total harvest on hunting area, i.e. 75 – 100 deer.
    • No difference in effectiveness of various calibers.
    • No difference between factory vs. custom firearms.
    • Significant difference between bullet types.
    • This study indicates that rapidly expanding bullets lead to deer running less often,
    • and less distance and when they run they leave better sign.
  9. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer. Staff Member

    accurate shot placement is by far the most critical factor, if recoil effects your accuracy , go with the cartridge your more comfortable using.
    one of the more successful members of my hunt club has used a 270 win for decades,many guys stick with a 30/06
    I'm in full agreement that the 257 roberts,25/06-6.5mm- and 270 win and even the 308 win class of cartridge
    throwing a 100-165 grain bullet in the 2600fps-3200fps velocity range is about ideal for most deer hunting ,
    I've consistently had excellent results with cartridges in that class on deer
    (the 25/06 , 257 wby and 270 win are personal favorite's)
    yes these have also worked on elk. (seen it done many times)
    but as your sure too be aware ,as is anyone who has much experience,
    shot placement is very critical,hit correctly almost any center-fire cartridge can work reasonably well.
    even with very good shot placement, in my past experience, about 40% of the elk run after being hit

    anyone using those rifles needs to wait for the correct shot angle,
    and be well within a reasonable range to consistently destroy the vitals,
    get that correct and "your golden" in most cases, deer are as you stated far more "fragile",
    and not as heavily muscled , a fast expanding projectile in the upper heart/lung area does impressive damage.
    a bullet designed for elk generally zips through, and while its frequently going to cause lethal damage , its slower expansion,
    has occasionally resulted a a tracking job for the rather short distance they run until they bleed out.

    heart lung lower center chest

    upper chest spine/shoulder

    elk are a bit more heavily built , you benefit from deeper penetration, and a bit deeper penetration,
    the same deer cartridges can work, on broadside shots,but you bring a bit better tool to the job,
    if you select something like a 165-250 grain bullet in the 2300fps-3100fps velocity range,
    are about ideal for most elk hunting, (in my experience) these cartridge's tend too consistently exit on chest shots, after taking out the vitals,
    even if a foot or two of non-vital hide and muscle on a raking angle protects the vitals.
    shots easily and ethically made with the 30-375 calibers but best avoided or almost mandating a premium bullet, with the 24-25 calibers,
    and requiring a premium bullet in the 26-28 calibers in some cases
    in 45 plus years of dressing out game Id suggest a 270 win,308 win, or 7mm 08 loaded with a premium bullet is about the smallest calibers,
    I see consistently and quickly put down game effectively
    yes a cartridge like a 257 roberts or 6mm rem, or 243 win in skilled hands works under nearer, ideal conditions
    but if that elk of a lifetimes standing out at 300 yards and I need to make a less than ideal shot angle shot,
    Id rather have a higher quality 180-200 grain bullet in a 30/06 or a 225-250 grain in a 338 caliber

  10. Grumpy

    Grumpy The Grumpy Grease Monkey mechanical engineer. Staff Member

    I started out big game hunting , using a remington slide action, 760 30/06,
    the first two elk I shot failed too drop on bullet impact,
    with what I was sure was darn good shot placement.
    both ran a short distance before falling, I felt I could do better.
    I did a great deal of research, and saved up for a year and purchased a 340 wby,
    and never looked back... but as my experience grew,
    I noticed the guys I hunted with continued to use and drop game with a wide verity of rifles.
    It became obvious to me that power was not the only factor when a buddy was consistently successful using a 358 win BLR,
    and one of my mentors was consistently dropping elk with a 257 Roberts
    I purposely gave very few details in anticipation, of questions, that someone would in all probability,
    ask a few related questions about the difference in lethality and related factors.
    Id point out most of the guys I hunt with generally hunt the thick timber and steep canyon country ,
    shots or even seeing any deer or elk at over 200 yards in the heavy timber, aspen and conifer was very rare, almost improbable,
    potential shots at walking or trotting elk at under 70-80 yard or less far more frequent!
    I also reload for most of the guys in our hunt club, and generally I select a rather heavy for caliber projectile,
    250 grain speer or hornady in the 35 and 338 calibers, 180-200 grain speer or hornady in 30 caliber,
    150 grain speer or hornady bullets in 270 and 115 noslers in the 25 caliber rifles
    this habit of hunting in pairs helps a good deal in retrieving the elk and transporting it once its down, and if required tracking and packing out or remote areas.
    the fact that most of use hunt the area, generally within sight of each other also lends itself too having two witness to the results of a shot.
    the first private communication., was as expected asking for more details
    well the first two elk I shot were with that 760 rem, the first time I used a 220 grain peters range was about 60 or so yards ,
    a broadside heart/lung shot the second used a 190 hornady boat tail that was at about 80 yards also a broad side heart / lung shot,
    in both cases a short run of about 50 yards and a collapse resulted, the first two elk I used a 250 grain hornady bullet and the 340 wby
    were also shot at ranges under 100-120 yards, the difference was that both fell within a step or two of where they were hit.
    now I was in my early 20s so at the time I took that as proof the 340 mag was far superior,
    AS I aged and gained more practical experience , I realized that a single shot from both the 30/06 and 340 wby resulted in a dead elk.
    I also came to realize by watching my hunting buddies kill elk with a single bullet that the 358 win was racking up a very impressive track record of elk being killed.
    I was generally called to do a lot of the field dressing and meat processing, thus I got a good look at the internal damage on the elk.
    the wounds were different but both the 340 wby and 358 bullets had exited the elk,
    it was rather obvious at least to me that the 340 wby had done greater adjacent to the bullet impact path, damage along the projectiles path,
    than the 358 win, but not a great deal different than the 30/06, and to me it was also curious that the 115 grain nosler used in a friends 257 Roberts
    (this was back when the nosler partitions looked to be brass jackets and lathe turned) had resulted in noticeably less penetration and internal damage yet
    one bull hit at about 180 yards and one shot at about 120 yards had both died after running about 70 yards, again a single well placed bullet had proven lethal.
    the larger caliber and heavier projectile had very obviously penetrated deeper and done more damage, but there was the fact...
    the elk a buddies dad had shot in both cases with the little 257 roberts was dead!
    every bit as dead as the result of considerably more internal damage, my 340 weatherby had done.
    there was an obvious difference in the elks reaction and the distance traveled and time between bullet impact and the elks collapsing, all four of us noticed that,
    but there was that rather nagging result... all four rifles had killed elk with a single well placed shot!
    this obviously threw a wrench into the gears of the idea that promoted the concept that raw power was the key to success.
    I was very pleased with and continue too be pleased with my 340 wby, yet It was also clear that proper shot placement with any of the rifles produced lethal results,
    and what you have confidence in using related to your personal experiences and what previous results you had seen and what you expected to happen, after a shot taken.
    as I went on more hunts I saw the 270 win, 7mm rem mag and 308 win all kill elk rather regularly, even the 444 marlin and 45/70 were proven very lethal in a competent hunters hands.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2019

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