Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What Caliber for Whitetail?

I was thinkin'...

Now .30-30 has probably dropped more deer in this country than any other caliber. Followed closely by .30-06, or, north of the border, .303.

But I was watching Winchester '73 with Jimmy Stewart and that got me a pondering: What bullet did hunters use most commonly over 115 years ago to hunt whitetail sized game?

The Winchester model 1973 shot .44-40 and .38-40 as well as smaller rounds. I don't know if those would be ideal for hunting, but they'd just might do the job. Folks hunted deer in Indiana with .357 this year, using 1894C's. So those smallish rounds are doable for deer, certainly, but were they DONE? The rounds are big pistol cartridges and would have been black powder back then, so I don't know if they'd have the 'oomph'.

.45-70 was the military round at the time, pre Krag, and it could certainly bring down a deer. Heck it was used on buffalo on the plains. The .45-70 and the .50-70 were natural buffalo rounds post muzzle loader era, and the .30-40 Krag will do fine for deer based on the number of sporterized versions out there in gunstores for sale, but I'm interested in what hunters shot BEFORE the Krag came out. That window between the Grant Administration and the McKinley Administration. (ooo, the first pres without facial hair in some time...) I'm wondering if .45-70 was considered 'too much gun' by contemporaries and what a deer hunter would have used. Before Grant, some muzzle-loading caliber of shotgun would have been the hunting ammo of choice.

Was there anything between the .44-40 and the .45-70? .30-30 was first out in 1895, and that would do, but it didn't have time to become the most widely/commonly used round in the window of time I am considering.

What think you? Am I overlooking something? Or was it all buckshot.

Hunting was less the pleasant pasttime it is today than it was a means to put meat on the table for the family, I'm certain.

[aaaaaaaand, just after I wrote this I noticed Tam's reference to an earlier post she wrote in her year end recap. Pretty cool stuff, but the whitetail question isn't quite answered. I thought the serendipity cool, tho.]


Borepatch said...

If people were like my family, they probably used a muzzle loader.

And do you mean "Winchester Model 1873?

Tam said...

The favorite caliber for deer seems to be "whatever you had". Most folks had A gun, and it had to suffice for everything.

Don't forget that by the late 19th Century, whitetail deer were pretty well hunted out east of the Mississippi.

As far as intermediates go, there were a slew of .38 and .40 caliber black powder rifle cartridges, of which only the .38-55 survives today (and just barely at that.)

Also, don't forget that .45-70 was considered a little marginal for bison; most pros used .45-90, .45-100, or one of the various .50-cal Sharps cartridges.

Old NFO said...

Don't forget shottys- 00 buck or the equivilent and slugs...

Anonymous said...

"Now .30-30 has probably dropped more deer in this country than any other caliber."

I believe a case can be made that the .22 rimfire has killed more deer than any other single caliber in this country.

And ditto Tam. You shot what you had and lots of people had .22 rimfires.

BobG said...

A lot of those older calibers worked, but were for close range, just like 357 and 44 mag pistols. The 22 and 22 mag are popular for poaching; they are quiet and are good for close head shots.
I used a 1903A3 when I rifle hunted, and my dad's favorite was the 270. We tended to favor those since all the deer in this state are mulies, and they tend to (on average) be larger than whitetail.