What’s the best ammo for deer? When I first started hunting, it was simply the cheapest ammo available in my rifle caliber. Little did I know at the time, there are many more factors to take into consideration, starting with the bullet.
When most hunters are choosing ammo, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the accuracy of the bullet. Nobody will argue the importance of accuracy. Some of the most accurate bullets are those that offer a flat trajectory. This is typically offered by 17 wsm ammo long nosed bullets. Boat-tail bullets are very popular and are usually used for match shooting, which speaks to its accuracy. Round nosed bullets can also be accurate, but are usually heavier which lends to a more arched trajectory.
Another factor to consider is the bullets ballistic efficiency. An efficient bullet maintains more of its speed and energy all the way to its target. This is important, because a bullet that loses energy slowly will fly flatter all the way downrange and hit with greater velocity resulting in a higher energy impact. Long, sleek, boat-tail bullets typically have the highest ballistic efficiency.
Ballistic efficiency is important, but so is the performance of the bullet on impact, or terminal performance. This is a measure of how the bullet reacts on impact. It is usually desirable for a bullet to open on impact to create a larger wound, however, it must also stay together enough to penetrate. This is the trade off. A bullet that opens quickly my be perfect for deer at long ranges but would blow apart and offer little penetration on an elk shot at close range. An ideal bullet for elk would hold together and would penetrate deeper, but would barely open up on a distant deer at lower speed.
All these factors are important, but only if we, the hunters, can use our ammo effectively. Probably more important than trying every different type and combination of ammunition is to settle on two or three different cartridges and simply shoot and practice more. Two or three different loads should cover the different types of hunting most of us do. And by changing ammunition less, you can focus more on honing your shooting skills. After all, when the moment of truth presents itself, your confidence in yourself is more important that what bullet you are shooting.