Choosing a Rifle for the First-Time Youth Deer Hunter
Today’s hunting community is composed of some of the most athletic, competitive, and technical hunters that the community has even seen. With social media constantly pressuring hunters into bagging trophy game, many of us are pushed to our limits to achieve the perceived definitions of success. This can be a remarkable thing, because it encourages us to push ourselves harder and further than we might without this outside pressure. It also can detract from the reasons we got into the woods in the first place, and it can be so time consuming that we forget about the next generation of hunters. It is imperative that we keep the tradition alive by sharing our passion with the next generation. While keeping this in mind, we will need to decide on a rifle for our new hunters.
Your first rifle is something that you will always remember, it’s like a first car or pet, except you can keep it forever. When choosing a rifle for a youth hunter it is important to keep a few things in mind.
How easy is the firearm to handle, manipulate, and learn enough to feel comfortable with?
For most new hunters this will be a challenge to overcome. Anticipating the shot, or even dreading it, will lead to poor marksmanship and difficulty to spend time on the range mastering their new skill.
By tolerance I essentially mean choosing a rifle that is forgiving to the new shooter. Small mistakes behind the weapon, equating to small mistakes down range.
With the above considerations in mind we would always recommend a bolt action rifle in .243, .308, 30-06. The .308 Win and the 30-06 Springfield have a few advantages over the .243, but when compared to one another there isn’t enough of a distinguishable difference for this specific article.
With that in mind it is worth noting that (depending on the rounds) the 30-06 will have the slightly higher recoil of the two. Both calibers will be highly effective to take down most big game in North America, and are more than sufficient for whitetail deer. A big advantage of these two calibers versus the .243 is drop down power. I’m using “drop down power” as a general term to describe the terminal ballistics. The increased power of the .308 Win or 30-06 Springfield gives the hunter tolerance in the fact that even a slightly off shot will still result in a quick, ethical kill.
I personally haven’t had to track a deer shot with a 30-06, they tend to drop in their tracks. The big downfall of these calibers is the kick. For a smaller youth hunter this could make a day on the range hell, which could lead to flinching while pulling the trigger.
The .243 merges the gap for smaller hunters due to its very manageable kick. This bullet is fully capable of taking down a deer, but it does not have the knock down for of the above cartridges. Additionally, this caliber is not suited for putting down big game at a distance. Will it kill a deer over 300 yards? Yes, but it won’t leave you the margin of error that the 30-06 and the .308 will. Another plus for the .243, there are more options to buy lighter rifles designed specifically for youth hunters.
In conclusion a bolt action rifle chambered in any of the above cartridges will be more than suitable for a first-time youth hunter. If they are of smaller stature and the kick is going to be a concern on the range, then go with the .243. This will allow them to build a solid baseline of marksmanship and learn to handle a manageable recoil. If they have a bigger stature or they are just more comfortable with the recoil, then it would be highly advisable to go with the .308 or the 30-06. This rifle is forgiving due to its straight shooting and knock down power plus it’s a rifle they can continue to use to hunt just about any game in North America for the rest of their hunting career.
Remember, having the desire to become successful in hunting, takes a mindset change and that is the hardest part in this endeavor. We can help you with changing this mindset, and once you have changed you will appreciate the hunt more, and start understanding what being a sportsman/woman is all about. Remember our mission is to redefine tradition. Challenge traditional thinking and push others to do the same. We must dedicate ourselves to hone in on our primal instincts and combine them with new methodologies and technologies to truly master evolution.