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Every fall, more than 10 million American hunters hit the woods in pursuit of whitetail deer. More people hunt whitetails than any other game on the continent, and for most of those hunters, the weapon of choice will be a rifle.
Having a quality rifle that fits your body type, can handle your hunting terrain, and works well with your hunting style is a key component of deer hunting success. However, finding the best deer hunting rifle can be complicated. With so many options to choose from, even experienced deer hunters may feel a bit intimidated.
There is no perfect rifle that perfectly fits every hunter and every hunting situation. Choosing a deer hunting rifle is actually a very personal choice. However, here are our top picks to help you narrow down your options.
Our Best Choice
Remington Model 700 CDL SF .30-06 Springfield
This highly traditional deer hunting rifle is so pretty you’ll want to hang it over the fireplace for everyone to admire. However, this thing really shines in the woods, delivering flat-shooting accuracy, easy handling, and smooth functioning.
Top Models for Deer Hunting
Top 6 Best Deer Hunting Rifles
1. Remington Model 700 CDL SF .30-06 Springfield - Best Overall Deer Hunting Rifle
A short action version of the Remington Model 700 (the M24) is commonly used by military and police snipers. Offering precision accuracy and easy function, the Model 700 is one of the most popular hunting rifles on the market.
When chambered in .30-06 Springfield, this flat-shooting rifle delivers a powerful punch capable of dropping deer and larger game, even at long distances.
When it comes to tradition, there are few rifles more traditional than a bolt action Remington, and the Model 700 CDL SF has some classic features.
A handsome detailed walnut stock and classic blued finish barrel enhance the traditional feel of the weapon.
Although visually appealing, the stock does add some weight to the rifle. However, the extra weight is fairly insignificant and might only be a deal breaker if you’re backpacking into remote wilderness areas.
2. Ruger American Predator 6.5 Creedmoor - Best Affordable Deer Hunting Rifle
Designed and manufactured in the USA, the Ruger American Predator offers plenty of bang for your buck. Although this highly affordable rifle was engineered specifically for hunting predators, this 6.5 Creedmoor version is also perfect for hunting whitetails.
Highly practical, the Ruger American Predator features a Marksman Adjustable Trigger, 70-degree bolt throw, and a one-piece weaver rail for easy optic mounting. For a rifle in this price range, the American Predator offers smooth and reliable function with a three-lug action.
The cold hammer-forged barrel is a compact 22 inches, making this rifle easy to maneuver in thick brush or the compact conditions of a ground blind or tree stand. Additionally, the rifle features a threaded barrel to easily accommodate the addition of a suppressor or muzzle brake.
3. Winchester XPR Hunter True Timber Strata .243 Winchester - Best Bolt Action Rifle for Deer Hunting
Winchester is one of the most recognized and respected names in the shooting industry, and the XPR Hunter makes it easy to understand why. This high-performance hunting rifle features a precision button rifled barrel, M.O.A. trigger system, a nickel-Teflon finished bolt slide, and detachable polymer box magazines.
The most exciting feature of the Winchester XPR Hunter is the advanced polymer stock with specially textured panels that help improve grip during wet weather. The True Timber Strata camouflage pattern makes this rifle virtually disappear in the woods, giving the hunter a lethal advantage.
The barrel and receiver feature a Permacote FDE finish that protects the barrel and receiver from rust and corrosion. Rugged and durable, the XPR Hunter is well-constructed and ready for even the toughest hunting conditions. When chambered in .243 Winchester, this rifle is near perfect for deer hunting.
We wish the trigger pull felt a little less heavy, but it's definitely not a deal-breaker.
4. Ruger Number 1 .450 Bushmaster - Best Single Shot Rifle for Deer Hunting
Although built with a traditional falling block breech action, the Ruger No. 1 is constructed to handle strong modern cartridges. The falling block is operated with a lever located just behind the trigger guard. This weapon is perfect for deer hunters who enjoy traditional hunting or who like the pressure of hunting with a single shot rifle.
This sturdy rifle is built for rugged terrain and hard use. The polymer stock resists dents and scratches and the stainless steel barrel holds up well in wet, rainy weather.
The Ruger No. 1 is equipped with a patented Scope Mounting System that accommodates the included Ruger scope rings, so you can easily update your traditional rifle with a modern optic. Other special features include a sporting-style recoil pad, grip cap, and swivel studs for attaching a sling.
Aside from the obvious drawback of a single shot action, the Ruger No. 1 has some accuracy issues once the barrel heats up.
However, this is a single shot rifle for a reason, so a hot barrel shouldn’t be an issue for deer hunters. Just don’t expect to win any match competitions with this one.
5. Savage Arms Axis XP .270 Winchester - Best Beginner Deer Hunting Rifle
Durable, lightweight, easy-to-use, and affordably priced, the Axis XP from Savage Arms is perfect for young and first-time deer hunters. Chambered in .270 WInchester, this rifle offers flat-shooting, long-range accuracy without the excessive recoil some other popular deer hunting cartridges produce.
The silky smooth bolt action and detachable box magazine work well for new shooters just gaining confidence. All XP models come with a 3-9x40 matte blued scope mounted and bore-sighted right out of the box. However, the rifle is drilled and tapped for scope mounts making it easy to upgrade your optic.
Although this rifle isn’t much to look at, the synthetic stock and stainless steel barrel are strong and rugged. Both are designed to shed water, resist corrosion and scratches, and stand up to rough use and abuse.
The AccuTrigger system features a leaf set into the center of the trigger face. This configuration is a safety bonus that prevents firing unless your finger completely covers the trigger face.
Our biggest complaint (other than the unattractive stock, which has nothing to do with the rifle’s performance), is the bolt release requires simultaneously pulling the trigger and the release. This is a bit of a nuisance. We would like to see Savage implement a simpler bolt design.
6. Mossberg Patriot .308 Winchester - Best All-Around Rifle for Hunting Deer and Elk
Elk are much larger than the average whitetail, so setting up a rifle for both is harder than you might think. The Mossberg Patriot, when chambered in .308 Winchester, works well for hunting whitetails in thick timber or dropping elk several hundred yards across mountainous terrain. It accomplishes both without excessive recoil, making follow-up shots easier and more accurate.
Mossberg originally made a name for itself with their reasonably-priced, high-quality shotguns. They have brought this same level of performance and dependability into the rifle market. Not only is the Mossberg Patriot surprisingly affordable, it also has features you would only expect from a more expensive rifle.
These features include a free floating barrel, recessed crown, spiral bolt design, and an adjustable trigger.
The Mossberg Patriot also features a Weaver rail so you can add a high-quality scope for making those long-distance shots. Practical hunters will also appreciate the synthetic stock on this model. This lightweight stock adds to the rifle’s overall durability while decreasing weight for hunts deep in the backcountry.
Although fairly sturdy, the Patriot’s magazines are made of plastic, which makes them feel cheap. Call us old-fashioned, but you can’t beat the durability of a good metal magazine.
While any of the rifles on this list will help you shoot deer, our top pick is the Remington Model 700 CDL SF. We like this weapon chambered in .30-06 Springfield. However, it is available in most of the common deer hunting calibers, as are most of the rifles on our list.
Even the most expensive rifle is worthless if you can’t hit your targets, so be sure to spend some time shooting your new rifle to gain accuracy and proficiency.