We can break down the type of deer cartridges needed based on the conditions of the hunt. Woods hunters don’t need long-range reach; they typically need compact, quick-handling rifles. Too often hunters who prowl the timber become infatuated with the wide-open spaces of the West. In turn, they opt for a rifle better suited to the Wyoming prairie than the pine thicket on the old home place. There are many different rifles suitable for deer hunting, and the same can be said for cartridges. They all work well, some are just a better fit for the woods.

The 30-30 Winchester has always been the ideal deer gun for hunting in the woods. With modern munitions, it is only better.

The Woods Cartridge

Yes, it’s been around since 1895, and it’s been killing deer ever since. The 30-30 Winchester is the ideal cartridge for a hunter who prowls the timber. It has plenty of power to kill any deer out to 200 yards, and that’s a good deal further than you can see in the woods. Recoil is light, and the ammo is affordable.

Just as important is the fact that the 30-30 Winchester can be had in easy-to-carry, fast to action, lever guns. Because the lever action is butt heavy — has most of its weight toward the stock and not the muzzle — these rifles are fast-handling and ideally suited to the snap-shooting and quick-handling characteristics necessary in a  woods rifle.

The Remington Core-Lokt load for the 30-30 Winchester may have taken more deer than any other.

Yes, we all dream of being a rifleman with a high-powered bolt-action rifle capable of shooting the cents off a nickel at 400 yards. However, unless you’re hunting nickels at 400 yards, that type rifle is an unneeded hindrance. If you stalk the thick forest for whitetails, or sit a treestand in the timber, don’t underestimate the 30-30 Winchester.

High-quality lever actions such as this one from Marlin are still available in 30-30 Winchester.

Modern ammunition for the 30-30 Winchester has greatly increased its effectiveness by utilizing sleeker projectiles that retain velocity, and other bullets that damage lots of tissue and penetrate deep. Two top loads for this former blackpowder cartridge are the Hornady LeverEvolution and the Barnes VOR-TX.

Scoped or with open sights, don’t over look a lever-action 30-30 for deer hunting in the timber.

Images by Richard Mann

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