A couple years ago I decided to change up the loads I was hunting with. Mainly because I wasn’t overly excited with the terminal results I was getting at the time. The second part was actually considering the terrain I was hunting.
I mostly hunt in wooded areas in the Appalachian mountains. Where shots past 100yards are rare due to forest density unless I’m in a field. Most of the whitetail deer I’ve taken have been 20-60 yard shots, with the longest at 372yds across a field, and the closest being somewhere between 18-24” off my muzzle. I’m pretty sure that deer was powder burned.
Previously I had been shooting 150gr core-lokt bullets in a .308Win. They worked, but I tended to either punch mediocre holes and/or leave lead frag in the venison, especially after bone hits. So the quest was on to find a load that better suited my needs. Cause, deer are tasty, and lead is hard on the teeth.
My goals were to, find a bullet that would hold up well in game, shoot sub-MOA, and do as much damage in the wound path as possible. This directed to a maybe less conventional load than most would consider.
Light bullet weight for cartridge, pushed fast, with either bonded or all copper projectiles.
130gr Barnes TTSX bullets atop a heavy compressed Varget charge. From my 26” barrel, the 3200+FPS made up for the .350BC. These shot well after I got my barrel really clean, and seem to start dropping in precision after maybe 45-50rds from copper fouling. The long throat in the factory Rem700 barrel works well with these bullets that seem to do best with a jump.
Not my best group but fairly average for 5 at 100. So, time to kill stuff and clean some pests off my brother’s farm.
Meat loss was basically zero, victory! There were some ruptured capillaries as far as the neck. Some blood vessel bleed can be seen in the thin muscle tissue under the exit canyon. That deer didn’t run off or jump/kick like normal. It just kinda shook, trotted off and fell over. Lungs were kinda a mess.
No, it’s a lefty gun. Now you don’t have to ask!
After this I kinda went stupid. What’s the best way to really measure the ballistic effects of a load you worked up over hours of bench and range time? Oh yeah, to shoot them in the head of course. So, ambush spot behind a hay bail, blasting the evening feeders.
Well, ok, glad I wanted to test these bullets out.... Well, I had another doe tag plus a buck tag. So what do I do? That’s right, try a spine shot. I took the short bus that trip. Stand up 60 yards from me while I’m sneaking through the high grass, well, works for me I guess.
Looks like I cut its neck. However that was the exit hole. The spine was, well, fragmented. The blood near the deer’s butt was from it sliding down hill.
This load worked exactly how I wanted it to. Very good precision that 200 yard headshots didn’t seem hard. Damage to neck and lungs on shots was rather impressive. More importantly, dropped four deer over 3 days with virtually no loss of meat from trauma or lead frag in the meat. Yes, shot placement helps with that, but if these were 1.5-2 MOA, I wouldn’t have taken 175-200 yard headshots on deer and opted for conventional heart/lung or high shoulder shots, increasing meat loss possibility.
I have noticed a pretty dramatic difference in the amount of damage you get to a deer by simply driving a bullet faster. Using something like a copper expanding bullet, the only reason to go heavier is for the better BC for range or deeper penetration. If my shots are usually 200yd and in where I don’t need to penetrate into say, an elephant, I’ll gladly take the extra velocity over bullet mass. Bullet placement will always be key, but a better bullet can still help and may give more options.
After that trip and a few more deer down with that load, I switched up my AR hunting load to 50gr TTSX bullets going stupid fast. Similar results with smaller holes, so I spend a bit more time on shot placement. I’ve yet to recover one of these TTSX bullets from the dozen-ish deer I’ve taken with them.
Best part is medium rare backstrap grilled with veggies.