One of the best parts of going on a hunting trip is bringing home a freezer full of meat that you’ll get to enjoy for the next six months.
That is, until you misplace your shot or opt for buckshot and end up either losing meat or having to spend a long time picking shot out of your kill.
So, what’s the best hunting caliber to minimize meat loss?
More Than Just Caliber
Finding the best bullet for your next hunt is about more than picking a caliber and calling it a day.
There are a lot of variables that you need to consider to help you choose the best bullet for dropping your target without damaging too much of the meat.
As simple as it sounds, your shot placement will play a massive role in how much meat ends up in your scrap bucket at the end of the day.
One good rule of thumb is to avoid placing your shot anywhere that you’re going to want to eat.
On a deer, for example, the best place to aim for is the heart, just behind the crease of the shoulder.
Ideally, if you choose the right type of bullet and place your shot perfectly, you’ll only damage a little bit of the shoulder and flank and avoid excessive meat loss.
Opting for bullets with the fastest muzzle speed isn’t always going to be the best option.
The faster a bullet moves after it leaves the barrel, the more damage it does to the meat.
The best example is using an old-school muzzleloader that fires a lead ball at 1,200 feet per second (fps).
These do less damage than a modern bullet that can travel at upwards of 3,000 fps, especially at close range.
While no one wants to use a black-powder muzzleloader for hunting, the lower the fps of your bullet, the less damage it will do.
For self-defense, a bullet that breaks up or fragments on impact is effective.
For hunting, all that’s going to do is damage the meat. Opt for bonded or monolithic bullets that won’t disintegrate when they hit their target.
Monolithic bullets will keep their structural integrity even if they strike bone, so you don’t need to worry about digging bullet fragments out of your venison.
Common Hunting Calibers
With those variables in mind, what sort of calibers are popular for hunting?
We’re going to focus on the larger game, so you won’t see any small calibers like what you might use for hunting fowl or smaller mammals.
If you ask a seasoned hunter what their favorite caliber is, they’ll probably mention one of the following:
- .30-30 Winchester
- .30-06 Springfield
- .270 Winchester
- .243 Winchester
- .223 Remington
- .300 Winchester Magnum
- 6.5 Creedmoor
This isn’t an exhaustive list, and not all of these calibers — such as the .223 Remington — are legal to hunt with in every state.
It’s also essential to take a look at the manufacturer’s recommendations for bullet-game pairings to help you choose the best bullet for your rifle and the quarry you’re stalking.
Make the Most of Your Quarry
Once your trip is over, and hopefully you have a freezer full of venison to work with, how can you make the most of your quarry and avoid meat loss?
Here are some recipe ideas to get you started.
If you’re new to cooking venison, a stew is a flavorful way to make the most of your game meat without the risk of overcooking your hard-earned game and turning it into shoe leather.
Cook it low and slow, and serve it with some fresh bread.
2. Grilled Cheese
Who doesn’t love grilled cheese? Why not spice things up with some seasoned ground venison and your favorite cheese?
If you’re in the mood for some surf and turf, why not whip up some lobster grilled cheese as well?
We don’t recommend using the same caliber for lobster, though!
3. Slow Cooker Roast
Venison can be tough and gamey if you’re not careful.
Cooking a venison roast in the slow cooker makes sure it will be perfectly fork-tender and ready to enjoy.
Plus, you get to set it up in the morning and leave it cooking all day so you have dinner ready when you get home from work.
Anywhere you use ground beef or turkey, you can usually swap it out for some ground venison, and chili is no exception.
Once you’re confident in your venison cooking skills, it’s time to graduate to something a little trickier, like a grilled venison steak.
Cook it right, and it will be the tastiest thing you’ve ever eaten!
With all of this said, what are your favorite wild game recipes?
What’s Your Favorite Hunting Caliber?
There’s a lot more to picking the best caliber for hunting than choosing a bullet that fits your rifle.
Do your research before you settle on a model to make sure you’re working with a bullet that provides a clean kill without damaging too much of the meat.
Lower fps options and solid bullets that don’t fragment as much will help you preserve as much meat as possible.
What’s your favorite caliber to hunt with? How do you minimize meat loss? Let us know in the comments below!