The .30-06 Springfield, developed by the U.S. military in 1906, has become one of the top hunting cartridges of all-time. For decades it has ranked as one of the most popular deer hunting rounds in America based on ammo sales (along with the .30-30 and .270).
Every store in America that sells ammunition, from the Cabela’s in Maine to a mom-and-pop hardware in the remote Heartland, will carry at least a few boxes of 150-grain loads, the most common .30-06 round for whitetails. No matter where you live and hunt, you’ll find ’06 deer rounds and bullets at the ready.
While there are faster and sexier new rounds on the market, like the 6.5s, the proven ballistics of the .30-06 make it perfect for any type deer hunting in America. Do you still-hunt the thick north woods…hunt open senderos in Texas…or stalk mule deer on the Western plains? The .30-06 is the most versatile cartridge on the market, and will serve you well however and wherever you hunt deer.
Sight-in a 150-grain bullet to hit 1.5 to 2 inches high at 100 yards; then “hold on hair” of a buck and drop him out to 300 yards. Depending on the 06 load you choose, the bullet’s POI will be approximately 6.4 to 7.9 inches low at 300 yards, the maximum range you should shoot at an animal in my opinion. Whether a deer stands at 50 yards or 300, the energy of the .30-06 (approx. 2,800 ft-lbs. muzzle and 1,500 ft-lbs. 300 yards) will kill him quickly, cleanly and impressively if you put the bullet in the heart/lung vitals.
The only downside: Recoil-wise, the .30-06 is not the choice for young or mild-mannered new hunters. But “kick” is manageable for most male average-size male shooters.
I have hunted extensively with a bunch bolt-action rifles chambered for .30-06 over the past 40 years, and have killed dozens of whitetail bucks with it. I have also shot several elk, 2 black bears, 3 sheep, a couple of caribou and more than 100 feral hogs with this fantastic old-school cartridge.
These days I use Hornady .30-06 loads exclusively. These are my favorites for deer, you’ll not go wrong with either one:
- Hornady American Whitetail 150-grain Interlock bullet.
- Hornady Superformance 150-grain SST bullet.
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