I was deer hunting in one of my favorite places in the world, the Mississippi Delta, near Yazoo City, Mississippi. And I was using one of my favorite types of deer-hunting firearms: an AR-style rifle. In this case, my rifle was a Remington R25 GenII, Remington’s second generation of the gun maker’s AR-10, chambered in .308 Win.
A good friend of mine farms several thousand acres of the Delta, and he has extended an open invitation to me to hunt his land. So, I was in the Delta trying to fill a deer tag. I spent the first two days trying out different locations. I saw whitetails, but all does, and a few young four-point bucks.
Day Three found me in a large, elevated hunting stand built between a series of defunct fish ponds. My friend had dug a number of fish ponds years ago, five- and ten-acre impoundments where they raised catfish. But the fish business went bad, and the ponds were drained out many years ago. Now, they were large depressions ten feet deep or more, and overgrown with brush and small trees.
The levees were still in place, and from the sky, the ponds looked like a half-dozen large rectangles sunk into the ground. The levees are also a great place to set up a hunting stand, as they overlooked the brushy ponds, the grass-covered levees where deer liked to feed, and the stands of oak beyond the ponds.
A half-dozen does and their young showed up that morning to feed on levee grass. I ate lunch around noon and was sitting back in my chair feeling like a nap was coming on when I thought I saw a shadowy blur moving through the trees way beyond the fish ponds, 400 yards or more to my west. Through my binoculars, I saw a stout deer body drifting through a dark brush, and then a second body. But I couldn’t see any horns. They were bucks, I was sure of that, but how big? And were they legal?
In this region of Mississippi, a buck’s antlers need to have a 12-inch inside spread or a 15-inch long main beam to be legal. As I glassed them, the two bucks moved to the edge of the levee and away from the shadows. I could see antlers now, and they both appeared to be legal deer. But 400 yards?
I got down from my stand as quietly as I could and ducked down into the nearest fish pond for cover. I hiked along the edge of the levee for a couple hundred yards and then eased up onto the bank to peek through the brush.
The two bucks had moved onto the levee now, and they had been joined by three does. The five animals fed on grasses and slowly walked away from me. I crawled onto the levee, and found a slightly raised area, sat down and cradled the Rem R25 rifle across my knees. I glassed the deer.
I sat about midway along the longer bottom side of the rectangular fish pond. The deer were to my left and just rounding the far corner. A huge clump of brush filled much of the corner, and when deer moved behind the brush, I got into shooting position, my elbows on my knees, and rifle held forward.
The buck I wanted was the nice eight-pointer with a good-sized body. I lined up my Trijicon VCOG scope on the brush and waited. And waited. Finally, a doe stepped out from the cover, then another one, then my buck. I had to wait for the does to separate from him, and waited another couple of minutes until he turned and gave me a solid broadside shot, my heart thumping hard the whole time.
Slow down, I told myself. Breathe.
The shot, I estimated, was 200 yards in distance. I put the VCOG’s reticle at the top of the buck’s shoulder, let out my breath, and squeezed the trigger.
Given the way all the deer scattered, I really wasn’t sure if I’d made a hit or missed the buck altogether. I sat back and waited about ten minutes, re-running the shot through my mind’s eye. It had to be a hit, I told myself, and then I was sure I’d whiffed the shot altogether. But ten minutes later, standing at the far corner of the fish pond, I spotted large drops of blood on a muddy trail leading off the levee. I found my buck about 80 yards away, lying next to a big old oak, my .308 bullet having pierced his lungs.
He was a nice deer, a solid four-year old. He also carried a unique rack, with an extra stubby beam on the left side sticking out.
Only For Varmints?
Although AR-style rifles are very popular, many hunters still think they’re only good for varmints and predators like coyote. Not true!
First, AR-10’s are the bigger brothers to the smaller caliber AR-15’s, and the 10’s are chambered in definite big-game calibers, usually from .243 Win and up. I’ve taken more than a half-dozen deer with AR-10s chambered in .243 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, and .308 Win. the last several years, from hunts in Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, and Texas. Popular AR-10 manufacturers include Daniel Defense, DPMS, Remington, and Smith & Wesson, to name but a few. I’ve found these rifles to be more than accurate and hard-hitting enough to drop a deer out to 300 yards and better.
Okay, you say the bigger-caliber ARs can do the job for deer. But not the very popular AR-15s chambered in .223 Rem. Too small a caliber, right?
With all due respect to those who feel this way, not true. I’ve harvested more than a dozen deer in the last few years using AR-15s, and most have been one-shot kills.
AR-15s and Deer
Deer hunting with .223-caliber rifles is legal in most states. There are, of course, exceptions. Pennsylvania, for example, does not allow the use of semi-automatic rifles for any big game, deer included—though you can legally use AR-15s for coyotes and other such varmints. Both Michigan and Iowa have large portions of their respective deer hunting regions restricted to shotgun-only.
A few states have caliber restrictions, including Colorado, where a big-game hunter who uses a rifle must have one that’s .24 caliber or larger—so an AR-15 chambered in .223 Rem. is not legal there, either.
Even in states where you can use an AR-15 for big-game hunting, make sure you know how many rounds your rifle can legally hold. For instance, in Missouri, “self-loading” or semi-automatic firearms can’t have more than 11 rounds in them, including the one in the chamber. AR-15s are fine for use in Oklahoma deer hunting, but your magazine can’t hold more than seven rounds.
Now, you have to be smart about hunting deer with the admittedly smallish .223 Rem round. Certain loads will not work, including lighter varmint loads with fast-expanding bullets or rounds with full-metal-jacketed bullets.
You need to use .223 rounds packing heavier bullets—60 grains and above—that hold together and expand deeply into the animal. Most of the major ammunition manufacturers make such rounds, including:
—Federal Premium’s Vital-Shok Trophy Bonded Tip, firing a 62-grain copper bullet:
—Remington’s Hyper-Sonic round with a 62-grain Core-Lokt Ultra-Bonded bullet; and
—Winchester’s 64-grain Power-Max Bonded round.
Of course, a hunter needs to place his or her shot into the animal’s heart-lung area.
With a heavier .223 bullet, accurate shooting, and a good AR-15, outdoors enthusiasts can have a freezer full of venison.
The AR-15 style of rifle includes the semi-auto rifle, bolt-action rifle, and AR-15 semi-auto pistol. Oklahoma U.S. Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Robert Robles said, “In Oklahoma, the AR-15 family of rifles and pistols is commercially available in most available centerfire or rimfire cartridges. When hand-loaded, the AR-15 style of firearm may be configured in many experimental or wildcat calibers. Hunters, pursuing deer, should use a five-round magazine or install a magazine block behind the magazine follower that will not allow more than 7 rounds to fit into the magazine and follow the deer-hunting regulations controlling rifles, centerfire handguns, semi-auto handguns, and handguns chambered for any centerfire-rifle ammunition.” Click here for reference in the Oklahoma Hunting Guide.
No matter what you are hunting, make sure you first educate yourself on the applicable regulations. Take that education one step further by adding Hunter Shield to your U.S. Law Shield membership. Members in Hunter Shield states have access to educational materials, legal updates, and events, all designed to keep them hunting legally. Plus, each member receives the basic legal defense coverage that’s standard with the Hunter Shield program.
Make the decision today to become a more educated and responsible gun owner and hunter by adding Hunter Shield to your U.S. Law Shield membership. Not a member of U.S. Law Shield? Join our family today and add Hunter Shield! —Brian McCombie, Contributor, Texas & U.S. Law Shield blog