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What Weapon Should I Bring?


Written By Jake Utsey

I have always loved weapons. Since early childhood this interest has basically consumed my free attention. Hunting weapons came first in the form of a single barrel 410. After this came single shot Remington .22 that my grandfather paid 5 dollars for in the late 1930s. My Mother then gave me a Winchester auto loader that I still carry duck hunting. Through the years came shotgun after shotgun and rifle after rifle.
Christmas at my parents house usually saw a new hunting shotgun or rifle every Christmas. What a grand time in my life.
The real trouble started when I began to work and afford my own weapons. The cheap surplus rifles began to stack up where ever I lived. Enfields, Mausers, Springfields, Arisakas, Moisan Nagants, Colt 45s, Llugers, Webleys - the list could go further but by now you may figure there is some type of point to all this. There is but it is more of an opinion than a point.

Operating a hunting lodge requires a lot of knowledge, the least of which involves firearms. People come to Water Valley from all over the world. Most fly in and bring weapons that need to go straight to the shooting range. I try to observe every hunter shoot his or her rifle.
Most need no help and then there are a few who do. We try to get problem weapons repaired and ready to go. Running the lodge brings into play the chance to observe many different rifle calibers in the field. It is stunning the wide variety available and the many ways that these calibers can be customized.

One of the most difficult questions to answer is what caliber should I bring? Let's pretend we are going a golf vacation and we call ahead to ask what would be the best CLUB to bring. Of course it is a stupid question and of course you need them all. A golf course presents many different shots needing a range of clubs. Hunting also provides many different animals and the need for many different types of weapons.
Now this article is being written for guys who use firearms just in case I have any bow hunters reading this. We all take this moment to bow to your superior skills and apologize for leaving you out of this article.

Without a doubt the best hunters I know in Choctaw County Alabama have no use for firearms unless it is dove season. Let's face a fact: MOST of us are average shots. How many of us have not ever worn out a barrel from shooting? I know I haven't managed it yet. A marksman is going to shoot his rifle all year long in the process shooting two or three boxes of ammo at the range. He is going to have a feel for his rifle when he shoots it like a farmer has for a strange vibration while running his tractor. He knows when something's wrong.

In specific what is the best caliber to use while hunting whitetail? What a question. How can a guide begin to answer such? There are so many out there and few IF ANY are poor in the hands of a true marksman. There are many calibers that are one size fits all. I tend to complicate the use of the rifle much like a golfer uses clubs.

I would like to give an example of my own choices of rifles.
I have a 308 Sako carbine. It is light, the barrel a bit shorter and I shoot a 180 grain bullet in it. It is a rifle I choose when I am in the woods or in small green fields. For me personally it is not a rifle I would take to a big pasture or a clear cut. I like this rifle when I hunt 100 yards or less.

My next choice is a rifle I have had since I was 15 years old. It is a Remington Model 700 in 270. It is and always has been a tack driver.
It has the same Leupold scope that was put on it in 1980. I have shot many different bullets through it from 130 grain to a Smith and Wesson 200 grain that is no longer made. I settle on 150 grain because I have always worried that 130 grain was a little too fast. Perhaps this worry is based on poor shooting rather than what my mind tells me but then 150 grain has always done for me what I want when killing animals.

My third choice deer hunting is a 7mm magnum. Yes it is big and that is why I choose it. It is good in clear cuts, big pastures, and since it has a big scope great at the end of the day. I like a larger caliber at the end of the day because sometimes the shot can be a bit more challenging when light conditions are poor. A big caliber certainly does more damage even when the shot is a little off the mark under. I have a new caliber that I carry in the truck every day year round. It is 22-250. v It is a most impressive bullet and has the potential to do it all if I shoot it a lot. While being an excellent varmint and hog rifle I have no doubt that it would kill a whitetail. At long range and at the end of the day I surely would rather have the 7mm magnum but this little bullet knows what to do if put in the neck of a whitetail.

Personally I would be afraid to use the shoulder shot for this but there are those who might not be. I am telling you about my personal rifles for a reason. I tend not to have a do it all rifle even though I would be a better marksman if I did. I don't hunt that much anymore and now find that the dependable 22-250 will do most of what I want during the workday which includes hunting season.

I do tend to have rifle choices like playing golf. (Even though I have not been on a golf course since 1990 and all I did them was follow my brother while riding a bike.) Some might disagree with my tendencies in using various calibers but remember, my affection for weapons is part of the issue. I guess in answering what caliber is best, my answer would be biased. I love all 30 calibers and it is surely easier to find wounded deer shot with magnums. I have witnessed all kinds of bullets killing deer. Again the most important factor is knowing how to use it.

One thing I would add to this article is that slug guns with scopes are great weapons in the woods as are rifles similar to the described 308 carbine. For sure bringing multiple weapons with differing capabilities is a good thing at Water Valley Lodge.

If you're still confused after reading this article because I know that I am, please email Jake at


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2742 Melvin Road - Gilbertown, AL 36908
T: 251-843-3168 - F: 251-843-2106
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