Deer season is only a few long months away. Visions of aspen-crowned sage slopes, frost-covered oak leaves on the forest floor, and long antler tines floating above the CRP haunt and inspire you. Perhaps a shot went astray last fall because of worn or ill-fitting equipment, and you need the confidence that a new, quality rifle would bring; perhaps you want more reach, more distance than your trusty old .30-30 lever-action offers; perhaps old uncle Waldo crossed the great divide and left you with money enough for the deer rifle you’ve always wanted. Heck, you don’t need an excuse—no one can have too many good deer rifles.
Outstanding rifles are plentiful on the market, and if you’re the avid deer hunter we think you are, you’re probably familiar with most of them. This list of top options showcases freshly introduced models; a few of brand-new design and a gaggle of variations on proven existing models.
There are precision bolt-actions with extended reach; there’s a brush-country thumper or two; and there are several almost-affordable custom-quality rifles that offer better-than-average accuracy at a price comparable to what a new Remington 700 cost in the ’70s. So shrug off the melancholy, wave the pre-season blues goodbye, and peruse this list for inspiration. Who knows: You just might find your new perfect companion for that all-important time in the deer woods.
Browning-X-Bolt-Long-Range-HunterBrowning X-Bolt Long-Range Hunter
Whether you believe that shooting at big game at long range (whatever your definition of that is) is the epitome of riflemanship, or you opine that shooters who indulge in such practices are soulless narcissists devoid of ethics, the movement is upon us. Manufacturers of rifles, optics, and ammo are building purpose-specific products catering to long-range hunting. Browning’s X-Bolt Long Range Hunter is one such, employing the company’s inherently accurate yet lightweight action, fit with a 26-inch heavy sporter profile stainless barrel, glass bedded for accuracy and consistency into a composite stock. Camo is Browning’s own BuckThorn Tan. Several popular long-reaching calibers are available; my vote goes to the flat-shooting 26 Nosler. Weight: 7 lbs., 6 oz. Price: $1,430.
Browning-BAR StalkerBrowning BAR Stalker
Not only are semiauto deer rifles great where the action is close and fast, but they offer superb advantages to disabled veterans and other folks. A paraplegic friend recently drew a very good trophy bull elk tag, and he’s getting set up for it with a Browning BAR in 7mm Rem. Mag. fit with a muzzle brake and topped with a Burris Eliminator III rangefinding/drop compensating scope. Paralyzed from the waist down, he also has limited use of his left hand, which complicates recoil control and prevents him from dialing turrets or running a bolt while maintaining control of his rifle. With this rig, he’s got legitimate quarter-mile range and follow-up capability without assistance. The new iteration of the BAR shown features a rubber armored black synthetic stock, and is available in most popular hunting calibers. Weight: 7 lbs. 4 oz. (short action). Price: $1,260.