6 Best Deer Rifles for Hunting the Big Woods
Hunting deer in the North Country is a unique experience. To do so effectively requires the right rifle. The winters are long and cold, which keeps the deer population noticeably low. There aren’t many deer that can survive across the expanses of near-barren land in the North Country. There are often miles and miles in between deer.
However, the deer that do exist in these areas are spectacular to behold. And for good reason -- according to Bergmann’s rule, the more northern that a segment of any species lives, the larger their body mass. In short, colder weather means bigger deer. And when we combine that with Darwin’s law about the survival of the fittest, we come to realize that only the strongest surviving animals will survive to reproduce.
This “perfect storm” of trophy hunting is found in North Country big woods bucks. These deer are tough, massive animals that can weigh up to 400 lbs. Trophies are measured by weight (as opposed to inches of antlers), so these large bucks are the best of whitetail deer hunting.
Not surprisingly, these trophy animals require a unique hunting approach and a quality deer hunting rifle. In the big woods, most successful sportsmen hunt while moving, instead of waiting in a stand for hours on end. Out west, this is known as “spot-and-stalk” hunting. This type of hunting means that some precision will be lost -- successful big woods hunters don’t wait for the perfect shot, instead they rely on powerful rifles that deliver impactful, devastating shots no matter where they are placed.
Because big woods whitetails are so tough, hunting them requires fast-handling guns and large cartridges that shoot reliably and effectively. These guns must be accurate and hard hitting. Big woods rifles are lightweight and ergonomic, allowing them to be carried comfortably, yet shoot quickly when the time comes. They must also be a large caliber gun that provides stopping power. In addition to stopping power, they need to be sturdy enough to handle the most demanding weather conditions.
Weatherby MeatEater Special
The MeatEater special is a highly precise, lightweight, durable rifle that is chambered in high calibers ideal for hunting in the big woods. You can get this rifle chambered for 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm Remington Magnum, .308 Winchester, .300 Winchester, .300 Weatherby, and 6.5-300 Weatherby. It’s guaranteed to shoot with sub-MOA precision, and comes with an adjustable, match-quality two-stage trigger. It has an integrated recoil lug and a threaded barrel with spiral fluting. It’s a good-looking rifle at a reasonable price with a moderate recoil.
Tikka T3x Superlite
This rifle performs well for its lighter weight. It has a fluted free-float barrel and a steel recoil lug. You can adjust the pistol grip, and it includes a soft rubber recoil pad. Weighing in at just 5.9 pounds, this is one of the lighter rifles on this list. Tikka has updated this firearm with a new stock design, new grip pattern, and a new noise reduction stock.
The Marlin 1895 is a compact gun harkening back to the classic lever action design of nineteenth century rifles while including updates for the modern day. It has a 26” barrel, ensuring accuracy with high-powered ammunition such as the .45-70 Government. It weighs just 7 pounds, and a Western-style feel with American black walnut design. It’s a fast-acting, powerful rifle sure to make you feel like a real hunter.
Browning X-Bolt Western Hunter
This is a powerful rifle that can give you the stopping power you need for big woods hunting. It features an ergonomic bolt handle, a sporter contour barrel, removeable muzzle break, and removeable magazine. Its comb system is adjustable, and it has a top-tang thumb safety. It weighs in at just 6.3 pounds and has an attractive matte finish.
Ruger American Predator
The Ruger American Predator is a bolt action rifle with an integral bedding block system and a free-floating barrel that ensure excellent precision. It comes with the Ruger Marksman Adjustable trigger, offering a crisp release and a 3-5 pound pull weight based on the user’s preferences. It has a soft rubber buttpad to reduce perceived recoil, and an ergonomic, lightweight synthetic stock. The rifle functions with a one-piece, three-lug bolt.
Savage 110 Switchback
The Savage 110 Switchback offers an excellent price on a well-known manufacturer of reliable rifles. It has an ergonomic stock with an adjustable trigger and a fixed comb height. It has a threaded, 22” carbon steel barrel, and a one-piece 20 MOA rail. It shoots flat even through windy conditions, and can be chambered in calibers such as the 6.5 Creedmoor that are excellent for big woods hunting.