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Will this Tikka curry favour?

Whether you are a traditionalist or you’ve fallen for carbon fibre, there is a rifle to suit you that will ensure you always bring home the venison, says Bruce Potts.

When choosing any rifle for deer stalking, consistency and accuracy are essential but they are not the only concerns. The practicality of your new purchase is also of great concern, if your intended deer species are reds on the hill then you don’t want to be lugging about a cumbersome rifle. I like a lighter rifle these days and the emergence of affordable carbon fibre stocks and carbon wrapped barrels means we have a dazzling array of lightweight but precise stalking rifles ideal for use on the hill. North of the border, stags no longer have close seasons and can now be shot when on the low ground during the winter months which may also influence your rifle choice.

Tikka T3X

Let’s start with a tremendous all-rounder that has found its niche not only as a good estate rifle, but also as a practical, reliable workhorse that won’t break the bank. The T3X comes in a variety of forms from the standard wood version to the Lite, which can be ordered with or without an adjustable cheekpiece for its polymer stock which is handy for angled shoots on the hill. Other options are the weather resistant Cerakote finished model, or the laminate stocked version with stainless steel metal work. If they don’t tickle your fancy, then perhaps the stainless-steel Lite model will get your heart racing with alternative RoughTech options that feature a fluted barrel that shaves off even more weight to achieve a terrifically handling rugged rifle.

The integral scope rail eradicates the chance of loose scope bases, and the free-floating barrel removes the likelihood of any issues of inconsistent accuracy resulting from the stock touching the barrel which is even more important if a heavy moderator is fitted.

T3X rifles are renowned for being accurate straight from the box as well as dependable and hard-wearing. These qualities are why so many novice stalkers use them and why they are often chosen as the essential ‘estate’ gun.

Fierce Edge.

An effective combination of modern technology blended with proven design. Made in Canada, the Edge, is based on the Sako 85 action and consequently offers smooth three-locking-head low bolt lift operation, controlled round feed, positive primary extraction, and detachable magazine system.

The Edge is available in some great calibres like the 6.5 PRC which works wonderfully for red deer out on the hill where a longer shot may be necessary. It’s lightweight and handles beautifully, allowing you to maximize accuracy. A well-crafted carbon fibre stock is unaffected by inclement weather so there is no need to fuss or worry when it’s on the shoulder out on the hill; rough weather won’t warp your stock or alter your zero and the same is true of the carbon fibre wrapped barrel. The overall weight is a featherlike 6.6 lbs. and if you order the titanium action version instead of the standard stainless-steel option, the rifle can be lightened even further. All metal surfaces are Cerakoted  which gives the Fierce rifles a feeling of genuine reliability, boosting your confidence to deliver the perfect shot first time.

The Edge guarantees an accuracy of ½ MOA (minute of angle) at 100 yards with recommended ammunition and has all the refinements of a custom rifle but at factory prices. As a final sweetener it comes with a lifetime warranty.

Weatherby Backcountry 2.0 Ti Carbon

Here is another superb lightweight yet accurate rifle ideal for strenuous hill use where every ounce of weight can be felt on an arduous stalk.  At just 5 lbs. 2.5 oz., (6lbs 6ozs with scope) it’s one of the lightest stalking rifles I have ever tested. Its titanium action offers fantastic strength and rigidity as well as its weight saving attributes. The Backcountry uses the legendary Weatherby six-lug locking bolt system (nine lug magnum calibres) initiating the low bolt lift for a fast and super strong lock up.

The Trigger Tech trigger is one of the best field triggers on the market with its adjustable and precise single-stage operation featuring a bolt shroud mounted safety which allows silent ease of use. The Backcountry also includes a hinged floorplate which guards against lost mags!

The barrel is 22 inch long and carbon fibre wrapped and tensioned for maximum accuracy and lightness. This is complemented by an extremely durable carbon fibre stock. The rifle is lightweight, and the point of impact won’t shift in foul weather either. Further hunter friendly additions include the abrasive and weatherproof Cerakote and Titanium finishes.

The Backcountry is sleek and effortlessly exact. A splendid rifle for hill use that will shrug off the worst weather and still deliver that all important first shot.

 Mauser Max 12

If you are something of a traditionalist the Mauser Max 12 will please you. Mauser are a perfect example of a company moving with the times, bridging the gap between technological innovation and old world build quality. The M12 Max has one of the most competitive specs out there. As you would hope it is supremely accurate, tangibly robust and very practical for stalking for a variety of environments. The action is bombproof and built like a Tiger tank. I really like its thumbhole laminate stock that gives a solid feel yet remains beautifully balanced. The Mauser provides one of the best ergonomic thumbhole stocks I’ve used, with an ambidextrous design that allows shots to be taken with confidence from either shoulder or at any odd angle that you might find yourself in out on the hill. The elevated cheekpiece is a great advantage for correct cheek weld and scope alignment further helping to build a solid shooting position.

The low bolt lift operating mechanism is ultra smooth and reliable with twin plunger ejectors which reliably and forcefully expels spent cases. The M12 Max uses a cock/de-cock safety catch system on the bolt shroud so that when on safe the firing pin is completely incapacitated. In the halfway position it is still safe but a bolt lift to remove cartridges can be achieved. It’s so quiet that the removal of the safety will never spook a stag as you line up your shot.

A very impressive stalking rifle that’s built to be bang on accuracy wise with a broad spectrum of factory and reloaded ammunition. The Mauser has a build quality that will fuel its longevity and allow the rifle to sustain ludicrously high performance over a lifetime of arduous hill use.

Custom Build

With so many great factory rifles these days why go for a custom build? Well, it doesn’t have to be a full custom rifle, plenty of my stalking friends have had their rifles re-barreled but by a custom gunsmith to maximise accuracy to a specific bullet type that suits the species of deer they stalk. A custom build is tailored to your specific needs and for reds on the hill you can specify a rifle for lightweight and shortness to lessen fatigue on those longer stalks. Alternatively, one can order a new calibre to stretch those shots out across the glen for that stag that never seems to be in range. You don’t have to stick to synthetic stocks, carbon this or that, why not opt for a more traditional walnut and blued steel rifle but have a custom bedding job to ensure consistent accuracy. Most notably a custom rifle is designed to fit you perfectly and deliver the first shot where you aim it in any weather conditions, reliably again and again.

I will be the first to admit with today’s new factory rifles the lines between factory and custom are becoming blurred but it’s still nice to have something a bit different, especially as a cherished stalking rifle.

Callum Ferguson, Norman Clark, Steve Bowers, Neil McKillop, Brock and Norris and David Wylde are all excellent gunsmiths and can craft a red stag rifle to your specific needs.


There is something there for everyone. Yes, the trend is for carbon fibre stocks and wrapped barrels which do offer superb weight saving for hill use, but don’t forget the more traditional rifles either as they can all bring home the venison.