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For deer stalking, is .243 calibre too small?

How small is too small?

The .243 is a popular calibre for deer stalking

Q:  I’m about to join a new stalking syndicate which has mainly sika on the ground. To date all my stalking has been on roe, for which I use a .243. Given I’ll be moving up to a larger species, should I get a larger calibre rifle and if so, what would be best? What about small calibres for deer?

A: Sika have a reputation among stalkers for being tough and when shot they are frequent runners.

Male sika deer

Male sika deer

They are certainly larger than roe but critically when compared as a quarry species, they are more alert, aware and cautious as they go about their daily routine and movement patterns. Often they don’t emerge until last light and are then very tentative. This may help to explain how they got their reputation because it’s true that an alert and aware animal will react differently to a settled one when shot. This is particularly relevant if the shot placement does not result in an instantly paralysing collapse.

As to a larger calibre, that’s a question only you can answer. When it comes to shooting wild deer the .243 calibre rifle – with its long-established tried and tested reputation and ready supply of factory ammunition – will handle humanely anything you might be likely to encounter in the UK. The only possible exception to this might be the very large red stags of the sort found in some parts of England.

From experience with sika, I have found that the .243 has proved to be up to the job.

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