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Using the .222 on Deer; by Bill McLeod

04/09/2019 10:33 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

When I was a youngster the myth circulated that “all the deercullers use 222s.”
This was far from the truth. In my day there were more heavier caliber than light caliber rifles in the deer hunters hands. Certainly some of the hunters used 222s to very good effect, I still recall seeing Charlie Whitings battered Sako with a bore so rusted that it’s a wonder the bullets came out of it. He said he only shot deer at very close range so he had no problems.

Being a smart arse I just had to give it a go. I was very disappointed when the first deer kept going not to be recovered. I got a real break on the next one when, after the initial shot to the shoulder, I saw it stagger down the hill toward me with an obviously broken shoulder. A quick finisher and I had the tail. An autopsy revealed that the first shot had hit well in the shoulder, had broken the bone but had failed to penetrate into the thoracic cavity.

This proved to be my introduction to the limitation of the 222 deer. If you get the bullet into a vital area the 222 is a very effective rifle. It won’t penetrate significant areas of bone or meat.  Fortunately there are many places on a deer where vital areas are readily reached by these little bullets. The classic immediately behind the shoulder into the lung or heart tissue is deadly. The neck striking the spinal column preferably near the atlas- axis joint can be used. The head shot presents some challenges particularly if the brain is shielded behind a lot of bone.

The 222 proved to be effective on very big red stags if you understood where to place the shots. I even had a two for one with the rifle. A deer rushed off after the shot which I followed and located. Checking the shot location I found it behind the shoulder. My shot had been directed at the neck area. Could it be? Went back to the location of the deer when I fired the shot and there was a neck shot hind. Two tails, one bullet.

These experiences prompted me to develop my own rules about using the little rifle on deer if you would indulge an old coozer in sharing them.

You must be able to shoot. You can’t kid yourself.
You cannot get excited. You must be able to assess the opportunity, select a vital spot and hit it. Then the rifle will do the job.


  • 05/09/2019 3:25 PM | Michael Simms (Administrator)
    All the big game animals in America have been taken with the humble 22LR.
    Shot placement and range are critical of course.

    My son shot a goat in the flank with a .223 with a varmit projectile, the goat got up and ran away, with the same rifle but with a hand load Sierra Game King projectile, shot a goat in the flank.....no it didn't run away....blew a six inch ring of fur off on the other side.

    So calibre is only one part of the equation.
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