Getting Started as a Deer Hunter (1 of 3)

Whether it is choosing a first gun, bow, crossbow, or deciding what to put in their daypack, young hunters have many choices to make as they take to the deer woods.  Story by Tim Herald of The Zone

Will picked up his Nikon 10×42 binocular and scanned the food plot for the umpteenth time, but something caught his attention that hadn’t been there before. After a few minutes, he determined that it was the back of a deer just over a roll in the field. His heartbeat increased wildly as he leaned over and shook me out of my catnap in our ground blind.

“Dad, there is a deer out there! Can you see it?”, he whispered a little too loudly. I threw up my binocular, and sure enough, about 80 yards away, there was a young doe eating clover. This was Will’s first deer hunt, actually on his 6th birthday, and we had determined that he needed a deer within 50 yards to be confident in a good shot.

I told him to watch the deer as it fed closer and to range it with his laser rangefinder from time to time as I set up his shooting sticks just in case. He counted down the yardage, “Seventy-five, Sixty-eight, Sixty-two…Dad, I think it is going to come in to where I can shoot…”

Sure enough, the young whitetail made it inside 50 yards, we got Will’s TC .243 on the sticks, and he made a great shot to drop his first deer. That Kentucky youth season is one that my family will never forget as his brother Drew also harvested his first deer that weekend.

We didn’t just pick up my gear and go hunting, we did some serious preparation to make the boys successful as well as to make sure they did things the right way and had fun.


My twins started out like most kids shooting a .22, but obviously that won’t work very well as a deer rifle. As soon as I felt like they were big enough physically, we began the process of finding a comfortable gun for them that is adequate to make ethical deer harvests.

In our case we chose a TC ICON in .243. I feel that a .243 is a completely viable deer caliber, and the gun doesn’t have much appreciable recoil. In simple terms, the .243 is an acceptable deer killer that has the least amount of kick of anything in its category.

The fact that you can find plenty of 100- grain factory ammunition certainly helps the case for the .243.  In my experience, most .243’s are also inherently accurate, and they are just plain fun to shoot.

Though we now also have an Encore single shot .243, I chose the bolt action initially just to teach the boys the mechanics of using such a gun as I am sure when they get older, they will both want larger caliber bolt actions for other applications. Just due to weight, a bolt action usually kicks a bit less than a single shot, and that is a very important factor for young hunters. Having a quick backup shot isn’t a bad thing either.

More reasons to have a .243 as a first deer gun are; most companies make them, and they can be obtained inexpensively, there are many youth sized .243’s on the market if that’s what you are looking for, ammo is a affordable and readily available, an adult in the family might also want the gun to double as a predator gun for themselves, with practice they have very good range, and they are just plain fun to shoot. Did I say that already?

All of this makes a .243 a rifle that a young hunter can enjoy shooting and shoot with confidence in a short amount of time. To me, along with its ample power, that makes the .243 my top choice for a first deer rifle.

One last note, I also believe a variable powered scope with a good-sized objective lens is important. I prefer a 2.5x10x42scope for my boys so they can keep it cranked down for a wide field of view on close animals, yet they can turn up the power if they need to take a bit longer shot (now that they are more proficient). The 42mm objective helps in low light conditions, and that is very important as the first and last hours of the day are often the most productive when hunting deer.

Next Week: Choosing a First Bow