I like stuff that works. And when a piece of equipment like that comes along, I use it hard and take care of it.
That’s the case with my Remington 700 BDL in 7mm-08. The rifle and I go way back.
by Leon Pantenburg
I bought my pet deer rifle in 1982 or ’83, as best I recall, from a sporting goods store in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Gloriously addicted to whitetail deer hunting at the time, I already had a Winchester model 670 (named “Old Ticklicker”) in 30-06. The ’06, with a 150 grain bullet and four power Weaver scope, dropped several deer for me, and never failed to kill cleanly.
But us firearms enthusiasts are never satisfied and are always looking for the perfect deer, elk, hog, sheep (fill in the blank) rifle. So I sold the 670 (Apparently while possessed by demons and to my eternal regret!) and started shopping for the ideal, ultimate whitetail rifle. At the time, I was hunting in Mississippi swamps in thick brush, but my plans included moving west, and hunting elk in the mountains.
Also, at the time, I was hunting deer almost exclusively with a single shot blackpowder rifle. At close range in the brush, my Lyman Great Plains rifle was a very effective deer slayer. For off-hand shooting, the old longrifle design has not been improved upon IMHO. History nerd that I am, the smokepole was frequently my weapon of choice, even during modern rifle season.
But the blackpowder rifle’s effective range was about 125 yards, and sometimes, I’d end up hunting a beanfield or a power line, where a shot could be anywhere from 25 to 400 yards. So I needed a cartridge rifle with a scope that would be accurate to longer ranges.
Here was the decision process to find my ultimate deer rifle:
Caliber: The 7mm-08 Remington is a rifle cartridge that is almost a direct copy of a wildcat cartridge developed around 1958. It is the .308 Winchester case necked down to accept 7 mm (.284) bullets with a small increase in case length. Remington introduced the cartridge in 1980, and it was a couple years before I could get hold of one. (Check out the ballistics.)
My good friend, hunting buddy and blackpowder mentor was Charles Crowther, and he loved the 7mm-08. Charlie, a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was the most successful whitetail hunter I’ve ever known. Charlie crafted blackpowder longrifles from scratch, and we frequently hunted together. He had killed well over 100 whitetails with a flintlock rifle, and probably another 200 with other firearms. When Charlie talked deer hunting, I listened.
Charlie had researched the cartridge, and one morning mentioned to several co-workers around the coffeepot how he’d like to get one someday. Long story short, when Charlie retired in the early 1980s, a bunch of us chipped in and bought him a Browning A-Bolt in 7mm-08. Charlie went on to kill many more whitetails with the cartridge gun.
Picking the caliber for my deer rifle was easy. I’d had good success with the 30.06, and was familiar with the .270’s abilities. My deer camp had hunters shooting virtually every deer rifle caliber, but mine would be a 7mm-08.
Action: The rifle would be a bolt action, because I think they are intrinsically the strongest and most accurate. While not as fast for repeat shots as a pump or semi-auto, fast followup shots were not a deciding factor for me. The first shot brings home the bacon, and the rest in the magazine are insurance.
I like the Remington 700 action – it is the basis for the military M-24 Sniper Rifle System. I also have lever and slide action firearms, but the bolt action is my favorite. No major American manufacturer can afford to produce a shoddy, poorly-made bolt action rifle, so go with your favorite brand, and pick an action suited for where you will hunt.
Stock: I like micarta knife handles and composite stocks on user rifles. If you hunt in crappy weather, which I always seem to end up doing, you want a stock that is inert, and that won’t expand or contract with the weather or humidity.
At the time I was shopping, the only 7mm-08 rifle available in Vicksburg was the Remington 700 BDL. The BDL was the deluxe model with nice wood and blued metal, and it had a magazine that could be unloaded from underneath. The rifle would probably show some wear, I guessed, but that didn’t keep me from ordering it.
So that rifle has been used in pouring rain, freezing sleet and muddy swamps. It has been splattered with mud and had sleet and snow frozen on it in the mountains. But I inherited an obsessive-compulsive need to maintain firearms from my dad, and the rifle was cleaned and wiped down as part of the hunting day. It was also cased whenever I might be going on a muddy four-wheeler ride. Today, the rifle shows some honest wear, which only adds character.
Scope: The glass on top needs to be appropriate to the venue. I like a lightweight, variable scope with superior light gathering properties and got a 2×7-power Burris compact scope. Of the 26 deer the rifle has harvested, all but seven were killed with the scope set on two.
I did use the seven power on one shot at about 20 yards, when I had to count points on a rack before taking the shot. Another time, I had to crank up the power to see if there were any twigs in a shooting lane that might deflect the bullet. Most recently, the scope was upped to seven so I could take a whitetail doe at 240 paces across a field. The Burris has worked well with the rifle.
Load: I started reloading in 1977, and have worked up half a dozen hunting loads for the 7mm-08. I’ve killed deer with several excellent bullets, including the 140-grain Nosler Partition, the 120- and 150-grain Sierra Game King, and 140-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip.
Today, my deer load has been standardized to the 145-grain Speer Grand Slam bullet over a max load of Winchester 760. For deer hunting when there might be a potential for taking an elk, I use the 160-grain Grand Slam. Both bullets shoot to virtually the same point of impact, (I sight in so the rifle’s point of impact is three inches high at 100 yards.) The 160-grain bullet shoots about one inch lower at 100 yards. Re-sighting is generally not necessary.
So that’s my deer rifle. So far (as of 2023), it has killed 26 deer with 26 shots.
There is something to be said about getting used to a firearm. My blackpowder rifles have also slain their share of deer, and my elk rifle, a Remington 700 in 7mm Remington Magnum with a composite stock, has also killed several when the deer and elk seasons overlapped or there was some really nasty weather expected on a hunt. I got my first Remington 870 12 gauge shotgun to hunt deer with slugs and buckshot. I’m considering trying to take a deer with my handgun.
But the 7mm-08 is my whitetail and mule deer rifle, and when it comes to deer hunting, that’s the rifle I reach for.
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