Exotics: Sika Deer Cartridges

By Chuck Hawks

Sika stag
Sika stag. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

These medium sized, woodland deer are distributed across much of Asia, from Siberia in the north to southern China in the south, including Korea, Taiwan and Japan. Sika deer (Cervus nippon) have been introduced into and prospered in a number of other countries, including (but not limited to) the UK, Ireland, various Continental European countries, Australia, New Zealand and Morocco. In the US, free-ranging populations are found in Maryland and Texas and sika deer are popular on exotic game hunting ranches.

In North America, sika deer are sometimes confused with the similarly named Sitka deer. However, Sitka deer (named for Sitka, Alaska, in which vicinity they are found) are a subspecies of the Columbian blacktail deer and are not closely related to the Asian sika deer.

Sika deer are related to North American elk and European red stag, but are much smaller. Never the less, males are referred to as "stags." The typical live weight of Texas sika deer is between 100 and 175 pounds. These handsome animals have solid bodies and long, slender legs. The head is small and the neck is short and thick. Their upper coat is usually some shade of brown, usually (although not always) marked by seven or eight rows of white spots. There is a large, white rump patch. Mature sika stags typically grow branching antlers with a total of eight points (four points per side). Sika deer normally congregate in small herds and have an unusual whistle like call; they can often be heard whistling softly to each other.

Sika deer are recognized as exceptionally difficult to hunt, wily and adept at hiding from hunters. They are also reputed to be relatively hard to kill for their size. The heavier deer bullets for a given caliber are preferred. Examples of suitable bullet types include the Speer Hot-Cor, Nosler Partition, Sierra GameKing, Remington Core-Lokt, Winchester Power Point, ATK/Federal Fusion and Hornady InterLock, among others.

For the purposes of the North American hunter, the calibers that suffice for our native deer of similar size will suffice for exotic sika deer. Cartridges on the order of the .243 Winchester, 6mm Remington and .257 Roberts should be considered a reasonable minimum. The larger .25 caliber cartridges (.25-06 and .257 Weatherby Magnum) will do very well. 100 grain bullets would be a good choice in the 6mm calibers and 115-120 grain bullets in .25 caliber.

The standard 6.5mm and 7mm calibers (6.5x55, .260 Rem., 7x57, 7mm-08 and similar cartridges) will do very well with 140 grain bullets. These, along with the .30-30 Winchester (150-160 grain bullets), are nearly ideal sika deer cartridges.

For those who want more power or choose to use their "all-around" rifle, the .270 Winchester with 130 grain bullets and .280 Remington or 7x64 Brenneke with 140 grain bullets are deadly. Other viable choices include the .300 Savage, .308 Marlin, .308 Winchester, .30-06, .303 British, .32 Win. Special and 8x57, all with 150-170 grain bullets. There are too many viable hunting cartridges to mention them all, so if your favorite is not included here, but offers ballistics similar to those mentioned above, it is probably fine.

The key to quick, certain kills is shot placement. Sika may be relatively tough deer, but they will not survive for long if shot through both lungs or the heart. However, a wounded sika stag is very likely to escape to die a miserable death later. It is the hunter's responsibility to prevent this; shoot only when you know that you can put the first bullet into a vital spot.




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