Exotics: Fallow Deer Cartridges

By Chuck Hawks

Fallow deer
Photo by John L. Tveten, courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Fallow deer (Dama dama) come from Europe and Asia Minor. Fallow have a wide color variation, ranging from dark brown (nearly black) to white. They come in four main colors. These are common, white, menil and black. Even when mature fallow deer tend to have spots on their backs, although the spots on black fallow are so dark as to be difficult to discern.

The majority of fallow fawns are born in May and early June, weighing perhaps 10 pounds. As adults bucks grow to be about a yard tall at the shoulder and might average 150 pounds in weight.

Like North American deer only the bucks grow antlers, and the antlers of the fallow deer can be very impressive. For the first three years of their lives bucks grow conventional antlers with beams and points. After 3-4 years of age buck fallow deer can have palmated antlers and some mature specimens may have 20 or more points.

Since these European deer are about the same size as our North American Columbian blacktail deer, calibers of similar power are recommended. As a general guide, figure on using a bullet carrying 800 ft. lbs. of energy at impact as a minimum.

On many Texas ranches fallow deer are hunted from stands, just as are whitetail deer in Texas and much of the Midwest, South and Eastern U.S. In such cases ranges might average 100 yards, with 200 yards being a long shot, so a long range caliber is not usually required. Hunting techniques and styles vary, of course, so check with your host to be sure.

One of the real problems with recommending hunting cartridges is that the vitality and state of mind of the individual animal has a lot to do with how hard it is to bring down. Most hunters have noticed how relatively easy it is to kill a relaxed animal and how difficult it can be to stop an animal fleeing for its life. Even given good bullet placement, these variables are impossible to account for in any list.

The best way to insure a clean, one shot kill on fallow deer is precise bullet placement with an adequate caliber bullet of proper design for the purpose. I recommend aiming for the heart/lung area. Standard soft point or plastic tipped bullets such as the Hornady InterLock, Nosler Ballistic Tip, Remington Core-Lokt, Winchester Power Point and Sierra Pro Hunter will usually kill faster than slower expanding premium bullets.

It would be too cumbersome to list every possible fallow deer cartridge, and I would inadvertently leave out someone's favorite in any case. So the cartridges mentioned below are just examples of typical fallow cartridges. If a cartridge is not listed it does not mean that it is inappropriate. Look for a cartridge with similar ballistics. If you find one, then the cartridge in question is also probably satisfactory.

Examples of cartridges suitable for harvesting fallow deer include:

.243 Winchester, 6mm Remington, 6x62 Freres, .240 Weatherby, .257 Roberts, .25-06, .257 Weatherby, .260 Remington, 6.5x55 SE, 6.5mm Rem. Magnum, 6.5x68S, .270 Winchester, 7mm-08, 7x57, 7x64 Brenneke, .280 Remington, .30-30, .300 Savage, .308 Marlin Express, .308 Winchester, .30-06, .303 British, .32 Winchester Special, 8x57JS, .35 Remington, .44 Rem. Magnum and similar cartridges.

The calibers listed above include a wide range of cartridges. Please remember that these are adequate cartridges only when used within their maximum point blank range (MPBR). The .44 Magnum, for example, is a deadly short range (100 yard) cartridge, but it sheds energy and killing power fast as the range increases. The .30-30 is an excellent medium range cartridge, adequate to around 200 yards. The .257 Weatherby is a long range cartridge with sufficient killing power to cleanly harvest deer at 300 yards. All are fine with proper bullet placement and when used within their MPBR (+/-3") and killing power limitations.

The powerful .270, 7mm and .300 Magnum cartridges are not listed above. They will certainly kill fallow deer, but their use is unnecessary (some might say pointless) for hunting game of this size. Bullet placement is far more important than raw power, so it is best to choose a rifle in a caliber that you can shoot well. Good Hunting!

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Copyright 2006, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.