Recently on my statewide Sunday night talk radio program, Maine Outdoors (on the Blueberry Broadcasting Network), I chatted by phone with John Floyd. He is a guide-outfitter and gun writer for the Northwoods Sporting Journal.

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

Floyd had agreed in advance to focus his comments on one of the most hotly discussed topics, guaranteed to get the conversation revving at any Maine deer camp: “What is the best all-around rifle for deer hunting the Maine woods?”

If you are a serious deer hunter, the answer is on the tip of your tongue. Of course, your deer rifle is the best Maine deer gun, period! Otherwise, why would you have it?

To my delight, the telephone bank at the radio station lit up like the Christmas tree at Times Square. Lots of opinions were expressed, and many comments were supported by some compelling and well-thought-out reasons why a particular deer rifle deserved top billing.

Gun writer Floyd prefaced his list of gun choices with this observation: After all is said and done, and you compare, say, a Winchester lever action .30-.30 with a .44 Ruger carbine, nothing trumps shot placement. For any deer hunter, shot placement is what brings home the venison and the assurance of an ethical shot at Maine’s wariest big game animal.

When you talk deer guns there are two facets involved: 1) calibers and 2) style of gun and gun brands. Like many Maine deer hunters, Floyd has two go-to deer guns — a lever action .30-30 “brush gun” and a bolt-action .30-06 for the open spaces and long shots.

As you might guess, there is a closer consensus as to the best calibers rather than style or brands of guns. Few of the callers disagreed with the experts, who rate best deer calibers in this order: 1) 30-06 2) .308 3) .270.

Call it anecdotal evidence, but it was clear from the calls that, while it may not rate as the “best Maine deer gun,” the Winchester lever-action 30-30 certainly begets the most loyalty. If you stood up at a deer camp and just insisted that it deserved a place at the first position on any deer hunter’s gun rack, you would get little push back, if any.

Floyd urges new deer hunters shopping for the right gun to find one that has a recoil that is not personally uncomfortable, uses ammunition that is commonplace and not hard to find, and is not too heavy and pleasing to look at as well.

My favorite deer guns are a Marlin lever-action in .35 Remington and a Ruger One in .270. If forced to pick one of these as my sole deer gun, it would be the Marlin, hands down. Diane uses the Marlin during deer season, so I don’t get to carry it much. She likes it. The gun is practical, functional and packs a punch. She has used it successfully on deer, elk, bear and even moose. The perfect Maine brush gun, in my view. The Ruger One? Yep, it’s a breech-style, single-shot rifle. I like its lines, simplicity, and the idea that I only get one shot, so I’d better make it count.

We’ll have to talk deer guns again on Maine Outdoors. Clearly, Mainers deeply appreciate and know their deer guns intimately and love to join in when the conversation shifts to best Maine deer guns.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at

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