4 Ways Technology Will Make You a Better Deer Hunter

By Bernie Barringer

Add “new school” to “old school” and
get more bucks!

On an out-of-state bowhunt in 2010, I found myself in the perfect spot. I’d never been there before, but my research from home gave me total confidence in the spot. I used Google Earth to find some great looking terrain, checked the state’s Game and Fish Department website, made some calls to local biologists and planned my hunt. By the time I arrived, I had some good ideas of where to hang stands, and on one of them I scored a really nice buck. I also filled the doe tag the same day.

Deer hunting technology

Sometimes it can be a little intimidating to go to a new area and try to figure out the best way to hunt it. Starting at home in front of the computer can shorten the learning curve significantly. (Photo: Bernie Barringer)

Yes, it was one of the most shining moments in my bowhunting career, but it didn’t happen by accident. The hard work started long before I arrived for the hunt. What made it all the more rewarding was that I had chosen that spot from the screen of my computer before I even bought the tag. The number of resources we have at our fingertips today is truly remarkable. There’s a lot out there, for sure, but I’ve narrowed down some of my favorite “new school” tricks that have helped me redefine my deer hunting skills for the modern era:

1. Using Google Earth and Topographic Maps

Prior to a hunt, I spend a lot of time on Google Earth looking for land features that might indicate a deer hunting hotspot. Funnels or pinch points are obvious, as are field corners, outside edges of river turns, long running barriers to travel and narrow strips of cover between two large blocks of timber. All these and more are potential spots to bag a buck, and they’re obvious on maps and photos you find on the Internet.

Add the factor of topography to the equation and you’ll realize the true value of each of these spots. Some places may look great on the computer screen, but once you figure in the lay of the land they don’t have as much appeal. On the converse, places that look good become great when you discover a steep hill or barrier of some sort that couldn’t be seen from the flatness of your computer screen. Each and every aerial photo needs to be compared to a topographic map or an in-person visual to fully analyze the location’s potential.

Knowing how deer use the terrain and using that knowledge to pick out locations on aerial photos can help you choose great hunting locations within public hunting lands.

2. Downloadable Public Land Maps and Phone/Tablet Apps

Many states have downloadable, interactive public land maps. Some are for using online, which means you must be connected to the Internet, but some you can actually download onto your phone or tablet and access them offline. This is especially helpful where cell phone coverage is unreliable.

Deer hunting technology

Aerial photos available for free through Google Earth and other providers can be a great tool for learning the lay of the land. Sometimes great hunting locations jump right off the screen at you, but all of them must be checked out in person to verify the amount of deer activity in the area. (Photo: Bernie Barringer)

Online maps provided by several states’ websites can be very helpful. They clearly show property borders and features within the properties. They show parking lots, access roads, food plots, even waterholes. In many cases the resolution of the aerial photos is so good you can zoom in and see deer trails. In one case I was examining an aerial photo of public land and the detail was so good I picked out two pheasant hunters and their dogs!

Google Earth has an app that allows you to see where you are on the aerial photos, placing an icon to show your location. In areas with more than two cell phone towers, their location capabilities are every bit as good as GPS. Several other mapping apps offer similar features. Some are linked with weather info such as Scoutlook Weather, which offers other helpful tools including a scent cone feature. Carrying a tablet computer into the field gives you an opportunity to see everything on a larger screen. Tablets and iPads have other uses, some of which I will discuss in the section on game cameras.

Check state wildlife departments’ websites for public land apps. Several states now have them, and others add new ones all the time. If they don’t, a data connection is all you need to access online maps for state websites that don’t have an app yet.

3. GPS Mapping

One of the more helpful technologies is the introduction of GPS maps that include everything from public lands to USGS topo maps. The Trimble Outdoor Maps series is a good one. It features micro SD cards that you insert into your GPS or download from your computer to your GPS. These maps show public lands in different colors. Federal lands, state lands, timber company, county and local public lands are all different colors. These are overlaid on top of topo maps with roads, trails, rivers and other important features.

Some of these GPS applications even have databases with landowner’s contact information. It’s like having an online plat book on your GPS. Property lines are laid out clearly, and the names of property owners are there in the event that you would like to attempt to get permission.

Deer hunting technology

A Google Earth screenshot can reveal excellent deer habitat. This series of wooded draws surrounded by crop fields and pastures has a ton of potential as a deer hotspot. I often print off these aerial photos and take them with me while I scout. (Photo: Bernie Barringer)

With the help of all this technology, choosing a place to hunt is easier than ever before, but you still have to put your feet on the ground to actually know for certain if an area is really as good as it looks from the screen. This is where a preseason trip can be invaluable. It’s rare for me that preseason trips are an option, but let’s take a look at this topic in case it works for you.

4. Trail Cameras

Game cameras have changed hunting like few other advances in technology. Trail cameras are the best tool available for preseason monitoring of deer movements on any piece of property, and nothing takes an inventory of an area’s buck population like a camera set up over an active scrape. That camera will get photos of the majority of the area’s bucks within 2-3 days.

Today’s cameras are small, lightweight, take great photos and have some amazing features. Some will take video, and some will monitor an area by taking a photo every few seconds around the clock. Some even text or email a photo to you as soon as the camera snaps it. This can be a big help in determining where the deer are moving and when. It can also help you catch a thief or a trespasser.

Bottom line – take advantage of the technologies available to you today. You don’t have to abandon “old school” practices, but learning how to use the “new school” tools at your disposal will lead you down the path to more successful deer hunting.

bernie-barringerAbout Bernie Barringer:

Bernie Barringer hunts and fishes for a variety of species in several states and Canadian provinces. He has published more than 600 articles in two dozen outdoor magazines and authored 12 books on hunting, fishing and trapping. The latest is “The Freelance Bowhunter: DIY Strategies for the Travelling Hunter.” He is a recognized authority on DIY hunting, and blogs his hunts on his website www.bowhuntingroad.com.

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Hunting – It’s a Woman’s Right!

By Ron Spomer

Eva Shockey has been under attack from people against hunting

Eva Shockey is the most recent example of female hunters receiving negative attacks from anti-hunters on the Internet. (Photo: Todd Forsbloom)

Editor’s Note: Harassment of women hunters is on the rise, and certain high profile hunters have suffered the brunt of these attacks on the Internet. The latest is Eva Shockey who, with her father Jim Shockey, is sponsored by Havalon Knives. In this essay Ron Spomer comes to the defense of women who hunt, telling us that one of the big reasons for the attacks is that women are the fastest-growing demographic in the hunting world. That means anti-hunters can no longer paint hunting as the domain of Neanderthal men when the same realm is also the province of nurturing women - Steve Sorensen.

If you don’t think that hunting and hunters are under serious attack right now, try being a woman hunter.

Threats in the digital age

Last year, a female hunter had the unmitigated gall to post a picture on her Facebook page of a mature male lion she had shot. Not only was she called every foul name in the book, along with several that aren’t even allowed in the book, but she also received thousands of hate mail messages and hundreds of death threats. Even her parents were threatened. The FBI investigated. National news media reported on the story, but not because of the death threats or the FBI involvement. No, they interviewed the usual anti-hunting organizations and “lion rescue groups,” wrung their hands, cried crocodile tears and questioned how anyone could commit such a barbaric act as shooting an “endangered species.”

Except African lions aren’t even endangered. Nor does regulated sport hunting reduce their populations.

Women hunters are quickly growing in numbers

The fastest growing demographic in hunting has the hand that rocks the cradle. (Photo: Ron Spomer)

The benefits of lion hunting

Here’s the truth: after age 5 or 6, male lions become a burden to their former prides. They’re either killed by younger, stronger males or driven out entirely. They then proceed to prey on cubs of their own species, kill cattle and sometimes even humans. Shooting older male lions actually increases the lion population. More importantly, the money paid by hunters makes lions more valuable to the local people. It funds anti-poaching patrols and habitat restoration efforts that not only benefit lions, but all other native wildlife as well. Hunters fund jobs for dozens of workers at each camp. All of this helps African countries justify saving wild habitats from human encroachment, logging, overgrazing, dams, mines and the usual culprits involved in the disappearance of natural habitats.

But none of that mattered. A female hunter had killed a lion, and that made her fair game for vicious attacks.

Not an isolated incident

She wasn’t the only one. This summer another woman posted photos of herself with game she’d taken on a safari with her father. She got the same vilification on social media and national news outlets. She was called the same foul names, the kind that would get anyone labeled a rabid misogynist in any other context. But because this woman was a hunter, she too was fair game. Defenders of women and women’s rights looked the other way.

Woman archer exercising her right to hunt

This woman certainly doesn’t look scary, but she has all the discipline and perseverance it takes to be a good hunter. Anti-hunters hate that! (Photo: Steve Sorensen)

Anti-hunters fear women hunters

Women who hunt frighten the tolerance right out of anti-hunters (who don’t have much left to lose anyway) because women hunters are no longer few and far between. The fastest growing demographic in hunting has the hand that rocks the cradle. Mothers have a huge influence on the attitudes and philosophies of their children. People who are against hunting don’t want women raising a generation of respectful, dedicated, self-sufficient conservation-hunters.

Despite the success of the women’s movement and our culture’s acceptance of women’s rights, the anti-hunting crowd believes women should stay in their place. Women should squeeze snugly into the pigeonhole of gentle, loving, nurturing protectors. Not killers.

Women are natural hunters

One thing people don’t understand is that hunting is the original, natural role of a competent, protective mother. It’s the female African lions that do the bulk of the hunting, killing and providing. Every female carnivore, from grasshopper mice to polar bears, is a nurturing hunter and killer. Bringing home a bobwhite, bunny or buck and preparing it for the family dinner is the necessary expression of nurturing, motherly love.

But listen: never mind that women have the skills, interest, instincts, obligation and right to provide food for their offspring. Never mind that predation and meat eating are and always have been natural and essential to life on Earth. Never mind that Nature or God (depending on your theological camp) created this system that requires predators to kill and eat other animals. Never mind that this self-sustaining system has been functioning successfully for quite a long time. None of that matters to misogynistic anti-hunters because they know better than Mother Nature. They know better than God. Women should not hunt because people against hunting think they shouldn’t. End of story.

But women don’t care. They won’t be pigeonholed, won’t be denied their natural rights. You might be able to deny them access to certain golf courses, keep them out of Major League Baseball and the NBA, but you won’t keep them out of the deer woods.

Woman hunter with her rifle

Women have the right to hunt for food, for joy, for adventure, for spirits to soar. (Photo: Ron Spomer)

A word to moms and men

Moms – you have the power. You can raise your kids on venison and teach them to understand and respect their role as hunters. You can set the example of a caring, nurturing hunter who guards our woods and waters, who lobbies for increased wildlife habitat and conservation funding. You can teach by example about how responsible hunters demand protection for sustainable populations of wildlife and the places they live. You have the power to teach respect for our game wardens and biologists. You can hold politicians’ feet to the fire in defense of the game your family wants, loves and needs. You can fight for your rights to hunt for food, for joy, for adventure, for your spirits to soar.

Men – take your wives, daughters, mothers, girlfriends, aunts and friends hunting. Share your venison, your stories, your adventures and joy in the great outdoors. Hats off to all our female hunters. They hold the key to the perpetuation – even the salvation – of our hunting heritage. Without our modern Dianas*, we could lose it all.

*Diana was the goddess of the hunt in Roman mythology.

Ron SpomerAbout Ron Spomer:

Ron is rifles/optics columnist for Sporting Classics and North American Hunter magazines and host of Winchester World of Whitetail on NBC Sports. Learn more at www.ronspomeroutdoors.com.

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Viewpoint: The 2014 Havalon Knives/Table Mountain Outfitters Annual Hunting Contest

Havalon Table Mountain Outfitters hunt contest winner

Kevin Barhorst, the lucky winner of the Havalon Knives/Table Mountain Outfitters annual hunting contest. (Photo: Angie Denny)

Every year, Havalon Knives teams up with the great people over at Table Mountain Outfitters to give someone the hunting experience of a lifetime. We select one winner and send them out on an adventure they’ll never forget. Of course, we wouldn’t be able to pull it off without the depth of knowledge and skill from Scott and Angie Denny and the rest of Table Mountain. Below are a few words from this year’s winner, Kevin Barhorst:

To the amazing people at Havalon Knives,

I was recently selected as the winner for the Havalon Knives/Table Mountain Outfitters annual hunt, and wanted to write and say thank you all for the experience I was given.

After finding out I had won, I spent the next few months having trouble believing that I was about to be a part of something so unbelievable. Getting a call like that and trying to wrap my head around what I was chosen to be a part of is truly hard to believe. For a few minutes, I honestly thought it was some kind of joke.

I wanted to take a moment and thank Havalon and John Barrett (who made the trip that much more fun) for what turned out to be the coolest adventure of my life. I have watched more hunting shows than I could ever count. I was literally the guy who sat there thinking about how awesome it would be to actually go out on a big game hunt out west.

As you can imagine, I had no idea what to expect. Flying across the U.S. to somewhere I had never been, staying in a town I had never heard of and spending the entire time with people I’ve never met was a little unnerving to think about. Add to that the fact that my entire experience was going to be filmed for a television show, one that I had actually watched before, made it even more unnerving. However, excitement was always there.

Havalon Knives/Table Mountain Outfitters hunting contest

John Barrett, VP of sales and marketing at Havalon, with his top shot of the day. (Photo: Angie Denny)

Now that it has actually happened I can only sit back and think about how appreciative and humbled I am to have gotten a chance to experience something I never thought would happen in a million years. Scott and Angie Denny, as well as the entire staff at Table Mountain Outfitters, made every second of my adventure that much better. The hospitality of every person there and the camaraderie of all the hunters made this entire event more amazing than I could ever describe on paper.

Not only did this experience bring a mountain of excitement to me, it also did the same for my 3 young boys, and as a father that makes me even more grateful. Not a day has gone by since my wife and kids picked me up from the airport that one of my sons hasn’t asked me about my adventure.

I hope the next unbelieving person shares the same experience I was lucky enough to have, and also have the memories to last them a lifetime, as I now do. I know how lucky I was and still am to be a part of this, and I am extremely grateful. Thank you again, and happy hunting.


Kevin Barhorst

Havalon would like to send out a special thank you
to our friends Scott and Angie Denny at
Table Mountain Outfitters for another successful hunt!

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4 Ways to Know When to Hold ‘Em and When to Fold ‘Em

By Bernie Barringer

Should I Stay? Or should I go?
How to make deer hunting’s most difficult

Deciding on a location for deer hunting can be challenging

The decision of whether or not to stick it out in a tough situation or bail and move on is often a very difficult decision to make. There are many factors to consider. (Photo: Bernie Barringer)

I’d waited three years to draw this Iowa tag. Daytime buck movement was just starting to heat up, and I was collecting trail camera pictures of nice 140 to 160 class bucks. On October 31 my world was thrown into a tailspin. My wife called to tell me her mother had died. The funeral would be on Saturday.

“If you want me to come home, just say the word.” I meant it, just as much as she meant it when she said she wanted me to stay and hunt. I guess that’s part of why this marriage has lasted 35 years.

This was an extreme case, but you don’t have to find out a family member has passed away to be faced with the most difficult choice in DIY deer hunting away from home: should I stick it out a few more days, or should I bail on this plan and move to potentially greener pastures?

In my 20-plus DIY bowhunting road trips, I have faced that decision on almost every trip and – though I hate to admit it – I often zigged when I should have zagged. Usually the decision isn’t whether to pack up and go home with my tail tucked between my legs. I’m usually choosing whether or not to resort to Plan B – moving to another hunting location I’ve already researched.

Knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em is a decision that’s different on every hunt, and can change at any time. The factors that influence a move to Plan B usually come from four basic influences:

1. The influence of weather.

I left Kansas early one time because the November forecast called for several days with highs in the 80s and southerly winds. Try as I might, I couldn’t find good stand locations for that wind direction. I wasn’t seeing much buck movement during the day, and with hot weather suppressing deer activity, I felt my chances weren’t going to improve and moved on to a better option.

I arrived in North Dakota two days later. The trail cameras I’d planted there earlier showed chasing activity at all times of the day. I had made the right choice.

Long stretches of rainy weather can influence your decision as well, and in some cases, extreme cold or wind can cause deer to hole up for several days.

Harsh weather can affect your deer hunt

Weather changes can significantly help or hinder your chances of success. (Photo: Bernie Barringer)

Since smart decisions often depend on weather, gather as much information as possible to make the best decision. Today’s technology allows you to get an accurate long-term forecast at the touch of a finger. Radar shows what’s coming and when. Some good examples of excellent hunting weather apps for your smartphone are Raindar (for Android), Accuweather and Scoutlook® Weather (my favorite).

2. The influence of hunting pressure.

Hunting pressure is one of the unknowns that are hard to research ahead of time. In some places you’ll get more trail camera photos of other hunters than of shooter bucks. You can call biologists and game wardens to get a feel for the hunting pressure you’re likely to encounter, but their advice is largely speculation and the reality might be quite different than expected.

In one case I almost backed out of a plan because I was told the hunting pressure on an 800-acre piece of public land in Kansas was intense during the first week in November. I decided to battle it out because the property was big and I figured I could snake my way into some deep piece of cover and find a buck. I hunted there a week and saw only three other bowhunters. I guess not everyone has the same idea of hunting pressure.

One time I arrived in Missouri and found the parking lot of a public hunting area packed with seven trucks. License plates showed these trucks were from five different states.

While you can’t predict these situations, there’s no excuse for finding yourself in a crowd due to other hunting seasons. Once again in Missouri, I arrived at my hunting spot before daylight on a Saturday morning, surprised to see a lot of activity. A youth hunting season had opened up that day. I knew the season was opening, but was unprepared for the high pressure a rifle season brings in. A little foresight would have helped me plan a stand site that would use the pressure to my advantage.

Get as much info as you can when planning your deer hunt location

Hunting public land can hold all sorts of surprises. The advice given here can make a big difference in your success. Gathering large volumes of information in any way you can really does help make the decision more clear. (Photo: Bernie Barringer)

3. The influence of trail cameras.

You can never have too much information, so game cameras are a huge part of deciding if you should stick it out through tough times or bail.  They offer a lot of information not only about deer movement, but hunting pressure and even the presence of predators. I’ve seen where a pack of coyotes constantly worked a bedding area, and the deer just won’t put up with the harassment. Without trail cameras, I would never have known what was going on.

Deer patterns can change quickly when a crop field is harvested or, on an early season hunt, the acorns drop. Trail cameras are great for figuring out when deer behavior changes.

4. The influence of random factors.

I once had big plans to hunt an out-of-state property and had all my spots marked out on Google Earth. I called a local biologist a few days before leaving to ask him what kind of crops were in the food plots on this public hunting area. He told me they were going to do a controlled burn on several hundred acres of switchgrass the same day I planned to arrive. Because of this, I had to put a Plan B into place rather quickly. Sure glad I made that call.

Sometimes a hunting area just goes dead for no apparent reason. It will happen when coon hunters work an area. The noise, scent and chaos of hounds running through during the night can move the bucks out for a few days. If you aren’t observant, you’d never know an army of hunters and hounds invaded soon after you got out of your stand in the evening. I’ve learned to look for clues in the parking areas to determine if a lot of activity goes on when I’m not around.

Knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em is always a tough call. Most often it’s a combination of subtle clues from a variety of different sources that will help you make the right decision.

About Bernie Barringer:

bernie-barringerBernie Barringer hunts and fishes for a variety of species in several states and Canadian provinces. He has published more than 400 articles in two dozen outdoor magazines and authored 11 books on hunting, fishing and trapping. The latest is The Freelance Bowhunter: DIY strategies for the travelling hunter. He is a recognized authority on DIY hunting, and blogs his hunts on his website www.bowhuntingroad.com.

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Bullets, Ballistics and Gun Cartridges, Oh My! Those Amazing 6.5mms

By Ron Spomer

What’s the best whitetail deer cartridge?
Listen to our shooting expert –
and win that perennial deer camp debate!

Would you believe the all-around best cartridge for deer hunting is also the best for most other North American big game? Actually, it’s several cartridges, and odds are you’ve never seen or shot any of them. But you ought to.

If you want to see an ordinary gun cartridge (the 308 Winchester) enter the phone booth and emerge as Super Centerfire, make sure you study the .260 Remington.

hunting cartridges-deer cartridges-bullet ballistics

Here are the mild-recoiling, flat-shooting, hard hitting, short and efficient 6.5mms. L-R: 6.5 Creedmoor, 260 Remmington, 5.5×55 Swede, 6.5-284 Norma. With the right bullets, each is capable of handling any North American deer, including moose. (Photo: Ron Spomer)

What’s a 6.5?

This mild, unassuming short-action cartridge was created by necking the 308 Winchester down to .264 caliber. It functions through light, short-action rifles, stands just 2.8-inches tall, burns a paltry 46 grains of powder, throws a 140-grain bullet at 2,700 fps, kicks up only 14 foot-pounds of free recoil energy in a 7-pound rifle and runs neck and neck with the famously flat-shooting .270 Winchester – which is arguably the best deer cartridge in history.

To appreciate the .260 Remington, consider that the .270 Winchester stands 3.34″ tall, must run through a standard-length rifle action, burns 59 grains of powder to push a 150-grain bullet 2,900 fps and jolts you with 20 foot-pounds of free recoil in a 7-pound rifle. Here’s what the ballistic performance of both bullets looks like:

Drop/Energy/Wind Drift comparison, both zeroed at 240 yards, 10 mph right angle wind

deer cartridge comparison-hunting rifle ballistics chart


These numbers tell the practical deer hunter two salient facts: ballistic performance between the two is virtually undetectable, especially in field conditions, and the .260 Remington won’t kick as hard. That means you’ll probably shoot it more accurately, and everyone knows shot placement puts meat in the freezer and antlers on the wall.

hunting cartridges-deer cartridges-bullet ballistics

Here’s a Kansas buck that fell in its tracks when hit with a 130-grain Nosler Accubond fired from a 6.5-284 Norma cartridge in a Blaser R39 rifle. It was ranged at 267 yards. (Photo: Ron Spomer)

The 6.5 Family

This little-known .260 Remington isn’t the Lone Ranger out there. It’s a near ballistic triplet to the 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser and 6.5 Creedmoor. If you can handle just 2 foot-pounds more free recoil, the 6.5-284 Norma makes any of the four short-action 6.5mms nigh perfect for most big game hunting. The 6.5-284 can add 150 fps muzzle velocity to the same long, extremely efficient 140-grain .264 bullets the others shoot.

The 6.5 Advantage: High BC

Those long, sleek bullets are the real magic behind these mid-size 6.5mm cartridges. Target shooters discovered this some time ago, but hunters are just now beginning to appreciate it. We used to think we needed bigger, heavier bullets and magnum doses of powder to increase ballistic performance. Turns out we can get much of the same results from high BC .264-caliber bullets without the magnum recoil. Here’s an example:

Drop/Energy/Wind Drift comparison, both zeroed at 240 yards, 10 mph right angle wind

deer cartridge comparison-hunting rifle ballistics chart


What’s going on? Ballistic Coefficient. The longer, sleeker and more pointed a bullet, the less energy it wastes pushing air out of its way. It conserves energy. You can get the same trajectory performance out of the .300 Winchester Magnum, but you’d have to fire a 200-grain boat tail spire point to do it. And that’s a lot more recoil, more powder, a louder blast, occasional reduced barrel life and most times a longer barrel and a bulkier rifle.Look carefully at those numbers. Even though the “little” 140-grain bullet carries 400 foot pounds less energy at 200 yards, it’s already deflecting less in the wind. By 500 yards it’s packing MORE punch than the 180-grain .300 magnum bullet, falling 5 inches less and drifting 8 inches less. It’s outperforming a .300 magnum.

Goldilocks Cartridges

The sweet thing about the mid-power 6.5mms is their overall balance. You might call them the Goldilocks cartridges. Not too slow, fast, weak, strong, loud, painful – but just right. They deliver all the performance you need for deadly results on whitetails, mule deer, black tails, pronghorns, sheep, hogs, black bears out as far as anyone ought to be shooting. And I wouldn’t hesitate to use them on caribou, elk and moose. After all, with the right bullet they’re outperforming .300 magnums.

hunting cartridges-deer cartridges-bullet ballistics

The 6.5s shoot a nice variety of bullet sizes from 95 grain through 160 grain. the optimum seems to be the extremely sleek, low-drag, high BC 140 grains. (Photo: Ron Spomer)

Those are the facts. And now, you have all the ammunition you need to convince anyone with an open mind that the 6.5mm cartridges are Super Centerfires in a mild-mannered package.

Ron SpomerAbout Ron Spomer:

Ron is rifles/optics columnist for Sporting Classics and North American Hunter magazines and host of Winchester World of Whitetail on NBC Sports. Learn more at (www.ronspomeroutdoors.com).

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