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What Distance Should You Sight in Your Deer Hunting Rifle?

Sighting in your Deer Hunting Rifle
Winchester Ballistic Silver Tip

Please remember that this is just an opinion based on our whitetail deer stand setups and overall nationwide deer hunting stats, and that is that most whitetail deer are harvested at around 50 yards no matter the state you live in, South Carolina is no different.

Most of what I find when asking a hunter “at what distance did you sight in their rifle?” They reply 100 yards, at least 80% of the time. I know this is mainly because whitetail deer ammunition traditionally prints right on the box a 100 yard zero and that’s the only data available at the time. I usually then ask where does your bullet impact at 50 yards and most of the time they look at me like I just asked what is the square root of 90. Do your homework and download a ballistics calculator to get a good starting point and references for all yardages. Shoot, shoot and then shoot again to know your rifle. Personally, I prefer to set my rifle at a 50 yard zero and with my 165 grain Winchester Ballistic Tip ammunition I am – 1 inch at 25 yards, + 1 inch at 100 yards, Zero again at 150 yards, and about – 3 inches at 200 yards. This means I just have to remember to hold dead center on a whitetail deer out too 200 yards and most of the time it ends up on the meat pole. 


Beyond 200 yards I have a pocket card I carry that lists the drops in 50 yard increments out to 500 yards. Seldom used but often looked at when ranging on a deer stand. Our recommendation is to zero your deer hunting rifle, so you know your maximum distance that you do not have to think about where you place the cross hairs when that buck of a lifetime steps out, it’s game on. One less thing to think about increases your odds tenfold.

Also, something to remember during your whitetail deer hunting season is that air density and temperature make a difference, so if you sight in your rifle say July and hunt in November the temperature can be 20-30-degree difference which will have a major change in point of impact. Shoot and shoot often as it promotes good habits and builds confidence! Another highly overlooked factor in shot placement is a polymer or wood stock. Humidity can affect wood and place pressure on the barrel changing your point of impact at all yardages. I know outfitters out West that prohibit wooden stocked weapons and only allow polymer for the main reason is your success is their success. Every time I see someone show up and shoot a rifle and find it is off by 2 inches or so they say it must have gotten knocked around in the trip to see us. Most of those guns are wood stock and it probably is not the scope but I hold my tongue and get them too zero. Most of the time if your scope has been put on the gun correctly it will not change point of impact unless it is broken or takes a huge impact. Good shooting!

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