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5 Cartridges for Still Hunting and Tracking

Lee Schanz discuss the best cartridges for still-hunting and tracking in the Big Woods

A few years ago, my dad gave me a nearly complete collection of “Maine Fish and Game” magazines from the late 1950s to the 1990s. The magazine came out 4 times a year and every fall issue listed the biggest bucks taken the previous fall. It makes for very interesting reading and reveals peoples’ choices for hunting the Big Woods.

In the fall of 958, 3 of the 4 biggest bucks shot in Maine were taken with the good old 30-30 Winchester. This isn’t surprising. If you look through old books, magazines, and postcards, the majority of photos show hunters holding lever action Winchester, Marlin, and Savagae rifles.

Ten years later in 1968, the 30-30 was still top dog, but the 30-06 and .308 were almost even in popularity. I think this was due to several factors. The 30-06 was used by many Mainers for their service in World War II and the Korean conflict. Also new rifles in bolt, pump, and semi-auto persuasion were being introduced. The same could be said for the .308 and it wasn’t introduced until the mid-1950s. By the 1970s and 80s, the 30-06 and .308 had overtaken the 30-30. The 1988 fall issue revealed that the biggest buck in Maine was taken with the .308. The next 5 biggest bucks were taken with the 30-06 and number 7 and 8 were taken with the .308. One thing is clear, 30 caliber rifles and carbines are the most popular by far in the “Big Woods” of Maine.

By using “Maine Fish and Game” as a reference point, I would say that the 2 most popular non-30 caliber cartridges are probably the .270 and the .35 Remington. The .270 grew in popularity as bolt rifles became more popular and it was also available in the Remington pump 760 and 7600 and Remington semi-auto 742 and 7400 guns, which are frequently seen in the Big Woods. I would attribute the .35 Remington’s popularity to the fact that it was available in Marlin lever guns and Remington pumps including the old model 14 and 141 pump guns.

If your favorite caliber didn’t make the list, don’t feel bad, mine didn’t either. I have shot big bucks over 200 pounds with the 30-06, .308, and 270, and I can attest to their legitimacy. As far as the 30-30 and .35 Remington are concerned, I can only say that some of my friends, who are great trackers and guides, use them and are perfectly satisfied.

Check out the Big Woods Bucks store for peep sights for the 760 and 7600, as well as Marlin, Winchester, and Henry rifles.



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