I like your choice of the AR–although honestly, to learn the importance of shot placement, I have always taught people on a 7mm08 single shot. That said, If you’re going the AR route for deer hunting, there are some very good cartridges to consider. 22 caliber options aren’t options, IMO. Elmer Kieth’s famous quote is worth remembering–“Use enough gun.” Deer aren’t going to notice if you shoot them with a 30/30 or .458 Win mag or a .50 cal Barrett. They’ll be just as dead. But wounding one? It’s best avoided.
Here’s 2 of many–the only two I’ve hunted with from an AR platform.
- .308. AR 10 action --a little heavier, but it’s the best. I have used this out west and in the Midwest. Highly recommend. Shot mule deer, whitetail, bear, hogs. MIGHT use it for elk, but at the end of the day, I like my .300WM.
- 6.5 Grendel–my wife uses this. AR 15 action and mags but needs a different barrel and BCG. than .223/5.56. She’s shot mule deer and hogs with it.
I would not hunt big game with a .22 caliber weapon. Hunting brings you into a world of variables you simply cannot predict or control, and there is no guarantee that perfect shot placement is possible. If you’re off a little with a .30 cal 150 grain polymer tipped barnes, it’s not a big deal. If you’re off with a 130 gr. 6.5 nosler ballistic tip, the thing is still DRT (dead right there). I would not bet that will be case with a .22 cal anything.
Do people hunt with a .22 cal centerfire for big game? Absolutely. Some people win money at casinos, too. Just because somebody has done it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for everyone else. As a new hunter, you have an ethical obligation to the animal to provide a quick, clean kill. I’ll let you decide what to do.
FYI–There are a number of mentor hunter programs out there. I would recommend you join a hunt club and make some friends there as well. Lots of good books on deer hunting as well.
p.s. I learned more about deer in one year of bowhunting than I did in 20 years of gun hunting. Highly recommend you pick it up. If you can harvest a deer with a bow, you’re doing EVERYTHING right.