Two separate calibres for foxes and deer?

Picture: Sparsholt

Picture: Sparsholt - Credit: Archant

The farm I currently shoot rabbits on has now given me permission to control the foxes and deer. I intend to apply for a variation but I am unsure whether to apply for two separate calibres or one all-rounder?

THE SPARSHOLT TEAM replies: You have not stated what deer species are present on the estate and what area of the UK you are in, which has an effect on the calibres available to you. If there are muntjac or Chinese water deer, you are legally allowed to cull them using a rifle calibre of at least .220, achieving a minimum muzzle energy 1,000ft/lb and a bullet weighing no less than 50 grains. This obviously opens up the possibility of .220, .222, .223 and 22-250, all of which are fantastic purpose-made foxing rifles that can easily double up as a small deer calibre. If you opt for one of these do take some care with your choice of bullet – some, designed for use on small or medium vermin, can break up too quickly and may not deform predictably to penetrate the tougher skin and greater bulk of a muntjac.

If the deer you have are roe or the larger species, your rifle must be at least .240 and achieve a muzzle energy of 1,700ft/lb or greater; the most common minimum calibre tends to be the popular .243 which is a perfectly adequate fox/deer round and would suit your needs as a dual calibre. It does, however, produce relatively low terminal energy and if you have predominantly fallow, sika or red deer I would recommend increasing calibre to the likes of .25-06, 6.5x55, .270 or .308. These are all deer legal with ballistic tip bullets available in the 100-130g range which would make a great foxing round, too.

In Scotland, there are some differences regarding deer legal calibres. The Deer (Scotland) Order does not stipulate a minimum calibre for shooting roe deer, however, it states you must have a bullet weight of at least 50 grains, a minimum muzzle velocity of 2,450ft/sec and a muzzle energy of at least 1,000ft/lb; this means the .222, .223 and .22-250 can, with the right cartridge load, all be legal calibres to take roe only in Scotland. All other species can only be taken with a minimum calibre of .240, a minimum bullet weight of at least 100 grains, a minimum muzzle velocity of 2,450 ft/sec and a muzzle energy of at least 1,700ft/lb.

Although having two tailor-made calibres is always going to be the perfect scenario, it ultimately depends on the depth of your pockets, and don’t forget that you’ll also need to pay for two sets of optics, two moderators, etc. Good luck with your decision.