I have been messing with a .243 Win the past couple seasons. Last year I killed 4 deer with it, a 140lb doe, a 200lb buck, and two smaller 100lb deer. All deer went down in less than 100 yards, and the internal damage was amazing, but the blood trails were non existent on 3 of the 4. One shot was through the shoulders, the other three were through the ribs and lungs. Luckily I was hunting in a large field and saw 2 go down. The other two were found just in the woods, but it was blind searching, blood trailing was not possible.
This season I shot a mature doe, probably 130lb, at 200 yds. The Shot was lethal, bubbles in the blood meaning a lung hit, but once again, there was nothing more that five small drops of blood. This deer went into an extremely thick young pine forest, and I never found it. We looked for hours, and I am sure the deer is dead, but there was no blood to go on.
My blood trailing has been nearly all bow or muzzleloader kills, I have not trailed a deer killed with a rifle larger than a .243. Is this typical of all rifle calibers, or does the .243 just make such a small hole that blood does not leak out very well?
I'd like to hear some of your experiances with this caliber.
I would like to say, I am not doubting the killing power of this cartridge, it is deadly, I just have not had good blood trails with it.
What bullets are you using for your 243? I killed many deer with the one I had with differant bullets. some of the blood trails i had a blind man could have followed...some I got no blood all the way up to a dead deer laying on the ground.
I've taken quite a few deer with a 243 over the years, it was my first deer rifle and I've used it for antlerless season ever since. I would not call the lack of blood trail typical of the 243 or any larger deer rifle, but it mostly depends on what bullet you were using. I think the money for premium bullets is well spent especially in a small caliber rifle.
First question is did the bullets exit? A small entrance wound, especially one higher in the chest, will not bleed to much until the chest cavity fills with blood.
As to bullets, there are two options that both worked well for me under the right conditions. Berger VLD bullets have performed great for me from the 243, and HSM now loads them in factory ammo if you don't handload. These bullets will get into the chest cavity 2-3" and then begin to expand dramatically for the next 12" or so causing major internal damage. These bullets won't leave a blood trail, but I've never had a deer go over 20ft after the shot. Look under the reloading forum at my test results on the 87gr berger for more specifics.
The other option is to go with a bullet like the Nosler Partition, Barnes TSX, or Swift Scirocco that is designed to retain 60-100% of it's weight and penetrate through the deer. These won't likely drop a deer as fast as the Berger, but is much more likely to exit and leave a good blood trail if the deer runs after the shot. 100gr Sierra gamekings have also gave me good results for a long time, and are available in Federal factory ammo.
I wouldn't recommend taking any shot other than broadside on a deer with a 243, which is why I only use mine during antlerless season. For broadside shots I like the Bergers, and plan to continue using them. An added bonus for me is that with the small entrance wound and no exit they leave very little blood on the ground to contaminate your hunting area with it's scent. A 243 is plenty of gun for this type of shot.
I use 130-140gr Nosler accubonds in my 264,270, or 270WSM for buck season because I may get a quartering or head-on shot and feel more comfortable with the added energy and penetration from these bullets. In my hunting situation I don't always get the perfect broadside shot I would take with my 243. Accubonds open very fast on impact, then hold together to penetrate well making for a good blood trail from both the entrance and exit wound. I've never had a buck go over 100yds after being hit with an accubond and always had a good blood trail.
Nosler is coming out with a 90gr 243 accubond in 2011 that should be a good choice also. Accubonds have a rating of 4.8 out of 5 on Cabelas with 149 reviews, and Berger VLD Hunting bullets have a 4.8 rating with 75 reviews. They must be working for everyone to be rated this high.
I use the Sierra Gameking 85g HPBT in my 243. Works pretty good and will exit with a nice hole to leak blood out of most times. Double shoulder hit on a buck might leave the bullet inside but it won't go far.
Sometime I am planning on building a load for the Berger bullet. They may be the best thing since the Sierra HPBT.
I am no big fan of tough bullets for deer in the 243. Had more than a couple leave pencil holes with no blood and dead deer laying a long ways away with little sign of being hit. I was hunting in a National refuge one time and watched a guy hit a deer with a 243 and 100g bullets. He swore up and down the deer wasn't hit until I took him to the deer 300 yards away. No blood until it rubbed on some corn stalks 20 yards from the deer.
With the 85gHPBT the exit hole on a double lung shot is one to 2 inches. I have watched a giant muley doe with a hole like that trot around for 200yards with blood spraying out the hole 6' before it decided it was out of blood to pump.
Bigger rifles can make bigger holes or pencil through all depending on what bullet they use. The 140gHPBT Sierra Gameking in a 270 will make an exit hole big enough to put your fist through. A high hit with a 300 mag will cut a deer nearly in half. Put in a heavy duty bullet and either one might just make a little hole that the deers fat seals up.
We use the 243 with the 105gr VLD ALOT for deer and antelope. I can't say it makes great blood trails, but we don't pay attention on most shots because the animal is either laying in the same 4 tracks he was standing in when we shot, or within a couple dozen yards.
As stated earlier in this thread, almost any caliber and bullet can result in not seeing much leakage with certain types of hits.
I can't say that blood trail quality is ever something I think about when rating a bullets performance, but we hunt fairly open country most of the time. I am looking for extremely quick death with a proper hit and as much damage as possible when poor placement happens. I do bowhunt a bunch where of course bloodtrailing makes or breaks recoveries.
you don't say what bullet. i shot some deer and antelope with my sako .243. 100 grain horn, 95 partition, and 85 sierra bthp. rarely left the four tracks they were in. longest i remember is maybe ten yards. i had one rifle at the time , shot everthing with it so i was confident. guided a couple guys using them for elk. while all three got one it is not ideal.