First off, I congratulate you on your "limitations" for a choice.
Everybody has favorites and most wont admit that recoil is a consideration. When it comes to how much and how often a person practices LR shooting and how quickly they're apt to get proficient at it, recoil and muzzle blast has a huge affect In my experience.
Can you give us a few more criteria??
What ranges (distances we are likely to need
Nobody on this planet needs
to shoot a deer at beyond 700-800 yds. If they do, they need to become a better hunter or hunt a different area! Not touting ethics here, but this is about choices, which are usually based on needs or wants. Need or want is the factor......just curious which it is?
What weight rifle are you willing to consider? Weight has a huge affect on recoil impulse and our ability to get closer to the deer without wearing ourself out first.
Is this to be a dedicated LR only
gun? If so, modern muzzle breaks greatly reduce recoil and increase our options, but they absolutely require hearing protection IMO. On the other hand, we can often get by without protection with non-breaked rifles in "all around" hunting situations. Are you willing to make this gun a dedicated LR only gun, and know for sure that you'll have plenty of time to put in/on hearing protection for any and every shot??
If your answer is yes, .......then our options just opened up alot, but not necessarily necessary. It's still about precision and accuracy.
Assuming deer size game, 1200 ft.lbs is more than needed if we can gaurantee a broadside lung hit with an expanding bullet, 800 ft.lbs with the proper bullet will give compete pass throughs, a decent exit wound and usually a blood trail too. Which circles right back around to your original statement.......a miss is a miss no matter how big the bullet. A leg or gut wound is still a miserable shot no matter how much energy the damn thing is transfering. Put the bullet in the boiler and he's going down within 100yds a huge% of the time, so long as the bullet does what it's supposed to do
!! Nearly 30 yrs of guiding deer and antelope hunters has shown me this time and time again. Results simply dont lie.
It's all about the "high percentage shot" as Shawn Carlock describes it in his LR shooting videos. IMO, knowing
what a high percentage shot is, only comes with practice
and the more often we practice; the more accurate we can shoot..........That my friend is what increases the distance capabilities of our rifles. It's got little to do with the biggest badest magnum on the mountain. Big is only important if we can shoot it well. Once we reach the limit of the guns' , ammos' or our own
precision and accuracy.......we're done anyway!! Doesn't matter how deep such and such bullet penetrates the side of the hill. If we can't put the bullet within a few inches of where we're aiming, it's not a high percentage shot on deer size game.
Sorry to rant, your post just inspired a little spark. LOL
If you give a little more criteria, I'd bet you'll get alot of responses.