Is There A Handgun Season for Whitetail Deer?

  • Joey Upper
Image courtesy of IRQ11

It’s hard not to look at a handgun you don’t really have a good use for and try to dream up scenarios in which it could be exactly what you need to get the job done. 

It often prompts the question: “Can I hunt deer with a handgun?” 

The short answer is (in case you want to quit reading at this point) yes, you can. As a general rule, it’s legal to hunt whitetail deer with handguns, although as always be sure to check your state and local laws. North Carolina, as an example, permits handgun hunting under its all-purpose “gun” season.

According to Dave Workman from Gun Digest, Washington (the state)’s game commission had recently-ish made it copacetic to hunt with handguns. Rules are weird. Be sure to follow yours. 

Handgun Options for Whitetail Hunting

Now that we’ve established that you (probably) can hunt whitetail in your area, let’s take a look at some options that might make you want to leave the rifle in the safe this fall. 

The firearm in my collection that sparked the chain of thought that led to this article is the Taurus 689. It’s chambered in .357 Magnum, sports a 6” vented rib barrel, and generally oozes badassery. 

Photo courtesy of Apolsak. You gotta love the 10 .357 rounds for the 6-shot cylinder.

It’s also credited by Wikipedia as being the very first termed “hand cannon,” courtesy of Tarantino classic “Pulp Fiction.” 

.357 Magnum is an iconic cartridge, famed for its personal defense capability. It can play double-duty as a hunting handgun and cartridge, according to David LaPell of While not as popular a cartridge as the .44 Magnum for hunting, LaPell notes: 

Would I prefer to use a larger caliber for deer? Yes, but if all I had was my .357 on me, I would not fret to plug a shooter. It’s enough pop for the job; and it’s a job that doesn’t require as much caliber as many hunters assume. It can be done and has been done before but it’s like anything else in hunting. As long as you know your limitations and use common sense and good judgment you can bring home the bacon, the backstraps and the rest of the animal.

I’m going to be keeping and using the “bacon, backstraps, and the rest of the animal” instead of “the head, the tail, and the whole d***** thing” any time I can think of now. Thanks, David. 

Taking an aggregate of both Field and Stream’s and NRA American Hunter’s top handgun cartridge articles, here are some of the Greatest Hits, in no particular order: 

  1. .44 Magnum
  2. .41 Magnum
  3. .454 Casull
  4. .357 Magnum
  5. 10mm

The point is, you’ve got options. No matter what option you choose, however, always check your local and state laws concerning hunting in your area. Practice proper firearms safety at all times.

Beef Up Your Firearms Knowledge with SDI

And lastly (but certainly not least), if the world of firearms technology is something you’d like to understand on a deeper level, consider Sonoran Desert Institute’s programs in the School of Firearms Technology. 

Sonoran Desert Institute is an online school with programs in firearms and drone technologies, and is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. Learn more about our Associate of Science in Firearms Technology and Certificate in Firearms Technology – Gunsmithing and see if SDI can help you learn what you love! 

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