Whitetail Hunting photo

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With the NCAA college basketball Final Four round now less than a week away, the time has come to tip-off our own March Madness, beginning with brush-rifle braketology. As your surely know, one subgroup into which deer rifles are commonly separated is the brush rifle–typically a light, quick-pointing gun that facilitate quick follow-up shots and is chambered for a short- to medium-range round sporting a fairly heavy bullet.


So we start with 16 contenders for the title of Best Whitetail Brush Rifle, which have been chosen, split into two divisions, and seeded by SHOT Business contributing editor Christopher Cogley, whom I chose to help with this, like year, so that I would have someone to throw under the bus if it comes to that. Cogley’s seeded selections (which I encourage you to take issue with) are as follows:

Division I
1. Winchester Model 94: The legendary Model 94–America’s best-selling centerfire rifle–has probably taken more deer than any other gun, ever. Enough said.
2. Marlin Model 308MXLR: All the qualities of a great brush gun with the flat-shooting ability of a long range rifle. Hard to argue with that.
3. Savage 99: It’s been out of production for more than 15 years and remains one of the most popular rifles in deer camp for one reason – it works.
4. Browning BAR: Browning set the standard in autoloaders, and today’s lightweight ShortTrac version makes a handy, very accurate brush rifle.
5. Remington Model Seven: For the hunter who really knows how to work a bolt-action, a light, quick-handling version works just fine in the brush. Just as all those Model Seven fans.
6. Mossberg 464: Mossberg’s new lever action shows promise to become a suitable successor to the Model 94. But it still has to prove itself in the hands of deer hunters.
7. Ruger 96/44: What Ruger lacks in options for lever-action rifles, it makes up for in quality. The 96/44 is light, quick, and compact, but used models of this discontinued gun can be tough to find.
8. Tikka T3 Lite: If you prefer a bolt action for the deer woods, the quick-handling T3 is a fantastic value.

Division II
1. Marlin 336: Marlin’s family of classic lever actions have been busting bucks for generations, and the hugely popular 336 has long been the shining sibling.
2. Remington Model 7600: A classic utilitarian, work-horse of a brush gun. You won’t find a more popular rifle in today’s north-woods deer camps.
3. Browning BLR: With the addition of the many new WSM options, the BLR might well surpass the classic lever actions in the deer woods. Some day.
4. Henry .30-30 (Steel with Round Barrel): A well-built, nicely-priced American made gun from the company that introduced the lever-action rifle about 150 years ago. A solid, smooth performer.
5. Remington Model 750 Woodsmaster: Although not yet time-tested, the 750 shows great promise as a new and more reliable version of the early classic Woodsmaster autoloaders.
6. Savage Model 11 Lightweight Hunter: With Savage’s excellent AccuTrigger and superb reputation for accuracy and value, this 5-1/2-pounder is a heck of a bolt gun for the brush.
7. Kimber Model 84M: The qualities that make the Kimber a fantastic mountain rifle also make it a great woods gun. But it ain’t cheap.
8. Remington Model R-15 450 Bushmaster: The styling is bound to turn off some traditional big-woods hunters, but at 7-1/2 pounds, with an 18-inch barrel, and big-bore wallop, this is a quick-pointing, legitimate brush gun.

So check out the bracket (you can click here to print out a larger copy if you want to fill it out). Then vote for your preferred brush gun in each matchup below to begin the first round of play for Division I. We’ll follow up with Division II in a couple of days, then move on the Elite Eight, Final Four, and National Whitetail Brush Rifle Championship in a couple of weeks.

Sweet Sixteen Whitetail Brush Rifles Tournament: Division I