I’ve heard a rumor that there is a big basketball tournament going on, but I can’t say for sure. What I do know is that March means the Sweet 16 of Deer Something, and this year that something is long-range cartridges for our favorite medium-size cervids.

While I have done enough open-country hunting to have an opinion here (go .257 Weatherby!), I am mostly a big-woods guy and, in any case, don’t have nearly the technical knowledge or experience in this field that well-known gun writer Layne Simpson does. And so, for that reason–and to give you guys someone else to hammer on for a change–I asked him to choose and seed the contenders, in two Divisions.

To better define the category, Simpson writes:
Long-range deer cartridges are what southern beanfield rifles are chambered for; same goes for rifles used to bump off whitetails standing at the far ends of Texas senderos; or for shooting big whitetails and mule deer across sagebrush flats in Wyoming and Montana. These cartridges are capable of reaching across vast, wind-swept fields in Alberta to tag whitetails weighing 300 pounds and up and even heavier trophy mulies, and they’re ideal for shooting Coues deer in Old Mexico at distances that take your breath away. In other words, not exactly .35 Remington country.

Got it. Okay. Simpson’s seeded selections are listed and explained below in two Divisions. Now let’s get started. Check out the bracket above (you can click here to print out a copy if you want to fill it out by hand). Then vote for your preferred long-range deer cartridge in each matchup below to begin the first round of play for Division I. We’ll follow up with Division II, then move on the Elite Eight, Final Four, and finally the F&S Long-Range Deer Cartridge Championship.

Division 1

[1] 7mm Remington Magnum: Introduced in 1962 in Remington’s best-selling Model 700 rifle, it has become America’s favorite magnum cartridge. Those who use it on long-range deer understand why.

[2] 6.5-284 Norma: Once used mostly by 1,000-yard target shooters, this old American wildcat turned Finnish factory cartridge is now being discovered by hunters who appreciate its qualities.

[3] .30-06: Often described as America’s most useful big-game cartridge, this accurate old warhorse shoots flat enough and hits hard enough with a level of recoil easily tolerated by most hunters. It will never die.

[4] .257 Weatherby Magnum: The favorite cartridge of Roy Weatherby, who used it to kill a Cape buffalo just to prove it could be done. Works even better on deer and shoots banjo string flat, to boot.

[5] .257 Roberts: This light-kicking cartridge is named for Ned Roberts. In today’s +P loadings it is more effective on deer than it was when he created it back in the 1920s by necking down a 7x57mm Mauser case.

[6] .243 Winchester: Based on ammunition sales in 2011, the .243 Winchester was the most popular big-game medicine at Federal Cartridge. So many happy deer hunters cannot all be wrong.

[7] .25-06 Remington: When creating this one back in the 1920s, Adolph Niedner called it the .25 High Power Special. Its 120-grain bullet at 3000 fps defies gravity and turns a distant deer every way but loose.

[8] .260 Remington: Mild-kicking, quick-acting poison on deer, the .260 suffers from neglect simply because America’s hunters have never taken a serious liking to bullets measuring .264 inch in diameter.

Division 2

[1] .300 Winchester Magnum: Three out of five doctors recommend the .300 Winchester Magnum for shooting deer at long range. And plenty of Alberta outfitters who specialize in big whitetails and mule deer agree with the prescription.

[2] .264 Winchester Magnum: Winchester’s full-page advertisements in 1958 said the new cartridge “Makes a helluva noise and packs a helluva punch.” It still does and like most magnums it is at its best in a 26-inch barrel.

[3] 7mm STW: Push a 140-grain bullet to 3400 fps, zero it three inches high at 100 yards and it strikes below point of aim a mere half the body depth of a deer at 400 yards where it delivers over 2000 ft-lbs of punch. Enough said.

[4] .270 WSM: A bit faster than the .270 Winchester, this cartridge is a great choice for the deer hunter who absolutely must have a magnum cartridge short enough to squeeze into a short-action rifle.

[5] .270 Winchester: The cartridge that Jack O’Connor built continues to offer excellent accuracy, a flat trajectory, plenty of downrange energy and a level of recoil easily managed by most hunters. Long live the .270.

[6] .280 Remington: Developed by Remington back in the 1950s for the company’s Model 740 autoloader, the .280 has become a favorite in bolt-action rifles. Try it and you will see why.

[7] .308 Winchester: Originally created for war, the .308 is now extremely popular among hunters. It is accurate, it doesn’t kick too hard, it kills deer dead enough, and many different rifles are chambered for it.

[8] 7mm-08 Remington: A necked-down .308 Winchester, the “Seven-O-Eight” can be just as accurate. It also kicks lighter and kills deer just as dead, making it a wise choice in any short-action rifle.