This year, after shooting my deer, I was laughed at for using ballistic-tipped ammo by a hunter who I’ve known for a long time and respect dearly. So the question is obvious, should I be using ballistic-tipped ammo? Before we dive into that, I think it’s important for me to reflect on last year’s hunt for a minute. 

I ‘Grew Up’ on Tipped Ammo

Last year was my first time hunting, and I met it with full success if I do say so myself. Kristin Alberts, an avid hunter and regular writer for, took me under her wing to teach me all she could in a short time about deer hunting. One of the things she stressed in testing rifles was to hunt with a tipped bullet, particularly a ballistic tip if possible.

My first deer hunt
My first hunt was a success with Sierra tipped Gameking ammunition. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/

After testing a variety of guns, I settled on the Remington 700 in 7mm Rem Mag, which was a gorgeous rifle from the Certified Used Collection. I chose this because I was the most accurate with it, easily placing shots within the vitals of a paper target from 100 yards. It also helped that the gun came with three boxes of ammo that Kristin procured from Sierra and Federal. When ammo is as scarce and expensive as it has been for the past two years, I won’t lie and say that didn’t factor into the equation. So, I’ve never shot anything other than tipped ammo through this rifle.

Ultimately, I took a very nice buck – beginners’ luck never ceases to amaze – and I just happened to be on the right side of Lady Fortune that day. I took it with the Sierra tipped Gameking ammo. One thing that was a bit strange, however, was we couldn’t initially find the entry wound. More on that in a minute…

Back to This Year’s Hunt

This year, Kristin told me we couldn’t hunt her land because she was going to be gone for deer season. It was a bummer, for sure, and left me scrambling to find a place to hunt. Being new to hunting and having never done public land myself, I had few options. I phoned an old buddy from high school in the hopes that he would let me on his family’s land.

To my delight, he said he had an open tree stand for me the closing weekend of the season. While my fear of heights made for an uncomfortable 25-foot climb up the tree, I kept telling myself the love of venison and stocking the freezer was worth it.

For someone who doesn't like heights climing a tree stand for the first time was a bit daunting but the love for vension overcame the fear of heights. (Photos: Seth Rodgers/

After sitting in the stand for roughly an hour, it was getting close to the end of shooting light. I had gotten a late start and had to learn the basics of climbing a tree stand earlier in the day, so I was ready to take anything that presented itself. I had one more day to hunt, but there was no guarantee I was going to see anything. So, when I spotted what looked to be a nice doe – turned out to be a young nubby buck – I decided to take it.

It initially presented itself broadside to me, but it took a few seconds to hassle with my glove and calm the adrenaline. By the time I looked at him again, he was full mooning me. I kept my scope trained on him. He eventually quartered away from me nicely, and I took the shot.

I felt great about the shot and the placement. After recovering from the recoil and quickly chambering another round, I got him in the crosshairs again. Looking at him, I could tell something was different. He was almost walking in a slow robotic motion, but he was still walking. 

He was presented broadside now walking back toward the tree line. I decided to take another shot, except this time the adrenaline was coursing through my veins, so the shake was a little more noticeable. Again, I took another shot. I felt less sure about this one and just like that his tail went up and he bounced into the woods.

Are You Sure You Got It?

My buddy was looking all over by the tree where the deer was standing when I delivered the first shot. Since I was still in the tree, he told me to stay there as he scouted the area. I was shaking by this point. It could have been the adrenaline or the cold. It was likely a combo of both since I was now easily 25 feet in the air, the sun was going down, and the temps had easily dipped sub-30 degrees. 

I could see my buddy on his phone texting me.

Him: Are you sure you shot it?

Me: I’m sure I hit it with the first shot. It was walking really funny, like slow motion after I hit it. Then it just bounded into the woods after the second shot. But I swear I thought I saw it drop in the woods. Really hard to tell from up here.

Him: I don’t see any blood. I’m coming over by you to watch you climb down.

As we were walking back toward the spot where I shot it the first time, we got to talking about the scenario and how it played out. He was skeptical that I got the shot since he didn’t see any blood. 

“We need to see a blood trail to find this thing. The sun is going down, and it’s going to be next to impossible to find it without a blood trail," he said. "What type of ammo are you using?” 

“I’m using Federal, tipped ammo. Not sure about the grain weight,” I say.

“What’s tipped ammo?” he asked. “I’ve never heard of that.”

I explain that it’s like a hollow-point ammunition that is designed to expand upon impact. The thought process is that the expansion dispenses more energy into the vitals, thus killing the animal quicker. He kind of scoffed at the idea of a bullet designed to expand and not exit the animal. 

“You want an exit wound because that is what’s going to cause that blood trail,” he said. “Most deer that I shoot have a pretty large exit wound.” 

The ballistic tip in question belonged to Federal but nearly every ammo manufacture that makes hunting rounds has a version of this these days. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/

I asked what type of ammo he uses, and he just told me Hornady “SXT or something like that maybe.”

Upon further discussion, he told me that he’s only into hunting with rifles for meat in the freezer, but that he’s much more of a bowhunter. We were at the spot now and, sure enough, I saw no blood on the ground. We pontificated on whether getting exit wounds is due to using a .308 vs. my 7mm or if it was something different like the ballistic tip. With that, we dipped into the thick brush just on the other side of the tree line to find the deer. 

Finding the Deer and the Entry Impact

It was getting really dark at this point, and we still hadn't found the deer. We were starting to discuss ways to search for it in the morning. It would be easier to see in the morning, but with no blood trail, it would still be a challenge. 

On our walk out, he spotted it. Deep in thick brush, it just laid there. We searched all over the body but couldn’t find an entry wound for the life of us. And there was still no blood to speak of.

“This might be the one I shot, maybe I scared it to death because I don’t see a bullet hole anywhere,” h said.

Feeling perplexed, we hauled the deer to the truck and drove it to the road to field dress it. I told him about how I thought the first shot was really well placed, right behind the shoulder, aiming for the heart. I told him again how it looked weird walking after the first shot, and how I don’t understand how it couldn’t have dropped had I hit it. He explained to me that deer in the northern part of the U.S. are some of the hardiest animals to hunt, and then he explained all the weird stuff he’s seen deer do after they’ve been shot over the years. 

Tough to see but there is an entry wound on this side of the animal. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/

Finally, we were out at the road and field dressing the deer. As the guts came out, we spotted it. The entry wound! It was in the rear quarter of the deer, on the upper third, closer to the spine. It was at this moment that we knew, this was my deer for sure. I was elated at the thought of once again filling my freezer with venison I had shot. The tenderloin, where the entry wound was, was completely destroyed, and the heart looked a little odd, too.

The Ballistic Tip Worked, but Maybe Too Well?

The next day, when cutting up the heart to cook, I found it. There it was. The bullet, mushroomed out, in all its glory. After patting myself on the back for a shot well placed, I cooked the heart in some bacon grease to enjoy it. But it did get me wondering about what we had talked about with blood trails and exit wounds.

There it was, lodged right in the middle of the heart. (Photo: Seth Rodgers/

Perhaps the ballistic tip worked too well? It was odd that there was literally no blood on the ground. But, then again, it wasn’t totally surprising either after seeing how the bullet traveled. What is surprising is that I’m now two-for-two for getting deer on the ground with tipped ammo, but both times it has been extremely difficult to locate the entry wound. Last year’s hunt ended with the same issue of finding the entry wound only after we had field-dressed the animal, and that was with a different brand of ammo.

As it turned out, my buddy called me and told me that he uses Hornady American Whitetail in .308. So, he used a different type of tipped ammo, although it’s not their ballistic tip, which Hornady deems their “Precision Hunter” lineup. But it’s still designed to expand. Perhaps, my 7mm Rem Mag is powerful enough to get the job done but not so much to create the exit wound needed to make a nice blood trail?

Turns out my buddy was also using a tipped ammo, just not a ballistic tip. Was it the different tip that was giving him exit wounds or the more powerful hunting caliber? (Photo: Seth Rodgers/

I now turn it over to my more experienced audience to fight it out in the comment section. What are your thoughts on the ballistic-tipped ammo for hunting?

Have you had any experiences like mine? Sound off in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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