Many things make a good hunter, and having the right hunting rifle is up there on the list.
Using the perfect rifle makes a massive difference in your hunting experience. So, lets take a closer look at some of the best hunting rifles of 2021.
But before that, let’s quickly go through some of the factors we considered when coming up with this list.
Hunting Rifles Buying Guide
Below is a list of things you should consider before buying a hunting rife:
1. Type Of Gun Stock
There are generally two types of rifle stocks to choose from: Synthetic and wooden stocks. Each comes with its own pros and cons, so it’s all a matter of picking your poison.
The advantage of synthetic stocks over wooden ones is they are usually lighter, so the rifle won’t be as cumbersome. Synthetic stocks are also more resistant to harsh hunting conditions.
Rifle stock can be wooden or synthetic and each has its own pros and cons.
On the flip side, the synthetic stocks are nowhere near as aesthetically pleasing as a nicely finished walnut stock.
And, while wooden stocks are usually more beautiful, they tend to be heavier and more sensitive to scratches, cracks, and discolorations.
So, you should consider how much value you put on the aesthetics of a hunting rifle before deciding.
2. Barrel Length
Shorter barrels are a favorite of most hunters since they usually make the rifle lighter and more maneuverable. On the other hand, longer barrels may make a gun cumbersome, but they typically provide better velocity.
Some people would also argue that longer barrels are more powerful.
Lever and bolt action rifles are recommended to beginners and intermediate hunters. These guns are typically easier and safer to use.
Seasoned hunters can afford the luxury of using semi-automatic rifles, which require more skill to operate.
Weight is a crucial factor in rifle selection, since it directly affects your ability to operate the gun. Different people will have different preferences based on their level of fitness and other factors.
As we’ve already pointed out, the type of stock and length of the barrel you choose will also affect the overall weight of your gun.
If you want a lightweight rifle, look for something with a short barrel and synthetic stock.
The Nosler M48 Mountain rifle was first introduced in 2019. This rifle is made using lightweight materials for better handling while delivering exquisite performance, making it one of the best guns for hunting, and the 2021 version of the gun has seen an introduction of two new chamberings.
The rifle is built around the Nosler M48 action, integrated into a carbon-wrapped barrel for insane sub-MOA accuracy.
The mountain hunter stock is finished in an elegant granite green, while the steel surfaces are covered in tungsten grey, giving your rifle long-term protection against harsh weather conditions.
The gun weighs only 6 pounds and is perfectly balanced for enhanced maneuverability.
The Weatherby Vanguard is the affordable alternative to the famous Mark V from the same manufacturer. Don’t mistake its affordability for weak performance, though. The rifle guarantees considerable power coupled with sub-MOA accuracy for the ultimate target hunt down.
The rifle is built using lightweight polymer stock. The material does a great job of handling tough hunting surroundings and extreme weather to give you an excellent feel and performance for years to come.
The barrel is 24 inches long for non-magnum and 240 Wby Mag, which is just enough for most hunters.
This is without a doubt the most innovative hunting rifle we’ve come across in 2021.
It may look like a regular bolt action gun, but there is nothing regular about the speed of the follow-up shots it provides.
Savage has utilized the Hexlock straight-pull action to reduce the time it takes to make subsequent shots. This makes the Impulse Big Game one of the most instinctive hunting rifles on the market.
The rifle is built with a medium-contour fluted barrel to balance the weight. It’s available in different mags, including the .243Win, .300 Win, .308 Win, and .300 WSM fed through a flush-fit detachable box mag. A sleek hazel green cerakote covers the metal surfaces.
At 8.8 pounds, the Impulse Big Game is heavier than the two rifles discussed above. However, its ingenious design achieves a remarkable balance that makes operating the gun feel effortless.
The Ruger Mini-14 Ranch rifle is an excellent option for anyone looking for a versatile semi-automatic gun. The action is based on the M1 Garand and the M14, but it is scaled down to make the gun easier to handle and use.
Remington 700 SPS Varmint is a budget-friendly hunting rifle that performs well where it matters the most. Besides predator and varmint shooting, the gun is also great for long-range tactical shooting.
This rifle comes with a non-reflective barrel and receiver for perfect concealment and a blind mag to increase reliability. The fore-end of the contoured barrel is ventilated for better heat dissipation. It’s also drilled for easy scope mounting. The Model 700 SPS Varmint weighs around 8.5 pounds.
That’s pretty much it for the best hunting rifles for 2021. These guns tick all the boxes from accuracy and power to durability, and that’s why they are highly recommended to both beginners and seasoned hunters.
If seeing pictures of a huge buck and reading the play-by-play story of the hunt excites you, then read below for some great stories about some unforgettable archery bucks.
“Close Call”: The Backstory Of This 18-Point Monster Buck
I saw this deer on camera around mid-December of 2016 and became obsessed. I had hundreds and hundreds of pictures of him. In February, I noticed he hadn’t been to the area or fed at the feeder, so I started looking for his sheds.
I found one side (which was the side I wanted the most). He was at my best guess a 15 point, and had 10 points on the shed I found.
It sucked my attention in even deeper.
My wife got so sick of hearing about “close call.”
Now, I never name deer, but he had what looked like a gunshot wound in his right ear, so I dubbed him “close call.” After I found his shed, I focused a lot of attention on the area where I knew this huge buck was.
In April of 2017, he showed back up, with just 2 or 3 inch nubs on his head. Of course, because of his ears, and my obsession, I knew it was him. He stuck around for a few weeks, and then of course, disappeared again and remained out of view until around June, when he came back. He stayed close by and on camera sometimes 3 different times a day from June on.
I’m from Kentucky, and our season comes in really early, so I was counting down the days and doing my very best to just keep him around.
Around the first of August, he quit feeding at the feeder, but was still visible in the open. Our archery season opened on September 2 this year, and in my mind, I had him in the bag. I ran up to 4 cams to keep my eyes on him, and one was a Spartan cell cam.
It kept me from frequenting the area, and I knew instantly when he was there. On August 31st I have video of him in the broad daylight at what would have been an 18 yard shot for me.
My confidence was out the roof. The season opened and I spent the next 6 days in the stand. I only hunted him of an evening, seeing I never had a picture or anything of a morning of him. But, over those 6 days, he never showed his face at all.
In my mind, I knew he was probably just laying low and in the process of shedding his velvet. I backed off for a few days and would keep my eye on my cameras, thinking I had applied too much pressure.
He finally showed back up but had gone completely nocturnal. Around the 15th of September, he had completely vanished. I just knew someone else had gotten him I told no one but a very tight group about this deer.
Then, one day I was at my son’s football practice and heard someone talking about a huge buck they had seen in the area where the buck lived. I then knew he was still alive, but it worried me that someone would do something stupid to him.
For the next 2 weeks, the buck would only show up about ever 4-6 days for a brief minute, and in the middle of the night. He was playing hide ‘n seek. At least I knew he was still alive, is all I could think of. I stayed away and didn’t hunt for weeks.
On September 26, while away from home, my cell phone dings and there he is. It’s 4 in the evening and I’m not in the woods, so I figured my one chance had come and gone. I looked closely at the forecast and figured I could hunt the 28th and 29th because there was a cool front coming, and the wind would be perfect.
I hunted the 28th and nothing... Not a single deer.
I was kind of skeptical, but wouldn’t give up. My wife and I had plans for the evening of the 29th, but she was okay with me hunting for a few hours that evening. I got there around 4:30 that evening and it was calm and perfect.
I texted my wife and told her, “this would be the perfect evening for him to show up. It’s so quiet and calm.” She told me that it was okay if I stayed till dark, before we went out. She understood my obsession more than anyone.
At around 5:45, I had a small buck come in. He wasn’t there long and left.
I was just enjoying the evening being in the woods. Around 6:25 or so, I decided I’d try a little very light rattling (seeing it worked the year before). About 10-15 minutes after I heard what sounded like a cough or something from the hill across from me.
I focused my full attention to that area. I saw movement coming my way…. a small basket 8 point I had on cam.
As soon as he came out, I saw a second deer coming. It turned out to be the small 3 point that was there earlier in the evening. After he came out, it still sounded like more deer were coming.
Low and behold, I look in the timber and here he comes. I instantly began become overwhelmed. The buck came out, just like I had planned, but he looked right at me. He turned around like he was going to head back into the timber, so I drew on him. He was quartering away at 21 yards.
I held tight and left the arrow fly.
Instantly I knew I had just messed up on the buck of a lifetime.
The shot looked super high. I was sick. I set back and text my wife and told her I had just shot him. Then, I went over the shot in my head 100 times. I went and retrieved the arrow and looked it over. It appeared to have really good blood, so I wasn’t so sure I had hit it high.
My wife finally showed up, and we went looking. It was the first time she had ever tracked and she was super excited. We continued to find good blood, then about 70 yards in the timber, there be laid. He couldn’t handle that arrow after all.
There he was. A buck of my lifetime….the one I had become so obsessed over.
This buck gross scored 177 7/8”, even though he was only 14 ½” wide. He has 18 scoreable points. This buck is my biggest to date, and the most gratifying as well.
John Workman saw trophy buck success again in 2018, with this Kentucky bruiser.
Big Kentucky Buck Fame Comes Again!
I would have to say the story of my success in the 2018 Kentucky deer season has to date back to September 29th of 2017. On that date, I was fortunate enough to take a Boone and Crockett class Kentucky buck (the full story above.)
Once the word got out about that deer, my social media went kind of crazy. One day, while roaming through Facebook, I noticed I had a random message from someone in my area. He asked questions and persistently talked about my 2017 buck.
I kind of blew it off at first, because when it comes to hunting, I usually keep my stuff mainly a secret. But, one thing led to another, and we talked a little here and there.
One day I was at the local archery shop just hanging out, and in came this same guy. So, we finally met face-to-face and began to develop a friendship. His name is Kyle Groce. He is a bit younger than me, but we both share a passion for deer hunting.
As the winter progressed, he learned that I do a lot of food plotting. He wanted to develop his hunting property into a sanctuary so that the deer don’t have to travel to get what they want.
In mid-April he offered to let me hunt this same land if I would do the food plots for him. I knew the area, so I agreed without hesitation.
In May, the weather finally cooperated so hat I could get started on the plots I agree to cut, till and sow. I began the process of bush hogging. While cutting a plot, this buck comes out and watched me like he was in awe that someone was there doing something.
At the first look, I realized he was going to be a good buck worth chasing once the early season came.
September 1st finally arrived and Kyle and I already had our game plans set in stone. He was getting some good deer on camera, and I was getting my buck in two different locations during the daylight hours.
On opening day, I got in the stand around 5 o’clock AM, fearing that I might bump this big boy going in.
That first morning came and went. I saw a lot of deer and some small bucks, but not the big Kentucky buck I was after. Of course, early September in Kentucky its pretty warm… like, 90 degrees warm! So, I got out of my stand and headed home.
There was no way I was staying all day in the stand in that heat.
Around 3:30 that afternoon, I started to get ready to head back to the stand. I showered, gathered my equipment and headed that way. I got in the stand around 4:30 and got things set up, and instantly I had action.
A mature doe and her fawn came in and stayed in my area for about 30 or so minutes, so I was upbeat and positive. Deer came and went all evening, both bucks and does.
Around 7:15, I saw a nice buck working toward my location and instantly knew it was a great 8 point. I had guessed he was about 140″ or so. Right behind him I saw the big 12-point I had been watching all summer.
Both bucks came in on a string to 19 yards. But, the big mature buck was no dummy. He stayed right behind the 8-point the whole time, and I couldn’t get a shot at him.
Day two was much of the same. There was a lot of deer activity, but no shooters. Kyle, however, did fill his tag on that second day with a real nice 8-point that was on his hit list.
I hunted hard over the next week, and saw the big 8 on multiple occasions, but he never had the buck with him I was looking for. I even had him within 30 yards of me for 29 minutes one morning, but I still let him go.
Around 5:30 I had a small buck come in, and it brightened my outlook somewhat. That buck left and a doe and fawn came in. They stuck around for 20 or so minutes, but then wandered off into the thick brush.
At around 6:30 a small really good up and comer buck came in. I had seen this deer many times, and he was always with more deer and never alone, so I focused hard on the direction he had came from.
About 3 minutes later, I could see the big 8 coming, and this time he was out of velvet, and looked bigger than I had thought.
As he was walking up the hill, he kept looking over his shoulder to check something behind him. One of my deer hunting tips is, when a mature buck is watching behind him, it only tells me that something bigger may be lurking. Well in this case, there was.
Coming straight at me was the buck I was after. He came in just like I had planned, but I didn’t plan on the other two bucks being there with him. For nine minutes I had to watch him and the other bucks mill around and feed.
Finally, the big 8 swung around to the back side of the 12. I had been waiting on this, because I knew it would turn the 12 where I could get a shot off.
Even though John has experienced some incredible success in taking huge bucks, it’s the time with friends that has made it all the more special.
I immediately called my wife, and then Kyle, to tell them I had shot. Kyle and another good friend, Nick McWhorter, had begged me all summer to film my hunts, and I had blown them off until about 2 weeks before season. They got me set up, and ready to film for this season.
Well, knowing the deer had my arrow, I chose to not even attempt to look for anything until I got to see my footage to confirm my shot placement. I met Kyle at my truck, and we reviewed everything together.
In our opinion, that shot had been perfect. By this time, my wife and son had shown up, and were excited to start tracking.
We headed back to my stand and began to look, but there was nothing to find. No blood, no arrow, no nothing. I knew which way he had ran, so we started in that general direction first. Travis, another buddy had came to help track and to get him out of the woods. Travis saw my Nockturnal lighted nock glowing bright, so we headed straight for it.
Big Kentucky Buck Down
There he laid; the buck I had studied all summer in hopes for one chance. I got it, and the shot was perfect. I ran my arrow and broadhead from in front of his back left hip, all the way up to his front right shoulder, just like I had intended.
Just like that, it was all over. He ended up being a mainframe 10, with two abnormals on his left side. He scored 155 inches. I was tickled to death.
Bonus: Another Huge Buck Story (The Coat Hanger Buck)
Garret Schmidt will forever remember the day he harvested the “Coat Hanger” Buck!
This was one N1 Moment™ that 30-year old Garrett Schmidt could hang his hat on… literally.
Opening day of archery season in Kansas
It was a 10-hour drive from League City, Texas, to the Southeast Kansas property he and some friends had recently gotten permission to hunt. But this was opening day of archery deer season in Kansas. It wouldn’t have mattered if it was 100 hours.
“I knew it was going to be hot and possibly rain. But, I get so jacked up for the start of a new season that I didn’t care,” he said.
“I had only 45 minutes to make this happen. With the wind in my face I made a 100-yard belly crawl through the beans. I ended up within shooting distance of this non-typical buck,” he said. “I stood up fast out of the beans, drew my bow back, found the sweet spot, and let the Rage broadhead do the rest.”
The “coat hanger buck” was down. And, while Garret didn’t have his friends with him on this trip to help share in the excitement, the part they played wasn’t overlooked.
“When it was all said and done I wasn’t able to take fancy pictures or share this moment with a buddy. But, none of this would have been possible without the help of my good friends putting in the time and work over the year to get everything ready for this amazing opportunity.”
This velvet trophy buck may have never been harvested had Khavon not made the walk all the way back to his truck to get his forgotten quiver!
Friday afternoon, September 30, 2016, I arrived to my lease in Natchez, Mississippi. I unloaded the truck and ranger and headed to the woods to check my two cameras to decide where I was going to hunt that weekend.
As I was scrolling through 800 pictures of does and bucks, my buddy told me to stop and back up. I scrolled back and there was a giant 8-point buck in full velvet.
This was the first time I had seen a picture of him. I kept scrolling and the past few evenings he had been coming out right before dark. I immediately got nervous, since I’ve never had an opportunity to hunt a deer like him before.
So, I decided to not hunt there in the morning and to save the spot for an evening hunt on opening day.
The evening hunt on opening day approached and I began to get anxious, wondering how the hunt would go. It was very warm, so I grabbed my bow and took my time walking to my stand, because I didn’t want to sweat.
I arrived at my stand at 3:55 pm and climbed up. As I got my bow in my stand, I realized something looked funny. I forgot my quiver back at the ranger!
Trying not to get too upset, but still frustrated, I climbed back down and started walking back to the ranger. I decided to take my shirt off so I wouldn’t sweat on it, since it’s a good 10-12 minute walk up and down the hills.
Eventually, I made it to the ranger, got my quiver, and made my way back to the stand. I climbed in, nocked an arrow, turned the Thermacell on, put my shirt back on, and painted my face. By then, it was about 4:25 pm.
The story of the “barefoot buck” was the kind memory that I would have never imagined experiencing in the outdoors.
I used to not even LIKE the outdoors…
(Not) Growing up in the outdoors
For people who know me, they know how unconventional my outdoor story is. Growing up, my parents did not raise me hunting or fishing, and being involved in the outdoors wasn’t something I knew much about. In fact, all my life I was classified as my family’s “girly girl.”
I was a ballerina, then a cheerleader, and on the dance team in middle-school. Oh, and I absolutely loved fixing my hair and dabbling in makeup.
I did not grow up hunting and fishing. In fact, I was a “girly-girl.”
Luckily for my poor dad, who has a wife and FOUR daughters, I played basketball, (mainly because, against my mom’s wishes, he convinced me to at the age of eight. Fortunately, I truly loved it and stuck with it every year until I graduated.
Being called “girly” all my life, and not being introduced to the outdoors, definitely forced me to label myself as “unworthy” of ever trying to fish or hunt.
So, I never did.
My view of those that hunted and fished was skewed by others I considered unethical and egotistical.
I had several friends growing up that hunted, but most of them were pretty unethical and egotistical.
There were many disheartening moments I had witnessed because of them, and unfortunately, it left me with a bitter taste in my mouth toward the outdoor industry.
I started to hate seeing photos of successful hunts and fishing catches. I unfollowed people on social media that expressed their love for hunting. And, I even blocked hunting pages so Instagram’s algorithms would get the point.
Thankfully, I met someone who changed my mind about the outdoors.… and I married him!
I had sat in this same spot for two weeks straight. I watched and passed over 100 deer in the thirteen days that I hunted this area.
The majority of them were does, but I did have the opportunity to watch several small bucks chase during my hunts. I was starting to get discouraged. So, I mentioned to Cody that I may need to try a new spot if things didn’t start picking up.
Instead of encouraging me to try a different spot, Cody decided to come with me to the same spot, once again.
We sat there, as usual, and watched several does graze and play, and then the occasional spike or young buck that would run them off. But shortly after we got settled, Cody said, “oh my gosh, big buck! Big buck, Alyssa!” He says this same phrase, A LOT.
He loves to get me excited only to tell me that he was “just kidding.” So, naturally, I didn’t believe him.
But when I was rolling my eyes at him, I spotted what he had already seen… a beautiful eight point that we had watched in this field the previous year. In fact, it was the same buck that Cody has missed in the previous year (just saying ?).
Once we got within 60 yards, Cody decided that we didn’t need to test our luck, so we didn’t go any further.
As both of us were trembling all over and praying to the Lord (not even exaggerating), Cody allowed me to prop my gun on his shoulder so I didn’t have to free-hand my shot. I swear, it didn’t make it any easier.
The adrenaline was rushing through my body and I couldn’t quit shaking to save my life. It took me over ten minutes to shoot the deer, and because of the anxiety during the moment, it felt like it was taking a stinking hour for me to get steady and make the shot.
Finally, the buck forced me to pull the trigger. He looked up at a snorting doe that was down wind from us, and was just about to take off running when I got the guts to pull the trigger.