Best Guns For Tracking Deer On Snow | Big Woods Deer Hunting

Best Guns For Tracking Deer On Snow
Share With Others By Clicking Icons Below!

The best guns for tracking deer on snow will have the best combination of speed, target re-acquisition, and reliability. These factors are essential when hunting in harsh winter conditions. There’s nothing worse than a gun malfunction in the moment of truth. After reading this article you’ll be able to make an educated decision on which type of gun is best for tracking deer on snow.

The Best Gun For Tracking Deer On Snow

Remington 7600 Pump-Action Rifles

The Remington 7600 and 7600 carbine pump-action rifles and their predecessors are the tracker’s go-to guns in the thick woods of the northeast. It’s quick, short, agile, and reliable. The majority of people who track deer on snow use this gun. I resisted buying a 7600 model at first, and wanted to try some other guns. But after having issues with both my bolt-action and modern semi-auto rifle, I caved in and bought the Remington 7600 carbine in 30-06.

Although this gun is the go-to choice for tracking deer in snow, the Remington 7600, in my opinion, leaves a lot to be desired. Out of the box, it does not fit well and will need to be taken to a gunsmith for most people. It is also extremely difficult to disassemble and reassemble. When assembling and reassembling it’s easy to bend the action bars and scratch the wood finish. 

I was able to bend the metal back in place but man…there could be some improvements to this gun. But based on my experience with the gun and my research, I can’t find a gun that does what this gun can do despite its flaws. Its combination of speed, target re-acquisition, and reliability make it a clear winner for tracking deer on snow.

You can watch my full review of the Remington 7600 Below:

William’s Peep Sights

I’ve used peep sights for many years. They just seem natural to use, more so than open sights. Open sights, at least to me, seem to offer more room for error and don’t offer as much peripheral vision IMO. However, with enough practice, anyone can get good using anything. I now use these sights on my Remington 7600.

Although peep sights are commonly used for tracking, some people prefer scopes. For more on this read my article 3 Best Sights & Scopes For Tracking Big Woods Bucks on Snow for more information.

Remington 7600 with William's Peep Sight
Remington 7600 with William’s Peep Sight

Good Guns For Tracking Deer On Snow

Lever-Action Rifles

I grew up hunting with a Marlin lever-action chambered in .35 Remington with Williams peep sights in southern Maine (not for tracking). I didn’t particularly care for the gun because of the hammer. It was hard to pull back when fingers got cold and were slower than a cross-bolt or switch safety system. That being said, lever actions have come a long way and I do think they would make for a good gun for tracking deer on snow.

They are just as reliable as a pump and offer higher-caliber options that make them ideal for tracking. Personally, I think follow-up shots are slightly smoother and quicker with a pump, but not by much. You’ll become good at what you practice with, lever-actions are still plenty fast making lever-actions a good choice.

You’ll want to choose one of the bigger caliber options for tracking though. 30-30’s and 35 Remington’s will work but are a little on the light side for tracking deer on snow. You often can’t get a perfect shot when tracking so a higher caliber option is ideal if possible.

Not Ideal Guns For Tracking Deer On Snow

Bolt-Action Rifles

Not many rifles are up to the challenge of tracking bucks in the thick woods of the northeast in snowy conditions. I know this from experience. The first year I started tracking I missed my first buck because I had the completely wrong rifle setup. I was using a bolt-action with a 3-9×40. When I jumped the buck out of his bed at 20 yards I would have had a good running shot had I not been busy scraping the snow out of the scope when he got up.

Since I struggled to find the deer in my fogged/blurred, much too powerful 3x magnification scope, needless to say I missed the shot completely. I never got a follow-up shot because all of the snow that accumulated on top of my bolt fell into the chamber. When I tried jacking a new cartridge in, preventing me from being able to close the breach. I knew this gun wasn’t ideal but didn’t have the money at the time to upgrade so I had to make due.

Additionally, bolt actions are slow compared to pump and lever actions. I’m always looking to have the odds in my favor as much as possible when hunting. For me, bolt actions don’t make the cut when it comes to tracking deer on snow. Will they work? Yes, but you’ll be at a slight disadvantage.

I saved up money after that and bought a new rifle for the next year, a semi-auto.

Semi-Auto Rifles

The following year, I bought a Benelli R1 (see gun review here) semi-auto rifle, figuring a modern semi-auto would be able to handle the elements better than the older models. I put William’s peep sights on this gun and it looked like it was going to work well.

Benelli R1 Rifle
Benelli R1 Rifle

I was wrong. The ejection port kept getting filled with snow, melting from my hand warmth, and freezing. This would have caused the gun to malfunction had I shot with it. I often wasn’t able to unload my gun until the ejection port thawed in the car. Luckily, I didn’t pull the trigger until muzzleloader season that year. 

I knew I had to get away from the semi-auto rifles or else I was going to regret it.


Both pump-action and lever-action rifles are great options for tracking deer on snow. I think the Remington 7600 pump-action rifle is a slightly better choice because I believe it is slightly faster with target re-acquisition which is the reason why I personally bought the gun.

If you’re planning on buying a bolt-action or semi-auto I would think carefully about your choice. You can make them work, but it seems like it is more trouble than it’s worth. From my personal experience, I would recommend avoiding tracking with these guns if you’re looking to put the odds in your favor to the highest degree.

More Big Woods Deer Tracking on Snow Resources

If you liked this article, I have many more articles about tracking deer on snow that you might like.

Find Me On:

Article Written By: Jason Tome

You May Also Like