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.
Good Guns For Tracking Deer On Snow
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 more ideal for tracking. Personally, I think follow-up shots are slightly more smooth 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
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.
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.
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-actions and lever-action rifles are great options for tracking deer on snow. In my opinion, 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
Find more deer tracking tips and gear faster by navigating to one of my more specific articles:
- 3 Best Sights & Scopes For Tracking Big Woods Bucks on Snow
- Gear for Tracking Bucks in Snow – Big Woods Deer Hunting
- When Do Bucks Use Signpost Rubs? | 4-Month Trail Camera Study
- Signpost Rubs – Everything You Need To Know | Big Woods Deer Hunting
- Do Does Drag Their Feet In Snow? | Reading Deer Track Drag Marks
- Big Buck Tracks – What Do They Look Like? (With Photos) | Buck Track ID
- Best Guns For Tracking Deer On Snow | Big Woods Deer Hunting
- Maximize Your Deer Tracking Season | Move To The Best Snow Conditions
- How to Track Big Woods Bucks in Snow – The Art of Reading Deer Tracks
- Where to Find Big Woods Buck Tracks In Snow
More Hunting Gear
- 5 Best Camera Arms For Hunting
- 6 Best GPS Hunting Apps 
- 7 Best Smartwatches For Hunting  Reviewed and Compared
- 10 Best Deer Hunting Books 
- 12 Best Trail Cameras For The Money 
- 14 Best Saddle Hunting Platforms 
- 15 Best Air Rifles  For All Budgets, Skill Levels, and Uses
- 17 Best Climbing Sticks For Hunting Compared
- Best Saddle Hunting Gear For Maximizing Your Setups
- Jackery Explorer 1000 Review – Portable Battery Generator
- Best Sony Lenses For Filming Hunts
- Best Video Cameras For Hunting  (All Budgets)
- Rynoskin Review: Insect and Tick Proof Clothing | Does it Work?
Best Places To Shop For Tracking Gear
Some great places to find hunting gear include:
- Amazon – Free Two-Day Shipping For Prime Members
- Cabela’s – Free Shipping on Orders Over 50$
- L.L. Bean – Free Shipping on Orders Over 50$
- Walmart – Free Shipping on Orders Over 35$
- Dick’s Sporting Goods