Dealing With the Deer Hunting Ammunition Shortage

Deer Hunting During an Ammunition Shortage

Do ammunition shortages have you down? Is the nationwide limited supply of deer hunting ammunition going to affect your hunting season this year? Will you be able to secure the rifle cartridges that you need for a successful deer season? These are some of the questions that hunters are asking themselves all across the United States. As we move into hunting seasons, and what should be the best part of the year, hunting for the right ammo might become more difficult for some hunters than locating a shooter buck! 

Autumn is in the air, the days are growing shorter, and the nights are getting cooler. In the woods, acorns are beginning to drop and the leaves are starting to turn. When deer antlers lose their velvet, hunters start to get that familiar itch that deer season brings. The only way to scratch that itch is getting into the woods this fall! Deer season delivers a variety of chores and planning, but recently, securing rifle loads for your favorite deer rifle has fallen on that list as a new priority. 

America’s Ammunition Shortage

New Gun Owners and Ammunition

Gun ownership, shooting sports, and hunting have taken America by storm in record numbers over the last several years. Whether you blame circumstances like politics, health pandemics, or the recent locavore movement, Americans are buying guns and lots of them!  

Starting in 2019 and continuing through the present, gun sales numbers continue to set all-time records, with first-time gun buyers leading the trend. Gun owners of all different demographics are making waves at sporting goods retailers, gun shops, online firearm sites, and gun shows across the nation.  

All of these new gun owners have one thing in common: they all need ammunition in order to get out and shoot their new firearms. From rimfire to shotshells, and magnum cartridges to pistol ammo, shooters have been demanding more ammunition than manufacturers can produce. This growing issue has been going on year over year, and the retail shelves show it!

Ammunition Supply and Demand

Panic buying, hoarding, and price gouging have all come into play recently when it comes to many items including toilet paper, green beans, and ammunition. Ultimately the law of supply and demand came into play during the recent pandemic. As cartridges for all types of firearms became increasingly scarce, retail prices went up. What ammunition can be found on the shelf is often costing many times over what the same rounds did just two years ago. 

All types of ammunition have been affected by the ammo shortage. Militant cartridges like .556 or .223 and 9mm or 7.62 X 39 may have felt the increased pressure before traditional hunting cartridges, but the trend has finally pushed across all calibers and ammunition types. 

Deer hunters who could, season after season, stop by their local sporting goods store and pick up their deer rifle’s favorite venison load anytime, are finding empty shelves. Classic deer rifle loads like .30-06, .308, and .243 have become a cherished commodity, and putting your hands on your preferred boxed load in those same calibers may be next to impossible.  

Finding Deer Ammunition This Season

Ammunition search engines have become increasingly relevant and popular as the ammunition shortage pushes on. Sites like and search across a variety of known ammunition sellers in order to try and locate your selected ammunition. Search early and search often is the mantra for these sites. Other auction sites like offer a variety of ammunition for sale from gun shops and individuals all across the country.  

If you’re lucky, you’ve got a few spare boxes of your favorite load hidden away to get you through the season with limited range time. If the ammo shortage has you running on empty, having personal relationships with local shops could pay off now more than ever. Many stores keep a list of customers and the ammunition they’re after and will give you a ring when they receive an allocation. But many stores are limiting boxes of ammunition only to customers who purchase a gun.  

Deer Season Ammunition Strategies 

If your pursuit of ammunition for your deer rifle has you looking at this season with an empty chamber, there is a strategy that might help get you through. 

New Rifle Change-Up 

The reality that you only hunt deer with Dad’s .30-06 and shoot 150-grain silvertips may be coming to an end. If there was ever a reason to mix up tradition or try new things, today’s ammunition shortage is it. 

There’s still time to find a new rifle, chambered in an available caliber, and make your deer season happen. Take a look at the ammunition counter at your local sporting goods store and shop for a deer rifle that has cartridges on the shelf. Rifles that are considered maybe “less popular”, “non-mainstream”, or even “wildcat” may fit the bill. 

Centerfire deer rifles that you may find on the shelf in conjunction with available ammunition include rifles chambered in: 

  • 7mm-08 – A fantastic deer caliber with a bore measuring .284. The 7mm-08 is flat-shooting, produces light recoil, and is a top pick out of the less mainstream deer rifles out there. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a 7mm-08 rifle and several boxes of ammo on the shelf to go with it. Don’t be scared of buying off the used rack from a reputable gun shop, and look for rifle cartridges with bullets designed for deer- and antelope-sized game. 
  • .260 Remington – The .260 is based off of the ever-popular (and currently hard to find) .308 Win. In 1997, Remington recognized the .260 as a standard round and not just a wildcatter’s load. This caliber has just a little larger bore than the popular .25-06, but is a step down from the .270 Win. Finding a rifle chambered in .260 might be harder than finding the ammo. If you put in some time, the chances are high that you can secure both the rifle and the ammo for your deer season. 
  • .308 Marlin Express – If you’re into lever guns, or always thought of trying one, why not give the .308 Marlin a whirl. Developed in 2007 by Marlin Firearms in cooperation with Hornady, this caliber is based on the .307 Winchester. Developed to duplicate .308 Win performance, and the highest velocity production cartridge ever designed for lever-action rifles with tubular magazines, Marlin’s .308 express is well suited for deer hunting. Securing one of these rifles and the ammunition on an auction site is achievable. 

Thinking Outside the Box During the Ammunition Shortage

It’s unfortunate that hunters and shooters are faced with real ammo shortages, and that manufacturers are facing such an uphill battle. The good news on the other hand is record numbers of gun sales, and record numbers of new gun owners. The ranks of shooters whose voices will be heard have never been more numerous or diverse. New gun owners and ammunition purchases all contribute to the Pittman-Robertson fund for conservation as well! 

If locating ammunition for your deer season this year is fruitless, and the option of changing to a new caliber is unattainable, don’t forget the other options to get into the woods this season. Muzzleloader, archery, and shotgun deer seasons are kicking off all across the United States, and they may be your best bet when it comes to hanging a tag on a deer this season. 

Whatever gets you into the deer woods this season, good luck, and shoot straight!