Have been using a "package" Savage Model 111 in .270 quite successfully this past season. Saw one in the local Wally World with a Bushnell scope (true, it's no Nikon) for right at $500. It was in .243, but I'm sure you could find it in the caliber you're looking for.
Don't go with the Savage Axis! Like the others have said, they cut too many corners for an entry level rifle. Go with the next series up and you have a real sturdy rifle that will suit your needs for years to come.
But that's just one man's humble opinion.