California resident? forget the mini-14. the gun is expensive, the ammo is expensive, its not the most reliable or accurate, magazines cost a lot, and its heavy. if you want a .223 I suggest either a RAA Saiga 223 or a Kel Tec SU-16CA. Both are cheaper and much better for your hard earned money.
You can get a California legal saiga 223 from lanworldinc.com, they're about $350 right now, its basically an AK47 in .223 caliber with a sporting rifle type stock rather than a pistol grip. they're decently accurate, highly reliable and simple rifles. 10rd .223 magazines could be a bit expensive and hard to get though. Seeing that you're considering a$800 mini 14, there is the Kel Tec SU16CA, at $550 or so. The Kel Tec is the best of the AR15 and AK47 combined. its accurate, lightweight, and polymer like the AR15, but also simple and reliable like the AK47. It accepts AR15/M16 magazines, which are easily found and cheap (sorta). the Kel Tec also offers a integrated 11mmweaver-type rail for optics and a bipod. Its much better than the mini 14.
Don't get the M-N for small game.it'll decimate the animal (I hit a rabbit by accident once when plinking). M-N are fun cannons or a rifle, with cheap ammo and high reliability, but they're also high in recoil, massive muzzle blast, and not exactly new, so when buying one treat like a used gun (be very selective and make sure who you buy from is trustworthy that the gun doesn't explode when shot)
I have a Kel Tec SU16CA, its mostly plinking/target rifle, been looking forward to hunting sometime, its everything I expected and then some.
and if you don't know, you*can*buy an "assault rifle" in California. its just a big pain in the a$$ with all the stupid laws. I got a Century Arms WASR-10/63 (AK47 variant). its not pre-ban, I got it around the end of March, 2009. Totally legal. all I need to do was to buy an Century Arms WASR-10/63 and remove the pistol grip. Viola! totally California legal. When you look at the California AWB that way, the Ban looks idiotic. Or lock the magazine (with sacrifices functionality) and you can add all the "evil" features you want.
So you can get a CA legal AR15. Where I got my WASR10/63, lanworldinc.com, they also sell AR15 and other rifles.
If you got $1k to spend, you can get a battle rifle- that's like a HK91 rifle- for around $1000. Simple get the magazine locked and make sure the receiver isn't on the CA ban list. There's the FN-FAL and PTR-91 that you can get in CA-legal versions. But.308 is a bit expensive to plink with, so that's just an example as to what you can get despite the CA AWB.