Friday, September 26, 2014

Elk Hunt Chronicles - Prologue

After years of trying, I finally drew an elk tag for Wyoming hunt area 37. (Wyoming is divided into many, many different hunt areas. The areas are, of course, different for deer, elk, and antelope. That makes the process of applying for out-of-state big game tags in Wyoming somewhat complicated.)

This particular area is not one of the top trophy-producing areas, but I go there because I'm familiar with the region, and I know some folks who live there. It's where we go every summer on vacation. In addition, I've gone there several times on deer and antelope hunts. Since this is my first elk hunt, I want it to be memorable and enjoyable. What better way to ensure that than to share the experience with friends?

When I was notified that I drew a tag, the first thing I did was research what caliber rifle is most appropriate. Boy, talk about opening a can of worms! It seems that everyone and his brother has a strongly-held opinion, and thinks that anyone who disagrees is a braindead idiot. As one writer put it, "There are many ways to start an argument in polite company, but three of the best are to kick a man’s dog, kiss his wife or insult his elk gun."

The suggestions ranged from .25-06 to .300 Mag., with every conceivable caliber in-between. That didn't narrow things down much. So I started talking with people I know who have actually taken multiple elk. The general consensus was bullet placement matters much more than size, so go with whatever you can shoot the best.

The next step was to look at what I already had in the gun safe: a .270 that I've used for 40 years; a .300 Weatherby Mag that I won in a raffle; and a .338 Federal that I won in another raffle (yeah, I know - I should have bought a lottery ticket instead). Both the .300 and the .338are still New-in-the-Box. They're much too big for the game I usually hunt (mule deer, whitetail, and antelope), and in the back of my mind I'm thinking I might want to sell them someday, so I'm hesitant to start pumping rounds through them. That left the .270.

According to the research I did, that caliber was generally acceptable. In addition, several of the folks I talked with carry .270s as well. Their only suggestion was to use a 150 grain bullet, as opposed to the 130 grain slugs I usually shoot. So I trotted down to my local gun shop and grabbed a couple of boxes of 150 grain ammo. Then it was off to the range.

I squeezed off a few shots with my old 130 grain ammunition just to make sure I was still zeroed in. The first round, out of a cold, clean barrel, went wide right (well, I also may have pulled it a little - I called "flyer right" as soon as I shot). But the next three were spot on - 1.5 inches high at 100 yards.

Then I loaded the new 150 grain rounds.

The first one also went a little right. I've got to work on my trigger pull. The next three were centered pretty good, but strung out a little vertically (breath control).

What was interesting was that the 150 grain rounds impacted around three inches lower than the 130 grain rounds (just to complicate matters, the 130 grain rounds are Hornady and the 150 grain ones are Remington). As near as I can figure out from the Remington ballistics table and the Hornady one, the difference should only be about 1/2". I'm not sure why there's such a difference between my results and the tables. Anyone out there have any ideas (other than lousy shooting)?

Another mystery: the Hornady 130 grain bullets (SP Interlocks) punched ragged holes in the target (upper holes) compared to the Remingtons' neater holes (SP Core-Lokt) (lower holes). This is particularly puzzling because the Hornadys have 'pointier' tips (see second picture below). Any ideas why?

Hornadys on the top, Remingtons on the bottom.

Remington on the left, Hornady on the right.

In addition to working on my shooting, I've also embarked on a 'get-in-elk-hunting-shape' program. I'll share the exciting details of that in a later post.


Bag Blog said...

One year my husband, son, and I all drew out on a elk hunt in NM.Thanks to a friend/hunter, my son got the only elk. We had to pack that elk down the mountain on our backs at night. But the buck was delicious.

Another year, my husband drew out on a special deer hunt in Cimarron Canyon, NM. The lady at the sporting goods store where he filled out the license said, "Well, it isn't right; those deer are practically tame. They will eat right out of your hand." My husband replied, "Good. I will call it up in the back of the truck before I shoot it."

Old NFO said...

Remington is notorious for 'variations' in their loads... The difference in the paper? No idea. I wouldn't pay any attention to the ballistics table, I'd get it zeroed then go find a 300 yard range and see where they are hitting. And check how much 'finger' you have on the trigger...

Randy said...

Curious about the ammo issues to. would like to know what you find out. I like what Old NFO says about it.

CenTexTim said...

BB - As you know, it isn't as easy as the dingbat in Cimarron Canyon thinks it is.

NFO - I didn't know that about Remington ... interesting. As for the finger on the trigger, I think I focus overmuch on the setup - check weld, sight picture, finger position, etc. - and not enough on the mechanics - breathing, trigger pull, etc. I'm comfortable with my finger position (pad on the trigger) but I think I forget to pull straight back, instead of to one side or the other. Something to work on...

Randy - If I ever get an answer to the ammo question I'll post it here.