Thursday, June 4, 2009

7mm Remington Magnum

Thoughts On A Good Elk Rifle

After seeing what guided hunters brought for an elk-shootin’ iron and reading magazines and web articles it is safe to say that many people believe the 7mm Remington Magnum to be substantial medicine for Montana Elk Hunting. It is.

If a hunter measures a cartridge by energy alone, the 7mm mag has the minimum amount for elk out to 600 yards, adequate out to 400 yards, and preferred out to about 250 yards. It can be zeroed for 400 yards and only rise 11 inches at about 250 yards and still successfully engage an elk-sized target at 500 yards—aiming dead on. Those statements assume a 175 grain bullet at 2900 feet per second, and uses Ackley’s recommendations for bullet energy for elk-sized game. (More info here)

It is definitely potent, but I have two very different thoughts from watching what the 7mm Remington Magnum can do. I personally have shot only one elk with a 7mm. It was a Ruger M77 that I borrowed from my brother, Mike, and I made the kill with one shot.

If memory serves this elk was killed with a 7mm Remington Magnum.

My first thoughts come from watching a former outfitter I worked for, the late Art Stevens. He shot a Remington 700 BDL in 7mm Remington Magnum, exclusively, and killed most of his elk with only one round. My second thoughts on the 7mm Remington Magnum come from watching guided hunters use the cartridge. I have seen more elk wounded with a 7mm mag than with any other. Second place goes to another tough elk cartridge, the .300 Weatherby Magnum. The .300 Weatherby has another trait that I, and other guides, have commented on. That will be tackled in my next “caliber” installment (here).

That’s quite a disparity. One rifle kills nearly every elk it is pointed at, and many rifles—of the same caliber—wound nearly every elk they hit.

I haven’t done a thorough academic study on those divergent statistics, but I will jump on my soapbox and give the only coherent explanation I can (for the difference).

Part comes from simple elk hunting experience. Art was one of the best field shooters I have seen. He put the rifle up and shot the elk, but it is more than that. Art had seen elk in the wild most of his life. Most guided elk hunters have limited experience seeing elk, except in magazines, movies and videos. Just as the wapiti isn’t seen only in large golden meadows with frosty steam escaping their nostrils, they aren’t always seen as a complete animal.

Sometimes all you will “see” is dark legs, tan hide and ivory tines above and the head. You may only see what I call “Mickey Mouse ears.” If an elk spots you, he/she will many times look directly at you. In my mind the dark head, big eyes and large ears pointed directly at me reminds me of Mickey Mouse ears. It is usually a bad sign. They are alerted to YOU and any movement or talk will reveal exactly what they are looking at.

So much for the tangential. The point is that elk are not always seen as a complete animal.

The majority of hunters that see their first elk, comment, rather forcefully, how huge elk are. I believe that the combination of limited experience seeing elk and shock by an elk's size create a level of elk fever that isn't realized. Elk fever affects judgment on when and where to take a shot and shot placement.

Those who have read this blog know what is coming. Without making YOUR shooting technique a subconscious action, the elk fever interrupts the act of shooting. Bad judgment, bad shot placement and conscious shooting is betting on a poker hand of “one of a kind.” Essentially, all you have is an elk in front of you.

There is no question that the 7mm Remington Magnum is more than adequate to kill an elk.

Shoot well my friends.

This post brings another tangential to mind. It affects the guided hunter and the guide, and many times neither is aware of the problem. It's perspective. A guide and a hunter are never looking from the same point. The guide sees an elk in the timber and automatically drops to a knee so he can see better below the heaviest branches and mass of pine needles. Either with his eyes or through binoculars he can see a trophy. He tries to orient the hunter to see it. The hunter doesn’t drop to his knees and instead looks through a mass of lodgepole branches. Even if he does drop down, he won’t see what the guide is pointing at. If the guide and hunter are shoulder-to-shoulder, looking in the same direction, and keying off a certain tree, rock, branch, or whatever, neither are looking through the same path of trees. Guides that appreciate the problem will sometimes grab the hunter and place him/her directly in front of him (the guide.) If the guide isn’t aware of the situation, and you are, try going directly behind and look over the guide. (Note: Some guides won't want you behind them with animals in front and you with a loaded rifle).

Something to keep in mind.


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Caleb Pearce said...

7mm is my favorite all round rifle cartridge. Ill use it for deer and when I eventshily get out to your neck of the woods I plan to use it for elk. But in your opinion is there a better elk cartridge?

Dennis A Carroll said...

I don't believe there is A better elk cartridge. Any of the 30-06 class cartridges are sufficient. The magnums are just as good. Anything larger than a 300 Weatherby is overkill.

It is all the man or woman behind the rifle that does the job.

hodgeman said...

Nice post, I'll admit the 7mm Mag has never been one of my favorites but one day that may change.

Anonymous said...

Good post. I don't ever think I would shoot that far but, I can see if I ever did I would need something with some umph.

Coast Rat said...

I have been using a Sako Finnbear 7 mag since I bought it to go elk hunting my first time in 1970 out in the Gros Ventre in Jackson Hole, and have found it great for elk and deer, if, like you accurately point out, you make a careful, steady and accurate shot. Then again, I have used a Sako Forrester .243 during those same years on both animals, and found it to be adequate, exercising the same 3 shooting habits as with the 7 mag.

Very informative post!

To me, elking hunting in September and October is Heaven on Earth!

akparasite said...

I have shot a Ruger M77 7mm Mag for the past 14 years...the most dependable rifle I have ever owned.

I clicked the link of your blog to see if you were identifying one of the 7mm Mag's deficencies that I have discovered. I live in NW Montana and hunt the thick forests that typify this area. Shots more than 100 yards are infrequent, unless stumbling upon elk in a large, open clearcut. A few years ago I climbed a few miles into a frequent late-rutting area for elk on opening day. It was my day...they were there before first light, and made my way into position. A decent 5x5 bull climbed in front of me at 50 yards right at shooting light. I raised my 7mm Mag for a shot when he stopped. I fired once into the pumphouse. The bull stopped and stood. I fired a second round into the pumphouse. The bull stood for about 10 seconds, and began to gallop toward the ridge. I fired a third round into the shoulder and the bull dropped.

I shoot 175gr bullets in 7mm Mag. After skinning and quartering the elk, the shots were evident. The first two shots hit ribs near the heart but the exit hole was nearly the same size as the entry. The shoulder shot opened a hole the size of a racquetball upon impact with the joint. I later determined that the 7mm Mag's super fast velocity can outrun the bullet expansion at short ranges. short range with the 7mm Mag...aim for bone mass, or you may see a wounded elk walk away...