Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hasta la Bye Bye, Baby

Ever since Descartes said, “Cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am.)”, people have focused on what makes our physical world exist—essentially, how do we know that what is outside of our minds is actually out there?

A common metaphor is: “How do we know (really) that our brains are not sitting in a vat of saline and our sensations are caused by electrical impulses delivered by another being or machine?”

It doesn’t really matter. What ever I experience is true to me. Even if an electrode falsely gives the information, it is real.

Experience is the only thing that each of us understands. It is more important than any data or figures that can be given, because it has affected each of our senses.

People reading Descartes skip an important point he makes in Discourse on the Method for Conducting One’s Reason Well and for Seeking the Truth in the Sciences (1637).

Descartes believed in experience, so much so that he wrote:

That is why, as soon as age permitted me to emerge from the supervision of my teachers, I completely abandoned the study of letters. And resolving to search for no knowledge other than what could be found within myself, or else in the great book of the world, I spent the rest of my youth traveling, seeing courts and armies, mingling with people of diverse temperaments and circumstances, gathering various experiences, testing myself in the encounters that fortune offered me, and everywhere engaging in such reflection upon the things that presented themselves that I was able to derive some profit from them. For it seemed to me that I could find much more truth in the reasonings that each person makes concerning matters that are important to him, and whose outcome ought to cost him dearly later on if he has judged badly, than in those reasonings engaged in by a man of letters of study, which touch on speculations that produce no effect and are of no other consequence to him except perhaps that, the more they are removed from common sense, the more pride he will take in them, for he will have to employ that much more wit and ingenuity in attempting to render them plausible. And I have always had an especially great desire to learn to distinguish the true from the false, in order to see my way clearly in my actions, and to go forward with confidence in this life.

Obviously, since I didn’t live in 1637, I am no Descartes, and will never be one, but in my years of reading, that paragraph speaks more to me than the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution.

We will leave Descartes for a moment.

I am a rather anal person. My wife would say that I am a very anal person. Most everything I have done has been planned. Before the hunters rolled out of their sleeping bags, the crew had horses saddled, the cook had breakfast going, and the guides planned the day’s hunt.

Shit happens, so we were always flexible, but a plan was necessary. If a plan didn’t produce what we expected, we regrouped and finished the day with an altered or brand-new plan.

Just like writing a business plan for my outfit, I came up with a plan for my blogs. As time passed, blog and plan have diverged.

Because what I blog is based on my experience, it cannot be measured with a micrometer; it cannot be figured with a slide rule, 10 engineers and a room full of spreadsheets. I really have no way of measuring if I am on my plan or not.

But my experience is that people have stolen my content, rewrote emails I have sent answering questions and then blogged it, and had my computer infested with malware.

None of that was part of the plan. Now it is time to regroup, rethink and move ahead, around, over, under, or possibly through those roadblocks. Blogging may or may not be part of that regrouping.

Throughout my time blogging I have experienced some good people, especially those associated with Kristine’s Outdoor Bloggers Summit. I haven’t found a bad egg in the bunch. Plaudits and Kudos to Kristine and her bunch.

If I don’t return to blogging, I am not sure how long I will leave my content available to the public. Wait and see perhaps.

For those who continue to blog, and wish blogging to grow, I would suggest bringing clarity to the community. Anonymity is a scourge to any free system. Those who hide behind avatars and pseudonyms may be good people, but who is to know. Those that hide behind long trails of internet addresses are a rot. None of them is good.

Finally. Those who blog about other people’s experiences are no better than Descartes’ men or letters. They have “[ . . . ]reasonings engaged in by a man of letters of study, which touch on speculations that produce no effect and are of no other consequence to him except perhaps that, the more they are removed from common sense, the more pride he will take in them, for he will have to employ that much more wit and ingenuity in attempting to render them plausible.”

Until another experience comes along, I will sit here on the Howard Air Force Base runway waiting for another C-130 to take me somewhere. The last one went to Puerto Rico in 1977. That was real. Even if it were administered by electrodes in a vat, it was real. Much more real than someone experiencing another's experiences.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Best of The Best

As stated in my previous post, I will be taking a break from blogging. Montana Elk Hunting isn't about killing things, it's about having fun. To keep the fun going, I have made a list of reader's most popular posts and the ones I take the greatest pride in. What readers never see are the one, two, or three posts between posted posts that never make to the blog. For some reason I felt the theme was too weak, or the information was too redundant or they just weren't that good--so they were deep-sixed. What is posted are my best, so this is the Best of the Best. Hope you enjoy.

Two guides and four hunters on top of the Chinese Wall, Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana, September, 1974 or 1975.

The most popular post for readers are those associated with firearms.

Family and Friends
  1. Whitetail Buck
  2. Skunk Creek Spikes Battle
  3. Late Evening Elk
  4. Bulls Fight on Montana's Rocky Mountain Front
There are 103 post on this blog, this is just a sampling of what some readers and I believe are the best.

Have a great day.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Long Range Elk Hunting

The Real Story--Let's do Math!

If I wanted maximum hits from Google’s search engine, I should have named this post, “Best 800-yard Elk Gun,” but that would be a lie. This is actually my latest rant against the phalanx of Neanderthals that believe 800-yard elk shootin’ is something to write home to Mom about. I know what she would say. “If Johnny jumped off a bridge would you?” (An earlier rant can be found here.)

In the case of an 800-yard elk gun many have thought they had jumped with Johnny, but few know where the water is or if they have the ability to hit it.

Let’s do some Math. Ya' know, some old school ‘rithmetic and learning and addin’ and dividin’ and such.

This is like one a them ole’ story problems from 3rd grade.

“Johnny? You have an elk at 100 yards. What is the top to bottom dimension of an elk’s chest cavity?”

“Well, it’s got ta be about 24 inches.”

“That is right, Johnny. If we change that figure into minutes-of-angle, it becomes close to 24 minutes-of-angle. Class, ya all know that a minute-of-angle is actually 1.047 inches, but for ease of use we will round it to 1 inch,” said the teacher.

“Now Johnny, how well can your uncle hold his rifle at 100 yards, in a hunting’ situation—not offin' his bench?” asked the teacher.

Johnny replies, “On a good day, he can hold about 2 inches, ya know within him holdin’ his smoke pole in his hands.”

“Right. So, the entire top-to-bottom height of an elk is about 24 minutes-of-angle, and your uncle, who shoots better than most in the hollow, can hit a two-inch target at 100 yards. With that in mind, it seems simple for your uncle to hit an elk at 100 yards. Keep in mind class, that the kill zone is much smaller than the 24 minutes of angle,” the teacher said.

The teacher smoothed her hair and said, “OK, Sally. If the elk is 200 yards away, can Johnny’s uncle still hit it?”

“Umm, well, the elk is now 12 minutes-of-angle, and Johnny’s uncle’s best group is now about 4 inches. As long as Johnny’s uncle hits the center third of the 12 minutes-of-angle, he will hit the elk,” Sally said.

“That’s correct. Mark, if the elk is 400 yards away, can Johnny’s uncle still hit it?”

“I don’t think so,” said Mark.

“Why not?”

Mark wrinkled his face and said, “Well, at 400 yards the elk is only 6 minutes-of-angle and Johnny’s uncle’s best groupin’ has opened up to 8 inches. He might hit it, but then he might not.”

“That’s right, Mark. The entire top-to-bottom dimensions of an elk are less than the best group Johnny’s uncle can shoot. Since the kill area of an elk is only about 1/3 as large as the entire top-to-bottom dimensions of an elk, Johnny’s uncle must shoot his 8 inch group into a target that is 2 minutes-of-angle,” added the teacher.

“If we take this exercise to 800 yards, the results are even less positive for Johnny’s uncle. The elk has shrunk to 3 minutes-of-angle and the uncle’s best group is now over 16 inches. Actually the kill zone on the elk has diminished to about one minute-of-angle.”

This is one of the few third grade story problems that has made sense to me, but in more than 35 years of huntin’, guidin’ and outfittin’ I’ve only taken one hunter who I had confidence in to shoot at an elk 800 yards away. That was gunsmith, highpower shooter and silhouette shooter Albert Turner. On the one occasion we had a long-range chance, we both decided to get closer. The bull was smarter than we were and left before we crossed the coulee.

The question isn’t what is a good long-range rifle; it’s who is a good long-range rifleman?

Can YA’ shoot that thar thing?” (Emphasis on YOU!)


PS. For several reasons that I won't go into, I am writing one or two more post that are in draft stage, and then closing up the Montana Elk Hunting shop. I will probably leave the blog up for a while, but that's it.

Hope everyone has a great day!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

30-06 Springfield for Elk Hunting

Old Hunters with Old Rifles

For many years one hunter and I hunted extensively. With most hunters I didn’t take a rifle. I always felt it was their chance and packing a smoke pole would lessen their enjoyment. It must be noted that I had no misgivings while guiding grizzly hunters.
But this one hunter expected me to drag a shootin’ iron along. It was less like guiding and more like enjoying fellowship and companionship with a life-long friend. Since quitting guiding, I miss our walks, pontifications of world politics and killing two bulls along side one another.
Either he was good luck for me, I was good luck for him, or our lazy trips through the wilderness caused it, I am not sure, but we seemed to kill a lot of elk when we hunted together. In the edge of a meadow, in thick timber or sitting having lunch, the bulls would appear and we would drop two.
We carried very different weapons. His was a Remington 721 in 300 H & H Magnum with an older Redfield scope. Mine was an M1 Garand in 30-06 with stock sights. (It should be noted that M1 Garands are also chambered for 308.) For whatever reason, we both fired the same number of rounds at each occurrence, usually one, but sometimes two.
The only common traits of the two rifles was that both should have been in a museum, or in his case, at least in a display case, and they both fired old—and competing—cartridges.
Of course, my 30-06 was developed in 1906, but it also dominated 1000-yard competition until 1935. My friend’s 300 H&H was developed in the 1920s and made headlines in 1935 when Ben Comfort won the Wimbledon Cup Match, a 1000-yard any-sight National Match that is still shot at Camp Perry, Ohio.
Those old cartridges were left in the dust as larger magnums garnered 1000-yard honors. During the past decade, the magnums have wallowed in dirt as cartridges like the 6.5-284 win. Better external ballistics and lower recoil have supplanted raw power.
As the evolution of cartridges continues to cut paper at 1000-yards, those two one hundred-year old cartridges—the 30-06 and 300 H&H—continue to drop elk.
For an old outfitter and guide to promote a one hundred-year old cartridge is a useless exercise.
Useless—adj. not expected to achieve the intended purpose or desired outcome.
In my case, the intended purpose is to teach people that a cartridge with a large margin of overkill on elk, such as a 30-06, is superior to the new magnums, because hunters-experienced and novice—will benefit from it being more shooter friendly (read, less recoil). The desired outcome is to have hunters—new and old—to quit searching for the Viagra of shooting magnums and rely on their ability to shoot, shoot, shoot and learn to use the appropriate caliber for the animal being sought.
A 30-06 loaded with a 180-grain spitzer boat tail to 2800 feet per second has the minimum energy to kill an elk out to 750 yards, adequate energy to 300 yards, and preferred to 175 yards. For grins, the 300 Winchester Magnum loaded with the same bullet to 3000 fps has the minimum energy to about 800 yards, adequate to 475, and preferred to 200 yards. Not much difference when a shooter realizes that most elk are taken at less than 200 yards, and most hunters can’t successfully engage an elk—hunting conditions, not a bench—much beyond that range. (For more on energy)
It may be that my hunting friend/client and I were successful hunters because we were confident in using rifles that had killed elk for a century. We didn’t worry about flat-shooting, high velocity, bullet energy, fill the coffers of rifle makers and magazine writers newest, grandest super whazzooo elk blaster. We sat at the base of a tree munching a sandwich discussing the newest president and the latest from the Middle East. When the Director cued the elk, we calmly put our artillery to use, finished the sandwich, shook hands, slapped each other on the back, and caped our elk.
It doesn’t get any better than that.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Senate Rejects Reciprocal Concealed Carry Amendment

In the news today, gun owners were rebuffed by gun control advocates when the Senate voted 58-39 for an amendment that would have allowed gun owners that had concealed carry permits in one state to exercise their right in all other concealed carry states. The amendment needed 60 votes to be added to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010.


Additional Planning

As you have read here before, Montana Elk Hunting takes as much planning as Montana Gardening. My grandfather Charlie Carter had many gardening tips that centered around such planning. (You can find more of his tips here and here.)

Sometime before I was born Grampa had a large garden that was being raided by jack rabbits. It wasn't much of a problem removing them. He lived on the edge of town and would simply slide the shotgun through the screen door and dispatch those waskawe wabbits. The problem was that some of the pellets would lodge in carrots, radishes, pumpkins, squash and even the corn.

It took Grampa a few years to develop a plan to deal with that situation.

In the spring, when he planted his garden he placed the seed "a hare's width apart."

Plan well.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

30-06, 270, 280

Like a Timex

The 30-06 Springfield, 270 Winchester and 280 Remington are the Timex watch of elk cartridges. They “take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. It would be impossible to name all the cartridges—factory and wildcat—that have been developed since the ’06 came out. In the 1940s and 50s the magnums came out. The last two decades short magnums and ultra magnums have been the rage.

Perusal of magazines and websites indicates that the 7mm Remington Magnum is “THE” long-range western hunting cartridge. Others indicate the only real elk rifle is the .338 Winchester Magnum. Additionally, super tankers of ink have praised the coal hod of “elk” cartridges recently developed by Ruger, Federal, Hornady, et al.

Yet, the big three, ’06, 270, 280 are still with us. According to rifle, ammunition and reloading die sales, the 30-06 and the 270 are still numbers one and two. The 280 is the newest of the trio, but for most uses there is little difference between the three. Each has enough overkill to easily take an elk, and each is about the most rifle the average hunter can handle without developing a flinch.

The kicker if you own an’06 or 270 is you can buy ammunition in any burg in the grand ole’ USA.
The tried and true fits with my mantra of K.I.S.S., better than the "new and improved."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

7-08, Elk Rifle Wannabe

What Went Wrong?
Two of our hunters walked back into camp just as I got the last mule loaded with elk.
One said, “Anybody want a bull elk? There are two up in the corner of the horsepasture.”
It was the third day of the first hunt. Three hunters had gotten bull elk on the second day. They decided to stay in camp, hunt deer and relax instead of going to town with me.
I said, “I haven’t got a license yet, plus I’ve got eight mules loaded and I need to get going.”
A high-pitched voice shrieked from the cooktent, “I want an elk.”
It was Michele, the cook.
The tent flap exploded. Michele ran toward me with her Browning BLR and pleaded, “Dennis, will you take me?”
“Let’s see.”
WE all walked out of the trees that obscured the horsepasture from camp. Sure enough, two rag-horn bull elk grazed 700 yards away in what we called the horsepasture.
I looked at the ground, rubbed my left hand over my forehead and eyes, and thought I know better, but this wouldn't take long. “OK,” I said, “let’s hit the trees.”

My pardner, Socks, me, and six mules packing elk from Lynx Creek, Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana.

We had an almost direct route from camp through timber along the east side of the horsepasture. It brought us within 80-yards of the nearest bull and about 120 yards from the farthest bull elk.
I motioned Michele to the ground beside me and instructed, “Lay down and get a rest over this deadfall.”
She said, “I can’t shoot laying down.”
I may have looked at the ground and rubbed my forehead and eyes again, not sure, but I said, “Well, get situated, get a steady shot and hit the nearest bull right behind the groove behind his shoulder.”
She shot. Nothing.
I had my Steiner glasses. The bull didn’t wiggle. I said, “Take another poke at him.”
She shot. Nothing.
“Where were you aiming?”
Right were you told me to.
I said, “Shoot again. Take your time and squeeze one off.”
She shot. Nothing. Not even a flinch. Neither bull was concerned with us in the least, and both of them had seen us by now, and both went on grazing.
This went on for five shots. I figured she was out of shells and indicated I was going back to camp—I still had eight mules loaded and tied to the hitch rail, and I still had 19 miles of wilderness trail, 30 miles of gravel road and “town business” to conduct before sacking out in the evening.
I was wrong. Michele fished out a whole box of Remington Core-Lokts from her jean jacket pocket. I am sure I looked at the ground and rubbed my forehead and eyes that time. The box and her inability to shoot prone indicated we were in trouble.
She reloaded and fired one. I decided to wait two minutes before each shot. I can’t say why, but I couldn’t believe that every shot had missed from that range. I hoped that he would keel over before we emptied the box.
Somewhere in the process the nearest bull laid down. The farthest still continued to graze.
Michele shot everything but five bullets.
I said, “Reload.”
After the reload, I said, “Now, we’re going to walk up on him. When we get 25 yards away, I want you to shoot him in the head.”
At about 35 yards, Michele couldn’t stand it. She said, “I’ve got to shoot him, NOW.”
We had walked into a depression between the bull and us. Michele kneeled down and shot. Dirt exploded five yards in front of us.
I said, “Where were you aiming?”
“At his head,” she replied.
“Let’s move closer and get this hump out of the way.”
At 20 or 25 yards—with both bulls looking at us, one lying down chewing cud and another grazing—Michele let loose, blowing his jaw off. The bull jumped up and ran out of sight in a patch of timber.
I was at a loss. I had to get moving, but tracking a freshly wounded bull was stupid. I told her we would wait for 30 minutes. That isn’t long enough, but I had to get going.
We set in the horsepasture and watched the other bull graze off. Down below, it looked like most of the crew and hunters were watching the exhibition through binoculars and spotting scopes. Must have been great fun—like Elk Hunting TV.
We walked into the timber and found the bull dead on his feet about 100 yards in. I said, “We’re going to run up on him and you shoot him in the head.” I ran up, put my hand on his hip bone like a domestic cow and pushed him over. She shot him.
Although I had work to do, I wanted to know what had happened. I told Michele to get some of the crew and a couple mules, and I would skin him, but not gut him. The crew had time to gut, quarter and pack the bull.

Me, a horse and nine mules packing elk, deer and duffle out of White River, Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana. I'm walking out of the mountains, 'cause I didn't have enough mules to pack all the elk and deer. You may see one deer loaded on my riding saddle.
Skinning showed something odd. In addition to one shot to the brain and one shot through the jaw, the hide had 14 bullet holes in it. No gut shots were found. Most of the bullets entered and a few had exited.
While I have never been fond of the 7-08 for elk hunting, this situation was its worst demonstration. It is possible that in this case, the Browning BLR had too short of a barrel to get the optimum velocity from the 7-08. I had been concerned that Michele’s marksmanship was suspect, but the bullet holes proved she had done her job.
The 7-08s track record on bull elk isn’t good.
If an elk hunter want an elk rifle in 7mm, then get a full-powered model, like a 280 Remington, 284 Winchester, or 7mm Magnum of whatever flavor suits your pistol. You may also want a rifle with a 22 to 24 inch barrel, to exploit their velocity.
I’ve got to get going.

Addendum (added 14 Nov 2011):

Since I originally wrote this in 7/12/09, I have received multiple comments--all anonymous--and most have been unprintable due to language.  People commenting have found too many "things" in this story that they cannot accept.  Why, I do not know.

Granted, I wrote this poorly, but if just one of the commenters, or those that took me to task at their favorite "hunting/shooting forum" had made constructive comments in a polite manner, I would apologized and have rewritten it immediately.  No one did.  Everyone, comfortable in their "hunting/shooting forum chairs" decided that I was a liar, a bullshit artist, or possibly some Muslim terrorist.  (Those are the comments that I can republish without using four-letter words and racial slurs.)

In the story, I stated that Michelle had "done her job."  That does not mean that all her shot hit.  In fact, most missed.  Additionally, I stated that there were 14 bullet holes in the hide.  Fourteen holes in a hide from bullets that entered and exited does not equate to 14 hits.  Do the math.

Some "knowledgeable" armchair elk hunters believed that this post was some sort of "cowboy humor."  The only humor was my comments on the barrel being only 20 inches long.  I doubt that that made any difference.  

Some believe that I hate the 7-08.  To the contrary.  I own a 7-08.  I just don't use it elk hunting.  Not because of my experience with Michelle, but from seeing many elk not go down after several shots.  True, it comes down to the hunter being a marksman, but the 7-08 is one of those cartridges that has little overkill, and when an elk is not hit well, or the elk doesn't provide a good angle, the 7-08 lacks.  For those who don't read any more of this blog I must add that my elk hunting/guiding/outfitting experience reaches back to 1972.  My experience hasn't come from watching my own 40 elk die, but from multiple hunter's elk die during multiple years of hunting.

My point of this article dovetails with the original goal of this blog, "give new elk hunters the best chance of taking a bull elk home."  The 7-08 doesn't do that.

Some worldly elk hunters have cast dispersions on my characterization of the elk not leaving, running away, or otherwise acting scared.  Besides hunting/guiding/outfitting elk hunters, I have herded elk for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and chased elk on horseback when I was a kid. Not all elk run away when shot at or chased.  I'm not an elk psychologist, so I am not sure why that is.  

Some of the commenters stated that I was "highly opinionated."  I am guilty as charged.  40 years of watching elk get gut-shot, jaws blown off, high hits in the ass, legs blown off, and wobbling off into the timber has given me an opinion.  I can think of nothing less satisfying and more despicable than writing someone else's opinion, or writing a story intended to satisfy one group or another.  I am not a politician.

The aggregate total of the comments to this story proves to me that what people "believe" in their heads is more important than experience.  If my experience doesn't jibe with what is in other's heads, maybe the others haven't been in my moccasins.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

.308, The Highpower Isuzu

Mark Target 34!

Bill turns to Fred and says, “I didn’t hear anything.”

“Me neither, lets pull it,” replies Fred.

Bill and Fred dutifully perform a thorough search of the 1000-yard target, they find no bullet hole, place the scoring disc in the top center of the target and run it back in the air.

Several minutes pass.

Mark Target 34!

“This guy can’t get on paper,” says Fred.

Another search, no hole, the miss disc is displayed and up goes the target.

“Mark Target 34!” is repeated from five to 20 times.

Finally, Fred says, “I felt something. Pull the target.”

This hole is easy to find. The bullet has gone through sideways, leaving a bullet silhouette in the paper.

Target pullers from nearby come and remark, “Guy must be shooting a .308.”

Others reply, “Yeah, looks that way.”

Bob Faure and I in the Fort Ord, California target pitts, 1987.

If you haven’t pulled targets on a 1000-yard range you may ask, “How would someone know the cartwheeling bullets came from a .308?”

Well, for nearly the same reason that the .308 makes a piss-poor elk rifle—it’s running out of gas. Read your history of the development of the .308—it’s the economy model—essentially, you get more for less (yeah, I bought some of that crap.)

You won’t be shooting an elk at 1000-yards, but the empty tank of gas runs out faster when the bullet must perform on hide, hair, meat and bone than when it must punch a hole through parchment.

1000-yard line at Fort Lewis, Washington, 1996. Shooting a Model 70 in .22 BR Remington.

Target pullers use two methods of knowing when a bullet has passed through their target: vibration and sound. Many pullers put their hand on the target frame—below the berm—and feel vibrations of the bullet cutting paper. Others listen. Highpower bullets remain supersonic—unless they tumble—and a “CRACK” can be heard as it passes overhead. Many pullers use both methods.

If you pull targets, you won’t have to wait long before you experience Bill and Fred’s lack of “CRACK” and lack of vibration, but you won’t run into the problem if your shooter is shooting a 30-06. It just doesn’t happen.

.223 Remington, .22 BR Remington, 22-250 Remington, 7mm-08 Remington, 30-06 Springfield, .300 Winchester Magnum (l to r). With the exception of the 7-08, I have shot all of them at 1000 yard matches. They all perform well. The .22s need 80 grain VLDs to make the trip.

Some who hear me say, “The .308 Winchester is a piss-poor elk rifle,” will roll their eyes and say I’m deluded. I can only speak from elk hunting experience, elk guiding experience, elk outfitting experience and highpower competition experience. In the spirit of a recent vice-presidential debate, “I knew a 30-06, and the .308 isn’t one.”

1000-yard Leech Cup Match at Camp Perry, Ohio, about 1995. The USMC guy isn't watching me, he's watching David Tubb.

Finally, I’ve never heard anyone shooting a 30-06 on a 1000-yard line ask, “Is there some way I can load my cartridges to cartwheel like Billy Bob’s .308s do?”

Go for the gas. Shoot a full-power cartridge, 270, 280, 30-06 or bigger for full-power game.

Leave the economy model for the weak game.


Return to .308, 7-08, .243

Return to Frequently Asked Questions

Friday, July 10, 2009

.308, 7mm-08, .243

Not Quite An Elk Rifle

In previous posts you may have read that the 7mm Remington Magnum and the .300 Weatherby Magnum have caused more wounded elk than any other cartridges I know. Number three and four are the .308 Winchester and the 7-08 Remington. Since very few hunters take .308s or 7-08s and many take 7mm Remington Magnums and .300 Weatherbys on elk hunts, percentage wise the order would be reversed.

The .308, 7mm-08 and .243 are based on the same case, the 7.62 NATO. On paper the 7.62 nearly approximates the cartridge it was designed to replace—the 30-06 Springfield, but experience shows it to be a distant second. The .308 and 7-08 are marginal elk cartridges. The .243 is NOT an elk cartridge. Granted they will all kill an elk, but the margin of overkill is low. For more information on what it takes to kill an elk read Bullet Energy Variable.

On perfect shots all three of these will kill an elk, but they do not have the power to smash through heavy bone and portions of muscle when taking the “raking shots” Elmer Keith describes.

If a person wants an elk cartridge with the length dimensions of the .308-class of cartridges, but with the power of the 30-06-class of cartridges, use either the .284 Winchester or a 30-284. Case capacity is that of the 30-06. In fact, in most situations 30-06 loading data can be used for the 30-284. Check YOUR loading data—don’t rely on my post, please.

7mm-08 Remington, 30-06 Springfield and .300 Winchester Magnum (l to r)

.308 Winchester for Elk

Using Ackley’s figures (also found here) the .308 loaded with a 180-grain spitzer boattail bullet at 2600 feet per second has the minimum amount of energy to kill an elk out to 600 yards, adequate out to 400, and preferred out to 50 yards. With a 165-grain SBT at 2700 fps those figures work to 600 yards, 350 yards and 100 yards, respectively. .308, The Highpower Isuzu

7mm-08 Remington for Elk

The 7-08 loaded with a 175-grain SBT at 2600 fps has the minimum energy for elk out to 450 yards, adequate to 200 yards, and preferred at the muzzle.

It’s important to remember what the main use of the 7—08 is—rifle silhouette competition. Not that many years ago, the .308 was the standard silhouette cartridge. Shooters found that the 7-08 was as accurate as the .308, had enough energy to topple the rams at 500 meters, but had less recoil, which caused scores to climb. Silhouette is all shot offhand. Any rifle that kicks less—and gets the job done—will win matches. 7-08, Elk Rifle Wannabe

.243 Winchester for Elk

The .243 loaded with 100-grain SBT at 2900 fps has the minimum energy to kill an elk out to 150 yards.

When David Tubb switched from the 7-08 to the .243 for silhouette competition, his scores went up, and many others followed his lead. Rifles with a faster twist than found on factory rifles can shoot heavier bullet. Although the .243 will not always topple rams at 500 meters, the loss there is made up by fewer jerks, flinches and missed shots caused by heavier recoiling cartridges.

The .243 is a good deer rifle. It is also available on most varmint versions of factory rifles. You won't find many 30-06 or 300 Magnums in varmint models.


In the late 1800s Rainbow Dam was built on part of the Great Falls of the Missouri referred to by explorers Lewis and Clark. The original dam was a wooden crib filled with gravel from a nearby hillside. Men (mostly Chinese) filled the crib by wheelbarrow. The job was completed with much time and sweat. Today the job would be done with front-end loaders, scrapers and concrete.

If you go elk hunting, use the rifleman’s version of the front-end loader, scraper and concrete—an elk rifle, not something designed to replace The Elk Hunter's Rifle.


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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Past and Present Friends

The actual date, 4 July, has passed, but the thoughts associated with it have remained for years. Those great men who made a change in the world will be remembered. I never knew them, but I have known some great men who kept the change, but will only be remembered by me, and a few others.

4th of July weekend was not a time of writing. It was a time to be outdoors and enjoying the fellowship of newer people.

On 3 July, I received the following message from one of those people.

Want to thank you. The other day my mind was wandering around and settled upon your military experience with the sloth in Central America. That thought about your experience helped me along that day.
A worldwide sir you are--and I at least have benefited immensely from your past and present experiences!
With high regards, thanks and Happy Fourth.

Quentin is Quentin Kujala, long-time friend and also a wildlife biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Quentin is one of those friends that is always positive and usually gives people a positive “push” with his words. On this occasion, his words brought back memories of those great men who have been lost though my day-to-day activities: Mullen, Gordon, Padilla, Cordova. All were members of Company A (Airborne), Third Battalion, Fifth Infantry, Fort Kobbe, Canal Zone, the only paratroop outfit in the Canal Zone, at the time.

Company A (Airborne), 3rd Battalion, 5th Infantry during Independence Day parade, Balboa Avenue, Balboa, Canal Zone, 4 July 1978. This photo was taken by a member of A 3/5. I don't recall his name, but nearly everyone in the company bought a copy of this photo.

Mullen had lived in Tehran, Iran where his dad was some sort of spook working for the Shah. Gordon was the son of Richard F. Gordon, Jr., an Apollo astronaut. Padilla was a man of Hispanic descent who lived, and lives in Denver. He was also the Best Man at my wedding. Cordova was also Hispanic, and lived in Longmont, Colorado. The four of us spent two years together in Panama. Mullen, Padilla, Cordova and I spent another hitch in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Cordova and I were the inseparable Army buddies lamented in 1940s and 1950s war movies.

Every few months in Panama, A 3/5 came up for guard duty. One of the locations guarded was Rodman Ammunition Storage Area—a naval base with Marine gate guards, but the Army provided roving patrols. Rodman was a series of single-lane, rotted asphalt roads weaving through the jungle. Every two, three or four hundred yards, on either side of the road, were bunkers.

Guard duty at Rodman consisted of four or five two-man teams walking the roads, physically checking each bunker. Each team carried one AN/PRC-77 radio, a clipboard, a flashlight, two M16s and 10 rounds of 5.56. We always hoped we never encountered more than 10 thieves on our rounds.

Teams were replaced every four to eight hours, by jeep. (This was a decade before the Humvee appeared.) The jeep and Sergeant-of-the-Guard made random checks on the teams.

Late one night, or early one morning—still dark—Cordova and I were making our rounds. Nearly shoulder-to-shoulder we saw a dark mound in the road ahead. Neither of us acknowledged anything. As we approached, we slowly moved apart, but our pace quickened until we were speed marching past the bump. About twenty-yards passed the object, we slowed, and without a word finally stopped, searched out each other’s eyes in the starlit jungle.

The conversation went like this.

“Did you see that?”


“What was it?”

“I don’t know. What was it?”

“We better check.”

The flashlight flicked on. Even though we had passed within two feet of the thing moments ago, we both flipped rifle-safeties off and approached the mass.

Sloths are one of the ugliest creatures on earth. Smashed-up faces, brown hair that grows the wrong way and containing enough algae and bacteria that they have a greenish-yellow camouflage, with Jurassic hooks for claws. They live in trees their entire lives, except for trips to the ground to defecate. (Information on sloths can be found at Wikipedia sloths and National Geographic two-toed sloths.)

Because they live in trees, they don’t motate very well on ground. This sloth couldn’t get any traction and had spun-out on the slick asphalt. Cordova and I were going to leave it, but we thought the jeep might fly around the corner and make road pizza. About the only thing more disgusting than a sloth is probably two-toed sloth road pizza. Anyway, we decided to move it off the road, but we didn’t want to touch it—it hissed and swung it arms and prehistoric hooks at us, and we had no implements.

Sloths only weigh about 20 pounds. We started pushing it across the road with our M16 muzzles. In the process, the sloth swung his claw and arm through the sling on Cordova’s rifle. It was hard to tell who the M16 belonged to. Cordova finally drug the sloth off the road, unhooked the sling at the butt, and we continued on our way.

Thirty years later we have all continued on our way. Mullen lives in Indiana and owns a restaurant. Gordon was a HALO instructor for Special Forces and now lives in Alabama. Padilla retired from a National Guard SF unit. Cordova was killed in Longmont, Colorado less than a year after his discharge.

Quentin’s 4th of July email brought back some important memories. Hopefully, you can find something of an Aesop’s fable or humor in this story.

Happy Independence Day To All.

Me or Cordova over Venado Drop Zone, Panama Canal Zone. Although blurry, in the distance there are ships waiting to transit the canal. Around Christmas 1978, our company had several "fun" jumps. They were made higher than normal. On one day, I used my Olympus OM-1 with a 200mm lense to take a picture of Cordova. The next day, he returned the favor. When we got the photos back it was impossible to tell who was who. This is a tribute to my lost friend Cordova--either the paratrooper or the photographer. Who knows?