Tag Archives: Rifle

Cheap Ammunition, is the Bang worth the Squeeze?

Inexpensive ammunition is very appealing to shooting sports enthusiasts.
The relatively high cost of ammunition and its high angle trajectory shows no sign of changing anytime soon.


Today we are going to discuss an interesting topic; Is cheaper ammunition really a good buy? There are a few questions that are relevant to the discussion here, to determine that answer:

  • What kind of shooting am I doing?
  • What kind of target?
  • What is my budget?
  • What type of gun am I using?

A quick perusal of catalogs and store shelves can give you a good idea of what people buy the most of. There is usually a large amount of what has become known as “plinking ammo“. Plinking ammo refers to its application, inexpensive ammunition that can be bought in large quantities allowing for longer shooting sessions, or at least more of them.

Plinking ammunition typically is used for pistols and carbines, the higher volume capability of these types of firearms is part of the reason people buy them. They shoot lots of inexpensive ammunition, which most of the time equates to more fun and training. This type of shooting usually takes place at relatively short distances, at targets ranging from automated steel plates, right down to improvised things like cardboard boxes. For this kind of shooting, plinking ammo works great.

Accuracy is dictated by the size of your target. If you are shooting pumpkins at two hundred yards, then you have a much larger margin for error than if you are trying to hit prairie dogs at four or five hundred yards. It is important you start out with reasonable expectations, don’t shoot at one or two MOA targets with a three to four MOA rifle. You’ll quickly find yourself spending more ammunition, only to be frustrated with poor results. The same can be said for ammunition, if your three thousand dollar rifle will only shoot 3-4 MOA with cheap ammunition, you are going to be disappointed.

If you intend on a more serious type of shooting, such as competition, or hunting, or some other application, you may find that inexpensive ammunition may not be savings you intended on getting.
Inexpensive ammunition is produced on large-scale production lines, using components that were also mass produced. These processes drive the cost of the ammunition down and the volume up, but it is hard to maintain consistency when mass producing something meant to fly faster than the speed of sound. Quality ammunition is also produced on large scales, the quality of the ammunition depends on the attention paid to its assembly. In order for ammunition to be accurate, it must be consistent. The time and precision it takes to produce consistent ammunition translate into a higher cost.

Perhaps hunting is your main shooting activity. If so, going cheap may not only be more expensive, but it could be unethical. If inconsistent ammunition is used during a hunt, it could cause an animal to be wounded and go unrecovered. It also could be the cause for multiple shots needed and a loss of meat, either scenario should be avoided. Accurate ammunition isn’t always expensive, but cheap ammunition can cost you far more than the money you spent.

I set out to try an experiment, our theory being that quality ammunition is still a better buy than the cheap stuff. The reason behind the theory is simple; If I shoot at my target 5 times and hit it once, shooting my cheap Fiocchi 308Win at $0.80 per shot, I have spent $4.00 for one hit. If I shoot at the same target using DTM 308 match and hit it on the first shot, I have only spent $1.44 for the same hit. So how much money have I saved? Even if it takes two shots to hit my target, I am still spending less per hit.

Here you can see some of the results to my experiment (admittedly not clinical). You can see that with the same gun and shooter combination produced better results with high quality ammunition vs. the inexpensive option. Left target is DTM 308Win Premium Match, right is Fiocchi 308 Win.

The theory proved to be well founded, from a precision perspective. As you can see in the pictures above, the less expensive ammunition created a much larger pattern on the target. Using the exact same point of aim, you can see that it created a roughly three inch group. While on the left target we see groups closer to half or three quarter inch. This is where the answers to the questions I asked at the beginning of this article come into play. If all you need is to hit a sheet of paper at 100yds, then the inexpensive ammo from above will work fine. But let’s say hypothetically that the paper was moved out to 500yds, several of those shots may not even be on the paper much less near the point of aim. The match ammunition on the other hand that prints sub MOA groups, at five hundred yards will still keep groups small enough to hit a small piece of fruit, over and over. So for cost per hit, the premium ammunition proved to be the better buy for sure.

Obviously this depends greatly on the type of firearm and the target you are using. For example, if you are shooting a surplus military rifle or relic, shooting quality ammunition might not give you that big of an advantage. Or if you are training with pistols at 7-20yds, it would make sense to use something inexpensive. Some firearms perform good or great with performance ammunition, and others perform mediocre no matter what you feed them. Not all guns are created equal. The above groups were shot using the Desert Tech SRS A1, perhaps in the future we can redo the same test with a surplus rifle, or an inexpensive equivalent, and see how the results compare.

It is important to compare apples to apples then, plinking inside one hundred yards with a rifle, doesn’t always require the best. But clearly, if hitting exactly where you aim is important you, then your best bet is to stick with quality. Also keep in mind that some firearms are like high performance cars, they aren’t meant to run on 85 octane. The same goes for some performance firearms, running cheap ammo could actually do more harm than good. If you are lucky, you can often find an inexpensive combination of rifle and ammunition that still performs to the accuracy standard you desire. But since luck has never been my companion, I stick to well known performers, and the quality ammunition that they run on.

So if serious shooting and accurate engagement of targets is part of your plan, quality ammunition should be one of your first considerations. There is a time and place for cheap ammo, but when the pressure is on and hits are a must, send the best you can get.

CBM

Originally posted on http://www.deserttech.com/blog/

The First and Last Elk

As the sun sets this time of year, frigid cold air rushes in to fill the void left by the sunlight. We watched as the last few glimmers of the sun disappeared over the cloudy horizon, the cold grip of winter seemed to tighten around us in the eerie silence. My son, my cousin and I, sat in the snow regaining our composure as natures evening show came to a close. It had been a busy day, and we finally had a moment to pause.
For the past few months, we had been following the habits of a small herd of elk that live in the steep and rocky mountains that surround this valley. You likely read about our previous encounters with them, only last week I took one of the herd myself after we got into them. My son still had a tag, and he hadn’t burned out yet, so we had returned to fill it.

The temperature inversion turns the valley into a cold cloudy soup

This time of year, getting up the mountain early doesn’t seem to have the benefits it does during the normal season. The cold temperatures, and the lack of hunting pressure have animals out and about during the daytime. Deer, elk, coyotes, etc. can all be seen and heard during the day, and its a great time to just be out there. Once we got above the cold fog in the valley, there was a beautiful sunny day waiting for us.
This nice buck sat and watched us from 300yds for the better part of a couple hours

As Junior and I made our way up into the canyons, I scoured the draws and hill’s where I expected to see our herd. Moving slowly, we would stop every so often to glass the brush covered ridges. It is amazing how little it takes to conceal a whole elk. I hadn’t even planned on shooting anything today. I figured we would go for a nice ride up in the sunshine, and if we were lucky, maybe spot the herd on some distant, miserable, and untouchable ridge line.
It is of course Murphy’s law, that as soon as you least expect something, or ill prepared for it, that something will happen. This was the case, as Junior and I rounded a turn, and my eyes focused on familiar brown and tan shapes that stood above us on a slope. Four of them, kicking away the snow to find the grass underneath. Not wanting to spook them, we quickly and quietly grabbed our gear, and made our way to a clearing. Once we had gotten a good position, I helped Junior get his rifle setup over a pack. It was a fairly steep angle, so we had to build a little taller position to get him comfortable. In just a few moments, we were fixed on our target.
Our girl

There were four elk visible, all cows and calves. This herd had once numbered six, besides the one I had already taken, the missing one must have been just out of view. There was a single elk off to one side of the herd alone, and her broadside position made her the ideal target. While Junior prepared himself, I hit the elk with my rangefinder. The distance to our target was 540 yards, not a short distance. But I knew he could pull it off, as he had done before. We had practiced as much as time would allow.

A shot like that requires a good rifle, and my son carried it in his hot little hands. A custom Remington I had put together for him the year preceding. It was a sixteen inch .260 Remington, today it wore a Delta P Design Brevis II 6.5, and a Minox 1-6X30 scope. Junior had shot this rifle with great success, and it fit his stature. Well enough to shoot his very first Mule deer buck a few months ago at a similar distance.
So now we sat there, ready to shoot, all that was left was the trigger pull.

My son has been hunting with me since he was two or three years old. Even though he has been there, and seen it done so many times, he still gets that pounding heart and feverish excitement when its time to shoot. He was nervous for a moment, but after we locked eyes, and had a little Father & Son pep talk, he calmed down. He resigned himself to it, and I watched through my 8X rangefinder, waiting patiently.
Maybe it was that he needed to just get one shot off to feel at home, or maybe it was the shot itself that focused his little mind. But whatever the reason, that first shot pealed across the slope without hitting the elk. And as if a switch had been flipped, Junior’s demeanor changed, and he was now “in the zone”. After a reload, he re-engaged the elk, and put a bullet into her. She walked a few steps forward, and laid down in the snow. We put another one into her moments later, to make sure she was dead.

The steep hike up the hill to the elk took a little time, but it was very gratifying once we got there. Habitual observances took over at that point. We took some time to take plenty of pictures, and clean her up. The beauty of the snow covered landscape lit by the unfiltered rays of sunshine made the experience even more pleasant. Just a short time earlier, we were covered with coats, hats, gloves and the typical winter gear. The cold fog below had left our beards frosted, and yet in this moment of pristine success, we stood in the sunshine wearing only T-shirts under blue skies.



With the help of a couple good friends who came to help, we tied her up, and drug her down the hill. It took quite an effort, but it was well worth it once we had her back to the truck, and ready to bring home.

As night drew near, the ice cold fog that had hidden the valley from us, worked its way back up the mountain and threatened to envelope us once again. As it does every year, the bitter sweetness of the end of the season came over me. Knowing that we are done hunting for the season brings a somber feeling. The blood dried on the backs of our hands, as well as the freezer full of meat, fills me with satisfaction, and gratitude. These two contradicting sentiments are what give spice and excitement, they are part of the experience that comes with participation in this primal circle of life.
The only thing better than experiencing such exhilarating highs and lows, is doing it with the ones we love the most. I am a very lucky person, being able to share this with my son, and family. We are already looking forward to next year.
-CBM

A First Deer for Junior

The sun set no more than a few hours ago, the closing day of the Utah general season deer hunt. This marks the first year since I began hunting, that I have gone without killing a deer. For years I have anticipated it, not knowing when or why it would come. Every year I would tell myself; maybe this is the year I go without. But through some kind of blind luck, I have always managed to get a tag, as well as a deer to go with it. I wouldn’t have guessed that it would take so many years for it to finally happen, but the beautiful memories that took its place are even better.
2016 was a special year for me, for the first time in my life, I would be hunting with both my Father, and my Son. Surely we had been together many times, but this was the first time that all three of us would be carrying a rifle. I thought for sure we could find three bucks, and what a special hunt it would be, that three generations of my family could once again draw blood. If you read the first part of this story, you are likely to remember the handy little rifle that my son is lucky to have. A pieced together Remington 700, with a 16” .260 barrel, I had loaded it with some PVRI 120 Grain Match hollow points. And whenever the squeeze was good, this little rifle hammered.
After a few adjustments, to make the rifle fit him better, we spent as much time as we could practicing. I would have liked to have him shoot it a lot more, but keeping a twelve year old’s attention for more than a few minutes proved difficult.
But the calendar waits for no one, and so the practice we got, was all I had to work with. Because before I knew it, the deer hunt opener was upon us. I drove up the dark and winding canyon roads, my Brother and I discussing the plan for the day, while my Son sat quietly in the back. The day was as usual on public land general season, armies of orange covered every vantage point. But despite the state wildlife agency’s prognostication of a great season, we never got to put eyes on a deer with antlers. It did however give Jr. plenty of opportunity to practice his trigger pulls, and prepare himself for the moment that would surely come.
Practice, practice, and more practice.

Day after day went by, miles and miles of hiking, glassing, and chasing. But we still never got to put our eyes on a buck through a rifle scope. I had on several occasions had the opportunity to shoot a buck, but I had promised myself that I would do so only after my son had his chance. It was really starting to weigh heavy on my conscience, it had never seemed so hard to get on a buck, even the little ones seemed to be out of our reach.

Though the hunting wasn’t going as well as I had hoped, we certainly enjoyed good company. Like always, we hunt together as family, and for good reason.
After five days of fruitless efforts, I was beginning to loose my cool. As the weather finally turned sour, my hopes for success were peaking. But when even that didn’t provide us a good opportunity, I was quite frustrated. Luckily my Father was there to help me see the big picture, as well as the little guy who was watching me.
Ready to conquer the mountain

Just when I had lost hope, and the dreaded sun came out, threatening to send all the deer to bed, things changed. My good friend signaled me from the opposite side of the ridge we had straddled, and I wasted no time getting to him. He quickly pointed out a deer he had spotted across the canyon, and for the first time in a few days, the fire inside me was lit. I hustled back to where my son was waiting, we scrambled our gear together, and made our way back to a good shooting position across the canyon from the young buck.

His antlers shining in the mid-morning sun, picking his way down the steep mountain, the deer had no idea what was being planned for him. I helped Jr. get into a good shooting position, and pointed the deer out to him. One of the reasons I opted for the Minox 1-6 optic, was because of the often difficult task of getting inexperienced shooters on target. Less magnification helps easily spot distant targets by not taking away the big picture.
Jr. had on many occasions used the 6X to engage targets at 500 yds, and I had used it on targets to 800yds. Contrary to popular belief, huge magnification is not as big a deal as some people would make it.
After a few moments, Jr. picked out the distant buck. He steadied his little rifle, and I had him dry fire a couple more times, just to make sure it felt right. When I was convinced he was ready, a round was chambered, the bolt closed up tight. I watched as close as I could, barely breathing, listening, waiting. The deer turned broadside, giving us a perfect shot. My mind raced over all the steps we had worked on, steady the rifle, breathe out, squeeze. I could only wait now to see if it all stuck.

As I heard his breathing pause, the rifle pulsed into his shoulder, and the subdued report of the rifle hissed across the dry grass before us. I watched in suspense as the trace peaked across the 490 yards that separated us from our prey. The bullet struck the deer, right behind his left shoulder, perfect elevation. I watched the rippling waves of energy as they were soaked up by his body. His rear legs collapsed, and he fell immediately to the ground, and slowly slid down the steep slope. As he slid, I saw blood pour from the exit wound, flowing down his side. He slid some 20 yards into a large brush pile, where we lost sight of him.
The satisfaction of a perfect shot, that was so long in the waiting, a shot that I alone had been anticipating since the day he made me a Father. As I hugged my boy, I was reminded what made this year so special. It wasn’t filling three tags that made it special. It was standing next to my Dad, holding my son, having just made a perfect shot, on his very first deer.
After some high fives, and a congratulatory hug from Dad and Grandpa, we decided to empty our backpacks, and head down after him. I could see a different attitude now, Jr. had been along on who knows how many recoveries. But this one was his. He had been dying to try his brand new virgin skinning knife that his uncle gave him for his birthday last year, and finally the moment had arrived.
As we hiked into the brush filled draw, I happened on the blood trail where the deer had slid down. I stopped there to see what my Son would do. He quickly followed the trail down hill to the buck, I had already spotted it, but I followed behind to let him find it on his own, and feel that rush and sense of accomplishment.
Perfect shot placement, should be the goal of every hunter.

He was very excited, but I took a moment to remind him, the importance of respect and reverence for such a beautiful animal. We took pictures, and admired him for a time. Then quartered him up, and put him into our backpacks.
I was certain that there would be significant whining as we hiked the half mile back to the four wheeler. But to my surprise, he quietly followed me, he rested when I rested. When he did mention how hard it was, and how his legs hurt, I told him the truth; A week from now, you might remember how hard it was, and how much it hurts. But by next year, you’ll have forgotten, and want to do it all over again. And the memories, of all the fun we’ve had, are ours to keep forever.
So I sit here, listening to the thunder, and the winds blowing outside my door, as the storm I needed finally arrives. My melancholy has turned to a feeling of satisfaction, sharing one of life’s exciting moments with two of the most important guys in my life. What more could I ask for?

-CBM

Famine or Feast

To the hardened and brave souls that go into the white and desolate winter, searching for a kill, famine is a familiar perception.

I have spent sometime in these Rocky Mountains looking for my next opportunity, and I was recently reminded of a passed exploit that pushed my brother and I to the far fringe of such famine.

It was an elk hunt in early October, and winter had shown up already bringing cold dark clouds and the accompanying snow. The mountain we were both hunting and camping on was some nine thousand feet above sea level, up where it gets bitter. We were there because we had always seen large herds of elk in the area, and it was so remote that hunting pressure even during the general season was pretty low. My little brother and I had taken a couple days off of work, and decided to spend them all up here.
The high Rockies can be a very quiet place in the winter, the brutal cold seems to slow down even the sounds of the forest. The crunch of snow and ice are the only familiar sounds you will hear.
We set out day after day, scouring the hills and ridges for the sign of our prey. The country that these animals live in is wide and deep, it can be difficult to find them. Even when in large winter herds, they can be easily concealed in a grove of trees. But with that in mind we looked even harder through binos and spotters, not letting even the lightest patch of brown to go unsuspected.

Elk live in country so big and wide, you can find them almost anywhere, or nowhere at all.
After several days of seeing nothing but beautiful cold ridges, we were beginning to feel the pressure build. For us, hunting season was the best time of year. We had waited patiently for many months for this opportunity. And the desolation that gripped this landscape seemed to be contaminating our spirits, time continued to pass and we had only seen one herd of elk. A herd would have done fine, but they were so far away from us that it would have taken us a days hike from our already distant perch just to get into range.

We had planned on returning home on that Monday, and it was now Sunday afternoon. I was beginning to come to terms with defeat. It was nothing new to me, as I had returned home many times before with a clean uncut tag. But that didn’t make it any easier. My pride, and my desire to participate and conquer even just a little piece of this incredible wilderness consumed my every thought.

Our evening plan was to check a good looking ridge that elk were known to frequent in seasons passed, the south side of which was so steep you’d think twice before nearing it. As we made our way to one of the lookouts, dark clouds began to accumulate around us. Though it meant more snow, and an even colder night ahead, the better part of me embraced this long needed change in our daily pattern. As we climbed a familiar path, snow flakes began to swirl in the air. Even more welcome was the sight of a few deer, running up a ridge parallel to us. Three bucks, which was the most exciting thing we had seen in days. Maybe it was the static of clouds colliding overhead, or maybe it was that magical sixth sense that we share with nature, but something inside me confirmed that action was headed our way, riding a cold and foggy breeze.

We continued down the ridge as planned, quietly discussing the many possibilities that awaited us in the cloudy trees below. Like I often do, to the dismay of anyone who hunts with me, I began to pontificate the many possible scenarios that I felt should happen.
My brother, who has spent the better part of his life listening to these sermons of mine, listened quietly. To his credit, he has only called out my trivial contemplation’s a few times. I suppose listening to me jabber along keeps him from falling asleep (which he is very good at). From as far back as I can remember, my little brother has been my wingman. From his perspective it may be more of a sentence than an expression of endearment. Whether it be building forts in the back yard out of Dad’s woodpile, or the death sentence of cleaning our shared room, we were always together.
Thick and thin had weathered every aspect of our brotherhood, and even now, both of us thick in the middle, and thin in the hair, we still share that bond.

Goose
The clouds were gently rolling over the ridge spine in front of us, as usual, my eyes never stopped looking. I turned to my brother and speculated something like this: “Why couldn’t there just be a herd of elk just there ahead of us?”
It made sense to me, I mean why couldn’t the elk just cooperate, and come out in the open just ahead of us, near the path, you know, to make it easy on us for once. He didn’t even get the chance to agree with my thought, because as soon as my eyes came returned to front, my prophesy had materialized before us. I froze, not quite sure yet what I was seeing. I had looked down this ridge so many times, and as you often do, anything that looks suspicious gets extra lookin’ at. This figure, that stood before us in the cloud, nearly a quarter mile away, had not been there earlier. In a seconds time, my hopes had been fulfilled, it was a lone cow, standing tall on the ridge spine directly in front of us. I quickly pointed it out to my brother, and by the time he spotted her, she was no longer alone. There was now half a dozen elk standing at attention, their eyes focused wholly on us. It was go time…
I was now Maverick with my wingman Goose at my side. As that first elk reared back her head and led the charge for the nearest treeline, somebody queued up Kenny Loggins. I went for my rifle, and hit the ground. In no time I had my eye on the scope, and the thunder of hoof-beats pounded out The Danger Zone as I fumbled a cartridge into the chamber. There were now so many elk in my scope I didn’t know what to do, like a freight train they just kept coming over the hill. After a few seconds that had seemed like minutes, I finally saw the last of the elk come over the hill. I decide to pick an easy target, the very last of the ladies, who happened to be a large one. I had already dialed the needed elevation to make the shot, and now it was just a trigger pull away from a closed deal.
I watched as the wave of hooves rolled through the sagebrush, time slowed down, and it was like watching that horse scene from The Man from Snowy River, you know the one Im talking about. The cloudy fog that had enveloped us muffled the sound, and the delay and the spooky dim light gave a surreal feeling, almost other worldly. I focused on the reticle in my scope, and when it matched her speed and brisket, I lit the fire.
One hundred and ninety grains of acute certainty cut the clouds, and the quarter mile between us. I watched the bullet strike her dark brown side, and as I ran the bolt in my rifle, I heard the delayed impact return through the fog. It sounded like a major league baseball bat striking hard against a wet roll of carpet. She immediately stumbled, and stopped her hurried run. As I resettled the crosshair on her side, she again stumbled backwards, and toppled over into the brush. The noise settled down, the sound of my rifle report echoed off through the canyons, and the herd disappeared into a grove of aspens.
Darkness had already began to cloak the mountains, so we hurried towards the kill, wanting to put hands on her before all light was lost. We approached quietly, and found her laying on her side, just next to a single small tree.
In the dimly lit twilight I knelt down beside her, and felt the damp and dirty hair she wore. With cold and wet hands I treasured this beautiful animal, and the prize she was to me. Her flesh would sustain my family, her tenacity had challenged my skill and patience, and perhaps most notable, her life would seal this memory into history for both of us.

Our famine had turned to bounty in just a few moments, the adventure and lesson it had become is still fresh in my mind. Nothing will strike excitement into the heart of man, like participating in the circle from where we draw our living existence.

CBM-

Cow Elk Hunt 2015

The snow has finally come here to the Wasatch Mountains, the last few storms have left our mountains and valleys white. For those of us that love to hunt, this is a special time of year. Several members of my family had drawn some late season cow elk tags, and the lure of an adventure and putting hands on elk was upon us. The nature of these late season hunts is very dependent on the weather, and the animals reaction to it. We run the odds of timing it just right, when there is enough snow to push the animals into a location where we can get them, but before there is too much snow to be able to get in there ourselves. The last few years have been pretty poor snowfall, so we run right down to the wire as far as season limits. This past weekend was the last few days for my cousin, his tag expired yesterday. Luckily we finally got into them, as they made their way towards wintering grounds.
The start of our hunt Saturday morning was a bitter one, the thermometer was showing six below zero as the pale early morning light made its way over the windswept mountain tops. It was hard to tell yet if it was clouds accumulating at the peaks, or if it was just dusty dry snow being blown into the sky. We found our way to the end of civilization, or at least to where the roads were impassable. It was there that we left the warmth of the truck, and traded it for the speed and mobility of the snowmobiles. We made our way up the snow covered trail, stopping every now and then to do some glassing, and knock the ice from our face masks. On one of those stops, we lucked out, and stopped just over a rise. As we sat there looking around the valleys and canyons that surrounded us, talking quietly about the next planned move, my eyes caught a glimpse of brown. I quickly brought up my Swarovski rangefinder for a closer look, and to get a solid range. It came back 408yds. Had we gone even fifty or so yards further, we’d probably of spooked them. But there they were, a spike and a few cows, some standing, some sitting. My cousin steadied my SRS over his backpack, and located the best looking target. A young cow, laying in the snow. With the sharp crack of the shot muffled by the cold dense air, and surrounding snow, the shot went over without much attention. Except for the one elk who felt it, the bullet found its mark perfectly, hitting the snowline just in front of the bedded animals shoulder. It pulverized her lungs, and she rolled her head back, and expired.


The entry hole of the 300 grain Scenar

We made the quick little ride up the trail towards her, as the remaining elk slowly scattered. It was a quick and easy drag downhill to get her to the trail, where we gutted her, and put her into the sled. The below zero temperatures froze the blood so quickly that it turned pink as soon as it dripped. All said and done, we were back having steak and eggs by 11:00AM, some days are good like that. Anyone who hunts elk with any frequency knows, there are good days, and then there are “other” days.


Blood froze on contact to my subzero rifle

Having had an easy hunt on Saturday, with time to get home, and quarter up the elk, I was quite rested come Sunday morning. I woke up lazily, and after making breakfast for my kids I decided I’d go into town to get a little shopping done. But, as I mentioned previously, timing is everything with these hunts. And I couldn’t let the perfect window of time go bye, so I decided that before my shopping trip I had better stop bye my spotting position, and make sure that the elk hadn’t already moved into their winter grounds. The smooth hills that lay some 3000ft above my home happens to be the chosen winter grounds for a habitual herd of elk. Every year, I can narrow them down to one ridge. So I threw my spotting scope, and tripod into my grocery getter, and drove to my spot. After spotting a good mess of deer, including some great bucks, the H32 reticle in my spotter landed right on the herd. I counted 14 of them, three or four bulls, and the rest were cows or calves. In a moments time, my shopping plans had been shot, and I was making one call after another trying to scramble the team.

The small herd of elk as seen from 2-3 miles away

Two and a half hours later, my brother in law, myself, and my cousin, wearing our still bloody snow gear from the day before, were making our way up into the blinding white canyon that held our prize.

We got to the spot I had formerly planned to start our stalk. We stopped for a moment, to check for the elk. And as I’d hoped, there they were. Not fifty yards from where I had spotted them three hours and two and a half miles ago. We left the snowmobiles, and launched into an uphill battle that would claim most of my days calories. Our design was to skirt the opposing ridge line as we climbed parallel to the elk harboring flat. Point being to get a better angle, allowing for a better shot and selection. The waist deep snow made for a miserable hike, but a fantastic solid and comfortable rest. We maneuvered into a shooting position that gave us a good view through the gaps in the trees. We had closed the distance to five hundred and seventy-eight yards. And it was time to put practice into action. My brother in law setup on top of our packs, and laid motionless in the snow. As he went over his firing scenario, my cousin setup behind him to spot. And I got into position with my video camera. Once we had accounted for just about everything, he gave the ready signal, and we hunkered down behind our respective optics. He was shooting a Remington 700 custom chambered in the Rocky Mountain favorite 300Winchester. He had already dialed the appropriate 4.0mils into his SS5-20HD scope, and with everything but the trigger pull done we waited…
Being accustomed to overwhelming noise that typically barks from the brake end of that Remington, I was expecting my ears to ring. But again, the viscous atmosphere, and the fluffy snow took all the edge off of the magnum. The bullet found a delightful path through the trees, across the canyon, and I watched it impact right into the left brisket of one of the mature cows. She jumped a bit, took a few steps in our direction, and went facedown into the deep snow. She never moved again. The remainder of the herd looked on, as if confused. But after a second or two, their instinctive distrust of loud noises followed by dropping companions got them turned around. They slowly made their way opposite us, never showing much excitement. We exchanged high fives, and reenlisted to the uphill fight.

Several hours later, we stood over her. As always, I took a moment of reverence for these beautiful animals that I love and respect. We made short work of the cleaning, the hot blood felt good on my frozen hands. The bright red stain on the snow was a stark contrast in a world of white and black.
The early setting winter sun threatened to leave us, shadows were already growing into the east as we finished. My frozen gloves gave no purchase on her slippery legs, but down the steep mountain slope we went. It didn’t take long to get a system going, we sat in the deep snow behind her, and leg pressed. A few yards at a time, we’d slide down behind her and push again. Hours later, we arrived back to the road. Frozen, exhausted, but as alive as ever a man can feel. The cold silence that surrounded us in the endless expanse of a dark and starry sky was beautiful. But with frostbite nipping at my fingertips, the silence was quickly cut short by the roar of a two stroke motor.
We made our way back down the canyon, and to the truck. What an adventure I thought, as I peeled my frozen socks away from my thermals. We’d made it out, pushed our limits, and we won. From the safety of my warm bath, I sat and recounted the days events. Later I called my father and shared the whole experience with him, he loves hearing the stories as much as we love living them. It is in these adventures, and the memories we make therein, that defines me, and brings us together as blood brothers. Love and passion for the hunt, may they never dim.
-CBM