The Right Rifle for This Fall

As October draws ever-closer, it’s time to start thinking about the rifle you’ll want to shoulder in crunch time. The western hunter has near-endless calibers to choose from, but these three old-school, standby calibers are time tested and provide a range of options for hunters. New rifle or old, these calibers are sure to get it done when the pressure is on.

.30-06 Springfield
Arguably the most popular hunting round ever created, the .30-06 Springfield is the most frequently purchased round in the United States, and for good reason. Since it’s introduction the U.S. Army in 1906, the cartridge has gained unequaled popularity and trust throughout the hunting community. The round has been used for decades on every game animal and in every situation imaginable, largely in part to it’s wide range of commercially available bullets; 110 grains to 220 grains. The .30-06 hits a bit harder than the .270, though it’s trajectory isn’t quite as flat at longer distances. Still an accurate rifle at medium-long ranges, the .30-06 is a solid choice for all but the heaviest of North American game, and gives hunters the ability to knock down larger game, like elk, while not damaging too much meat on smaller animals like deer. A good choice if you’re planning on packing one rifle for both deer and elk this season.

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.270 Winchester
If you had the good fortune to talk to hunting legend, author and unwavering .270 advocate Jack O’ Connor before his passing, he would have testified that the .270 was the pinnacle of North American hunting rifles. When the .270 Winchester was introduced in 1926, O’Connor fell in love with the flat shooting rifle, and hunted sheep, antelope and deer with the rifle almost exclusively throughout his life. At the smaller end, 130 grain bullets fly quick and flat, ideal for mule deer and antelope in the open country of the west. The 150 grain is the larger of the two popular bullet sizes, and a little slower muzzle velocity with the bigger bullet delivers plenty of muscle to knock down black bear and elk.
Magnum-minded hunters dissuade the use of the cartridge, and argue that it doesn’t have the power for North America’s larger game. Craig Boddington, decorated Marine and respected outdoor author, disagrees.
“Today I tend to think Jack O’Connor had it right so many years ago. The .270 is very close to ideal for the mountain game he loved to hunt, equally ideal for most deer hunting, and indeed it is plenty of gun for elk,” he writes.

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.308 Winchester

Third (but not last) on the list of time tested big-game rifles is the .308 Winchester. Introduced in 1952, the .308 rapidly became the most popular short-action big game rifle in the world, and is also popular among police sharpshooters and military snipers. Generally speaking, the cartridge has a slightly slower muzzle velocity than the .30-06 and .270, which accounts for a little more bullet-drop at longer ranges. The .308 is a hard hitting and super-accurate rifle out to extended ranges, which accounts for it’s rapid and widespread popularity. As a hunting rifle, it consistently provides ample knock-down power for tough animals like elk and black bear, while being flat shooting enough to take down antelope and deer at further yardages.

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Partnered with Berger Bullets, HSM’s Trophy Gold Extended Range ammunition mixes match grade accuracy with the knockdown power of a top-grade hunting bullet. Berger bullets bring their long range accuracy and competition reputation to the table, and a slight modification to the jacket turns the bullet into a deadly hunting round without affecting the accuracy. Designed to penetrate the tough skin of western game and then fragment, the Trophy Gold ammo allows for quick, accurate kills at longer ranges and is available in several different options for the .30-06, .270 and .308 calibers.

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.270 Winchester – HSM Trophy Gold

Muzzle Velocity Foot-Pounds of Energy HSM Recommendation
130 Grain

2,967

2,542

Antelope
150 Grain

2,787

2,588

Deer/Elk/Bear

 

.30-06 Springfield – HSM Trophy Gold
Muzzle Velocity Foot-Pounds of Energy HSM Recommendation
168 Grain

2,808

2,942

Deer/Elk/Black Bear
185 Grain

2,721

3,042

 Deer/Elk/Black Bear and Larger Game
210 Grain

2,508

2,934

Deer/Elk/Black Bear and Larger Game

 

.308 Winchester – HSM Trophy Gold

Muzzle Velocity Foot-Pounds Energy HSM Recommendation
168 Grain

2,740

2,801

Deer/Elk/Black Bear
185 Grain

2,606

2,790

Deer/Elk/Black Bear
210 Grain

2,508

2,934

Deer/Elk/Black Bear and Larger Game

While not the newest calibers on the market, the above mentioned calibers are some of the most tried and true big game throughout the state, and country. Accuracy is key. Regardless of bullet weight and rifle choice, make sure you feel confident in whichever rifle you take to the field this fall. Practice realistic shots at the range, and always check your rifle prior to opening day. After all, you can’t kill that bull if you can’t hit him.

-Sam Averett

Scouting: Trail Cameras

Trail cameras are a vital scouting tool that can be used to supplement on the ground scouting. Used correctly, trail cameras can significantly increase your chances of arrowing a big buck or bull this season. Here’s a few of the basics that will get you started setting up trail cameras this summer.

Batteries and Settings
Game cameras allow you to scout deeper than ever before, but you don’t want to ditch your camera deep in the backcountry only to have your batteries die a week later. The good news is that most newer cameras have a battery life of multiple months or more. Different settings will also effect battery life. For example, the quality of photos, number of photos, whether or not the camera is also shooting video clips, and number of night vs. day photos will impact your battery life. When you get the camera it might be wise to set it up by the house for a couple days. This will allow you to get familiar with the photo settings and figure out the best way to set it up. Once you’re confident in the camera and your abilities to manipulate the settings, take it into your honey hole with a fresh set of batteries.

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Location, Location
Late June and early July is prime time to set your camera. Granted, elk will be in their summer range which doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be there come September or October. Look instead for rubs and wallows, these are a dead giveaway that elk are spending September in that area. Oftentimes wallows and well-used trails will still hold elk throughout the summer. And when bulls transition into their fall routine, not all will migrate long distances, oftentimes they’ll simply change their behavior. It’s a good idea to leave your camera for two or three weeks and then return. If you don’t see the photos you want don’t be afraid to move your camera around until you find the elk.
Unlike elk, if you pattern a big muley buck in June or July, you’ve got a good chance to find him in the same place during the first part of the season. Like elk, mule deer bucks are super-sensitive about their velvet, so they’ll often stay in fairly open areas, giving you the chance to find them and place your cameras accordingly. Mature bucks often shed their velvet in late-August and into September. They’ll stay in their summer routine at least until then, sometimes later. Since most western archery seasons begin the last weekend of August you’ll have at least a good week of chasing velvet bucks before they transition into their fall routine.

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Setting the Camera
Your different photo settings will come into play when deciding where to hang your camera. If you elect to set the camera on water the animals will be likely to stick around for a bit, giving your camera plenty of time to snap a few quality photos. Here, any setting is likely to capture photos. One caveat — don’t hang your camera too close to a big bulls favorite bath tub or rub tree. You might return to find he’s trashed it in his pre-rut rage.
Hanging your camera on a trail may take a bit more thought. Make sure to have your camera on a setting that will capture the whole group as they amble past. One thing to avoid is long photo delay times — like one photo every 15 seconds — these will often leave you with photos of just the lead animal. Video settings are useful here. A 15 or 30 second clip will likely catch the entire group as they mosey past. Rapid fire or burst photo settings are also effective.
In many places finding a suitable tree is a simple task, while others provide more of a challenge. As a general rule, you probably don’t want your hundred-plus dollar camera hanging on a rotten tree thats apt to blow down when a windstorm hits. If a dead tree is your only option — like in an old burn — try to find a sturdy snag, one that won’t let you, or your camera down if the wind blows. If your camera is on an unsteady tree, the wind may cause the tree to move which can trigger the cameras sensor and leave you with false photos.

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Security
While a testosterone-soaked bull or curious black bear may mess with your camera, it’s far more likely that a two-legged impostor will get to it first. I’ve heard countless stories of hard-working hunters heading in to check a camera, only to find it missing. So since a rare few feel the need to ruin it for all, it’s best to grab the bike lock, cable lock or lock box when heading out to set your camera. Most of the time you wont have a problem, someone stumbling on your camera might leave you with some comedic relief, but they won’t steal it. But it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Checking Your Camera
Going in to check your photos can make the imagination run wild. Checking cameras also gives the whole family a chance to get involved. Kids love looking at game camera photos, so if the hike isn’t too brutal you might think about taking them along. It’s never too early to get the next generation started in the outdoors. With any luck you’ll have captured a few animals worth chasing come fall. Another thing to remember when checking cameras is something to display your photos on. Many DSLR’s will not read the same cards you likely have in your camera. But cheaper point-and-shoot cameras will usually read the card, and so will card readers with an LCD screen.
Finally, you’ll want to check the regulations and learn your states rules on game cameras. Montana requires hunters to pull the cameras prior to any big-game season being open while Idaho allows hunters to leave your cameras up through the season. If legal, leave your camera up throughout the season. This will give you some up-to-date info every time you head back into your area.859806_489213851115610_1878824999_o

Finally, you’ll want to check the regulations and learn your states rules on game cameras. Montana requires hunters to pull the cameras prior to any big-game season being open while Idaho allows hunters to leave your cameras up through the season. If legal, leave your camera up throughout the season. This will give you some up-to-date info every time you head back into your area.

All told, game cameras are an invaluable resource for the modern day hunter. Use them as much or as little as you like. There’s never been a better way to keep tabs on animals while leaving the area effectively scent free. With a little bit of effort, the newest technology can give you the edge you need to harvest the buck or bull you’ve been wishing on and at the very least you’ll have a cool look into nature’s backyard.

Written by Sam Averett

 

Unknown Territory – [Part 2]

The rain fell steadily as we trekked uphill. Soaking wet deadfall and moss-covered sticks made the climb to the logging road challenging, but by the time we reached the road the rain had all but ceased.  It was around 4:00 p.m. as we began scanning the surrounding trees in search of bear, but the sparse timber and grass covered openings turned up nothing.

About a half mile in, we had yet to see any bear sign.  We trudged on.

Suddenly Travis froze, “Bear!” he hissed.  My heart began to beat rapidly as I moved into position, clutching the rifle tightly.  Before I knew it my gun had been discharged, and my Montana black bear tag was filled.

My knees began to shake as it hit me that I had just shot my first black bear, and I had done it with my trusty old .30-30.  I couldn’t have been happier as we made our way toward the bear.

His coat was a beautiful chocolate color with a small white patch on his chest.  Just an all-around pretty bear.  We set to work on him and before long we had the meat and hide strapped to our packs and were making the mile and a half hike back to the truck.  The stars were just beginning to shine.

It was special for me to kill my first bear with my .30-30, a gun that means so much to me.  That rifle has quite a few memories in it, from me as a ten year old kid shooting my first deer with my dad beside me, to several solo hunts – some successful and others not – and now here in Montana with new friends and new memories ahead.  So here’s to the sport of hunting and the wild places it takes you, may your memories always be grand.  

– Jay Siske

 

 

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