by Pat Cassidy
(Pilot Rock, Oregon)
Growing up with stories by Jack O'Conner and other writers, I had the idea that Elk hunting required a long range rifle to tag that cross-the-valley bull. It seemed that all the writers went out with guides that got their clients to within 200 to 400 yards of Elk. The hunters then shot a trophy with a .270, .300 Weatherby or some such.
When my time to go Elk hunting finally came, I had a .270, just like Jack! I got into reloading and bench rest shooting and had a rifle that could hit a coffee can at 500 yards.
I had a lot of fun with that gun, and shot a lot of deer at some long ranges.
Elk were a bit more of a challenge, rarely being seen in those open mountain meadows of Eastern Oregon. It seemed that when I saw a bull it was at very close range and disappeared almost instantly. When I shot my first bull it was at the exceptional range of 50 yards. Those writers of my youth would have shaken their heads!
Since that first bull I have been lucky enough to have killed quite a few bulls, only two of which were over 100 yards. When it dawned on me that a short, easily handled rifle worked better in the woods and I got away from the benchrest and learned how to shoot...things improved.
Here is what I did: many days out shooting running jackrabbits with my 'scope sighted rifle; learning to "point shoot" by mounting the rifle and pulling the trigger without hesitation; using very light reloads that enabled me to shoot a lot without discomfort and finally learning that the best Elk bullet regardless of caliber is a very tough constructed one that expands slowly and has deep penetration.
This is what I use: A Remington M600 Mohawk in .308 Win. (has an 18" barrel)
A 3-9 power 'scope with a 30mm objective with a 4" sun shade on it.
A nylon shooting strap...not one of those wide carrying straps.
Most used bullet is the 220 gr.Sierra at 2100 fps. Recently using 180 gr. Barnes X-bullet at 2500 fps
Practice bullets are Speer or Hornady 100 gr. half-jackets with a very light power level (1300 fps)
And NO, I am not giving any recommended reloading information.
I cannot over-emphasize the importance of practice to become fast with a rifle! There are a good number of Elk that would not have made it to my freezer if I had hesitated to shoot. If you do not have easy access to a shooting area try dry firing at small targets at closer ranges. You can "see" where you would hit when the gun goes click. Just keep putting the rifle to your shoulder until it is natural to have the crosshairs on the object you were looking at without having to search for it. Now start pulling the trigger as fast as you can after mounting the rifle. At first you will be hitting somewhere other than the object, but it will get better.
I never did make one of those guided hunts after the far away trophy but have had many great years in the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon on public lands
Just get fast...
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