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Rifle(s) for the Hunt

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by Dr T, Oct 25, 2018.

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  1. Dr T

    Dr T Member

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    The first weekend in November is rapidly approaching. This means the opening weekend of deer season in Texas, and I have to start getting my stuff together for my drive of 753 miles SSE from the Denver area to the western edge of the Edwards Plateau in West Central Texas.

    My original plan was to use my brand spanking new T/C Venture in 6.5 CM as my primary hunting rifle, my 243 Tikka T3 as my backup, and use a Marlin 336 BL when I am backing up my brother (tracking stuff in heavy brush and playing porter while we are packing his deer out).

    Nature, however, has had other ideas. In my case, due to some combination of prevailing winds and altitude, I have never been able to sight in a rifle in Colorado and have it hold the zero at 2500 to 3000 ft lower altitude. While elevation will be close, windage tends to wander several inches. I can sight it in in Texas and take to Colorado and have a reciprocal error. And I can sight it in in Texas, take the rifle to Colorado, and take the rifle BACK to Texas and have it hold zero (I am glad I have good gun cases and transport carefully).

    I usually just take the new rifle down to the ranch and sight it in on our shooting range the day before hunting season (or recheck the zero as the case may be) and don't worry much about it. Mother Nature did not like this idea this year. She has blessed us with an abundance of rain. Right now, our shooting range, an old caliche pit about 175 yards long, 40 yards wide and from 1 ft to 8 ft below grade level (it was cut into the side of a hill) has from 4 to 8 inches of water standing in it.

    To keep to my original rifle selection, I will need to sight in the rifle at a secondary range (another old caliche pit). The problem is that the sight in distance will be short and the usual "2.5" high at 100 yards" formula that I use for the 6.5 CM won't work. Also, I will need to remember to pack my Mossberg Shockwave to clean out a rattlesnake den that is in the wall of the secondary range.

    It could be a lot worse. I am thankful that the "hardship" I have to endure is calculating a number of ballistics tables for the 6.5 CM for several different factory loads (I don't know what the rifle will like yet) and getting myself ready for the 12.5 hour drive that is in the near future.

    But the rain has continued to come, so the 243 may just get all the exercise this year. Unless we get so much rain that my week is spent working on water gaps and I have to use the Mossberg for self-protection from the snakes.
     
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  2. Dr T

    Dr T Member

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    Here is the "After Action" report, and a cautionary tale...

    It was wet, really wet, down on the ranch. In itself this was quite novel since it is essentially desert country. Water was seeping out of the hills and the draws were running with clear water--something I have never seen except right after a rain. This made our usual range unusable and I did my sight in at 50 yards at another caliche pit. When I (ever the procrastinator) got around to packing my ammo, I found that I had 6.5 CM in Amax 140 gr and Superformance 129 gr available. Since I had a lot of Amax, I dialed in the windage with that. Now for the mistake: As I was running out the door at 3:30 am to drive down, I realized that I had run ballistics tables for these two loads. BUT, I knew I had one on the computer. I went in, found the table (for the American Whitetail), checked that it was in 25 yd increments and printed it. According to the table, I needed to put it 1.1" high at 50 for a 225 yard zero FOR THAT LOAD. I thought "Well the trajectory on the 140 isn't going to be that far off so I will make it about the same and I will be good." {Do we see signs of creeping arrogance in here?} I then fired three round of the Superformance and the group was virtually identical, but a LITTLE higher. I decided to use the Superformance for the hunt. As I learned the next day, a little a 50 goes a long way at 100 and on downrange.

    The next morning, opening day, dawned foggy with about 200 yards maximum visibility. We set up about sunrise in the stand and waited to see what would show up crossing the sendero. I had dialed the scope up to 9x to look at everything carefully. We had some does come by. Then a little buck shows up. It had a smallish rack, 6 point or maybe 8 if you could stretch some bumps on the tines. However, I have never enjoyed antler soup and so I don't eat that part. The rest of the deer looked young, fat, and healthy. I held on the shoulder, took careful aim, fired, and the deer took off like it was riding a rocket. I heard no "whump!" and immediately after the shot I asked myself incredulously "Did I miss that shot?" After searching for about 45 minutes with no sign, I decided that the answer was "Yes". (I did find the bullet impact up the slope from the deer in the mud.)

    We finally give it up for the morning, go back to the house for lunch, and I get my tablet computer and start running numbers. After going back and examining the target and a computing tables specific to the load, I determined that the elevation put the bullet at about 4.5" high at 100 and 150 yard and was zeroed at 300 yards. However, the windage was (still) dead on.

    Well, a whitetail in that part of West Texas is about 12 to 15 inches from the bottom of the chest to the top of the back. Given how the internal organs are laid out, if I can put it about 4 or 5 inches up from the sternum in the bread basket (or is that sweet bread basket), I should be fine.

    We go out in the afternoon and set up in the same place. After a while, a nice, cooperative, fat, and friendly doe shows up to graze at about 120 yards, and hangs around. I use her to work on my aiming point. If I put the horizontal cross hair on the sternum, it works out nicely. With the safety on, I tested my aim on her a couple of dozen times while she walked around presenting me with a number of different shot angles. Then, about three of her girlfriends and their kids show up. I discovered if I dialed down to 6x of the scope, I had the full width of the sendero in view, and my point of aim did not appear to wander as much.

    Then, the little buck I fired at in the morning shoes up. He was a bit wild eyed and skittish. In fact, he reminded me of a hunting bird dog as he wove a serpentine path through the does. Watching him through the brush, he settled down once he was out of the sendero and he and one of the does appeared to be engaged in an intimate conversation. But, at least I felt better about the clean miss.

    Getting on to about a half and hour before sunset, a decent big bodied buck shows up about 200 yards away and starts working his way down towards the sendero. He managed to keep brush and a handy powerline pole between himself and the stand. But at a 160 yards he steps out. He was backlit and standing in shadow and wandering among the does until he finally presented me with a quartering shot. Through a trick of the light I thought that it was quartering off, but it was quartering on. But the I was aiming for a body angle that would keep the bullet in vitals and out the gut. I fired and heard a "whump", and the deer took off.

    We get in the pickup and drive down to about where the deer was standing where I shot. I look over, see a brush pile (and think that would be too easy) and head a bit up the hill to look ;where I though he had entered the brush line. After about 10 minutes of finding no sign up the hill, my brother calls out "Found him!" I go back down the hill and find my brother and the deer behind the brush pile. It had a smaller 8 point rack, but, by West Texas standards, It was a larger bodied deer.

    The bullet entered just to left of centerline about 4 or five inches up the chest and exited about 3 or 4 inches left of the sternum. It took out about 3 ribs on the way out and the exit wound in the skin was about the size of a post card. It was a lung shot and only a bit of brisket was spoiled.

    There are a number of cautionary tales for me to be taken from this years hunt. I put it here so that I will have a reminder.
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2018
  3. LoonWulf
    • Contributing Member

    LoonWulf Contributing Member

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    Congrats on getting your deer either way lol.

    We just had a thread about short range zeros not to long ago, and this is a good reminder about how the variables change expected outcomes.
     
  4. Legionnaire
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    Legionnaire Member

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    Nice write-up. Congrats, and thanks for the report.
     
  5. Riomouse911

    Riomouse911 Member

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    Great story, and congrats on a successful hunt :thumbup:.

    Stay safe!
     
  6. Glockula

    Glockula Member

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    Congrats on your kill!
     
  7. Loyalist Dave

    Loyalist Dave Member

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    First, CONGRATS on the well earned deer. :thumbup:
    That was a lot of information, and I learned a lot. ;)
    I wonder however, although you were at 160 yards, did all of that really matter. I mean at that range? I'm sure out between 200-300, and closer to 300 all of that would be an important factor. I wonder too, if you had gotten to around 100 to 130 yards? o_O
    I ask as I shoot a much more primative system, with a projectile that is craptastic when compared to what you're using, and I'm using iron sights. Still I've managed to neatly, cleanly, drop a deer out at 110 yards, and a bunch more that were closer. Granted my area is very rolling, although the hills are mostly gentle ups and downs, and the brush is pretty thick so I'm dealing under normal conditions with under 100 yard shots. I'm just asking as I'm trying to learn about other hunting conditions, especially West of the Mississippi.

    LD
     
  8. Dr T

    Dr T Member

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    The trajectory of the 6.5 CM is pretty flat from 100 to 200 yards, in other words, when it is close to apogee of the curve

    I reran the trajectory with a 225 yard zero. I used the Hornady Ballistic Calculator with a MV of 2950 and a BC of 0.485. In that case the it is 2.1" high at 100, 2.3" high at 125, 2.2" high at 150, 1.8" high at 175, and 1.0" high at 200. After 300 yards, with that zero, it will begin to drop like a rock.

    With a primitive weapon, the BC will be much lower, say 0.190, as will the MV, say 1400 fps. With a 100 yard zero, the Hornady calculator tells us that it will be 2.0" high at 50 and 8.5" low at 150.

    Out in West Texas, we have rolling hills but the hunting distances are a bit longer. But still, this depends on the brush, terrain, and killing field. I have been hunting on our ranch for over 50 years and have pretty much learned what to expect. As this year's effort shows, however, my education is still incomplete.

    I think that the trajectory and sights should be fit to the terrain and lighting you expect to encounter. Back about 20 or 25 years ago, the average shot length I had was about 85 yards. About 35 years ago, it was closer to 200. Now, given the diurnal patterns of deer movement and where we have out shooting positions established, it is about 100 to 200 yards at the places I will usually set up. After about 200 yards, there is a step in the slope where it flattens and some brush that makes a clean shot a bit harder. If the terrain limits the length of the shot, iron sights (if you know how to use them) are not a handicap (and excess magnification is--foreshortening distances and distorting perspective). In places where we have decent positions at much shorter ranges I have taken a Model 94 Trapper in 30-30 with an aperture sight. (The one time I thought I would get a shot, I was too visible and every time I started to raise my rifle the deer would look right at me, freezing my movement. I was a bit too exposed).

    It is useful to go out, even when it is not hunting season, and find a nice place to sit and watch the wildlife with a good pair of binoculars and/or a range finder. I used to do this several times a week when I was in high school. I still find it to be marvelously relaxing recreation. And, you can learn a lot about what to expect when hunting season rolls around.
     
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  9. Nature Boy

    Nature Boy Member

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    Hey, leave my mother out if this!

    Congrats on your buck. What part of west texas are you hunting?
     
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  10. Loyalist Dave

    Loyalist Dave Member

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    Hey thanks for your patient explanation. It was very kind of you to reply to my questions. :thumbup: I've learned a great deal on this thread of yours.

    I like your assessment of trajectory and sighting systems too. :D I've never found open, iron sights a handicap, because with what I use, and the terrain, they fit both the primitive weapons and the modern guns or rifles that I use.

    LD
     
  11. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    We had the same problems in the army. Zero your M24 at Ft Bragg (elevation 63 feet above MSL) then transport it to paktika province in afg. (about 7,000 feet above MSL), add in other factors such as slope angle, temperature, etc., then try to take a shot at 800 meters, and shenanigans will definitely ensue. This, and other environmental factors, must be taken into account. Very accurate software has been developed to account for these environmental factors, and has paid dividends over there during the late unpleasantness.
     
  12. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    As to sights, give me a good scope. At dusk and dawn when the deer move, even in the woods a good scope that gathers light well is a bonus. My .308 M7 wears a 2x10x40. It's excellent, down to two power when walking around in the woods, yet I can go to Pumpville or Sanderson or Queens, NM and I have up to 10 power. :D A good 3x9 of adequate objective diameter is good 'nuf.

    I've shot deer with irons, but not that many and at closer ranges, of course.
     
  13. Nature Boy

    Nature Boy Member

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    @FL-NC

    Slope angle is something I haven’t gotten the hang of yet. Still need to do my homework on that one. Even on flat terrain, if you’re shooting from a box blind 20’ in the air it plays a factor
     
  14. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    For most hunting applications (shorter ranges from a tree stand with a rifle) the effect is minimum.
     
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