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· Administrator
25,952 Posts
Sometimes it's hard to get a forum like this one moving John.

We are getting new folks every day and maybe some of them will be big game hunters and take an interest. The one thing I've found in dealing with forums over the years both mine and others is that folks prefer to read rather than post by a margin of over 20 to 1. If something is posted people will come read it. Some will make a comment now and again. The more volume a forum has the more folks are attracted to it to read and some of them will post. Eventually a forum can become active but it don't often happen over night.


· Registered
110 Posts
Hi John,

Perhaps it would result in more responses if the question were more specific. Elk hunting is very diverse and difficult to describe "how to" with-in the confines of an online forum. There have been many books written on the subject and most of them leave gaps.

Personally, I have shot elk at ranges from 20 feet to 400+ yards. I have taken elk with a 6mm Remington, my own designed 6X60mm, 6X284, 257 AI, my personally designed 6.5X55 improved, 270's and 06's.

As one can most likely guess ,I am not a magnum fan. Once upon a time, in the West, I thought the 300 Weatherby would be the real deal, all around cartridge and so forth. Murdered a bunch of gophers with it and when it came time to hunt real game with it I hot loaded some 150gr Silvertips and took out after a Pronghorn. After spenting several days and not finding a suitable buck I opted to fill the tag with a dry doe. Made a good head shot at 90 yards and blood-shot the hind quarters. Never fired it again.

Have hunted them in the Missouri Breaks (Montana) and above timberline.
Thick blow-downs to the plains, where do I start?

Don't give up this should be a fun topic...........


· Registered
204 Posts
Not really related to the elk hunting topic, but I'd be interested in hearing more about taxmiser's improved 6.5X55. I've got a Sako L691 chambered in the unimproved version and would like options on getting a little more oomph out of it.

I've never hunted elk with a rifle, but I did manage to take a nice fat yearling over a water hole with a bow when I was 15 and a decent little 5-point bull last year during drive with a muzzleloader. In the areas I hunt in NM the elk are generally few and far between. In dry years you can focus on water with good results. In wet years, the elk scatter to the four corners of the earth. Then you really have your work cut out for you.

· Registered
110 Posts
Thanks for the interest in my 6.5 X 55 Improved. It would be quite similar to what Ackley would have designed if he had improved it. The shoulder was blown out slightly with a 40 degree angle. Does make a considerable improvement in velocity though. I have the reamer, in fact I'm making up a 6.5 IMP. on a pre-64 70 action currently. If you make one it means custom made dies and they are not cheap!

If you want further input email is:

[email protected]

· Registered
1,111 Posts
John Y Cannuck

"]Well I've never hunted Elk, so I'm asking. What's it like?
I understand that ranges can be short, or long depending on where you are. How about some experiences?[/quote]

Ok John, I'll kick it off with my elk hunting story for this year.


Elk season for me was in the Chesnimus Unit in NE Oregon opening on Saturday, November 2nd, 2002. This unit is a road closure area so in the last few years there have been some pretty nice bulls taken but I was mostly looking for a young bull, preferably a spike, for eating. However the elk have somewhat changed their habits the last couple years. They used to be spread out up on the open areas and fairly gentle hills (Mitchell and Hilton Ridges) between Crow creek and Thomason Meadows/Indian Village areas. The last couple years they seem to herd up east of Indian Village on the breaks of the Imnaha River. For those who don't know, the Imnaha River canyon runs parallel to Hells Canyon just west of it. While Hells Canyon is 1 Mile deep the Imnaha Canyon is only 3/4 of a mile deep. Anyway it seems that lately with the elk herding up that way, opening morning is mostly a footrace to the kill. There are 700 tags issued for the Unit and quite a few of the hunters seem to concentrate on the herd (600-700 elk) we were also hunting. There are other herds in the Unit also.

The "breaks" of the Imnaha are very large open and steep ridges and opening morning found me on the wrong ridge. The only action I had was to watch all the elk high tail it for private property ranches after the opening shots. There were 3 tags in my party and we weren't without luck though. Young Ryan, with his dad Mike in tow, had a tag and shot a very nice 5 point bull at 368 yards (Bushnell Pro 1000).

Ryan had just recently returned from the Marine Corps where he had been a Scout/Sniper. Of course his rifle was a duplicate of the M40A2 he used in the Corps except his was chambered in .300 Win Mag. He has using the Sierra 200 gr GK SPBT bullet. The shot was about a 30-40 degree downhill shot with the bullet entering just behind the shoulder, taking out the lungs, just missed the heart and exited through the off shoulder. The elk moved about 15 yards and collapsed. Ryan and Mike spent the next two days packing it out.

I continued to hunt opening day and spotted a small herd with a bull in it way out on a ridge. However by the time I got over to that ridge and halfway out to the elk, 3 other nimrods stumbled to the ridge top just above the elk and began looking around every way but down where the elk were. They never saw the elk as the small herd slipped into some timber in a draw and was gone. The next day, Sunday, I went back out onto the breaks and put the sneak to a couple of small bunches of elk but they were all cows and calves, no bulls.

On Monday I hunted Alder Creek and Sterling Gulch drainage’s in the hopes that some of the elk herd from the "Buttes" herd would have splintered off and moved down into them, no elk and no fresh sign. Tuesday I made the hunt from the breaks of the Imnaha West down through Indian Village. Didn't see any elk but I saw some fresh sign moving back into the breaks. Best thing though was that I only found one other hunter out there and he hadn't seen anyone other than me.

So Tuesday night in camp Jack and I had to rethink our strategy. Two things had changed since opening morning. First, the arctic front that had dropped the temperature below zero two days before season and down into the low 10-25 degree range on the first two days of season had passed. There was now a Chinook wind coming out of the south and the temperature was rising fast, melting the snow. Second, all the other hunters seem to have moved to other areas to hunt and there was now zero hunter pressure on the breaks. Thus I reasoned that since the elk really liked the south facing ridges on the breaks east of Indian Village, as there was plenty of forage, water and sunshine. Also from the Zumwalt Road we had been able to look back East out onto Long Ridge and see the herd about mid-day sunning itself. They had "holed" up out there on private property since opening morning. Our thought was with the break in weather and lessening of hunter pressure some of them might have splintered off from the big herd and moved back out into the breaks where they were huntable. Tuesday afternoon there was about half as many elk on Long Ridge so we were hoping our guess was good that the herd was getting over opening morning jitters and beginning to break up. We figured some of them would move back to the breaks so I put all my chips on that bet.

Wednesday morning at daylight found me with my hunting partner, Jack who didn't have a tag, out on the ridge that I should have been on opening morning. The ridge is a pretty long one that drops quickly down to the Imnaha River and runs SE. Unfortunately we had the Sun to our face but then fortunately we also had the wind to our face. The breaks or ridges there are wide open with little cover except for an occasional tree or out cropping of rocks. They generally slope down quite rapidly with a series of benches. The elk like to gather and sun themselves on these small benches in the early morning.

As Jack and I moved off the top and out of the tree line onto the open ridge we followed the cattle fence that runs down it. We had gone only a couple hundred yards and were glassing very carefully. Jack spotted a cow elk down the ridge in a saddle just above a bench. Short of a low crawl it was going to be difficult to get closer as the ridge where we were was very rounded and there just wasn’t any cover between the elk and us. Below us a couple hundred yards along the fence was a large patch of thorn brush about 30-40 yards wide. We knew there was a spring right below it with a couple water troughs. There the ridge made a zigzag to the left with the drainage dropping off about 60-70 yards right below the water troughs. As the ridge straightened out a couple hundred yards to the left there was a large rock butte with a bench below it a little more than a hundred yards long and about 25-30 yards wide. That was where the elk seemed to be heading for as they fed out of the very steep drainage.

If we could get to the thorn brush we might have a shot – that is IF there was a bull in this bunch. We did the old “bend over and move slowly head to ass” trick hoping the elk would think we were a cow, as in cattle, as there were still quite a few of those around also. It worked. We moved slowly down the fence line until we were about a hundred yards above the thorn brush. More and more elk were coming into view as we moved down the fence line. With my Ziess 10x40s I spotted a spike bull that jumped the fence and then moved onto the bench below the butte. That was the elk I was looking for. Jack hit him with the range finder and it was just over 600 yards.

We slid our pack frames off and again moved cow like very slowly down the fence to the thorn bush. By this time there were quite a few elk in view and they appeared to be feeding out of the draw below the troughs up onto the bench. We finally got to the thorn brush that screened us from the elk. If you’re familiar with thorn brush you know we had a problem. You just don’t walk through it. While trying to figure out what to do next I noticed a small faint trail that led up to the center of the thorn brush and seemed to disappear into it. Getting down on my knees I could see a tunnel went through the brush about 2-3 feet high. Thus we went to hands and knees and worked our way through the thorn brush. However, once on the other side there was no further cover and the tall grass prevented a prone shot from there. We then had to low crawl about 40-50 yards as far out onto the ridge as we dared. It appeared there were elk below us just under the edge but whether there were any bulls there we could not see. One old “lookout” cow out to the left just below the butte was beginning to eyeball us suspiciously so I told Jack to range the spike bull on the bench. He said 457 yards.

That long of a shot was in my comfort zone with the rifle I had. I had done a considerable amount of long range shooting with the rifle and I was confident I could make the shot putting a bullet into the heart/lung area. I would be shooting about 25-30 degrees downhill with a not to constant 10-12 mph wind quartering in from 2 o'clock. The scope on the rifle is a 3x9 Redfield Accu-Trac that I have used for years with absolute reliability. I have it ranged to 800 yards with the yardage settings matching those given by my Bushnell rangefinder, the one Jack had just ranged the bull with. I turned the scope to 9x and set the range at 450 yards. I had Jack slide around in front of me for a rest. Jack whined and sniveled as he wanted to watch but ya got to use what’s available. That's exactly what he was and I had a perfect prone supported rest across the small of his back.

Quick mental calculations based on many years of long rang shooting with that rifle and load told me I would have about 10-12 inches of wind drift at that range. I waited for the bull to be clear of any other elk. When he was clear he was standing quartered away to the left about two thirds of the way down the bench. I wanted the bullet to go into the heart and lungs so I held center of the chest for elevation and on his last rib to the right for wind. The shot broke clean and crisp.

At the boom and rolling echo I recovered from recoil and saw the bulls left shoulder drop as he hunched from taking the shot. A brief moment later I heard the “thwack” of a solid hit. The first shot was a "10" going in behind the left shoulder and taking out the front of the lungs and the major artery in the throat on the way out. After taking the shot the elk was dead on his feet but he and I did not know that. He moved about 20 yards farther away and stood broadside to the right. He was close to the edge of the bench and it was a long way down on three sides to the Imnaha River. I shot him again holding center again for elevation and holding on his brisket to the right for wind. Again the shot broke clean and I saw his front knees buckle as he took the shot. Then again came that satisfying “thwack” of a solid hit. The shot was an "X" going through the shoulder, the heart and breaking the offside shoulder. The range of the second shot was 477 yards. On taking the second shot the bull recovered momentarily but due to the broken offside leg he staggered back to the middle of the bench (thank you God) and collapsed there.

The “fun” part was over, now began the work. Once dressed out and quartered it was still a little over a 3 mile backpack out with over 250 pounds of meat, the head plus our hunting gear. We took the hind quarters out first then went back for the front quarters. Still a total of a little over 12 miles total for the day for Jack and I making the two trips. I killed the bull at 0655 and we got everything back out to Jack’s pickup at 1530, not too bad for a couple of “old guys”. On the way back to camp we were pretty happy and had big plans for celebrating through the night. You know, a big roaring campfire, a good dinner, some fine whiskey and of course a good cigar. However, by the time we got the meat hung we ate some canned chili, had a shot of whiskey and were sound asleep snoring loudly by 1830. We were young lions once, really …..we were!

The rifle I was using I had named the "Black Bitch". It is a M98 Mauser commercial barreled action by Churchill of England in .30-06. I pillar bedded the barreled action in a black Bell and Carlson stock some years ago. As previously mentioned it is topped with a Redfield 3x9 Accu-Trac scope in Redfield rings and bases. Other than the sling it is a very “black” rifle, hence the name. The load used was the Hornady 180 gr BTHP over a max load of IMR 4350 in LC Match cases with WLR primers. Velocity is 2690 fps with the 20 inch barrel. I have shot several thousand of rounds through the barrel and the throat is getting a little rough. However the rifle still shoots into 1 to 1.25 MOA at 200 yards with the load mentioned. Found the second bullet pretty much mangled in the offside broken leg bone. The bullet still retained 71% of it’s weight and though not a “classic” picture of the mushroomed bullet there was no hint of “bullet failure”. I have killed several elk (this was my 17th, though not all with this rifle), caribou, a multitude of deer and numerous coyotes and other varmints with this rifle. It is also the rifle and the same load I used to kill my Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep at 246 yards, another "X" heart shot. That sheep tag was a “once in a lifetime tag” I drew in Oregon. Thus is the confidence I have in this rifle and load.

And so ends my 2002 big game season with both a deer and an elk taken and in the freezer. Now for those pesky coyote’s……

Larry Gibson
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