Well, after several mornings of hard hunting, we are finally finished. We had three tags to fill this year.
The range we hunt is over 125,000 acres as we have access to all of it if you want to walk. ALot of other hunts have access to it as well.
Opening morning we headed up to our favorite location. Windy as hell but there were alot of pronghorns out. We saw at least 30 good bucks, nothing huge and since the wind was blowing around 20 mph I did not even unpack the rifle.
The next morning was breezy but at least not windy. We returned to our preferred area and since it was monday, we were the only ones there which was stark difference from the day before. We found a good herd out in the middle of a big hay field and made a stock on one very large buck. We used the center pivot as cover and got to within 350 yards of the buck before the herd spotted us and ran off. The buck however just walked along. Dad lined up his 25-284 and asked what hold to take. I said hold 1/3 down from his back and on the leading edge of his shoulder.
At the shot, dust erupted right in front of the buck and he tore out of the area. Dad had held just off hair in front of the buck and thats about where the bullet hit. No harm done, but a good lesson in leading a slower moving animal at this range.
We headed back into the flat land a bit farther where we spotted a good herd of goats roughly 1000 yards off the main road. I unpacked the gear,and Seconds later a couple ranch trucks hauling cattle came over the ridge!!! Can't get pissed at that, they were just working.
I then looking across the way down into a large bowl off the dirt road I noticed a small group of pronghorns in th ebottom, around 600 yards away. My brother turned the spotter on them and said there was a good buck in the herd. They were out past where Dad wanted to shoot, closer then I wanted to shoot so my brother grabbed his Sako 7.82 Warbird and made his way across the fence. Because of some contour in the ground, he had to get out around 50 yards from the road to get laid down for a solid shot.
I ranged the goats at 557 yards and then I ranged him at 52 yards and told him they were at roughly 505 yards as we were all lined up in a row.
He found his hold and send a 208 gr A-Max down range and connected solidly with the buck. The shot was slightly back farther then he wanted because of some wind that caught him more then he expected but the buck went down quickly but his head stayed up. We made a move to position ourselves a bit better and he made a second shot to end thing.
The buck was not quite as large as he had hoped, right at 14" but his prongs were a bit short and his mass average. Still a good buck for this year of very dry conditions. And it was a personal best long range shot for him as well so it worked out great.
Day three was the best day of the week. I woke up to no wind at all so we headed up to look over the big hay field where dad had missed the big buck the morning before. We got set up and I glassed the field, There were alot of goats in the field and I measured 5 good bucks on our side of the huge field. I found one buck that looked very tall and ranged him at 1300 yards on the money.
Conditions were ideal, no wind at all. Found my hold and send a 265 gr AT RBBT on its way. The buck was laying with his back to us and was quartering away at around a 45 degree angle. When the big Wildcat bullet landed, it looked like a dawn filled pillow exploded. The buck jumped to his feet, stumbled around, then trotted over to some tall grass. Where I could only see his head.
A minute or two later the herd wondered past him and down into a draw and out of sight. The buck tried to fallow. He was hurt bad but still mobile. I tried to get a range on him but the sun was very intense at this time and I could not get any meaningful reading. The buck was heading to a fence line so I took a reading in that area and got a measurement of 1180 yards.
I found my hold and when the buck came to the fence I sent another round down range. This shot clipped hair on the bucks shoulder as it just barely over shot the buck. He crossed the fence and then walked up onto a slight side hill where I could get a good reading. The range was basically the same.
Relaxed, took my hold an let a round slip down range. I was horrified to see a dust cloud 20 yards below the buck!!
It was so far away he did not even flinch. I raked in another round. Sent it on its way and this shot landed 15 yards to the right of the buck. I was thinking and probably saying some pretty choice words at this time. I could not figure what the hell was going on. This last shot spooked the buck and he gimped down the hill and out of sight.
The rest of the herd came up the other side but my buck did not. I grabbed my 7mm AM lightweight and Dad and I headed over to the draw to see what had happened. When we got there the buck was in the bottom of the draw, about as dead as you could be but still standing. One 200 gr ULD RBBT at around 350 and it was done.
When we got up to the buck, I realized that the shot had entered just ahead of the right ham and penetrated through the paunch and liver. all in all, from that angle, not a bad hit. It had impacted about 5" farther back then I wanted but I can live with that at 1300 yards. What I could not live with was the bullet spraying after those first two shots.
I had been shooting this rifle for a month at ranges from 900 to 2000 yards and it was dead on the money, not I could not get within 20 yards of a goat at 1200 yards!!!
Anyway, it was a good pack back to the truck, nearly a mile each way so we were pretty whooped after that.
My buck was a good buck, right at 14" but extremely heavy. Only problem is that he had broken off both of his prongs flush with the main beam of the horn. This did not bother me in the least. His based were both nearly 7" in circumference so he was an old buck. He scored 72" even without any prongs at all.
What I was concerned with was the total lack of consistancy on the follow up shots. THe weak prior, clay targets were in serious trouble at ranges out to even a mile and now the rifle was throwing shots all over the countryside.
We got home and I decided I would clean the 338 Allen Magnum just to make sure everything was alright before I retested it for the upcoming Montana General Big Gam season.
I set the rifle up on the bench, reached over it to grab a bottle of solvent and when I did I grabbed the objective of the NF scope with my left hand and I instantly realized what was causing the problem!!! THe scope was tight in the rings, the rings were tight on the rail base, BUT, the rail base was just flopping around on the receiver. I was pretty upset at first but relieved that the problem was so obviously mechanical.
Shawn Calock and I had discusses this same problem earlier as Shawn has had this problem with his rifle. His cure was to use larger 10-32 bolts to secure the scope base down onto the receiver.
In looking at the BAT Model M receiver and its rail base design, I quickly realized that even though 8-40 screws were used on this base to attach to the receiver, they were flat seat screws, not tapered seat screws. I do not like this at all with a rail base that has no mechanical recoil lug to the receiver. The reason is because a flat seat screw has no control over shear forces generated by recoil and in a rifle like this, extreme deceleration forces generated by the extreme performance muzzle brake
in combination with this round.
This rail base design has no real way to control these extreme shear forces, positive and negative and as such, no matter how tight you torque them down, in time it appears that the problem, will rear its head.
My personal rifle is fitted with a custom rail base that is about 50% longer then the BAT rail and its taller as well. As such, after seeing this problem, the rifle was taken down and within an hour, the receiver top holes were drilled and tapped for very large 1/4-28 TPI bolts and the rail base was also modified for these very large screws.
This should really be over kill. The bolts I used have huge tapered seat surfaces which should provide more then enough support to control positive and negative shear forces so the rail base should never loosen up in any way.
I have now made it my shop policy to convert all these receivers to tapered seat bolts. For the BAT rails I will use 10-32 bolts and for custom rails I will use the larger 1/4-28 tpi bolts if the rail dimensions allow for it.
Simply put, the stresses imposed by the 338 Allen Magnum on a rifle this light in both recoil and deceleration are extreme, so an extreme mounting system will be perfect for these rifles.
Anyway, it turned out pretty well for how badly it could have turned out so I can not complain about that and found a bug that I have now corrected in this rifle design.
Yesterday morning we headed out to try to fill Dads permit. Last of the group. Again, we headed to the same location. Wind was blowing a bit harder then the day before but not bad. In the field there was a group of 10 goats, one decent buck. As we glassed the huge field, I spotted a smaller group of pronghorns on the back side of the field, nearly 2 miles away from our glassing position.
There were 5 goats total with two VERY nice bucks. The biggest appeared to have good prongs and good mass as well. I told dad he was probably pushing 80" in score if not breaking over 80". Still the wind was not good at all for a stalk and they were A LONG WAYS out there.
Still, nothing else was to be seen so we decided what the hell. We stayed there until the group bedded down for the day. THen we drove down to a point where we were out of sight and then headed out across the prairie to a shallow creek bottom that would give us cover until we got to within 1/2 mile of the herd. Then we would have to figure out what to do from there.
After a good 30 minutes of hiking, we came to a small bluff and crawled to its point to locate the herd. We quickly found them but realized they were way past where dad was willing to shoot with his 25-284, Round 700 yards with nothing between us and them but VERY short prairie grass.
We set there for 15 minutes or so talking things over and had just about decided to just head right out to them when we heard a low rummble in the air.
We looked down the valley past the goats and saw an Air Force heuy on missle silo patrol. THis is common in this area as there are alot of ICBM silos around these parts. He was heading right for us.
There were only two does in the herd of pronghorn and they were already on their feet watching the helo.
As it neared the herd all rose and started trotting, RIGHT TOWARD US!!!!!
They covered a few hundred yards and in the mean time Dad was getting ready and I was ranging the buck. Finally they veered to our left and stopped and looked back at the Heuy that had just passed over them.
I ranged the biggest buck at 391 yards. Told dad he was the one farthest to the right and that he was at 391 yards. Seconds later the 25 barked and the buck suddered. Ran 50 yards and then wobbled down to the ground, classic lung shot.
We watched the buck for several minuted until we were sure he was dead and then walked up to him. He was a VERY nice buck for this area. 15" tall, 6.5" cutters and mass in the same 6.5" range on the bottom two circumference measurements. His gross score was 79 7/8" B&C, just missing the montana record books by 1/8".
Dads shot could not have been placed more perfectly just behind the shoulder. I told him there was a reason he missed those two smaller bucks!!! It took most of the rest of the day to hike back, get the game cart and get back out to the buck and get him loaded up in the truck. About 8 miles of hiking in total as well but well worth it for Dads biggest buck.
Two years in a row he has taken the biggest buck of the three of us!!! I could not have been happier for him and the shot he made on a big goat. The hike was tiring but more then worth it to be able to haul back my dads buck!!!
So all in all we got three good bucks. All at or over 70" and all in the 14" range or taller. Three very good shots, nearly 400, over 500 and 1300 yards. Take away my mechanical issues and it could not have been better and even with those, turned out very well espeically considering I was able to find a potential problem before customers ran into the problem and now I can correct this before rifles ever go out the door.
For those with heavier rifles, this should not be an issue as the recoil velocity and deceleration will be much slower then compared to a lightweight 338 AM in my Xtreme Heavy Sporters.
All in all a great time.
I do not have pics yet, will get them downloaded and posted very soon.
Now back to work for 10 days and then onto deer season!!!!