As many of you know that have been following the development of my 300 and 338 Raptor wildcat chamberings, there have been a FEW bumps in the road. By late summer this year, I was able to get a fully functional Raptor LRSS 338 Raptor single shot rifle made up for field testing big game hunting this fall. Still have a few issues to work out but pretty much have everything ready to roll for production.
First test of the fall would be to fill my 2013 Montana pronghorn permit. I was not able to get as much time on the rifle as I normally do before hunting season but I was pretty confident in the rifle. Drops were dead on the money over a wide range of temps I was able to test the rifle in out to 1700 yards. The load I decided to go with was the Berger 300 gr Hybrid OTM loaded over 125.0 gr RL50 which produced 3130 fps. This is no where near a MAX load but its 130 fps over my 338 Allen Xpress (338 Lapua Improved) with same barrel length and with very comfortable chamber pressures so the limited brass I have right now will last a LONG TIME!!!
We hunted pronghorns hard for a week and just could not find any mature bucks. One morning I decided to check out some state land that I normally do not hunt and to my surprise, there was a single pronghorn on the far side of a big bowl. Set up the spotting scope and the buck appeared to be a VERY good 80" class buck. Put the spotter away and got packed up to start the stock. The buck was roughly 2500 yards away so I wanted to cut the distance for the shot. Wind conditions were good. There was a small rise that I felt would be a good place to set up for a shot allowing me to get slightly elevated over the bucks position for a good range measurement. Took me around 40 minuted to get out to the spot and set up. Using the Terrapin RF, the buck measured 1078 yards but there was no shot as the buck was standing with his rear toward me. By the time the buck offered a shot, the buck was 1130 yards. I zeroed this rifle at 275 yards just in case something showed up that needed a quick shot at zero to 400 yards and then dial up for longer range. The dial up for 1130 yards was 19.5 moa.
The buck was standing with head on the left and there was a slight breeze from left to right but it felt like it was coming from my 7:00 position so I did not make much adjustment for windage. At the shot, the big 300 gr berger slammed the buck very hard. His hind legs folded up under the buck and then the front end dropped. The buck tried to regain his feet and fell down into a slight dip where I could only see his horned and top of his head. I was expecting to see the bucks head fall in a few second but he kept it up which started to worry me. The buck tried to get to his feet twice more and it was clear that structurally he was able to stand but both times he just could not keep his feet under him and he fell down. Obviously hurt bad but not sure where the impact was.
I gave the buck 20 minutes and he still had his head up. I knew I did not want to take a 16 lb Raptor LRSS rifle out to finish off the buck if he was still mobile and things got a bit western so I decided to hike back to the truck, trade out rifles for my lighter weight 300 AX and then head out to finish off the buck.
By the time I got back to the truck, swopped rifles and gear and got back out to where I had shot from, it took nearly an hour and I found that a herd of pronghorns had showed up right where my buck was laying. This was about as bad as it gets. If the buck was able to get to his feet, the draw of the herd would motivate him to get up and move off with them. I set up with the 300 AX trying to spot the buck, I could not see his horns. I scanned the herd, there were no bucks that appeared hurt at all and to be honest, the three bucks in the herd were no here near the quality that I thought the buck I had shot was. I thought anyway. You start questioning things in these situations.
I set there for 20 minutes and let the herd move off and really did not see any goats that appeared hurt in any way. Decided to head out across the prairie to see what the situation was.
At around 400 yards off the buck, I could see down into the dip and to my relief, I could see the buck. He was laying there with his head down but could not tell if he was dead or not. I circled around to come up on the rear of the buck trying not to spook him if he was still alive. At around 100 yards, the buck lifted his head but it soon fell again, it was obvious he was not strong enough to hold up his head. I worked my way around until I could just see his shoulder and made a finishing shot on the nearly dead buck.
When I got up to the buck, he was exactly what I had thought he was, a very good buck for this area, especially for the low numbers we had been seeing. He was just under 15" in length, good prongs and very good mass. He taped out at a bit over 78" so just missed the Montana B&C record book by less then 1.5".
The shot had landed about 6" back of the bucks last rib but the big 338 Raptor with the 300 gr berger had done dramatic damage, in fact, it ruptured the liver, split the diaphragm and severely bruised the back of both lungs even though the bullet did not touch any of them. There was slightly more breeze at the buck then I had estimated which resulted from the bullet impacting about 1 moa farther to the right then I was expecting. Still, the big 338 Raptor got me out of a possible bad spot, a lesser rifle likely would have resulted in a lost pronghorn. Again, when things go perfect, there is no need for a big rifle, but that rarely happens at these ranges and when things are NOT perfect, a big gun can get you out of trouble much better then a smaller rifle.
The berger 300 gr Hybrid OTM produced a 3/8" entrance wound and roughly a 2.5" exit wound. Obviously there was expansion but also good bullet weight retention. Very happy as this was a relatively soft bullet impact.
After that hunt, I got some work down in the shop and was able to get to the range a couple times for some more trigger time on the 338 Raptor. The rifle has always shot lights out so I was very confident when I packed up and headed down to Oklahoma for my one hunt of the year. Headed out on Nov 2nd and when I arrived, we went out to check the rifles zero before the hunt. The first shot at 850 yards was dead on the money height wise but landed about 3.5 moa to the left.... WHAT THE HECK was my comment I believe. There was a breeze blowing but neither me of my good friend Shawn Winchester could believe the 300 gr berger was getting blown around that much from this rifle. We both figured that the scope must have gotten bumped off on the 1400 mile trip to his ranch. I figured that the wind we were measuring would drift around 1/2 to 3/4 moa so I adjusted the scope 2.5 moa to the right to correct the problem.
The next morning was the first morning of our hunt but we quickly realized that the acorn crop had just started to fall when I arrived. We hunted hard morning and evening for four days and the BIG bucks never once broke the timber line. We had seen a 4x4 with some kickers a couple times in the food plots that was a 4 year old. We had seen him for the past couple years and decided he was a good deer to get out of the gene pool. On the 5th morning he showed up coming off the creek bottom to a food plot. Shawn ranged him at 623 yards. I dialed up the 7.0 moa required for that range. The morning was quite cool with a good frost on the ground and no wind at all. Settled into the big 338 Raptor and tripped the 1 lb jewell trigger on the management buck. On impact, the buck was knocked to the ground, he regained his feet, stumbled for 20 yards and fell over dead.
Shawn reported that the impact was about 2 moa to the right of his shoulder. WHAT THE HECK..... was my reply. Told him that was about exactly the amount that we had adjusted the scope when we checked the rifle before the hunt...... Apparently there was more wind playing with the bullet then we had estimated that morning. Later that day we adjusted the scope back to where it was.
The buck was exactly what we thought he was, a good 4 year old buck, tall but only a 4x4 with a couple kickers on his left antler. He scored 130" so a great management buck for sure.
On the last day, we decided to hunt Shawns high fence area as he wanted to show me some of his Red Stags that had reached maturity. He said there were several in the 6-8 year old range and I have always wanted a mature red stag. Now these stags are pure blooded English stags. Not the genetically altered monsters that are becoming the norm for the species which is really sad to be honest. Shawn said that a big stag would measure a bit over 300" and a true monster with these blood lines would top out at less then 350". He said there were three stags that would be in that range.
That morning, at first light, we spotted two mature stags and several hinds bedded down in the love grass hills just short of the timbeline. They had been bumped off the food plots but a couple coyotes. After about 20 minutes they started working their way back to the food plots. One stag in particular has very dark antlers with bright white tips on each tine. He had good crowns as well, three points on one side and four on the other. He was missing his second tine on the left antler however which would REALLY hurt his score in the end. Still, I loved the look of this 8 year old stag and while score is nice, its not everything so we set up on this stag.
Shawn ranged him at 721 yards while I set up the 338 Raptor. While I was doing that, Shawn said that he had never had a stag put down with one shot before on the ranch....... As such, I dialed up the Mark 4 the 9.25 moa called for and held for a high shoulder shot on the stag. There was a bit of wind that got me when the Raptor barked but not enough to push the 300 gr berger far enough off target to spoil the shot. THe big berger landed with authority on the leading edge of the shoulder, breaking both shoulder and punching through the spine as well dropping the 450-500 lb stag flat on his nose. He never even twitched.
As I cleared the rifle, Shawn told me to check out the herd of Aoudad sheep running off the creek bottom that had been spooked by the shot on the stag. I saw one very large ram and asked Shawn if that ram was as big as he appeared. He was 20% larger then the other rams in the herd and a full 50% larger then the ewes. He looked to have close to 30" horns with VERY good mass. He said, ya, he is a stud. I lined the Raptor up on him and called for Shawn to range him.
The herd stopped just before the treeline at the edge of the far food plot. Shawn called back, 833 yards. I turned the mark 4 back to zero and then dialed up 11.75 moa for the shot. Seeing the drift from the shot on the stag, I held on the onside ham of the ram who was standing quartering hard away from us. Settled in and let the big 338 Raptor go. The 300 gr Berger impacted just behind the onside shoulder, just clipping it enough to break it and exiting the center of the neck. I wanted the impact to be a bit more into the meat of the ram as these sheep can take a hell of a pounding and run off with a lot of poorly placed lead in them. Still, this ram made a 40 yard semi-circle and fell over. About 20 second later he rolled over dead. Guess there was enough damage done to get the job done on this very large, tough sheep.
We packed up all the gear and headed down to the food plots to recover the Stag and Ram. We got the the Ram first and we were both amazed by the body size of this ram. I had killed an old ram with Shawn a few years before that I thought was a big bodied ram but this thing dwarfed every Aoudad I had seen before. His horns were larger then we had expected because of judging them against his big body.
Now, I am not a little guy, 6'3" and around 210 lbs. This Aoudad made me look very small!!!
Turned out he has horn lengths of just under 31 and 32" and both side were solidly over 12" circumference with a final score of 138". We took some pics and then loaded up the ram and then made our way to the stag. The 300 gr berger had penetrated +22" and exited leaving a 1.5" exit wound. From the damage inside the ram it was obvious there was great penetration and plenty of expansion but with good weight retention. Could not ask for much better performance. A lesser rifle again would have resulted in a very bad situation with this very tough ram but the 338 Raptor got the job done with a less then ideal shot placement.
Now, I had never been around a stag before. I knew they were not as large as mature bull elk but I was surprised at the body size of this 8 year old stag. Shawn estimated him over 450 lbs and probably close to 500 lbs. He was everything I had hoped for in a mature pure blooded Red Stag.
Other then the missing 2nd tine, I could not have asked for anything more. His final score was 290" which would have been well over 300 had he had that tine but score is just one part of a trophy and I could not be happier with this Stag.
When we skinned the stag, we found the 300 gr berger. It had broken both shoulders and drilled straight through the spine. It was found just under the hide on the off side and still was over 180 grains of retained weight. Recovered diameter was over 1". Could not be happier with the results. The spine on a critter of this side is VERY hard on bullets and I could not have been happier with the results.
So far, very impressed with the rifle, 338 Raptor and the 300 gr Hybrid OTM bullet. These impacts at ranges from 600 to 840 yards are a serious test at the velocity the Raptor is driving these bullets to and the bullet performed very well. At 1130 yards on a very soft impact, it still performed perfectly in my opinion. Very impressed.
Want to thank my good friend Shawn Winchester for a great week of hunting and fun times. Its always a hell of a time. Next year we will hopefully time the whitetails a bit better for the big boys but its always worth the trip. Also got to run up to El Reno and see my good friend BJ and Steve at Third Generation Shooters Supply. Always great those guys as well.