A couple of weeks or so ago I took my 14 year old daughter on a cow elk and mule deer hunt. We hunted a private ranch near Truth or Consequences in the Gila. I have been hunting and guiding on this ranch for over 10 years. A buddy from TN was also with us and had a cow and deer tag as well.
We started hunting on Thursday afternoon after arriving at the ranch. We spotted several elk, and had a shot opportunity on a cow at a little over 600 yards, but I elected not to let my daughter take the shot. She is plenty capable but it was simply getting too dark. The next evening we got on a herd of cows at a water hole. Both Elizabeth and Robby shot one each at about 300 yards. 2 cow elk down at the same time about 30 yards apart and we can drive the truck to them!! It don't get any better than that....... other than it was also my daughters first elk.
Before we shot the elk, we also spotted three mule deer bucks in the same canyon. Our tags became active the next morning, so at daylight we were right back in the same spot. Just after daylight I spotted 3 bucks (different bucks from the night before.... bigger). I ranged the biggest buck at 698 yards. I started getting set up to shoot him with my daughters 338 Lapua. By the time I was set up, the buck had bedded down perfectly broadside. There was minimal wind and very little elevation difference. Checking my dial-up chart showed 13.75 moa at 700. I then checked my Applied Ballistics app on my phone. At home in Arkansas my app and real world drops are exactly the same out to 1000 yards. With the current conditions in NM the app called for 12.25 moa.
Well, thats where the trouble started. I looked at my chart and the app and thought, that is just too much difference. It can't be that much. So, I decided to split the difference. I dialed in 13 moa, settled in and took the shot. Robby, watching though the spotting scope called out, "12 inches high!" The buck was still bedded, but looked like he was about to get up any second. I asked Robby if he was sure it was 12" high, he said, yep, it was every bit of that. Ok, that means two moa down to 11 moa. That would drop me 14". I dialed 11 and took the shot. He called out, "low, right under him, he's on the ridge looking back you better take him!!" Well, 13 was too high, 11 was to low so 12 must be just right. I dialed 12 and took the shot. Robby called out "good hit, he went over the ridge" We hiked over, and found the buck. He had gone 50 or 60 yards and fell into a gully.
The moral of the story...... Trust your equipment. If I had simply trusted my ballistics program and dialed 12.25 moa, I would have killed him the first shot. Second lesson.... It is easy to misjudge how high a shot is when there is a sloping hillside behind the critter. I was probably only a couple of inches over his back on the first shot, but it looked like more because of the slope and the dust kicking up.
Robby also had a deer tag, which we filled with another nice buck that same day. Two cow elk, two good mulie bucks in two and a half days! It was a great hunt and special time to spend with my daughter.
We used a 338 Lapua that Kirby Allen built for Elizabeth for her 14th birthday last summer. The rifle is built on Kirby's Raptor action, Lilja barrel, McMillan A5 stock, all topped off with a Night Force NXS 8-32X56.
The load was a Berger 250 grain bullet, running at 2875.