Long range elk "mistake"
I am submitting this post with a little apprehension because I realize I will likely receive some deserved criticizm, but I think it is an important lesson for me as well as others to ponder and decide for themselves.
My buddy and I decided to hunt the last three days of the elk season here in Id. to at least try to get a small bull for the years meat supply. We had no luck opening week as the wolves were in the area and elk were scarce (another good topic)! I had some issues with my .300 right before we left so I decided to take my 6.5. I shot it at 880 yards to proof check my turrets and it was dead on with the two shots 3" apart. I am shooting 140 grain bullets at 3120'.
We were seeing quite a few elk each outing, but no bulls. As some of you know, I have basically built a benchrest blind into the side of the mountain and have shot numerous elk accross the canyon in the 1000 yard range but all with a .300 RUM and .300 Sherman, most of which I was using my bullets which are made for long range hunting.
We got down to the second to last day and decided anything with horns was fair game as a storm was on its way in that night. I had been seeing a lot of cows and when a bunch came out in the same area that morning, I assumed it was the same group. After glassing them for a few minutes, I noticed one behind a little brush that looked a little more like a small bull to me although I couldn't see antlers. After a couple more minutes, he took a step into a narrow opening and I could see that he was a forked horn. I ranged him at 1010 yards with my Leica. I have Kenton turrets on this particular rifle which are set for this particular load, but I also carry a chart and some meteorelogical equipment to make adjustments as necessary. It was about 10 degrees colder than my baseline and I was about 300-400' lower in elevation, so I dialed in an extra 1/2" moa. There was a zero wind condition so I felt quite confident for a good hit. I squeezed off the shot and the recoil took me off target momentarily. When I got back on the bull, he had taken a step or two forward and was walking VERY slowly with very short steps and his head down and back a little arched. It was only two more steps into the timber and I was quite sure that he would lay down right there as I have seen this exact behavior about three times in the past. I watched for about twenty minutes and the cows never even stopped feeding, but the bull never reappeared so I was quite sure he was down.
I had a 1/2 mile walk back to my quad, a 5 mile ride back to camp, which was on the "elk side of the canyon", and a three mile hike in to where the elk went down.
We ate breakfast and packed up our gear with the intention of packing meat back with us. We left our rifles in camp and I packed my 10mm Glock for whatever?
When we got in to where the elk was, some three hours after I shot him, I knew exactly where he went out of sight and expected him to be laying within 10 yards, which he was. Unfortunately, I made another dumb mistake by not approaching quietly. (I know better)! When I got within 20 yards of him, he tore out of there like he was shot from a canon. I am quite sure that if I had sneaked up, I could have shot him in his bed based on where he was in relation to my approach. There was a fair amount of blood in the bed, which started right where I had shot him. Based on the evidence where he lay, it appeared as if he was hit in the lower chest cavity. We tried to follow him in some very tough country, armed only with a hand gun, but soon lost the trail and there was only a couple of drops of blood. It seemed that the 3 hours had allowed him to quit bleeding, at least on the outside.
Here is the sad part to me: I have preached to others on this forum about bullets having a window of effectiveness and have even stated that this particular bullet will NOT expand effectively at this velocity (approx. 1860'). I suspect that I made a pencil sized hole in, and probably out, according to the evidence on the ground. Some of you might say, how do you know it was the bullet and not the shot placement? The truth is, I don't for sure but from the blood evidence in his bed, It looked to me like a shot with my .300, and my bullets that are designed for this exact situation, there would very likely have been a dead elk there.
I feel really bad about loosing the elk and feel responsible for doing something that I've preached against. (using the wrong bullet in a marginal caliber at that range) Having said that, the fact that the elk left with that much energy after three hours, I am really hoping that he will fully recover.
I have lost an elk shot at less than 100 yards with what I felt was a good shot so I am not at all suggesting any wrong doing in taking a 1000 yard shot "the right way"!
I have taken several in the past, and have lost none until now.
This was a HARD lesson for me which I hope will never be repeated..........Rich