Oryx hunt in New Mexico, 704 yard shot, .338 Lapua
Years ago, in hunting oryx with friends on White Sands Missile Range in southern NM, we could easily get within 500 yards of some great trophy oryx, but not a lot closer before they would start to take off. This spawned the seed of interest in me for a long range hunting gun.
At first I looked closely at the fifties.. I went to the Raton match a couple years back and learned a lot more just watching and asking questions. I learned the fifties are just too heavy for what I was looking for, a gun I could hunt with, carry through the mountains, and have enough energy to take elk and oryx at long range. Fifties have energy to spare, but just too much weight.
Next choice was a .338 Lapua, of more reasonable weight and yielding plenty of energy at 1000 yards. I was lucky to be able to buy one an AR-30. Best of all, the owner already had a load worked up and agreed to provide me with a hundred hand loads as well, so that saved me a lot of time in the trial and error phase. After shooting the rifle some, getting the scope set up, some practice and working up a paper drop table, the hunt was on, the first Friday of March, with friends Dave Frederick, Terry Tadano and Clarence Seagraves to act as spotters, rangers, skinners, haulers and all around help and good times.
About a half hour into the hunt, we pulled over to glass. In no time Terry spotted one a ways out, so while the others evaluated it in their spotting scopes, I got set up prone on a convenient pile of dirt next to the road. I had made laminated drop tables, one with Dave, and one attached to an archery armguard on my forearm. Terry and Clarence declared this one to be a shooter, and he looked good to my inexperienced eyes as well. Dave ranged the oryx first at about 650 yards, but before I could get on him, he turned and trotted away, but stopped again. Again Dave called out the range 704 yards, I dialed the scope again according to my table, got on him and fired at the broadside target. At the shot, the beast turned and trotted up a small rise behind, the one that spewed a large cloud of dust after the bullet impacted. Watching the oryx topped the rise, Clarence though he saw it stumble as it went over the top.
We quickly gathered some backpacks and headed over to see. At the impact site, there was good blood on both sides of his huge tracks. Good but not copious. Dave found a piece of lung on a bush, reassuring. As we neared the top, I stood off to a side, with my rifle at ready. Again, this is where the fifty caliber would be unwieldy due to weight. The AR 30 is about 16 pounds, not light, but enough to carry and to aim off hand at near ranges. Topping the rise, I was out front, scanning for the wounded oryx. These oryx, or gemsbock as they are called on the african Hunting shows, are notoriously tough and hard to put down, having a huge adrenal gland. Over the rise, there lay the dead oryx, about 150 yards from impact. The bullet lost little energy passing through the oryx, not striking any bone and just punching a clean hole through the lungs. Exit hole was about an inch in diameter. A lot of hemorrhaging on the off side flank from the shock wave. If the energy had stayed in the animal, I believe it would have dropped in its tracks. I had mised my aim point, the heart, by 8 or 10 inches.
A beautiful critter, probably 450 pounds live weight. with long horns measuring about 35.5 and 36 inches in length. Dave headed back to the truck, now a half mile away, to get some supplies we left behind in the initial excitement, and we went to work quartering and caping the oryx.
In all, it was a wonderful experience and a vindication of the time and investment in the rifle (at least, thats what I tell my wife!) I look forward to using this rifle often to hunt mule deer, elk antelope and hopefully, even oryx again someday.
Again, thanks to my hunting companions Dave, Terry and Clarence, and to Marty for tuning the load. Marty's load is 89 grains of RL25, 3.75 COAL on a 300 Gr SMK. As accurate as I can shoot, but still, I would prefer a bullet that would expand more and transfer more energy to the target. Anyone know of any other highly accurate 338 bullets in 300Gr? In the meantime, I can't argue with success...
Steve Robertson, Cedar Crest, New Mexico
Steve in New Mexico
Hunting with my AR30 .338 Lapua