So, 6 pointer 325 B&C at 636 yards uphill at 22 degrees with 375/ 408 CT / 505 Gibbs with two 350 SMKs in Vermejo, NM. The first was two inches behind the shoulder mid chest and the second round 4 inches back resulting in two broken ribs and 5 exits holes and the bull staggered 10 feet before dropping. 11,000 feet, 45 degrees, virtually no wind, sun setting, just after 6pm.
Trust these comments below will be useful a young tiro.
Some beliefs and principals:
1. Dispatch quickly ie two shots like African principal
2. Absolutely steady for LRH ie back and front rest
3. Practice at altitude and weather and range
4. Have ready at hand ballistic tables and angle compensation
5. If unsure, dont take it
Now beliefs and principals may change but there will probably be some comments.
In addition, Pat McGrew, in charge of the guides and general game manager asked the hunters on checking in to do the following. It should be noted he has 26 years of experience with currently hunters harvesting 150-200 bulls annually.
1. Broadside chest shot just behind shoulder
2. Two shots always
3. Never head, neck, shoulder, frontal, spine and obviously gut
4. Site in your rifle on range till comfortable
5. Listen to your guide
6. Be quick in taking your shot
Pat has used a 375 H&H for the 26 years for elk, bears, mountain lions and anything else and is his choice. In polling some 6 other guides, two thirds preferred 338s however about 50-60 % of hunters bring 30s. Jim Baker, overall manager, recommended bringing two rifles when asked about which to bring. Bullet selection was not much of an issue given it is for lung shots and mostly shorter ranges.
Before the hunt, I had my guide see what my shooting was like at the range and showed that .25moa changes would result in .25-.5 of perfect vertical alignment at 100 yds at 10,000 feet and also that 400 yds targets were consistently hit.
What worked well:
The 375 SnipTac built by Dave Viers is very accurate and consistently groups 2-4 at 500 yds. I could have brought my 375 Allen Magnum but was not sure about how much hiking there would be but in retrospect for evening hikes with waiting overlooking meadows it would have also been a great choice. A Kafuri butt holder on an Eberlestock hip belt worked very well for carrying the 375 and 30-378 and for quick draws. While the Eberlestock pack with the shooting rest attached to it worked very well, the Eberlestock was too big for the morning and evening hikes and a smaller day pack would have worked better. The Swaro rangefinder was great out to 1450 yds on trees, 1250 on grass. Practicing consistently at 510 yds and also at 600, 1000, and 1760 helped the guides setup a bucket of water at just under 1000 yds away from the lodge for a challenge after taking the bull (10 mile cross wind, third or fourth shot explosion) and then for some fun had a turn at shooting rocks at about the same distance.
Had to dum down the velocity from 3100 fps to 3000 and change to .8BC to make actual performance match Exbal tables but then at 10,500 feet and weather conditions (4500 Kesterel weather meter) worked perfectly. Kept tables and drop chart tables in a fold in the rubber recoil pad for quick reference. Also added cheek pad from Shawn Carlin worked great but was cut away to accommodate bolt highly recommend his video for starting off. Both back pack and three small bags with Airsoft light pellets worked well. Kirby had advised me to practice with his 375 Allen magnum with sand bags and not bipods when on solid ground and that worked out best. Found that when the bipods are not deployed for LR shots but using bags they appear to interfere with accuracy maybe causes vibrations?
Also brought a 30-378 customized WBY for the morning hikes which were usually a few miles. The original would never shoot straight or group no matter what bullet weight or type. Sent it back to Wby and was told that in a vice it shot accurately (still 1.7 at 100yds). Was about to give up on it but Dave Viers (Viersco) had made the great 375 (single shot) and asked for his advice. He said he could not guarantee he could fix it but recommended calling Dan Lilja. Called Dan and he recommended a Lilja 30 flutted barrel. Dave added a Manners stock with aluminum insert and custom trigger and bedded the barrel worked out very well! Groups 2-4 inches at 500 yds with 175 SMK and with B&C Leupold scope (VX 7) the lower bars work perfectly the 650yd bar groups 4-6 inches and at 1000 yds with 18moa (3490 fps) groups nicely at about 12 . Not as stable in wind as the 375 obviously. Would highly recommend as a reasonable all round rifle.
Fishing during the day for 5 types of trout for lunch was an added pleasure also apart from some 270 elk on the meadow below one early morning; bear, coyotes, bison, antelope and mule deer were seen. Of the about 100 antlers in the skinning shop, only 3 looked like good 7 pointers so about 3%. Also, with 12 of us hunting, only one 7 pointer was spotted out of probably some 250 that were scoped out for size. Food was excellent. This is a unique experience and may be criticized by some for being elitist but this was probably my only chance to get a good bull, I dont have the time or experience to self guide with a low return, and the chances of getting a tag are minimal.
What did not do so well:
The altitude was exhausting! Even after training on an elliptical. With the hiking, did not need as much outer wear as expected but the weather can very quickly change.
Would bring two rifles again but weight is tough.
Leave Eberlestock and use lighter pack.
Needed a small hand held GPS
Did not bring scope but guides had them weight issue again but binos and Swaro worked well
Schmidt and Bender on 375 is very good especially in low light but probably would have been better off with Nightforce like the one on the 375 Allen magnum.
Left 375 Allen magnum behind heavier but having a magazine is useful although needs to be a 3 round but extremely accurate for really long shots. If I go again and can afford the trip would bring it along.
A PDA / iPod based ballistic program would be useful but altitude and expected weather charts work quicker for reference.
In summary, practice, and practice, and know your rifle backwards and make sure you are absolutely steady for the sake of the animal. One of the hunters knocked down a bull for some 20 seconds, probably spinal shock shot, did not take a second, and it got up and ran off blood trail but was never found. Another bull, spinal shot, was followed up, and the bull did not get up.
Hope this useful.
Pictures did not come out well but will try and find some.
As far as S&B scope, its excellent but was heavy, rode high above the barrel - 2.5 ", and combination of MOA and Mil Dot reticle turned out to be difficult to work with. The optics (5-25) are however the best I ve seen.
This is a unique experience and may be criticized by some for being elitist but this was probably my only chance to get a good bull, I dont have the time or experience to self guide with a low return, and the chances of getting a tag are minimal.
No one would criticize you for an outstanding hunt like that on the legendary Vermejo Ranch with all that wonderful top-of-the line equipment. On the contrary, we are defintely green with envy.
I hunted next to the Vermejo years ago, and there were stories that many of the Vermejo "elk hunters" were just rich guys who stayed in the lodge to drink, and payed the guides to shoot their trophies for them.
You are obviously not one of those fellows, you earned our congratulations and your trophy with resourcefulness, energy and skill.
I recall hunting at 11,000 ft. in Idaho when I was 35 years old, and it flat wore me out!