Re: 168gr SMK?
bowhunthard,**** Shot placement is paramount. The 165/168gn would be my bullet weight choice for the .30-06. I have never tried to take a deer with a SMK, I have however, killed a lot of crows with the 52gn SMK out of a .223 and .22-250.
I get the feeling your friend doesn't have that much experience behind a rifle if he has nightmares about 400yd shots. He might be better suited with a softport boat-tail. I've read of mixed results with the SMK, some being non-expanding and "penciling" through.
As for Ballistic Tips, the first sentence refers. I think they get a bad rap because some people aren't as precise in their shot placement as they should be or rush the shot. They aren't made to shoot length-ways through a deer (Triple-shock will). They will take out soft tissue like the heart and lungs and are accurate enough I have taken head and neck shots out to 200yds.
Whatever bullet you load for your friend, make enough he can practice, practice and practice some more.
I think that was a spine shot too. My reasoning; at the shot the deer hit the ground and his back legs "tucked" up under him and didn't move. Classic spine shot. His front legs were not "taken out", they continued to "claw" until he expired. The blood pumping out is normal. Not trying to start a fight just stating an opinion. JohnnyK.