Long range elk "mistake"

Discussion in 'Long Range Hunting & Shooting' started by elkaholic, Nov 3, 2011.

  1. elkaholic

    elkaholic Well-Known Member

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    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
     
  2. edge

    edge Well-Known Member

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    IMO, you felt confident at the shot so I have zero complaint with you taking it.

    I do have one policy when hunting game, and this is with archery gear or HP rifles. if they are on there feet keep shooting, and if an archery shot deer drops at the shot put another arrow into the boiler room as you likely spined him and if you don't break the spinal chord he will get up and leave for parts unknown :)

    The club I hunt had a member that got the nickname "stickman"!

    He shot a deer, it ran about 100 yards and dropped. He approached the deer with his shotgun empty and threw a stick at it to make sure it was dead. It was not and the biggest deer of his life ran into history.

    Bullets are cheap, come home without them :)

    edge.
     

  3. Dean2506

    Dean2506 Well-Known Member

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    I took a shot that I should have known better while bow hunting in MN year before last. I think most of us probably have. I think admitting our mistakes along with learning from them and being upset when we lose an animal is what makes us true outdoorsmen. I believe stories like this help the rest of us think twice before taking a shot we might not feel confident in. Thanks for sharing and sorry for your results.
     
  4. Loner

    Loner Well-Known Member

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    Having been a bow hunter and talking with a lot of them, I would say 50% is the
    loss rate overall. Even some very well known bow hunters have admitted to losing
    game at a pretty high percentage. So don't fell too bad about it. I just hated hunting in
    warm weather. dealing with the bees, tics and sweat is not my idea of meat hunting. Now
    for you horn hunters it works well for elk as they are in the rut.
     
  5. trebark

    trebark Well-Known Member

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    Although I have never hunted elk, my understanding is that if they are still on their feet, send another one!

    Thanks for sharing your story. Glad to know there are others out there that make an occassional 'mistake'
     
  6. ICANHITHIMMAN

    ICANHITHIMMAN Well-Known Member

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    Its alright man these things happen to all of us now and then. I can see your a man of great intigridy and I applaud that.
     
  7. elkaholic

    elkaholic Well-Known Member

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    Thank you all for your understanding! Had I a chance to put another one in him, I would have. I was just about ready to squeeze another off when heentered the wood line......Rich
     
  8. Shawn Carlock

    Shawn Carlock Sponsor

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    I have always errored to the side of horsepower, to me the key issue is not so much lack of the proper bullet at this distance as it is just a lack of power. My big fear in this exact situation is a shoulder shot that doesn't penetrate the chest cavity (3 legs / 2 lungs) not a winning situation. It only takes 5-6 inches to turn a light caliber perfect shot into a disaster of a shoulder shot. I give you high marks for posting this as it is clear that you are all about taking a good shot. It was once said "experience is what you needed before you get it". Sorry for the loss and thanks for posting for all to see, but keep your head up and drive on with your lessons under your belt.
     
  9. royinidaho

    royinidaho Writers Guild

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    Those things happen......

    It depends on the luck of the elk.:rolleyes:

    Keep on truckin' you're doin' well.
     
  10. Icantshoot

    Icantshoot Member

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    I shot my elk this year with a 168 sierra mk outta 308 win @ 254 yrds and I knew better than to use this bullet but it shoots so nice. First shot solid rest he didn't flinch, second shot same thing, third shot held 6 inches he tired taking 2 steps up hill and turned downhill and did a superman dive into trees. i knew he was down but couldn't be sure. Gave it awhile and went in after him he ended up on a logging road 60 yrds straight down from where I shot him stone dead. first two shots 1inch apart third was 6-7 high they just penciled through. the first one would have done the job,but since i didn't get a reaction i kept shooting. I'm am glad i did though u never know. luckily shoot them till they're down was burned into my head from my hunting teacher. My wife missed a huge cow clean 2 days after @ 70 yrds wish she woulda kept shootn,not just for the meat or elk , just because she felt so horrible. all you can say is it happens and learn from your mistakes. Elk are amazing animals and tougher than nails, they deserve a quik clean kill and yes I should have used a hunting bullet,and I will from now on. Chin up sir I am sure everyone has or will loose one.
     
  11. ATH

    ATH Well-Known Member

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    You made a mistake, you owned up to it -- in public no less, and I bet you won't do it again. Now, likely, others have the opportunity to learn from it too.

    I'm not much on people who think they need a howitzer to take down a whitetail but elk....the ones I have shot and seen shot....are WAY tougher and I would never fault someone for using "too much gun".
     
  12. WildRose

    WildRose Well-Known Member

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    Good write up and a valuable story. Being able to share our failures and mistakes for the benefit of others is one of the best things about boards like this one. Unfortunately all too often they end up just being a place for bragging and BS/Bravado.

    On the bright side if what you think happened did there's a very good chance that bull will still be there next season, just wiser and with an attitude.

    I'm amazed sometimes at the injuries wild animals survive.

    Something which seems to be missed quite regularly in these discussions is that every bullet has an ideal velocity range for proper expansion. If we go below that velocity you just aren't likely to get good results.
     
  13. elkaholic

    elkaholic Well-Known Member

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    You are correct about survivability. I have shot two bulls in this same drainage over the last 25 years that recovered from VERY serious wounds. One had a broadhead in his rib cage and the other a .30 caliber slug that had penetrated straight through the chest cavity and was lodged in the off side perfectly mushroomed! I'm pretty sure it was a Remington corelokt......Rich
     
  14. WildRose

    WildRose Well-Known Member

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    I h ave no problem at all believing that. I've found the same thing in the sheilds of some big boars.

    We pulled a half dozen bullets out of one we were skinning to mount about fifteen years ago. He had everything from bird shot to buck shot, to .223 to 30 cal's in him and from the scarring it was obvious at least one of the 30's had passed through from the other side.

    Many years back on the last day of deer season I shot the biggest buck I'd ever seen. It was nearly dark though so I opted for a neck shot figuring either a clean miss or he's dead where he stands.

    Pulled the trigger and he spun a 360 and hit the ground and never twitched.

    It was a bit over 500 yards to him so it too some time to get there and when I did he was still breathing. I almost put another in him "just in case" but was afraid he might jump up or otherwise get that monster rack between me and him and I'd end up blowing off an antler.

    Bad mistake.

    I saw him again twice the next year with a big scar where I'd shot him just above the spine but never got close enough to get a shot at him. For some reason he never crossed my fence again... .gun)

    I sure feel for you though. I've spent enough time in Idaho to appreciate how much work it was just getting to where he was down. Darn tough day to walk away from that empty handed and feeling like a heel.

    At the very worse the wolves will get a good meal. Remember in nature nothing goes to waste.