How times have changed. Forty years ago elk camps were largely “stag” events. Now they’re increasingly “doe” events. Women are embracing hunting with a passion. More power to them. Just as female lions, wolves, coyotes, falcons and robins hunt for their families, so do human females. If you’re a male still stuck in the 1950s, get over it and get used to it.
If you’re a woman hunter or a male desiring to help a woman get a good start, don’t feel you must buy a magnum rifle. Hunters have been sold a bill of goods on this “knockdown power” myth. If hunters can kill elk, moose, bears and Buffalo with arrows, they can do it without “magnum” cartridges.
After all, it’s tissue destruction and resulting blood loss that kills, not punch.
Does this mean magnums are useless? Only if you flinch and can’t hit anything with them. If you can handle the rifle weight, bulk and recoil, a magnum will do you just fine. But most shooters cannot. Even many strapping, 250-pound, 6-foot-four macho males flinch when they shoot magnums.
So, if you’re a woman of smaller stature, instead of a magnum throwing a 180-grain bullet 3,000 fps, consider getting a rifle that fires a 120-grain to 160-grain bullet at 2,700 fps, up to 3,000 fps. That will generate more than enough “oomph” to terminate any deer, black bear, elk, caribou or moose without terminating your shoulder, cheek or eyebrow.
Of course, there’s a heck of a lot of difference in recoil between a rifle throwing a 140-grain bullet 2,800 fps and one spitting a 180-grain 3,000 fps. The former would be represented by a 6.5-284 Norma or a 7mm-08 Rem., while the later would be a .300 Win. Mag.
In a 7-pound rifle, the lighter load will generate 15.5 foot-pounds of free recoil energy and 12 fps of recoil velocity coming back into your shoulder. The heavier magnum load will punch you with 29 foot-pounds of free recoil energy and 16.3 fps of recoil velocity. Yikes.
So, if you’re seriously interested in mild recoil, lean toward the 150- to 120-grain bullets at 3,000 fps or less. And don’t worry about them bouncing off an elk or moose. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of elk, bears and moose are converted to dinner table protein each year with rifle cartridges as “puny” as the .243 Win.
The short, .308 Win. family cartridges on the left and .30-06 family in the center will kill big game as handily as the magnums on the right, but with less recoil.
Placement, Not Power
The trick is to put the right bullet in the right spot. The right bullet could be an ordinary “deer” bullet such as a Remington Core-Lokt or Winchester Power Point, a Nosler Ballistic Tip or Hornady SST. Park any of these or their equivalent behind a moose’s front shoulder in that magical heart/lung area and he’s yours. Ditto elk.
If you want to shoot through the shoulder, where you’ll likely hit bone and plenty of tough muscle, just step up to a harder, controlled-expansion bullet. Any of the bonded bullets will suffice. So will the Partition types such as Nosler Partition, Swift A-Frame and Winchester XP3. Monolithic bullets like Barnes TSX and TTSX, Hornady GMX, Nosler E-Tip, Remington Solid Copper and Winchester Power Core will break bones reliably and punch deep into the vitals, even with a 100-grain 243 Win.
Most recoil-sensitive shooters discover that they can easily handle the light recoil of cartridges such as .25-06 Rem., .260 Rem., 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., 7mm-08 Rem., .280 Rem. and .308 Win. Others in the same class will work just as well, and they can be chambered in reasonably light, handy rifles that are much easier to carry long and far than those big magnums.
It’s still a relatively free country and you’re free to shoot a magnum, but I’m betting you’ll shoot more accurately, hunt longer and enjoy shooting more often with one of these “medium power” rounds.
And I’ll guarantee they’ll bring home the venison if you put the bullet in the right place.