Best Caliber for sheep hunting

billc

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Never heard of anyone using a .17 caliber at 500 yds. I was more talking about what caliber would work at the distance he asked about.

The 257wtby we have is a Remington 700 so it did not break the bank with cost. The gun itself weighs 7 1/2lbs plus the scope. So you maybe able to save a pound if you want to pay more for a gun but I would still say a 257 would be high on my list for a round that can get the job done.

As for the same caliber on all the 3 sheep. You may not want to use the same gun on all 3 but the same could be used and kill them all died. Don't care if it is a 257 or a 338 died is died. To many people way over think what they need to do a hunt instead of learning to shoot right and shoot often.
 

Diamondhitch

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I would not use the same caliber on a thin skinned sheep in a pen as I would for a 300 pound BigHorn or Marco Polo Ram. Nor would I carry the same rifle at 14000+ feet ASL as I would at 6000 feet ASL. If I had a choice. I assume the OP is about to make that choice. So, what is he hunting?.

Exactly why I recommend the .257 WBY, it handles the big ones and doesn't blow up the little ones. I assume with the 500yd shot dilemma that he is looking at a wild sheep hunt, maybe im wrong?

Derek designed his baby, and like me loves to sheep hunt, and does it EVERY year. When you cruise the rocks at 6000 to 9000 feet with that weight on your back you soon realize just how heavy 1 pound is.
Plinking a sheep in a pen is not the same.

Only one who has packed it for a week or 2 can comprehend the seemingly insane lengths sheep hunters will go to to shave a few ounces from their gear. ;)

After getting sick at 14,000 feet Derek will probably also have a new respect for Altitude, never mind the weight. :)

Im sure I lost more than a few pounds up there so I should have been able to pack a heavier gun right :) LOL
 

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Exactly why I recommend the .257 WBY, it handles the big ones and doesn't blow up the little ones. I assume with the 500yd shot dilemma that he is looking at a wild sheep hunt, maybe im wrong?

I was trying to figure out what the quarry was. "Thinking" too much I guess. :)


Only one who has packed it for a week or 2 can comprehend the seemingly insane lengths sheep hunters will go to to shave a few ounces from their gear. ;)

After you actually drag that weight around at elevation you soon find out the motivation for the effort to think it through and drop ounces.


Im sure I lost more than a few pounds up there so I should have been able to pack a heavier gun right :) LOL
You should swap out some weight for an O2 bottle next time!!
 

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Yup thinking to much but it is all good. :) Guy said sheep gun so I said the one I thought could handle any sheep that could be hunted but good for the 500 yds of which he did ask for. Again my idea is not based on me hunting sheep so may not be worth anything but the guy who told me that would be the gun he would use has hunted more then most and guided plenty to sheep.

I have hunted over 12,500 for elk and deer and a 8 1/2 lb guns was not that bad to me. Though then I was young and dumb at the time.
 

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At 500yds it is not the trajectory of the projectile that will cause a miss. These days laser range finders and ballistic programs sort all that for you.
It is the wind drift that will cause a miss, especially the swirling wind in the mountains. You need a high BC projectile travelling as fast as you can push it. Ideally look for a projectile with a G1 BC of .6 or better. You also need a projectile that will still open at lower velocity. I have had good results with Hornady a-max and Berger VLD or hybrid projectiles. If you can get the new Nosler Accubond Long Range to group in your rifle they would be good too.
 

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When i first got here to Alaska over 20 years ago I took my old 30-06 that I used to hunt deer with back east up to do my first goat hunt. I got back home from that trip and bought a wby mark V ultra light in .280 and shoot 165 grain noslers out of it. I put a leuopold compact scope on it 2-8x. Have shot 2 goats and various other critters with it and both goats dropped in their tracks at a little over 200 yards and goats have a little bit more hide to get through than sheep. After returning from that first trip I will say that a lot of gear got upgraded so that I could downgrade the weight. I also bought a better pack made for hunting in the mountains as the one that I had was not sufficient. I have a friend who just purchased the Kimber in .270 and he really loves it. Good luck and let us know what you come up with.
 

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...I also bought a better pack made for hunting in the mountains as the one that I had was not sufficient...

Good point. A cheap or poorly made pack will make the same weight feel 4x as heavy as a well constructed pack plus learning how to properly adjust a pack to minimize perceived weight is very important too. The problem with trying to figure this out yourself is that what feels good at the start of the day may be excruciating by the end while a properly adjusted pack will be comfortable all day long, although still heavier at the end of the day. :)
 

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...I have hunted over 12,500 for elk and deer and a 8 1/2 lb guns was not that bad to me. Though then I was young and dumb at the time.

I don't find the elevation to be an issue and carry a much heavier gun in similar country while hunting moose and such but there is just something about sheep hunting that demands a light gun, I am noticeably bothered by carrying a slightly heavier gun even for a day or 2 while hunting sheep, maybe it is the fact that you hunt all day in steep terrain instead of morning and evening with a nice long break in between. One thing that does help a lot is having a pack that you can carry your rifle in/on that centers it on your spine.
 

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...... I got back home from that trip and bought a wby mark V ultra light .... .....

Funny how it only takes one trip up into the rocks to get your thinking straightened out.
 
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BRICKBURN

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At 500yds it is not the trajectory of the projectile that will cause a miss. These days laser range finders and ballistic programs sort all that for you.
It is the wind drift that will cause a miss, especially the swirling wind in the mountains. You need a high BC projectile travelling as fast as you can push it. Ideally look for a projectile with a G1 BC of .6 or better. You also need a projectile that will still open at lower velocity. I have had good results with Hornady a-max and Berger VLD or hybrid projectiles. If you can get the new Nosler Accubond Long Range to group in your rifle they would be good too.
So what about the new 26 Nosler?
 

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At 500yds it is not the trajectory of the projectile that will cause a miss. These days laser range finders and ballistic programs sort all that for you.
It is the wind drift that will cause a miss, especially the swirling wind in the mountains. You need a high BC projectile travelling as fast as you can push it. Ideally look for a projectile with a G1 BC of .6 or better. You also need a projectile that will still open at lower velocity. I have had good results with Hornady a-max and Berger VLD or hybrid projectiles. If you can get the new Nosler Accubond Long Range to group in your rifle they would be good too.

Yup the wind will bite you every time. Swirling or inconsistent wind plays hell with long range shots. The lighter the bullet the worse the drift. I can remember some win whitebox 45gr 223 drifting more than a foot at 300yds, 308 a couple of inches.
 

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Here is my 2c on the subject... I have never killed a sheep but I have done my share of carrying a rifle on a backpack hunting bears and caribou. My first priority for a backpack rifle is reliability. If a gun won't take the elements,( i.e driving rain, freezing temps, hot temps, salt water, or changes zero every time the pack is set on the rocks), it doesn't matter how much it weighs. Next is weight... In my opinion a good pack gun should not weigh more than 7 1/4 lbs with scope, sling and fully loaded ready to hunt. There are lots of quality over the counter guns out there now that will do just that and also many custom/semi-custom manufactures that will weigh less than that without giving up reliability. 7 1/4 is just my personal standard. Third is caliber. Lots of really good calibers out there that will preform like you want. The magnum calibers have their place and I own a couple, but I personally don't think a "magnum" is synonymous with "sheep rifle" ( I know others are going to disagree) I want a rifle that will hold 6 rounds (5+1) which most of the standard non-magnum calibers will. The magnums also tend to have more recoil and muzzle blast which tends to be unfun in a lightweight rifle. Of course personnel preference will always play a large roll in caliber choice, I like the .308 and 30-06 family of cartridges such as the .270, 7-08, 280, 280AI , .308, ect.. The 280AI seems to have really caught on with sheep hunters the last few years for its flat trajectory, long range abilities without the magnum effect. If I am to ever put together another pack rifle that is the caliber that I am going to take a hard look at.
All that said, my current pack rifle is a post 64 win model 70 that I had rechambered to .338 Federal with a 20" stainless Douglass barrel cerecoted flat black, Kevlar Stock, 3-9x40 leopold with Tally rings, Butler Creek scope caps, and Browning adjustable sling. Fully loaded 5+1 with nosler 210g partitions it weighs just under 7 1/4 lbs and easily shoots sub MOA off the bench. It's defiantly not a five hundred yard missile launcher but it hits like a hammer at 200. I took a Kodiak bear bear with it this fall and I am shipping the hide to the taxidermist today.
Anyway, good luck with your quest. Lots of good advice here on AH so I am sure you will come out of it with a good gun you are happy with.
 

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Thanks but it's not mine. Stolen pictures to illustrate a point.
Well at any rate its a nice Jacobs. They are pretty interesting sheep. The are remnants from the last ice age and many say most modern domestic sheep go back to them. Pretty cool to think they were running around with woolly mammoths and sabertooth cats.
 

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I took a Kodiak bear bear with it this fall and I am shipping the hide to the taxidermist today.
So this brings up a great point... A hunt I have been thinking of is for a goat in an area where it is possible to add a grizzly bear if opportunity comes up.

So how small one go and still be ok taking a bear?
 

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Funny how it only takes one trip up into the rocks to get your thinking straightened out.
I think I had my mind made up that first climb up the mountain, It didn't take long at all!!!
 

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Good point. A cheap or poorly made pack will make the same weight feel 4x as heavy as a well constructed pack plus learning how to properly adjust a pack to minimize perceived weight is very important too. The problem with trying to figure this out yourself is that what feels good at the start of the day may be excruciating by the end while a properly adjusted pack will be comfortable all day long, although still heavier at the end of the day. :)
So true Diamond, after getting the correct rifle and pack that second hunt went much much better. Definitely don't skimp on the pack as stated you wouldn't want to find out a couple days into a hunt that the pack is uncomfortable or not adjustable enough. I was lucky enough to spend the money and buy a really good frame and bought a pack bag to put on it. The rifle was the other expense that was well worth the money although the wallet didn't think so at the time.
 

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...The magnum calibers have their place and I own a couple, but I personally don't think a "magnum" is synonymous with "sheep rifle"...

Magnum no, flat shooting yes. I hunted with Jack Oconnors favorite .270 win for years before finding my ideal .257 WBY. Flat shooting, lightweight, minimal recoil and powerful enough for any sheep or goats or similar size critters.

...I want a rifle that will hold 6 rounds (5+1)...

How often have you fired more than 2 at gameé I seldom fire more than 1. 3+1 is more than enough for every animal I have ever shot by a wide margin.
 

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@Diamondhitch, you are spot on regarding easy out of the scabbard. That is one thing I do NOT like about my Hogue stock. It sticks like velcro in a scabbard. You gotta grab on like a man and have at it. As you said, a 50mm objective is not your friend in a scabbard either.
I have a VX-3 4.5-14x40mm with a varmint hunter reticle on my .280 and have always been plenty happy.
@Harrison E , I think you're getting alot of excellent advice from guys that have been there and done that. It was a great question (y)
 

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