One rifle for North American big game?

Discussion in 'Firearms & Ammunition' started by biggiesmalls, Jul 20, 2018.

  1. wesheltonj

    wesheltonj AH Elite

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    308, it will kill everything on your list with almost no felt recoil. Depending on the size of the bear and distance the 308 may or may to be your best choice. Myself, if I was specifically targeting a bear I would take my 375, but I subscribe to the use a bigger hammer theory.
     
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  2. cagkt3

    cagkt3 AH ENABLER PLATINUM SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    I'd take the 30-06 or the 300WM
     
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  3. 450 Dakota

    450 Dakota AH Senior Member

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    30-06 is hard to beat for all around. If you were going to spend more time in the west I would go with the 300 win mag.
     
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  4. 7x57Joe

    7x57Joe AH Veteran

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    I really like the 7x57 and have used it successfully for game through elk but, I'm a handloader who can get the most out of it. You stated bear hunts in the future and, although the little 7 will kill a bear with certainty, I have found the 7mm doesn't leave as good of blood trail as a larger bullet. This may come in handy some day to retrieve your animal.
    I would recommend you to get a .30'06 and a good 3-9 scope. You will have a variety of loads to choose from the 125 grain low recoil loads to the full snort 220 grain loads. The recoil is not bad and everything in North America can/has been killed with it for over a century.
     
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  5. curtism1234

    curtism1234 AH Enthusiast

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    It seems the 30-06 is winning and I concur. It's not overkill on a 150 pound animal the way a 7mag or 300 is when you shoot them in the shoulder. I don't want to say it will work in a pinch on elk because it's a very good elk cartridge and the first choice of many who live in the west.

    I have a 308win lever rifle and like the cartridge as a nice average standard cartridge that outshines a 30-30 lever gun at 200-250 yards. If you are a user of a duplex reticle scope and believe in holding no higher than the back of an animal, the 308 is really a 350 yard rifle imo. The 30-06 gives you another 50 yards. A 400-425 yard shot is not the norm out west but it's not highly unusual either.

    I would either buy a lightweight 30-06 or 7mag with a blind magazine or floorplate (only because the new plastic ones sucks and fall out of the gun if you look at it wrong) and call it day or buy something like a 30-30, 25-06, 7-08, 270, 308 for your general deer / hog hunting and step up to something like a 30-06, 7mag, or 300 if you ever do go elk hunting or need longer range.
     
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  6. Scrumbag

    Scrumbag AH Fanatic

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    Winchester M70 Stainless and Synthetic Stock in .30-'06.

    Shoot something like a 180 gr Accubond or Sierra Game King (~180gr Boat Tail Soft Point) and knock over pretty much whatever you might feel like

    Scrummy
     

  7. jacques smith

    jacques smith AH Fanatic

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    First off biggie if UR 118 years old, how high up the mountain can u climb? I’m breaking out in a rash thinking I can only have one gun because there are so many variables in North American game. But here goes 7mm rem mag, bolt action, best optics I could afford in variable. Thinking low end 3.5 to 10 leapold higher end savo. Cheers. Jeez who wants only one gun. BUT beware the man with only one
     

  8. SnowLeopard

    SnowLeopard New Member

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    Great question - which caliber for across the continent hunting in North America.

    After having hunted virtually ever type of game available throughout the United States and Canada for 45+ years now, I think I can offer a somewhat knowledgeable opinion.

    I have owned rifles from .223 Remington to the .338 WinMag. For many years I opted for the “unique calibers”. Guess I just wanted to be different.

    But after all this, I always found some issue with the unique, not-so-common chamberings.

    The .338 WinMag is a great caliber, but it beats the hell out of your shoulder. If you’re exclusively going after the big bears then it’s probably the cartridge to use. But it is overkill on everything else and your shoulder will tell you that. Another thing to consider is the grotesque waste of meat if you get one of the super flat shooting “hot” calibers - 7mm RemMag, the Weatherby’s, the UltraMags. I can’t remember all the hams and shoulders that I’ve wasted by using such speed demons. Very sad.

    For me now, it’s the 30-06.

    Why? Because I can get all that energy I need for any game in North or South America from that cartridge without the brain scrambling and flinch inducing recoil of the super fast magnums.

    Let no one tell you they need more than that to take elk. If they say that, then they are needing more time practicing. Shot placement is really all that matters. Even the big bears will be one shot quick kills from a 30-06 if the shot placement is good.

    The biggest issue I see in many hunters, especially the young guys & gals is that they are too excited about stalking in close. They’re comfortable trying to take the 450 yard shot on a elk through tall grass or scrub oak - and then they complain that they should have used a bigger magnum.

    So it really does matter why kind of hunter you are. For me, the stalk and getting in close is all part of the fun. But, to each his own.

    Another benefit of the .30 calibers is that you have bullet weights available in commercially loaded ammo from 125 grains up to 220 grains. No other caliber has that wide a range of weights. And 30-06 ammo is available, literally everywhere.

    So, for the past 8 hunting seasons I have only taken my 30-06. From 130 grain bullets on Nevada antelope to 220 grainers on 2 big bears, one in Alaska and one in British Columbia. My shoulder thanks me, the flinch I developed using my .338 is gone and the great pelt and meat damage from my .300 WinMag and 7mm RemMag are greatly lessened.

    My suggestion is for a 30-06. And my choice of rifle is the Ruger Guide Gun. I love the iron sights and barrel band - and the laminated stock and stainless steel means I can go hunt in the Pacific Northwest and not worry about the rain, stock warpage or rust.

    Good luck with your hunting!!!
     

  9. AZDAVE

    AZDAVE AH Elite

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    You didn't say if you reload? I also subscribe the "Elmer Keith" school of though. You didn't mention the possibility of going far north for moose and bears but I will give the possibility some consideration.

    If you reload CZ 550FS 9.3x62. with 2.5x10 optics from pick a quality brand. With the full stock and short barrel it will be quick handling in the florida swamps, equally at ease in a bear stand, bullets from 232gr-320gr. You can load a combo for a 25yard Brown bear shot in the alders to 350 yard pronghorn shot.

    If you don't reload Ruger 375 guide gun.

    If you are recoil sensitive 30/06, 7MM REM MAG, 300WM.

    What ever you shot go out and shoot allot and have fun.
     

  10. Scrumbag

    Scrumbag AH Fanatic

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    I have a 9.3x62 and it is a lot of fun, very useful. With the 232gr you do get a higher MV but the BC really isn't great and not wonderful for longer shots. (Great for pigs and deer you want to put down promptly though, hard to beat).

    Given my 9.3x62 ownership, I'd take my 7x64 (~280 Rem) over that as a N America 1 gun safari
     

  11. biggiesmalls

    biggiesmalls AH Member

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    Wow, thanks for all the replies!
    I am typing responses to everybody right now.

    Drew
     

  12. 375 Ruger Fan

    375 Ruger Fan AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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  13. biggiesmalls

    biggiesmalls AH Member

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    The long-range shots will not be very regular - I plan to hunt Florida whitetails and hogs about 90% of the time, with a hunting trip crossed off my bucket list every 1-2 years. The only real long-distance shots will be mule deer and pronghorn, with a possibility of the elk too.
    I would agree with using a "common" caliber - so if I forget ammunition, it's easy enough to restock.
    If by reloading you mean pouring my own cartridges - I do not plan on it. I plan on buying quality ammunition in different grains which will be appropriate for the species I'm targeting.

    I like that approach - the "worst case" scenario. I would agree, that a long-distance shot on something heavy and thick-skinned like an elk is tougher. Thanks for the ideas - 7mm Rem Mag or .300 Win Mag.
    I will put it this way - I'm not a very big buy (5'4") but I'm on the stockier side. I can handle recoil, but I think something with less recoil would be preferred - so something like a .30-06 or a .270

    .308 and .30-06 seem to be the popular choices today. I like that they are not overkill for small whitetails but not underkill for elk/bear at long range, and that ammunition is easily accessible.
    I agree on the middle road theory, nothing too extreme on either end. What would cause you to choose a bolt action over, say, a lever action?

    Thanks for the recommendation!

    From what I've seen, the .30-06 is easily the most popular big game caliber in North America, there's got to be a good reason for that. It's what I'm currently leaning towards, among a few others.

    That sounds great about the .338 - it's definitely one I'm seriously considering!

    Thanks for the recommendation.

    Again, the .30-06 seems to be very popular. I don't mind "boring", I'd describe myself as a minimalist in nearly everything I do, and would rather get very comortable with one rifle then be kind of comfortable with two or three or more. And from what I've seen, one gun can definitely handle all those different jobs.

    Would you find the .338 WM to be overkill for elk hunting? And how do you feel about the .30-06 or .300 WM as an elk rifle? The rifle will definitely be used for elk someday.

    These are my top two picks at the moment. What would you consider to be the advantages/disadvantages of one over the other? They seem to be the absolute most popular cartridges and in general, the best for animals around the world other than dangerous game.

    Do you think this would be overkill for something like a whitetail though? And does it have the distance capabilities needed for pronghorn/mule deer?

    These seem to be the five most popular, of those two the .308 and .30-06 (maybe with the 7mm/08 as well) are definitely highest on my list for consideration. I don't plan on lots of elk hunts - one for sure, and honestly I don't know if I need to do any more than one just to cross it off my list. I'm far more of a fisherman than a hunter, so I'm used to trips where $6,000 or less (often much less) can allow you to fish nearly anywhere around the world non-stop for a week, with quality lodging too. Some of the elk hunts in the western states I've seen are $15,000+, which is a lot to stomach for a single animal!

    That's what the .30-06 (and the .308) seems to be - like the swiss army knife of medium-big game calibers. Sheep and goats don't interest me in the least bit - especially the $30,000+ price tag on a trip for them. Moose maybe, but I don't anticipate hunting them ever. Elk are definitely a yes, but moose probably not.

    I agree - a common caliber would be good, if I need to quickly resupply ammunition. I'm sure the cartridges like the various 6.5 and 7mms will work great, but if I need more ammo I'm up the creek without a paddle.

    Thanks for your suggestion.
     

  14. johnnyblues

    johnnyblues AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Ok my two cents. I’ve taken almost everything North America has to offer. That being said all of the above responses are correct or really close to correct depending on the member. Lol. When I took both brown and grizzly and bisonI used my 338. Elk 7mm. Everything else from Canadian moose and caribou to big horn sheep to mtn goat, dall sheep, deer my 270 with 150grain noslers ...Well you get the picture. Here’s my advise, to you use the right gun for the job with the correct bullet. In other words don’t go grizzly hunting with a 223 lol. Most important......shoot whatever your hunting with WELL. Be able to hit a small pie plate consistently out to 200 yards. Confidence in your weapon is KEY! Confidence in your weapon will make you a better shot and a much more successful hunter. Now go book a hunt and have a ball!
     
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  15. biggiesmalls

    biggiesmalls AH Member

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    .308 is in my "top two" for my consideration, currently. I would agree on taking a larger rifle if specifically targeting larger bears, like a grizzly/brown/polar - but for black bear, it seems that deer calibers are often recommended, with good shot placement.
    Do you see any advantages of the .308 over the .30-06?

    Thanks for your reply - those two are definitely high on consideration.

    I will not be spending much time in the west - once for elk, once for mule deer, and once in the Midwest for pronghorn (maybe a midwest whitetail hunt too). I do not know where my black bear will come from.
    I like the .30-06 idea - thanks for your reply.

    I agree that the .30-06 seems to be the caliber that has taken down more animals in North America than any other (maybe less than a 12 gauge if we're counting shotguns).
    In regards to a scope - do you think a 3-9x would be okay for hunting in dense woods, or would you scale down to a 2-7x? I think the 9x would be appreciated for long-range pronghorn/mule shots.

    It definitely seems to be winning - trailed closely by the .300 WM and the .308.
    I plan on one rifle - so that I can invest all my time in becoming a great shot with it. I'd much rather know one inside and out with my eyes closed, than know two, three, or more decently.
    As far as the lever action - how do you feel about it versus a bolt-action? Are there any advantages/disadvantages?

    Thanks for your reply - sounds like a nice rig!

    Haha, 118 and oging strong ;) Didn't want to share my real age online.
    I am not a big guy, but I'm pretty fit. I am at the gym everyday, and working outside/moving furniture every weekday - plus I walk for at least 30-45 mins per day.
    What would make you choose a bolt action over, say, a lever action? Not discrediting the choice whatsoever, just wondering the rationale for choosing either action because I haven't found too much to say either way.
    Do you think a 3.5x would perform well in closer woodland environments, or would a 2x be a better choice? I would definitely go variable.
    That is exactly my school of thought - beware the man with only one gun. I'd rather do a great job knowing one than an okay job knowing 2-3+.

    Thank you for this greatly detailed reply!
    SnowLeopard, I am exactly like you, in that I love the stalk and getting in close part of the hunt (well I'm looking forward to it, at least). I understand that there are some species this may not work so well for, but I would much rather be moving in close and taking a bit of a challenge than I would shooting from 300+ yards if I don't have to.
    The .30-06 seees to be the caliber of choice.
    I agree that the .338 WM seems to be overkill except for the great bears - and I absolutely hate wasting meat. I am a big fisherman, and any time I do kill a fish (which isn't often, I prefer C&R) I make sure to get every last bit of meat out of it. Then, the head gets used for bait when we're shark fishing, and the rest will usually be bait in a crab pot. Nothing goes to waste.

    I do not plan to reload - I also don't plan on hunting big game like brown/grizzlies or moose far up north. I like that it was considered though - as it opens up more possibilities under the circumstances that I change my mind someday.
    My concern with the .375 - is is it too heavy for whitetails and such? I don't want to waste meat.

    My only concern is whether I can easily get ammo for this caliber, though. I'm sure it's a great caliber for hunting those species, but can I find ammo if I leave it at home by mistake? Same with the 7x64.

    I love that idea. I don't think I'll ever do the North American Super Slam (29 big game species across NA) simply due to lack of interest in some species and the expense (some of the sheep would cost $50K+), but the fact that he could hunt them all with a .30-06 is a testament to its versatility.

    Drew
     

  16. biggiesmalls

    biggiesmalls AH Member

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    As much as I have loved reading other's replies in this thread, and the valuable advice they have to offer - I think yours is one of the best.
    I am far more concerned with learning how to use my weapon properly, knowing it inside and out, and being able to consistently hit a target at both close and far ranges - than what the caliber itself is.
    Like I've said earlier - I'd rather have one gun that I know better than the back of my hand, than have 2-3 that I know decently well.
    I don't plan on hunting dangerous or very thick-skinned game like bison or great bears - so that should help with the caliber choice a bit.
     

  17. johnnyblues

    johnnyblues AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Yes sir. And thank you. That being said MY choice then would be 300 mag or wsm. As versatile as you can get and will kill everything in NA. The only gun you will ever need for your situation.
     
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  18. biggiesmalls

    biggiesmalls AH Member

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    Alright, here are my individual thoughts so far.

    First - the .30-06 and 308 are definitely at the top of my list.
    I've heard too many stories of 6.5 and 7mm ammo being a bit more difficult to find, and these bullets ruining too much meat. The .300 WM is under consideration, but lower because it seems to be pretty heavy-hitting for some of the species I want to target.
    .270 and .280 are on my list, but lower simply because they don't come as highly recommended as the "3" calibers.
    .338 WM seems to definitely be overkill - as does a .375.

    As far as rifle specs - I'm open to bolt or lever-action so far, I haven't had any reason to choose one over the other yet.
    I like the idea of choosing something middle of the road, so not a long barrel or a short barrel, not heavy not light - and so on and so forth.
    Scope, a variable starting at 2-3.5x and up to 7-10x.

    At this point, my main question is - what are the advantages/disadvantages of a .30-06 versus a .308?
    And for those still in support of calibers like the .300 WM/WSM, .338 WM, .270, 7mm, .280, etc - what specifically would make you choose this caliber over a .30-06/.308?

    Thank you everybody for your help,
    Drew
     

  19. johnnyblues

    johnnyblues AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    I personally would go with my two Favorites. The 300 and the 270wsm. Both will really reach out there with plenty of energy left to do the job. If your hunting say antelope, the 270 wsm is perfect as it is for whitetail or even mule deer. If your hunting elk or possibly moose the 300 is it! This is a hot topic that’s been covered many times before.
     

  20. Scrumbag

    Scrumbag AH Fanatic

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    Drew, wasn't suggesting going 7x64. 280 Rem is basically the same thing in NA. However, 280 Rem is a 7mm bullet on an '06 case. (S0, for a lot of bullet weights 7mmx64 or 7.62x63 = .30-06, there would be a lot of cross over). It was more a vote away from 9.3x62.
     
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