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Thread: Cartridges of Alaska's Hunters - Too Much Gun?

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    Default Cartridges of Alaska's Hunters - Too Much Gun?

    Probably most of you have already read this article from the Alaska Hunting Bulletin January 2000 Vol. 5, No. 1, published by the ADF&G Division of Wildlife Conservation. I believe at one time it was also posted on the Hunting forum. Anyway for those that have not read it, here is the weblink. Also for convenience I copied the article to this post. Interesting reading.

    http://www.wildlife.alaska.gov/index...ul8#cartridges

    Cartridges of Alaska's Hunters – Too Much Gun?

    Southcentral Alaska's five most popular rifle cartridges for big game:
    7mm Rem. Mag., .30-06, .300 Win. Mag., .338 Win. Mag., .375 H&H Mag.
    As Southcentral hunters prepared for the 1999 hunting season Lee Rogers, rangemaster at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Rabbit Creek Range in Anchorage, conducted a survey of 1,848 Alaskan hunters. Rogers surveyed hunters to find out what cartridges Alaskan hunters are choosing for their big game hunting. According to Lee, hunters sighted in rifles using 70 different cartridges during the July to September survey.

    The most popular cartridge with Southcentral hunters is the tried and true .30-06, used by 387 or 21 percent of hunters. The .30-06 was closely followed by the .300 Winchester Magnum with 342, and the .338 Winchester Magnum with 339. Lee says these three cartridges combined are used by almost six out of ten Southcentral hunters. There was a huge drop from the .338 Winchester to the next most popular cartridge, the 7mm Remington Magnum with 157 users.

    Lee also looked at cartridges by caliber. The 30 caliber, for almost 60 years the choice of the U.S. military, boasted 912 users or almost exactly one-half of all hunters surveyed. The highly popular .30-06 and .300 Winchester Magnum are joined in this group by the .308 Winchester, .30-30, .307 Winchester, .300 Savage, .300 Weatherby Magnum, and the new .300 Remington Ultra Magnum.

    ALASKA TOP TEN CARTRIDGES
    Cartridge # of Hunters %
    .30-06 387 20.9
    .300 Win. Mag. 342 18.5
    .338 Win. Mag. 339 18.4
    7mm Rem. Mag. 157 8.5
    .375 H&H Mag. 116 6.3
    .270 Win. 108 5.8
    .308 Win. 65 3.5
    .300 Weath. Mag. 64 3.5
    45-70 Gov. 25 1.4
    .280 Rem. 20 1.1

    Taking a distant second place were the cartridges using .338 diameter bullets. The increasingly popular .338 Winchester was joined in this group by the wildcat .338-06 and the .340 Weatherby Magnum. Almost one out of five hunters are using these medium-bore rifles for their big game hunting.

    The third most popular caliber proved to be the 7mm. Led by the 7mm Remington Magnum, the 7mm clan had 202 users or about 1 of 10 Southcentral hunters. The 280 Remington, 7X57 Mauser, 7mm-08, and 7mm Shooting Times Westerner were used by a total of 42 hunters.

    The classic Alaskan brown bear cartridge, the .375 H&H showed well, being used by 116 or 6.3 percent of all the hunters surveyed. Cartridges with the word “Magnum” in their name accounted for 1086 or 58.7 percent of all cartridges used.

    This last statistic is the most interesting, according to Lee Rogers, who talks with and watches over 15,000 shooters each year. Many hunters, says Rogers, are uncomfortable with their loud, hard-recoiling magnums. Lee says that when a hunter is shooting a hard-kicking slobber-knocker" magnum, he or she often sights-in the rifle from a bench rest as quickly as possible and then packs up and leaves the range. Sometimes the hunter may even have to quit before the rifle is fully ready for the hunting fields.

    To confirm his theory that too much gun frequently results in too little practice, Rogers conducted a short study on hunters' ability to shoot their rifles from hunting positions at game-sized targets. During the summer of 1999, Lee asked more than 80 hunters to chronograph their hunting loads to determine the actual velocity. Hunters sighted in their rifles under Lee's expert supervision on a secure, stable bench rest. After sighting in, hunters were asked to shoot three shots at the vital, heart-lung zone of a full-sized moose silhouette, standing broadside at a distance of 100 yards. The individuals in the study averaged 19 years of hunting experience.

    Rogers says that less than one-half (46 percent) of hunters placed all three shots in the 16-inch by 24-inch vital zone. Twenty-eight percent of all shots taken would have wounded rather than immediately killed the moose. Most of the wounding shots are, in the opinion of Rogers, the result of too much gun and too little practice from the basic hunting positions of sitting, kneeling, and off-hand. Only about one out of ten hunters practices shooting from these hunting positions after sighting in their rifle, states rangemaster Rogers.

    This lack of practical practice, compounded by the use of a gun that is simply unpleasant to shoot, is likely to result in wounding and crippling animals. In a Department of Fish and Game telephone survey of Alaskan hunters, 38 percent said they had killed a big game animal that had been previously wounded by another hunter. According to Rogers, the results of this survey seem to confirm what he sees daily.

    Do Alaskan hunters need these big-kicking magnums for big game? Not really, say most biologists, hunter educators, and experienced big game hunters. Big game animals are not killed by foot-pounds of kinetic energy or some mystical “knock-down” power. Big game is consistently, quickly, and humanely killed by accurate, precise placement of a well-constructed bullet in the vital heart-lung area. A cartridge loaded with a 180 grain Nosler (partition bullet) fired from the 94-year-old .30-06 will almost always pass completely through a moose or caribou, taking out both lungs. Rogers says that hunters should find a cartridge and gun they can shoot comfortably enough to fire 30 to 40 rounds during a practice session. After sighting in, all the hunter's practice should be from hunting positions likely to be used in the field.

    Furthermore, when hunters chronograph their magnum factory loads they are often surprised they are getting so much buck and bang and so little gain. For example, during Roger's survey 15 hunters using .300 Winchester Magnum factory ammunition loaded with 180 grain bullets averaged 2,919 feet per second for 45 shots. Twelve different .30-06 rifles using factory ammunition loaded with 180-grain bullets chronographed 2,644 feet per second. See, some say, you get 275 feet per second difference! In the real world of hunting that works out to a gain of about 25 yards in range in exchange for easily one-third more recoil and a hefty increase in muzzle blast!

    What about bears, hunters ask? Shouldn't Alaskan hunters have a magnum in case I have a run-in with 'ol fuzzy? Bear experts say that alertness in the field and keen observation skills are better protection than a magnum rifle. Analysis of bear encounters reveals the fact that most surprise encounters with a bear are just that, a surprise. Fortunately for bear and man, the bear usually swaps ends and runs away. In the rare event of a genuine charge the distance is typically measured in feet, and the hunter most likely carrying his rifle slung over the shoulder or in one hand. Under these circumstances he has no real chance to gather himself, ram a cartridge in the chamber and make an accurate, aimed shot at any vital area. In the even more unlikely event that the hunter is carrying his rifle “at-the-ready” and is able to take an aimed shot, a well-placed .30-06 will do more good than a poorly placed .300 or even .375 magnum. Most of us are simply better off hunting with a partner, remaining alert to bear sign, avoiding dense thickets where visibility is virtually zip, and quickly moving game meat away from the gut pile.

    Hunters are responsible for wise use of our wildlife resource and using too much gun that results in wounded and crippled animals is not what we should aim for when we hunt.

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    Interesting article, thanks for posting it.

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    That was a very interesting post. Informative, not surprising and I find that I am very much non-typical of the Alaska hunter. I will beg to differ with the synopsis of this article. It is not that the guns are too big, it is certainly that there is no skill developed with any caliber before jumping to the big stuff and that is what shoots us out of the saddle. It is now and always has been true that a well placed shot will work better, faster than a poorly placed shot. I don't believe there would be good marksmanship with a 243 or even a 223 if he cannot shoot a 30-06.

    At the Cushman range two years ago in August, with several hunters sighting in for the up coming moose hunt. I talked eleven (11) hunters into shooting at my 9 inch diameter paper plate from the standing position at 100 yards. There were more than 11 shots at the plate as some shot more than once (about 20 shots taken) . There were no holes in the plate when I went to retrieved it. I then went back and from the standing position with my way too powerful 375 H&H MAGNUM rifle, which weighs 7.5 pounds, I shot at this plate three times from the standing position. I made three holes in a triangle pattern, two shots are about 2" apart, a third is about 4 1/2" from either one of the other two. I couldn't do any better at the time. Two of the hunters used iron sighted rifles the rest, including me, used a scope. I think all calibers were 30 or bigger and about half 300 mag of some kind. One was a 375.
    Last edited by Murphy; 03-14-2009 at 10:58.
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  4. #4

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    I'm not surprised at all by the poor shooting. However the article does not break down accuracy vs caliber and therefore one cannot link poor shooting performance to "magnumitis". From what I see, most folks spend too much time at the bench and too little in field positions regardless of caliber (for hunting rifles). I have often wondered about all these folks who find bullets from shots taken broadside. Apart from pieces of one ballistic tip that I would never again use, I have never recovered a bullet from a heart lung shot even with relatively cheap bullets such as Corelokt. They always go through and through even on moose. As for bears, no argument, Field craft, some knowledge of bear behaviour and that thing between yer ears are by far the best bear defence you have. But if, god forbid, all that goes wrong I'd rather have a .375.

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    Default Bad shots

    Most of us are bad shots , including me . I've shot alot in years past at the Cushman range in Fairbanks and I left thinking I was about the best shot in Alaska . I had a .358 Norma that put out 2" groups all day long at 200 yards and I had a .458 Mauser (capital M) that I could shoot pretty well offhand at 100 yards which always amazed the crowd . A few years later I found myself working Outside and involved in silhouette shooting and found out I couldn't shoot at all , period , embarassing as hell . Not too long ago I became acquanted with the licensing and shooting requirements in Scandahoovia , Sweden has a moving moose target at 100 meters that you have to hit well or no license . Denmark requires a license for each individual gun you own and again you have to prove you can shoot , coffee cup at 100 meters benched or no license no gun . I don't think anybody anywhere needs more rules and regulations and I'm sure as hell not suggesting we need this set-up , I'm just saying that alot of us aren't good shots when we think we are . Shoot offhand at 4oo yards with the wind blowing up your keester and 70 people watching , you'll find out . I don't agree with big gun equals bad shooting , almost any gun equals bad shooting with alot of us .

  6. #6

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    Very good article.

    My two cents. I think the article has a lot of interesting insight and the conclusions are fairly valid. A lot of folks think *bigger is better* and to an extent it is. But far more important is where the bullets hits and what it does when it hits.

    The factor I see here is field marksmanship which includes *knowing* where the kill zone on a silhoutte in different positions is, and being able to shoot accurately in the field. There are some factors in the shooting acurately dept such as judging distance, windage, being able to find a positon and hold steady. I'm big on velocity, because velocity in the feild increases accuracy if you are guesstamating distance. I like a flat shooting gun. I dont like rainbow arcs. If you do all your shooting inside 100 yds, fine. So if I ever get a big bore rifle, it will have to push a bullet at 3000 fps plus.

    To me marksmanship is all about comfort and being in a relaxed state when squeezing the trigger and I have taught a few youngsters how to shoot quite well. This article is implying that many (not all) hunters using bigger harder kicking calibers are not comfortable with their gun and therefore dont practice with it enough to be proficient and I think that is probably a valid point. I think a good way to get around this is to shoot lesser more comfortable cartridges for practice to become field proficient. Then of course when you're hunting with your mule kicking rifle you have to be able to mentally forget about the kick. If you can't then you have a problem, because you will flinch. So the question is how much gun do you really need and are you comfortable with? My view is *lesser is better* to the point it gets the job done.

    My hunting rifle has been a 7mm Rem Mag (which has the word magnum in it) and I am very comfortable with it except for more than 20 rounds on the bench. It took several trips to the range to work up a good load for it and sight it in. After that I did shoot it some in various positions for field proficiency. I could easily hit a 12" steel gong at 300m offhand 100% of the time and in the offhand position I felt very little recoil. Sitting or leaning increased the recoil but it still was managable.

    I am switching to a 300 WSM this year and hoping the recoil is managable. It's a little flatter and more powerful than than the 7mm and would be good for elk and bear here, especially at longer ranges. I think a 300 Mag is a good cartridge and will do the job well on everything in NA except it might be a little small on the biggest bears. Even on a big bear I think it would do, but a larger cal would be more efficient.

    And I think logman makes a very interesting point about shooting silhouettes vs clearly marked targets which emphasizes the ability to judge where the kill zone is.

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    Default Boy Scouts Motto

    So, I was a boy scout. We had this motto "Be Prepared." In other words, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. So, if you are going to hunt anywhere, doesn't matter if its Alaska or Russia for big Browns, Africa for things with tusks and horns, Maine for moose, Asia or Africa for cats that can eat you, or the southern US for big hogs, you should be prepared for a worst case scenario. If being prepared means taking along a Guide (I am a Maine Hunting Guide) who carries medicine for the occasion (45-70 govt in my case) then you are prepared. If you are going to hunt browns in Alaska then a 30-06 is fine IMHO as long as the Guide beside you has a gun that will stop a charging Bear or Moose. In effect you are bringing 2 guns and an extra man to shoot to "be prepared." If on the other hand I am going to try venturing into the Alaska wilds without a Guide for some reason. I will the take a BOOM STICK. I dont care what it is as long as it feeds reliably, holds more than 2 shots and has enough knock down power to kill a 2000 lb bear with a poor shot. I think about it like this, if a bear is chewing on my skull I probably wont be thinking " Maybe I should have aimed a little further back because the BC and SD of the 220 grn bullet I was firing didnt allow for a good entrance and exit wound that far forward..." I would much rather be looking at a pile of dead bear at 40 yards thinking, "I wonder where that bullet hit the poor B@$*@rd, and thank god he's dead." For Alaska where extreme heat isnt a problem, a lot of cartridges are fine for this. The 416 Rem, or Rigby. Big 458's and 460's and of course just about anything that ends in NE. Even the 411 Hawk is ok if you keep shots close. In Africa it gets hot and causes pressure issues, so go for the big boys with big cases to allow for lower pressures. The big 458 express and Nitro Expresses. Bring a guide and if you can afford it a double rifle. I have never seen a double rifle jam between the frist and second shots. The all have 4000f/lbs+ up close. And that is where an emergency defensive shot matters. On one last note though, I worked as a gunsmith at a small gun shop in Maine once upon a time, my boss there was a nationaly recognized PPC shooter. I used to watch him shoot skeet with a J framed S&W. He would say "Proper Practice Prevents Piss Poor Performance." In other words, most of the time its not the gun, its the man.

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    I think that article goes right along with this one:

    http://www.wildlife.alaska.gov/index...laska.firearms

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    Yep, 30-06 and if in doubt a 358Win should be more than enough in a shooters hands.
    A GUN WRITER NEEDS:
    THE MIND OF A SCHOLAR
    THE HEART OF A CHILD
    THE HIDE OF A RHINOCEROS

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    Great post, thank you!
    Someone should do a new survey and label it "To Much Scope"? I am guessing 90% of animals shot in Alaska could easily be taken with a iron sighted rifle.
    Peyton, Colorado

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    Great article! I have observed poor shooting at the range for years. I believe the magnums have something to do with it, but I also think people just plain shoot poorly due to lack of practice. I shoot my .22 almost weekly year round. I also shoot the .22 out to 200 yards. I shoot my 300 SAUM about 20 rounds a month year round. Practice makes a huge difference. I can hit a 6" circle at 100 yards offhand every time. I can hit a 12" circle at 300 yards from a bipod every time (unless high winds, then I won't take the shot). I know how my magnum shoots with 3 different loads and how to adjust for each. Most people only shoot their guns a week before the season opens. Not adequate!

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    I hunt everything with 1 gun...375 H&H, Antelope on up. I have no qualms about this at all. Know the rifle like the back of my hand and shoot it A LOT!!! Yes it is not an ideal sheep goat gun, but with a 260 accubond at 2800 FPS, it gives you 30.06 trajectory with 375 hh energies. From 0-400 there is nothing in NA I can't reach out and touch.
    375 Ruger Hawkeye...Mice to Moose, Impala to Buffalo....1 GUN.....WORLDS PURSUIT

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowwolfe View Post
    Great post, thank you!
    Someone should do a new survey and label it "To Much Scope"? I am guessing 90% of animals shot in Alaska could easily be taken with a iron sighted rifle.
    Absolutely. I still enjoy hunting with a peep sight. The scopes that I do own are all fixed 4x. I'll be setting up my 270 Win. this spring. Need to put a front sight on it, and then I'll have a peep and scope for it. Any rifle that I take out for an extended period of time must have both. I have seen hunts ruined because of damaged scopes, but not because of using iron sights.
    BTW....I have also noticed that those who regularly hunt with iron sights tend to be more careful about their shots and to practice more. I don't think that they are naturally better shots than scope hunters, just that scopes tend to make some guys excessively confident in their own abilities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nukalpiaq View Post
    After sighting in, all the hunter's practice should be from hunting positions likely to be used in the field.
    The above quote says it all. How many do this? I'm guilty, I hardly shoot offhand or sitting or prone or kneeling. And I should. We all should. Then it really wouldn't matter what we were shooting.

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    Default Thanks for the post...

    "Carry what you can shoot", a friend summed up in conversation last week. As concise as I've ever heard it.

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    Default Practicing and Shot Placement

    I think most riflemen would benefit greatly from a little bow hunting..... or a lot of bow hunting. And heres to you Idahotrophyhunter, anyone who takes the time to load for and practice with 1 gun has my attention.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed M View Post
    I think that article goes right along with this one:

    http://www.wildlife.alaska.gov/index...laska.firearms
    This is a very simplistic view of modern projectiles and not very accurate at that. The overall design of a bullet wheather it's round nosed or pointed does make a major amount of difference; That's what we call a MEPLAT, It gives a projectile impacting energy. This is the core of the energy produced by a hard cast lead bullet ( they don't expand), they just drive a big flat surface through flesh and bone destroying the items in their way.
    And WHERE does it say a copper jacketed bullet has to expand, many thousands of rounds of quality ammo are loaded yearly with projectiles which don't expand for dangerous game; most of the BIG FIVE are killed with them as well as many North American game animals. Then there are premium bullets which are turned out of a solid monolithic piece of copper with a blunt or flat nose these don't expand well but lend devastating results on bears and large predators.
    Last but not least are the animals which are killed with FMJ ammo. YEP; it's designed for military use but that doesn't mean it doesn't have the ability to be used for hunting ammo. It's lack of expansion may actually be desireable, as it penetrates deeper than expanding ammo and doesn't damage the hide as much.
    " Americans will never need the 2nd Amendment, until the government tries to take it away."

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    Boy, this is an old thread but if you're still around Logman - I'd like to say you are an honest man and I have to agree with you on the aspect that Hi-Power silhouette shooting can be a wake-up call for a lot of hunters/shooters. If you don't have a 500 meter range than just give the smallbore silhouette a go. It takes a lot of practice to become a rifleman or pistolero, as it takes lots of experiences (time spent in the field) to become a proficient hunter. Raising a family and making sure you don't lose your job is the main concern of most gun owners and "hunters" today, so being proficient with your rifle and having good woodmenship skills kinda takes a back seat for most. For some of us we were lucky and were able to become very proficient in one or both areas while we were growing up, raising a family and keeping a job because it was sorta "job-related". I look at a AA hunter class Hi-power silhouette shooter as a "rifleman" and would like to meet a Master some day, as I would like to see the guy shoot. To my way of thinking, if a man knows his rifle and his limitations he normally will do well in the field once a year. I had an uncle and grandfather who learned at a very young age about firearms and the animals and birds they hunted - every fall the uncle shot one round from his 30-30 to make sure nobody messed with his sights while Grandpa fired maybe 5 - 12 gauge rounds at thrown bottles to make sure his eyes were still focusing correctly. When they fired their respective firearm either a deer or moose fell to the shot or a grouse or duck fell to the shot. The ranges were short and the aim was true. I remember only once when Grandpa missed a mallard and his airedale jumped in the water, swam around abit and came back after which he sat in front of him and just looked up at him and wined a little as if to say "what the hel* just happened". I just wished he would have lived a little longer and taught me a little more.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Newmaineguide2 View Post
    I think most riflemen would benefit greatly from a little bow hunting..... or a lot of bow hunting.
    Another great point! Waiting for the perfect shot, picking a small spot to shoot, etc.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by mnfish365 View Post
    Another great point! Waiting for the perfect shot, picking a small spot to shoot, etc.
    Patriot movie: "...aim small, miss small"
    A GUN WRITER NEEDS:
    THE MIND OF A SCHOLAR
    THE HEART OF A CHILD
    THE HIDE OF A RHINOCEROS

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