We were offered the chance to share this great hunt story with our member here on LRO. The story was writen and published in Greg Duley’s magazine “New Zealand Hunter” The story is about a father daughter long range elk hunt from our fellow LRO member “jmden” Great read with great pics. Enjoy!!
By Jon Denham
After some good practice with her 30-06 for shorter shooting and with the 338 Edge for long shots, Jax (short for Jaclyn, my 13 year old daughter) and I left the day before Veteran’s Day for four days of Elk hunting. We were going to try to fill the youth antlerless Elk tag that Jax was fortunate enough to get in a special draw.
This is the ‘boring’ part of the story, but it’s important that folks know that shots like these are not at all ‘lucky’ shots. A tremendous amount of effort, work, learning, practice and preparation is behind each and every shot like this. The 338 Edge that Jax was shooting is a wildcat chambering based on the 300 Remington Ultra Magnum (RUM) case as a ‘parent’ case. That 300 RUM case is ‘necked up’ to 338 calibre from 308. (In this case, I ‘necked down’ 375 RUM brass.)
Then, I’ve got it pushing the 300 grain Berger Elite Hunter bullet at a moderate and very consistent 2720 feet per second muzzle velocity (MV) under 91grains of Hodgdon Retumbo, lit with a Federal 215 match primer and with the bullet bearing surface exactly .020 (20/1000 inch) off the rifle lands. This very consistent muzzle velocity is a must for precision, long range shooting. Most factory ammunition can vary as much as 100fps from shot to shot and is generally not suitable for precision, long range shooting/hunting.
Precision reloading for long range shooting means controlling many variables to produce ammunition that is typically much more precise than factory ammunition, while being customized to your rifle and shooting/hunting needs. As mentioned earlier, one of the most important things in this regard is producing muzzle velocities that are consistently the same from shot to shot or you will have bullets landing all over the place at long range.
Additionally, proper bullet selection is a key factor in this endeavour and the big 300g Berger Elite Hunter bullet, with its high ballistic coefficient, bucks the wind very well, and the fact that it is designed for long range shooting/hunting makes it a great choice. It hits very hard at long distance. This bullet has a great game-taking track record.
This 338 Edge rifle could be loaded, with reasonable pressures, to probably another 100 feet per second faster and have a fair amount more power, but this load/recipe showed good precision (well under 1inch groups at 208 yards shooting prone of bipod) and will let younger folks shoot it more comfortably, which was one point of this build.
First shot at 899 yds with the 338 Edge. Not too bad. Other shots were mine in a slight left-to-right wind. Here we were checking the elevation portion of the firing solution. This is very important to do before hunting. Gotta make sure the firing solutions spit out by the ballistic app reflect reality. If not, the app needs to be tweaked so that it does reflect where the hits are going. It’s very important to match up the ballistic app firing solution with reality before going hunting
This 338 Edge that Jax shot was custom built by Benchmark Barrels and is a dedicated long range rifle designed for prone shooting. The rifle is topped with a Night Force NSX 5.5-22 x 50mm scope with MOA turrets, the zero-stop feature, and the NPR1 MOA reticle. Benchmark’s ‘slab’ style muzzle brake, designed for prone shooting, helps tame the nearly 5000 foot pounds of energy this rifle produces at the muzzle, letting the 110lb/50kg Jax shoot it quite comfortably and precisely, as she has demonstrated in practice. She was intimidated by the 338 Edge until she shot it and realized that as powerful as it is, it’s quite comfortable to shoot.
Back to the hunt. We had to drive nearly five hours to get to where her tag was good over in eastern Washington State. It was quite odd driving up the roads this time. It was several days since the week-long modern firearm general Elk season had ended and usually when I go over there to hunt, there are camps or little ‘villages’ of camps all along the roads – one of the reasons why we backpack in a bit to get away from this. But this time, with the general Elk season over, the area seemed abandoned. We passed a couple of rigs driving on the roads, but no camps. It was like a ghost town compared to what I usually see, and I was hoping the Elk were starting to relax a bit.
We set up camp and headed up the ridge to a spotting location that had produced for my brother and me the week before – we had both shot spike bull Elk there – the only legal Elk you can shoot unless you’re fortunate enough to draw a special tag as Jax had. In the quickly gathering darkness that first evening, I spotted a lone cow Elk at 756 yards, but we couldn’t get set up fast enough before she walked into the trees.
We slept very well that night in a WildSide Systems TipiTent, warmed by the dry heat of a Kifaru medium wood stove inside. We enjoyed one of our favorite camp dinners – Dinty Moore beef stew. Yum! It was a very calm and quiet evening until a pack of coyotes opened up nearby. Jax looked at me with her eyes a little wide and said “What was that?” as they finished yipping. I thought she’d heard coyotes before, but I guess not!
Next morning, we were back up at the spotting location before first light and moving around constantly to see all the different openings we could possible shoot into. After about 45 minutes of working pretty hard to keep track of all the openings, I finally spotted the butt of an Elk in a meadow all the way across the basin. Then I saw two more Elk near it. I thought it was too far for Jax to shoot so we scrambled to pack up our gear and head down to a spot that would put us closer to the animals. It was a risk though, as moving took time and by the time we got there, the Elk could have easily melted into the trees as it became lighter.
Jax glassing for Elk
Fortunately, they were still in the little opening, drifting in and out of the trees. The sun had almost reached them however, so time was short. We worked hard to find the right spot for Jax to shoot from and get her comfortable there. We measured the range, angle, barometric pressure, humidity, temperature, wind, and adjusted for Coriolis effect and spin drift and had the computer spit out an accurate firing solution, given correct inputs.
We’d spent a good amount of time in practice verifying trajectories and making sure the ballistic app matched up with where the hits were going at long range; which they did. Now it was time for all this effort and learning of shooting technique to pay off for Jax. It’s a very busy few moments to get set up for a shot like this and many variables have to come together and line up properly for a shot to be attempted. We picked one cow; I dialled Jax 22.75 MOA up and .75 MOA left, and Jax finished getting set up by snuggling comfortably into the cockpit of the 338 Edge. Then she gave a measured pull on the 1lb Jewell trigger.
I could see the hit through the optics – it was a good double lung shot. The Rocky Mountain Elk swapped ends and I could see a growing red spot where the exit wound was, in her ribs. Soon it was over and Jax and I hugged as I congratulated her. She was very happy. It was Veteran’s Day 2016 and Jax and I want to say a big ‘thank you’ to our military veterans who have contributed, if not directly, then at least indirectly, to preserving the hunting heritage and opportunity that we enjoy in this country.
Jax looking pretty pleased with herself right after the shot
Jax originally passed hunter safety class three years ago and has hunted Mule deer three times since then, backpacking in for several days each time, but ‘no banana’ yet. This time, on her first Elk hunt, it all came together and we are very thankful to the Lord for providing this experience and this Elk meat that we hope several families will benefit from. We know that her grandfather, ‘Papa’, who is in heaven now, is very proud of her. He is the one who introduced me to big game hunting and hunting in general (it was an easy sell…) and I’ve wanted to pass that on to my daughters. I’ve been very blessed to be able to do that and they have both now harvested big game animals.
Jax with her cow Elk shot at 985 yards with the 338 Edge. One shot, right through the engine room
Well, as Papa always said “It’s all fun and games until you get something down – then the work starts!”
And so the work began. We headed back to camp and got rid of everything we didn’t need for field dressing and packing meat. This was all cross country travel in a designated wilderness area so there were no roads and no mechanized travel was allowed. Chainsaws are not even legal to use in designated wilderness areas. There were no trails where we were on what was a mostly very steep jimjam/pick-up-sticks type of heavily forested, northern aspect slope.
It took an hour of careful footwork to get to the Elk. We took pictures of the good-sized cow, recording some good memories, and then got to work. We used the gutless boning method, which works very well, particularly when backpacking. I packed the hindquarters, back straps and tenderloins each trip and Jax packed the fronts each trip.
Looking back from where Jax shot from towards the Elk on the second pack trip out. The carcass (white spot) is circled in red
Two trips and we were done. We packed up camp and headed home, dropping off a hindquarter with some friends along the way whom we knew would greatly appreciate it and know what to do with it – a rare combination! We decided to give both the hindquarters of this Elk away but keep the rest so Jax had something to eat from her critter. With two other Elk, one bear (gave another away) and a Muley buck already in the freezers from this hunting season, it seemed like a good idea.
What a great experience for me to share this hunt with Jax – can’t buy that at the mall!
Please excuse the selfie of Jax and I back at the vehicle after packing all the meat out
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