ELR Rock Chucks
The date was June 13, 2013 and my sister and I were perched atop a mountain ridgeline glassing for the elusive rocky mountain dragon bear (rock chuck). It wasn’t long before I spotted a chuck sitting atop a large rock outcropping like a king surveying the canyon below. I snuggled up behind my new 6.5 Creedmoor and carefully took aim through the Sightron S3 scope. When the crosshairs locked on him, I squeezed out the last few ounces of the Shilen trigger and A 140-grain Nosler Custom Competition bullet rocketed 456 yards across the canyon. I recovered from recoil just in time to see the dragon bear cartwheel off his majestic throne. My 6.5 had just drawn its first blood and had also provided me with my longest kill to date!
First Long Range Chuck Kill
Since that June day in 2013, long-range chuck hunting has become an absolute addiction. In the mountain terrain where I hunt chucks I am able to learn how to find effective shooting locations and glassing perches and I get the opportunity to shoot in similar field conditions to what I’ll encounter when chasing big game later in the year. The sheer volume of bullets you can shoot in a chuck season provides experience that would take decades to develop while hunting big game. Combining the whole experience of being in the field, glassing up the critters and then taking shots at them really helps to hone your skills as a precision hunter.
Naturally this addiction has come at the cost of constantly upgrading my gear and trying out new tools that can help me push my maximum effective distance to new levels. Despite the many upgrades in gear, the thing that has helped me improve the most was finding some like-minded shooters and spending quality time with them in the field. Two of these shooters in particular, Josh Cook and Tyson Pitcher, have helped me improve at an exponential rate. We spent quite a bit of time together on the range learning how to communicate with each other and their skills as spotters really helped my hit percentages. This improved efficiency was perfectly demonstrated when I had the good fortune of killing a prairie dog at 1404 yards (read story HERE) and would have been an impossibility without the help they had provided.
As the spring of 2018 rolled around, Josh was convinced that it was time for us to step up our game and kill some rock chucks in excess of 1500 yards. The goal seemed lofty to me but we all had recorded kills over 1300 yards and we felt prepared if the opportunity presented itself.
On Memorial Day 2018 I raced to the hills to get some chuck hunting in before a late afternoon storm was supposed to roll through. As I hiked up the mountain a light rain began to fall and I hoped that it would quickly pass by before the main storm arrived a few hours later. When I arrived to the top of the ridgeline I met up with Tyson and Josh and we found a nice tree to keep us sheltered from the drizzle. After about 20 minutes the little storm had passed and we set up our spotters to glass the distant hillsides for any dragon bears that had come out to dry off in the warm sunshine.
It didn’t take long for Tyson to spot one on a rock at 1550 yards. He used his Sig Kilo 2400ABS to get his dope and he dialed it in to his Sightron S3. I set up my phone in a Novagrade camera adapter and paired it with my spotting scope while Tyson got comfortable behind his rifle. With the camera rolling, Tyson sent a 195 grain Berger across a giant canyon. The bullet arched high above the canyon floor and the cross-canyon breeze caused it to drift nearly seven feet as it zeroed in on the yellow-bellied marmot during its final decent. After over 2 seconds of flight time the Berger found its mark like a precision guided laser missile and the chuck was toppled from his rocky bed. The 1500-yard barrier had been broken and on a cold barrel to boot! Tyson has a habit of making extremely difficult shots look easy, but this shot was the finest display of shooting I have ever seen and will be something I vividly remember for the rest of my life.
After quite a bit of celebrating another chuck was spotted on the same set of rocks at 1550 yards. Josh and I set up behind our rifles and Tyson took his turn behind a spotter. After a few close misses the critter began to run up the hill to put some additional distance between us so Josh and I both threw some extra elevation into our scopes on the fly. When the chuck finally stopped, I sent a round his way and watched it fly 2 MOA over the top of him. I pulled out 2 MOA of elevation and the following round landed just barely to the side of him in the damp dirt. The chuck moved a few feet away to a nearby perch while I dropped another cartridge into the rifle, added the extra correction for the wind and sent a 180 grain Hornady ELDM on its way. 2.3 seconds later Tyson watched through the spotter as the chuck swallowed my bullet and flipped over dead into the wet grass that would become his eternal resting place. We grabbed our rangefinders and confirmed the final distance at 1590 yards. Not only had we broken into the 1500-yard club, but two of us had done it in one day!!!!
1590 yard Dope
With two of us on the board, Josh had an intense desire to get himself into the 1500-yard club so him and Tyson returned to the same area a few weeks later to look for another opportunity. It didn’t take long before they spotted two of them perched on a rock outcropping at 1559 yards. Josh took the correction from the Kilo2400 and dialed it into his Sightron S3 and when the site picture looked right his 6.5×284 sent a 147 grain Hornady ELDM across the canyon. The chuck ducked as the bullet whizzed somewhere nearby but there was no visible impact. A few more rounds were sent down range with similar results before finally Tyson was able to catch a slight impact through the spotter and could provide a correction. Four shots later, the Sightron had 46.25 MOA of elevation and 6.5 MOA of left wind dialed in as the death dot of the reticle settled in on the dragon bear and a slight press on the trigger kicked off the party. The echo from the shot rolled down the canyon as the bullet made its long journey and impacted perfectly on the fury target. The Three-peat had happened! What started as a lofty goal had become a reality in just one spring as all three of us had killed rock chucks in excess of 1500 yards.
As mentioned previously in the article, chuck hunting is an excellent opportunity to prepare you for big game seasons. All three rifles used to get in the 1500-yard club are rifles that have been, or will be, used on big game. One important thing to note is that shooting these distances does not require ridiculously expensive custom rifles. Josh and Tyson have been piecing their own rifles together for many years using prefit barrels on Savage actions and I can attest to the fact that their rifles will shoot 0.5 MOA or better for a whole lot cheaper than most guys think is possible.
Justin’s Original Chuck Rifle
However, one piece of gear that all three of us added to our kits that we feel is indispensable is the Sig Kil02400ABS. We had all been eyeballing them since they were released and after Josh bought his and we were able to use it, Tyson and I quickly followed suite. The ballistics engine built into the RF is second to none and the fact you can get immediate shooting solutions allows you to get behind the gun much quicker. It is a piece of equipment that has quickly found a permanent home on my gear list.
The full specifications of the rifles used in this story can be found below:
Josh’s Rifle specs:
Action: Savage 110 FCP
Stock: HS Precision
Scope: Sightron S3 6-24×40 LRMOA-2
Barrel: Criterion prefit. 1-8” twist. 30” long. 6.5×284
Load: 147 Hornady ELDM. RL23. 3005 fps.
Justin’s Rifle specs:
Action: Lone Peak Fuzion Medium
Trigger: Timney CE2
Stock: McMillan Adjustable Game Warden
Scope: Kahles K624i MOAK
Barrel: Benchmark. 1-9 Twist. 24”. 7 SAUM
Load: 180 Hornady ELDM. H1000. 2920 fps.
Tyson’s Rifle specs:
Action: Savage 116
Stock: HS Precision
Scope: Sightron S3 6-24×40 LRMOA-2
Barrel: Criterion prefit. 1-7.5 twist. 26” long. 7mm Rem Mag
Load: 195 Berger. RL33. 2920 fps
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