I was recently helping a rancher friend thin out the aoudad population on his ranch. He is raising trophy whitetails and the aoudad and wild hogs were keeping the deer away from the feeders.
Aoudads are one of the toughest animals I know of, pound for pound. On two trips to the ranch I shot five aoudads, ranging from one small ewe with a broken hind leg to a very large ewe that I would guess weighed more than 200 pounds. The rest were about the size of an average Texas whitetail buck.
I fired one shot at each animal. I shot two with a 6.5 Creedmoor using 120-grain Barnes Triple-Shocks at 2,950 feet per second, and three with a .240 Weatherby using 100-grain Nosler Partitions at about 3,250 feet per second (the identical velocity of my .243 Ackley Improved). Every shot produced a dead aoudad. The range here was just over 100 yards, and each shot was placed exactly.
As I was sitting in the blind waiting for the action to begin, I picked up a spent .300 Weatherby round from the floor of the blind. Why would such a powerful cartridge be needed to shoot deer (which I found out later was what the hunter was after) that would weigh not more than about 200 pounds for a really big buck?
As for aoudad, the largest I have ever seen, dead or alive, was shot by my buddy Todd Tate, using a .30-06 with 165-grain bullets. For a while Todd’s ram was #9 in the records. He shot it running at a bit over 300 yards on a low-fenced (practically non-existent in some places.) ranch in West Texas. He did not need a .300 Magnum.
High velocity does two things. It flattens the trajectory of any bullet, and it increases the impact energy. I can think of places where either or both of these things would be a great advantage, but not in a deer blind where the longest possible shot is almost always less than 200 yards.
If I were going to hunt Ovis Poli sheep in Tajikistan, I would want a high velocity rifle in one of the medium magnums, such as the 7 mm Weatherby Magnum, because the shots are often long and difficult. I would want the flattest trajectory I could get, in a gun that I could shoot very well.
In Africa the .375 H&H is almost a necessity, but a .30-06 is a great choice as a light plains game rifle, as is a 7mm Remington Magnum. Eleanor O’Connor, wife of the famous Jack O’Connor, once killed, if memory serves, 17 head of African game with 19 shots from a light 7mm Mauser, using 160-grain Speer bullets at about 2,650 fps.
If you hunt in Texas, however, with the possible exceptions of elk or some large exotic, nothing more than a .270 Winchester or .30-06 is needed. In fact, one of the loud, hard-kicking magnums might be a handicap for many hunters, because they do not have the time or the place to do the amount of practice that mastery of such a cannon requires.
The vast majority of the hunters in Texas fire fewer than 100 rounds a year out of their rifles, often fewer than 40. In this case, a .25-06, .270 Winchester, or my little 6.5 Creedmoor, is a much better choice. A magnum requires hundreds of rounds in practice to master, and the .25-06 and .270 shoot very flat, indeed.
I shoot the big guns a lot in testing and evaluation I shoot them pretty well when I have to, but I almost never feel the need. Occasionally, however, I do.
A couple of years ago I was on a hunt for cow elk in West Texas and chose a 7mm Weatherby Magnum. Between load workups and practice, I shot about 200 rounds through it. When I finally got my chance, I killed a big cow elk at about 300 yards with one shot through the lungs.
If I had not done the practice I might have flinched and missed the shot, which was pretty long and had to be taken very quickly. In retrospect, I think I could have done the same job with a .270 Winchester. However, I was unfamiliar with the country I would be hunting, so I wanted the extra range and power I could get with the 7mm Magnum. You will notice that even for elk, one of the toughest of North America’s game animals, I did not feel the need for a .300 magnum.
The largest deer I have ever heard of in Texas did not weigh 300 pounds. The largest I, personally, have ever shot and weighed, scaled 207 pounds, and I killed it dead as free lunch with a .25-06 and a 110-grain Nosler Accu-Bond. One shot did the job.
The longest shot I ever made on a deer was a mule deer I shot in West Texas. We later used a laser rangefinder to measure the distance at just shy of 350 yards. I put him down with one shot and, again, a .25-06 did the job with panache. So, if you are looking for a new, flat-shooting deer rifle, take my advice and leave the big magnums on the rack.
They are not needed.
Email Steve LaMascus at [email protected]