The DIY Hunter

270 WSM Winchester Model 1885 cow elk hunting

Someone looks a little tired. Maybe you should stop being a teenager who thinks he doesn't need to go to bed at night and get to bed before midnight Mr. Dallen. ;)

Dallen was also carrying a Model 1885, my 270 WSM setup with 150 Gr Berger VLDs.

Model 1885 300 Win Mag Cow elk hunting

My 300 Win Mag Model 1885 High Wall with Vortex Viper PST 6-24x50.

Browning Neoprene Rifle Jacket in Snow

Browning's Neoprene Rifle Jacket protecting my Model 1885. This rifle jacket is awesome for keeping snow and other debris out of the barrel and off the scope lenses. I love being able to just lay my rifle down on most anything and it doesn't get scratched.

Goofy antler bull elk

Too bad this wasn't a cow. Dallen could have easily taken this goofy antlered bull had it been a cow.

Alaska Guide Creations Bino Pack Model 1885 300 Win Mag hunting cow elk

Trying out a Alaska Guide Creations bino pack for the first time that a good friend of mine sent me a for Christmas this year. It's a nice bino pack. The pack just lacked a pouch to fit my large range finder. I sewed a fleece pouch that hangs on the side of the bino pack to hold my large Bushnell Elite 1500 range finder.

Model 1885 300 Win Mag shooting from Cliff

This is where I shot the cow elk from with my 300 Win Mag Model 1885.

300 Win Mag empty shell on cliff

The empty 300 Win Mag case from the first 645 yard shot across the canyon.

Dead cow elk across canyon

One cow down and the two others didn't move. I wanted to shoot the cow on the right but she was blocked by way to many limbs.

Cow elk bedded

As it would be I was able to get within 200 yards of the cow and calf in a spot where I could have taken a shot. If I knew I could have made it this close without them taking off and known that I could have seen them I would have opted to move in closer.


Frosted Beard elk hunting

I think it was a little cold this morning. My short beard was fully frosted like a flocked Christmas tree.

This year Dallen and I each drew late season cow elk tags. For this hunt, I was looking forward to trying out a new load in a new rifle. Most especially in a "Big Bore" cartridge for me, a 300 Win Mag. I have always been a fan of low recoiling smaller bored calibers. Back in the day, my first high powered rifle was chambered in 25-06 Rem. I have since really taken a liking to the 243 WSSM and the 270 WSM cartridges.

My new 1885 in 300 Win Mag delivered in December and I have worked as fast as I could to get it scoped with 20 MOA of scope adjustment built into the bases and rings. When I saw that Winchester was doing a small run of 300 Win Mags in the Model 1885 I jumped on the opportunity to get one. I really like 1885 rifles and this rifle would jump me into the 30 caliber bullets for the first time.

The past couple of years I have been really taking a liking to the technical aspects of stretching the distance of my shooting. I have been shooting at Spirit Ridge rifle golf range at steel targets out to 1200 yards with my 243 WSSM and 270 WSM rifles and have really enjoyed it.

Until the last four or so years I have always liked a cartridge and bullet that provided a long max point-blank range. In other words, I like a really fast flat shooting bullet where I could sight it in 2.5 inches high at 100 yards and be near dead on at 300 yards. This being accomplished with traditional duplex rifle scopes. Setup this way I could hold dead on a 7 inch target and hit it from zero to around 350 yards. I also didn't have to worry about having a range finder. I could judge that the distance was within 350 yards and just pull up and shoot.

I have lately been changing my philosophy on my bullet choice and scopes. On most of my rifles I have been getting adjustable target turret style of scopes. I have been switching to heavier, high ballistic coefficient bullets and using Strelok Pro ballistic calculator on my phone to calculate the shot. I now no longer worry about the bullet drop or velocity that much. I work to get an accurate load and then let Strelok Pro tell me what to dial for the shot.

With all this said about higher BC bullets and target turrets I was ready to jump into the 30 caliber realm with my own flare... a Model 1885. Model 1885s aren't your typical long-range rifle that long-range shooter shoot today. Bolt actions rule in this category however I find some features of the 1885 more to my personal liking.

A couple for trips to the range and the reloading bench and I was able to get a 208 Gr Hornady A-Max shooting sub MOA within a couple weeks in December. Not shooting as perfectly as I would like but good enough to take to the field after a cow elk.

Dallen and my first trip out was on January 1st. And what a cold morning it was. It was well below zero and the moisture from my breath was freezing on my beard making it look like a flocked Christmas Tree. It was cold. We were prepared with our Browning technical clothing. What a change from the cotton denim jeans of my youth. I like having better clothing choices we now have.

I knew it was going to be tough to find some elk. The day before we went to glass the ridges way up the canyon from the road with my spotting scope and we were not able to find any sign of elk in the traditional areas they like to winter in along the ridgelines.

We had several vehicles of hiking hunters and some horse hunters in the area when we went in early in the morning on the 1st. With the lack of elk there was also going to be a lot of pressure from hunters. All of the hiking hunters usually only hike in a mile or two and the horse hunters will ride all the way to the back of the property at about 4 miles in. We came prepared to haul two elk out from as far in as we decided to hike.

We decided to head to one of my favorite locations about three miles in to watch a finger canyon the elk like to cross. As we approached this canyon we spotted a young bull with a goofy left antler but no cows. Once to the area I wanted to be in we setup and glassed around the main canyon and only could spot other hunters. After glassing for a while Dallen spotted two cows and a bull moving across the canyon above us over a 1000 yards away.

We took off trying to catch up to the two cows but they were headed out of dodge and we never caught up with them. I'm guessing most likely moving out because of other hunters bumping them. So much for our first trip out. We weren't the only ones that didn't get an elk. Other than us practicing on some rocks this was the only shooting we heard in the area all day.

I was able to dial up a 612 yard shot with the assistance of Strelok Pro and my Galaxy S4 phone and drill a rock. It's nice to verify a load will shoot where you are expecting it to.


Two days later Dallen and I were out again trying another area. We hiked all around in the area finding no sign at all of any elk other than a really smart lone calf that somehow gave us the slip. With pickens slim this year I was going to have Dallen take the calf if it hadn't of slipped out of the draw without us seeing it.

A week later I was back out looking for elk. This Saturday I was going solo. Dallen had a long week of Basketball games and late-night homework so I let him sleep in. A right-handed player that loves to go left, at 6'4" and 240 lbs he's got some moves. I just love his footwork. Here's a spin move from a few weeks back.

This time out there were five large horse trailers and nine vehicles in the parking lot. There was going to be a lot of people in the canyon.

On the way in I was passed by a group of horse hunters. I knew that I would hike well past where the hikers would go, especially because it had warmed up during the past week and all the southern facing draws were bare of snow. Hiking hunters usually have sleds and sleds don't work so well on bare ground.

As I made the turn off from the main trail I could see fresh horse tracks going on the trail in front of me. Dang it! It wasn't long before I spotted four cows feeding on a point above me... but how long would they stay there? Do the horse hunters see them? Well it didn't take long before I saw the elk pick their heads up and trot over the ridge. A few minutes later I watched the horses go over the ridge possibly after the elk if they even saw them. Oh well.

Even with the horses pushing the elk out of the area I decided to hang out in the area to see what would happen. I hiked up to a really good vantage point and spent a few hours glassing around the canyon. I did hear two shots in the very top of the main canyon but didn't see any elk.

As it got noon I decided to head back off the mountain. I hiked back around from looking in one draw to the draw I hiked up and there they were, three elk across the canyon at 650 yards. Two were bedded in the maples and one was standing a little ways off. The two bedded was clearly a cow and a calf and the lone elk looked larger than the calf. It looked like a yearling cow from my best judgment.

I studied the location and my options. The large cow was bedded into heavy of cover to thread a bullet into. The "yearling" eventually bedded out mostly in the open. There was a limb or two blocking it but not a lot. If I tried to get closer they would easily see me coming. If I moved from my current position the heavy trees would block my sight of the elk... based on this and the lack of seeing any elk I decided to take the shot from where I was at 645 yards.

I took my time and set up my rifle to shoot from a cliff. Strelok Pro gave me 12 MOA to dial my Vortex Viper PST scope and I sent a 208 A-Max across the canyon... Whop! Unfortunately, the shot hit a little further back than it should have.... did I can't the rifle? Did it deflect off a branch? Who knows. I quickly resolved the situation by sending a perfect follow-up heart shot. Whop! Boy these bullets make a loud whop on impact. No questioning if you hit the critter with these bullets.

With the elk down I worked my way around the canyon in full view of the cow and calf still bedded right where they were. As it would be I was able to get within 200 yards of the cow and calf in a spot where I could have taken a shot. If I knew I could have made it this close without them taking off and known that I could have seen them I would have opted to move in closer. Oh well. I got the elk anyway.

A few pics and a boned out elk and off the mountain I went. I would say that I was just about four miles in. The elk was on the shady side of the canyon in almost 2 feet of snow. It took me an hour to slowly work my way through the heavy deep snow for 400 yards or so. The next 3 1/2 miles only took me 1:15 as I was on bare ground and packed snow on the trail so I was cruising along.

The next couple of weeks Dallen and I never made it back out after his cow. Believe it or not, Dallen isn't quite as gung-ho to work so hard to get an antlerless elk. Not quite sure why getting up extra early, hiking in four miles spending all day hunting until after dark to not see a cow elk wouldn't be the most fun way to spend your Saturday?!? I'm going to have to set him straight. ;) I know he'd of been a lot more motivated to do an extreme bull elk hunt but not for a cow elk.

It seems that some years I really have to work to get a cow and this is the furthest I have ever had to go to get a cow. It almost feels like extreme cow elk hunting. 

Re-Tweeking the 208 A-Max 300 Win Mag Load
After this hunt I went back to the reloading bench and tweaked the 208 A-Max load. I am a lot more confident in the load. It is more accurate and faster than the load I used on this hunt. You can check out the load on my 300 Win Mag hand load page.

Other Articles of Interest:

Model 1885 High Wall - Bases, Rings, Triggers Etc.