Campfire Talk Part 24 with Larry Weishuhn

25 February 2013

There were numerous hunters at the Sonora Dark Horn Adventures’ Golindrina Ranch enjoying an extremely fine evening meal. Three of those in camp had taken not only near record book Coues whitetail deer, but also extremely fine desert bighorn sheep. Dreams had been fulfilled! Including one of my own, that to take a monster Coues whitetail. Earlier that afternoon my guide Chapo Juvera, cameraman Derek Harris and I had a most successful hunt. After having passed up numerous nice Coues deer, we had spotted, stalked to as close as possible, and then made a successful shot on a huge 5 by 5 with two short “kickers” near the brow-tines. Close as possible actually meant taking a shot at 573 yards. This is tremendously farther than any shot I wanted to take, but the buck was HUGE and there was simply no way to get any closer. More on that deer later... Supper completed and all satiated, it was quite natural the talk turned to hunting and guns we hunters choose and use. In camp were those who chose to hunt with extremely expensive long-range rifles, chambered for such long range shooters as the .300 Remington Ultra Mag, the 7mm STW, and a 6.5mm wildcat whose designation I can not now recall. These rifles based on Remington Model 700 actions, had a reputation and proved their worth in taking desert bighorns, Coues deer and desert mule deer at ranges out to 600 yards and beyond. Me I was using a Ruger American Rifle, topped with a Zeiss Conquest scope and shooting Hornady ammo. Mine was a .30-06! I had had experience with the .300 Rem Ultra Mag and 7mm STW. Years ago when the .300 Rem Ultra Mag was about to be introduced I shot the second and third animals taken with that caliber. At the time we were hunting (I was then the Hunting Editor for SHOOTING TIMES magazine) in the Prophet-Muskwa River area of British Columbia, Canada. Tom Vince, my guide and I on the first part of the hunt spotted a nice 6 x 6 bull elk high on a ridge. Initially the waited along the stream at the bottom of the mountain, thinking the elk would surely come down to water sometimes during the day. As the day progressed it became apparent the bull was not going to come down. As a matter of fact the 6 x 6 we were interested in, went farther up the mountain. About mid-afternoon we did the same and headed up the mountain. We caught up with the bull elk we had watched from down below just before dark. He bugled and bugled just out of sight. By taking my time and taking advantage of the light breeze I was able to get to within a shooting position where only a narrow strip of evergreens separated us. I was beginning to wonder if I would get a shot. THen the bull moved and suddenly I could see his rack, head and the upper parts of his neck. From a grand distance of less than 5 yards I shot the bull. He simply went down in a heap! Later that same trip Tom and I hunted Rocky Mountain goat. We finally found three billies high on a long slope. Each billy was about 600 yards from the other, and the biggest was the one most distant. It took all day of clinging to rocks while stalking to within a bit over 500 yards. At that point there simply was no way to get any closer. I took a solid rest and put three shots into the 9 inch goat’s vitals before he went down. So fell the third animal ever taken with the .300 Remington Ultra Mag! With the 7mm STW (Shooting Times Westerner), which was developed by my fellow SHOOTING TIMES writer Layne Simpson, I had numerous opportunities to shoot critters both near and far in the States but also in Canada. I shot several really great deer with that caliber, and a big monstrous black wild hog on the Cook Ranch near Albany, Texas at just over 500 yards. Later that same trip I shot a coyote at what we ranged just a bit over 750 yards. I recalled numerous of those shots and hunts as those in camp talked about long range shooting. I had made numerous long range shots in the past, but I chose not to talk about them, because I personally really don’t believe in shooting extremely long range, unless there is no other choice. As they talked I also recalled numerous sessions at the shooting ranges at the FTW Ranch where they teach SAAM, Sportsman All Weather All Terrain Marksmanship. Tim Fallon, Doug Prichard and others are amazing instructors in that they teach true marksmanship at ranges near and far. But one of the things I really like about their course is that they teach hunters the limitations of their guns and their own limitations with them. They do not encourage long range shooting unless otherwise necessary. As I listened I heard several things from others in camp. I am not one who encourages long range shooting at big game animals, as already mentioned. To me for the most part that’s simply shooting and not really hunting. To me, at least, hunting encompasses many things, including trying to get as close to our “prey” as possible before taking a shot. To do otherwise as I mentioned is simply “shooting”. In today’s world there seems to be a trend toward extremely long range shooting. No doubt we have the firearms, optics and ammo to do so. But in my opinion long range shooting should be a last resort, and employed only if there simply is no way to get closer...AND... and that AND... is of great importance, that only after one has practiced many times at such ranges should the hunter take an extremely long range shot. In my instance, I did take a long shot..and interestingly I did it, as mentioned with a Ruger American Rifle in .30-06, topped with a Zeiss Conquest scope and shooting Hornady SST ammo. My complete rig cost far less than $1,000 as opposed to many of the long range rigs that will set you back $5,000 and considerably more. But I had often practiced with my .30-06 Ruger American Rifle at distances out to 700 yards and I knew I could keep my shots within less than a 6 inch group at that distance. But even though my rifle/scope/ammo are capable of such long range shots it doesn’t mean they should be the norm, but rather the exception. If you wish to learn to shoot long range, let me suggest you contact the FTW Ranch about their SAAM courses. But let me also suggest you work on your “getting close” skills as well! Then if things go awry and you can’t get closer, then be prepared to take the long range shot... About the time you read this, I’ll be back in Sonora, Mexico with Sonora Dark Horn Adventures hunting desert bighorn sheep. And this time my rifle will be a Ruger American Rifle, chambered in .270 Win, topped with a Zeiss Conquest scope and shooting Hornady 130 grain SST commercial loads. I’ve dreamed most of my life about hunting and taking a desert bighorn ram. Once I return I’ll tell you a bit about my hunt. The hunt will be the thirteenth episode of my upcoming “Dallas Safari Club’s Trailing the Hunter’ Moon” television show, which begins airing in late June, 2013 on Sportsman Channel on Saturday mornings, among other times. Have a most enjoyable week...