December 19, 2021
My freezer was all but bare when the elk and deer tags arrived in the mail. Elk are my favorite big game animals to hunt and the prospect of a buck of either deer species was gravy. The hunt would take place in Montana’s Madison Valley, south of Bozeman. In this region, the great elk herds cling to the rolling hills and sage flats, steering clear of the timber where the grizzlies and wolves lie in wait. Bigger bulls often seek refuge in the timbered high ground, though, so the variation of shot opportunities can be significant. Fortunately, I was armed with great gear capable of handling bulls in the close cover as well as the open plains below.
The rifle was a Magnus from Cody, Wyoming-based Gunwerks. As true custom rifles built to the customer’s specs, each example is unique. This rifle was built on Gunwerks’ titanium action and came chambered in .300 PRC. The 22-inch carbon-wrapped barrel provided ample velocity and a suppressor from Silent Legion kept the rifle’s report and recoil to a minimum. This Magnus was light and portable but still stable from field positions, an increasingly rare balance these days. Accuracy was excellent with the rifle stacking 215-grain Berger Hybrids into a cloverleaf at 100 yards despite the howling wind.
Given the variability of the local hunting conditions, our choice of optic was an important one. EOTech’s Vudu 1-10X28mm proved to be ideal. This versatility of these scopes is something that we couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago. At 1x, the Vudu is as fast as a red dot or holographic sight, ideal for hunting thick timber. Dialed up to higher magnification, the optic is capable of making precision shots out to any reasonable hunting distance. Compact with an intuitive and useful reticle, I quickly became a fan.
The morning found us below a herd of more than 200 elk, using the folds in the terrain to get as close as possible. Despite it being mid-November, the herd’s dominant bull was bugling like it was September, filling the mountain air with one of my favorite sounds as his cows fed around him. When my opportunity came, the herd was alert and beginning to move over the next ridge. I dialed for elevation, got set up on the Revic tripod, and waited for the trailing bull to show me his shoulder at 350 yards. My shot took him through the heart but it still took multiple Bergers to put him down.
Later that week, with a deer tag still in my pocket, we made a move on a muley buck bedded with 20 or so willing does. He was in a wide-open and flat pasture, using his eyesight as his primary means of defense. We used a creek bottom to cut the distance, finally low-crawling until we ran out of anything resembling cover. With the Vudu set on 6x I found a steady prone position and leaned into the bipod. Ray, a true Montana cowboy, blew his cow call and the buck stood alertly to face us. In a few seconds, he would bolt.
Nervous about the penetration ability of the match bullets, I didn’t take any chances. I held the illuminated dot on the center of his throat and severed his spine at 250 yards. He didn’t take another step. The brow-tined 4x3 buck was a fine one, with chocolate antlers and a wide spread. Like the elk, he was in great condition and would provide many a meal at my family’s table.
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