At the end of this week I'll leave the Midwestern whitetail rut behind for my first-ever Western big game hunt in southwestern Montana. I'm feeling a mix of anxiety, nervousness and excitement for this high-elevation pursuit, but thankfully I'm confident in my rifle setup.
Guiding the adventure will be The Montana Way Outfitters. I'll share camp with friends from EOTech and Mike Schoby, editor of Petersen's Hunting. We'll all have big game combination licenses in our pockets, allowing us to target both elk and mule deer in the remote area where we'll be hunting. I'd be glad to kill either beast—I've never chased either—but our hope is to take mature bull elk.
EOTech is hosting the hunt as part of their active expansion from military and law enforcement applications into the hunting world. We'll be utilizing EOTech's state-of-the-art holographic weapon sights to try and fill our tags. From what I've gathered, the other guys will be donning AR-10s because the AR platform naturally accomodates EOTech's rail-mounted products. However, I want to kill my first mountain critter with a bolt rifle—just because—so I put together my own unique setup.
I'll be shooting a Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle chambered in .308 Win., topped with a custom Picatinny rail from XS Sight Systems. Sitting on the rail is an EOTech XPS2 sight (XPS2-0 reticle). Behind the sight on a Quick Switch to Side (STS) mount is an EOTech G33.STS 3X magnifier, allowing for improved long-range accuracy. The optics sit rather high, so I attached a Blackhawk! Rifle Cheek Pad to attain a comfortable cheek weld. (Note: It pays to know gun gurus such as Ron Spomer and Richard Mann when getting this sophisticated.)
After methodical testing of five different ammo types, I found that my Ruger Gunsite Scout really loves Federal's 165-grain Trophy Bonded Tips. Shooting from sandbags out to 100 yards using just the sight (magnifier flipped to side), I'm drilling consistent 2-inch groups. I know an elk's vitals are much bigger than that. Now it's onward to some 200-yard practice before I head West.
During the next week I'll discover how this setup works in the rough Rocky Mountain terrain against some of the toughest big game animals in North America. I'll provide more of the rifle specs and details from the hunt later.
In the meantime, please tell me about your Western big game rifles below.