Sunday, July 26, 2009
Getting Ready For Elk...
Some of the earliest muzzleloader big game seasons are the elk hunts offered in the West. Some of these hunts begin as early as late September. And if you've drawn one of the muzzleloader hunt tags...and haven't finalized the load you intend to use...time is ticking away. This is being written on July 26th...and next week this time it will already be August.
If you've never hunted elk before, keep in mind that they are big animals. One bull I took in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah back in the mid 1990s easily topped 900 pounds on the hoof. So, it stands to reason when you are hunting an animal this large (even if it weighs "just" 700 pounds), it's going to take more knockdown power to get the job done than when going after even a big whitetail. Most hunting experts agree that it takes a minimum of 1,200 foot pounds to consistently put elk down quickly. And that is at the distance of the target, not at the muzzle.
If you're headed for Colorado, where the majority of muzzleloader elk hunts are held, keep in mind that you're faced with a few ridiculous (and non-supported) muzzleloader hunting restrictions - one being that you cannot hunt with a modern saboted bullet. Here, a very unknowledgeable state wildlife agency mandates the use of a less effective patched round ball or bore-sized conical bullet. While I personally feel it is great that the hunter who wants the challenge of "getting very, very close" and taking his or her elk with an old style muzzleloaded rifle and patched round ball has that opportunity, I also feel that it is not only wrong but unethical for a game department to prohibit the modern day muzzleloading hunter from going out with the most efficient rifle and load possible for cleanly taking game - especially game as large as elk.
For those who aren't all that muzzleloader ballistics savvy...did you know that a .50 caliber round-ball-rifle, stuffed with a 100 grains charge of FFFg black powder and a patched 183-grain .495" soft-lead round ball is good for 1,928 f.p.s. at the muzzle of a 28" T/C Hawken barrel, with 1,509 f.p.e. at the muzzle. By the time that aerodynamically inferior sphere gets to 100 yards, it has slowed to 1,095 f.p.s. - and hits with just 485 foot-pounds of punch. That's not enough for taking a 600 to 900 pound animal. In fact, such loads drop below the accepted 1,200 foot-pounds minimum energy level at only about 30 yards. At 50 yards,the rifle and load are good for only 834 f.p.e. - enough for deer, but not enough for elk.
Still, the Colorado Division of Wildlife condones the use of such loads during the muzzleloader elk season, while prohibiting the use of more effective saboted bullets that would greatly reduce wound loss. Take a load I've been playing with lately - shooting a T/C "Triumph" primer-ignition in-line rifle with 120-grains of Blackhorn 209 behind a saboted 325-grain .458" Hornady poly-tipped FTX bullet (loaded with a Harvester Muzzleloading "Crush Rib" sabot). At the muzzle of "this" 28-inch barreled rifle, this load is good for 2,017 f.p.s., with 2,935 f.p.e. At 100 yards, this big bullet would plow home with around 2,080 foot-pounds of big game taking knockdown power.
Which of these 28-inch barreled .50 caliber T/C rifles do you think would put a big ol' bull elk on the ground the quickest and most humanely?
Weigh in on this topic and share your thoughts about muzzleloader elk loads...and backward regulations that seem to be geared more toward wound loss than the clean harvest of such a great game animal.
(For more on the Hornady 325-grain FTX go to http://namlhunt.homestead.com/ProductReport.html)