In my last blog Moose Guns Part 1 I talked about matching the hunter to the firearm and knowing it's limits, and how Kalissa shot her bull moose with a .243 Win.
But I'm pretty sure everyone out there reading this isn't an 11 year old girl, so what if you can shoot any firearm you want - what then is the best moose gun?
There are so many factors which make a good moose gun, how do you weigh them all? As a guide I've hunted with hundreds of people with almost as many different firearms. I'd like to give you an opinion based not on all the different factors, but rather on my experience as a guide with so many different moose guns. And based on my experience the best moose hunting caliber is a .338. We can talk about what features I like best about it in another blog, but for now I'd like to talk about a couple experiences that really sold me on the .338.
Honeymoon Lake,a bull moose walks out on the lakeshore 550 yards away. Hunter lines up and after careful aim puts the moose down with his .338 Remington Ultra Mag. The shot is in the leg and not fatal, the bull flounders for a bit and then gets up. It stands there a bit and then beds down. It takes us 30 minutes to get to him before my hunter puts a second finishing shot on him.
Lapua Meadow, I call a bull moose in for a hunter about 90 yards away. With the moose standing behind brush facing us he shoots the bull with his .338 Lapua. The bull runs away about 100 yards into the timber and stops. The first shot is off to one side and isn't fatal, but we're able to walk up to the bull and my hunter finishes him.
The Diamond, extremely windy. As we walk into the meadow we jump a bull - he's 30 yards angling away on the run. My hunter takes a snap shot with his .338 Win Mag. The shot is too far forward with a bad angle. The bull goes another 10 yards and stops. With the bull now standing still, the second shot is an easy finish.
What do these three hunts have in common? Besides the .338 caliber firearms, in every situation the first shot was difficult and wasn't fatal, but proved enough to stop the bull so we could finish him. And it didn't matter the distance - 550 yards, 90 yards, 30 yards. My experience has been overwhelmingly positive with the .338. I've found it to be the most versatile for the variety of hunting situations we often find ourselves in while moose hunting. From shooting up close in brush to long distance over lakes - from running shots to poor angles - I've found that even when a hunter isn't able to get the bullet placement they want, with a .338 we will more than likely still get the bull.
Now that's not to say I haven't seem moose get away with a .338 slug in him, but when I think back on the wounded game I've seen over the years, the odds are overwhelmingly in favor of the .338. I watched a bull moose take 3 rounds from a 7mm at 30 yards and not even flinch. I've tracked bulls with several .300 Win Mag rounds in them - and they never slowed. Noone ever wants wounded game, and just because you shoot a .338 doesn't mean you won't miss, but if you do miss, you'll be glad it's a .338 that slowed that bull down.
Another story - I don't often get to moose hunt for myself, it's a bit of a curse - always the guide never the hunter. But several years ago we were enjoying rather exceptional success, and after tagging every hunter out, calling up the next week's hunters and inviting them early, and then tagging them out early as well I found myself in the rare situation of being in the rut with a moose tag in my pocket and no more hunters to guide. I took full advantage of the situation.
Early one morning I slipped into a little lake. The fog was thick and I couldn't see but a 100 yards. I could hear a moose walking in the water on the far end, and after making a call a bull answered me, followed by a cow who was clearly close to estrus and not about to relinquish her suitor. I attempted to get closer, but as hunting goes they moved off and I listened to them as they disappeared from fog to forest to far away. I continued to make calls myself - it was more pleasure than pursuit knowing full well this bull moose had other things in mind.
My calls paid off though, for after about an hour - and despite the fact I could still hear the first bull and cow in the distance, another bull began grunting and coming from the opposite direction. He was a long ways off, so I started walking the quad trail in his general direction hoping to cut some distance. Soon the bull was getting pretty close, but the timber was thick.
It happened fast, the bull came running up -30 yards and turns broadside - I can barely see his head and antlers (no don't look at the antlers!), I shouldered my rifle and looked for a shot. He was onto me, and I knew from experience that the bull was about to bolt. 3 seconds turns into 10 seconds turns into 30 seconds turns into an eternity. The bull turns his head, I know he's about to leave. I put my crosshairs where I know his chest is and I shoot right through the brush.
The moose bolts, runs 30 yards and dies right next to my quad trail! How convenient. The forensic analysis reveals the bullet hit brush, the tip splitting down the lead core, the bullet tumbles and strikes the bull sideways. The entrance is gigantic, the bullet path goes through both lungs and lodges in the hide on the opposite side. A smaller caliber or lighter bullet would have deflected further, likely missing or worse wounding him. But a 225 grain bullet from a .338 Win Mag is deadly in more circumstances and situations in moose hunting than any other rifle I've witnessed to date.
And that my friends is why I shoot a .338 Win Mag.