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Features of a good moose hunting gun - Part 3

Moose Guns 3

By Dan Brooks

When choosing a firearm to hunt moose, I've talked about making sure the firearm matches the hunter, and I've talked about why I prefer the .338 Win Mag myself.  Now I'd like to talk about a couple other consideration when choosing your next moose gun.


Here at Crystal Lake our moose hunts are traditional fair chase.  We hunt the lakes and meadows, calling bulls in during the rut.  Our style of hunting requires hunters to have a moose gun appropriate to where we hunt.  For example, if hunting in a meadow, you'll likely be dealing with lots of brush.  You'll need a firearm that can shoot a heavy bullet to avoid possible deflection at close range.  We also hunt lots of lakes, and some of our best lakes require shots at 400 yards plus.  That's a tough combination for most calibers, but not impossible.  On the other hand, with the exception of Kluless Lake where our stand is on the cliff an hundred feet above the lake, we don't have to consider elevation when shooting as one might in more mountainous country.

When shooting in thick timber where brush is an issue, the bigger the bullet the better.  Smaller bullets deflect easier and more erratically.  Of course, hunters should ensure all shots are ethical, and shooting through brush is questionable, but in all likelihood you won't notice the branch that spins your bullet out of control in the moose fever of the moment.   I personally like 225 grain bullets, Barnes X specifically, and they are readily available in .338 caliber, but unlikely to be found in smaller calibers.  Whatever your caliber, buy or load bullets that are as close to 200+ grains as possible.  Factory ammunition in the 180 grain range are easy to find in .30 caliber, but harder in .270.  If you hand load, you'll have a wider range of bullet weight options.  

When shooting over water you need to be prepared for longer shots, and deflection isn't an issue.  My Dad used to tell me if you can shoot a deer at 200 yards, you can shoot a moose at 400 yards.  The kill zone on a moose is huge - easily 18"x18" even on small bulls and up to 24"x24" on bigger bulls.  Many firearms shoot between 16" and 24" low at 400 yards.  The distance from the top of his hump to the bottom of his briscut is about 36-40". My Dad's rule - and I've found it very reliable - is at 400 yards you put your cross hairs right on the top of his back.  So whatever your firearm, make sure your ballistics aren't lower than 24" at 400 yards. 

So keep these things in mind when choosing your firearm for your next moose hunt at Crystal Lake.  

But no good blog is complete without a hunting story related to the subject.  

Troy had seen a huge trophy bull early in his hunt but didn't get a shot.  He spent the next 8 days trying to find the bull again to no success.  After I'd tagged out my other hunters I came to help the guide and convince Troy to hunt somewhere else.  Reluctantly he agreed (that bull he saw must have been magnificent!)  Early the next morning we hunted into Long Lake.  Following the trail, we hunted along several meadows and arrived at Long Lake about 8:00.  As we approached we could hear a bull raking trees.  As soon as we realized what the sound was, our pace quickened and we hurried down to the lakeshore.  Fog was coming and going in wisps, but clear as day we could see a nice bull courting a cow on the opposite shoreline.  The geography of Long is just that... long.  Which means it's a long ways around the lake to the other side if you're walking, but it's only 400 yards across at it's widest point.  

"That's a long ways."  Troy was unsure what my plans were.  

"About 400 yards, very doable."  

"Can we get closer?" He asked.  

"I doubt it, too far around, but that bull is a 4x8 sheet of plywood, big target, I'll walk you through it."

I got Troy set up using a tree limb as a rest.   "Put your cross hairs on his back, lined up with his front leg, you'll drop right into the boiler room.  Are you on him?"  

"I'm on him."

"Wait for a good shot.  There he is broadside, no fog, cow is clear.  Shoot when you're ready."  

Boom!  And that's what moose guns are for!



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