“Big Game” in the areas of my hunting world would include: whitetail deer, bear, elk and moose. Feral hogs have recently moved in but are not yet legal game.
That’s BIG GAME, not small game, varmints or predators which I also hunt at times…
Potential ranges in the “Far North” of our province might be up to a kilometre or more, and down to a handful of metres as the terrain is extremely variable. Black bear in those areas could include some that are huge since few are shot. They feed on calf moose and even some adults, along with beaver kits and adult beaver that they can catch on land. That’s in addition to anything else they might pounce on, like deer or rabbits. As well, bugs, berries and grasses help fill their avid appetites. Moose can go to 1400 lbs and elk to 750. Whitetailed bucks can hit 400 lbs.
Farther south into Central Ontario, the situation is not totally dissimilar, except there are more people and all that involves.
Southern Ontario is where most of the 13 million inhabitants dwell, with a mix of urban, suburban, industry and agriculture, spotted by small and large lakes, towns, villages and cottage country.
My hunting over the past +40 years, since 1980, has mostly been in Central and Northern Ontario, away from the masses. There is no hunting of antelope or mule deer in Ontario that is found farther west on the Prarie Provinces and/or Western Canada – otherwise, mostly the same species, but not necessarily identical in size. Some provinces farther west have similar terrain in their northern regions to Northern Ontario. And the western coyote is smaller than the hybred wolf-coyote of Ontario (now called by the MNRF: The “Algonquin wolf”, which, against sound science, is protected as a “rare species”, that is based on nothing more than political bias).
All that to help clarify my leaving sub-mediums (25 to 30 calibers) in favor of mediums (.338 – .375) and big-bore calibers for big game.
While not the same context, yet the following was received from a correspondent, not long ago from “David”:
“Bob, I recently built a .35 Whelen solution for a big game timber hunting rifle that can be used by my son. We hunt very big pigs in NC and bear/moose in Canada. I found that these trendy small fast bullet fads are not working for us.”
“However, we have had lots of bullet failures – from Nosler, Hornady and Barnes over the past five years. My conclusion is, at these very high velocities, a bullet has to perform perfectly to result in a quick kill, and worse than that, no bullet/load works perfectly at 50 AND 700 yards…”
“I bought an old 30-06, Rem 700 for the action, then a new stock, trigger and barrel chambered for the .35 Whelen (which had been recommended by a retired 84 year old gunsmith – bold italics mine). Using 250gr Partitions and Varget powder I’ve gotten 2645 and MOA of 0.70.”
“We took it pig hunting last weekend and devastated 4 very large animals weighing over 350 lbs from 125 to 381 yards. They just fell over.”
“Based on my ballistics calculator, this rifle will deliver a tremendous punch out to 400 yards – enough to drop any animal in N.A.”
And he praises the 250gr Nosler Partition.
My take away from David’s commentary/summary is exactly what I’ve been preaching for the past 1/4 century or more.
However else we may want to measure it, some of us have “discovered” through experience that smaller-bore rifles don’t compete well with larger-bore rifles in “punch” at any reasonable range on large game when psi, sectional density and bullet build and profile are equal. Construct any kind of physics we may want, but the final proof is found in honest observation of results in the field.
And I’ve had similar experiences with bears.
< This 286gr/9.3mm Partition fell to the ground on skinning a 6′ bear that was hanging from the tree my stand was located in. It was a head-on shot from 68 yards. One and done. The bullet fell from the right flank after penetrating from just below the chin, and retained 210 grains. It was fired from my 9.3 (.366-cal) x 62 Mauser at an MV of +2600 fps.
Let’s just do some physics: Assuming equal placement of bullets, and their construction, a 7mm (.284″) has a cross-sectional area of .063 sq. in. compared to a .358″ caliber with .101 sq. in. The 7mm has only 62% of the size hole it would make compared to a .358-cal IF shot into a hardwood tree! No doubt exists, when viewed objectively, that the pressure exerted inside that tree would be significantly more in a .358″ hole than a .284″ hole. And those wouldn’t be bored holes, but holes where the wood, under great pressure, isn’t removed from inside the tree but pressed against the existing natural hardwood structure of the tree. It’s nearly impossible to imagine that kind of pressure, though I suppose it could be scientifically calculated.
Several years ago, I did such a test in a 9″ white birch. Everything wasn’t exactly equal, but similar. The two rifles were a .340 Wby Mag firing a 250gr Partition at over 2900 fps and my #1 Ruger in .45-70 LR firing a 500gr Hornady RN at +2100 fps.
The bullet constructions were somewhat distinct, so also the profiles and sectional densities. But energies were similar at around 5000 ft-lbs. The range was ~ 15 yards.
Results: The 250gr Partition gave full penetration with an approximate bullet-size hole. The 500gr didn’t make a complete exit, but it’s nose was sticking out the far side of the tree. The big difference was in the “size” of the .458″ hole, and the fact that the hardwood tree was cracked both above and below that hole by upwards of 5 inches in each direction! And that wasn’t a dead tree but one that was very healthy! (I hope you’re not a tree hugger!)
A similar event had previously occured at a bear camp: My son and I, along with a friend and one of his friends were together at that camp. To while-away time before heading out to our blinds or stands, we did some chores, chatted, ate food and created mischief. Phil (my son) and I dreamed up the idea of bullet penetration tests into a stacked pile of maple wood (for the stove). These were big chunks – about 18 inches in length by 6 to 8 inches in cross section. The idea was to shoot into the exposed ends of the maple wood, and we each picked a chunk that was similar to the other. Distance from the muzzles to the wood pile was about five yards. Phil was shooting his .338 Win and I my first (unmodified) Ruger No.1 in .45-70. His bullet was a 250gr Hornady and mine (again) a 500gr Hornady (this time about 1900 fps). In this case a 250gr Partition wouldn’t have penetrated more than the Hornady as the wood “would” hold it together in form. He shot first… his wood was down a couple of layers under those piled on top. The stick moved back a few inches and was later retrieved. He split it open with an axe and found the bullet, mostly intact.
Of course, I didn’t wait for him to pull out his chunk of wood from the pile before I fired into mine. The piece I fired the 500gr into was also down under a couple of layers of maple and flew from the pile and landed about ten feet beyond. That bullet was never found as it was a mammoth task even for Phil to find his. But that was a lesson in the effects of momentum. Kinetic energy was nearly the same, but from the virtual and visual effects, the 500gr/.458-cal won the day!
That was a near maximum load from the .338 Win, and also from the Ruger in .45-70 (pre LR version), but had that 500gr been fired from the parent case of the .338 (a .458 Win Mag), we might never have found that chunk of harwood maple! So bore size (all else about equal) does make a difference… and sometimes a huge difference! (assuming proper bullets and placement).
Recently,I’ve been writing on this theme quite often, but I find it more than just interesting, but also informative and even inspirational, that numbers of hunter-shooters are returning (or turning) to the “ancient” .35 Whelen over fast-small and sub-medium, “long-rang” cartridges when game gets heavy and tough. Although, the .35 Whelen seems very capable at both roles.
<My Traditions OUTFITTER G3 single-shot in .35 Whelen. It sure likes that 225gr AccuBond at 2850 fps MV!
.35 Whelen: the 225 AB is calculated to make 1805 fps/ 1628 ft-lbs at 550 yards = good for an 800 to 1000 lb animal with a good hit.
9.3 x 62 Mauser: the 250gr AB is calculated to make 1852 fps/ 1904 ft-lbs at 550 yards = good for a 1000 to 1200 lb animal with a good hit.
.458 Win Mag: a 400gr “X” (I still have enough for a moose hunt) is calculated to make 1623 fps/ 2340 ft-lbs at 575 yards = good for a 2000 lb animal with a good hit.
All of the above MVs are based on actual results from my three big-game rifles. Ranges and results have been determined from their published B.C. s and ambient normal conditions for September-October in my hunting areas. And… results at the suggested ranges are NOT based solely on kinetic energy, but sectional density, momentum and bullet cross-sectional area are important factors as well.
But all of the above is obviously much more than I’ll likely need for the rest of my hunting life, and I’ve never shot big game at anywhere near 550 yards. However, those calculations would have been in effect when I did a lot of moose hunting in the “Far North” of our province. There were areas where a 600 yard shot was viable, and moose were crossing within that range.
Those are good enough reasons for me to like ’em! I don’t have to keep a dozen different cartridges fed with too many cans of powder and thousands of bullets… especially in these uncertain times.
And that’s the view from here …
Til the next….