Wyoming Antelope Hunt, Day 1

By Aaron Carter, Managing Editor, AR

Most non-trophy antelope hunts are short in duration, and this hunt, sponsored by Burris Optics, is no different; however, this oftentimes means every minute must be accounted for. Such proved to be the case today.

Upon arriving in Gillette, Wyo., late this evening, veteran gun writer Dave Henderson, whose byline is oftentimes found in American Hunter, and myself we were immediately greeted by host Patrick Beckett. Although time was of the essence, as daylight was fading and the guns’ zeroes needed to be verified, I took a few minutes to view and photograph the taxidermy displayed at the airport. The quality of work was impressive. After collecting our bags we departed for Moorcroft, where we would be staying at the well-kept Rangeland Court Motel and RV Park.

       antelope

Before heading in town, though, we stopped at the hunting property to confirm our firearms’ zeroes, and then to test them at extended range, where shots on antelope are most often taken. Whereas Henderson, perhaps the foremost authority on slug guns, is using Savage Model 220 20-ga. slug gun, I’m here to testing two distinctly different Burris products—the futuristic Eliminator riflescope and a conventional 2-7X handgun scope—so I brought along a rifle and a handgun.

The Eliminator is affixed to a 26”-barreled E.R. Shaw Mark VII rifle in 6.5-.284 Norma, and the 2-7X scope is atop an SSK Industries-tuned Thompson/Center Encore handgun fitted with a 14 ½”-long SSK Industries barrel in .250 Savage Improved. To ensure zero was maintained, the latter is secured on an SSK Industries’ TSOB base with three Burris Signature rings.

With the battery installed and the Eliminator securely mounted, the first step in preparing for long-range shooting was zeroing closer in—either 100 yds. or 200 yds. I chose the former. Once sighted in, programming requiring only choosing desired unit of measurement—yards or meters—zero distance (in this case 100 yds.) and the drop (in inches) at 500 yds. The company’s literature provides the latter for most factory ammunition.

Since I’m using handloads I utilized Hornady’s Ballistic Calculator to determine bullet drop. Once the bullet weight and ballistic coefficient, velocity, wind speed, temperature, and elevation are entered, it calculates trajectory and wind deflection with your rifle/load combination. I cannot recommend enough, though, actually chrongraphing your ammunition so you know what it’s doing in your particular rifle. Websites, loading manuals and cartridge boxes are not necessarily spot-on. Also know that elevation and temperature changes will also influence bullet drop, so take this into account—a little internet research will provide both for where and when you’re hunting. One thing the Eliminator doesn’t take into account is wind deflection, so one must know the direction and speed of the wind, particularly as distance increases. Once again, this is where a ballistics program comes in handy.

With a muzzle velocity (as verified previously by an RCBS AmmoMaster chronograph) of slightly more than 3,000 f.p.s., the 6.5 mm, 130-gr. Swift Scirocco II—when teamed with 50.0 grs. of Ramshot Hunter, a Federal Gold Medal 210 Match primer, and Hornady cases—I selected for the hunt dropped about 43” at 500 yds. with a 100-yd. zero. With all the data entered into the Eliminator and the magnification set to 12X (required for trajectory compensation), the scope was ready to test at greater distances.

Using the Eliminator is easy; simply place the crosshair on the object to be fired upon (remember, do not point a firearm at anything you do not intend to destroy), then depress the main switch or the button on the remote transmitter, and the riflescope will reveal the true horizontal distance –an angle sensor compensates for uphill or downhill angles—and light up the proper aiming point. Then place that aiming point where you want the bullet to strike. I first tested the setup on steel reactive targets at slightly more than 200 yds. and 300 yds., then 406 yds., and finally, 530 yds.—all were first-round hits. Impressive! It’s a good idea to verify the true drop out to distances that you’ll be shooting. The gun is certainly ready for tomorrow.

With only minutes of daylight left, I fine-tuned the Burris 2-7X handgun scope atop the Encore. Thankfully, only a few minor adjustments were needed, so the process was expedited. With the 100-yd. zero confirmed, I sent a few rounds beyond 200 yds. at reactive targets. With a muzzle velocity slightly more than 2,800 f.p.s., the 100-gr. Nosler Ballistic Tips I’m using shoot relatively flat, and especially at typical handgun distances. Everything looked good, so it too is ready for the morning hunt.

Having only taken a few whitetail deer and feral hogs with handguns, I’m especially excited about using the handgun on an antelope doe—it’ll be taken with an over-the-counter tag purchased after the draw. It’s always a good idea to check about additional opportunities, especially in areas with a lot of private land. Oftentimes there are a good number of tags leftover.

I cannot wait until tomorrow….

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