Over the years I have read with interest various opinions on what is the maximum distance to take a big game shot. I am interested to hear what people would do in this recent hunting scenario and WHY:
I just returned from a individually guided Bob Marshall Wilderness 9 day hunt. On the third day my guide spotted a herd of elk at about the 7100 foot elevation at least 2 mountain ridges over with his spotting scope and we began our hunt. The first 2 hours or so was on horseback through the typical rugged wilderness country until we were on the upside of the ridge one over from the herd. Now we hiked up the mountain with several inches of fresh snow mostly in the cover of conifers. Towards the top of the ridge we were literally crawling to the edge of the trees on our ridge with a treeless ravine below us and the herd on the upslope of the next ridge grazing and moving slowly up the ridge relatively soon to cross over into the next bank of ridges where we would lose them for the day. Light snow and fog moving in and out. Several bulls with at least one very nice one but hard to know exactly how big given weather and range at 510 yards. He is standing still head to my left broadside with slight quartering away. I used a Swarovski range finder so know we are fairly accurate. I shoot a Cooper Custom 30-06 with a 4-12 Swarovski 50mm scope. I have it ranged out to 500 yards back in the midwest on my ranch and use the new Federal Trophy copper 180 gram ammo which is extraordinarily accurate in my rife compared to some others I have tried even out to 600 yards. Data suggest the penetration and knockdown power of copper ammo at longer distances is very good. Lots of practice back home in multiple shooting positions. No way to approach any further without being seen. If I shoot it would be from prone position with my 2 guides both glassing. Fog moving in now quickly and have to decide----I have made this shot numerous times in the "kill zone" back home but----I decide to take the shot with right to left crosswind of around 5 mph and slight upgrade incline to the bull. The shot "felt good" but I don't see him go down and now fog moves in and herd is moving over the ridge. I initially think I missed him but in my mind's eye it felt really good. One guide thinks he kneeled but couldn't see more. We start walking up our ridge and then up a connecting ridge in the fog. I don't see much for quite awhile but as we get closer I see something wedged against a down log that turns out to be my bull. He had moved up the hill for a short distance and then rolled/slid down the mountain for a 75 yards before wedging against the log. A nontypical 5X6 about 6-7 years old. Bullet entered just behind front shoulder and exited just in front of opposite shoulder at base of neck with massive blood loss in snow as he rolled down the hill. I felt good about what I had done to prepare for this trip with the best equipment available and confidence with 2 experienced guides glassing for me. Still I know some would criticize my decision to take the shot.
We hiked down into the woods and about 2 hours later I got a beautiful 5x4 mule deer as well. Great hunt. Memorable. Meat in the freezer. Racks being mounted. Elk ivory tooth ring made in Missoula just arrived today and gorgeous with memories secured for a lifetime.