2009 Cow Elk Hunt — Dallen's First Cow Elk Taken With A 243 WSSM

Dallen and 243 WSSM A-Bolt right after the shot

Just after Dallen shoots his first cow elk, using my A-Bolt Stainless Laminate in 243 WSSM.

Dallen and I both had late cow tags this year. After we struck-out with our rifle deer tags we were really hopeful for a little redemption by filling our cow elk tags. I would be testing a new 270 WSM, 140g AccuBond load out with my Winchester Model 1885. I spent a good couple of weeks tweaking the load and shooting group after group. I finally narrowed my load down to the best sub inch consistent shooting load.

The 28 inch barrel of this rifle is pushing the 140g AccuBond bullet 3540 fps. Oh yeah, a cruise missile. If you want a pick up a lot of speed try a 28 inch barrel out for size. With this rifle being a single shot there isn't a large amount of the overall length taken up by the action. Thus, this 28 inch barreled rifle comes in the same lengths as a 24 inch Model 70 would. Even with the AccuBond's stronger frame I knew any impact speeds above 3000 fps were going to disintegrate this bullet. At the speed my rifle was shooting this bullet's ideal expansion/penetration looks to be in the range of 350-700 yards. I was very curious to see how effective the bullet would be on a cow elk.

Not only was I trying a new bullet out of my rifle, the rifle was also equipped with a new scope. I was trying in the field for the first time a 2.5-16x Bushnell Elite 6500. I really liked the scope while shooting from the bench. The biggest thing I liked was the extra half inch of eye relief over the Elite 4200 that I did have on this rifle. For some reason, with my well above average stature, my forehead likes to get scope bit when shooting magnum recoiling calibers. Not the case with this rifle scope. Scope bites have vanished. Yeah!

Dallen was once again carrying my little 243 WSSM Browning A-Bolt Stainless Laminate Hunter. He would be using the same load that he used on his spike elk from two months prior, a 80 grain Barnes Tipped Triple Shock coming out the barrel at 3350 fps.

I decided to take a scouting trip on my own to access the whereabouts of the elk and if the stars aligned I go ahead and take care of filling my tag.

It was a bitter cold morning when I headed up the mountain in the dark. Boy was it bitterly cold. I think I said that already. I picked the wrong morning! The moisture from my breath was freezing my eyelashes shut if I paused while blinking my eyes.  I hiked in a couple miles and up about 1,500 vertical feet trying to located the elk in their usual places. Something had changed their patterns this year as there wasn't any sign of the elk being in their usual spots. It was still nice to be out of the office and get some good exercise but where were the elk?

The following week I heard reports that a heard of around forty elk was about a mile up the mountain on the other side of the small mountain range I was hunting. Dallen and I went out that evening to glass from the road and verify the herds location and come up with a plan. Because of the location we asked a very kind rancher to allow us to cross his property in hopes of getting our tags filled. "Sure come tomorrow and remove a couple of them for me." No problem, Thank you!

The next morning we headed out just after light. We spotted the elk again from the road and found they had moved over and back a ridge. We devised a plan and off we went.

After a good 400 foot vertical climb and a 70 yard crawl through about a foot of snow we were in position and setup on our Stoney Point Steady Stixs. The herd was mostly bedded down across a finger draw off the main canyon. The elk ranged from 230 to 300 yards away depending on which cow you were looking at. Even though it was one of the further elk I asked Dallen to take a cow that was standing broadside at 272 yards. At this range the bullet would be basically dead on. I picked out a cow at 242 yards that was bedded down broadside but still offered a good shot.

Dallen with 243 WSSM rifle and his first cow elk
Dallen's cow taken with 243 WSSM using a 80 gr Tipped Triple Shock at 272 yards.

I gave him the go ahead. Boom, boom...thump, whop! The cow I was shooting quickly jumped up and stood broadside. I could see Dallen's cow sliding down, down the hill. He's ecstatic! The elk started to file their way out of the canyon. My cow looked sick but kept on standing so I let her have another one right behind the shoulders. Boom...Whop! And she just stands there. Dallen starts heckling me about how quickly his went down... The herd is now clearly making an exit. My cow decides she wants to make an exit and even though I knew she had to be dead on her feet I didn't want any part of having to hike any farther to get these elk off the mountain. So I let her have it again. This time she had turned around and was going away. I shot to the left of her hind quarter, through the rumen and straight toward the opposite shoulder. Boom...Whop! This time she decided she should lay down and about thirty seconds later her head finally hit the ground. Boy did Dallen really start heckling me that he could kill them quickly with one shot and Dad with is big rifle took three. I think I might be hearing about this for some time to come... Dad remember that year it took you three shots and I only took one to get my elk.

Dallen with my cow elk taken with my Model 1885 in 270 WSM
My cow taken with my Model 1885 270 WSM using 140 gr Accubond handloads.

Now the work began. This was the first time I was the only adult to take care of two elk on the ground. We had come prepared to bone out and bring two elk off the mountain and that's what we did, all in one trip. It took several years of experimenting with different sleds and modifying them to get a system that works great for hauling meat off the mountain in snow.  It's a combination of modified saucer sleds and my home made heavy duty canvas meat bags. I'll write more about my snow meat hauling system in another post.

I used my custom Russ Kommer knife again on these elk. I wish I had this knife 20 years ago. The blade had not touched anything to sharpen it since Russ sharpened it. I had previously boned out Dallen's spike with the knife and now I was going to see how well it went through these elk. I boned out the first of the two cows in a breeze — razor sharp through two elk. Before using it on the second cow I did run the blade on a ceramic sharpener a few times and finished off the second elk.

80g Tipped Triple Shock and 85g Triple Shock fired from 243 WSSM and recovered from cow elk.

Both of these bullets were fired from my 243 WSSM rifles. They were recovered from cow elk after punching the shoulders and resting against the hide on opposite side.

  • Left - 85g Triple Shock,
    132 yards, 3500fps, Dec. 2006
  • Right - 80g Tipped Triple Shock,
    272 yards, 3360fps, Dec. 2009

View more of my recovered Barnes Triple Shock bullets.

I was in a hurry to get these animals boned out so I didn't spend a great deal of time opening the chest cavity up and seeing what  performance the 140 AccuBond had. The first two shots both hit a rib upon entry and appeared to have exploded just inside the rib cage. There was no sign that the bullets penetrated to the other side of the rib cage. The third shot entered the rumen, crossed through and broke a rib under the shoulder on the opposite side. I looked  for some time but could not find any large bullet remains.

Dallen's cow was shot about five inches higher than his spike. The bullet went through the shoulder blades on both sides and stopped against the hide. The bullet was a picture perfect mushroom shape just like Barnes advertises.

I still need to test this 140g AccuBond load a little more. A lot of people swear by them and I believe them. I just think I might be sending them on their way just a little faster than Nosler had planned that they would go.  I think I might plan on neck shots at closer ranges and enjoy the speed that will make this bullet extremely deadly at long ranges. And Dallen is now two shots for two elk with the little 243 WSSM and the little 80 grain Tipped Triple Shock! I'm really liking the performance of this bullet. Most of all I had another wonderful day in the field with my son making memories we will always remember.

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