When it came time to go deer hunting this year, I didn’t have to think long before deciding to take the Ruger Precision Rifle rather than my light-weight 30-06. Yes, this rifle is heavier, but I was curious to find out if it was something I could hike all day with. It actually took me more time to decide between 6.5 Creedmoor and 243 Winchester than it did to choose the rifle platform itself. It was the week after my trip to the North Central Washington Gun Club, where we took the rifles out to 600 and 1000 yards. (See the range post HERE and the follow-up fireside chat HERE).
I could have dialed-out the dope to return these rifles to their 100 yard zero, but I couln’t recall with 100% confidence what the dope was based on multiple people shooting the rifles and tweaking things, so a 100 yard validation was in order. I only had about 1/2 hour to setup targets, setup my shooting area, and shoot four 5-shot groups with each rifle before sundown. What happened next surprised me: perhaps my best results with multiple rifles during such a “quick” 100 yard range session, especially considering it was the first measured groups fired with these rifles.
The 6.5 Creedmoor was up first: and it delivered. I shot both the 120 grain loads I had loaded and some 140 grain loads as well. It was obvious that the rifle much preferred the 120 grain bullets as my 140 grain load could only do about 1″ at 100 yards where the best 120 grain group was just 0.626″ as seen here:
Note: This load data in this article is for reference only. Always cross-reference with manufacturer’s load data. Ultimate Reloader is not responsible for errors or possible issues you may have when using this load data. Use at your own risk.
Here’s the load data for the 120 grain load I started with which produced the group shown above:
6.5 Creedmoor “new” 120 grain A-MAX loads
- Bullet: Hornady 6.5mm 120 grain A-MAX
- Primer: CCI Large Rifle #200
- Powder: Hodgdon H-4350: 43 grains
- Brass: New Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor
- COL: 2.670″
Wow- it seemed so easy with this rifle setup. Next up was the 243 Winchester Ruger Precision Rifle. Using some brass I had previously fired in the Ruger Precision Rifle, I performed the 100 yard re-zero with the only load I had tried in this rifle, and it performed amazingly! This load put 5-shots into a 0.341″ group at 100 yards:
To tell you the truth: I thought it would take a more time, work, and load development to get results like this. What this shows is that with the right rifle and components, sometimes you can get great results right off the bat!
Here’s the load data that produced the group shown above:
243 Winchester 87 grain Reloads
- Bullet: Berger 87 grain HPBT (VLD)
- Primer: CCI Large Rifle #200
- Powder: Hodgdon Varget, 35.5 grains
- Brass: Previously fired 243 Winchester
- COL: 2.670″
Needless to say I was happy with how both rifles performed. I’m really looking to chronographing loads, working up optimal loads for the range and for hunting for each rifle, and generally optimizing the loading process. Lots of related stories coming on Ultimate Reloader you’ll want to check out!
But this story isn’t all about 100 yard groups or sight-ins, it’s really about the yearly deer hunting tradition that I’m now a part of. For the Williams family, this tradition started more than 100 years ago, and the family (with some friends) has returned to the same location every year since. I was fortunate enough to get invited into the “fold” by my good friend Josh. Josh started “attending” the camp when he was about 4 years old, and this year he took his twin boys (now 4 years old) to the camp for the first time. It’s been great to be a part of such a rich family tradition with so much “local heritage”.
Some pictures will help tell the story:
As you can see, the Williams have been hunting for a *long* time, and a lot of skills and stories have been passed down over the generations. There was the year that snow came early (a lot of it) leaving vehicles from other camps stuck and buried until Spring. Then there was the time a small campfire burned the roots of a tree causing it to fall over (the stump is now a Williams landmark). Add to that a ton of pranks and fun- and you can see how these guys love to come to this same spot year after year to make more of these memories. My own “tradition” is to jump into the frigidly cold river to cool down and clean off after we cut a cord-or-so of wood for the week long camping trip. Good times!
I had decided to carry the 6.5 Creedmoor Ruger Precision Rifle because I was curious how this cartridge (6.5 Creedmoor) would do with deer. Where we hunt it’s “buck only”, so does are off limits. That combined with an earlier-than-optimal adjusted season means it’s less likely you’ll see or shoot a deer. While this is unfortunate, it’s still very much worthwhile to go on the trip, and in the future I’m probably going to hunt multiple areas. We’ll see!
Carrying the Ruger Precision Rifle told me a couple things: first, the weight is not prohibitive. I liked how the rifle “hiked” and definitely am a fan of the QD sling mount system it offers. Second- the rifle does get caught on brush somewhat if you are “bushwacking” which we did some of. Not a big deal, but the not-so-smooth buttstock did catch on some tree branches and bushes while hiking. I learned how to cover up the open areas with my hand on the buttstock to avoid this issue. I also thought it would be good to hunt with a light-weight suppressor (with the rifle is equipped to handle from the factory) so as to not worry about hearing damage or hearing protection.
Here’s a video chronicling the adventures getting ready for deer camp and hunting with this rifle:
It was awesome seeing all of the fresh deer sign, and having a couple does in my crosshairs. I would have loved to have taken a buck this year, but that was not in the cards. Perhaps next year! Next up in this series is reloading for the 6.5 Creedmoor and for 243 Winchester, so make sure to subscribe or check back soon!