25-06 Deer Hunt and Cartridge/Load Discussion

Please Welcome Guy Miner Back to Ultimate Reloader

Guy Miner will is back to Ultimate Reloader, this time as a regular contributor!

I want to re-introduce you to Guy Miner of Wenatchee Washington. Guy is a former US Marine, and also Served as a Law Enforcement Officer for 20 years. During his Law Enforcement career, Guy was a SWAT team member, sniper, sniper instructor, and led a team on an anti-drug task force. In this story Guy will talk about hunting, one of his biggest passions!

Written by Guy Miner, Ultimate Reloader contributor.

The Story

 

I’ve been hunting since I was ten years old, fifty-five years ago. I still remember that 1960’s Hunter Safety class. Dad took me bird hunting; doves, ducks, pheasant, and quail. Mostly though, I enjoyed the pheasant hunting, and I still do. We hunted with a good group of guys. Two of us were youngsters, everyone else was a grown man. In time I added big game, small game, varmint and predator hunting to my pursuits. For big game, mostly I hunt mule deer, as that’s the most common big game animal close to home, here in North-Central Washington. I’ve also hunted wild hog, whitetail, elk, pronghorn antelope, black bear, wolf and grizzly.

Above: Guy Miner (top right) hunting in the 1960s

My hunting partner and I drew Wyoming mule deer tags. I’d hunted successfully there before, but he had not. We staged in Cody, getting a motel room, planning on hunting public and private land near town.

Above: Cody, Wyoming via Google Maps

I’d been successful on mule deer there before and we intended to hunt the lower elevations, in the rolling sagebrush hills. For two days we pounded the lowlands. Bucks were to be found only on private lands we couldn’t hunt, and there weren’t very many does, or even much deer sign anywhere in the low areas. It was time for Plan B, the high country!

The First Hunt

I knew of a canyon in the high country, a few miles from Yellowstone. On day three of our five day hunt we parked at the trailhead and walked in slowly scouting and walking. There was only one trail leading up that deep canyon, humans and animals both use it. We came across mountain goats and bighorn sheep. Eventually we found some does. There were many animal tracks in the trail, including black bear. A bit farther up the canyon we came upon grizzly sow and cub tracks! Suddenly our plains-country rifles, a 270 Winchester and my 25-06, seemed a little light.

As we worked our way up the canyon, maybe three miles in, my partner spotted a mule deer buck and decided to take the 3×3. The shot was taken from standing, braced against a tree, at about 150 yards. My partner was using his trusted 270 Winchester, a Remington 700 Mountain Rifle with a 2.5-8x Leupold. His choice of bullet was the 140 grain Failsafe. The rifle barked once, the buck sprinted across the hillside about 100 yards into a stand of trees. Just after it disappeared, we heard the buck crash to the earth and quickly we followed up.

We found the fallen buck and dragged him to a lower, more level area to work on him. By now the shadows were growing long as the sun was sinking low, already behind the ridge. We didn’t want to be working on the deer carcass, in grizzly country, in the dark, so we field dressed the buck, then dragged him away from the gut pile. Intending to return to the carcass first thing in the morning, we covered it with a sweat-soaked flannel shirt hoping that the man-scent would dissuade predators from feeding on the carcass overnight. Temps were quite cool, so we weren’t worried about the meat deteriorating. We hiked back down and got to the trailhead a bit before dark, then headed back to Cody for the night.

On day four of our hunt we returned to the canyon and again hiked the three miles in, and cautiously approached the buck’s carcass. To our relief, no grizzly or other predators had disturbed it, and we quickly went to work boning-out the buck. We kept the head and antlers, and of course all of the meat, cutting it off the big bones, and also off the ribcage, hardly a scrap of meat remained when we were done. Our packs were heavy with the venison meat on the hike out.

The Second Hunt

Five days into the hunt, we returned to that same canyon, as we’d seen several other mule deer in it, though all were does. This third day of hiking uphill had me feeling strong, but a little weary of the same hike. We found a good spot to sit and glass. Glassing is vital in mule deer hunting, we hunt with our binoculars, then try to stalk close enough for a shot. This time the deer came towards us! They showed up about a half mile away and well above us, a small herd of does. About that point, on the last day of the hunt, one doe looked just delicious to me and I decided to settle for a doe, in order to bring home some wonderful venison. We watched them, and kept using the Swarovski rangefinder. When they had closed to about 400 yards, likely the closest they’d come, it was time to shoot.

Prone was out of the question because of the slope of the hill we were on. I started to set up in a sitting position using shooting sticks, then realized that nearby was a dead snag of a tree with a sturdy branch at just about the perfect height to use as a rest from standing! I was able to rest my arm on the branch, and the rifle on my arm. The crosshairs steadied high on her shoulder, and I squeezed off the shot. Instantly she crumpled, sliding a bit downhill, done.

Above: Re-enactment of shooting the deer (taken at same exact location). The shadow line on the far hillside illustrates the shooting distance.

We hiked over there, it may have been 400 yards in a straight line, but it was a tough hike uphill with no trail. The doe had died instantly, the heart and lungs destroyed by the Berger VLD bullet. We made quick work of boning out this deer, a bit smaller than the buck taken earlier. The meat was put into our packs and again, for the final time, we head down the trail. The fresh, warm meat pressing against my back was a familiar feeling, and a satisfying one. I knew the meat would make excellent meals for my family. We left for home the next morning both deer packed in ice in our coolers.

Guy’s Remington 700 25-06 Rifle

My rifle is a Remington 700 CDL, a 25-06 with a 24” barrel, and a 6x Leupold scope. It was zeroed at 300 yards, making the 400 yard “hold on hair” shot rather easy. The cartridge is an old one, originally a wildcat from the 1920’s. The concept is simple, just a 30-06 case necked down to accept .257” bullets. After WWII the availability of slower burning powders like H4831 allowed the 25-06 to generate a high velocity. These rifles featured a 1:10 twist, which works well with the 75 – 120 grain bullets offered for it. That twist is not fast enough to stabilize the new, longer, high BC bullets currently available.

Because it’s an over-bore cartridge, burning a lot of powder to propel a rather small bullet, I look at it much like a magnum cartridge when I handload it. I used the 115 grain Berger VLD bullet, and a stout charge of Hodgdon’s Retumbo, a slow burning powder. I also use a match primer and load on Wilson inline dies with my arbor press. The precision offered by those dies results in tight groups downrange, helping with 300+ yard accuracy. I’ve also seen excellent accuracy from 25-06 ammunition loaded with my standard 25-06 Redding dies.

25-06 Quick Facts

  • 30-06 necked down to 25 caliber (.257)
  • Bullet weights: 75 grain – 120 grain (for typical twist rates)
  • Velocity: 3000 fps – 3300 fps+
  • Factory brass and factory ammunition

Regarding the 115 grain .257” Berger VLD hunting bullet, I’ve taken three mule deer with it. Two bucks and a doe. All three were instant drops, one buck required a follow-up shot as I’d hit the spine with the first shot.

Guy’s 25-06 Hunting Load

  • 25 Caliber 115 Grain Very Low Drag (VLD) Hunting Rifle Bullet
  • Nosler 25-06 (previously fired)
  • 60.5 grains Hodgdon Retumbo
  • Federal 210 Large Rifle Match
  • 3,190fps (max load)

Use load data at your own risk. Ultimate Reloader is not responsible for errors in load data on this website. Always cross-reference load data with manufacturer’s published data.

I noted the same type of performance on game as described by Berger; a tiny entrance wound, penetration through several inches of muscle and even shoulder blades, then violent expansion inside the chest cavity, resulting in destruction of the lungs and virtually instant death. I haven’t shot anything bigger than mule deer with it, but can heartily recommend it for that purpose.

Thanks,
Guy Miner

 

One thought on “25-06 Deer Hunt and Cartridge/Load Discussion”

  1. Wow! I really love the Wildcat cartridges, and I remember one as a young hunter in Arkansas that may not have been “Wildcat” but was not very prevalent, .257 Roberts…I am sure the performance may have been similar to the 25-06 albeit a little less hot, since it did not seem to be a large case like that…I recall the rifle my friend’s Dad had and the barrel to me looked “feminine” it was so small in diameter, my being used to seeing the .30-06 then coming across this sleek little needle pusher. Interesting stuff.

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