Is 30-06 Boring for Big Game Hunting? (Results)

Written by Guy Miner

I often hear from other hunters that they don’t like the 30-06 cartridge because it’s “boring.” Well, they must have a different definition of the word, for I find it to be an exemplary hunting cartridge with an impressive track record. Leaving out the two world wars, Korea, some of Vietnam and many other military uses, it’s a great general-purpose hunting cartridge. With today’s bullets and powders a handloader can make it better than ever. 

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Guy’s 2016 30-06 Hunting Load

Although I have several different hunting rifles, I had decided to do all my hunting with one handload from my 30-06 that season. That load has been discussed here at Ultimate Reloader before and is: 

  • 165 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip 
  • Nosler 30-06 brass
  • 59 grains of H4350 (derived from Hodgdon’s data)
  • CCI 200 primers
  • 2940 fps muzzle velocity
  • SD came in at 9 ! 
  • Accuracy hovers just under 1 MOA

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.

Guy’s Remington 700 CDL 30-06

My rifle is a Remington 700 CDL, with a 24” barrel. It’s been pillar bedded, the barrel is free floated, there’s a Timney trigger and it’s topped by a 6x Leupold. This rifle is a near twin to my 25-06 Remington 700 CDL, and I do most of my hunting with these two rifles. 

2016 Big Game Hunting with 30-06

340 yard Cow Elk

I’d stalked through the sagebrush and snow as far as I could go without running out of cover. The cow elk was now at 340 yards. The crosshairs of my 6x Leupold settled on her shoulder. The rifle cracked and the 165 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip smashed through the shoulder blade, wrecked her lungs, and the cow staggered a few steps downhill then fell. That topped off my season, and what a season it had been, the season of the 30-06! 

The grin on my face says it all. A solid hit, a quick kill, and wonderful meat for my friends and family. 

325 yard Black Bear

My season started in September bear hunting in eastern Washington with a couple of buddies. We’d been watching a bear slowly work his way back uphill, occasionally seeing him through the brush. There had been no shot opportunity, but it looked like he was going to cross a clearing that we’d ranged at 325 yards. From where I was, prone was impractical, so I got into a solid sitting position and waited. 

The bear entered the clearing and turned slightly away, giving me a quartering shot. The 30-06 barked, the bullet slapped his hide, entering through the right side ribs. He sprinted uphill less than ten yards and was still. When we got to the bear and skinned him, we found that the bullet jacket was hanging in the off-side hide, just ahead of the shoulder. The core of the bullet had exited. Both lungs had been destroyed. 

The start of the 30-06 season. One shot, 325 yard quick kill. The meat, head and hide were all taken. Bear meat can be surprisingly good, particularly when they’re feeding on berries, as this one had been. 

Next up was an October trip to Wyoming for mule deer and pronghorn antelope. Again I used the Remington 700 30-06 and my handloaded 165 grain Nosler bullets. 

245 Yard Pronghorn Antelope

Mid day I spotted a buck antelope crossing in front of me, right to left. He wasn’t the biggest buck, but at 245 yards, with an excellent backstop, it was a great shot opportunity. Resting the rifle on a bipod, I put the crosshairs on the buck’s shoulder and squeezed. The bullet of course flew true, and went through both shoulder blades, crumpling him. That buck provided terrific backstrap steaks and more. 

At this time, the rifle had an older but quite useful 2-7x Redfield scope. 

140 yard Mule Deer

With the antelope hanging, the hunt for mule deer continued. Stalking slowly through a lightly wooded area, a good mule deer buck was spotted at about 140 yards. He was facing me, head-on. The slope was steep, falling away sharply to my right. I went prone and was only able to use the left leg of the bipod for stability. At the shot, the buck dropped instantly! When I walked up to him though, I saw that he needed a second shot, my first, going lengthwise into the buck, had only taken  one lung. 

The 5×4 pleased me greatly. My friends have told me that I look grumpy in the photo, I was just tired from several days of hunting. His antlers are on the wall above my desk now, and the meat from this fat buck was delicious. 

The late season cow elk hunt mentioned earlier concluded that wonderful season in which I’d taken black bear, antelope, mule deer and elk, all with the 30-06, all with one load, the 165 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip loaded to 2940 fps, and with only five shots. That load remains my “go to” hunting load for the rifle and has been successful several times since, but there are so many great factory and handloads available for the 30-06 cartridge! Hardly boring in my book. 

165 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip recovered from the flank of the mule deer. Retained weight is 106 grains. 

A few months after this wonderful fall season, I went to Alaska for spring grizzly, with my 30-06, but that’s another story, for another episode of Ultimate Reloader! 

To load the 30-06 cartridges for this season’s practice and hunting, I turned to the compact Lyman Brass Smith Ideal C-frame press. What a great little press! It takes up little room on the loading bench and works great. The price point is nice as well. 

I used my RCBS dies and had absolutely no problem de-capping and resizing the Nosler cases. I primed them with a handheld priming tool, then charged with a max charge of 59 grains of H4350. I’ve used that for years with the 30-06, and got the loading info from Hodgdon. 

Bullet selection deserves some attention here. I prefer a 165 grain bullet for general purpose big game hunting with the 30-06. Although I’ve been quite pleased with the Nosler Partition, I also like the 165 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip. It opens readily and penetrates well, and has proven dependably accurate. Some believe that the Ballistic Tip is too lightly constructed for game bigger than deer, but from what I’d seen of it on mule deer, I decided to try it on elk and black bear. I remain impressed! Every hunter has a favorite bullet, usually based on their success with it, the 30 caliber, 165 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip is a favorite of mine, with a good record of success. 

Conclusion

There are many great 30 caliber hunting bullets. Mostly I’ve used Noslers, including Partitions in 165, 180 and 200 grains, and of course the 165 grain Ballistic Tip. Is 30-06 boring for hunting? Perhaps it’s boring like an appliance that always works. Is that a good thing? YES!

What’s your favorite 30-06 hunting load and how has it worked for you? 

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Thanks,
Guy

One thought on “Is 30-06 Boring for Big Game Hunting? (Results)”

  1. I love my .30-06! Taken two 5X5 bull elk and one big mule deer. Remington 700 BDL. 180 grain Accubonds, 56.5 grains of IMR 4350, Fed 210M, Winchester Brass. 2750 fps, nothing special, but accurate.

    Love the video and the correct comments about magnumitis.

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