The One and Only 30-06

The .30-06 is the only big game rifle you will ever need.

I live in Alaska. I hunt some of the biggest and toughest of all big and dangerous game on this planet. I have used .338’s, 300 Win mags, .44 magnums, and other testosterone pumps to harvest the fat of the land. But my years of sore shoulders, and ammo sticker shock has brought me full circle back to my roots. A good bullet, in a good hand loaded cartridge, in a high quality rifle squeezed by a confident sportsman will fill the freezer weather the numbers are sexy or not.

The Springfield .30-06 cartridge was originally designed to be effective against the toughest of all big game, man. It was designed to do the business of War, at 1000 plus yards, effectively, reliably, and economically.   After 104 years the venerable  .30-06 has nothing left to prove to anyone. 

One could spend a lifetime ingesting all the articles written about the fine details of this cartridge. This is not one of those articles.

“Oh man is it cold!” I whispered to my hunting partner as he and I were huddled under the house sized piece of driftwood. “Yeah, it’ll either bring ‘em out, or keep ‘em deep I in their holes. “ I blew a couple quick “stuck rabbit” squeals on the call and let the pitches bounce off the bluff a hundred yards hence.

“They got to be hungry today, this is the third morning of 20 below”  Just then, I saw a black shape pop over the ice heaves at the edge of the inlet. I motioned my partner to keep his head down, and handed him the call.

I could see the fox diving in and out of the brackish ice chunks. He was making his cautions, but obviously hungry way toward us. He would pause at the peaks to take a sniff and a look, then dive through the caves and valleys. Each time I would see him, he would be a few feet closer.

I decided I would wait until he had to cross the open expanse of wind barren beach to take my shot. My buddy blew the call again. I saw the fox stop, to catch the range and direction, then he took off unexpectedly across the beach about 300 yards away. He was headed directly for the bluff on our flank.

It was along shot, but I was confident I could make it. I had my trusty old model 70 dialed in at 200 yards just for this occasion. My arms and rifle came up slowly covered by the old bed sheet that was my camo of the day.  I knew the fox wouldn’t see me as the white of the sheet was blinded out by the sun on the fresh snow.

I tracked just ahead of him, as he moved deftly and quickly across the open expanse.  I held about an inch and a half high, knowing my zero was at 200 yards, and estimating him at 300 I am horrible at ranging which was reiterated a little later on.

Crack! I saw a puff of snow just shy of the undulating black animal. Then, I saw him topple over himself. And roll to a stop in a ball of contrasting color.

Damn, I missed, but I hit him anyway.  We looked around real quick to make sure none others were revealing themselves trying to escape. Out of our hide we bounded, I could feel both the elation of success and the reverence for the creature.

I paced our walk to where the black cross fox laid dead as a stump. “I got 393 paces” I said “I got 407” my shorter buddy confirmed.  10 feet before the trail was a swath cut in the fresh snow, where my 155 grain, Barnes-X had skipped across the ice before passing clean through the neck of the 26 inch fox. “luckiest shot I ever saw man” “No way, dude, I planned it that way”

It was a lucky shot, but over the years I have found that the right equipment invites good luck, and good fortune.

This rifle has seen many days like this. Loaded with a 220 grain A-Square monolithic round nose, I dropped the biggest moose I had ever seen at 50 feet. One shot rendered the volley ball sized heart unsalvageable and stopped the run in one leap.  The same load put an end to an enraged charge by a wounded griz the year before. The bear already had 4 300 Win mags in it, and kept coming. At 25 yards the “backup shot” from my trusty .30-06 saved us from a losing encounter.

Two years before that, a 180 Grain Sierra BT dropped a thin skinned caribou in its own shadow at well over 300 yards from a standing hold.

On any hunt, of any quarry, shot placement makes the success.  The greatest advantage I find in the .30-06 besides its extreme versatility, is that it is a gun I am willing to shoot often. Unlike a punishing magnum,  I can spend quality pain free time developing perfect loads, and muscle memory to shoot well, no matter what the situation. 

I good friend of mine and I shoot often together, He is a true rifleman.  He spends a lot of time, and money building perfect guns, and perfect loads, usually of the .338 or .375 variety.  While he agonizes over 2 inch groups at 200 yards.  He starts complaining about his sore shoulder at about 10 rounds. I consistently punch in at less than an inch, and can shoot all day. So what if my ballistics are a few hundred foot pounds less than his. I can confidently pick the sweet spot on just about any game at just about any ethical range.

That my friend is what makes a great cartridge!