Itís hard to imagine a tougher debate than that of caliber suitability. Everyone seems to have their ideas on what constitutes ďtoo much gunĒ or what is just too little. I thought Iíd toss out this hunting story as food for thought.
The Crow Indian Tribe of Montana keeps a wild bison range in the Big Horn Mountains south east of my home. They have a fairly extensive herd of wild bison there that are periodically culled by dignitaries and their Game Fish and Parks Rangers. Often they donate a buffalo (bison) to local events and recently, they donated two animals to the local County Food bank which distributes food and other necessities to residents who are having a hard time making ends meet. My good friend Randy is a local minister, director of the Food Bank, and an avid hunter. It was his job to shoot the bison and remove them to town for processing. He took his son and another fellow along to help. They brought two rifles along specifically for the bison: a 270 Winchester loaded with 150 grain factory ammo and a 300 Winchester Magnum loaded with 180 grain factory ammo.
The herd was skittish and they were having a hard time lining up a shot. Itís important that the animal you shoot is standing free from the herd to avoid shoot-throughs and inadvertent wounding of a second animal. Like most herd animals, buffalo tend to bunch up when agitated and they used up half a day getting in place for the first shot which was made with the 300 Winchester at about 200 yards. It was a clean lung hit and the buffalo, as large cow, bolted off into a thicket while the rest of the herd went over a rise in the other direction. Randy decided to hedge them back towards his group so he got into his pickup truck and skirted the rise. There he found the herd stationary, about 100 yards distant with a large bull standing proud from the group. The 300 WM and the 270 were with the other fellows so he reached into his truck and pulled out his Marlin 30-30 deer rifle loaded with 150 grain jacketed soft points and shot it low in the chest. It staggered so he shot it again. It ran 50 yards and piled up. It was gasping itís last as he got up on it. The other group found their cow about 175 yards from where it had been hit. It was lying down in some brush and finished off. It took another 10 hours to slog the 1600 pounds of gutted and skinned carcasses through the snow, back to the pavement.
So there you have it. A 150 grain soft point launched at under 2300 fps dropped an 1100 pound bull at 100 yards with a pair of lung shots. One of the bullets passed through but the other was found under the hide on the far side of the animal, mushroomed beautifully. I can tell you from personal experience that these animals are mean and tenacious and donít usually go down without a fight. A 30-30 just doesnít seem like it would do the job.
I thought about it all last night. There was a time when the 30-30 was the highest velocity smokeless cartridge available in the US. You would have been considered under gunned if you didnít have one of these ďpower-houseĒ rifles for big game hunting. The same could be said for the 303 or 8x57 or 30-40 US Krag. At one time, they were considered the best you could get for big game. The animals obviously havenít changed, so I can only conclude that the shooters certainly have! ~Muir