Stretching the 9.3x62mm Mauser in Montana

CZ 550 chambered in 9.3x62mm Mauser.
CZ 550 chambered in 9.3x62mm Mauser.

One of the main reasons I embarked on hunting North America with the 9.3x62mm Mauser was the fact that it simply wasn’t a fast, flat-shooting caliber I could use to thump unsuspecting game at too far to see without binoculars distances. The trouble with Montana mule deer is close is still pretty damned far and the Big Sky state didn’t care if I was carrying a 9.3x62mm or a 300 Winchester Magnum. As fate would have it, Montana would insist I stand on my ballistic tippy toes to lay claim to one of its muleys. About a week after taking the largest deer I have ever harvested in my life near Burley, Idaho, I continued my western journey to Montana to hunt mule deer with my two very best friends, Lee Westervelt and Bart Bauer. All of my hunts are part of a longterm book I am doing about hunting with the 9.3x62mm Mauser titled, 9.3 North America. In Wyoming I used a custom Sisk FN Mauser and never even shouldered it on my still empty elk tag. In Idaho I wielded a quick, short and now deadly Savage 111, and in Montana I used a handy and endearing CZ 550 tweaked by Triple River Gunsmithing due to the rifle’s previous owner trashing the CZ 550 by drilling iron sights into the pressure chamber. Triple River got me a new barrel, which actually was a bit shorter much to my liking, and sent it to me in Idaho just in time to make the trip north to Billings, Montana. Throughout my research I have shot quite a few different factory and hand loads in several different 9.3x62mm Mausers. Like teenagers, no gun likes the same thing and for the CZ 550, Nosler’s 286 grain Partition grouped the best by a significant margin. So, I carried Noslers in the Czechoslovakian-made rifle. On both the Savage 111 and the CZ 550 I used Bushnell’s superb Elite LRHS not just because it is crisp, clear glass but mainly because adjusting it in the field for a caliber where 50 yards can make a huge difference between a hit and a miss, could not be easier. The big, deliberate windage and elevation turrets adjust simply and the clean, simply crosshairs work well in the bright, contrasty glass. In fact, by the time I headed to the field with the CZ 550 I nearly had my dope chart memorized for Nosler’s Partition payload. It came in handy. In Idaho I hunted mule deer the hard way. I hiked miles up and down mountains and pushed filling my tag until the last five minutes of shooting light on my final day and then was foolish enough to shoot my mule deer well beyond dragging him to the dirt road range. Packing out a mule deer in the Idaho mountains by yourself isn’t on the list of couch potato sports, and for pretty good reasons. While Montana can be just as challenging and then some, my buddy Lee had scouted deer and elk so well for me that his prediction of having my deer down within minutes of the mornings’ first legal shooting light turned out to be an ironclad promise. He just left out the part about a long-winded shot. Wide-open plains, tundras and mountain valleys make 100 yards seem like a chip shot. Shots at 300 and even 400 yards are not only common but generally expected by folks around those parts. I had left Virginia with a 200 yard maximum goal for my 9.3x62mm. Certainly, the rifle can shoot much farther and quite accurately but the tight quarters of Virginia’s dense woodland made 200 yards seem like forever, and five minutes in Montana made it seem more like a split second. So, of course there we were watching two nice mule deer bucks graze on the side of a hill about 300 yards from us and Lee smiled thinking we had lucked out at a nice close shot. I kept my mouth shut and reviewed my dope chart. Two full mils up on my Bushnell Elite LRHS got me dead-on at 325 yards. Simple enough, right? I kneeled, shouldered my rifle, found the bigger bodied buck between the two, which by the way had a smaller rack, and …… they started bounding like bunnies. We didn’t spook them. Apparently mule deer will bounce along hillsides like Tigger just for fun. It was too late and I was in execution mode so I panned my CZ 550 with the buck and squeezed the trigger with the buck on his downward bound. “I missed,” I muttered to Lee. He laughed and I didn’t. Then he smiled and said I didn’t miss. The buck dropped in his tracks before I came down from the gun’s recoil. “That thing’s a hammer,” he shouted. Lee explained to me that my front shoulder hit whacked the deer’s front momentum right out from under him so his hind end flipped over his head and he somersaulted when he dropped. It must have been in a rather spectacular fashion because Lee repeated the scene about ten times to me as we climbed the hill to get the deer. I wished I had seen it. No matter, that’s what friends are for. We ranged the final shot at 325 yards, on the run. not bad for a first Montana mule deer especially with the slow and steady 9.3x62mm Mauser. Sadly, when we got to the buck he was ravaged with cysts and a call into the local game warden led to us turning the buck in for a new tag because the game warden didn’t feel comfortable with us eating the deer. The very next morning Lee put me in front of another mule deer buck at the now laughably close distance of 201 yards. I shot him, almost in my sleep, and we field dressed and dragged him before 8 a.m.

Local Game Warden near Columbus, MT, who helped us with the diseased mule deer.
Local Game Warden near Columbus, MT, who helped us with the diseased mule deer.
Nosler Custom Ammunition
Nosler Custom Ammunition
I took this hearty 4 1/2 year-old mule deer buck at 201 yards with my CZ 550 9.3x62mm Mauser.
I took this hearty 4 1/2 year-old mule deer buck at 201 yards with my CZ 550 9.3x62mm Mauser.
CZ 550
The wide-open terrain of Montana forced me to shoot much farther than I thought I would need to but the 325 yard shot was still well within the capabilities of the caliber, rifle and shooter.
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