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OPINION | ARKANSAS SPORTSMAN: Big-game hunter prefers 7mm-08

by Bryan Hendricks | December 17, 2020 at 2:57 a.m.

“Deer rifle love affair,” published in this space Nov. 22, struck a few chords across the scale.

The article praised the attributes of various rifles and cartridges. Because they all offer much to admire and appreciate, hunters shouldn’t limit themselves to just one.

I described my father-in-law’s disappointment to discover that the 308 Winchester shoots the same bullet with roughly the same velocity and energy as his beloved 30-06 Springfield. A World War II veteran, he believed the 30-06 was the beginning and end of any conversation about firearms. He refused to ever discuss the subject with me again.

Karl Hansen, a frequent correspondent, endorsed my father-in-law’s perspective.

“I can more readily relate to your Dad and Father-in-Law’s feelings,” Hansen wrote in an email. “Mine are for the M 1 Garand from my early military experiences. When that old girl has been all that really stood between you and ‘the crosses row on row’ — there develops a relationship that sticks with you thereafter.”

I am especially fond of the 7mm-08 Remington, a ballistic twin to the ancient 7mm Mauser. Hunters whom I know and respect refer to the 7/08 as a good cartridge for kids and women because of its light recoil. A light-kicking rifle is good for anybody because it means you’re more likely to shoot it accurately, and the 7/08 is powerful enough to take any game in the Lower 48. Reloading manuals and magazine articles include an obligatory disclaimer for large bears. We mentioned in that article that Doug Speight of Greenbrier used a 7/08 to kill a bighorn sheep that far outweighs the biggest whitetail.

We haven’t heard from Speight since we featured him and his Boone and Crockett bighorn, but the “Love affair” article brought him forward. He updated us with more recent successes with his 7/08.

“My wife killed a zebra with a 165 grain tough bullet,” Speight wrote. “PH (professional hunter, or guide) said ‘What are you going to do with that pop gun?’ Thru both shoulders and dead in 30 yards. She also killed a leopard in Botswana with a 140 ballistic tip, dead in 20 yards.”

Good to hear from you, Mr. Speight. Anything else you want to add?

“More for Dede [Speight] than me,” Speight write. “Her score includes a B & C [Boone and Crockett] Mountain Caribou from the NW Territory. That one’s a feature by Field & Stream in 2007.”

She also killed a 250-pound whitetail in Madison County and a Dall sheep in the Northwest Territories.

“All one-shot kills,” Speight wrote.

Doug Speight added a Stone sheep and Dall sheep from the Yukon Territory and whitetails from Kansas, Colorado and Maryland.

“I’m kind of like you,” Speight wrote. “We have a lot of rifles, but the ones that get the most play are 7mm/08 for everything smaller than elk.”

In 2003, Howard Robinson of Mansfield and I sighted in rifles at a shooting range at the Scrivener Road Conservation Area near Russellville, Mo. A guy was trying to sight in a .338 Winchester Magnum for an upcoming elk hunt in Colorado. He sprayed bullets all over his target at 100 yards, none in the “kill” zone.

“I think I see the problem,” I said. “Close your eyes. Don’t open them until I say so.”

I unloaded his rifle and closed the bolt on an empty chamber. His companion, who also was going to be his elk guide, smiled and nodded.

“See if that doesn’t help,” I said.

“What’d you do?” he asked.

“Just a minor adjustment Go ahead and shoot.”

He screwed his eye into the scope and tensed up tighter than an eight-day clock. He yanked the trigger, jerked his head away from the scope and whipped his muzzle skyward.

“Click!” was the only sound. The shooter looked very puzzled.

“You’re scared to death of your gun,” I said. “If you’re going to spend all that money on an elk hunt, take something you’re comfortable shooting.”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell him,” his partner said.

We left them amid an intense discussion about switching to a 270 Winchester.

Guys have some strange ideas about recoil and masculinity. If we want to go down that road, then “man code” dictates we use the best weapon for ourselves to cleanly and ethically dispatch game. It’s an individual’s prerogative, but you have to be honest with yourself about your tolerance for abuse.

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