I am privileged to be able to customize my hunting setups. In this article, I explain why I chose the setup I did and how I prepare mentally for hunting. The 6.5 Creedmoor is very popular in the US market, so I chose this cartridge as a start.
First things first, It all starts with the cartridge. What am I hunting, and how far will I be shooting were the things I asked myself. Today's modern factory-loaded cartridges give exceptional accuracy in a quality rifle, and the 6.5 Creedmoor has a great reputation that I wanted to put to the test.
Being from Norway, I think every hunter has experience with the 6.5 bullet family and then, most of all, with the 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser. I have shot a fair amount of Red Deer with this one, and in my experience, it has great ballistics and penetration, given the shot placement is good. Let's not forget about that.
Shot placement is everything. when you are out there, be honest with yourself and know your capabilities. Nothing is worse than injuring an animal and having to track it down and finish them after several hours. A clean kill is what we strive for. If in doubt, hold the shot and relocate.
The setup I chose.
- The rifle I have used so far this season (shown above with my good friend Eric from IV8888) is a Tikka T3X in 6.5 Creedmoor, 1-7,5 twist.
- The rifle was re-barreled & triggered by Bullet Central
- Topped with the Element Optics Nexus 5-20x50 (mil/mil & FFP setup).
- GRS Bifrost stock (perfect adjustments and ergonomics)
- The mighty and versatile GRS Bipod and spigot.
- And to top it off, the GRS bag rider combo.
The ammunition we used during the Hog hunt in Georgia was the Hornady 140 grain ELD Match. I know there is controversy on using match bullets for hunting, but I have found it to work well as long as you are particular with shot placement.
Accuracy over power. A fragmenting bullet is perfect to create massive bleeding in the engine room of a hog. We are not hunting these for meat but rather to get them off the farmer's lands, preventing them from causing more damage.
The combination of all components above proved to be a highly capable combination with pin-point accuracy and terminal ballistics.
You can see more about rifle combination and the impression Eric had in the video below
After we had some fun on the range and verified the bullet trajectory out to 1000 yards, we went hunting for hogs the same evening. The thermals came out :) I used an AGM TC-35 Thermal clip-on. If I can choose, I use a clip-on because I can use my mechanical zero on the scope and the dope to reach out to touch the pigs. I do not trust digital zeroes. I am sure there are no issues, but it is a mental confidence thing for me. The bullet does the exact same thing in darkness and light, so when I adjust the turret, I know it will hit where I am aiming.
The first hog I shot (left) was a 325-yard shot from a tripod. It was quartering slightly away, and she had no idea we were there. I took my time and went through my routine, BRASS. Breathe, Relax, Aim, Slack (not on this excellent trigger), and Squeeze.
I heard the boom, a grunt, and saw the Hog drop like a sack of potatoes. I chambered a new round in seconds, but the hog did not move. It was game over, just like I had planned and hoped for. I placed the bullet just behind the shoulder, and the hog soaked up all the energy. There was no pass-through.
The second hog I shot (right picture) was at 262 yards. It was the same story. Tucked in behind the shoulder, she dropped and never moved again. Two for two!
You might think it was risky shooting at such distances at night, but with the accuracy, I experienced at the shooting range, I had no problems doing this. I was confident. Below is a typical shot at 400 yards on a coyote silhouette. This combo shoots lights out.
The one that got away.
Talking about Coyotes, we were driving back to camp at 03:30 in the night. Dustin, our guide, saw a Coyote run over a field. He slammed the break, and we all got out. I set the rifle on the tripod. I adjusted the scope for 300 yards and aimed at the Coyote's head. It was the only part showing in the tall grass.
I went through BRASS, and boom. I saw the head falling back and all four feet in the air. He was down. The crew was howling with excitement. It was awesome.
We went to find him, but we did not. I do not know what happened to him, if we walked right by him or if we suddenly found an extra 100 yards sprint before expiring completely. I will never know, but I am certain he is no longer with us.
I wrote I would talk about mental preparation while hunting and the importance of this. Visualizing comes from my military background and the way we planned our missions. We prepared mentally to take on any given situation that would arise. We walked through the mission, planning infiltration, establishing our OP (observation post) or FFP (final firing position) actions if compromised, defensive tactics, exfiltration, and de-brief after the mission was concluded.
I see a hunt like an operation.
What is our objective, where are we going, what are we hunting, how far are we shooting, duration of the hunt?
I am going through my BRASS routine, picturing myself building my shooting position from the tripod, up against a tree, with bipods, from my backpack, or from my guide's shoulder. I picture myself adjusting the scope for my maximum range, repeating the dope in my head, focusing on my breathing, squeezing the trigger, Listening for the thump, absorbing the recoil, then chambering a fresh round.
What do I do if I miss or am unsure about where I hit? Do I shoot again? Do I hold my rounds? What do I want my spotter to say? How do I want my directions to get on target?
What do I do if someone breaks a leg, stabs himself with a knife while skinning, or is bitten by a snake? Fall down the mountain or into a roaring river? I carry my tourniquet, which normally sits on my plate carrier, and a Garmin Inreach SOS device in my bag. It can save my own and my friend's life.
All of the above are things you can prepare before you are in the situation, then you can react much quicker when you are there, and it happens.
I am not saying you can prepare for everything, but much of it.
Did the setup work as I planned?
I find myself in awe of the rifle setup. Rarely have I used a better performer. The setup outperformed my expectations, and I have used it for several more hunts already. Stay tuned for part two in the series where I hunt a Whitetail in velvet in Michigan. It was epic!
So what now?
Hog hunting is addictive, and we are now preparing for a new hunt in October 2022. We will use both a new setup in 6.5 PRC and the trusted 6.5CM from this article. We will hunt with Eric & Chad from IV8888 and Chris Turek from UpNorthAirGunner. I cant wait to get started. It will be a blast!
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