The first installment of MeatEater’s Season 10 took us through a wide variety of American landscapes and situations, from chasing squirrels in Arkansas on horseback to stalking goats across icy Rocky Mountain cliff faces. We always get a lot of questions about how we select firearms for the hunts, so we decided to pull together some notes on what rigs we use and why. We hope this answers all your pressing Season 10 gun choice inquiries.
Weatherby Mark V Accumark I used the Mark V Accumark in .257 Weatherby Magnum for both my pronghorn and mountain goat hunts this year. When it comes to caliber consideration for these two animals, they’re pretty similar. Although mountain goats can’t see as well as antelope, the rugged and steep terrain they occupy naturally creates longer cross-canyon shooting opportunities. Shots upwards of 300 yards are a reality for both species.
The .257 Mag. fits the definition of flat shooting. I use an exposed turret on almost all of my guns now, specifically the Vortex Razor LHT, but I rarely need it with the .257. There’s only a 12-inch drop between 200 and 400 yards, which keeps me in the scope rather than looking at my ballistics charts. To be fair, the trajectory of this caliber caught up with me on my goat hunt. Through a handful of errors and miscalculations, I sent my first shot through the thick hair on the goat’s back. Take this as a warning: A late-season mountain goat can carry nine or 10 inches of wool on their bodies. A shot intended for the high shoulder might turn into a shot that touches nothing but hair.
We got back out there after I made a few adjustments and took advantage of the next opportunity that I had on a billy. While I really liked this caliber for antelope hunting, I found it to be a little on the light side for mountain goats, which are notoriously hardy animals. Unfortunately, there’s always the risk of a wounded goat walking over a cliff’s edge. I ended up putting three perfectly placed shots into my goat before it finally tipped over. I ended up wishing I had brought along something with more power, even though it really is a matter of personal preference.
Weatherby Vanguard MeatEater My good friend Luke Combs used a Weatherby Vanguard MeatEater Edition in 6.5-.300 Weatherby Magnum on our Wyoming antelope hunt. Adorned with the MeatEater logo, this gun looked great and performed flawlessly. I don’t have a ton of experience with this caliber, but I know it’s become very popular among the MeatEater crew.
This cartridge shoots extremely flat, much like the .257. But it has more weight behind it than the .257, giving it some extra oomph. Bullet placement is key with a caliber like this. Make sure to stay away from any big bones and you won’t deal with the meat loss that is often associated with magnums like the 6.5-.300.
Weatherby Mark V Weathermark LT I’ve been shooting Weatherby for a while now and have tried a lot of different models. The Weatherby Mark V Weathermark LT in .300 Win. Mag. might just be my favorite rifle and caliber combination yet.
It weighs just over 6 pounds, including the optics, so it’s extremely light to carry around. Our Texas whitetail hunt this year didn’t require a lot of hiking, but I still prefer a lighter gun for moving around the brush and quickly getting into shooting position.
In my mind, the .300 Win. Mag. is one of the best calibers out there. I’ve used it on everything from antelope to moose and it’s never disappointed. Some folks change up which bullet they use based on what they’re hunting, but I’m partial to 180-grain Trophy Copper and use it on damn near every hunt. As I mentioned earlier, steer clear of the heavier bones and you won’t lose any more meat than you would with other smaller calibers.
Pedersoli Traditional Hawken Hunter Once common on the frontier, flintlock rifles have become a novelty—something that lives above the fireplace or in a glass case on the wall. But Pennsylvania has creatively kept this relic alive in today’s modern world by creating a special season only for flintlocks. Seth Morris is our flintlock master here at MeatEater, and he shoots a Pedersoli Traditional Hawken Hunter in .50 caliber.
“I like it because it has a shorter barrel than the long rifles, making it easier to get through the woods. I also like the set trigger. The light pull makes it more accurate than the single-trigger rifles.”
My advice before hitting the hills with this thing: Make sure to get in some target time. Double-set triggers are hard to get used to. And the delayed powder ignition of a flintlock will teach you real lessons about follow-through and form.
CZ American If you happened to watch our squirrel and raccoon hunting episode, you’ll notice that Clay and I got into a bit of an argument on the perfect squirrel hunting gun. He is a big fan of shotguns (probably because he isn’t as good a shot as I am). I like a .22 LR to keep the hide and meat as intact as possible.
For the majority of this hunt I was using my CZ American in .22 LR. I cannot stress enough how much I like this gun. It’s built well, accurate as hell, and comes in a lefty model—though they’re hard to find. I did have the trigger filed and polished. The CZ American has a notoriously sticky trigger, but now it’s light and smooth. I have no idea how many squirrels this gun has taken, but it’s a lot.
Rossi Circuit Judge Clay was using one of the more peculiar rifles that I have seen, the Rossi Circuit Judge in .45 Colt/.410 Magnum. Clay likes it particularly because he can hunt squirrels and raccoons with the same rifle. This gun also happens to have a single-action/double-action trigger system, which means he can shoot both accurately and quickly depending on the situation.