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Is 6.5 MM the deer rifle answer?

Mike Bleech Outdoors Columnist

In 1966 during my first drive through the Western States, I saw pronghorn for the first time. What an eye-opening experience. Part of my fascination with the second-fastest land animal on the planet was the dry plains habitat where from a little rise you can see many miles. I knew I had to hunt them and set about learning how.

The first step was picking the perfect rifle, showing where my priorities lie, and that I narrowed down to the .264 Winchester Magnum. Through good fortune, a used .264 showed up in the want ads, the 26-inch barrel Westerner Model 70 that made the hot cartridge legendary.

But at about the same time Winchester started chambering the .264 in shorter barrels. This and some undeserved bad press practically killed the cartridge. Or at least it stifled any increase in popularity.

It took decades to get that rifle into Wyoming for a pronghorn hunt. In the meantime, I used it to hunt woodchuck and white-tailed deer.

The first critter I shot with the rifle was a woodchuck at only about 40 yards. It nearly vaporized. The biggest piece I could find was the tail. That was using a 140-grain bullet. Dropping down to a 120-grain bullet did not change the results much. It did sort of resolving the issue of what to do with the carcass.

The first big game to fall before the rifle was a white-tailed deer at a distance of about 60 yards. That was using a 120-grain bullet. The deer never knew what hit it. The bullet struck the chest and made a mess of it, but there was no meat damage.

I cringe when I hear deer hunters say such and such a bullet damages too much meat. Hit the animal right and there will not be excessive meat damage. The job of the bullet is to do damage for a quick kill.

Several more years passed before there was an opportunity to use the .264 Win. Mag. on pronghorn. It was on a combination pronghorn/mule deer hunt near Kaycee, Wyoming. I already had done a pronghorn hunt to the same place a couple of years before. But on that hunt, I used an in-line muzzleloader, a Knight Rifle. But back to the .264 Mag.

On the second day of the hunt, I spotted what I was looking for, an opportunity to shoot a pronghorn at over 500 yards. The pronghorn was bedded on the far side of a narrow basin. A very strong wind was blowing almost perpendicular to the line of the shot. My first shot hit below and behind the pronghorn. That made its head appear more erect and alert. The second shot, I later learned, just nipped its rump. That made him jump to his feet, but not run. The third shot was aimed a foot over the ears and two feet in front of its nose. It dropped in its tracks, also done in by a 120-grain bullet.

A couple of days later while sneaking and peaking through an area of rough terrain I spotted three buck mule deer. The lead buck was the largest, but it passed out of sight while waiting for my hunting partner to find the deer. Just before the second buck, and the second largest was about to disappear I squeezed off a shot. That was the first time I saw a deer do a stiff-legged roll.

As is the nature of rifle hunting enthusiasts, the Model 70 .264 Win. Mag. was passed along to someone else who, hopefully, will have great adventures with it. That afforded me the chance to look for a rifle to replace it. Shopping for rifles is among my top 10 favorite things to do.

My need to shoot big game at long range satisfied, my ability to tote long, heavy rifles diminished by age, rather than a 6.5 mm Remington Magnum I had long wanted, and rather than the ,26 Nosler that intrigues me, I opted for the relatively small 6.5 mm Creedmore in a very lightweight Kimber rifle.

Although I did not shoot at a deer with the rifle last year, this year with DMAP tags in my license holder there are serious plans to see how the 6.5 Creedmore performs. It is loaded with 120-grain bullets that are designed to open quicker than the bullets used in the .264 Magnum.

Summertime is the nicest time for testing loads at the shooting range. The plan is to have a good 300-yard deer rifle by fall, and maybe take a couple of coyote before then.

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