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303 vs Grizzly

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Archerthetom View Drop Down
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    Posted: November 22 2021 at 8:44am
Back in the mid 90s, the first season after I got this old girl and right after I got her out of the shop for a firing pin replacement, my family and I were living in Southeast Idaho.  I got the fever, and hunting season was ready to get started. To my surprised excitement, I got a letter from the State DNR. They had awarded me a highly sought after Elk tag and permit. I was already licensed to hunt any game permitted by the state, so I made my plans to drive a couple of hours to a spot I had seen Elk herds a few months back and do so, scouting and such. I found, what I thought would be, an ideal spot. It was underneath a huge evergreen, with hit's branches almost touching the ground all the way around the tree. I crawled underneath and quickly saw that it was a perfect ambush spot. With my back to the trunk, I had a great field of view of three intersecting trails. Not just trails, but huge trails. I had just seen a small herd meandering through that very area. So, I made a couple of snip snips here and there to insure a unobstructed view and test shouldered my 303. 

I got home late and told my wife about my find and spot. She asked what I thought about her coming and learning how to hunt. I was excited about that opportunity, so we immediately set out getting her equipped with everything but the weapon. Since my time to hunt elk was very limited but, my regular license was pretty wide, I decided on a day. The day came, and we were up and out by 3 a.m.. We got to my tree about 4:30 and got all hunkered down. 

All around the area were homes with working fireplaces, so the smell of wood smoke was wafting all over the hills and valleys. Being Idaho, the weather was cold and had snowed about a foot or so and was still lightly snowing when we arrived. Once we got to the tree, it looked like a giant evergreen tepee  with an igloo base. Perfect! So, we made our way underneath and since it was so cold, I built a small warming fire. Yes, I was super careful and did ALL the right things. 

Just about an hour after daybreak, I began to hear the movements down below us of big critters moving through, I motioned for the wife to be extra silent and watch. This noise continued off and on for about an hour, or maybe a little more. By this time it was good daylight and I had a clear view of the area where the noises were coming from. After watching intently for several minutes, I began to see small saplings swaying and almost thrashing about. I whispered to the wife that we had "a big one" coming out. She got excited, and I got my 303 shouldered and ready to shoot. I whispered at the last second for her to cover her ears which she did, and my safety was eased off, my finger slid lightly to the trigger and that's when I saw it's breath steam coming out. I took up the slack and braced for the recoil. 

All of a sudden, the beast stepped out, but instead of an elk or a Blacktail, it was a huge Grizzly. I wasn't too worried about my firepower, I knew that rifle would take anything in North America. Then, just as quickly as it had burst through the last remaining brush, it stopped and looked straight in our direction with his nose in the air. He was obviously  winding us. I was puzzled because, we had properly prepared for scent control and I had that small warming fire still going. But that Griz turned and headed straight for us. I then realized that if it started to charge, my stalking position, while great for concealment, had zero protection from a full-grown Grizzly. Plus, the realization that my wife might be hurt or worse settled in. We had about a hundred yards between us and the bear plus it had to come up hill and across a creek with steep banks. We had a half mile to get back to our vehicle. I told my wife, that we needed to get out of there and move quickly. 

So we crawled out from underneath our spot (after put the fire out) and started walking at a brisk pace. We did not panic, but we were walking fairly quickly. We crossed over a small stream and went up another hill, and I turned to look back. I saw the grizzly, with his nose to the ground for a few seconds, and then he would raise his head and sniff the wind. But, he was beginning to hurry along. I told the wife to run to the car. She broke into a run with me behind her watching our back trail. The bear was closing in, and I knew I was not going to get to the car before he was on me. So, I stopped, dropped to me knee and took steady aim. The bear was within about 75 yards of me when I heard the car start up, so I knew the wife was safe. The bear had stopped and was looking around. It was as if it had lost the scent. Either that or the slamming of the car door and then the car starting up might have caused it to hesitate. By now it was a bit more than 50 yards out. So, since Grizzly was protected in Idaho except for obvious situations where it is attacking or attempting to attack, I knew I could legally take it but, I chose to fire a shot close to it in hopes of causing it to re-think for a few seconds. 

I fired as closely to the beast as I felt comfortable and yes, I had a clear field of view behind it and the round was going to strike a hillside with nothing between me and the hill but sagebrush and prairie grass with a matter of scrub brush. That old girl boomed and sure enough the Griz not only sat down for about 5 seconds but apparently the bullet whizzing so close it felt the disturbance or the boom caused it to decided to stop pursuit. As It turned around and started loping off, I turned and ran like a mad man to the car. As the adrenaline started wearing off on our drive back to the world of civilized mankind, we started talking. During the course of the conversation, I was focused on how the bear seemed to be scenting the wind as well as the ground. My wife went silent for a few seconds in what I thought was deep introspection. She then said, "so they can smell that?" I asked what she meant by "that?" It had no sooner came out of my mouth than I realized what she was talking about. Her moon had risen the night before....... Folks this is a true story. Shocked Now don't be all critical thinking here about the distances and seconds etc.. They are obviously estimates while under pressure and without the benefit of a range finder or constantly looking at my watch. 

As we got to the nearest main road, the DNR guys had their check station set up and since no one was there but them, I pulled in and told them about the incident. I asked them if I would have been justified under Idaho law to have taken that Grizzly. They wanted precise directions to where this occurred sot they could go investigate to insure there wasn't a Grizzly laying there dead or worse, wounded. But,  they did confirm that under those circumstances, I would have been justified in take the bear. "However," they said, "That 303 would not have taken a full-grown Grizzly Bear with a single shot. I grinned and asked them if any of them had ever owned a 303 British rifle? OF course none of them had so, I invited them to come to the range and let me know, and we would go shooting and let them see. 

A couple of weeks later the College had their, semester recruitment day and the DNR was represented there. So, I went and to my joy, one of the DNR Rangers was one of the ones at the check station previously. He recognized me, and we had a chance to visit for a few minutes. He told me that he and his partners got to talking about the rifle and round and decided to do their research into it. There was no Google in those days, so, they did it the hard way. He said, that all of them were so impressed with what they read and learned, that all 4 of them had gone to their respective area pawn shops and gun stores and each had bought a 303 British to add to their "HUNTING" weaponry. The one I was talking with, said that after shooting his, he fell in love with it and had moved it to the head of the line in his go-to hunting guns. 
Tom
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote britrifles Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 22 2021 at 12:02pm
Great story, I enjoyed it!  I think there are stories of the .303 taking on an elephant.  Personally, I wouldn’t try that…

Of course, the .303 was a military service rifle.  The Mk VII cartridge was particularly effective in its intended purpose.  The forward conical section of the bullet core was aluminum, plastic, wood or compressed paper that caused it to yaw when hitting its target.  It created a very nasty wound channel.  

 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Archerthetom Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 22 2021 at 12:50pm
Thanks for that tidbit about the ammo. I did not know that... most definitely would cause a wicked nasty, mean and rotten wound channel. I was talking to a gun guy there in Georgia not too many years after my encounter with the Griz. Nick was a heckuva man who had a ton of gun knowledge. He laughed when I told him what the DNR Rangers had said. He walked with me into his office in his store and showed me some mounts of his. He had Alligator mounts x2, several Whitetail, Blacktail and Antelope. He had two Buffalo mounts and several Elk. Then he pointed out one of his pride and joy mounts around the corner. He had a Grizzly mount from a hunt he was involved in up in Canada way back in the day. The Griz had attacked his hunting partner, guide, and was bearing down on him. He dropped the Griz with one well-placed round to the power plant. His gun? You guessed it, it was a 303 British with 180grn round (I don't recall the bullet configuration) in a No4 MK 1. The photo was exactly like my rig with an upgraded/refinished stock in a brilliant cherry. He and his party had gone Elk hunting up in Canada and had apparently surprised the Griz that was feeding. The Guide and Nick's partner were slightly injured as they were swatted and fell down in a ravine. Nick was the left up top by himself. But, he said that when "Bess" barked, the Griz stopped like a rock. The taxidermist had to do some repair work but the point was, Nick said, he wouldn't hesitate to take the gun anywhere, in any kind of situation where his life or more importantly the life of his family was on the line. 
Tom
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 22 2021 at 4:28pm
Google for "the box 'o truth, the Deadly .303 British".
It combines deep penetration & large wound channels.
It just doesn't "mushroom".
Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zed Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 22 2021 at 11:33pm
Thanks for posting. Great story and nice that you did not need to kill the beast. Others may have panicked and wounded it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Goosic Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 23 2021 at 8:25am
I was told long ago that, "The .303B has consistently killed more big game animals than any other round with little to no follow up shots."
I watched in total amazement as my dad stopped and dropped a 1000+ lb. bull elk in a full run with one Norma 215grn .303B bullet. That elk stopped like it hit a brick wall...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Shamu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 23 2021 at 10:20am
Its one of those rounds that "punches above its weight class". Don't let the (by modern standards) mild loads fool you.

Don't shoot till you see the whites of their thighs. (Unofficial motto of the Royal Air Force)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hoadie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: November 23 2021 at 6:31pm
I've always said that the .303 will take anything on this contenent, & keep it down.
I've never been dissapointed in .303.
I've taken moose, deer & even grouse (if you place the bullet near the head - it will spin the head off).
Rabbit, hare & ground hog.
Loose wimmen tightened here
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