Alaska Hunt – What Caliber and Cartridge is Best?

A great digression as a winter storm hits New England! Campfire fodder!

I suggest as do Alaska experts that the 30-06 Springfield is proven in Alaska but I believe it to be an absolute minimum for Bull Moose and Brown Bear.  Like I hunted in Africa, I believe you should be able to shoot it off hand, handle the recoil and know how to cycle your bolt open and closed and place repeat bullets in a pie plate at say 70 to 80 yards. I did that with a .338 Win Mag and 250 grain bullets on my African Safari.

Alaska is a land of potential dangerous game! Use a rifle caliber that is in stock at the local stores in Alaska if possible. I hear .308, 30-06, 12 gauge shotgun and .22 LR are most common, but it might pay to check and take ammo precautions if your baggage is lost, like have a box ordered and waiting at the local Alaska store of your brand and special caliber.

The .308 or 6 mm/.243 Win or the new 6.5 Creedmoor I love is fine for black tail deer however if you are on an island with deer and bear, the .308 or 6mm is a “not so good” choice if a bear wants you and your downed deer. A 30-06 with 180 or 200 grain heads would perhaps be a better choice. Bigger bores and magnums are recommended if you can handle it. “Bears think that your shot is like ringing the dinner bell!”

Shot placement is everything! If you cant handle your rifle recoil then Alaska is perhaps not for you!

In Brown bear open country, a 30-06 or better a  300 Win Mag with an expanding bonded bullet is Ok. I prefer the .375 Ruger with Nosler AccuBonds or Partitions in at least 260 to 300 grain heads. I do like the .338 Win Mag as well.  I shoot these very well in my Ruger M77. Further that you would be wise to have a Mauser style bolt with a claw extractor to ensure guaranteed chamber feed and removal when hunting dangerous game.

In close quarters like in tag alders where shots are less than 25 yards a pump 12 gauge shotgun with slugs. “In a brown bear charge, you must make the first shot, a brain shot count to turn out its lights.” I would not recommend that kind of close quarters hunt, but it can happen with wounded bears say some experts.

Recoil management has come a long way so use recoil pads that can absorb recoil up to  50%. Get some!

Don’t forget a sidearm like the 44 magnum with 240 grain solid semi-jacket bullets and update your Will if you are Brown Bear Hunting or fishing near Brown Bear.

Good  Hunting!

© 2018


This entry was posted in Big Game Hunting, Hunting thoughts by Ed Hale. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ed Hale

I am an avid hunter with rifle and Bow and have been hunting for more than 50 years. I have taken big game such as whitetail deer, red deer, elk, Moose and African Plains game such as Kudu, Gemsbok, Springbok, Blesbok, and Impala and wrote an ebook entitled African Safari -Rifle and Bow and Arrow on how to prepare for a first safari. Ed is a serious cartridge reloader and ballistics student. He has earned two degrees in science and has written hundreds of outdoor article on hunting with both bow and rifle.

2 thoughts on “Alaska Hunt – What Caliber and Cartridge is Best?

  1. I agree with your thoughts on the Alaska rifle. My own .338 Win Mag has proven to be very accurate and “shootable” for me. In North America I have taken deer, bear, moose, caribou, and even wild pigs with it. On my African plains safari I took most of my game with the same rifle. I was somewhat overpowered for some of these targets, but it was the rifle in hand at the time. Also it is a rifle I have a lot of confidence in, which is important. Although I am currently working with the .375 Ruger, I would not hesitate to take my .338 Win Mag on an Alaskan hunt.

    I understand the the Alaskan environment can be hard on firearms so a stainless rifle or modern coated finish would be good. A weather stable synthetic or laminated stock would be recommended as well. My .338 is nicely blued, so I would have to plan for some additional protections and care during the course of the hunt.

    Or maybe I could talk myself into one of those Ruger Hawkeye FTW Hunter rifles in .375 Ruger…

    • Thanks so much for your experienced thoughts on the article. It was fun to write in such lousy weather. The .338 Win Mag was used by JIm Carmichael of Outdoor Life to take Cape Buffalo. His PH thought it too light until he flattened a Dagga Boy with it. I think that article might still be out there.
      A 250 grain bullet from a .338 has 4000 ft-lbs of energy like the .375 and has a higher Sectional Density as well but for close 50 to 100 yards the .375 Ruger with Nosler AB’s does a nice job on 1000 lb bison.

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