Ask Petzal: An Underrated Elk Gun, Top Big-Game Rounds, and the Best Hunter Ever

dangerous hunts
“If I’d taken one misstep, they’d still be looking for me.”Mark Matcho

David E. Petzal answers your questions about guns, shooting, hunting, and life. Got a question for our rifles editor? Send it to askpetzal@fieldandstream.com. We cannot guarantee polite answers to all questions.

What's the most dangerous situation you've ever been in while hunting?Ronald Jenkins, Athens, Ga.

A: Aside from every time I rode a horse or flew in a small plane, it was probably the time in Montana around 1980 when I found myself halfway down what they call a cow's nose—a nearly vertical cliff that ended in a creekbottom below. It was so icy that I couldn't go any farther, but I couldn't stay there, either, so I cut myself a walking stick and, an inch at a time, made it down. If I'd taken one misstep, they'd still be looking for me.

Q: What do you think of a Remington 760 in .30/06 for elk? What scope would you put on it?Ralph Gardner IV, N.J.

A: The Model 760 is a hugely underrated rifle that's often very accurate and always highly reliable. The .30/06 is just about ideal; I'd look for ammo with strong 165- or 180-grain bullets. As for a scope, I assume you're not going to be taking shots at 2,000 yards, so I'll nominate my old favorite, the Leupold Vari-X III 2.5X–8X with the Duplex reticle.

Q: I recently came across a couple of boxes of .219 Zipper and wondered why something with such a cool name isn't used anymore. What happened to it?John Nih, via e-mail

A: The name was the only thing about it that was cool. The .219 Zipper was introduced by Winchester in 1937 to be used as a varmint cartridge in the Model 64 ­lever-​­action rifle. In order for it to work through a tubular magazine, however, Winchester had to load it with flat-nosed bullets, which made it null and void for long range and therefore useless for varmints. It died in 1962, mostly unmourned and unloved.

Q: I read that the silicone in gun socks is bad for wood stocks and other parts of firearms. Should I use a silicone-­impregnated gun sock?Erick J. Figueras, Florence, S.C.

A: I can't see how silicone could harm a wood gunstock, since almost all of them now have synthetic finishes that are impervious to just about everything, including silicone. Nonetheless, do not use silicone gun socks. Do not use gun socks, period. Leave the gun where air can circulate around it.

Q: Who is the greatest hunter of all time?Sean DeBalla, mesa, Ariz.

A: Wow, that takes in a good deal of territory. I'll confine myself to the modern era, since that rules out legend and b.s., and nominate my friend and colleague Craig Boddington. If there is a critter out there, Boddington has gone and got it, and he is a gentleman and a credit to the sport in the bargain.

Q: What's the best caliber for all North American big game, from Coues deer to moose, in the following categories: light recoil, medium recoil, and heavy ­recoil?Gerry Johnston, Marblehead, Mass.

A: Your question is impossible to answer definitively because recoil is a highly subjective subject. What I consider a medium kicker may give someone else the leaping fantods. Nonetheless, here we go. Light: 6.5x55 Swede. Very modest recoil, but it has killed and will go on killing anything. Medium: .30/06. How can I choose anything else? Heavy: .338 Winchester Magnum. One gun-writer friend of mine called it the most useful cartridge introduced since World War II. I'm not arguing.

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