After one of my last posts, 365-regular and fellow Bangorian Douglas asked about my recent elk hunt. I’ve been meaning to blog about this, but you now how things go this time of year.

Anyway, it was great. I hunted at Elkhorn Oufitters‘s high-country camp near Craig, Colorado. It was a rare September rifle hunt, during which some fellow writers and I tested, among other things, Mossberg’s new MVP Predator 7.62 NATO.

First, a couple of quick observations:

1. Dick Dodds, the owner of Elkhorn Outfitters, is bar none the best guide I’ve ever hunted with. There are few truly great guides out there because it requires an unusual blend of aggression and patience, of cold determination and personal warmth. One has to be both a damned killer and a people person, at the same time. Dick walks that line with great deft and also happens to have a supernatural understanding of his animals and ground.

2. If you are not a real cowboy (no matter how much you may wish you were) and you have the choice of riding a horse or a mule on an elk hunt, ride the mule.

And now back to the MVP and the elk:

Mossberg’s original MVP series, a selection of innovative and affordable 5.56mm NATO (.223 Rem) bolt-action rifles that accept AR-15 magazines, has been an unqualified hit. And so now, the company is rolling out a 7.62mm (.308 Win) version that accepts AR-10 mags. We were shooting the new Predator, with a laminate stock and 18.5-inch medium bull barrel, topped with a Bushnell Legend scope. We loaded the gun with 165-grain Hornady Superperformance .308 Win GMX, which sports a very tough all-copper bullet, and planned to keep shots inside 300 yards.

Now, let me be perfectly honest: I didn’t expect to love this gun for hunting. The Mossberg bolts I’ve shot in the past have been accurate enough, but not much more than that, and the fact that this one takes an AR magazine does little for me personally. But this rifle won me over. Though affordable (around $650 real-world), it does not feel at all cheap; on the contrary, it is a solid, tight gun. Though a tad heavy at 8 pounds, it is compact and quite handy. (The 20-inch-medium-barrel version weighs a pound less.) At the shooting range on the day before the hunt, all five or six of the rifles we shot (with only one brand of ammo, mind you) turned in 1.5 MOA or better groups. And during what turned out to be a very tough hunt, with brutal weather, the gun proved both rugged and reliable.

What’s more, I expected the MVP’s protruding, 10-round magazine, with its squared corners, to make carrying the gun a pain. But it was fine once I got used to it, and, as it turned out, the extra rounds came in handy–because: Damn, elk are tough! More on that in my next post.