Best Hunting Rifle Setups: Recommendations from Bane, Stroff and Titus | Outdoor Channel
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Best Hunting Rifle Setups: Recommendations from Bane, Stroff and Titus

For big game and white-tailed deer hunting, we turned to some of our recognized experts in the field to get their thoughts and comments on rifles and cartridge/caliber choices, scope preferences, bullets utilized and a whole lot more

“Savage Outdoors” show host Mike Stroff favors a Savage Long Range Hunter rifle chambered in .300 Win Mag for North America big game. (Photo courtesy of Mike Stroff) “Savage Outdoors” show host Mike Stroff favors a Savage Long Range Hunter rifle chambered in .300 Win Mag for North America big game. (Photo courtesy of Mike Stroff)

By: OutdoorChannel.com Staff

There are an infinite number of combinations and ways to setup a hunting rifle. For big game and white-tailed deer, OutdoorChannel.com decided to get some answers from three recognized firearm hunting experts regarding hunting rifle choices and equipment setups.

What resulted was a tremendous question and answer effort from these three show hosts and television personalities on what their choices might be for big game and whitetail rifles, scopes and ammunition.

Below are the answers from our Q & A session with recognized hunting and shooting experts Michael Bane; Mike Stroff (Savage Outdoors); and Kristy Titus (Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's TEAM Elk).

If you could choose only one rifle to hunt medium- (whitetail, antelope, etc.) to large-size (elk, moose, etc.) game in North America, what would it be?

Michael Bane: "I like the Ruger GUNSITE Scout. With its bulletproof controlled feed action, it's a do-everything rifle and I have thousands of rounds through mine. I could probably be talked into one of the FTW Hunters (too)."

Mike Stroff: "If I had to pick one rifle to hunt most North American big game animals, I would choose my Savage Lightweight Hunter chambered in .30-06. This rifle only weighs 6 pounds and has a 20-inch barrel. So in a treestand or a ground blind, it is easy to maneuver.  At the same time, the weight is perfect for mountain hunting as well."

Kristy Titus: "I have a 6.5 Creedmoor in a Browning A-bolt that was produced as a SHOT Show special a few years ago. Currently, that model is not available, however they have the Browning AB3 that is available (and) chambered in a 6.5 Creedmoor. Browning is a proven company that manufactures high quality production rifles."

Explain your choice of cartridge/caliber:

Michael Bane: "I like the .308. It's a caliber I’m familiar with, it holds no surprises and it works."

Mike Stroff: "The .30-06 allows for a wide range in bullet weights depending on what you are hunting. It is flat shooting and hits plenty hard enough for any North American game animal."

Kristy Titus: "I love the 6.5 Creedmoor because it has very low felt recoil which is great for small-statured shooters or people that are interested in shooting a lot. I can comfortably shoot 100 rounds a day while training and I have no shoulder soreness from recoil. The second bonus is that the ballistics are amazing. I am shooting a 142-grain hunting bullet at 2,775 fps. The bullets have an extremely high ballistic coefficient, so when I am hunting, I have more peace of mind that my bullet is not drifting as much because of wind."

Kristy Titus Shooting
Kristy Titus uses a Browning A-Bolt cambered in 6.5 Creedmoor because of the low-felt recoil, which allows her to practice more without getting a sore shoulder. (Photo courtesy of Kristy Titus)

Which scope do you prefer and why? Any thoughts on bases and rings?

Michael Bane: "My choice is the Swarovski Z8i 1-8X Illuminated scope. Swaro is the best scope I’ve ever used. I don’t have a Z8i yet, but I do have a Z6i 1-6X and a Z3 3-9 Traditional for lighter rifles. As for bases and rings, I like Seekins Precision rings because they are GOOD! Rings are a lot more important than most people really understand; I have learned this the hard way."

Mike Stroff: "I like the Bushnell Elite Long Range Hunting Scopes. They have very clear glass and allow you the ability to use the reticle or you can dial in your shot if you are having to take longer shots. I was able to use this set up on my Savage Lightweight Hunter this past year to make multiple shots on animals over 500 yards.  In most cases I end up using Weaver-style (scope ring) mounts because the bases that come on my Savage rifles have Weaver bases. I am big on making sure to use high quality rings in order to make sure there isn’t any movement. I like a ring with three screws on each side instead of the (standard) two screws on my hunting rifles."

Mike Stroff Hunting
For medium- to large-game rifle setups, Mike Stroff uses hunting scopes with tactical features, such as quick-adjust turrets to accurately dial in long-range shots. (Photo courtesy of Mike Stroff)

Kristy Titus: "The (Swarovski) Z6(i) 3-18x50 BT is the perfect rifle scope for seeing distant targets with the greatest field of view possible. Having the ability to accurately determine the distance of our target, the addition of a ballistic turret provides point of aim, point of impact accuracy. The ballistic turret is easy to assemble at home and allows you the option to decide what distance you want as markers on the turret. The illuminated BRH reticle is designed for better low light visibility while big game hunting. The vertical spacing between the bars and dots of the BRH are 0.5 mil increments allowing for rapid engagement of a target or for the ability to make an ethical shot at a game animal. The ends of the marker bars are designed to compensate for a wind up to 20 miles per hour but is based upon the cartridge. All spacing of bars and dots are a uniform 1 mil increments, so with good data charts these are easy to use around any caliber."

What ammunition do you prefer (brand, bullet weight and model)? Why do you prefer this ammunition? Any additional thoughts or comments here?

Michael Bane: " Generally, I prefer the Hornady 150-grain GMX Superformance. I love the GMX bullet and used this on red stag in New Zealand from a Ruger Scout Rifle. In terms of heavier bullets for moose and/or elk, I am currently experimenting with the Hornady ELD-X 178-grain bullet. Additional thoughts or comments? What can I say, I'm a little bit boring here."

Mike Stroff: "For antelope and deer-sized animals, I shoot the Fusion 165-grain ammo and on the bigger animals like elk or moose, I shoot the Federal Premium 180-grain Trophy Bonded Tip (bullet)."

Kristy Titus: "Hornady has the ELD-X; this bullet shoots as crisp and tight as my match bullets (do) while delivering the power to take down big game animals at pretty much any distance. I do have a slight impact shift with this bullet in my elevation from my match bullet, but that is due to the slightly lower velocity that I am getting - we are talking less than 25 feet per second. All around, I am (pleased and) could not be more impressed with the ELD-X bullet."

If you could choose one rifle to hunt large-size game (elk, moose, etc.) in North America, what would it be?

Michael Bane red stag
When hunting big game, such as red stag, his go-to
rifle is a Ruger Guide Gun. (Photo courtesy of
DownRange.tv)

Michael Bane: "A Ruger Guide Gun."

Mike Stroff: "I would choose my Savage Long Range Hunter in .300 Win Mag. It is a hard hitting, very flat shooting caliber. The Savage Long Range Hunter is one of the most accurate hunting rifles I have ever shot. "

Kristy Titus: "This past year, I had a custom Winchester Model 70 built for me by Wayne York of Oregunsmithing in a 300 Win Mag."

Explain your choice of cartridge/caliber.

Michael Bane: "The .300 Win Mag? Well, once again, it's a proven caliber and I have shot a lot of rounds in this caliber, so it has no surprises for me. (For instance), I have shot it on steel at 1,000 yards with Black Hills Match (bullets)."

Mike Stroff: "The .300 Win Mag is a perfect round for larger animals. It is extremely accurate at longer ranges and still carries enough knock down power to kill the larger animals at those longer distances."

Kristy Titus: "The 300 Win Mag affords more power behind it, helping your bullet break down bone to reach vital organs on heavy big game animals."

Which scope do you prefer and why? Any thoughts on bases and rings?

Michael Bane: "I like the Swarovski X5i 3.5-18X, it's an incredibly versatile scope! As for bases and rings, again, Seekins Precision."

Mike Stroff: "Like above, I like the Bushnell Elite Long Range Hunting Scopes. They have very clear glass and they allow you the ability to use the reticle or you can dial in your shot if you are having to take longer (distance) shots. This scope gives you flexibility to dial in your yardage and to be extremely accurate on longer shots. Also, like I said above, in most cases, I end up using Weaver style mounts because the bases that come on my Savage rifles have Weaver bases. And again, I am big on making sure to use high quality rings in order to make sure that there isn’t any movement. I also like a ring with three screws on each side instead of the (standard) two screws on my hunting rifles."

Kristy Titus: "The new (Swarovski) X5(i) rifle scope, a very welcomed addition to the exceptional line up of Swarovski Optik rifle scopes, is specifically designed with long-range precision shooters and hunters in mind. The X5 will afford the opportunity to train at greater distances than ever before. My (personal) choice is the X5 3,5-18x50 with the BRM reticle with 2 MOA increment spacing for elevation and wind. The brand new turret design has ¼ MOA turrets with 20 MOA in 1 revolution. There is a window that lets the shooter know what revolution they are on. The new inversion system features a spring retention system that ensures precise click adjustments as well as keeping equal pressure on the inversion system in any position."

What ammunition do you prefer (brand, bullet weight and model)? Why do you prefer this ammunition? Any additional thoughts or comments here?

Michael Bane: "I like the 165-grain Hornady Superformance GMX International bullet; I have had GREAT luck with this cartridge! It's good up to eland-sized animals. Once again, I am experimenting with the new 200-grain ELD-X bullet."

Mike Stroff: "I like to shoot the Federal Premium 180-grain Trophy Bonded Tip ammo when I am hunting elk and moose. I have also shot this same bullet when brown bear hunting in Alaska. It hits hard and has a good ballistic coefficient down range."

Kristy Titus: "This year I am using the new Browning BXC Controlled Expansion Terminal Tip (bullet). The gist of this bullet is that it is designed to penetrate heavy boned animals for terminal performance at a wide array of distances."

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