Off to the east, behind Pagoda Peak, dawn was creeping upward. In the crimson half light, my horse picked its way along the rocky, mud-frozen pack trail. The boss, an elk outfitter I worked for, had given me the morning off and a loaned horse to get to the elk country above the Beaver Creek basin in Colorado.
It was good to be alone, away from the demanding hungry sports and the constant chatter at the spike camp. Except for the occasional clack of hooves on rock and the wonderful squeak of leathery tack, silence was all about me. I stopped the horse, and had that feeling that hunters sometimes get. An inner voice spoke, “Time to get serious.”
Leaving the mount hobbled in an aspen grove, I loaded my .270 and began slowly picking my way along the well-worn pack trail that followed along the creek on up to the high country.
Seconds later, a large cow elk broke out of the aspen off to my left, sprinted across the pack trail, forded the creek and raced toward the dark timber on the other side of the basin. “Never get a shot at her,” I thought. “She’s as good as gone.” Then, to my surprise, she began loping sideways up against the timberline shadows. Reflexively, I shouted something in admonishment that I don’t recall. Incredibly, she stopped. Her mistake. The .270 barked and the elk went down for good.
According to Diane’s journal, this serendipity day unfolded more than 20 years ago. The day came flooding back to me yesterday, prompted of all things, by an article in a magazine about “The Classic .270.” Invented in the 1920s and made legendary by iconic gun writer and sportsman Jack O’Connor, no other hunting rifle round seems to generate as much press as the vaunted .270. At last count, the .30 ’06 was listed as America’s most popular hunting cartridge. (The .270 is a necked-down .30 ’06.)
O’Connor swore by the .270 and hunted all manner of big game with this cartridge. His nemesis, another gun writer of some repute, Elmer Keith, who swore by the .30 ’06, mocked O’Connor. “It’s a damned adequate coyote cartridge,” Keith hissed.
O’Connor’s heyday was even before my time and had nothing to do with me owning a .270. Another great man and sportsman, Harvard Reynolds, who brought me along in the woods, turned the Remington 721 (.270) over to me a few years before he passed away.
A marksman or ballistics buff I am not. But the .270 suits me. It is a modest recoil, flat-shooting round that I have found effective on every big game from moose and deer to elk. Insofar as I know, the cartridges are available in 130 grain and 150 grain. If you can find 140 grain, go with them. A good compromise between trajectory and hitting power, a 140 grain .270 travels at 2,960 FPS.