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Rough-country rifle: Kimber's new Hunter shows its stuff on a red stag hunt in New Zealand.

I had to wonder what was up when Rachel Vandevoort and Allen Remley of Kimber dragged me over to their booth at the Safari Club International Convention. I quickly found it when they proudly showed me Kimber's new Hunter.

At first glance it appeared somewhat similar to other 84Ms. The slim, sleek profile was familiar. But there were a couple of real differences from previous models. First, the rifle incorporated a detachable box magazine with a 3-round capacity, hen there was the high-tech polymer stock. It looked to be impervious to inclement weather--which I was anticipating on an upcoming hunt in New Zealand's mountains.

A slight texturing could be found on the forearm and pistol a to provide a positive grip even in wet weather. Blending with the stainless action and barrel, the Flat Dark Earth stock looked sharp and featured a 1-inch recoil pad. Weighing approximately 6.3 pounds, this short-action, well-balanced Hunter Model looked ideal for an uphill climb. It will initially be offered in .243 Win, .257 Roberts, 7mm-08,6.5 Creedmoor and .308. But with the possibility of a big red stag on my New Zealand menu, I elected to go with .308.

The 22-inch sporter barrel and action are both stainless steel. Other 84M attributes incorporated in the Hunter include a match-grade chamber, Mauser-type claw extractor and 3-position safety. Although the trigger is adjustable, my test gun's was nice as-is--breaking crisp at arouna 3.5 pounds with no grittiness. It made range time more enjoyable and definitely paid off in the field.

THE RIGHT GLASS

For a scope I selected Leupold's new VX-3i (the "i" stands for improved) paired with Talley QD rings. The 2.5-8X variable matched the compact rifle perfectly and would handle all the stalking encounters I could anticipate. Some of the improvements include scratch-resistant DiamondCoat 2 external coatings. I selected the Boone & Crocket reticle in case of long-range opportunities. The power selector ring is a bit larger than previous models and is easy to adjust even if you're wearing gloves.

During the early and late hours, Leupold's Twilight Max Light Management System enhances brightness. The VX-3i is an ideal hunting scope, matching the Kimber Hunter like ice cream and peach cobbler.

ASSORTED AMMO

Fortunately I have a considerable amount of .308 ammunition on hand in a wide variety of brands and loads. After loading the truck with several boxes from Winchester, Remington, Federal, Black Hills, HPR, Hornady and Nosier, I headed to the range. I've shot .308's for most of my life and I've found you can generally find a load for any particular rifle--or handgun for that matter--capable of excellent accuracy.

In this case, the Hunter wasn't picky. Handloads were tested using Nosier, Hornady and Sierra 150-grain bullets on top of Varget and CCI primers. Again, no big surprises as any of the loads tested were more than acceptable. Recoil is not an issue but you'll know the .308 has gone off in a light rifle--especially from the bench. That 1-incn recoil pad works well, saving wear and tear on your shoulder.

Not knowing exactly what I'd be hunting in New Zealand, the thought of a big red stag in the crosshairs directed me towardNosler's Custom ammunition featuring their 150-grain AccuBond. The Hunter liked this particular round and I got consistent 3-shot groups inside an inch at 100 yards. Now the gun was ready, and it was up to me to keep up my end of the deal.

DOWN UNDER

New Zealand is a beautiful country and a wonderful destination for the traveling hunter. I first met Shane Quinn back in the 1980's and today his company--Alpine Hunting--is a first-class operation. He was named Safari Club International's International Professional Hunter of the Year recently, so it's safe to say Shane is on the top of his game. New Zealand has several deer species running around including rusa, sambar, fallow, sika and big-bodied, heavy-horned red deer. Shane's operation is well-known for red stag opportunities and I would be looking for a bruiser.

After climbing a lot of steep hills in search of red stag, we accidently bumped in to a dandy sika stag during our first evening hunt. According to the rangefinder, 230 yards separated us as I placed the Hunter on top of my backpack.

The sika stag was feeding on an adjacent hillside totally unaware of our presence. Cranking the Leupold scope to 8X, I settled in while catching my breath. When my heartbeat settled enough for the crosshairs to remain steady, I launched the 150-grain Nosier AccuBond across the valley. Even with my hearing protection in place, I could hear the distinct ker-thump of the bullet striking home. Our first prize was heading to the skinning shed and everyone was happy. This had been a rewarding day, but while a mature sika deer is a beautiful trophy, I still couldn't keep from thinking about the red deer and hoping wed get lucky.

The lightness of the Kimber Hunter makes it ideal when you're on the move. It was challenging enough climbing those mountains without lugging around a heavy rifle! We got rained on more than once, and the stainless/synthetic "weatherproof" Hunter really demonstrated its backcountry credentials.

THE PAYOFF

After three days of searching the hills for red deer, I was beginning to get antsy. Although we'd passed on a few good stags already, we kept holding out. Now it was time to get serious. The height of the rut or "roar" as New Zealanders call it, was over for the most part but we still heard stags roaring occasionally in the thick bush. This roar is similar to elk bugling.

Early on the fourth morning we spotted a lone stag bedded behind a clump of trees. For what little we could see he looked good, we wanted a better view. So we waited patiently to get it.

Lying on the grass with the rifle rested on the backpack, the stag finally got up and meandered around the trees so we could get a better look. Luke, our guide, gave me the green light. When the stag stopped momentarily at about 150 yards, he was standing perfectly broadside.

Placing the crosshairs on the shoulder I tugged the trigger gently. I heard the bullet strike home ana the stag dropped in his tracks. Luke slapped me on the back excitedly and said, "those big magnums couldn't have dropped him better!" I couldn't argue. After skinning the stag we found the AccuBond had passed through one shoulder lodging in the skin on the opposite side in a near perfect mushroom.

To say I'm pleased with the new Kimber Hunter would be an understatement. It's accurate, has a good trigger and is packed with the handling qualities needed for a stalking rifle. The detachable box magazine is also handy when loading and unloading. For hunters obliged to cover a lot of real estate of the uphill variety, this latest Kimber is a wise choice. It's a quality rifle at an affordable price.

NOSLER, 115 SW Columbia St., Bend, OR 97702, (800) 285-3701, www.nosler. com, ALPINE HUNTING, Shane Quinn, (888) 891-0526, www.alpinehunting.com

HUNTER

MAKER: Kimber Mfg., Inc., 30 Lower Valley Road, Kalispell, MT 59901, (406) 260-4390, www.gunsmagazine.com/index

TYPE: Bolt-action, CALIBER: .243, .257, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7-08, .308 (tested], CAPACITY: 3+1, BARREL LENGTH: 22 inches, OVERALL LENGTH: 41.25 inches, WEIGHT: 6.5 pounds, FINISH: Matte stainless, SIGHTS: None, drilled and tapped for scope mounts, STOCK: Flat Dark Earth polymer, PRICE: $885

VX-3I S.5-8X36MM

MAKER: Leupold 8 Stevens, 14400 NW Greenbrier Pkwy, P.0. Box 688, Beaverton, OR 97006, (503) 646-9171, www.gunsmagazine.com/index

TRUE MAGNIFICATION: 2.60X-7.80X, OBJECTIVE DIAMETER: 1.60 inches, EYE RELIEF: 4.50 inches (low), 3.60 inches (high), INTERNAL ADJUSTMENT RANGE: 67 MOA (elevation 6 windage], CLICK VALUE: 0.25 inches, TUBE DIAMETER: 1 inch, WEIGHT: 11.40 ounces, OVERALL LENGTH: 11.40 inches, RETICLE: Boone 6 Crockett, PRICE: $649.99
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Author:Hampton, Mark
Publication:Guns Magazine
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Mar 1, 2017
Words:1333
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