Team Hornady Logo

Coues Deer

Category: GMX®

Product: 280 Rem 139 gr GMX® Superformance®

Shooter: Mark Dille

Posted: Jan 5, 2011

It had been 16 years since I hunted with my father for the elusive Coues deer in the Superstition Mountains of AZ. Needless to say, I was anxious to get back to my roots and hunt some of the toughest terrain and certainly one of the most difficult prey animals around with my favorite hunting partner. Not having access to reloading equipment anymore, I was in a bit of a conundrum with my .280 Rem. I make a habit out of shooting premium bullets on big game, no matter the size of the animal. I’ve had too many experiences with standard bullets failing when something unexpected is hit, i.e. a shoulder bone. Premium bullets provide the confidence under most all scenarios, because they are designed to perform under a much broader range of conditions.

So, my criteria were .280 Rem, factory ammunition, and premium bullets (monolithic preferred) of a streamlined design due to the wind and long ranges where I’d be hunting. The choices were scarce. Then I noticed Hornaday introduced the GMX bullet, a super premium design. Then I about fell over when I realized that they offered factory ammunition with the 139gr in the .280 Rem and the new Superformance powder listed at 3070fps. Finally, a factory round that offered velocities that were only achievable with the .280 Rem in handloaded form due to how Remington decided to introduce the round with a lower pressure rating than the .270 Win. The bonus was the price, which was less than all the other premium offerings.

I immediately ordered several boxes. Upon receipt of the ammunition, I marveled at the quality of components. Absolutely everything about the ammunition was premium. Obviously, no shortcuts were taken in preparing this ammunition. While I didn’t chronograph the loads, they did shoot four inches higher than my previous 150gr factory rounds at 100 yards. They also grouped three shots inside a half inch consistently. After readjusting my scope settings, I was ready to see how they performed in the field.

The hunting was difficult as the temperature during the early hunt was hot, and the skies were clear with a full moon on the second day of the hunt. For this reason and due to the hunting pressure, the deer became very nocturnal. Other than a couple spikes, we spotted two good bucks on two different occasions moving quickly away from us at unshootable ranges. Both stalk attempts failed. On the final day, we decided to climb the ridge where we had seen the two bucks before, hoping that the waning moon would help us out some. Unfortunately, the wind was unbearable that day, blowing constantly at 35 mph and gusting to over 60 mph at times. You had to be careful when you yawned so that you wouldn’t be blown off the mountain. Holding binoculars steady was a chore; shooting would be impossible. We decided to climb back down early and go to a basin where we did see a lot doe and fawn activity which was a little more protected from the wind.

Just as we were about to leave the basin and head to camp to pack for home, my father spotted a large deer at the top of a ridge about 600 yards away. It was a good buck. For once we were looking at a buck that wasn’t moving out of the country. We quickly formulated a plan. He decided to stay in place while my task was to traverse down the gorge and back up the other side to a small knoll where we estimated the shot would be about 275 – 300 yards. We also guessed this would take at least 30 – 45 minutes. Neither of us thought we had that much time, but it was worth a try.

As I started down the steep gorge, I was able to keep my eye on the buck. About two-thirds of the way down, he started to move around. I could tell he was about to bed down and was standing two steps away from evaporating out of my sight forever. I decided to range him to see the distance, 464 yards facing me. I happened to have a small fallen tree that provided a very stable rest, and at that point I decided to shoot. After scanning the country side for the effects of wind and doing a couple calculations in my head, I held two and a half feet right and two feet high and squeezed the trigger. When the rifle returned from recoiling, I didn’t see the deer. However, I did hear my radio crack with, “Holy cow!” I couldn’t help but smile.

The deer tumbled 30 yards upon being hit on the steep slope. Once I got to him, I noticed an entry hole high in the front center of his chest going straight back and down slightly due to the angle of the shot. I found the bullet lodged in the center of his liver. It had cut the wind pipe, smashed through three inches of spine on one side of the bullet, and continued on another 12” beyond the spine, tearing out both lungs and liver, for a total of 20” of penetration. The side of the bullet that did not hit spine expanded perfectly at the reduced velocities caused by the long shot. The side that did hit bone stayed together and did not come apart. The bullet retained 95% of its original weight. This is perfect performance.

I will never forget that trip with my father as it was one of the most fun and rewarding experiences we’ve shared. Thank you for making a product that gave me the confidence to make it extra special.