By Mike Schoby
If you aren’t familiar with the Vudu brand of riflescopes, don’t feel bad: In the last decade there have been more riflescope companies that have popped up than in possibly the last century.
But Vudu isn’t a “no-pedigree”, “me-too,” “also-ran” manufacturer you won’t hear of in a couple of years, as it comes from a high-quality player in the optical market — EOTECH. Long-known as the originator, and leader, in the holographic sight market, EOTECH is now under new (actually the original A-team is back in place) management and is introducing some exciting things — Vudu being one of them.
I decided to test the scope in my home state of Montana for the 2020 general rifle deer and elk season. In fact, I needed to test a few items this year, so I mounted it to a new Mossberg Patriot LR Hunter in 6.5 Creedmoor which I hadn’t used before. A nicely designed Monte Carlo stock with an aluminum bedding block, detachable five round magazine and a darn good adjustable trigger — it's an impressive rifle all around. In a nod to politeness, I screwed on a super-effective Silent Legion suppressor.
EOTECH makes eight variants of the Vudu scope ranging from a sleek 1-6x24 all the way up to a hubble-esque 8-32x50. For a hunt where I expected shots from 100 yards out to possibly 400, I selected the 3.5-18x50.
Getting set up at the bench, a few niceties about the scope quickly emerged. The scope has a unique side-mounted dual-purpose knob — of course parallax adjustment was found in this traditional spot, but also a unique illuminated reticle control system, with intuitive push buttons for on/off and power level adjustment. The HC1 reticle provided a clean field of view and an easy-to-understand layout. Essentially a center dot with vertical and horizontal mil-style hash marks gradiented at 1MOA between marks separated by larger hashmarks at 5 MOA with 10 MOA of drop from the center dot. Being a second focal plane scope, power has to be turned all the way up to use the MOA system. Since I didn’t want to dial dope on this particular hunt, this proved to be an easy-to-use system in the field.
A final nice touch was the unique power adjustment throw lever. Throw levers are something you either hate or love. I vacillate back and forth depending upon what I am doing, the gun I’m mounting it on and anticipated usage. Luckily with this system you have options. Don’t anticipate lots of power adjustment? Leave it off and you have a traditional style power adjustment ring. Want to use it, it comes in the box and screws into a threaded hole on the power adjustment ring making large adjustments with cold hands while wearing gloves a breeze. I chose to install it and am glad I did.
At the range, everything went smoothly. I bore sighted the rifle and sent a round downrange. I made some adjustments and found the scope accurate and responsive with ¼ MOA clicks — indicating if you wanted to dial for distance, the Vudu’s internal mechanism would accommodate. Running it out to 200 yards I sighted it dead on and started shooting groups with various loads to determine which load I would use. The Hornady 140 grain A-MAX proved to be the most accurate of them all delivering consistent on-inch three-shot groups at 200 yards!
Think about that for a second — just how spoiled we have become! I was shooting a modestly priced Mossberg Patriot, firing factory loads with a scope that, while not inexpensive, could be at least considered mid-priced in today’s world and the combo was delivering groups a target shooter with a custom rifle/scope combo firing carefully handloaded match-grade ammo would have envied a couple of decades ago. While the A-MAX shot the best, I ultimately decided to shoot the 142-grain Nosler Accubond bullets as I feel the 6.5 Creedmoor is only marginal for elk and I feel this is one of the best bullets you can use to expand the killing envelope of this relatively mild cartridge on larger game.
The hunt was planned for the second week of November around Ennis, Montana. I have hunted this region extensively over the years and love this time of year. The Madison Valley holds a good population of whitetails and mule deer which are both in full rut by mid-November. The large population of elk have migrated out of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness to the east of the valley to congregate in large herds on the valley floor. Add in the high wolf population (which I also had a couple of tags tucked into my vest) and you have a week of fun in the making.
The first day I looked over several good mule deer — heavily rutted and blindly following does wherever they went. I could have shot any and all of them, but as I said, they were good, but not exceptional. Knowing this area is still recovering to its mule deer glory of yesteryear, I am pretty particular on mule deer and decided to let them grow another year — possibly making something really eye-popping in years to come.
Whitetails on the other hand I don’t have as much respect for. They thrive in the region, there is no shortage, and I don’t feel they need as much help to rebound in population. Folks come to Montana to shoot mule deer, not whitetail, so one species gets hammered while the other is left relatively untouched. I decided to do a little touching!
The second day I looked over several dozen mature whitetail bucks. It made me smile to think back at all the Midwest “trophy” whitetail hunts I had frozen my feet on in treestands to not see a deer. We don’t get the bruiser, 180-class deer of the Midwest, but we get lots of whitetails in the 130-140 range. And at the end of the day I guess I’m essentially a whitetail simpleton with low patience. I’d rather see dozens of good bucks in a day than a glimpse of one bruiser in a season. To each their own!
I finally spotted the best one I had seen in the area in some time, tending a few does out in the middle of an alfalfa field. A couple smaller bucks ringed the group at a safe distance. There was a convenient ditch from the irrigation pivot tire that provided a relatively decent stalking approach. In a half crouch/half waddle that only a middle-aged dude can successfully pull off, I got within 220 yards of the unsuspecting buck. He was bedded and I didn’t have a good shot at his vitals.
Just when I was thinking of whistling to make him stand, a smaller buck trotted over to check out one of the does. That was all it took for the bedded buck to get off his feet, neck bristling to ward off the intruder. Holding the illuminated dot of the scope on his lungs, I squeezed the Mossberg’s trigger. The buck hardly reacted to the shot, but wheeled and took off at full sprint. I was cycling the bolt to attempt to put another one in him when I saw blood coating the off-side of his hide. He went perhaps 30 yards before spiraling into the dirt. The smaller buck gathered up his newfound harem, gave me a last look — his version of a tip of a cap — and took off for the cottonwood grove in the distance.
While elk were aplenty in the area, I took a couple of days off to enjoy the annual camp. We had two teenagers along this year who hadn’t shot an elk yet, so they were fired up with youth and enthusiasm. Let them have at it and experience elk hunting at its uncrowded finest, I thought.
After two days both had filled their tags and were grinning ear to ear. It made me smile and I realized there was still hope for the next generation.
With camp quieting down as tags were filled, I went out with old-time pal, Ray Harrison, before light to hike the foothills of the mountains. As sun lit the valley below, we soon spotted a herd of elk — quite a large one actually. Sitting on the hillside looking for a legal “brow tine” bull, I started counting. When I got to the end of the long line of elk, I hit 273 — 99 percent cows, a few spikes and one four-point. The large bulls had recently left the herd and were back in bachelor groups. If you wanted one for the wall they could still be found, but I wanted one for the freezer and that four-pointer seemed perfectly suited for the task at hand.
We put a stalk on them through the sage and finally got to within 350 yards before the 500-plus eyes picked up our movement. Dropping prone, I found the bull in the scope. Double checking the drop with Hornady’s 4DOF program, I knew I had to hold about 4 MOA up. Waiting until he turned broadside and was clear of cows, I squeezed the trigger. The impact of the bullet striking flesh reverberated through the valley. Straddle-legged he stood — sick but not down — blood coming right from the juncture of heart/lung. I put another into him with the same hold. He began to trot, following the herd of rapidly departing cows but stopped after 20 yards. I put another into him for good measure and he went down.
Freezer full for the year with elk and whitetail, I was satiated. It was another good camp in Montana. The rifle and scope worked flawlessly, but the caliber not so much. Wait for it, I can hear the pantheon of Creedmoor fans shrieking in the far distance. I think this bull made the 16th big-game animal I have shot with the cartridge — mainly antelope and deer — so I am not making a rash judgement on it. Yes, the Creedmoor is phenomenal for target shooting, fine for deer and antelope, but it is not an elk cartridge. Yes, it will work. In fact, I have never lost an animal with it — but even with quality bullets the performance is marginal.
I grumbled about the cartridge at camp that night, calling it the 6.5 "Needmore." Guys laughingly said “what are you complaining about? You punched your tags, right?” True, I did, but I also know a larger cartridge would have performed better.
Next year I’d readily select the same scope and the same Mossberg, however, I think I’ll opt for the .300 PRC.
The Essentials Gear Box.
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