Rough-Country Rifle

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Kimber’s New Hunter Shows Its Stuff
On A Red Stag Hunt In New Zealand

By Mark Hampton

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. Then 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 grip to provide a positive grip even in wet weather. Blending well with the stainless action and barrel, the Flat Dark Earth stock looked sharp and featured a 1-inch recoil pad. Weighing approximately 6.5 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 around 3.5 pounds with no grittiness. It made range time more enjoyable and definitely paid off in the field.

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Mark took his New Zealand red stag (above) at 150 yards. The sika
deer (below) was taken at 230.

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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.

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Leupold’s VX-3i 2.5-8X fitted in Talley rings proved an excellent aesthetic
and practical match for the Kimber Hunter.

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This 3-shot 100-yard group (before final adjustment) shows how much Mark’s
Kimber’s Hunter liked Nolser 150-grain ammo.

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 Nosler 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 we’d 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.

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Carrying the Kimber Hunter over New Zealand’s mountainous terrain was less
onerous than it would’ve been with a heavier rifle.

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 and 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 2.5-8x36mm

Maker: Leupold & Stevens
14400 NW Greenbrier Pkwy
P.O. 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 & windage)
Click value: 0.25 inches
Tube diameter: 1 inch
Weight: 11.40 ounces
Overall length: 11.40 inches
Reticle: Boone & Crockett
Price: $649.99

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