Caribou Encore

A “Do Over” Canadian Hunt Pays Off, Thanks To A .308 T/C Pro Hunter

By Mark Hampton

Getting a solid rest on a boulder helps steady the crosshairs when shots are 300 yards across the tundra.

With an upcoming caribou hunt in Canada, I had to decide on a rifle to make the trip. Since Canada doesn’t allow handgun hunting, a long gun would have to suffice. For many years I’ve hunted with T/C’s Encore in a variety of calibers. So I figured since I already had the frame, why not get a rifle barrel, stock, add a fore-end and be done with it? So I went shopping for a barrel for my Quebec-Labrador hunt.

Caribou are not difficult to bring down. A proper bullet placed in the boiler room will get your tag punched and it doesn’t take a magnum teeth-rattler to do it. I was quite fond of the Pro Hunter barrel and decided on one in .308 Winchester. Complete Pro Hunter rifles come in .223, .243, .308, and .30-06. The stainless .308 barrel is 28 inches long, fluted and comes drilled and tapped for scope mounts. Since I already had a stainless frame with a sweet trigger job, I figured it would be an ideal match. To round things out, I ordered T/C’s Flextech thumbhole stock with matching fore-end in a cool-looking camo pattern.

Flextech technology helps dissipate felt recoil considerably. My wife has an Encore rifle set up with a thumbhole stock and she absolutely prefers it to the other configurations. Well, I’ve shot her gun enough now I’m falling head over heels for the thumbhole design too. It is comfortable and feels welcome in my hand. I’ve heard others claim the thumbhole configuration makes it slower to work a bolt action. But with a single shot this becomes a moot point. The fore-end features a black insert with textured panels to provide a secure grip in inclement weather. And where I was going, that’s a real plus. Last time I hunted Quebec, it rained every day!

After securing a Warne base mount on the barrel, I mounted a Leupold VX 3i 4.5-14x40mm variable in Leupold rings. This scope features the company’s Boone & Crockett reticle system, and those hashmarks are definitely beneficial during extended range opportunities. They take a lot of the guesswork out of long-range shots, especially when you take the time to confirm your point of impact at various ranges. The sharpness and clarity of this glass is superb. I’ve hunted with this scope on many occasions and have always been pleased with its performance in the field. In my opinion, it’s capable of handling most big-game pursuits.

The break-open Encore is well-known for its versatility, thanks to its interchangeable barrel capability. Shooters and hunters alike can simply add a muzzleloader, shotgun, or additional centerfire caliber barrels for a wide variety of hunting or shooting requirements. If T/C doesn’t offer a caliber or barrel configuration you want, custom shops such as Bullberry, MGM or SSK Industries can fill the niche.

T/C’s Encore is a user-friendly platform and changing barrels is a piece of cake. Tap the hinge pin out, take the barrel off, place another barrel in the frame, tap the hinge pin back in, install the fore-end and you’re ready to go. And believe me, you can shoot, unload, reload, and be ready for a follow-up shot in the blink of an eye with a little practice.

If you cock the hammer and—for whatever reason—do not shoot, simply uncock it. You don’t have to break the action open to reset the trigger like you did with the older Contender models. I have found the Encore to be very reliable and dependable in whatever remote location I was hunting, and I have been in some unfriendly places! My Encores have seen freezing temperatures, dusty climates, days of pouring rain, extreme heat and humidity, and they still functioned perfectly.

Once he had his T/C zeroed for 200 yards, Mark explored the Boone & Crockett reticle’s hashmark setup on a
Caldwell steel gong out to 400 yards. This gave him needed confidence for the Great Wide Open of the tundra.

Range Time!

In order to see what particular load this barrel preferred, I was prepared to spend the necessary range time. So I loaded the truck with an abundance of .308 ammo and hit the range. For caribou, I would mainly shoot 150- or 165-grain bullets. Hornady, Nosler and Sierra all make great ones for hunting and I wouldn’t hesitate using any of their offerings. Heck, there are tons of quality factory .308 ammo floating around, topped with premium hunting bullets. I even had Federal’s new 175-grain Edge TLR ammo for evaluation. I figured it wouldn’t take long to find something this Encore shot well.

After setting up the Oehler 35 P chrono, my shooting buddy John and I got down to business. From 100 yards we both fired 3-shot groups with each brand. Naturally, the Pro Hunter had its preferences. The 150-grain Fusion load produced a 1-inch group more than once. During one string I had two shots touching and threw the third an inch out. I shot a fourth round just to see where it would land and it touched the first two shots. This was not the first time I’ve had Fusion ammo shoot exceptionally well.

Mark’s Leupold’s VX 3i 4.5-14x40mm scope rides in Leupold rings and a Warne base mount.

The fluted, 28-inch stainless steel barrel squeezes top-end velocities out of the .308. Changing out
barrels is easy and T/C’s Encore frame can accommodate shotgun, muzzleloader and centerfire rifle tubes.

The camo composite thumbhole stock features Flextech technology. Energy burners in the stock help reduce felt recoil.

Federal’s Edge TLR gave us the best group of the day with 3 shots inside an inch. And the point of impact wasn’t much different than with the 150-grain loads. Most of the other ammo tested would be fine for hunting big game, since all were easily inside minute-of-caribou. Ultimately, however, I wanted to use 150-grain bullets so I chose the Fusion round for the haul to Quebec.

Recoil with the Pro Hunter wasn’t bad, but you definitely know when it goes off. Even with the rifle weighing around 8.5 pounds scoped, the gun recoils straight back with little muzzle rise. My original stainless frame’s trigger breaks around 2 pounds and it’s nice. A good trigger is vital—at least with me behind it! The 28-inch barrel is not difficult to manage and mounts to the shoulder nicely. And the longer tube squeezes a bit more velocity out of the .308 compared to 22- or 24-inch standard-length barrels.

After sighting the rifle in to hit 3 inches high at 100 yards, I took it back to my farm and shot steel targets at varying ranges out to 400 yards. With the help of Leupold’s Boone & Crockett reticle, my long-range hits on steel were consistent. I had zeroed the gun to be dead-on at 200 yards. Using the first hashmark, the 150-grain bullet landed spot-on at 300 yards and the next hashmark down put things in-line at 400. This gave me the confidence needed to tackle the wide-open tundra. Now, if only one nice caribou bull would cooperate…

Mark’s “last-day” caribou. Rifle, ammo and scope performed perfectly in adverse conditions.

Winnowing out the top accuracy performers left Mark with the Fusion 150-grain SP and Federal’s new 175-grain Edge TLR.

Ammo array: These were the .308 contenders for Mark’s caribou hunt.

The Second Time Around

After experiencing this hunt last year without ever firing a shot, I was hoping at least a few caribou would be migrating through the area. When our group of hunters arrived in camp we visited with others who were leaving with large racked antlers. They told us we were in for a good time with many caribou in the area. Could our timing be perfect? Well, it seemed as if the caribou were abundant by the impressive racks in the skinning shed. But when we started hunting we spotted very few bulls. Apparently the caribou were headed north. Luckily, my hunting partner took a giant the first day. When it was my turn, the caribou wanted to play hard to get—story of my life!

The last four days of hunting were bleak. I hadn’t seen one caribou. Finally on the last day we spotted a bull from over 3 miles away. When we managed to get within 300 yards, I found a large boulder and rested the Encore on top of my pack. The bull was walking, slightly quartering away as I tugged the trigger. When the Fusion struck home, the bull dropped like he was struck by lightning. I couldn’t have been happier. By the time we reached my prize a rainstorm had quickly blown in. Good photos were not possible as we packed the bull out in the pouring rain.

The Encore performed exactly as I expected. It’s been solid and dependable in whatever environment and conditions I’ve hunted in. And, yes, there is something gratifying about hunting with a single-shot rifle.

Encore Pro Hunter
Maker: Thompson/Center Arms
2100 Roosevelt Ave., Springfield, MA 01104
(866) 730-1614
tcarms.com

Type: Break-open single-shot
Caliber: .308 Win (tested)
Barrel length: 28 inches
Overall length: 42.5 inches
Weight: 7.5 pounds
Finish: Matte stainless
Sights: None, drilled and tapped for scope mounts
Stock: Composite camouflage
Price: $839

VX-3i Variable
Maker: Leupold & Stevens,
14400 NW Greenbrier Pkwy.
Beaverton, OR 97006
(800)-Leupold
www.leupold.com

Magnification: 4.5X-14X
Objective diameter: 40mm
Eye relief: 4.40 inches (low), 3.70 inches (high)
Internal Adj. Range: 64 MOA elevation & windage (100 yards)
Click value: .25 inches
Tube Diameter: 1 inch
Weight: 13 ounces
Overall length: 12.60 inches
Reticle: Boone & Crockett
Price: $844.99

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