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NXS 2.5-10×24 – Limited Release – 2015

In order to meet customer requests for the discontinued NXS 2.5-10 x 24 compact riflescope, Nightforce is manufacturing a limited run this fall. The NXS 2.5-10 x 24 is unique in that it has a straight body tube to the objective lens, which provides for a very compact package (9.9 inches in length).

For many years, the Nightforce NXS 2.5-10x family —proven in the hands of the U.S. military—has been renowned for performance far beyond its size. The NXS 2.5-10 x 24 was an original contract riflescope on the U.S. military Mark 12 5.56mm Special Purpose Rifle (SPR) program.

This limited run will see the NXS 2.5-10 x 24 receive modern enhancements over the original production models. Included will be an integrated Nightforce PTL™ (Power Throw Lever), allowing instant magnification changes even while wearing gloves. The elevation and windage adjustments are of the most current design, providing extremely positive click feel and easy to read numbers. Adjustment configurations are in .250 MOA (20 MOA per revolution) or .1 Mil-Radian (5 Mil-Radian per revolution) increments, with an exposed ZeroStop™ elevation and a capped windage adjustment as standard. Reticle choices include the MOAR™ and Mil-R™.

As with all of the NXS 2.5-10x models, they prove that size is no substitute for quality, providing performance that exceeds most riflescopes of any size. In addition to being extremely popular on the various AR platforms, the low mounting profile, versatile magnification range and streamlined proportions also make it ideal for a mountain or safari rifle.

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2015 Utah Mule Deer Hunt

There, I was greeted by my guide Tanner Puegnet of Western Lands Outfitters, and Paul the Gunwerks cameraman. The Ensign Ranch is a privately owned ranch comprised of 200,000 acres that spans across Northeastern Utah as well as into Wyoming. Known for 200 + inch trophy mule deer, my expectations ran high wondering what the week of hunting would hold.  After getting settled into camp, our group headed down to the range to become familiar with the Carbon LR-1000 Gunwerks rifle chambered in 6.5×284 that we would be using for this hunt. The rifle, topped with an NXS 5.5-22×50 G7 riflescope, was a true example of the high quality reputation Gunwerks is known for.

Two quick practice shots at 600 yards and we were ready to start glassing. This was a great opportunity to test out the ED Glass equipped TS-80 spotting scope. The weather conditions were turning overcast, spitting snow and rain, but the spotter made easy work picking apart the dark canyons. After checking out several vantage points only to find up-and-comer bucks, we decided to switch gears and move to a an area where the guide had spotted a wide management buck in the weeks prior to my arrival. To our surprise, we were able to locate the buck less than 100 yards from the area he had been spotted in just recently. With darkness quickly closing in, we glassed the canyon for vantage points and formulated a game plan for the morning to come.

Day two started with a first class early breakfast. Before daylight, we were perched on a high vantage point hoping that the buck would be in the area. As light began stretching over the mountain tops, we were on the TS-80 and scanning the mountain faces for the previous day’s buck. The light transmission capability of the TS-80 was as good as anything I had ever tried before. Long before the naked eye could make out the surroundings, the superb ED Glass of the TS-80 was picking the canyon apart. After 30 minutes of glassing, Tanner announced to the group that he had spotted the buck and as luck would have it, less than 100 yards from where we put him to bed. A quick discussion of a game plan, and we were off, hurrying up a distant pass hoping to get into position before the buck followed his small group of does over the skyline.

As we crept over the top of the pass to get into position, Tanner relayed a yardage and dope correction from his G7 Br-2 Rangefinder. 873 yards was the distance to the buck. I dialed the correction into the ZeroStop elevation turret and settled in for the shot. The buck had other plans as he beaded down on the hillside. While his vitals were clearly exposed I quickly learned some of the frustrations when attempting to capture film to be aired on a television network. No bedded shots. So at that point it was a waiting game. The buck clearly wasn’t ready for a nap, keeping a close eye on his nearby does, thrashing his head back and forth and shifting positions in his bed. I pulled myself out of the shooting position, hoping to briefly rest my head and neck, when I heard Tanner tell me the buck was attempting to stand up. By the time my eye made it back into the scope I saw the buck had risen to his feet and was standing perfectly broadside. As I settled the G7 reticle on his vitals my long range training checklist began rolling through my mind.  Check the position of my body behind the rifle to ensure my body was as flat as possible, legs in line with the rifle, ankles down. From there I made sure my reticle was level, parallax adjusted properly and my magnification on max power. I reassured my elevation call and asked for the wind. With a steady, but light right to left wind, Tanner called out a 1 MOA hold. Finding 1 MOA in the reticle came easily, and I settled in for the shot. Once I was able to draw a bead, I slowly squeezed the trigger. As the round went off, the buck never budged as I watched the bullet impact just slightly high over the buck’s back. It was a clean miss. The buck was so focused on his does, that the shot never spooked him.  He quickly got on the trail of the does and followed them over the skyline. After the miss we made a move to try and get a spot on the buck. From a new vantage point we searched high and low for the group of deer. After 20 minutes or so we caught a glimpse of the buck making his way into a heavily wooded canyon.

With no clear stalk opportunities, we decided to head back to lodge for lunch to get a new plan for the afternoon. On the ride back to lodge, I kept replaying this miss in my head. What went wrong? I felt rock solid on the shot but obviously I left something out on my mental checklist. Just for reassurance we made a quick stop at the range. A painted piece of steel at 900 yards is where I chose to reboost my confidence. Two shots found me tracking high just missing the top of the plate. Then a light bulb went off. In the mix of setting up for an 873 yard shot on a giant 30” buck, I failed to load my bipod. Without that extra pressure into the stock to load up the bi pod, I was creating an inconsistency from how the rifle was designed to be used; in turn causing the report to print high.  

With my confidence now back we headed out to the same canyon where we last spotted the buck. It was early in the afternoon but we were confident that the buck would work his way down the pass to the creek before dark. With spotters and binos in action we picked the entire canyon apart in hopes of finding the buck bedded in the heavy timber. After a short while, several does and a decent management buck appeared. After giving the buck the pass we returned to search for our missing buck. Around 3:30 I heard Tanner say that he may have found him. Once the buck emerged into a small opening we knew we had located our buck. I quickly got into the shooting position in case a shot opportunity presented itself. The buck worked the timber over stopping to thrash his horns in various sage bushes along the way. Finally the buck was approaching an opening. The adrenaline began to build as I knew this may be our only chance if the buck decided to turn back up into the timber. Much like the morning’s hunt, Tanner was quick to read out an elevation call from his G7 rangefinder, 530 yards actual distance was the call. With the steep canyon the corrected distance came in at 490. With a quick dial on the ZeroStop turret, I was back into checklist mode in preparation for the shot. The winds began to pick up and another 1 MOA wind call was announced. As I neared the end of the checklist I made sure that loading the bi pod was in the mix. I settled the G7 reticle on the point of the buck’s shoulder and squeezed off the shot. With the cameras rolling we watched the 140 grain Berger bullet impact the buck.  Executing a first shot harvest at this distance was the culmination of a number of critical elements including; a proper stalk,  solid pre-shot routine, expert elevation and wind calls, and accurately delivering a 140g Berger through a Gunwerks LR-1000 precision rifle system. 

After all the high fives ended, a grueling 125 yard up-hill drag ensued to recover the deer and load the buck into the Ranger. On the way back to camp, we found one the prettiest peaks on the ranch and finished the picture taking. That evening at the skinning pole we were greeted by two other management tag hunters who also found success in two mature Utah Muleys. It was a quick turn back home to Georgia the following day but you can’t say enough good things about the 1st class operation that Travis Murphy and his Western Lands Outfitters team are running. From quality accommodations, delicious meals, to breathtaking views and giant Mule Deer bucks, this place is definitely everything and more that you hear amongst the chatter in the industry.  I am thankful to have had the opportunity to join the Gunwerks team to see first- hand the quality and expertise that goes into every product they sell.  A final big thank you goes out to Tanner Peugnet, our guide. His knowledge and expertise was much appreciated and certainly would recommend to anyone in search of giant mule deer bucks.  As an added bonus, look for this hunt to air on Long Range Pursuit, sometime in 2016.

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The longest 286-yard shot ever

One of the great ironies of hunting is that it often seems the harder we try, the less success we have. Glassing the broad, green farmland at first light had revealed only does and a few small bucks. Ordinary mule deer were not what had brought me to western Colorado to hunt with Doyle Worbington of J&D Outfitters. Doyle had peaked my interest with reports of mule deer pushing 200 points in this verdant river bottom, and he had the photos to prove it.

It was fitting, then, that we first spotted the big buck by sheer accident about 9:00 am, while drinking coffee over the hood of his pickup truck, wondering aloud what our Plan B might entail for the day.
Even at a distance of several hundred yards, there was no mistaking the size of this muley.  Big bodied, dark in color, walking with that swaying, bobbing gait characteristic of huge bucks, the mass of its antlers was visible to the naked eye.  A quick check through binoculars confirmed it.  “That is a nice buck,” Doyle said.  He looked again.  “That’s a real nice buck.”
The deer had lingered longer than usual that morning, perhaps feeling secure in the mist that hung over the farmlands at first light.  Now, the war sun had scoured the valley of fog, and the buck was moving rapidly to the safety of higher ground.  Its goal seemed to be one of the highest of the hillsides that surrounded the valley, a rocky, almost impenetrable tangle of scrub oak, juniper and cedar.  It was a classic survival technique, one that allows a smart young buck to grow into a massive old buck, the kind that makes the most jaded and experienced deer hunter weak in the knees.  From that vantage point, the buck could see for miles.  Nothing could approach it from below without being seen.  Nothing could approach it from above without being heard.  Its gray body vanished into the dry foliage, its antlers indistinguishable from the acres of twisted, gnarled branches.  It was the perfect camouflage, the perfect spot to while away a day in complete safety.
Doyle and I watched the buck until it disappeared, and marked the spot where we last saw it.  Would it stay there, or keep moving out of sight?  “He will probably bed down right there,” Doyle concluded.  Doyle had spent years observing the behavior of trophy animals, which helped make him one of Colorado’s most experienced and successful outfitters.  “All we can do is get as close as we can, try not to spook it, and make a plan.”
We drove to a spot on the edge of the river that watered this western valley, producing greenery and crops that made it a mecca for trophy quality mule deer.  We were close to the buck’s hiding spot, but it didn’t matter too much.  One thing in our favor was that resident deer were used to pickup trucks and farming activity; as long as we did not attempt to enter the buck’s hillside sanctuary, it should remain put.  Or so we hoped.
We set up shop in the shade of a cottonwood, “shop” being Doyle’s spotting scope, my rifle, and the remaining coffee in our Thermos.  “Assuming he is still there,” Doyle said as he adjusted the spotter’s tripod, “he is watching everything we do.  It shouldn’t bother him, though, since he is used to seeing activity down here.  We just have to find him.”
Trying to find an ear, an eye, the flick of a tail, the turn of a deer’s head in jumbled jungle of tall brush covering several acres is, to put it mildly, a challenge.  The sun rose and the day became hot while we strained our eyes and our optics to their max.  Any other deer, we would most likely have given the search up as futile.  But, as Doyle had said, this was no ordinary buck. 
Then, there it was.  Doyle and I just happened to be looking at the same area, the last spot we had seen the deer.  “Did you see that?”  I asked.  “Yeah, wait,” Doyle replied, “let me get the scope on it…yep, that’s him.”  The buck had turned its head ever so slightly, and the movement was just enough to give him away.
The deer was lying down, head up, completely in shade, not a care in the world.  He had a full belly from a long night feeding on farmer’s crops, and was obviously perfectly content in its hiding spot.
We, however, were not as content.  Doyle and I had intended to go “to town” after the morning’s hunt for lunch, so we had brought no sustenance other than coffee.  We couldn’t leave our riverside spot, for fear that the buck might move without our seeing it.  We were hot and we were hungry.  “You like fried chicken?” Doyle asked me.  “Sure,” I said.  At that moment I would have settled for a raw chicken.  “Let me call a friend,” Doyle said, retrieving his cell phone from the truck.
A half hour later, a cloud of dust announced an approaching pickup, and one of Doyle’s local associates greeted us with a huge bucket of chicken and several ice-cold sodas.  So there we sat, making short work of legs, breasts and wings, under the warm Colorado sun, in one of the more unusual hunts I’ve experienced.  The deer knew we were there, we knew the deer was there, thus what we had was a complete standoff.  Who would blink first?
“All I know to do,” Doyle said, “is to wait until the buck gets up and moves.  He will get up sometime.”
But the buck never did get up and move.  The hours ticked by, the sun continued its travel west, and the deer showed no inclination of moving. 
“That is a smart old buck,” Doyle observed.  “It appears he will not move from that spot until after dark.  There is nothing we can do except try to wait him out.”
We were rapidly running out of options.  All day long we had sat on that riverbank, and now there was at most an hour of daylight remaining.  To make matters worse, the sun was setting directly behind the hill we were watching, causing blinding glare.  We had to make a decision.
The only part of the buck that was plainly visible to me was its lower jaw and part of its chest.  It was facing us almost straight on.  There was at most a six-inch opening in the scrub that would afford any kind of shot.
“Doyle,” I said, “I don’t think we have a choice other than to take a shot.”  Doyle was not convinced.  “Do you think you can make it?” he asked skeptically.
I had one advantage in the standoff with the buck, that being my Nightforce NXS 2.5-10 x 32 Compact riflescope that I had ordered with a Velocity 600 reticle.  I am not a fan of complicated reticles for hunting, nor am I interested in making difficult calculations, consulting drop charts, making elevation adjustments or trying to recall what reticle markings mean when I have a trophy in the crosshairs. 
At the same time, I had become increasingly interested in longer-range accuracy, something more precise than a mere holdover estimation, and of course, no riflescope company enjoys a better or more deserved reputation for long-range precision than Nightforce.  The Velocity 600 reticle is actually tailored to the ballistic characteristics of the shooter’s rifle.  In this case, I mounted the 2.5-10 x 32 on my ancient .30-06, the first rifle I ever owned, well worn and showing the bruises of many hunts in many places, but still one of the most accurate rifles I have. 
The Velocity 600 has horizontal lines at the 0, 100, 200, 300, 400, 500 and 600 yard positions, with smaller hash marks at 50-yard intervals between each of those.  I had spent a lot of time practicing and confirming that the distance markings were right on.  If I want to make a 550-yard shot, for example, all I need to do is confirm the distance to the target, place the appropriate mark directly on the target, be cognizant of any potential wind drift, and pull the trigger.  Simple and virtually foolproof, two essential characteristics for this hunter.
According to our rangefinders, it was exactly 286 yards to the buck.  Now, I realize that this is laughably close in this day and age when accomplished 1000-yard shooters using Nightforce products can generate three- and four-inch groups all day long…and when 1500, even 2000 yards is starting to define “long” range.
Let’s review the situation, however.  I had a six-inch opening through which to place an ethical, fatal shot on our hillside deer.  I had to approach it with the same techniques that would be required if the distance were three times greater.  There was simply no room for error.
The sun was lowering quickly.  For over nine hours, we had watched that deer.  It was either make the shot, or call it quits, with a good probability of not seeing the big buck again.  It was now or never.
“Doyle, I think I can do this,” I said with more confidence than I really felt.  “I will either kill the deer with a neck shot, or miss it entirely.”  Over the course of my hunting career I have made my share of good shots, and yes, have made some bad shots.  Having a professional outfitter watching intently does not contribute to the former.
I adjusted the bipod affixed to my rifle (second only to a quality riflescope in being conducive to accurate shot placement, in my opinion), placed the crosshairs of the reticle equivalent to 275 yards on the bottom of the deer’s jaw, and took a deep breath.  The setting sun streamed directly into the objective lens; fortunately, NIghtforce lens coatings help reduce glare substantially.  I slowly, slowly squeezed the trigger.
“Whoooeeee, what a shot!”  Doyle jumped to his feet shouting, having seen what I didn’t because of the rifle’s recoil.   The big deer never stood up, never moved, never even twitched.  My bullet had struck exactly where I had intended, halfway down its neck, penetrating deep into the chest cavity.  The deer simply rolled over, dead instantly.
“That’s one of the best shots I’ve seen,” Doyle exclaimed, which, considering how many he has witnessed, made me one proud and happy hunter.  “Let’s go get him”
We made our way through the hillside jungle, clothes being ripped and torn, and finally found the buck.  It was a magnificent old muley that would score 185 B&C points, making every moment of a very long and often tense day very sweet indeed.
I have made longer shots, as measured in sheer distance.  I’ve never made a more satisfying shot, though.  Can 286 yards be considered “long range?”  It certainly can, when there is zero margin for error.  I don’t consider myself an accomplished rifleman.  I had two things going for me, though.  One was the wisdom to use the best possible riflescope; otherwise, there would have been no chance.  The second was the willingness to practice enough to learn how to use those optics properly before going afield.
Together, they gave me the confidence to make a difficult shot, and to make the right decision.  
And to go home with an exceptional trophy.