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Big Game Hunting Blog

I've Hunted With a Ruger Hawkeye FTW Hunter for 2 Years, Here's What I Think About It Now

Since 2016, I've hunted with a Ruger Hawkeye FTW Hunter chambered in .300 Win Mag in New Mexico, New Zealand, and Wyoming.

The folks at Sturm, Ruger & Company were kind enough to send me one of their new left-handed Ruger Hawkeye FTW Hunter bolt-action rifles chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum back in 2016 for test and evaluation. Since then, I've hunted mule deer, pronghorn, and Himalayan Tahr with it.

In short, I'm sure the guys at the Sportsman's All-Weather, All-Terrain Marksmanship (SAAM) school at the FTW Ranch in Texas are proud to have their name on this rifle. Even when used under very demanding conditions, the FTW Hunter has always performed when the chips were down. 

Over the last couple of years, I've spent a great deal of time at the range with the rifle and I've gotten a good feel for its capabilities. With 1:10" rifling twist, it shoots 180gr, 190gr, and 200gr bullets very accurately. However, it also shoots lighter bullets pretty well. I've hunted exclusively with the flat-shooting Barnes VOR-TX 165 grain TTSX load (provided courtesy of Ammunition To Go).

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I initially mounted a Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10x40mm scope on my FTW Hunter. That's the scope I was using back in 2017 when I took a nice 5x4 mule deer on a hunt in New Mexico (read more about that hunt here). Using my backpack as a rest and shooting from a sitting position, I dropped the deer where it stood with a 227-yard cross canyon shot.

While the VX-3i is a great scope and worked very well for me, I upgraded to a Leupold VX-5 HD 3-15x44mm scope in 2018 (courtesy of Ochocos Outdoors).

I headed down to the south island of New Zealand for a Himalayan Tahr hunt shortly after receiving the new scope.

The mountains down there are far steeper than any other place I'd hunted before. As you can imagine, it's easy to lose your footing, particularly when dealing with the heavy snow present in some areas during the dead of winter in July.

Not surprisingly, I unintentionally put the rifle and scope through something of a torture test while falling and sliding part of the ways down a mountain. Fortunately, it was really easy to clean all the mud and snow off, and neither the rifle nor the scope were any worse for wear afterwards.

The next day, the TTSX hit exactly where I aimed on a monster bull tahr 190 yards away (watch a video of that hunt here).

I headed up to Wyoming a couple months later with a pronghorn tag in my pocket.

On the second day of my hunt, I spotted a group of pronghorn over 2,000 yards away with a nice buck in it, and then spent most of the next hour stalking to within shooting range. Though I was able to close most of that distance by walking and running while using a ridge to screen my movements from my quarry, I had to slowly crawl on my belly over the top of the ridge to get into my final shooting position.

Bit by bit I crept forward, cradling the rifle in my arms until I reached the ideal spot. The buck was 230 yards away when I crested the ridge, and fell where he stood to a single shot.

All things considered, I couldn't be happier with how the rifle has performed for me on these hunts. The Natural Gear camo pattern on the laminate wood stock looks great and is well suited for hunts out west.

With a cold hammer forged stainless steel barrel and a non-rotating, Mauser-type controlled round feed extractor, the rifle is not only very accurate, but it's also durable and reliable. The Ruger muzzle brake system really helps dampen recoil. However, you might want to consider using the included muzzle weight or thread protector when hunting with companions to protect their hearing.

With a 24" barrel length, the rifle weighs exactly 10 pounds with a full magazine, scope, sling, and a bipod. After hiking dozens of miles through rough terrain with the rifle, I can testify that it's not light by any stretch of the imagination. That being said, I haven't had any issues carrying it. The rifle has enough heft that it's a very stable shooting platform.

I'm extremely happy with the performance of the .300 Winchester Magnum cartridge in the rifle, and it has shot very accurately with just about every brand of factory ammunition I've tried in it. That particular load with 165 grain Barnes TTSX bullets has performed well for me so far, but I'll likely switch to heavier bullets for elk or moose hunting or long range shooting.

If the .300 Win Mag isn't your cup of tea, the Ruger Hawkeye FTW Hunter is also currently manufactured in 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, and .375 Ruger. Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc initially offered the rifle in .260 Remington and .30-06 Springfield, but has discontinued production in those cartridges for the time being.

With all that in mind, I highly recommend the Ruger Hawkeye FTW Hunter rifle to anyone looking for a precision hunting rifle suitable for use on a wide variety of big game. Regardless of whether you're hunting Africa, North America, or New Zealand, it won't let you down.

Like what you see here? Check out John McAdams on his hunting blog. Learn more about the New Zealand Hunting packages Big Game Hunting Adventures offers on their web site or follow them on Facebook, YouTube, & Instagram.