Jim showed us around the farm. He led us around a section of woodlots, corn, alfalfa, and soybeans. When he mentioned casually that the deer would regularly come out of a particular woodlot and walk along the open, cut alfalfa field, I took notice. A farmer knows his land, and it pays to heed his advice.
Vine and I wondered around the place. We found a flock of young turkey, and I briefly regretted not having picked up a turkey tag. But at $95 for an out of state tag, it seemed a bit high. I play by the rules, and so I wistfully watched the flock walk away from 20 feet. I could easily have taken one with the M37 2" Chief's Special I had with me.
I decided to simply sit in the shade of a round hay bale in the middle of the cut alfalfa field. (Blue dot in the middle of the green field, upper left quadrant, above.)The Rifle
I had a .243 Winchester with me that I had bought a few years ago from friend Art Eatman. The rifle, which was his uncle's, is an interesting specimen. It is a Featherweight, and has serial numbers that show that the receiver was made in 1955, the year before the first Featherweight in .243 M70 was introduced. Obviously, a short-action receiver was milled, put in stock, and pulled down and put into service later. From my reading, this was common to pull parts from different eras to put on current production rifles. It makes sense, and is the esoterica that makes for long searches and proud finds by collectors. This rifle might have had some collector's value, but it's a shooter. It has been carried through many a field. When I bought it from Art a few years ago, he sent along some boxes of ammo that his uncle had loaded for it in 1965 and '66, which I found grouped under an inch. (The load, which was penciled on the side of the old boxes, was within acceptable parameters. Call me a risk-taker if you want.)
I pulled out of my borrowed backpack a copy of The Model 70 Winchester 1937-1964
, by Dean H. Whitaker. If I had realized what this signed copy was worth*, I would never have carried it out hunting. Fortunately, it came through it all right. As it amused me that I was using a pre-'64 Winchester Model 70 rifle as a book rest for a book on pre-'64 Winchester Model 70 rifles, I took a snapshot with the Nikon camera that Vine had loaned me.**The Hunt
The situation was about as good as I could hope for. Clear skies, a cool (59 degree) breeze to my face, the sun to my back. Vine had wondered off to a meadow on the other side of the woodlot, to my right. A stand of corn was south of me, to my right. I didn't even bother looking straight ahead of me, because that zone was too close to the direction Vine was hunting in. I wanted to keep about 90 degrees of shooting arc away from him. Probably a 100 grain Nosler wouldn't make it through that woodlot to him, but why chance it?
I got chilly. The round bale that I was leaning against to break up my outline provided good shade, and I was lightly dressed. I stood up on the south side of the bale, and watched the tree line to the NE of me, as I read the book now propped on the bale.
The sun got lower, and the light changed. The Golden Hour commenced. I have seen more deer in the last hour of the day than all of the other 23 hours put together. I found that I paid less and less attention to the book, and finally just closed it. I looked at.... there. On cue, the large doe and her yearling stepped out of the woodlot to my northeast, and began to browse the alfalfa. I took a picture of them, and figured the range. Just shy of 200 yards. I watched them for 10 minutes to see if they got closer. Then it occurred to me that, if they got much closer, they would be decreasing my arc toward Vine. I took a rest on the bale, and shot the doe. (Red dot, above and to the right of the blue dot, in picture above.)
As seen before, I was at about 3.5" high at 100 yards. With that bullet at 3.3", the zero would be at ~270 yards, given that the 100g Nosler SPBT (B.C. .446) bullet was starting at 2850 fps (44g RL 22). I later paced the distance of the shot to 185 yards. I held dead on, and shot her in the right side chest. She ran into the nearby woodlot. I considered shooting her again, but given that the shot felt good, a second shot, highly likely to miss at the running deer, would just urge her to continue running. I held further fire.
Unless all was amiss, I knew that I had hit her well. She had run off without a reaction, but that's not uncommon for well-shot deer. I knew not to go after her for about 20 minutes.
I walked over to the spot that she had been standing in. Good blood.
At about this time, Vine arrived. We agreed to wait out the remaining 15 minutes, and went to get his truck, and my iron-sighted Springfield to go into the dark woodlot.
As we arrived at his truck (yellow dots), parked on the west end of the farm, Vine observed deer coming out of the woods at the joint with the corn field, east of us. We went prone, and he shot a good doe with his '06 Remington 700 scout rifle (purple dot), and I missed a young yearling. The doe, which was visibly hit hard, ran into the corn or the woods (south, at any rate), and the yearling and its sibling began running toward us. This is not uncommon. The bullets from the shots fired had struck the ground or brush behind the deer, and they heard that over the reports of the rifle. They galloped on toward us. We put the two yearlings down, at the very edge of the corn field. They each rolled into the corn.
I discovered that corn fields are deceptively good at hiding downed deer. It took us 20 minutes to find the deer at the edge of the field. One was four rows in, the other, only one.
My large doe, Vine found by smell, as we were entering the woodlot. The exiting bullet had pierced the gut. We dragged her out, and figured her weight at about 185 lbs on the hoof. She had managed to go between 30 and 40 yards.
The other doe, we searched for for hours. We searched in the woods. We searched in the corn. We retired for the night (there was a hard frost that night), and got up early to look for her again (this was when I took the video). There was no question that she was hit hard by Vine's .30-'06. There was no question that the deer was dead. But we finally had to accept that she was not recoverable. As ethical hunters, this pained Vine and me immensely. We don't like to waste meat. I'm convinced, based upon what I saw, that she didn't last much more than a minute. But we never found her.
We had hung the field-dressed deer the night before, and we quartered the deer for the trip to Vine's house. At his house, we butchered the meat, and packaged it. We pan-fried some cutlets for supper.
Vine loaned me a cube cooler with the meat that I took home. Once back home, with no ice it it, I found that the full cooler weighs 67 pounds. The cooler by itself likely weighs 10 lbs. Thus there is 57 lbs of lean, boneless meat to put up. It's currently chilled with dry ice. Time to make the sausage.
*More than I paid for the scoped rifle.
**Strangely, the camera date is off. The date was actually October 2nd.
Labels: hunting, shooting, travel