VOLUME 66-----------DECEMBER 2007
SHOOTIN', HUNTIN', AND RELOADIN'
WITH THE OL' MISSOURI HILLBILLY
Note: For Spokane area readers, our 2008 Sportsman's Warehouse Hunter Education class schedule and enrollment information is now available on the Hunter Education page of the site.
December 1, 2007
Pour the coffee, kick off yer shoes, and get ready for a rip-roarin' sugar high from them donuts, 'cause it's gonna' take a while to say everything I've got to say this month!
With Thanksgiving just behind us, and the Christmas holidays approaching, let's start by wishing everyone a prosperous, happy, and healthy Holiday Season.
While most of this newsletter will be about deer and deer huntin', I'll first go to Thanksgiving.
Our Thanksgiving Day was celebrated at Rick, Christi, and Jennifer's house with good fellowship and too much food. Joining us for the late afternoon dinner were Christi's Mom, Julie, along with Niece and Grandniece, Amy and Madison. Christi's brother, John and his wife Dawn, joined us for a short visit after dinner.
Three kinds of turkey were on the menu. Rick did his now traditional deep fried turkey in the back yard, while a turkey breast was nestled in the roaster oven. Little Heifer was commissioned to cook Jennifer's wild turkey using a slow cooker recipe that she discovered when she prepared my turkey for an RV club potluck. (I'm still optimistic that the details of this recipe will someday appear on the 'Ann's Corner' page of the website.) Meanwhile, here are some pictures of the preparation process and the finished product.
First we separated the legs and thighs, then the backbone and neck were peeled out and discarded, so the turkey would fit into the crock pot. The last picture is the finished product after cooking for several hours, de-boning the meat, and adding the rest of the sauce/gravy ingredients.
While we've found our wild turkey to taste much like the commercial variety, the mature birds do tend to be a bit tougher and drier. The slow cooker treatment makes for a more tender and juicy end product.
I'll begin the deer huntin' stuff with a very short (I promise) trip to the soapbox. With the increasing urbanization of our population and the continuing attacks by those who would destroy our firearms rights and hunting privileges, we as a society, are losing our connection to the land, and the roots that bind us to those cherished traditions. Our hopes for future generations to value and enjoy many of the things I took for granted as a kid, lie squarely with our ability to foster and perpetuate what you'll see and read next!
Those who have read these pages before, know that I've been involved in the Washington Hunter Education program since my retirement. While I have enjoyed, and am proud of each and every one of the 300+ students that have successfully completed our classes since I joined our teaching group, there is an extra special feeling, when it really becomes 'up-close and personal.'
My 'up-close and personal' experience, of course, was Jennifer's sudden interest in, and completion of her Hunter Education requirements. I described our turkey hunting experiences in the October newsletter, and her early season deer hunting last month, so now we move to the late whitetail season that began on November 6th.
Keeping in mind that 'any whitetail deer' is legal game here for those under 16 years of age, Jennifer began the deer season by saying, "I'm holding out for a BIG buck!" This became, "I'm holding out for a buck," as time went on. Finally, as the late season got underway, and after missing an offhand shot at a fork-horn buck with Grandma's .243, she decided that any yearling deer or older would be fair game! She was still resisting any temptation to shoot one the size of Wham, Bam, or Crap-Head.
When Jennifer's school and homework didn't interfere, and Rick's work and school schedules permitted, one or both were at our house huntin'. For Jennifer, this included a lot of time sitting in a ground blind with her Dad or me, overlooking Larry's pasture. The rest of the looking was done from a ground blind known as our house.
Finally, the evening of November 9th, a yearling doe minced her way across the clearing south of the house, and began eating. Jennifer and I donned our hunter orange and slipped outside. Our first setup over the shooting sticks resulted in the deer moving so that a small fir tree was between us, directly in the line of fire.
After holding the gun in shooting position, for what seemed forever, I told Jennifer to relax for a minute, meaning, "Raise your head and take a few deep breaths." (I later overheard her tell Grandma, "Grandpa was telling ME to relax, and his hand on my shoulder was shakin' like everthing!")
When the deer showed no inclination to move from behind the tree, I decided we should move. As we shifted to a setup directly in front of the house, with no cover, the deer noticed us and moved a few feet to the side. This movement, while still providing a clear (and safe) line of fire, resulted in the deer presenting nothing but it's butt to us! More waiting!
Finally, I sounded off with a mouth grunt, and the deer raised its head and turned slightly. Jennifer and I had several discussions about where to aim when presented with shots at animals either quartering toward or away from the shooter, so I was confident that she knew what to do when the time was right. Another mouth grunt resulted in the deer turning a bit more, and while still quartering away, opened the door to the boiler room.
At the shot, the deer kicked and bucked as is typical of a hit in the chest cavity, and ran into the woods. A bit of hair at the site, and blood drops further along the flight path pointed the way, and we were soon trying to figure out how to get the dang thing out of the thickest brush patch on the property!
Jennifer's first deer. November 9, 2007
The shot turned out to be perfectly executed. The 100 grain Nosler Partition entered at the rear of the ribcage and exited through the offside shoulder, taking out both lungs and making for a short, although very brush tangled recovery.
(I think a word about "Grandpa's hand shakin' so bad," is in order. When that adrenalin rush, rapid heartbeat, and quick, shallow breathing stops happening to me when I see a game animal, I'm gonna' quit huntin' and stick to target shootin'!)
My next example of the future of our hunting heritage, is 9 year old Adam Divens, who it turns out, lives just down the hill from us. Adam was in our June 2007 Hunter Education Class. While there is no minimum age limit to obtain a hunting license in Washington, you are required to pass a certified Hunter Education class if born on or after January 1, 1972.
Everyone taking the class, regardless of age, is held to the same standards. They must be able to operate the actions on numerous firearms, load and unload using dummy ammunition, and maintain safe muzzle control while doing so. For students with small hands and small stature, this can be a struggle. Often the toughest task for those students is safely lowering the hammer on external hammer firearms.
Whether the hammer is lowered to a 'half-cock' notch, as with the Winchester Model 94, or if the gun has a transfer bar, or rebounding hammer, the process is the same. The hammer is held back with the thumb, and the finger pulls the trigger just enough to release the hammer from its cocked position. When the hammer starts forward, the finger must be completely removed from the trigger guard, and the hammer is slowly and softly lowered by the thumb. As you can imagine, this ain't so easy for a small person and proper technique and practice are required.
In working with the smaller kids, we have developed some alternative, SAFE, methods of dealing with this issue. Sometimes, holding the hammer with the thumb on one hand, and manipulating the trigger with the finger on the other hand works better. Another method is to grasp the gun so that both thumbs can be placed atop the hammer as the trigger is touched, providing the extra strength necessary to safely lower the hammer.
We always invite students who need a little extra work on a particular aspect of gun handling, or with a particular action type, to come in early during class week, and practice with an instructor. As I recall, Adam took advantage of that opportunity, and along with his Dad's help at home, mastered the skills necessary to get the job done.
Adam sent me a picture of his first deer, several days ago, and when I asked him if I could use the picture in my newsletter, he emailed this response:
Adam Divens and his first deer. November 2007
When Adam sent the picture, his note pointed out that after 3 days sitting out in the cold waiting for something bigger, this little buck turned out just fine. He also told me that Dad was still holding out for something bigger. To this I replied, "Well, Adam, us old timers always say that you can't eat them horns!" (For most of us old fellers, the loose translation of that statement is, "I didn't see anything bigger so I shot this little one!")
Next, I guess I need to move on to the hunting for Ann, Rick, and I. As I pointed out in last month's newsletter, the female deer seemed to have deserted us. I suspect that waiting for Jennifer to fill her tag had something to do with our lack of success, because we did pass up a couple of opportunities in order to avoid making everything too spooky around here. The upshot was, that none of us filled our antlerless tags, even though that should have been an easy chore.
We did, however, manage to fill our Buck tags. In my case that was not by design. I'll explain later.
Ann shot a nice little 8 pointer on Sunday, November 11th. He was prancing and high-stepping around southwest of the house, trying to figure out whether Bam and Crap-Head were big girls or babies. Ann's 7MM-08 with 139 grain SST bullets, again showed its capacity for quick, humane kills, with proper shot placement. Shot through the chest cavity just behind the shoulders, the buck ran about 100 feet and fell over.
Little Heifer's 2007 Buck
I've written previously that I believe overly stout bullet construction (so called 'controlled expansion' bullets) can be a detriment rather than an asset when used for our local whitetails. In my opinion, they sometimes pass through a deer without expanding as much as they likely would if traveling through two or three feet of moose or elk. Yes, the more frangible bullets will ruin some meat if you shoot a deer through one or both shoulders, but place them properly, and kill 'em dead, they will!
Rick's deer was taken the evening of November 12th from nearly the same spot as Jennifer's. His firearm of choice was his Marlin Lever Action .41 Magnum. The only load we've tried that this rifle wants to shoot halfway accurately is a handloaded 210 grain Speer Gold Dot bullet behind a charge of Alliant 2400 powder. This bullet at 1650 fps from the Marlin, proved it will kill a deer, although not with the same authority as the 7MM SST traveling 1000 fps faster.
The bullet passed through the deer at about the same spot as Ann's buck the previous day. There was a blood trail to follow, and the deer traveled less than 250 yards before falling dead, (In the middle of the second thickest brush patch on the property) but the internal organ damage wasn't nearly as devastating as the Hornady SST created. This deer was a little spike buck with 3 or 4 inch antlers, so Rick's antlerless tag remained unfilled.
Dang, I didn't want to write this part, but I guess I have to! About 10 minutes before Rick shot his spike, I had an opportunity for a deer in almost the same spot. In fact we were just heading out to begin the search for my deer when Rick shot his.
At the first shot opportunity the deer was facing me, head up offering no route into the vitals from the side. I don't know how many times I've told kids in Hunter Ed classes, that a head or neck shot is low percentage and should be avoided, if possible. You guessed it. I tried to shoot the deer right under the chin, and yanked the shot left. Sometimes, if you shoot enough, you can tell exactly where those sights were hanging when the trigger breaks on an errant shot, and this was one of those times.
How could I miss this shot at 40 yards? I don't know, but I did. The deer turned and ran, but stopped, quartering away, at the edge of the tree line about 100 yards out. I lined up on the chest cavity, and fired again. The deer dropped like a stone. I turned and walked back into the house, when Ann, who'd been watching from the kitchen window, exclaimed, "Your deer just got up and ran into the bushes!" After Rick's shot, we were searching for two deer, but found only one that night in spite of a long, cold, wet search.
Let's talk about the rifle I was using. No lack of caliber or power here. This was the Kimber Model 84M that I bought last spring at the NRA banquet in Spokane. I've discussed this rifle in previous newsletters. It's chambered for the fairly new .338 Federal caliber, which is nothing more or less than the .308 Winchester cartridge necked up to .33 caliber.
The theory behind its creation was to provide a medium bore cartridge that would launch a 200 grain bullet at 2600 to 2700 fps, without kicking the crap out of you like some of the more powerful .33's. This rifle has proven its accuracy from the bench, and I wouldn't hesitate to use it to take any game animal in the Lower 48. No, it wasn't the rifle's fault!
Examining the ground where my deer had fallen, gave us information that I really didn't want to see. The animal was shot too far back, and a 'gut shot' deer can travel a long way!
My search began anew the next morning. I crawled around in the brush and examined every possible hiding place in ever expanding arcs from where the deer was last seen. Other than passing over parts of the blood trail left by Rick's deer, I found no blood, no hair, nor any other indicator of where the deer had traveled.
I finally found the deer around 2:00 PM that next day. It had traveled nearly a quarter mile. Unfortunately the scavenger birds had already been into the carcass, and the meat was soured beyond salvage. This is the first deer I've shot in over 40 years of hunting, that wasn't recovered almost immediately. To add insult to injury, as the saying goes, the yearling doe I thought I had shot turned out to be a buck with tiny little antlers, less than an inch long!
This was not what I call a button buck. A button buck is a fawn of the year that may develop semi-hard little 'buttons' on the pedicles where his first set of real antlers will begin growing when he's about a year old. This guy was too big for a 2007 fawn, but not yet adult size, so I would say he was born in the spring of 2006.
Let's examine this scenario in both legal and ethical terms.
Was it ethical to make a poor shot on this deer, after missing it completely the first time? Well, I certainly didn't intentionally hit the deer high and too far back.. A 100 yard offhand shot to a deer's vitals is something I have done many, many times in my hunting career. If anything should be done about the ethics of the shot, it would be to practice more so the likelihood of a repeat occurrence is diminished.
Probably my most ethically questionable act was not being absolutely positive that I was shooting at an antlerless deer. We pay close attention to legal hunting hours, so I know it was at least three quarters of an hour before the end of shooting time that day. However, it was cloudy and the light was fading.
Would I have been able to see those tiny antlers through my 8 power binoculars? Maybe. I certainly didn't see them while looking at the deer's head through a 4 power scope, when aiming for that ill advised neck shot. The redeeming factor in my favor, is that my advanced age (65 or over) makes it legal to take 'any whitetail deer' on my general season tag, so antlers or lack of same was technically immaterial at that point.
What would have been the ethical and/or legal ramifications of simply ignoring the dead deer, and pretending it never happened? After all, no one else knew I had found the deer. The meat was already spoiled, the deer was a tiny antlered buck that I wasn't anxious to notch my tag for, so why not just forget it and continue hunting for a big buck?
I'm sure you know how I answered these questions. I discarded the carcass where coyotes and other scavengers could finish the cleanup further away from the house, and notched my buck tag! I look at this as akin to the rules for a hunt on the 'dark continent.' While I've never hunted Africa, I understand that any evidence of a hit on an animal means you are considered to have filled that permit and you pay the trophy fee even if the animal is never recovered.
So why the comparative scarcity of female deer, and fawns around here this year? In years past, we've seen such animals much more frequently. I don't believe the deer population has decreased. We continue to see results of deer/car collisions nearly every week. Does, fawns, and yearlings are routinely observed in herds of a half dozen or more as we travel the county roads within a mile of our place. So what's going on here?
You may have read references to 'Larry's pasture' in past newsletters. Larry hasn't hunted for years, but continues to grant us permission to hunt and shoot game on his property . This parcel, southwest of our house, formerly pastured horses, but in recent years has only pastured deer and the occasional moose.
This fall another friend of Larry's obtained permission to hunt the pasture during archery deer season. The first archery season began in early September, at which time, a ladder stand was placed in a large tree, and a feeding station established nearby. (Feeding or baiting for the purpose of attracting or hunting big game in Washington is legal for animals other than bear.) The feeding station and much of the pasture is visible from our kitchen windows, and we saw a lot of deer in that area during the early archery season.
Early archery closes when modern firearm season begins, and remains closed through early deer, elk, and late deer seasons in our Game Management Unit. Archery re-opens the day after firearm season closes, and runs until mid December.
At the end of the first archery season, replenishment of the feeding station stopped. We began seeing fewer deer. When archery re-opened, after the close of firearm season, the feeding station was renewed. We began seeing more deer, including some impressive bucks, since this time frame is near the peak of the rutting season.
Did the insertion of this on again, off again feeding station into the equation change behavior patterns to the degree that we saw fewer female deer than usual? While I could speculate, I'd bet a 'professional deer biologist' or one of those 'professional hunter/writers' would answer that question in a quick and definitive manner! Would their answer be any better than yours or mine? You be the judge.
We regret not filling more tags with breeding age females in the interest of badly needed population control but our harvest is being well utilized. Jennifer's doe is being processed into Jerky and Summer Sausage by Tim's Specialty Meats in Hayden, Idaho, which is all we need for personal use. A bit of advanced inquiry told me that the Spokane Union Gospel Mission welcomes donated venison. A dressed, skinned, and clean carcass can be delivered to their cooler, with proper documentation of legal take, and a volunteer comes in and processes it for them.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our friend Gary this month. He did follow through with his decision to replace his factory scope rings with Leupold bases and rings for his new Tikka 7MM-08. We re-mounted the scope last Saturday, and he sighted in on my range. It was necessary for Rick to chase some intruders off the shooting range before we could begin.
Wham, Bam, and Crap-Head being a nuisance
Gary spent a number of evenings sitting on a stand in the nearby Thompson Creek drainage during deer season. While his buck tag remained unfilled, he related several interesting stories during his regular stop at our place on his way home. One was a little scary. Imagine yourself sitting in the brush alone, it's getting dark, you're miles from the nearest county road, the brush begins shaking, and a genuine 'Bullwinkle' emerges less than 50 feet away! You do have a rifle, but it's loaded with light deer loads, and you ain't got a moose tag! The following photograph has been enlightened by my photo editing software. In the original it appeared to be very, very dark!
Gary also related a story about the only buck he saw from this stand. He was watching some does when a 'monster' (Gary's word) buck came into view. The buck never offered a shot to the vitals, before retreating into the brush and making obscene grunting noises until after shooting hours. I found the reenactment of the grunting sounds to be interesting. I have a grunt call and have heard instructional tapes of what buck grunts are supposed to sound like and a call that's supposed to sound like an estrous doe bleat. Despite living within spittin' distance of many deer for many years, other than hearing an injured fawn bleat on one occasion, I've never personally heard a deer make a vocal sound of any kind!
I'll begin wrapping up this session of 'diarrhea of the keyboard' by passing on a few items from my Brother Ed's hunting cabin back in the Missouri hills. In the June 2007 newsletter I included a picture of the huntin' cabin, and alluded to it as the residence of the local Superintendent of Schools. (my Sister-in-law) When we were there last May, plans were already in the works for the addition of a sleeping room to, in Ed's words, "Keep the t--ds out of my way when I'm tryin' to cook breakfast!!
Before and after the 'remodel'
I understand that the new addition worked out well. Their annual hunting crew, consisting of Ed, his two Sons Jason and Scott, and an assortment of friends from around the country, apparently had a good time and successful hunt. Here's an excerpt from the email he sent with the new photos.
The boys took some really nice deer this
year. They took an eleven pt (10 pts w/drop tine) 208 lbs field dressed, 3 10
pointers - 185, 176, 156 and 1 8 pointer that weighed 178. Also took 4 does. And
we still have about 10,000 on the place!
Brings back fond memories. I shot my first whitetail in about 1967 within a few hundred yards of this cabin; a nice 8 pointer. I'll try to remember to include that story next time.
This month's hillbilly wisdom is a quote from the writings of J. C. Watts Jr., a Congressman from Oklahoma:
Character is doing what's right when nobody's looking.
Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .
'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!