VOLUME 30-----------DECEMBER 2004
SHOOTIN', HUNTIN', AND RELOADIN'
WITH THE OL' MISSOURI HILLBILLY
December is here! All of us at the Ranch, including Pearl, Buttons, Bows, Spike, Four-horn, Short-tail, and Droopy, send Holiday Greetings to all!
You may recognize the name Pearl. She's Ann's old gray cat. As I have written in past newsletters, she points deer and other wildlife just like a bird dog when she is out on the decks. I still haven't been able to train her to ignore everything but coyotes and 10 point bucks! Neither, have I been able to convince her that puking in the house is unacceptable, even if she is nervous and has an upset stomach! (The Cat not Ann)
The other names were bestowed upon various cervids with whom we became better acquainted, between early October and late November. Retirement has allowed us to spend all the time we want observing the local fauna, and our whitetail deer are very interesting and entertaining during this period of insuring the procreation of the species!
Buttons and Bows, named for a 1940's show tune, are a button buck and doe fawn that have traveled together since early October, and freely partaken of the plums that fall from the little trees pictured in last month's newsletter. They also devoured the cull apples I bought from a local produce dealer. We discovered evidence that their apple gluttony may have contributed to a severe case of 'green apple two-step'.
Here's a picture of Buttons and Bows. Buttons is playing 'King of the Hill' with the hill being the dirt pile backstop of my shooting range, while Bows is getting nervous about the two legged thing with the camera.
Buttons and Bows
Spike appears to be a young buck who was either injured or has a congenital defect that left him with only a long spike antler on the right side, and just a small bump on the left.
Four-horn is a yearling buck that ran here all summer with a young doe that I figure is his sister. He has antlers that appear to be just four little spikes sticking from his forehead. The antlers actually fork very close to his head, but they sure look funny from a front view. I didn't get pictures of Four-horn after he lost his velvet, but his picture with velvet still on the antlers, is in the September 04 newsletter if you'd like to take a look.
Short-tail is an ancient doe who has been around for years. While she is clearly of the whitetail species, her tail is only about half as long as it should be. Her ears also appear a little small, so we speculate that frostbite may have played a role in her configuration. When friend Todd and I were looking to fill our antler-less tags, Todd had specific orders not to shoot Short-tail!
My thinking was this: Short-tail has only been dropping one fawn per year, while most of the rest of the does we observe have twins! Population control is the whole point to the antler-less tags, you see! I also told Todd it was perfectly acceptable to fill his tag with a fawn for table fare, but he'd better see it squat to pee first to make sure it's a female!
Droopy is another small buck whose really strange antlers are also a mystery. This guy has two antlers that are almost identical, but unlike anything we've ever seen. They appear to grow from the normal pedicles above the eyes, but immediately grow out to the side, droop downward, and then curve forward, almost following the line of the lower jaw. Both end about even with the nose, pointing forward, with a little ball-like mass terminating each antler. I'd love to show you a picture of this dude, but the only time we got a really close look he didn't stay around long enough to get the camera into action.
So, these are a small fraction of the resident deer that were recognizable enough to have names this fall at the Ranch. Of course, we still have the silhouette deer decoy, that we called Doe-Doe, which we discussed in last December's newsletter. We had to change her name to Buck-Buck this year. More on that later.
As I reported last month, the early deer season began with Todd and I harvesting two does under the plum trees on opening day, October 16th. Although we had a number of opportunities for spikes, fork horns, and even a couple of small 6 point bucks, Ann, Rick, and I all elected to pass during the balance of the early season, ending October 29th.
Late whitetail buck season began on November 8th and ended November 19th. This late season usually coincides with the beginning of the rut and the bucks often become more visible as they cruise for early estrous does. This year was no exception. At one point we had 3 bucks in the West yard within minutes of each another.
First a small forkhorn cruised past the clothesline and went into the brush West of the house. I said to Ann, "I'm gonna see how he reacts to a doe bleat." I held the Primos estrous doe can out the slider door and gave a couple of bleats. This call is pretty foolproof because it only works one way. You just put your finger over the center air hole and invert the call to make the bleat sound.
As I backed away from the glass door so I wouldn't be seen, that little buck came tearing out of the thicket, and we thought for a minute he was gonna climb the stairs onto the deck, lookin' for that sexy soundin' lady!
His search was interrupted by the appearance of a little 6 point buck who took exception to his presence. The forkhorn headed Northwest like a 'scalded dog' with the 6 point in hot pursuit! They were hardly out of sight when Droopy came along to see what all the excitement was about!
We had small bucks everywhere pretty much all season long, but the big boys were pretty elusive, as usual. Having plenty of does and fawns around is, of course, a major key to keeping the bucks cruising nearby as they check for receptive does.
As I described last month, the does and fawns become addicted to the plums that fall from our trees as they ripen, so we are overrun with deer while this is occurring. Unfortunately, the plums are all gone about the time the late season starts, so I substituted cull apples for deer treats. Each day I cut up and spread a supply of apples under the plum trees, which kept the does coming through, which kept the bucks sniffing around!
Early on Thursday the 11th, Ann and I were in our pajamas sipping coffee, when I decided to do a little antler rattling and some doe bleats from the West deck door. In just a few minutes, a spike came in from the West, and a smallish 8 point from the East. As the two bucks did the stiff legged sashay around each other, Ann donned her orange jacket and slipped out the back door with her 7mm-08.
I was sure she was going to shoot the 8 point, so I just watched him from the window. BOOM! The 7mm spoke, and the deer I was watching slowly sauntered off into the woods! As Ann came back in the door, I said, "Which one did you shoot at?"
She replied, "I didn't shoot at anything, I killed the little one! What the heck were you doin'?" Well, you know the rest of the story.
Ann's spike was shot at almost the exact spot beneath the plum tree as both Todd's and my does. Todd, I gotta tell you though, the Little Heifer is bragging to anyone who will listen, how she is a much better shot than you and I! After all, our deer both ran a few yards before falling dead, and her buck "just jumped in the air and fell dead on the spot!"
Ann's Deer taken with a Remington Model 7 in 7mm-08, shooting Federal Premium factory ammo with 140 grain Nosler Partition bullet
It's Saturday morning the 13th. . . But, before we continue we must provide some background:
Several weeks ago, Ann and I were splitting wood about 100 yards Southwest of the house. Ann was running the controls on the hydraulic splitter as I handled the wood. As she stared into the brush, she asked, "Is that a shed antler over there, or just a stick?" Turned out it was an antler, kinda small with 6 points. When we finished the wood, I put the antler on a box in the old shop building.
As the days passed, we were preparing for winter; cleaning gutters, picking up leaves, etc. As we worked, the overhead doors to both shop buildings were open most of the time. One day, as I was searching high and low for a roll of duct tape, that I never found, I noticed the shed antler was missing. I intended to ask Ann if she had moved it, but I got busy and it completely slipped my mind.
Now, back to Saturday Morning. We got up late today. It's dark, dank, cold, and foggy. The air is so thick you can wring out the water like a wet sock. In fact, you don't have to wring it out, it's drizzling out all by itself! Clad only in my pajamas, I'm kneeling by the deck railing on the North deck. I've spotted a buck in the clearing on the hill behind the house. The buck is limping badly with a rear leg, so I've decided to take him if I can get a clear shot.
Even though I've been in this situation dozens of times, my reaction is always the same. Adrenalin flows, my heart races, my breathing is short and shallow, I struggle to control the trembling. When its time to slip off the safety and squeeze the trigger, I will be ready!
Of course, the dang deer decides to stop just before he steps clear of the branches of the big pine tree that I used as a screen to get into position. I have a steady rest with my hand on the deck rail and the forearm of the Browning A Bolt, Stainless Stalker resting in my palm. The view in the Leupold Vari X II, set at 4 power, is showing me a vague outline of the deer, but mostly lots of pine needles. I'm getting colder, and I'm getting wetter, as time drags slower than cold sorghum molasses.
After two centuries, the buck moves into the clear and swaps ends to stare at the doe he's trying to entice. My finger caresses the trigger and the composite stock nudges my shoulder, as the .338 Winchester Magnum cartridge sends the 225 grain Fail Safe bullet on its mission. The reaction is typical of a well placed shot; the jump, the mad dash, and the crash.
Now, it's time to get into my actual clothes, and get a close look at my trophy! How's this for a set of trophy antlers?
2004 Trophy Buck
Remember that limp I described? Well, this guy had apparently injured his left rear leg as a fawn, and that leg was much smaller than the other. I read a scientific treatise regarding injuries and their effect on antler development many years ago, and this was a perfect example of that researcher's findings. When a deer has a serious injury or deformity in a rear leg on one side, antler development on the opposite side is adversely affected!
So, we have a well developed 5 point antler on the left side and just a long spike on the other! Now imagine this, boys and girls. Here we have a male of a species that attracts the opposite sex with a combination of headgear appearance, and prowess on the field of battle with his contemporaries. (Not unlike some Homo sapiens males I've observed!) Imagine his level of frustration as he approaches this critical time of procreation, with only half his 'stuff' as it applies to both appearance and weaponry!
Well, at least we now have the answer to the mystery of the missing duct tape and shed antler. You might want to go back and take another look at the picture. That really isn't a bad tape job, considering it all had to be done by hoof!
Honest folks, that's just the way it happened, except for the stuff I made up!
Here are some pictures of the antlers and the rear legs of this unusual buck, that really did prompt my decision to take him, instead of waiting for the elusive 'Mr. Big' that may not have shown up anyway. The pictures were taken after transporting, by tractor, to the concrete floor in the old shop.
Unusual Right Antler, Injured Left Leg
Rifle is a left hand Browning Stainless Stalker in .338 Winchester Magnum caliber with B.O.S.S.® (Balistics Optimizing Shooting System)
Now we turn to Rick's hunting experiences of the late buck season. His first opportunity came early. He came up after work on opening day, November 8th, and had the crosshairs of his .300 Winchester Magnum on a medium sized 8 pointer just before dark. The buck was in the clearing south of the house, and Ann and I were watching and waiting for a shot that never came. As the deer walked away, Rick came in the house saying, "His antlers were kinda' thin. I'm gonna hold out for a big one, or none at all!" (Perhaps a prophecy?)
Rick's next opportunity came on Sunday morning, the 14th. This buck was in the pasture Southwest of the house, scent checking does. His travels kept him behind trees and brush from our vantage point at the house. We could glimpse him enough to see that he carried a very impressive set of antlers, both high and wide!
Rick had a steady rest on the rail of the West deck, and waited seemingly forever for a clear shot. I had previously ranged the distance to several points along the West pasture fence with my Leica 1200 rangefinder, so we knew the range to be about 220 yards. The Swift Scirocco 180 grain bullet I had loaded for the .300 would leave the muzzle at just under 2900 fps, and was sighted in 2 inches high at 100 yards. According to my RCBS ballistics software, this should put the bullet dead on at 219 yards.
Finally, the BOOM of the big magnum pierced the silence! Rick's description of the shot was, "He finally moved to where I could see the point of his shoulder between two trees that looked about 10 or 12 inches apart from my angle. After the shot he just turned around and hopped over the fence into the timber."
There was ample evidence of the hoof prints where the buck dug in for the spin around and leap over the fence. This is a well used fence crossing from bedding areas in the timber into the pasture to feed. While we did find some hair, stuck in the fence and on the ground, we weren't sure if it was only from rubbing on the fence, or cut by a bullet. A thorough examination of the area in a wide radius from the fence crossing showed no further sign. No blood, no more hair, and no deer.
As we started the trek back toward the house for a breather, I was lagging well behind Rick and Jennifer, when I heard, "Dad, come and look at this!" Rick had noticed a white spot on a small Douglas Fir tree, that became, upon closer examination, an obvious exit hole from a bullet!
Rick had shot a buck fir tree! Now a .300 Magnum with a 180 grain bullet at 2900 fps, is a mighty powerful combination. However, after passing through nearly 6 inches of fir tree at the 100 yard mark, it aint even gonna carry 220 yards, let alone be on target! I'm sure those trees jumped closer together just as the trigger was pulled!
At any rate, the discovery of the wounded tree alleviated any concern about having a wounded animal that we couldn't recover. Incidentally, the big buck never appeared in daylight again until the season was over.
The third and final opportunity for Rick came at the last hour of the last day of the season on the 19th. I had completed a sex change operation on Doe Doe the decoy, by bolting on the supplied fork horn antlers and calling him Buck Buck. This was done based on the behavior of the bigger bucks chasing away the littler bucks that we had observed all week. I knew Buck Buck wouldn't run, 'cause he was staked to the ground!
Buck Buck with his small set of antlers
Buck Buck was staked out in the clearing about 75 yards Southwest of the house. Soon after Rick arrived from work, I told him I was gonna call in a buck for him. A long rattling sequence, interspersed with a few buck grunts, followed by 3 estrous doe bleats, soon brought a 6 pointer out of the timber from the West. Scared hell out of me! One of the few times a dang deer did what I wanted it to, instead of just what deer do!
The newcomer soon spied, and began to circle Buck Buck. Rick was examining the buck with Ann's binoculars, and pronounced that he was too small. I was trying to get pictures of the false charge the buck was putting on Buck Buck, but I muffed that too!
After the false charge, the 6 pointer headed East. Bad mistake! About a half mile later, 15 year old Jerid Cupp, shot him in his Grandpa's pasture. Turns out the little buck was an 8 point, but both G3 points had been broken off almost flush with the main beams.
Earlier in the week, I had helped Jerid's 13 year old brother Dillon, field dress a spike that he had killed behind their house, so Jared had a last minute save from having to eat crow for the next year!
This month's hillbilly wisdom is another one from my Grandma Beulah:
"You know how a mess of turnips sometimes cooks up with a bitter taste? Well, always slice your turnips up and down instead of crossways to the grain, an' they'll never taste bitter!"
Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .
'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!