The 2009 Season Log

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   September 5th

Today was the first day of the early squirrel season here in Virginia, and as usual I went to The Valley Of A Thousand Rodents in Giles County, to attend the religious ceremonies attendant on this Holy Day of Obligation.

I was late for the services, arriving only at 9:30 AM, by which time many of the resident rodents had finished their breakfast and were snoozing; but some of them remained behind, as this year we have a bumper crop of hickory nuts, and a pretty good bunch of acorns and beechnuts.


In keeping with my on-going program of methodological retrogression, I took my Traditions .32 muzzleloader for its first hunt: last year I used the Stevens Favorite in .32 RF and bagged one, but this time the score was Outdoorsman 0, Squirrels 2.

Not that there weren't squirrels: there were plenty of them, even as late as I arrived.  But this early in the year they're always in the very tops of the trees, where the nuts ripen first; and of course the trees are still in full leaf. When the trees are fully leafed out, you can often see  branches move even if the squirrels are invisible in the canopy. Many a time I would hear a squirrel, and the patter-patter-patter of nut shells raining down (some of them on my head). There were cuttings all over the floor of the Valley, and the Tree Chicken population is obviously in very good shape.  I saw at least four, all of them young-of-the-year "fryers" but only had two shots, both of which were clean misses.  Had I brought a shotgun I'd certainly have killed both those and probably a couple more, but a shotgun…well, right at this point in my hunting career I'm beginning to think it's too easy.

The day was perfect: clear, not too hot, and completely windless.  Any movement in the treetops was a squirrel, 99% sure.  Sometimes I'd catch a glimpse of one running around from branch to branch, never sitting still for even ten seconds, in the manner of all grey squirrels, which are the most fidgety critters in the woods.  A fox squirrel will sit and deliberately gnaw his way through a cluster of nuts, but the greys leap around constantly, flitting from branch to branch.

You usually can get an idea of approximately where a squirrel is and sometimes you can see him briefly, but hitting him with a rifle bullet is another thing entirely.  And it’s not just the difficulty of getting a shot at all: when you do get a shot it’s often nearly straight up at a squirrel 30 yards away. This is tricky shooting under any circumstances.  My little rifle will put every shot into a quarter-sized bullseye off the bench, but in the woods you never get shots at perfectly poised animals, nor from a rest.

Nevertheless, it was a good day.  I spotted two deer going in, trudging up the long hill (which gets longer every year).  They were back in a clump of trees on "Flintlock Buck Hill," just about at the spot where I shot that buck last year.  I've got my spot picked out for the deer season already.

At one point I had moved to another place where sometimes I see turkeys, and sure enough one ran past me.  Maybe this Fall I will get a shot at one at last!

The only bad thing about the early season is that the weather is warm enough that the mosquitoes are still active.  I hate mosquitoes.  I don't hate any other creatures really—no, not even snakes. I deeply dislike snakes, but generally they leave me alone and I leave them alone.  But skeeters…well, I see no reason for them other than to be food for purple martins.  They could be that without trying to exsanguinate my ears, I think.  A face net helps keep the little bastards away.

Other than that the early squirrel season is my favorite time to hunt, even though (as usual) I got skunked today.  A beautiful day in the woods with no concerns about work, my parasitic sister or her shark of a lawyer, or anything else mundane.

Next week if time permits I will go to Amherst and knock some out of Bill Fell's chestnut trees.


September 11th

I yielded to temptation not long ago and bought a Husqvarna Model 640 sporting rifle, which is essentially a Mauser Model 1896 made in Sweden. I have no idea how this rifle came to the USA, but it was probably a private pre-1968 import, perhaps by an immigrant or returning GI.  It isn't marked with the country of origin (as it would have been if it had been commercially imported).  It was made in 1944, the last wartime year Husqvarna made sporting rifles on Model 1896 actions.  Postwar Husqvarna sporting rifles (commercial production resumed in 1947) used M1898 military actions made by FN. 

Mine was never a military rifle, however.  The Model 1896 based sporters were made for the European commercial market and they lack the "thumb cut" on the left side of the receiver typical of military Mausers.  It therefore isn’t a converted Swedish military rifle, as all of those do have the thumb cut.  Oddly enough it does have the stripper-clip slots in the receiver bridge.  The caliber is 8x57, called “8mm Mauser” in this country.

At a friend’s suggestion I had it fitted with a Burris Timberline 4x20 scope. This scope has no objective bell, and  has the “look” of the 30’s and 40’s.  The rear sight on the barrel is so high I can’t use anything with large objective bell, even with the rather high Weaver side mount.

Here's the finished product:

Tricked out this way it looks very "Nordic," complete with the 3/4" swivels typically found on European sporting rifles.

The original fixed sights are still in place as a back-up if something happens to the scope.  I’m pretty adamant that any rifle ought to have integral sights.  The current practice of not putting sights on rifles is abhorrent.  The manufacturers who engage in this practice claim they do it because “Buyers are going to scope the rifle anyway,” which is true but not the real reason they leave the sights off.  The real reason is simple: sights cost money and if people will buy rifles without sights, why put them on? 

Nevertheless, there should always be backup iron sights in place.  Scopes get knocked out of alignment, they get worn and drift off zero, they lose their seals and fog up…any number of things can happen.  I’m not much good with iron sights (see below) but they’re better than no sights at all, and I’d hate to have a hunting trip spoiled because of a damaged scope on a rifle that has no fall-back set of irons.

The scope is mounted on a detachable Weaver side mount. I’d have preferred a set of claw mounts as more in keeping with the nature of the gun, but the price of these is stratospheric, and while I may be unreasonable, I’m not completely crazy.  Even though the Weaver is a rather high mount, my gunsmith had to bend the bolt to clear the ocular bell and relieve the stock for the bolt knob.  Otherwise the stock is original and appears never to have been refinished: it has a little angled cut behind the trigger as a recess for your forefinger, a standard feature of Husqvarna sporters.

The smith also replaced the original Mauser flag safety with a low-swing model made by Timney that clears the scope and is much easier to use than the "flag" type. 

I'm pretty pleased with this rifle, and will hunt with it this season (see below) it will come to Africa with me in 2010 to use on lighter plains game.  Whoop!


September 12th

Had the Husqvarna out today for the first time. It shoots. It also kicks, at least as much as my .30-06, and this with the relatively mild US factory standard loads!  I started out using some reloads with 42 grains of 4895, and had one case head separation!  (NB: A headspace check shows that it will close on a “No-Go” gauge but not a “Field” gauge, so my gunsmith says it’s safe to shoot.  It may someday need a new barrel.) With factory Remington 175's it shoots about 2 MOA, but that may be me rather than the rifle. Huskies have a reputation for being very accurate: I have a reputation for being a mediocre shot.  The headspace may also be the cause of the decreased accuracy from Husky standards.

Using the fixed open sights I can shoot minute of watermelon-sized rock at 200+ yards.  I need to do some load work, but it's sighted in and with factory ammo more than good enough for deer hunting.


October 4th

I plan to take my Pedersoli .72 double rifle to Namibia next year so I needed to get practice shooting it; and to hunt with it for a season, as I haven't used it much to date.  Last year I missed a deer with it, just as night was falling: that’s the only time it has been fired at a game animal.

Yesterday was a gorgeous day so I set up the casting pot and made 100 of the 0.715" lead balls it shoots.  The damned things look like silver pumpkins when you lay them alongside a centerfire rifle bullet!  Nominally they weigh 545 grains, and I cast them out of range scrap I dig out of the backstop.  They were hardened by being dropped into cold water right out of the mold. 

My load was 90 grains of FFg, with an over-powder felt wad and a cloth patch, both lubed with "Bore Butter."  An article in Handloader magazine suggested FFFg, a bit startlingly; the "conventional wisdom" holds that with this bore size you use FFg.

I clocked one round with the chronograph, at 1200 FPS about 8 feet from the muzzle (any closer and the smoke obscures the sensors).  That works out to about 1600 F-P of muzzle energy.  I feel sure this can be improved, and maybe FFFg will be the way to go.  I'm using GOEX, which isn't the most energetic powder on the market.  I understand that my PH can get WANO, which is usually a little oomphier than GOEX, if I can find that I may give it a try.  The rifle will undoubtedly hold still for 100-120 grains of anything I choose to use.

The bullets I made are a VERY tight fit in the bore, and there were times I was concerned about getting one stuck halfway down, but in the end it always did get seated.  I found it absolutely imperative to swab between shots to clean the fouling out, or I certainly would have had a stuck bullet at some point!  I'm going to need a "palm saver" for this rifle, no doubt. 

I didn't shoot too much: just enough to check sights on the two barrels at 50 yards, since that's the range I'll be hunting at here and I didn't see any point in wasting powder and lead shooting any farther away just yet.  Needless to say, as nice as this gun is by my standards, it's not an H&H and it would be way too much to ask to have both barrels hit the same point of aim.  Nor did they: the right barrel hit on target, the left was way low.

Pedersoli gets around the tiresome (and expensive) process of regulating two barrels by giving you two rear sights.  This look funny, but it works.  The rear-most rear sight works with the right barrel (as I have it loaded); the left barrel is fired with the front rear sight (that sounds odd but you know what I mean...) and puts the shots pretty much dead on at 100 yards.  I'll have to think about what barrel to use and which sight, but since this is an open-sighted rifle I'm not going to be shooting at anything more than 100 yards off anyway.  I did pop a round out of the left barrel at a big white rock that's a known 200 yards away, and hit that.  More practice is in order, and I need to make a kill with it to feel confident in it, really.  But given decent light and a target within my range of confidence, I think it will be fine.

You would think the recoil would be bad but it's not.  The gun is heavy—about 10 pounds—and that certainly helps.  black powder seems to shove, rather than kick.  I fired from the sitting position with my back braced, and from offhand. The recoil was nowhere near as punishing as my 8x57 Husqvarna is off the bench.  I also wore a PAST pad, that helped a great deal, but made it awkward to shoulder the gun.


I also brought along my dainty little German Guild sporter in 8x57J.  I had loaded up a box of shells for it, using .318" bullets (something you won’t find at Wal-Mart’s reloading counter, I had to order them specially from Buffalo Arms).  This rifle is built on a Karabiner 91 action, much weaker than the robust Model 1896 and 1898 rifles.  It’s probably 100+ years old, so I deliberately kept the load about in the .30-30 class.  Not only that, but the gun weighs 5 pounds or so, and would be fearsome with full-house 8x57 loads.  It too was hitting where I pointed it, despite open sights and old eyes.

While I was at the range a gaggle of Tech students came out: 10 or 12 kids from the College of Engineering.  They were all geeky boys except for one very pretty young woman (whom the Geeks were all obviously trying to impress without wanting to be TOO obvious about the effort), who was an engineering major, too.  One of the boys complained to me about the low numbers of girls in the College of Engineering, so I told him to switch majors to Veterinary Medicine.  Of course he's too young for our students, who average about 23-24: most of these boys weren't even 21 and one was 17!

I have rarely felt so old.  I was shooting a Remington Nylon 66 .22 at some spinner targets, and NOT ONE OF THEM had ever seen or heard of such a rifle.  Several asked me what it was, and seemed deeply impressed that a rifle that obviously dated from the Stone Age (the mid-1960's) could possibly have anything as advanced as a nylon stock.  Or that some fossilized geezer had one. 

These kids were all into Black Rifles and Ruger 10/22's.  One asked me how long I had been shooting, and when I said, "Longer than you've been alive: about 50 years," I swear my knee joints creaked audibly, to judge by his expression.  He was probably getting ready to ask me if I'd killed a wooly mammoth but was too polite.

My friend Phil was there shooting some of his WW 2 vintage weaponry, including a Kar98 and an SMLE.  These relics
made a deep impression on the Geeks, one of whom fondled the Enfield and crooned, "I think I'm in love!  I gotta have one of these!"  much like an archeologist coming across some Pleistocene-era stone tools.  Phil had a Luger and a few other vintage handguns, and he ignited a few flames of desire with those, too.

As we were leaving, Phil remarked that with enough kids like that, there was hope for the future after all.  And, he pointed out, "...with girls like that in the Engineering College, they'll certainly do their best to breed more."  Maybe he's right.


October 10th

Thanks to my new teaching assistant, whose stepfather owns a 125-acre farm in southern Montgomery County, I have a new place to hunt this year: Harry raises goats and heritage poultry, as well as running a niche hardwood lumber operation.  A lot of his land is grown up in oaks, with not a few hickories and beech.  Lots and lots of mast. 

Harry hates deer with a passion, and complains that the DGIF will only give him Deer Management permits, not Kill permits.  He'd shoot every deer on the place if he could, and says he'd use land mines, "...but they mess up the meat." 

There really isn't a whole lot of advantage to a hunter in the fact that he has 15 DMAP permits for antlerless deer, since those are legal all season long in this county; but DMAP deer don't count against the daily or season bag limits, so in theory I can shoot every deer I see out there, and he has been urging me to do so.  He has 15 permits and wants them all filled.

I don't bowhunt anymore, which means I use archery season as a chance to go squirrel hunting and scouting.  The weather has been uncooperative and I've had obligations the past few weekends, so today was the first time I was able to get out to Sunrise Valley Farm with a gun in my hand since I met Harry a few weeks back. He had told me that most of the deer like to hang around in the woodlot above his house, so I parked just off the entrance driveway next to a colossal pile of sawdust (easily the size of a VW Mini-van) and walked slowly in.

It was a bit drizzly this morning so the woods were damp but not sopping, and there was very little wind.  I had an easy and quiet walk in, along the side of a deep ravine, maybe 100 yards wide, with moderately sloping sides.  It looked to me to be the sort of natural route deer would use: it sloped gently up from its depths to about where I left my car, and it would allow a deer a nice place to move without being seen, as it's below the level of the road on one side and screened from the rest of the property on the other by the woodlot.  I walked in a couple of hundred yards and decided that it was also prime squirrel turf, so I found myself a big double-trunked white oak, set up my little stool, sat down, and made myself invisible.

One reason I like places like this, about three-quarters of the way up a slope, is that the wind is reasonably predictable.  It will blow along the length of the ravine, or it will usually come up from the bottom, especially in the morning, when the ground is warming up.  I couldn't be seen from behind at the top of one side of the ravine, because the tree was very large at the base: and I could see a good 100 yards in three directions.  I thought it was a very deer-y looking spot, and so it proved.

I arrived about 11:15 or so.  Not 15 minutes after that, two (or maybe three) deer came ambling through the woods to my left, headed down the slope into the ravine.  I'm pretty sure three went in, but I only saw two eventually come out.  They disappeared into the brush at the bottom, for maybe 20 minutes, totally unaware of my presence.

After that time I saw more movement and the lead deer, a biggish doe with a white muzzle and a good-sized fawn following her, started up the opposite slope.  They've changed their coats over to the grey-brown winter form by now, and the fawn was long past having spots.  Baby was two-thirds Mama's size, easily capable of surviving on its own.  Must have been dropped very early last Spring.  Mama might have been as old as 4 years but though she had grey in her muzzle she didn't have that long-nosed look very old does get, so I think perhaps she was 3 or so.

They fed a bit, then moved about three-quarters of the way up the opposite slope, and Mama started to groom Baby.  I'd never seen this behavior before: she licked it and nibbled at it behind its neck, I suppose to get any ticks or whatever out of its fur.  She also occasionally nibbled at her own fur, and scratched behind her ear with her hind leg, exactly the way a dog does.  Neither of them had the slightest clue that I was watching from 100 yards off.

Then they bedded down in the spot where the grooming had been going on.  Mama laid down next to a big tree and if I hadn't known where she was and been able to make out the white fur on her nose and along her flank, I'd have completely lost sight of her.  The ability of these critters to simply vanish when they stop moving is something that always amazes me.  I can actually be looking at a deer and poof  it just fades away, like the Cheshire Cat. Until an ear flicks or a tail twitches, I can't find it again. But I could see this one if I looked carefully, and I watched that deer snooze for about half an hour.  If I'd had a centerfire rifle I could have killed it twenty times over.  When I'm being invisible I can't even see myself, and with the wind in my face, there was no way that doe was going to spot me.

Then I got busted.  Another deer had come in behind me, one I never saw, and one that probably didn't see me; but she winded me and started snorting.  That put Mama on alert and when I glanced back over she was G-O-N-E, though I was certain she hadn't run off, I'd have seen that.

Nor had she.  She had simply stood up while I wasn't watching—I had been diverted by the snort—and was standing in the same spot. Because I hadn't seen her move I'd lost her outline.  After 5 or so minutes, she started snorting too, and that's when I spotted her again.  She didn't see me: she was reacting to the third deer's noises, but after a few blows and stamps she decided it was time to leave even if it was a false alarm.

She started down the slope TOWARDS me, her tail held out level behind her.  She was alert but not alarmed, and still totally clueless about my presence.  Baby followed her.  They came as close as 40 yards or so—easy shot for a muzzle-loader had I been hunting deer—and then started moving off to my right and vanished in the brush.

Shortly thereafter I almost had a shot at two squirrels, but they wised up and left town when they spotted my movement to raise the rifle.  I shifted to another spot, closer to the car, and there I did get a shot, which I missed, of course.  By 2:30 or so I was hungry and decided to head home...and kicked out Mama and Baby, who had bedded down about 75 feet from my car!

So all in all it was a good scout.  My initial impressions seem to have been confirmed, and when the season opens for me I'll be back.  Harry says that he sees 11-15 deer every morning in that area, so the odds seem to be in my favor.  It takes me several seasons to figure out a new property, but I hope to be hunting this farm for years to come, so there's time to do that.


October 31st

Today was the Opening Day of BP season.  I had intended to drive to Amherst to Three Oaks Farm, as I've done for the past decade, but I spent most of yesterday at a friend's funeral, and then at his widow's home, and decided I'd hunt locally, rather than spend two of the wee morning hours on the drive up.  So I went instead to Sunrise Farm, my new spot, and sat where I'd watched a doe and fawn for an hour two weeks ago.

I saw a deer, all right: about 7:45 I was distracted by a squirrel that was romping in the leaves behind my tree, and when I turned back to watch the ravine, a deer that had probably been 50 feet from me for 20 minutes or more was loping into the distance, and I never had a shot.  I console myself by saying I THINK it was a teeny spike buck. My charge out there is to whack every antlerless deer I see.

I stayed until 1:30, alternately dozing and reading Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep," and then it started to rain.  I decided to go to lunch as a nearby restaurant that serves buffalo burgers.


November 2nd

I played hooky from work today, and went back to the same place where I'd disgraced myself by letting that deer sneak past me last Saturday.  Plunked myself down under my chosen tree, and waited.  The same fox squirrel I saw on Saturday (a big bruiser with a black face and a white nose) made an appearance, a couple of grey squirrels played in the leaves, and nothing much happened. 

Now, I have a theory that until the first grey squirrel of the morning is spotted, deer aren't going to come by, so I was glad to see these rodents.  I'd been planning to leave at 9:00, and debating with myself about calling it quits a bit earlier.

But at 8:30 I heard deer running through the leaves, coming from the same direction as the one that slipped past me on Opening Day, so I picked up the rifle and made ready.  I was using a .58 Navy Arms Hawken Hunter I'd bought on Auction Arms a year or two ago at a fire-sale price I couldn't resist.  I had hunted with it for one season, without ever seeing a deer, and after that episode last Saturday was beginning to wonder if it were jinxed.  But not so. 

Two deer came running through the ravine below me, playing tag or something.  I clucked at them and they stopped, I picked out the one with a clear shot and fired.  The ball hit him a little farther back than I'd planned, but very high up, and broke his back.  He fell over, and after a few seconds got up and tried to move, but his hind end wasn't working and he was spraying blood all over the place.  He also started bawling like a calf, a sound I've never heard a deer make before.  BAAAAAAAAAH!   BAAAAAAAAH!  A pretty horrible noise, though not so ghastly as the sound a wounded rabbit makes (nothing compares to that) and much deeper toned than I'd have expected from a deer.  He was so clearly mortally wounded I didn't reload the rifle, even though he was trying to drag himself with his front limbs. 

I walked up and though he probably didn't have another 15 seconds to live, popped him in the back of the head with a little .31 Colt Model 1849 Pocket Model. 

He was down at the bottom of the ravine, maybe 50 feet below a skidder trail.  If I could get him up onto the skidder trail I could drive down and pull him out.  I had of course forgotten the basic rule: "Never shoot a deer that's downhill from your truck."  He was WAY downhill, and though I only had to get him up on the skidder road, that was up about a 30-degree slope littered with obstructions in the form of fallen branches, old logs, etc.

I'm not so young as I like to think I am any more, and it was a hell of a chore to get that 100-pound button buck up onto the road.  Twenty years ago I'd have carried him up, but now...well, I managed it after much huffing and puffing and listening to my heart pounding, and then dragged him a ways up the road (also on a slope) until I was at a spot where I could drive in and turn the truck around. Thanks goodness for 4-wheel drive! My F-250 handled the short in-and-out on the narrow skidder trail well, and I hauled him over to the house for check-in on Harry's DMAP tag.

That .58 makes one mongo hole.  The entry wound was about an inch in diameter.  Of course the ball exited—I'd have been shocked if it hadn't—and made a hole much the same size.  A bit more blood-shot meat than my .54 makes, but that may have been due to the shattering of the spine.  After I got him home and was starting the processing I was curious about what the .31 ball had done, so I stuck a probe in the nearly-invisible hole in the back of his skull.  I had to hunt around in the hair before I found it. 

The bullet had gone clean to the bottom of the cranium, penetrating at least 3" after punching a hole in the skull!  This from a pea-shooter using 15 grains of FFFg and a teeny little bullet weighing 45 grains!  I continue to be amazed at the penetrative power of round balls.  On paper they may be unimpressive, but they’re far more effective than the paper ballistics indicate.


November 6th

I went back to where I shot that button buck on Monday, hoping to chalk up another kill.  At 7:35 I spied a doe with two bucks in tow walking a ridgeline about 60-70 yards away.  I couldn't shoot while they were on the skyline so I waited, and sure enough, one of the bucks eventually dropped low enough below the crest that I could safely take a shot.  I took the shot...and missed clean!  Off he scampered, I think more worried about not getting some poontang than about being shot at.

Oh, well it was a ways off, and maybe there were trees, etc., etc., all the usual excuses.  I walked over to see what was what, and along the ridgeline. There I found...a treestand someone had left there, so obviously this was a spot to remember.

I sat there for a while, nothing happened, so I went off for lunch.  Then back on stand at about 1:30.  Very slow, so I moved to another location, near where I shot the first buck.  At 3:00, two deer (I think the same doe and fawn I saw two weeks ago) came along, crossing maybe forty yards left to right, in the clear.  Baby went down the hill, Mama stepped out, I fired...and another MISS!  I could hardly believe this.  I considered what to do and decided to reload, then go check to see if there was blood or hair or some indication of a hit, though the deer had run off at the shot.  No sooner had I reloaded than Baby re-appeared up the hill, looking for Mama...and I missed HER, too!  Off she went.

I check the spot, nothing.  Nada, zilch, zip, zero.  Not any indication whatever of a hit on either deer.  It was as if I were shooting blanks, and this with the .58 that I used on Monday!

I went and sat down again, and waited.  Between 4:00 and 5:00 at least four more deer came by, and damned if two of them weren't Mama and Baby again!  Neither gave me a shot, though.  Two deer came in behind me, one of them creeping up level with me, one step at a time, from behind my right shoulder, no more than 15 feet away.  The other on the left side, maybe 30 feet away.  The nearer deer was close enough that had I had a pistol I could have shot her, but I couldn't turn and get the rifle up without being seen, which needless to say eventually I was, and off down the hill she went.  Subsequently I saw a deer in the ravine, maybe 100-150 yards away.  Counting the one I nearly ran over driving in, and the two I nearly ran over on the way out at 5:30, I saw 11 deer today, and missed three.

I have no real explanation for this poor shooting, except maybe for the first miss, which was farther off than I usually take shots.  The two forty-yard shots...no way to excuse those, but I THINK what happened is that the rifle has a semi-buckhorn sight, and I may have set the top of the front sight blade even with the "ears" instead of snuggling it don into the notch proper.  That would certainly have sent all the shots high.  Old eyes and open sights are a bad combination. 

I'm going out again tomorrow to Giles County, and will use this rifle again.  If I have another miss—God forbid—I'll drive to the range and see if my theory holds.  The sights were dead on last time I used it and they're not the type that are easily moved, so it must be something I'm doing wrong.

One thing I do have to say:  I’ve been out to that farm four times and have seen at least 16 deer in all, perhaps more, in a 2-3 acre wood lot.  No wonder the landowner feels he should be allowed to use land mines.


November 14th

Well, the rut is over....for the 8-pointer I shot today in the Valley Of A Thousand Rodents on the Opening Day of rifle season.

I went out to the farm early, arrived on my stand at 6:00 AM.  This was at the same location where I shot the 3-point buck with my flintlock last year.  As I went in by flashlight I spotted deer eyes in almost exactly the location where that buck had been, so I settled in and waited for light.

About 6:10, a doe snorted at me from behind and took off.  Then as the light came up I spotted another doe moving through the woods to my left, maybe 30 yards in and heavily screened by brush.  I almost had a shot at her but passed it up, it looked too chancy.

Not much else happened for a while.  About 9:15 I decided to push on down into the VOATR, over the hill and about 400 yards away.  I moved in and sat down under the large beech tree that I usually use as a stand and waited.

Not for long.  I caught some motion in my peripheral vision, a flash off antlers, as it turned out.  A buck was sneaking through the bush maybe 70 yards away, nose to the ground.  He looked very good, and was clearly unaware of me.  When he stepped out into a clear zone I fired.

At first I thought I'd missed:  he immediately started to trot off, but after a couple of seconds he seemed to slow down and I was sure he was hit and hit hard.  He made it about 25-30 yards, then gave a leap into the air and crashed to the ground.  By the time I got up to him he was dead.  It was exactly 10:00 AM.

I'd shot him with the Husqvarna using Remington's factory stuff, a 175-grain Core-Lokt round nose.  The bullet hit him on his right elbow, penetrated through and shredded his heart into pieces without touching the large blood vessels or puncturing the lungs at all.  He was a very big deer for this area: 8 points, 39" chest girth, which according to my tables made him 180-190 pounds live weight.  The last buck I shot in the VOATR —within 100 feet of the same spot—was a bit larger than this one.  Maybe that’s telling me something about the Valley!

After I checked him in by phone and dressed him out I covered him with my blaze orange vest, and hoofed it back to the truck.  I wasn't about to drag him out by hand. One reason I like to hunt this spot is that I can drive in for a retrieve.  Last year I had some trouble loading the flintlock buck into the truck so this year I fitted the bed with a block and tackle.  Some trees had grown up into the trail down into the VOATR, but last Christmas I treated myself to a chain saw, and it came in very handy.  How did I ever live without a beater truck equipped with 4WD?  I drove all the way in, bouncing over logs and rocks like a stunt driver in a Ford commercial.  Then I pulled up to the deer, and hauled him in.  All in all it took me about an hour and a half to get him out, but I didn't get a heart attack doing it.

My freezer is full: I slaughtered a couple of lambs a month ago, and put the button buck in last week.  I'd promised my teaching assistant she could have the next one I killed, so I drove the 8-pointer down to Sunrise Farm and turned him over to Harry.  Next one(s) go to Hunters for the Hungry, though I have actually got vet students asking me, "Dr C, do you think you might have some spare deer meat?" so we'll see what happens next week!


November 21st

Tried to go out this morning…and the truck’s starter has given up the ghost.  Time to go to Blacksburg Auto Parts!

Fixed the truck and left at 1:00 PM.  The woods were deader than Disco…not a thing stirring.  No joy, came home at 5:30.  Phooey.


Thanksgiving Week, November 23rd to 28th

Went out several times this week, with zero luck.  The deer have been shot at for the past two weeks and more, and I suppose all the stupid and unlucky ones have been killed.  Oh, I see a deer now and then: today (the 28th) I almost killed one.  On the road in front of my house, with my truck.  Three of them ran out of a neighbor’s garden at 6:30, right in front of me.  The only deer I saw all day!  Good thing I didn’t hit one: not that it would have hurt the F-250, but it was before legal shooting time.  Nothing doing in Giles County at all today, not even a squirrel; though I did see another hunter, a most unusual sight in the VOATR.

Harry’s place was crazy with fox squirrels yesterday.  There were at least 10 of them scooting around in the leaves and on logs, including one dummy who came within touching distance.  Lucky for him I’m disinclined to hunt fox squirrels any more!  No deer, but 10 of those fat rats would have been about the same weight as a fawn!

Plenty of season left: there’s a two-week hiatus for the second bow season, and then late BP season starts.  It’s barely possible that the .58 will be back in service by then, as I took it to the gunsmith today to have the 36” long William Malcolm scope mounted, which is a pretty simple job.  If so and if I have it sighted in by the time the late season starts, that will be my chance to redeem myself.  If not, the old reliable New Englander .54 will go out with me.

The Husqvarna also went to the gunsmith, to have the stock shortened and a recoil pad installed.  It’s a beast in recoil, and something had to be done about it.  A “Limb Saver” pad, I hope it’s as good as the claims made for it.

December 27, 2009

The end of the season is upon us, though I may get out for one last hurrah this week, as I’m staying home until well after New Years’ Day and things run until the 2nd of January.

I did get that Hawken scoped, though I haven’t yet had it sighted in.  Very “period correct” it is, too:  I hope it shoots well.

The Husky got its recoil pad and I had the stock shortened: it fits much better and the recoil is very tolerable now.  That got done in time for the pig shoot.


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