THE 2017-18 SEASON LOG

It's that time of year again, and even though hunting seasons haven't yet started, the DGIF is sending license renewal reminders, so here goes.

I have mentioned before the DGIF's policy of issuing "kill permits" for people whose gardens and other property are damaged by wildlife. My friend Betty has one of these: she's been complaining about deer ravaging her apple orchard and other plants, so for the past couple of years she's obtained a kill permit and put me on as the Designated Deer Assassin. Having recently returned from an extended trip to Scandinavia, I went out to her house to do the deed as opportunity presented. Only antlerless deer can be taken on kill permits, as the intent is to reduce the overall size of the herd, and the only practical way to do that is to kill does, thereby removing from the (future) population all their descendants.

I went out a couple of times and actually saw three does as I drove into her property one afternoon but never had a shot. She'd been telling me "They come into the apple orchard between 8 and 9, and there's a big doe with two young ones."  I went again in the afternoon of June 30th but nobody showed up; but after a quick dinner at home I went back out and arrived about 7:30 PM. Sure enough, as we sat chatting in her living room, about 8:30 two deer showed up. I quietly opened her patio door, took aim at the bigger one, and BAM! down she went. The range was perhaps 25 yards.

It was a youngish doe. Nevertheless she was old enough to be carrying twin fawns in utero. Based on her size I'd have guessed she was a yearling, but everything I've read indicates that for a first pregnancy a doe will have a single fawn, and will deliver twins in subsequent years. If she was a year or a year and a half, she seems to have defied the "rule" but nutrition is a factor; in southern Montgomery County food is unlimited. It may well be that even a yearling can have twins the first time around if she's well nourished, as this deer was. The fetuses were well along, too: I'd guess she'd have dropped them within a few days had she lived. Late June or early July seems late in the year for fawns to be born, but there was no doubt about their presence. I don't know how long it takes a fawn to become totally independent, and perhaps a very late birth would handicap the fawn in making it through the winter. Well, neither of them have to worry about it now.

Mama's live weight was less than 100 pounds, so she's probably not the "big one" Betty says she's seeing.  Believe it or not, as I was dressing out the doe, another one—probably her erstwhile companion—came back over the ridge and snorted at me! Then she vanished.  I'd put my rifle in the truck, but if I'd been thinking straight and had it at hand I might have got her, too. Betty called me the next day to say that the deer had come back to feed that night. A blood spot on the ground means nothing to them, obviously. (I once was dressing out a deer and had three more wander by within 15 feet of where I was doing the dirty! They are not the smartest animals God ever made, that's for sure.)


I used my little Husqvarna Mauser, a dedicated sporter built on non-military Model 1896 action in 1944. This was one of the last sporting guns made on the 1896 action: after the war ended Husqvarna bought Model 1898 actions from FN and used those for their sporting rifles. My Husky is chambered for the 8x57 Mauser round, a very fine all-around caliber for medium game. A couple of weeks before I'd taken it to a gunsmith to have the headspace checked and corrected if necessary because I was getting primer protrusion with Remington's factory ammo, though not with Norma's much hotter stuff. It would close on a NO GO gauge but not on a FIELD gauge, so it wasn't unsafe to shoot, but I had the smith set the barrel back and rechamber it, just to be sure. A little range time showed me it would still shoot 2 MOA or less, which is good enough for what I do with it.

American 8x57 is substantially less powerful than that made in Europe but it's good enough for our local whitetails. I used Remington's ammunition with 170 grain RNSP Core-Lokt bullets. Remington's ballistic tables rate this round at 2360 FPS. For purposes of comparison, their .30-30 load with the 170 grain bullet has a muzzle velocity of 2200 FPS. (Norma loads the 8x57 with a 196 grain bullet at 2526 FPS, putting it in the same power class as the .308 Winchester.)

This little Mauser is a "lucky" gun. I took it to Namibia in 2010, where using Norma ammunition I shot a zebra, a springbok, a jackal or two, a warthog, an impala and a huge eland. Prior to that it had taken a nice fat hog in Tennessee, and a big whitetail buck in Giles County.  Everything I've pointed it at has died.

Amazingly enough, I recovered the bullet from this animal: it was lodged under the skin on the off side.  In my experience, when light boned animals are shot at short range with a fairly powerful rifle, there's complete penetration, but not this time.  I shot her in the left shoulder more or less broadside. The bullet was lodged under the skin on the right side, visible as a "bump" under her fur.  The recovered bullet was perfectly mushroomed, and weighed 120.3 grains: 70.7% weight retention. One bullet, three animals and all their descendants removed from the herd. A properly placed bullet is the best deer contraceptive, no matter what the Greenies think. And at 60 cents per round, it's a whole lot cheaper than the way some places in New York are doing it!

Because I'd made the kill so late in the day, none of the local meat processors were open. It was pretty warm and we worried about spoilage, so we parked her in Betty's basement, cool and away from flies. First thing the next morning I took her in to a local processor.


July 5, 2017

I sent the following question to Matt Knox, the DGIF's Deer Coordinator:

On June 30, I killed a doe who had twin fawns in utero, very near term so far as I could tell. This doe appeared to be fairly young: had she not been pregnant with twins I'd have guessed not much more than a year.  I didn't get a look at her teeth and could only estimate her weight (not more than 100 pounds on the hoof).

I've read that does begin their reproductive lifetime at about 16 months, and it's possible that this deer was that old. However, everything I've read seems to indicate that first-time pregnancies are singletons, with twins in subsequent years. How valid is this observation?  How likely is it that a first-time mother will twin?  By my calculation the doe would have conceived in mid to late December 2016, using 205 days as a gestation period.  That would have been in the "second rut," I think.

Second question: had those twins been born in early July, (based on their size in the womb) what would be their odds of surviving?  I'm still seeing spotted fawns now and then on the roads, but it seems to me that July is very late for fawns to be dropped.  The doe didn't appear to be lactating yet.If they had been born by, say July 10th, I think their making it through the winter would have been chancy. The landowner was somewhat upset that the fawns were killed, but my thinking is that they'd have died anyway if the weather turned bad.  How likely is it that the doe would have been nursing them in, say, November or December?  What would be her odds of having enough nutritional support to do this?

Received this reply today:

The June 30 fawns would be considered "late". If you figure a 200 day gestation, this means the doe was bred on or about December 13th.

A few very general observations:

Older does breed first, on average a couple of days to a week earlier than yearling deer (1-1/2 years of age). If fawns breed (based on condition/weight) they breed weeks to months later. Older does typically have twins (triplets are possible), yearling does typically have a single fawn (but twins are possible) and fawns almost always (99%+) have a single fawn. Without a jaw, it is impossible to say how old this deer might have been. I would guess >=2 (current age). I can almost guarantee it was not a fawn last fall.

Lastly, yes, I think the fawns would have survived. If we had a mast failure and a hard winter next year, they would be at risk.


July 10, 2017: The Husqvarna Strikes Again

Mrs Outdoorsman is visiting her sister this week, so I am reverting to bachelor ways, which include sleeping and eating whenever I feel like it, and going out to do Manly Things involving firearms and innocent woodland creatures that never did me any harm. Well, it also means serving the Commonwealth by removing the surplus population of hoofed nuisances we call "deer."

I wrote a kill permit for a man on the same rural road on which my friend Betty lives, so I put the Husky in the truck and after doing that, I headed for her place, about 5:00 or so. About 6:30 I had gone out to the truck to get something and as I walked back to the house, lo, there was a pair of those V-shaped ears sticking up above the grass on the hill above Betty's orchard. I went into the house, got the rifle, and carefully went back out. Sure enough, the doe was still watching me, maybe 35 yards away.

I took an offhand shot. She was facing me so I aimed at the center of her chest. The bullet hit just to the left of her center line, and subsequent examination showed it removed the top of the heart and the great vessels there.

She dropped, got up, and started to run to my right, making it about 40 yards before she dropped in a heap. I gave her an "insurance" shot with my little .380 pocket pistol, and then commenced the rest of the ceremonies. I didn't recover the bullet: it was somewhere in the mass of viscera. The entry wound was fairly small but there was no exit wound and I wasn't going to dig around in the gut pile in fading light!

This one was, by evidence of her teeth, perhaps 2-1/2 to 3 years old. She wasn't pregnant but she was lactating, so I expect she'd dropped her fawns in May or June. At the processor's, we weighed her at 86 pounds field dressed, which means live weight would have been in the range of 110 pounds. Betty's been talking about a "big doe," and this may have been her. Not the biggest doe I've seen around here, but larger than our local average.

The Husky is a "lucky" gun: I always seem to see game when I have it in hand, and everything I've fired it at has died. And I'll give those Remington Core-Lokt RNSP's their due: they may be slow but they do the job. Just about the perfect whitetail bullet, which they ought to be after seventy-plus years of development and refinement. People who are into the current "long range" fad can sniff at round nose bullets but in these local woods and fields they work just fine.

This business of shooting deer in shorts and a T-shirt has its good and bad points. Much cooler and easier to move in light clothing, but my lower legs are badly scratched up thanks to walking through brambles to reach where she fell! I just hope there was no poison ivy in that patch...