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As some of you might remember, Nick gifted me the unluckiest hunting trip of my life last year. The photo above is of a much larger Leghorn attempting to wedge himself through the too-small back window of a Toyota Tacoma while Kevin Brittingham gazes on in a mixture of frustration, boredom, and glee. In the year since, Nick’s gotten much smaller and my truck has gotten much larger. I assumed that the story of that weekend would be the ultimate “sitting ’round the fire” trump card. Recently, I was what we Texans call “Out Whatatburgered” by a coworker. The whole story is pretty grand. It ends with the friend of a brother of a millionaire calling a rancher at 2:00 AM at the behest of a game warden to explain how he managed to double tap a calf on the other side of a fence. And that was just the first night. The story extends for another week, and should serve as a lesson of sorts to the hunters among us. The images after the jump are not for the squeamish and perhaps NSFW depending on your workplace . . .

After their tragic night, everyone went to bed, but as my coworker hadn’t been so stupid as to kill a neighboring calf, he slept the kind of sleep befitting the innocent. He woke up early to get out to the blind, and before long had a doe in his sights. Using his trusty .308 WIN and some Monarch 150 gr. Soft Points, he squeezed off a shot and watched in horror as the doe ran off. He enlisted the help of his buddies to track her, and while they found some blood and hair, there wasn’t enough of a trail to track her. After a few hours, they gave up.

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Fast forward a few days, and the brother of the millionaire forwarded the picture above to my coworker. His game camera sends him text updates when there’s movement at the camera, and right there, as clear as day, is a doe with a fantastically large hole in her shoulder. It seems too far fetched to be possible, and despite my best efforts to goad him into confessing a lie, my coworker is staying strong. He recognizes that feeder and the land. He even pressed the brother to let him know that I’d be writing this article, and the that the time for messing around has passed. They’re both swearing that it’s the truth. I even reverse Google image searched it, and I can’t find a thing.

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The obvious question then becomes “how” and the answer is that a lot of things have to go wrong. Without actually having this deer down in front of me for further analysis, all I’ve got is SEWAG. First among them is that the deer has to be standing just so. As you can see, the wound is high on the torso, and based on the trauma, I’m going to call that the exit wound side. Hunt long enough, and you’ll see similar traumatic wounding. The difference is that it’s normally seen on a dead deer. Looking at the anatomical drawing above, which came from this thread on www.kentuckyhunting.net, you can see that the exit wound lines up with the location of the shoulder blade, the top of the lungs, and spinal cord.

In my opinion, the only way that deer is still operational days later is that the bullet had to pass from one side to the other contacting the minimum number of hard deer parts on the way. This task becomes exponentially easier with solid or FMJ bullets which are designed to hold together in the face of much adversity. Soft points? Eh, not so much. This bullet should have expanded, but to do something it had to hit something that would put up some sort of resistance.

What isn’t shown in that drawing is the articulation of that front shoulder. As the leg moves, so does the blade. Your cat and dog have similar bone structures, and you can feel how theirs move fore and aft. Assuming that the blade was moved forward all the way, the bullet would be passing through thin hide, rib meat, and literally half an inch of space between the lungs and spinal column. It isn’t a far stretch to say that he might have squeezed the shot when the deer’s blade was flexed forward and it had completely exhaled. I can’t say for sure. Either way, its a “thread the needle” shot.

This unlucky path couldn’t continue the whole way though. Based on the wounding, the bullet expanded at some point. Based on the size of the wound, and the fact that it is still mobile, I’m guessing it hit the shoulder blade on the way out, causing the bullet to finally mushroom and take some shoulder with it. I’d vote that it hit a rib on the way out, but if that was the case, the deer would have eventually expired from a pneumothorax. I’m going to leave it to those more medical than me, but I can’t imagine that the lungs will keep inflating with a golf ball sized hole in the chest cavity. It is just every so slightly believable that the .30 cal holes poked on either side weren’t enough to completely collapse both lungs.

This isn’t a one in a million shot. The odds are closer to one in a billion. This is nearly perfect shot placement with a thoroughly adequate cartridge, and a fairly decent bullet. If he’d taken this shot with a .223 or used a solid copper projectile, I’d be standing at his desk chastising him daily. I’m a huge Barnes TSX fan, and I don’t even think that the copper wonders could have made the difference here. This is simply a case of everything going wrong. One full inhale, a step in the other direction, or one inch lower, and this deer would be in a freezer somewhere.

This is one of the weirdest photos I’ve ever seen, and if it turns out to be a hoax, I’m going to feel very foolish. Even if it is fake – and I’m inclined to believe it’s real – there’s a powerful lesson here. Even if you do everything right, things can still go wrong. The worst part is that this deer is likely going to succumb to an infection or a predator. That’s an awful way to go out, and I can’t imagine the suffering this poor animal has undergone for the last week. I’ve encouraged my coworker to get back out there to find this deer and put it out of its misery sooner rather than later.

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23 Responses to Hunting: Sometimes, You Can’t Fight Bad Luck

  1. My wife shot a small deer same place twice with 300 win mag. I went to gut it an hour later it was still alive & breathing, you could see the lungs inflating. Only explanation is that deer are a very tough animal.

    • Unfortunately infection will likely kill her. This season the wife put a doe down that had no left legs below the “knees” she was limping along on her bones.

  2. I’m half-heartedly waving the BS flag. Just thinking that I don’t see any sign of blood in that picture, new or old. Thinking Photoshop does not cause any bleeding. Still, yeah, hell of a story, I can’t be sure. My idea was this was the entry AND exit side, like the animal was shot from behind (or in front) and the bullet collected some flesh and hide as it bounced off the ribs and exited without doing much serious damage. Unless it was beyond 500 yards, tho, that doesn’t seem possible given the loading.

  3. I would call b.s. On this but in the last two weeks I’ve lost a deer that I found two hours and 1.5miles later with a bullet hole immediately in front of the heart…..and it still go up an ran into thick swamp before I could shoot again.

    A friend also had to track one a few hundred yards that took a bullet through a shoulder, both lungs and the opposite leg, leaving a softball sized exit wound!

    Tough animals those deer!

  4. Completely possible. If the deer’s leg was forward, as if it was leaning way over to eat, and was breathing out when the round hit, there would be plenty of space for the bullet to pass. That whole wouldn’t have started that large, but after a week of run and rot it would have enlarged a great deal.

    I’ve seen this same thing, in the same place, but much, much smaller on deer shot with arrows.

  5. I’d vote that it was a side-grazing shot that bounced off of the shoulder blade at a shallow angle and took the skin and meat with it, with no intrusion into the body proper.

    • That is what I saw with one deer in a group heading to sample the product in a near-by corn field. A friend`s deer stand seemed a bit too improv for a guy my size, so I used some netting and brush to make like a stump. Several deer came out of the brush heading toward me. After they had a good laugh at my camouflage skills, they broke left and away just as I took a shot for the upper leg and heart of a well fed corn thief. My choice went “Hollywood” in an explosion of leaves and hooves-head-hooves-head-hooves. The bullet had entered the “upper leg”, followed the shoulder blade and emerged in a ragged hole high on the shoulder. There was no penetration of the shoulder blade or rib cage, but the impact was severe enough to cause fatal, internal damage.

      The deer in the photograph might have been just a bit luckier than the critter that I encountered. A fraction of a second or a fraction of an inch would have made a world of difference.

  6. I don’t see how she could have been shot in the left side and have a hole that big without having both lungs punctured.
    Surviving a double hemp/pneumothorax? Not happening.
    Maybe, just maybe, an entry near the front of the chest, then blowing out like that.
    If it’s not a photoshop, I don’t see her lasting much longer.

  7. Aw, make me all warm and fuzzy. God did put ’em here for us to do as we like with, just like women. It’s in the bible.

  8. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are the king of Fudds, and you lead a merry band of followers, Tyler. Hang your shit up, and stick to ringing steel.

  9. I’ve shot a few deer in my day. Most just either fall down and die on the spot or walk less than 25yds and do the same but every now and then they just run off leaving a blood trail a blind man could follow never to be recovered. I can’t explain it. Neither can anybody else. I’ve gotten more quick kills since I switched to round nose bullets in my 308. I had a ballistic tip whistle thru a deer at 100yds, blood coming out both sides. Never found him. I have pictures of a 12point that used to hang around my back 40 all the time. He got shot with a broad head tipped arrow around New Years day one year. He showed up to eat corn with the broad head sticking out of him. No worse for wear. Came back the next year with just a scar where the broad head was. Go figure.

  10. I put a sabot through a small buck from the shoulder down through the lower parts and he still ran 60 yards. Deer are tough animals. Unlike humans I don’t think they realize what happened and if the engine room still works they will take off until blood loss knocks them out

  11. This reminds me of pictures of African animals I have seen. A lion that got is lower jaw nearly broken/ripped all the way off with only a little bit of blood for that sort of traumatic injury. Or the disemboweled zebra that seemed to be missing all of its guts but wasn’t pouring blood in the picture and was still standing and alive.

    There is also the of course the famous headless chicken. Or the zillions of people who are maimed and survive the injuries; notable examples that come to mind are the guy that had the open stomach wound from the 1700’s that literally stuck a cork in it or a railroad worker who had a 3 foot iron pipe shot through his head and lived.

    The body is an amazing thing that in one blink is extremely durable and resilient and in the next is easily broken or destroyed.

  12. Animals are amazing. I’d have trouble believing this if I hadn’t seen deer shrug off HORRIBLE wounds in the past. I helped a friend track a deer on my own property(started there anyway) that was shot through 3/4 shoulder, took off into the woods and ripped off an ENTIRE front leg when it hooked a tree. The deer made it almost 1/2 mile before it dropped and was still breathing when we found it. He used Hornaday 30-06 poly tip that went through one shoulder blade and shredded the other shoulder on exit.

    I’ve also seen a squirrel live several months with a gaping hole where his front leg used to be. I hit him with a .17HMR through the body and he took off(very rare) so I thought I missed until I found the leg. Several months later I saw a 3 legged squirrel and dropped him. The wound was healing but still looked infected so we didn’t eat the meat. I felt sorry for the guy.

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