This past weekend, my hunting partner, his dad, and I made our annual pilgrimage to central Oregon for our deer hunt. We hunt is the Maupin Unit, in and around the town of Grass Valley. Hardly anyone puts in for this unit as it’s 98% private land. But we’re fortunate to know a few of the ranchers who are willing to open their homes to us for a long weekend.
Saturday morning, we were up before first light and took off to some of the areas we know that have held deer in the past. We parked and hiked in, rifles in hand, in search of “one buck deer with visible antler.” Mile after mile, the sound of our boots and truck tires yield only what we call “propeller heads” or props for short; mule deer swiveling their ears resembling slow propellers.
I’m shooting my Savage Model 16 stainless in .300 short mag. using a 300-yard zero. I’m shooting 200 grain Hornady ELD-X bullets at 2,770 fps. This load holds to a half minute for me. Here’s a typical 5-shot group:
On about our fifth or sixth walkabout, we ran across a herd of five deer. I spotted one buck in the group through my binos and lasered him at 330 yards. The other guys told me he’s too small, hold off, he’s not big enough, etc.
When I initially saw the buck, I had a flashback to my last trip to Africa. I was there for kudu and gemsbok. On my first hunt there we spotted a 55-inch kudu, but my guide said, naw, we’ll get you one that pushes 60 inches! I reluctantly held off, figuring that he knew the area much better than I did. We never saw another kudu that trip.
I had violated my own rule: never pass up a shot on the first day that you’d be willing to take on the last day.
So I told my Oregon buddies that I was going for it. I would have shot him on the last day. I took a braced position, held dead on and put the squeeze on my 2.5 lb trigger. When little Mr. Fork Horn was in my cross hairs, I didn’t hesitate.
And as I came out of recoil, I watched as he pivoted in place and tipped over. Buck Down!
After hiking to where he lay, I saw my shot was a few inches low. I turned around and lasered the fence post I had used as a rest for my shot — 420 yards. That was almost a big error. My first laser must have hit some of the tall grass.
The bullet appeared to exit in two places. One piece went out the right “arm pit” breaking the forward leg. The larger piece blew out the sternum, taking one lung with it.
After gutting, skinning and removing the lower legs and head, it was time to wash him off and hang him in the cool night air to get a glaze on the soon-to-be delicious venison.
This year, the only steaks I’m taking are the tenderloins and the back straps. After gleaning about 10 pounds of jerky, I’ll grind up the rest adding 5% of pork fat for a decent amount of venison burger.
The rest of Saturday and Sunday only yielded the group two more bucks. We saw them about a mile out and they were at a full run from something. My friend and his dad grumbled on the way home about not shooting the first buck seen. It just solidified my rule about passing up shots on the first day.
Oh, and here’s a convenient tip: Dodge truck dashboards have a great feature. Not only do they have handy cup holders, but they have two very convenient muzzle holders, too.
Next up, elk hunting after a pack trip by horse and mule. Aim small, miss small.