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.
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.
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.