Ramblings of a Deer Hunter


I hope that this
article may not be construed by some as a ramble on, matching the above title, but is mainly being geared at describing how a deer will react when being shot.  However reaction to being shot is not a black and white science as there will be many contributing factors other than just the shot itself.   Here I will try to give you a deer's "body language" at the time of the hit, to help determine where it was hit, which in turn will help your next move.  Much of this has been gleaned from my hunting for 65 + years of packing a gun in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Alaska, British Columbia and Alberta Canada.  And being a gunsmith/machinist for over 50 of those years thrown in.

This article will also cover a lot of things that go into deer hunting that relate to understanding the specie, choosing a firearm, the final shot and getting the animal out of the woods.  Then taking care of the meat afterwards, which in my book is the reason for the hunt.  Good sized horns are nice, but that is just frosting on the cake.

At the end, I will describe in some detail the instances leading up to the shot, the firearm used, the evaluation of the shot and the outcome.  These are all actual experiences.  This will aid those of you who are rather new to hunting, or where you will probably never in your lifetime be able to accumulate what I have because of the decline in deer population (at least in many areas that I frequent), or you may even need to brush up on things you forgot.   It will give you some clues as to IF you actually hit your animal or not, and what to expect.

But before getting into those, you really need to work your way thru the sections listed below, which sets the stage for the final tidbits of information. 

Physical / Medical Condition, --YOURS :  Here, you need to really evaluate YOUR own physical/medical conditions.  If you have a medical problem, should you even consider going out alone.  Even if you go with a partner will you be a detriment to them that may even put them at risk?   Sure the younger guys can walk the soxs off you, but you need to evaluate IF you can get back to the vehicle or camp on your own.  Do you have enough First Aid training, if that need develops?  If you require medication, be sure you carry it with you.  Depending on your age or condition, you more than likely will be slower, but your prime concern is to make it back.

Then if you have knee or hip problems that will hinder your ability to get out on your own.  Or consider if you have a situation where you may have the onset of COPD which could also effect you as a liability to those that you may be with.  Remember if you walked in you will also have to walk (or crawl) back out.  Do you and your partners have a means of communications, like Walkie-Talkies, as some hunting areas you may not have cell phone reception?

Even consider that if you should be fortunate OR good enough to shoot a animal, will you be able to retrieve it yourself?  Can you drag it out, or will you have to quarter it up and be able to pack it out, OR will you have to camp there and eat it)?   OR will you have to call on someone else to help out here and this is not a 911 call.  Then add possible bad weather into the mix, are you prepared, or capable to deal with that?  Freezing weather down to near ZERO along with wind and snow (even if you are prepared) can change things overnight.  You may not be lucky enough to be able to shoot an animal within yards of a road.  With any disability, these conditions can be insurmountable.  If you took a animal's life, (as a hunters code is) you need to not waste the meat.

To me "Road Hunting" is not hunting, it will however be a means to get to and from your designated hunting area and many times you could encounter game along the way, but to me that is only a bonus.

Yes, we all like our recreation to be able do what we like, and if you perish doing it, that may be all YOU are asking, but what about your loved ones, there may well have been some important things left undone.

Firearm :  I am not going to get caught up in a discussion as to the best deer rifle here.  The object is to put an animal down as humanly as possible.  Each person will have his or her own requirements and ability.  This objective is possible by evaluating many different calibers.

Here you need to use a firearm of a large enough caliber to humanely put down the animal as soon as possible.  Yes, I know some states will allow about any firearm, while others may be more restrictive.  A deer can be cleanly killed with a 22RF by someone who can take a calm shot and yet other deer get hit, wounded where may not be recovered when hit by a 300 Weatherby.  Shot placement is the most important item in making a clean kill.  A good shot with a 22 RF at close range can be better than a bad shot with a magnum at a any range.  If shot placement does not put an animal down within a short distance, then tracking becomes a very important situation, (covered later in this article).

Choosing a firearm also may be dictated by your own needs.  Like being Left Handed, having a bad right eye, being a finger amputed or missing an arm etc.   I initially carried a 22RF single shot simply because the family did not have enough money to purchase another gun when I started hunting at about the age of 12.  Needless to say I killed a few deer under my father's watchful eye with this Winchester model 67A  22RF.  Besides this rifle, I also grew up using a 16 gauge single shot shotgun.  Growing up and hunting with a single shot teaches you to take your time, wait for the right time then make a good shot, OR PASS it up.

Dad finally bough a new Winchester model 94 in 30-30 in 1950, which I then began using until 1954 when I, (on October 10th) bought a Remington model 760 in 30-06 (1st year of production).  Finally when I wore the receiver rails and barrel out, I had it re-bored to 35 Whelen (a 30-06 necked up to 35 caliber) then welded up the worn receiver rails, rejuvenating this old gun.  

I have also extensively used a Savage model 2400 in 12ga over a 308 Win.   So, I have to say that I like firearms as well as anyone, but when it comes to packing one gun for deer hunting, I will either choose the Savage 2400 or one of the pumps as I need to shoot left handed because of a prosthetic right eye.  Recently in my retirement I have made up another Remington 760, in 243 Win.  This has a 20' barrel and from the initial test firing this has potential (less than 3/4" at 100 yards) which I will be using it on my quad for varmint hunting.  My shotgun is, you probably guessed is a Remington model 870 pump 12 ga.   Familiarity as to operation of a firearm can be invaluable when you get in a situation where you have to act instinctively without fumbling trying to find the safety button.  Been there-done that on a pheasant hunt with a Winchester model 12 which has the safety on the front of the trigger guard instead of the rear like my 760.  That is when I decided to save up and get a 870 12ga pump.

I will say that there are many calibers of firearms that will kill a deer effectively.  In the modern calibers, or those that have hung in there for a considerable length of time being, 243 Win, 270 Win, 30-30, 308 Win and 30-06.   Some of the older calibers could also be included would be 250-3000, 7mm Mauser, 300 savage, 30-40 Krag and 35 Remington.   Even a 7mm Rem. magnum or 300 Win. magnum can have their place if used in a situation where you have the opportunity to hunt both deer and elk at the same time, OR ARE in a open country where a longer shot is all that you will get.  This is not to say that any caliber that I have not mentioned is bad, and these have certainly accounted for plenty of meat on the table. 

Also do not overlook a shotgun with buckshot or slugs for close range shooting.  In selecting buckshot, the larger the number the smaller the balls.  Number 4 Buck uses .240 diameter lead balls, while 00 Buck uses .340 diameter.  Normal 12 gauge lead slugs will be 1 ounce.  The newer generation of slugs can incorporate a Sabot which could be a smaller bullet surrounded by a plastic sealing sleeve that falls away upon leaving the barrel. These can be made of different materials and lighter which usually travel faster and farther than the older pure lead loadings.  And when a shotgun is incorporated with a scope, make them effective beyond 100 yards.

And I have also personally seen the devastation a 22 Magnum can do on a lung shot deer at under 50 yards in a farm crop damage control situation.

Another thing that you may want to consider in selecting a caliber, is to pick a gun that ammo is readily available for at about any sporting goods store.  Sure the magazine writers do a good job of promoting those new super whiz bangs, but that is where they make their living and that is writing about the new stuff, promoting the manufacturer's new goods.  There are so many good old cartridges that it is about impossible to come up with something really better.  Also if only one or two companies make that caliber of ammo, (like some of the new cartridges) you will be pretty well locked into what they sell, AND at their PRICE.  Think about it, if the retail store sells out that odd caliber in the middle of the season, I will bet that they do not restock until next season as they were glad to get rid of what they had on hand.

In relationship to caliber, we must also look at bullet, weight and style.  A full metal jacket military type round is not designed to humanely put an animal down.  The bullet needs to be a expanding type bullet and at the same time not a lighter faster moving bullet designed for varmint hunting where the bullet will blow up on the first impact and not give enough penetration to do internal damage.  Also depending on where you are hunting, (whether it is brushy or open country) may determine the type of bullet.  In brushy country, you may need a heavier bullet to be able to penetrate some brush at close range as compared to open country where a your only chance to get a shot may be at 400 yards.  Bullet weight needs to be heavy enough to penetrate the animal and yet do enough internal damage to put the animal down.  A light varmint type bullet even in a 30-06 will not be an effective killer all the time even on deer sized animals.   Then just opposite,a heavier bullet will be effective at closer ranges, but will be going slower and WILL drop a lot in trajectory (sometimes enough to even shoot under or break a leg) at long ranges encountered in open country.  Thereby making hitting the target somewhat of "Kentucky Windage", otherwise known as educated guessing and the more experienced you become with your rifle, the better you will be at it.  So then it seems best that you will need a compromise of bullet weights that fits your needs of those offered.

Trajectory of your bullet may be an important thing depending on how far you are shooting.  A normal hunting bullet starts out from the muzzle at say about 2800 FPS (Feet Per Second) and it immediately starts to drop because of gravity, as it moves downrange, it slows down, in doing so, this bullet begins to drop faster in comparison than before because it is now going slower.  If you are only shooting in the 50 or 100 yard range, the normal hunting bullet does not drop enough to even be considered (and depending on how you have it sighted in for), it may even still be rising at these closer ranges.  But it may make a BIG difference if you have to shoot out to 400 yards.  The above velocity may be a 30-06 165gr pointed soft point, the average hunter may sight his rifle in so that at 100 yards the bullet will be 2.00" high, at  200yards it will be dead on or 0.0", at  300 yards it will be about 9.00" low, and at 400 yards it will be 26.40" low.  However if he sighted it in right on at 100 yards it would be 35" low at the 400 yard mark.  A deer's chest cavity is close to being 18" for an average mature buck.  So you can see that being able to calculate distance and corresponding bullet drop can get very meaningful.  CLICK HERE for a link to exterior ballistics.

If you happen to be addicted to the older black powder cartridge rifles or muzzle loaders, trajectory becomes more important as these "pumpkin balls" move rather slow and drop rather rapidly.  They also kill differently.  There is not a lot of shock when the muzzle loader projectile hits a deer, unless you hit a lot of bone.  Rarely does an animal drop or even give you a lot of evidence it was hit, but may jump slightly and walk or trot off only to expire within 75 yards or so.  This slow moving bullet, even though it is big, does not have the velocity to a lot of INTERNAL shocking power if hit even in the lung area.

A rifle sling attached to the firearm is a welcome item if you have to carry the rifle all day, or you can shoulder it while dragging an animal out.  Also the rifle stock and length of pull, recoil pad if a large caliber, scope mounting, trigger pull all go into the formula for making a good shot.  The rifle has to fit YOU to be truly effective.  A rifle that fits a 6' 3" skinny guy will not be comfortable nor be productive for a 5' 8" chunky person when making a fast shot.  Slower shots taken over a rest at an animal that does not know you are there is another thing as about anybody (when given time) can adjust to a ill-fitting rifle.

Another thing that enters into the situation is the weight of your rifle.  Sure a heavier gun has less recoil and that may be needed for the magnum calibers, but somewhere there has to be a trade-off.  For the hunters who will not be walking and covering a lot of ground, any gun will work well, but those that do, a heavy gun will make the difference at the end of the day whether you really want to hunt the next day or not.  Barrel length is one thing that adds weight.  Normal rifle barrels will be 22" to 24" long, carbines can be down to 18", which cuts weight AND also the velocity (because it cuts down on the powder's burning time in the barrel), so for long range shooting a longer barrel will be needed.  For those that will only be shooting less than 250 yards, barrel length will be inconsequential.   Fancy wood looks nice but it is also heavy.  Big scopes are nice when used for long range, but they also add to the weight.   Again a trade-off.

I am not putting down archers here, and even though I have hunted with a bow many years ago, I have not taken an animal with one.

Sighting Device ;  Sights on a firearm allow you to precisely line the point of aim to the rifled bore trajectory/bullet path.  These can be the simple "V" notched rear and bead front sight.  But for these, depending on how fine a bead you take makes a difference at longer ranges.  Some may use the whole front bead nestled in the rear sight notch, while others snuggle the bead deeper creating a finer bead, which makes the rifle shoot lower.  For close brush shooting, some prefer "Receiver sight, commonly called a Peep" rear sights, which is a small round aperture that is movable whereby the shooter looks thru it centering the front sight in the hole.  Here the shooter will naturally and automatically center the front bead in the center of the peep aperture.  And since the rear sight is closer to the eye than a conventional sight, even though you may see a lot of air around the front bead, it is easier to use.  This is fast and accurate method of shooting at all ranges. 

Then there are scopes.  These optical tubes are normally 1' in dia.  They will usually be of a magnifying power, like a fixed four power (4X) or variables like 2x7, 3x9 etc.   You may also see another number associated with the power, like 3x9x32 or 3x9x40.  This last number refers to the diameter of the front lens in millimeters.  The larger this front lens, the more light it allows in which makes for better vision in low light situations like early in the mornings or late in evenings.  Most states allow hunting 1/2 hour before and after sunset.  Depending on weather conditions, it can be almost dark when hunting hours start or end.  Using a GOOD scope, you can see better in low light conditions than with the naked eye.
 
All scopes will also have a focus adjustment.  Not everyone has the same eyesight, just ask you optometrist.   You may see thru the scope and it could be clear at close range, but fuzzy farther out.  You need to turn the focus adjustment ring so that it is in focus for YOUR EYESIGHT at all ranges.  This means if you pick up a friends rifle, you may not be able to effectively see and shoot it.  If you try a scope that you can not get the focus of the reticule AND the target clear simultaneously, get rid of it or move it to a lesser rifle and find a scope that accommodates your eyesight.   And here higher prices USUALLY mean a higher quality scope.

Also, even if you have not used your old standby rifle for a number of years and you have not taken into account that your eyesight may have changed.   You may see the reticule clear, but the target be fuzzy.  Or you may be able to see the country side and target clear but the crosshairs are fuzzy enough that you can not define your point of aim.  Did you get your glasses changed or have had cataract surgery?  Either of these could effect your vision enough that you should at least check or if need be, to refocus your scope.   I have seen this first hand, where my hunting partner's son had not hunted with dad for 25 years and when he came on our hunt (using his old rifle) he could sight the rifle in well when he had time to force his eyes to focus, but when it came to shooting game, he totally missed two animals, (one bedded down).

Taking the Shot ;  There are two fundamental rules in any hunting when taking a shot, and they are:  If you can get closer, get closer.   If you can get steadier, get steadier.  

At times there's a fine line between rushing the shot and dithering too long.   Wild animals won’t stand around all day if they know you are there.  Get in position, get your sight picture, focus, breathe and squeeze.   Also the longer you wait while holding the firearm on a target, the more you’ll probably start to wobble.   Soon, you’ll doubt yourself, your muscles will tense up and the animal will decide you ARE a threat and you have lost that chance for a shot.  If an animal spots you and you decide it is an legal deer to shoot, don't take all day, make a decision ASAP as to whether you are going to shoot, THEN DO IT, or they will soon be running and gone in the brush or over the ridge.    Get in a shooting position without making a lot of quick out in the open movements or slamming a car door.  However do not let yourself be so rushed that you can not concentrate on holding and pulling the trigger.

Shot Placement ;  The ultimate hit puts a deer down immediately, leaving no guesswork about whether or not to start tracking now or later.  Shot placement is the most important item in making a clean kill no matter what animal or the caliber.  Larger calibers do not compensate for bad marksmanship.  The preferred shot placement for about any NON DANGEROUS animal would be the lungs and preferably a broadside shot.  This is right behind the front leg, about mid section vertically indicated by the red dot I have placed on the illustration below.  Try not to hit the shoulder blade (on deer) as you will create bloodshot tissue between this bone and the body cavity.  The objective is to put the animal down, and yes a broken shoulder along with it's bone fragments into the lung will do it, but to me bringing in a animal with more edible meat is also a factor.  Now let me re-define this non shoulder shot.  We are talking about deer here, if I was hunting elk, yes I would probably want to break a shoulder and slow him down, as they can run a considerable distance even with a lung shot.

By aiming in this preferred spot depicted in the illustration below, if you shoot low you may hit the heart, and if you happen to shoot high, you may hit the backbones, if you shoot high and farther back, you will hit the liver.  Any of which will put an animal down, some however maybe not immediately.  Using this as an aiming point gives you a little better chance of hitting an animal if the range may be a little farther than you anticipated as compared to aiming for the heart as this illustration originally suggested.

The animal may not always present itself for the perfect broadside shot, so sometimes you need to use plan B.  Depending on the distance, your ability and conditions, you may have to shoot for the neck.  Again look in the illustration below, the neck bones are actually a SMALL target.  Also if they are going straight away, again possibly the neck, or the base of the tail shot.  Plan C would be if the animal were quartering away you then would have to aim closer to the hindquarters so that the bullet would then gut shot the animal, BUT also lung shot it as the proper bullet penetrates farther forward.

A facing shot is a hard one to call.  Low and dead center in the brisket is not a real good idea as your bullet may pass between both lungs doing little damage other than gut-shooting it.  If I have to shoot a true dead on facing shot, I would pass it up waiting for a better one that would be a front quartering shot and then aim for the point of the shoulder facing you.  This will possibly break the shoulder but get into both lungs.  You will loose some meat.  Or wait for a better more broadside shot.  This is discussed below.

Shots not so good would be a gut shot or a leg shot.  Gut shot will be anything rearward of midsection and behind the diaphragm.  These will kill a deer, but possibly not for a day or so, depending on the caliber of the firearm and bullet expansion.  And a 3 legged deer can cover ground faster than you can run.  If it looks like you did not put the animal down with the first shot, try for another before they decide to run off.  A second bullet hole is better than loosing the animal.  A running shot is usually ineffective with a miss, or worse another bad shot, unless you do some practicing beforehand on a moving target.

In the illustration below you will be able to visualize why the behind the shoulder is the best shot if possible.  The book I snatched this from has their dark gray aiming point a little lower and farther forward than the red aiming point which I like, BECAUSE you will spoil a lot more meat by hitting the shoulder arm and thereby blood-shot that part between the leg and the ribcage.  It may put an animal down faster, but there are consequences.  If you hold right behind the front leg and up about 6" you spoil very little meat if a broadside shot is taken.

A deer's body with the preferred aiming point & location of meat cuts

If possible, many hunters try to recover the bullet.  This can tell a lot of things, like the quality of the bullet (whether it sheds the jacket from the core or not), preferably not shedding equals better knockdown power in larger animals.

In the photo below, this deer was shot at close range (less than 50 yards) with a 300 Weatherby Magnum in a somewhat facing position with the point of impact directly behind the front shoulder, taking out 2 ribs, traveled through one lung, gutshot the animal, with the bullet entering the far hip and stopping in the bottom round or sirloin tip of that animal's hind quarter.  You will notice the path of the bullet and the jacket at the location where it stopped.

A recovered bullet after traveling through a deer's body

 Practice ;  Sight in your rifle with the ammo you are going to hunt with.   100 yards seems to be the standard distance that most hunters use for sight in.  They will adjust the sights once they get a group at the 100 yards so that by knowing the ballistics of their rifle that they can hit where they want at 200, 300 or even 400 yards.  Most hunters using modern scope sighted rifles sight them in for 2" high at 100 yards, which usually puts them dead on at 200 yards, and yet allow them to hold dead on at closer distances while still being able to have a minimal drop at 250 yards.

In sighting in, if you miss the paper target at 100 yards, place a large cardboard backer behind your target, or move the target closer, like 50 yards then try again.  This will give you some indication of where you are hitting without wasting a lot of ammo.

When installing new sights or a scope, an optical bore-sight is invaluable and it saves ammunition.   In absence of a bore-sight devise, for a bolt action rifle you can remove the bolt, position the rifle securely like in sandbags, look down the bore at an object in the distance and adjust the scope's reticule to coincide with what you see thru the bore.  One bit of advise, when adjusting a scope, mark down or scribe a mark where the adjustment dial is.  This is so that IF you happened to turn it the wrong way, you have a reference point to return to.

I have known many who either do not understand how to sight in their firearm, are afraid of the recoil, are lazy, forgetful or do not seem to care.  If you fell down and the gun took a knock of any kind, possibly the scope got bumped enough to even bend the tube which will change the point of impact that you thought you had.   Even iron sights can get bent, especially a front sight.  Check the scope mount screws often for looseness.  Just riding around in a vehicle on rough roads may loosen scope mounts (if they are not tight to start with) to where you may miss an animal, or worse hit in a bad location and it gets way only to die later.

I have known a few hunters who purchased a rifle with too much recoil for them, probably due to peer pressure because everyone in his hunting group used Weatherbys, (300 and 340s).  They either could not, or would not sight in their own gun, so they (being too busy) conned someone else to do it (but in reality because it kicked them too much).  They then would get to where they flinched on each shot when shooting at game.  Closing your eyes and jerking the trigger in anticipation to the noise/recoil is not conducive to accuracy.  Not a good thing for the hunter, however possibly good for the animal.  If they would have admitted they were getting kicked badly, there are things that could have been done to the rifle to tame recoil, like installing a better recoil pad or adding a muzzle break.  Lightweight hi-powered rifles would be the ones susceptible to this high recoil, sure they are a delight to carry, but be aware of the consequences.

A heavy or jerky trigger pull on a rifle will also effect your accuracy.  You can tolerate this problem at times when practicing or sighting in because you have the time.  But when hunting, many times you have to take advantage of shooting before the animal gets spooked and runs off.   With a heavy or rough trigger pull in these situations, you are at a disadvantage to be able to effectively call your shot.  A badly placed hit is worse than no hit at all.  Take your rifle to a qualified gunsmith for a trigger adjustment.

Do not sight it in by being a macho standing up to fire it offhand.  Set it in sandbags or a adjustable rifle rest so there is no guessing where you were holding and that you know exactly where IT is hitting.  After that, then it may be good to practice shooting offhand to improve your own hold, trigger pull etc. to find out where YOU are shooting using this method.

If you are a novice, at a range and having problems getting your gun to come around, do not be hesitant to ask for help.  You may even make a friend with another more experienced shooter who may take you under their wing.   Or he may have a optical bore-sighter in his range bag.  There are many pointers for sighting in your rifle,  CLICK HERE for a link to how to sight your rifle in.   

The average hunter is probably an urban dweller and has way more high praises for themselves as a hunter/shooter than actually exists in the real world.  And they may not be a good listener if someone has the guts to suggest that they brush up on their shooting abilities as macho men have an inborn capability to be good at whatever they decide to do.  This average hunter today does not have the time nor opportunity to practice even with a 22 RF which is a shame, as getting used to shooting and being able to call the shot really pays off down the road.   OK, shooting is somewhat akin to learning to ride a bicycle, BUT let me tell you if you have not been on a bike for a number of years, it takes a while to be able to do it like you did 30 years ago.   These hunters spend lots of money AND time getting ready for hunting season, but do little to ensure that their rifle is even sighted in before the hunt. That is why almost all the guides that I know, the first order of business it to have you sight in your rifle with them in attendance.

Get Into as Steady a Shooting Position as Possible ;  For us here in my home state of western Washington we are blessed with things called trees or stumps to rest on when taking a shot.  But once you get to more open country you will need to provide your own shooting rests.  This can be a 1" hazelnut or young alder tree about 6' long that also helps as a walking stick.  You can buy extendable walking sticks with attachments for a rifle rest or camera/spotting scope attachment on the top.  Then there are portable bipods.  Some long range hunters opt for rifle mounted folding bipods.  Some of these are also extendable making for possible setting or laying down to shoot.

Others will set down, cross their legs and lock the elbows against the knees which provides a steady rest.  However if the area you are hunting in has small cactus, be careful that you do not sit or kneel on them (been there-done that).   You need to practice getting into this stance early on instead of waiting until countdown. 

Another rest that works great in open country is shooting over a daypack.  It's fast and steady, but it's still important to take time to properly evaluate the shots.

I have a grandson in Montana who packs a heavy 300 Weatherby, large scope and a forearm mounted bi-pod.  Yes, the bi-pod is very useful in that flat country, but is the added weight justifiable? 

On the internet stumbled onto a detachable commercial improved copy of the military M-16 bi-pod that is made of Nylon/plastic for a price of $7.  This unit is made in either 9" or 12" heights and can be carried in a backpack or even inside a vest pocket, and can be brought into play very quickly.  It is retained in the closed position by a built in hook system and is spring loaded so when unhooked, the upper parts snaps onto the barrel and spreads out at the bottom ready for deployment.  It is sold on e-Bay by a company called CCop, #9915001 and is simply called a "clamp-on Bipod", which is shown below.

Here  is a simple removable Bi-pod, deployed & snapped together for transportation
 

In Montana, we often times stake our claim late afternoon in stubble fields in order to be there just before dark, so here I selected the 12" version, as the shorter military one I have tried is so short that I have shot thru the tall stubble in front of me, (which is not conducive to accuracy or meat in the freezer).

Offhand Shooting ;  Be as steady as possible when making a shot.  Sure, real men don't need a rest !!!  Yah, Bull Shit.   You owe it to the animal to make as clean a killing shot as possible.  This relates to the firearm being as steady as possible at that fraction of a second that the trigger is squeezed.  If the barrel is wobbling all over the place, your shot will also be way off target.  The competition match shooters wear tight fitting leather jackets and slings specially designed to give them an advantage when shooting offhand.  This is not to say that you, the average hunter can not make an offhand accurate shot.  And it does happen occasionally, BUT I challenge you to consistently make even twice the size of a group at 100 yards offhand as you can do off the bench.  OK, I have made a few of these shots myself on game and have came out being the hero, but in reality they were a do or die situation that I probably should have reconsidered especially when it was at a longer range.  The secret is, does the sight picture look right at the time you squeeze the trigger?

Other options are to learn to use a sling to help support and steady the rifle.  Or set down, and get steadier.  As said above, if you can get closer, get closer.  If you can get steadier, get steadier, if not then abort the shot.

If you have been walking fast or even running for over 100 yards to get to a position where you can get to where you may have a chance to see that buck again that went out of sight a few minutes before, you will probably be huffing and puffing.  And if you are in an open area where there is nothing to rest the rifle on, you will have to make a choice of where you will hold or even take the shot.  A bipod as mentioned above would be an ideal option, however you may just have to take an offhand shot, depending on the situation.  If you do, try for your best killing shot.

I have known 2 hunters in my lifetime who could make snap offhand shots even at running game and be 90% sure of a good hit.  But they were extraordinary shooters who had used the same rifle for MANY years and knew how it handled.   I do not think it was snap shooting, but instinctive shooting.  Yet I knew one of these who could not shoot accurately at game when the game was standing still, (I was standing beside him).   I do not think either practiced, so suspect it was just natural to them, and they were both using a gun that they had used for years, and will never know as they have both moved onto that happy hunting land in the sky. 

Hearing - Yours ;  If you have a hearing loss and you do not wear hearing aids when you hunt, especially in brushy conditions, you might as well leave your rifle at home, as you may just be taking a walk in the woods.  Sure you may see a deer, but usually only it's tail disappearing in the brush or over the ridge.   Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn occasionally.

For those of us who have worked in environments where noise was prevalent long before hearing protection in the work force was an issue, most of us have lost the higher pitched tones.  Like birds chirping, twigs snapping, leaves being rustled that may give us an indication of an animal being close.  We possibly could hear if we jumped a deer out of it's bed, but probably would not even know the direction it went.

If you do wear hearing aids, most of the new ones are computer programmable.  I have had my Audiologist set mine to be able to hear high pitched sounds way above my normal hearing loss for those sounds that I do not use, EXCEPT WHEN HUNTING.  At this setting, it is painful to listen to some people talk or especially laugh.  DO NOT get talked into getting an aid that is all automatic.  Ideally, you want one that you can select the pre-programmed settings that YOU want, like cutting out machinery noises, background noise for meetings or another setting to cut out wind noise, or at a minimum a volume control.  Then of course would be to have your hunting setting. 

Some aids use a button you push to change from setting #1, #2, #3 or #4.  This hunting setting I have is border line a tinny sound, but in that mode, I can hear a blade of grass brushing against my wool hunting pants.  I can hear Blue Jays or scolding squirrels 100 yards away that may not be possible with how my aids are set for normal life as in everyday human life.  Educate your Audiologist.

For those of you who may have a lesser hearing loss, or just to give you an edge, there are Walker Game Ears that can really help.  Check out Cabelas catalogs.

Most of the new hearing aids have a built in system where they automatically cut out sudden loud noises like a gunshot.  However do not rely on this when target practicing.  Wear hearing protection when you are sighting in or practicing.  What few shots we do in actual deer hunting in the woods or out in a wide open field should not effect your hearing.  Heck a box of 20 rounds of ammo should do you for at least 10 years, one round a year to check the sight in and the other to kill your deer.

Hearing - the Deer's ;  It has been found that deer's hearing is very similar to humans except they can hear slightly higher pitched sounds.  The thing that makes them hear better than we do is their large ears, which act as antennas, receiving noises better.  This is like you cupping you hand around your ear to hear better.  Previously it was thought that deer had hearing extremely in excess of humans, which appears to not really the case, however they are more attuned to unnatural noises.  They can hear wider range of noises than humans, especially lower pitched noises, like heavy footsteps or rustling leaves/grass better than we can. 

Once you get into hunting country, you need to totally change your habits.   Deer are subject to 2 kinds of sounds, (1) what is Natural and (2) Unnatural for them.  The natural sounds, they overlook, (just like we do if living near a highway), but anything that they are not used to, will set them into a alert or even a escape mode.   One out of place sound can lead to a chain of events creating many other consequences.  The average hunter is very out of place in the woods, which are the deer's home grounds. 

As you drive into your hunting country, do not have your radio BOOM BOX blaring, don't even have the radio on.  Do not slam your vehicle door, but close it very carefully.  Deer can hear a slammed door out to 500 yards, which tells them an intruder is near.   Load your rifle quietly.  If you need to carry more ammo than you carry in the firearm's magazine, secure them so that they do not rattle.   No talking over a soft whisper.  If you are hunting with a partner, have a whistle signal system, even using a crow call is a good option.  If you carry a cell phone or walkie talkie, set it to vibrate only.   Wear clothing that is noise resistant like wool or polar fleece, a limb brushing against a jeans pant leg is un-natural for a deer, where wool is more like a deer body hair type noise.

Deer can hear things that humans do unconsciously.   The worst and most common probably being coughing.  Others being sniffing back a runny nose, swallowing saliva, or even heavy breathing.    If the breathing is heavy, then breathe through you mouth instead of your nose, (which lessens the restriction).

Purchase shoes that have a softer rubber sole so you can "feel" the ground before you put all your weight down.  Slow down, take 2 or 3 steps, then wait/look for the equivalent of 6 or 8, looking all the while, even behind you.  If you do spook a doe, wait 20 minutes or more to let things get back to normal.  If you keep going, she will very likely move out rapidly, letting every other deer in the area know that something is amiss.  Deer seem to not have a long memory unless it is detrimental to them.  During a late hunting season where there are does, there may well be a buck close by.  If you disturb a blue jay, squirrel or a ruffled grouse, back out and make a circle around them.  Sometimes I think crows and ravens are on the deer's payroll.  Your movement needs to try to imitate a unexcited animal moving thru the woods.

Scent Glands ;  Deer have 4 major scent glands,  (1) the Metatarsal gland on the outside portion of the hind legs and secretes an alarm scent.  (2) the Tarsal gland located on the inside of the rear legs, it is used for recognition and for transmission of sexual stimuli.  (3) the Pre-Orbital glands are located on the forehead next to the eyes which is used to rub on branches to mark their territory. (4) the Interdigital is located in hair between the hooves that gives off a scent.  This scent is so strong that it allows deer to smell, recognizing other deer that have used the trail before them.

Masking Scent ;  Many deer have been killed before the hunters realized that human scent may play a role in your success as a hunter.   However I personally think using masking scent can be overdone in some instances.  However if you think that this kind of scent helps, then go for it.  For those who hunt where the animal is over 100 yards away, then masking scent may not have a great benefit (unless the wind is blowing).  But if you are a brush hunter or set in a blind along a trail or in tree stand where animals can be 20' from you then that is something different.

Scent covers the area more when it is in a moist climate.  Heavy rain may dilute this, but a dry sunny day will also not allow it to spread very far.

Remember the number one rule in still hunting, have the wind in your face.  If you do this, scent blockers may be less important.  However in cases where you are going to stay in an area like a tree stand or blind, anything you can do to eliminate human scent will be beneficial.   You can use natural scents like cedar boughs rubbed into your clothes, that can be found in the area you will be hunting.  Deer have better noses than bloodhounds.  They can detect scent on a trail that can let them distinguish between sex of other deer and tell if a predator is in the area.

Number one, humans stink, take a shower every day or two (no smelly soap) when hunting.  If you are hunting from a blind or tree stand where you will be traveling to or from repeatedly, then waiting for deer to come to you, your shoes and pant legs will probably be one thing to spread your scent more than anything else.  Rub these with cedar or fir limbs, carry a few of these tree needles in your pockets.  Step in cow pies or deer droppings.  Do not use your bare hands to move limbs out of the way.

Masking scent is not the cure all for those who do everything wrong.  Don't try to substitute scents for knowledge is a good adage.

Attractant Scent ;  Scents like "Doe in Heat" type you can use to try to attract bucks can be very beneficial.  There are a multitude of scents that you could use that surely does not hurt, but do not overdo it.

Calls ;   I remember years ago when I bought a Herters deer call (I still have it in the box but but only very slightly used).  After trying it a few times, I asked myself, will this thing really work?  I even thought about hiding in a hollow stump when blowing it so no other hunter would spot me where I would not be shamed for the rest of my hunting career. 

However I know and have experienced where a doe wheezed at me in a deep exhaling type noise.  She then would also stomp her front foot.  I suspect she could not recognize what I was and was trying to challenge or scare off whatever she figured that had invaded her territory.  Or she could be warning other deer that there was some invader near, maybe even protecting her fawn.  I have used this a few times when I would jump a deer that I knew did not see or smell me.  The thought was to let it think that I was another deer and possibly not exit the area as if it was spooked. 

I have tried a mouth blown deer call that was designed for mule deer, named Deer Talk, (The Deer Stopper) by E.L.K. of Gardiner MT. and with some success, as once when I was riding my horse along the edge of a large field.  Blowing the call stopped a young doe that was running away, turned it around and she came 100 yards back across this open field up to within less than 30 yards of us.   After this incident, I believe that this is a thing that could be pursued in greater depth.  Now does it work with bucks?

Read a Deer's Body Language ;  Watch an undisturbed deer.   If they keep looking in a specific direction, there is possibly other deer close-by or a buck following them.  If you spot a bedded down doe, she may think you have not spotted her, and does are not usually alone.  If so, keep right on moving slowly away, get something between you and them then sneak out of sight where they may think you never saw them.  Then adjust your strategy if it is a deer you want to observe more.  If they stand up, but still looking, (if they are a distance away) they will usually realize you have seen them and move out away from you.  If you are close, they could lay tight until they decide enough is enough, and then will explode in the opposite direction.

If they see you, they will be looking at you with their ears pointed UP and OUTWARD, kind of like in a Vee.  Many times if you did not really spook them, if you stop and DO NOT MOVE, they after awhile, may think what they saw was not a threat and go about what they were doing.  And possibly drop their ears somewhat from the "ALERT" position if they think you are not a threat.

They can spot movement very well, but if you stand still they can not define you (because of their sight is more of a black/white color blindness) unless you are outlined against a field or skyline that they are familiar with.  If they are feeding, and suspect you are there, they may put their head down as to feed, but then immediately raise it again hoping to catch you moving while they tricked you into believing they were keeping their head down. 

Mule deer and Blacktails when spooked may run for a distance and then just as they are ready to disappear, MAY stop for one last look back.  Whitetails seem to not be afflicted with this disease.

Watch for a twitched ear or tail which would relate to a undisturbed deer, however if they have spotted your movement they will be looking your direction with both ears and eyes being focused in your direction.  If their ears move to being more angled rearward, that usually tells you they are more at ease.   

One season many years ago when I only was using the first scope sighted deer rifle that I owned (a Weaver K2.5 scope), in a patch of decent Douglas fir timber in a bright sunshiny afternoon.  As I was moving down a ridge that had some scattered vine maple underbrush, I spotted some movement at about 40 yards down and in front of me.  I did not have a pair of binoculars at that time as I figured in the area I was hunting, anything close enough to shoot, I could identify.  By watching thru the scope, I concluded that this movement was probably a squirrel eating fir cones on a downed log.  As I finally moved down toward this squirrel, it transformed into a young buck that jumped up and ran down the ridge.  What I was seeing was the deer's ear twitching just above the log it was bedded behind.

Blacktails will, if slightly spooked will trot off and can have their tail up at about a 45 degree angle as they trot, the tail will not wag from side to side like a whitetail does.  Once they get far enough away or think they are out of danger, the tail will drop to a more normal position as they move off.

Shooting Distance ;  Now don't get me wrong if you think that I am advocating long shots, if you can get closer, GET CLOSER.   As mentioned above, distance, caliber, bullet drop AND your ability to perform will be a determining factor on your success if you have to shoot longer ranges.  Some scopes have bullet drop compensator dials, others have reticules that aid in determining bullet drop.  I even make up a small chart depicting the caliber, bullet drop at 100, 200, 300 and 400 yard ranges, then tape it to my scope.  Heck I have an excuse, as I usually only have a chance to use that gun for a couple of months a year.  And I am getting old, forgetful, and even have a hard time remembering what I did an hour ago much less yesterday.

Optical laser range finders are now pretty common for long range hunters.  However just because you know the distance, this does you little good unless you have the ability to accurately calculate/guess how high to hold when you make that long shot.  Some range finders have the ability to program your caliber's drop into the image you see and give you the amount of hold over required for that range.  Or that you have a scope that has the ability for you to apply your known range and then make a adjustment in either the scope or hold on the appropriate distance ring or crosshair.

If you do not have a rangefinder, you can beforehand do the old method of looking at a object out across a field or sagebrush and guessing the distance.  Step off to your object and see how close you were.  Keep repeating it on varying objects, before long you can get to where you can be pretty close in your estimating.  This can get more difficult if across a draw or canyon.  For those of us who have shot many rounds downrange at 100 yard targets, this gives us an advantage.  How many 100 yard segments or football fields are out there to the animal? 

In the year 2010 in Montana, my son-in-law was watching 3 does and a buck, (which he later shot), on a steep sagebrush/juniper covered hillside.  I asked him what the range finder said it was.  Beforehand I had guessed between 650 and 700 yards.  He used his rangefinder and came up with 714 yards.  Pretty good I thought for a 74 year old partly blind feeble minded old geezer that hunts the coastal brush.

Cover/Terrain
;   Here you can be hunting in brushy enough cover that a shot will be less than 30 yards, or out in the open logged off "Clear Cuts" or open sage brush where you can see for miles.  In the brushy terrain it may have benefits to setting up a blind near a known trail or having a tree stand instead of "beating the brush" or still hunting by taking 2 steps and looking 6.  Slow is the secret many times and timelines should be forgotten as effectively hunting a good area is determined by that area.  If a deer is bedded down or thinks that he is hidden, he will usually let you walk right by him if you seem to be hurriedly walking past.  Walk slowly and he will not know if you have seen him or not, but may exploded and run.  Only humans and spooked animals walk in a straight line AND do it rapidly.

Some typical western Washington Blacktail deer country A lot different Montana Mule deer country

If in brushy country, it may pay you to occasionally squat down and look at a deer's level of sight to look under low hanging limbs .

Hunting in cover of any kind, or farm woodlots, ordinarily you need to see and/or hear them before they do you. This is not easy to do as you are now in their home territory.  You need to use some maps or Google Earth, do some scouting before hand and learn possible bedding areas and feeding areas AND any trails between. 

When actually hunting, you need to look for anything that is uncommon to the surrounding area.  One thing is a deer's ears will be at an angle if looking at you.  In mother nature's world, trees grow mostly UP, not at an angle.  The top of a deer's back will be horizontal, this is also uncommon in brush or standing timber.  Look for a eye, nose, white neck patch or a color where it should not be, anything that is out of place.  Use a binocular to identify that object.  OK, you may look at 100 things before you see what turns out to be a parts of a deer. 

During elk season in western Washington when the large maple leaves turn golden and fall off, I have looked at millions of these thinking they may be an elk's rump.  Only once was that the case.  But I would have never seen this one if I had not even looked. 

Hunting in more open country it is better to pick a spot away from the skyline, (usually early in the morning) settle down using a good pair of binoculars, glassing everything in front of you.  Always start closest to you and work out farther.  It can be embarrassing to find that that big buck was bedded down essentially under your feet. 

Eyesight, Yours ;  Here we should also talk about eyeglasses.  Those of us who are far-sighted may have a benefit in hunting by being able to clearly identify objects far away.  Those who are near-sighted will need to have properly fitting eyeglasses otherwise you are hampering yourself.  

I recently changed optometrists and even though I took my records with me from the previous optometrist, this new one fitted me with long range glasses to the normal 20-20 vision (normal vision).  I could not read the highway signs before I got within 75 yards (blurry).   My previous optometrist had my prescription set for 20-15 vision (I can read the smallest line on the chart).   The new optometrist (who had been practicing this trade for 30 years) gave me NORMAL vision without any thought or really discussing my needs.  I went back 2 weeks later and he changed my long range vision, plus incorporated a slight amount of astigmatism correction that I had before and to a new correction of 20-15.   I can now again read road signs and see tree tops clearly against the far skyline.  With the 1st lens he gave me, I could not see or identify a deer in brushy cover beyond probably 50 yards.

As we get older our eye lenses get harder, not allowing us to focus at all distances like we used to do.  Enter bifocals or even trifocal glasses.  The eye lenses also darken slightly as we age, which hampers our vision in low light conditions by not allowing as much light into the eye.

Those who may be colorblind can be very handicapped in any outdoor hunting situation.  They can see movement, but if the animal stops, it blends in with all the other shades of gray.  I have a friend, who was with me in a vehicle one day coming over a mountain pass, there was a small patch of logging (about 30 acres) carved out of old growth Douglas fir.  There was a small herd of elk feeding in this logging.  There was about 6" of snow on the ground.  About 200 yards away were about 6 to 8 cow and calf elk.  I tried to direct him to be able to see the closest one.  He could not, until she moved.  In another instance involving the same person, he was deer hunting with another friend.  In a clear-cut that was starting to get grown up, the other friend spotted a young buck deer .  This deer took off running away from them then stopped at the far side partly hidden by some small brush.  It just stood there waiting to be shot.  But the color-blind person could not see it.  He saw it run, but when it stopped he was lost as this deer was just became another unidentifiable blob.

For people like this, they probably should consider taking up another sport, like golf or fishing.  This guy apparently only sees in shades of gray.  Others who may only have the red/green color blindness may not be effected as dramatically.

Eyesight, Deer's ;   In research that has been done, where humans normally have 20-20 vision, deer appear to have closer to 20-40 or worse.   20-40 is the top line on the chart that DOL requires to obtain a drivers license, possibly OK to distinguish vehicles and road signs if you are close, but not good in relationship to overall eyesight.  Deer do not have the ability to see distinct objects like humans do.  However they do distinguish movement VERY WELL, especially if it is sky-lined or in a location where this movement is contrasted with the background.   Their visual weakness is solely limited to it's inability to clearly distinguish a motionless object which fails to contrast sharply with it's immediate background.

It has been accepted and proven that "Blaze Orange", even though very bright to humans, but to deer, is actually a light grayish white.  In states that require Blaze Orange to be worn, I try to wear only vests.  This is so that if I am spotting for deer, I can move my arms while using binoculars without causing much contrasting movement if my jacket is not bright, but brown/black or camo as seen in the photo of my grandson below.

They see blue colors very well, (remember this if you plan on wearing blue jeans on your hunt).  They can not see oranges well at all, while we humans do, that is why the game departments require Blaze Orange be worn for your protection.

If you come upon a deer unexpectedly and they see you, stand still and simply wait them out.  Since they can not distinguish objects well, if you do not move, they may decide what they initially saw was not a threat and go about what they were doing, while yet still be alert, paying attention to where you were.  Remember that you are now in their domain and if you as a new object appears where there was no object there before, they may get curious and circle you trying to identify you.  I have in situations like this, when the deer looks away or moves slightly to my benefit, I will move out of the deer's vision, then circle around to see if I can spot other deer that may be with the one that spotted me.

If you move only when they look away, you will be amazed at how close you can get to them even in open country.  They know you are there, but if the wind is not blowing toward them, and you have not spooked them they may tolerate you (for a while).  When hunting, do not make any rapid movements, either walking, moving your hands or even your head rapidly. 

Do not forget that if a deer is within your vision and you are moving, it has probably already seen you.

Deer's eyes are made to see in a more broad (wider) peripheral vision than humans.  They do not have the ability to see upward well, hence those that use a tree stand place themselves out of deer's range of vision most of the time.  Most of their predators (which is what they are on the outlook for) come to them on the ground.  If you are in a tree stand, this does not mean that you can forgo all the things you have been taught without them finding you.

Binoculars/Spotting Scope ;  The old standby binoculars for years has been a 8x30 or 7x35.  This stands for 7 power and 35 millimeter diameter front lens.  The larger the front lens is the better light transmission you will have early in the morning or late in the evening, but this also equates to a larger bulkier binocular.  The old US Navy binoculars were 7x50, but were large because those persons using them did not need to carry them around, but were excellent as night glasses on the bridge of a ship.  You will now see some compact ones in 7x20 or 7x27 which function reasonably well in bright daylight.  You will also see 8x40, 8x42, 9x35 and recently 10x42s. 

I am impressed with my new Leopold Cascade 10x42 as it gives maximum magnification and light gathering power at a decent price.  By maximum magnification, I mean anything much over 9 power you will have a hard time holding them steady enough to be able to see clearly unless you support them somehow.  Even with the 10s you may have to, in addition to holding them tight, but also hold onto the brim of your hat at the same time trying to control your movements, even breathing.  And the newer ones are a lot more compact and lighter weight than ones made even 10 years ago.

Glassing a nearby ridge in Montana using binoculars

Spotting scopes will usually be offered in 15x45 or 20x60 or variables even up to 50 power.  Some are small and light enough to be carried afield in a daypack.  Here is an instance where do not think more is better.  Many times if the day is even a little bit warm, heat waves will make viewing in any power over about 35ish almost impossible.  These spotting scopes will almost always be threaded on the bottom using the common 1/4x20 thread, the same as a camera adapter thread.  This will allow these spotting scopes to be mounted on on small (or large for that matter) tripods.  There is also a window mount that attaches to the spotting scope which allows you to clamp it onto a partially opened window of a vehicle.  These window mounts usually have a universal joint and a adjustment screw/arm whereby you have the ability to move this scope easily and then lock it in place.

If I intend to hunt open country away from a vehicle, I may carry my smaller fixed power 20 X spotting scope in my daypack.  I also use a extendable monopod walking stick that has the camera adapter thread on the top of the handle.  Using this combo, I can set down, with my knees up for support of my arms, with the spotting scope mounted on the monopod adjusted to where I can see quite well at longer distances.

DO NOT use your rifle scope as a binocular.  Let me tell you, it is a creepy feeling when you see another hunter WATCHING YOU thru his scope.  If at all possible, you will tend to put a lot of things between you and him very fast.  Even giving him a single one fingered hand gesture letting him know that he is now number one in your book may be appropriate here.

Carry a Backpack ;  Here You can look at another article devoted entirely to this  CLICK HERE.

Horning ;  Sometimes these are called rubs.  Buck deer's horns will have a soft velvety shin covering them as they grow each year starting about April, culminating early fall, about the end of September in my area.  As they grow more, to the size they will be for that year, in the fall this velvet starts to dry and fall off.   The deer will rub their horns against trees or shrubs trying to rub it all off and polish their horns.  With polished horns, this makes them more visible to other bucks and also the does, kind of like giving out a business card.  At the same time they tend to use these rubs as notification to other deer that this is their territory by depositing the scent from their head on this rub tree.  My belief is also he will be making noise when doing this, which may attract a doe.  And if she comes across one, will probably stay close-by waiting for him to return.

They shed these horns in the early winter and as they get older, and each years new horns increase in size.

Horning is one of the things you need to watch for when you are scouting.  Normally smaller deer tend to use smaller trees, (depending on what is available) so you can get some indication as to the size of the deer that made the rub.  This horning will usually be along a trail that the deer use in going to food or to a bedding area, which can help you in your plan of attach later.

In the photos below, the one on the left is a very recent rub on a willow tree clump, indicated by the color being whitish as compared to the center photo where the bark being an orangish color and not dried yet by turning a dark brown.  The one on the left was done by a old gray nosed 3 point on one side and a large spike on the other.  On the left about 1' of this main horning is another smaller older horning.  I watched him do this the day before, but only armed with a pistol that I did not believe I could effectively (under the conditions at that time) take him at a distance of about 80 yards in open logging.

Blacktail deer horning on a clump of one year old regrouth willow in year old logging.  The main horned stalk was about 3/4" in dia. Blacktail deer horning on a willow tree about 2" in dia.  Here, either Mule deer or elk horning, but from the total height & marks on the surrounding brush, probably elk

Scouting ;  Scouting is a very important part of being a successful hunter.  The tried and true method is to drive around to locations during July-August, either known to you or recommended by others.  A recent problem associated with this is that many of the land-owner/timber companies will have their gates locked at this time.  In situations like this, now may be the time to consider using a mountain bike for access, but riding it beforehand will be critical in your conditioning for the later use in hunting.

Scouting does not necessarily mean you have to go far out into the back country as shown in the photo below.

Look it over for evidence of recent deer being in the area.  If in the early fall look for buck horning on trees.  Anything that gives you the slightest edge over the other hunter.  Best of course is to see animals, but this is just a bonus if all the other signs are there.   An area may look deerish, but if coyotes or cougar have moved in, you may be hunting in barren ground.  Then it could be an area readily accessible and frequented by poachers, so actual observation is a must.

Another thing to look for is available food for the animals.  Has the area been grazed by cattle to where there is no food left?   Has it been recently logged off, looks good, but the timber company has sprayed the underbrush, stunting it so that the newly planted trees do not become overwhelmed by grass or blackberry vines?  This instance will be hard to detect because the vines will still be alive, but not growing.  When the crude protein level gets to less than 31, deer will starve to death eating it.  Then once the newly planted trees get a foothold, they will cut out sunlight and the underbrush (feed for the animals) will be smothered out, or at least diminished.

How far is water?  Do they have to go over a mile, or are there small springs closer?  How about even a cattle watering trough?  However if there is enough moisture on the food they eat, they may not need a lot of water at times.

They also change locations depending on seasons, available food, weather, sex urges etc.  Where you found them in the summer may be barren of animals in the fall.  Their core area during the winter will usually change depending on cover, it could move by only a 1/4 of a mile to considerably more.  This core area may shrink to only a 200 yard area if the weather gets bad, they seek out thick brushy evergreen trees with probably the most sought being a cedar thicket with considerable wild blackberry vines nearby.  As the weather starts to break in the spring, look for them along the edges of farm fields, (usually in the warmer afternoons) concentrating on new grasses.

You can now go onto Google Earth on the internet and look at satellite photos of the complete world.  This may help once you have pretty well decided where you want to hunt.  But it will not beat actual observation like seen in the photo below.

Blacktail bucks in the velvet mid July in a blackberry patch near a county road A blacktail toe head buck with just nubbins

Keep Track of the Does ;  If you find does, make notes as to their locations, times of the year and the numbers.  Try to identify them by certain characteristics, even going to the point of naming them.  They will not move far from their core area.  However this core area may change depending on the season.  The more bunches of does you locate, the better chance you will have finding bucks when the rut comes on.  You will have a lot better chance to tag a buck that comes to the does than going one on one with him and on his terms.

Trail Cams ; Trail Cams are now a very viable thing to use.  These cameras are battery operated, and with heat sensors that trigger the camera shutter.  On the photo you can have imprinted the date, time of day, moon phase, temperature etc.   By finding a trail that you suspect has deer traffic, you can identify if any bucks are using this trail or not.  Purchase more than one then place them near multiple trails, as if you only used one camera, and there were 3 trails nearby, you may totally miss any movement.

Deer tend to use a go to trail and a different come from trail when going to their bedding grounds and then other trails to the feeding areas.  Their main travel trails may be used in both directions.  This can be a beneficial information to add to your notebook.  Bucks may not use the main trails at all.

I have even made my own trails through dense young planted fir trees (reprod to loggers).  This stuff is so thick that by chopping off the low or dying limbs, making one trail through this, and another on each side angling into the main center one, I have created a path that the deer will soon accept.  And I can then set my trail cam so it is at the junction of these, providing  a better chance to see deer than just trying to use one of the many seldom used trails that they created before.

One word of caution, since these cameras can cost in the $200 range, they are susceptible to theft.  So be wary and if you do put them up, do not leave them in plain view.  Move them back farther on the trail, cover them with camouflage material, (except for the lens and sensor openings) if you have any idea that they may become stolen.  As season approaches remove them or at least place them in areas where there is little public traffic.

Here a small 3 point Blacktail deer shot with a trail cam at night Here are a couple of deer shot with a trail cam in the early morning
 

Shed Horns ;  There are a lot of hunters now who each spring go out to look for shed horns.  These are shed by deer about January or so and regrow them in the early summer.  Initially I thought that these guys just liked to brag or were selling them to knife makers etc.  I attended a seminar a few years ago where the instructor told that he has shot MANY bucks within 200 yards of where he found their shed horns that spring.  And they tend to stay near and drop these horns near the area where they were during the rut.  This is something to consider doing with your time that may pay off quite well in the fall.

Recently the trend is that some shed hunters train their dogs to now find these shed horns and retrieve them.

Bedding ;  Buck deer like to bed where they can observe below them AND their back trail.  They also like to have escape route other than the trail they entered or normally leave on.  Mule deer and Blacktail if in timber like to bed BEHIND a stump, rootwad or tree situated on a hillside.  Sometimes even a rather steep hillside.  One jump and they are gone. 

I found one of these bedding areas while hunting in north eastern Washington in 2009.  The Mule deer does and fawns had bedded at the base of a steep hill in recent logging that had not grown back yet, but had a lot of tall grass for them to hide in at the base of the hill.  A road went angling up thru the middle of this logging on the rather steep hillside above them.  About 3/4 the way up this hill and inside the edge of some fir trees, the bucks would bed down behind the trees (probably about 12" dia. butts), where they could have command view of everything below them including the bedded does.  The road was only about 50' above this buck bedding area, but it was so steep that the only way you could see the deer was to walk the road and stop, standing on the outer shoulder looking basically just beyond your feet.

In the photos below. you will see Montana Mule deer beds situated on a hillside which are located with a clear view of about everything in the thinned timber below them.  These beds were on the same hillside and more than likely were buck beds as they were both alone and 200 yards apart, with no other beds nearby that I found.

After seeing these beds, when we got to the top of this ridge, it was pretty apparent that they watched us work our way up the hillside  as the road and only access was in the bottom of the draw.  They just laid there watching us and when we got too close, they simply snuck out on the backside of the ridge into the timber.  About the only way to have seen these bedded bucks would have been to have climbed the ridge around the upper end and out of sight of this bedding area, then quietly slipped down this ridge, carefully watching below.  However this was the first time in this area for us, so it was just another learning experience.

This deer bed was on the VERY TOP of a ridge Here is a bed 3/4 the way up the same  as on the left, ridge behind & under a Juniper tree. 

Deer may not use the same bed 2 consecutive days in a row.  And usually could be more than one bed in a day.  Bucks usually will bed away from the does as mentioned above.  Occasionally you will see more than one buck bedded together, but they will be facing opposite directions, for security purposes..

In the photos below, these were on opposing sides of a small draw.  The left photo with the bed tucked under the sagebrush apparently was a doe's as there was another smaller bed in the pocket to the left .  The right photo was 1/2 way up the opposite ridge and it has the appearance of a buck bed.

This Mule deer bed is on the edge of a low ridge Here is a old hillside bed behind & uphill of a Juniper tree. 

In open sagebrush country, mule deer will bed down and unless you look at every foot of what is in front of you you will not see them.  Your time is well spent using good binoculars, look for ANYTHING that is out of place, like a a horn, patch of white like under his neck, even his nose or a rump, anything that is out of place.   Do a systematic scan of the area and if you spot something you are not sure of, use a spotting scope to verify.   Mule deer will also seek out small brushy patches located near water high on a hillside to bed.   Do your scouting in the evening and use that to an advantage the next morning.

Can you see the large Mule deer buck bedded in this sagebrush ?

Whitetail tend to like to bed in more brushy cover.  However they seem to adapt quite well as I have jumped Whitetail bucks bedded in open sagebrush, where there were brushy swales nearby that would normally be the whitetail area.  Boy was this a total surprise.  Maybe they felt more secure here as they could see danger coming farther away and took a page out of the nearby cousin Mule deer's book.

 

This Blacktail deer bed was in deep timber  
 

Deer's Stomach / Food Favorites ;  It has been found that deer have a stomach similar to a cow's where they need to chew their cud.  This is  usually happens when they are laying down.  Hence they feed for a few hours and then bed down.

Food will depend on the region, time of the year and availability.  In the lowlands and mid level of the ranges, trailing blackberry is the one food source Blacktail seek out especially when the other new growth has went away. 

Hair Loss Syndrome ;  In about 1992 there was a situation first found in Puget Sound region of Washington State on Blacktail deer, where deer would loose body hair in the winter months.  This has been labeled Deer Hair Loss Syndrome (DHLS).    It has now spread to many locations in Western Washington & Oregon.  Scientists have labeled it a syndrome because they do not know a lot about it as yet.  They have concluded that it is caused by a small louse smaller than a flea.  This louse effects hair growth and the deer rub their bodies to remove the itch.  Sometimes this can encompass the whole side of the body.  It is not really known whether the louse is the cause or the effect.  If this happens and the winter weather becomes wet and cold, the deer can not maintain body heat and can die.

Usually the younger deer and some does succumb to this.  Bucks are not usually seen with it.  Transmission is thought to be from bedding in very close proximity, or the same bed within a couple of days.  One theory as to why bucks are not as afflicted is that if it is transmitted by being close or bedding in the same area, as bucks usually do not bed in the same area where does do.

In identifying this for the hunter/observer, the hair initially stands up and will turn reddish.  As it progresses the hair gets more of a white color and may fall out, (or be rubbed off) many times leaving only bare grey skin showing.  It usually effects the sides of deer, like the body or flank area but can progress to both front and rear upper leg areas.  Like said, there is not as lot known about it, but it only shows during the winter months, apparently when food sources are not that nutritional.

My personal observation of deer with this DHLS in the spring when they move into farmland to feed on early fresh grass, after feeding, they may even bed down on the edges of these hay fields.  I have observed then continually licking these hair loss areas.  They also seem to use the lower teeth to scrape the effected area, then lick it.

I have 4 small bunches of deer in a 1 mile area in the area where I live and have only noticed this on 1 group, even though this one and another's areas possibly overlap.  The older doe and her fawn are effected, but not her 2 year old doe offspring.

It is not known if a deer survives DHLS one year that it becomes immune the following years or not.   However I have a friend who lives in an area where they have so many in his orchard that the deer are named.  He says he has does who had DHLS one year & the next year the hair came back in the afflicted area but was a lighter shade.

Hunting Style ;  I know more than one person who calls himself a hunter.  But in reality these guys probably do not know the meaning of the word.  One day during elk season a few years ago, I was hunting a patch of timber on a ridge.  I happened to come close to the edge in one place, where there was a road below 1/2 way down the ridge.  One of my 40 year old neighbors and who is one of these 'Hunters" (also the one that I had in mind about owning a high recoiling rifle) was driving his pickup up and down that road all the while.  He was "Road Hunting" just waiting for a hunter like me to push an animal out of the timber in front of him.  OK, many times he brings home meat, but in my book, I would not call him a hunter, possibly an opportunist, but not a real hunter.  And of course he is well adept at bragging his accomplishments.  Now this would be somewhat different if he was older and or had disabilities that limit him from getting out and walking much.

Needless to say I prefer beating the brush for Blacktail simply because that is where I live and how I have hunted all my life.  This is at times called "still hunting", probably because you are trying to sneak thru the woods without making a noise.  It kind of gets in your blood.  To be able to get out in the woods, pit yourself against an extremely keen animal and outwit him is very rewarding.  However if you do it long enough you will also become very educated if you are receptive and keep notes.   You have to do some homework, or scouting looking for trails, tracks, beds etc. beforehand.  It is best to locate the animal you are after and it's behavior before you set afoot with a firearm.  I have shot deer at 30 feet, while still in their beds. 

Then again on the flipside in different country, in Montana I have shot a Mule deer buck at probably OVER 500 yards with a 308 Win. where I was sky lined on top of a ridge and the deer was in a steep canyon below with nothing between us, other than clear morning air.   I laid down, took a rest on the only rock available, held about 18" over the top of his back, and hitting him in the heart.

You need to step back in time, adjust yourself to a slower life, do not set a timeline to be from point A to point B.   Let the sounds of mother nature and the woods soak into your brain.  I sometimes dislike blue jays and squirrels.  Any non woods oriented noise should be avoided.  Leave your coin purse, vehicle keys or anything that may make a non-woodsy sound in the vehicle or at home.  If you have a sinus or lung congestion problem where you are coughing repeatedly, get your doctor to prescribe medication to remedy this situation.  I carry Eucalyptus cough drops, or even peppermint candy to help relieve this urge to cough.

If you carry a backpack, pad anything that may make a un-natural noise.  Oil you squeaky rifle sling swivel.  Wear wool or the newer noise resistant clothing.  Do not move branches out of the way with your hands as this extra movement may attract animals plus it leaves your scent all along the trail.  Some still rifle hunters use camo make-up like the bow hunters do.  If your state requires Blaze Orange to be worn as many do, then try to wear a camo Blaze Orange, as this will break up the outline as compared to that of one solid coat or vest.  If you happen to be in a very brushy spot, use the noise of an overhead jet plane or a nearby logging truck if possible to cover you as you move thru it.

Since deer will usually bed where they can observe what is going on below them, it behooves you as a hunter to get above them.  It is a lot easier to look down on them, than being below and looking up, as they have been watching you from when you started.  So early morning spotting locations would be at higher elevations.  Later in the day or afternoon they may move downhill to feed.   Ideally you want to put yourself in a position between their bedding area and feeding areas allowing them to do the moving, hopefully into your range.

Whitetail hunting is usually in brushy locations as in lowland Blacktail hunting, so it seems best to have them come to you if possible.  One of these situations is let them come into old apple orchards, farming fields, that either have clover or combined wheat stubble fields.  In the stubble fields, they may be getting newly sprouted grass or picking up un-harvested grain.  Here you will need to be there usually a couple of hours before dark to pick your location.  Even a blind or tree stand may be the only way to get near a specific feeding location. Or in an OPEN stubble field, get there early and within rifle range, lay down for a nap until just before dark.

Again scouting can increase your success as to finding a likely location.  Find a location where you are out of the wind blowing into their anticipated entrance location, can see well and hopefully have something to rest your rifle on, whether it be a fence post or a bipod.   Position yourself to where you can look behind you more than occasionally.  Be dressed well as you may have to wait right up until the end of legal shooting hours. 

Weather Conditions ;  Boy, here we can see a total opposite.  Some conditions could be RAIN to where you will need a rain suit.  Or snow and cold can be another condition.  To just the opposite where the sun is shining and the weather is hot.  Mostly it will depend on your geographic location and the time of the year.

If the weather is bad, heavy rain and wind, or a snow storm, deer will usually not be moving (unless it is during the rut), and may even stay bedded in an area for a few days before they get up to really feed. 

When the weather breaks and it is deer season, call in sick, or anything, but be out there at daybreak or just before dark.  These animals will be out feeding and if you can be on a location where you can see, your chances are greatly increased.  The above proved true as here in Washington at the start of hunting season 2016 we had a high winds and that rain come in 2 days before the season started.  I do a morning 3 mile walk on county roads in a rural area just at daylight every day.  This area has small farm land, many rural houses with small apple orchards, a small logged of patch and a small 5 acre timber patche, perfect Blacktail habitat, AND a cattle watering trough nearby.  I had been seeing a doe and fawn, a single (probably barren) doe and a set of apparently twin spikes from time to time all summer/fall. And from the local grapevine report there was also a decent 2 point buck around.  For three weeks before season opened, only twice I saw the doe and fawn leaving an orchard and going into the timber.  We had over 3" of rain and heavy wind for 3 days.  On the morning after the storm passed, on my same walk at daylight I saw 7 deer within 500 yards of that patch of timber.  It was dark/overcast enough and they were far enough away that I could tell the sex, but two were together away from the rest so suspect they were the spikes.

The moon phase will also effect your hunting.  Deer will feed at night if the moon is full.  Also notice whether the moon is rising in the east at sundown or setting in the west at sundown, this can be tracked by moon rise/set tables and can be valuable information to a hunter.  This will make a change in the animals behavior, give then longer or shorter time to feed.  When they are feeding at night, you may not see them moving around during the day (legal shooting hours) as they will be bedded down.  However most of us do not have the luxury of being able to call our hunt timing as being optimum to the weather.  If you are wanting to put meat in the freezer, the #1 priority is to be in the woods with a method of shooting a deer.

Deer Droppings ;  Some say you can tell the sex by the shape of the droppings.  It has been said by some that a bucks dropping tend to be lumped together while a does are individual.  However this can also depend on the feed they are eating. 

Western Washington deer droppings

 Deer Tracks ;  This can become a controversial issue.  Some say they can tell buck's tracks from doe's by the shape.  Yes, usually that is the case, but just because a track appears big, does not mean it belonged to a buck.  However depending on the time of the year, observe if there are other tracks on the trail, and if they may also be fawns.  If so then most likely it is not a buck.   However a lone large track would possibly be that of a buck.

Smaller bucks and does is where it gets hard to be sure by looking at tracks.

Some have said that a buck's track will be more blunt on the point or the toes being spread out more.  This can also depend on the soil they are living on, a soft soil will not wear off the toes as compared to a more dry/rocky condition.   Bucks (especially big bucks) feet tend to spread out at the rear probably because of them being heavier, and will correspondingly be deeper in the soil.  But some does do get large also and so will their tracks.   Some also say a buck's track will show the dew claw imprint in soft ground more than a doe's and this may be so if he is a larger animal. 

Tracks will be less defined if they are traveling uphill and more defined when going downhill because of weight distribution.   Also tracks will be different depending on the soil composition, (hard, dry as compared to moist or muddy).

Tracks in snow can help deciphering sex if even if is only a couple of inches, as bucks tend to drag their front feet more than does because they are usually heavier on the front quarters than a doe, as seen in the photo below by the drag marks.

Buck deer tracks in the snow

 Deer Urination ;  You can tell the sex of an deer by the way they urinate.  A doe will squat to where her tail could be touching on the ground, so as seen in the photo on the left where all the urination is concentrated, with a center deep in the snow. 

The photo on the right is from a buck, where his is not as much volume in this photo, being spread out a bit AND then by him dribbling as he walks away.  Not seen in the photo is more dribblings for possibly 50 feet as he walked away.  Both of these photos were taken in a Mule deer area and were taken about 50' apart during the rut.

Doe urination in the snow Buck urination in the snow

 Tracking After the Shot ;  This is an art in itself and pretty much a learned art, which in modern times very hard to acquire.  Many hunters may have problems trying to follow a wounded, bleeding elephant through a cornfield in 6" of snow.

Probably the worst case will be where the ground is pretty dry, barren, or the snow has melted to just a covering, then frozen/thawed and refroze and many deer have used the area to where it looks like a cattle feed lot.

Identify where the animal was standing when you shot AND where you last saw it, pick out an identifiable near landmark.  If the animal was hit and you have located where it was standing at the shot, obviously the first thing to look for is blood, or at least hair.  The reason I say hair is that when a bullet hits an animal, as it goes thru the hair and hide it will cut some of the hair, not a lot, but usually enough to be seen if there is not a lot of small underbrush.  What color is the hair, brown body or white underbelly?  What direction did you last see this deer going?  When hit they will usually go in the direction they are heading at the time, unless the terrain and brush dictates differently.  If a blood trail is there, follow it.  It is good if you have a partner, with them walking behind you, but looking ahead for the animal if it is still alive and moving, AND you only concerning yourself in the tracking

Tracking a hit of a bleeding animal in the snow has definite benefits.

The amount of blood, or lack of it, can be deceiving as the animal may be bleeding internally also.   Foamy pink blood would indicate a lung shot and the animal may not be far away.  Bright red blood would be an indication that it is a hit in an artery or massive enough to cause lots of blood loss.  Dark red or slightly brownish would be gut shot where the blood was mixed with partially digested food and usually will not be in any quantity as the bulk is still in the body cavity.   If you are in brushy country, this may be a time to set down for a half hour, let the animal lay down and get sick.   Again if it is not a near immediate kill shot, take your time to let them get sick unless you are in an open area where other hunters may find your animal before you do.

In tracking if the trail leads into ferns or brushy area, be observant if there is blood on vegetation on the brush along the sides of the trail.  This may give you an indication where the animal was hit as compared to just seeing blood on the ground.  

Here is where the aid of a hunting partner comes in very handy,  where one tracker is in the lead following sign while the other follows, stopping at the last sign until the tracker locates more and moves ahead.  The following partner is also the lookout for the front tracker as this tracker is busy looking at the ground for sign and may miss seeing a wounded deer ahead. 

When tracking, consider following slightly to the side of the trail (so you don't contaminate any tracks) in case you loose it and need to backtrack to pick up your last bit of evidence.  If it gets to where you loose the trail, pull out your handkerchief or flagging tape, even pieces of toilet paper, and place these at your last track or blood evidence.   A BADLY animal will not change it's direction of movement dramatically, however one with a superficial wound may take diversionary tactics, even doubling back trying to throw the tracker off.   A wounded animal will take the easiest path out and away.  Look ahead and try to figure out where they were headed for.   If you loose the sign, make circles ahead of where you lost the sign.

Tracking evidence could be other than blood.  It could be tracks unless there were so many other animals in the area that your animal's tracks can become contaminated.  Some times a leaf turned over or a blade of grass bent or broken would be an indicator that an animal recently went that way.  A intact spider web can tell you you are on the wrong trail.  If you get caught tracking after dark and following a blood trail, a bow-hunter's secret is to use a small pump bottle filled with Hydrogen Peroxide.  Even if the blood has dried and turned blackish, when the peroxide is sprayed on blood, it will produce a white foam.

A deer that was hit but moved off out of sight will NOT usually go UPHILL unless pushed hard by you.  It may side-hill a bit, but hardly ever uphill for more than a short distance if at all.

When a deer is running, their hoof print will have the toes spread apart more in relationship due to the the speed they are traveling.

A nice 2X3 Montana Mule deer A young typical 2 point Washington Blacktail deer

Books ;  Many books are published on Mule deer and Whitetail deer hunting, but not a lot published on Blacktail deer hunting, however here are 4 that you may want to consider if that is your interested specie.  "Blacktail Trophy Tactics" by Boyd Iverson.   The last books I purchased from him, his address was Grassroots Publications 2794 Bowmont Dr, Eugene OR. 97405.   I don't remember but I think the price was $15 plus about $3 for shipping.  This is a very detailed book that any dedicated Blacktail hunter should have in their library.  He has taken may nice Blacktail which were mostly done while still-hunting or on a stand.  Boyd goes into more of the hows to hunt Blacktail and not a lot of deer science or background.

Another excellent book that goes into more detail on deer movement is "Trophy Blacktails, the science of the hunt" a 192 page book by Scott Haugen which sells for $20.00.  Scott describes different subspecies of Blacktail from California to Alaska.   He separates what he calls sub specie depending on where they live and provides hunting tactics for each.   Also the many methods of hunting them.  Here Scott goes into more of the whys of how deer live and react.   This book needs to be in every Blacktail hunters library.   Both of these books are paperbacks and have numerous photos.

The most comprehensive book on both Mule and Blacktail was copyrighted in 1981 by the Wildlife Management Institute and printed by the University of Nebraska Press, was compiled and edited by Olof C. Wallmo.  This book has over 550 pages with numerous photos and another 50 plus pages of references.  But in all probability it is out of print now.

Another one that may well be rather hard to find (it has been out of print for over 40 years) is "Blacktail deer of Western Washington" printed by Washington State Game Dept.  This book's contents was generated in the Doty hills east of PeEll and covers a 30 year study of Blacktail, their growth (they raised some in pens and weighed them each week), how they made head count estimates based on droppings from previous observations, then counting these in a marked off section, and their favored food for each season.  The one best year around food was trailing blackberry vines, other when the new grasses come out in the spring.

Taking Care of An Animal After it is Down ;  OK, once the deer is down, the work starts.  One thing that seems to hang around for the unseasoned hunters is being the thing to do once a animal is down is to cut their throat.   WELL NOT ALWAYS.  Think about it, if you hit the animal in the heart or lungs and it took a while for it to die (after possibly running a short distance), by the time you get to it, it will be dead by bleeding out internally.  There is no need to cut the throat.  However if you shot the animal, breaking it's back and it is still alive when you get to it, yes after a killing shot, cut the throat to bleed it out.  The same would apply it it was a head shot as the heart would probably still be beating for a short time.   And IF it may be the trophy of your life, you just ruined the cape if you decide to have it mounted.  This should not be associated the same as with butchering a farm beef animal, where a killing shot is usually in the brain.

You will need to gut it out as soon as possible, even sooner if it is gutshot.  Most of us will be hunting in a situation where we have driven a distance and will need to decide how we will take care of the animal, either in the field or at a residence.  Getting it to transportation could be simply dragging it, loading it onto a 2 wheeled game cart, or possibly driving a quad to it to load the deer onto.  Or if a distance from your means of transportation and or in rugged terrain, then #2 below is an option.

If the weather is hot, AND you happen to shoot an animal, you need to get it cooled down ASAP.  Number One would be to get the hide off as the hair acts as an insulator holding the body heat in.  If the meat does not cool down, you can loose it because it will spoil.  I have a friend who hunts mule deer in eastern Oregon where the weather is usually quite warm when he is there.  Their method of cooling a animal down at camp, is to dress it out and quarter it,  hang it under a small tarp, in/over their small deep freeze that has the lid open. 

I have even cooled an animal down during warm weather when camping away from home, by covering it in a cheesecloth deer bag, hanging it near a creek at night and in the morning put it in a aired out sleeping bag to conserve what chilling was accomplished during the night.

Another thing that can make for a bad tasting meat is if it happened to NOT be a clean lung shot, clean any bloody mess up inside the body cavity.  Many times when dragging one out, I have stopped at a creek, and used my hat as a bucket to scoop water up washing the inside body cavity of a bloody animal out.  If there is any bloodshot tissue it is a whole lot easier to clean it up (cut it out) after skinning but before it has hung and cooled down a few days.  You may even have to remove a shoulder to get much of this cleaned off if there is any bloodshot tissue there.

Some hunters will immediately remove the hairy scent glands from the inside of the rear legs, being careful to not touch any meat with this patch of urinated on hair

My ex son-in-law who lived in Montana for a while said that the game butchers will not take an animal in if it is skinned, saying that with the dry weather there that with the hide off, dries the meat out.  Maybe so, but not for me.  I really think it may be a ploy to generate more work (and dollars) for the processor and of course many hunters do not do a very good job at taking care of their animal and leaving the skin on can make for a cleaner animal which well could relate to less work for the processor, so it could be a two way street.   I have seen one there, that with the hide left on even at below freezing temperatures, that spoiled over night, probably a contributing factor was the hair/hide held the body heat inside too long and that cold a weather chilled the outer parts of the body trapping the body heat inside causing the meat to spoil.  Plus the animal was gut-shot and was not cleaned out inside.  I also saw this happen once years ago to an elk that my boss had shot.   He had shot the animal just before dark, gutted it out and propped it open, but was so late and getting dark that he had no means of getting it quartered or off the ground so he left it, intending to get back early the next morning, then it snowed that night trapping body heat inside.

Many will say that you have to let deer hang for a week to tenderize it or get the gamey taste out.  This may be true and I have many times hung it for four or five days.  However the weather/temperature will be a deciding factor here.  I have also skinned them, hung over night and cut it up the next day if the weather was warm enough that I was afraid it may spoil.  Or taking care of them early like that could be determined because of other circumstances other than the weather if they are chilled out enough.  One Montana buck was cut up the next day, simply because the weather got so cold that that leaving it hanging in the garage would only have created a solidly frozen carcass.  So as mentioned, leaving one hang for a week in really COLD weather has not a lot of benefits either.

There are more than just a couple of methods of taking care of the carcass. 

(1) Hang it by the hind legs, skin it completely, cut the head off and possibly saw it down the backbone so you have 2 halves.  This allows you to clean the meat both internally and externally, (remove blood and hair) before it dries.

(2) Hang it by the head, which really makes for easier skinning of the body/flank area.

(3) Bone it out laying on the ground (Alaskan or poacher's method).  This can be done by laying the animal on it's belly, (usually best for cleanliness to put a plastic tarp under it).  Cut the skin down the top of the back starting at between the ears, going all the way to the tail.  Skin down to about the middle sides of the body.  Cut down to the backbone and peel the neck meat and back-straps to just in front of the hip joint.   You can leave this a full length piece or cut this in two in the middle so that you will have one section per side which gives you the neck meat and the other the back-straps.  Note that the neck meat will come off a lot easier this way, (kind of like filleting a fish).

If you are going to have the head mounted, you are part way there because this is how they cape an animal in preparation to mounting.  Here you need to leave more hide than you may really need, so cut it off behind the front shoulders.

After you get both sides of the backbone and neck boned out, roll the carcass over and skin the front shoulder down then cut thru between the ribs and the shoulder.  This can be cut off without hitting any bones.  Then move to the rear, skin it out and cut down to the pelvis bone/hip joint.  Again you can cut thru the hip joint without having to cut a bone(you don't have to split the pelvis this way).  Now you have both the front shoulder and the rear hams separated from the body.  Roll it over then do the other side.

Do not cut the legs off as they may assist you in carrying it out unless you have a packboard.  When not having a packboard, I have carried a ham on each of my shoulders, with the full length back-straps hung over the legs which are protruding forward.  The forward pointing legs also allow you to put some pressure on with your arms to help balance the hams.

If you are using a packboard with a bag, you can bone out the leg bones and can pretty well get a whole deer into one heavy pack.  It may help if you have a partner to carry the head and cape if you are going to have it mounted.  If not, then I would cut the skull with the horns off as this will save a lot of weight.  However some states require that the scalp and ears be still attached to the head, if so just don't cut the ears off.

In doing it this way you loose very little meat.  If it is a large animal like an elk and you have used the above method, you can then saw brisket down into the neck cavity, saw the ribs off next to the backbone and take the whole slab of ribs off, roll them up like they were Venetian blinds and pack them out also.  Now you could take the heart and liver out if you so desire without even gutting the animal.  You will have not wasted any meat at all.  This is probably the preferred method if you have to pack an animal out for any distance.

If you happen to be hunting in a early pack-in hunt, it is best to not just throw the smaller boned out meat in one bag right at the butchering time, but lay it out on a log, rock or something to allow this meat to cool down even to daytime temperatures.  Then give it time enough to get a slightly dried surface skin before making a few bulk bags.  This gives it a lesser chance to sour if in warm weather.

A mule deer on a pickup mounted hoist It is nice to have friends with a large well equipped shop

Cutting up the meat can be done without any special knowledge, but into usable tender portions is something that can be learned.  Purchase books on butchering and cutting up beef as the principle is the same for game animals.  One of these books is "Basic Butchering of livestock and game" by John J. Mettler, Jr. DVM and published by  A. Garden Way Publishing.  These will tell you how to cut for grain (in the meat).  For steaks and roasts, you need to cut so that the grain does not go lengthwise, otherwise it will be tough when eating.  Making jerky or hamburger would be an exception here.

Some people say they do not like wild game meat.  I suspect the meat they were subject to was not taken care of properly.  However it can depend on what the animal was feeding on or how far it ran when being spooked before or after you shot it and put it down.

Usually there will be a lot of hamburger meat because of the trimmings.  We try to trim most of the fat off as it seems that here is where you will find a bad taste unless the animal was living in an alfalfa or grain field.  We grind our own hamburger and will mix about 5# of beef tallow plus another 5# of pork trimmings with the meat from one deer to make for better eating, otherwise the hamburger will be too dry when cooked.

If you get a deer late in the season that was taken during the rut, their neck will swell as seen on the photo of the 2X3 Mule deer as seen a couple of photos above.  One thing we have found is that when cutting the back-straps into steaks on these rutting deer, if you cut off the tough muscley membrane on the outer part of the meat which was next to the skin, that this helps eliminate a bad taste when cooked.  We found this out many years ago when the wife was cooking a deer roast that smelled like she was cooking a old rubber boot.

Species ;  Deer native to the United States are Mule deer, Blacktail deer and Whitetail.  Each has it's own peculiarities.  There are also some definite subspecies in the southwest and Alaska. 

Mule deer are more of an open country or high country animal that likes the drier climates.  Their horns will have 2 main beams which branch.  The horns can get quite impressive.  Mule deer usually jump a fence.  Many books have been written on hunting these critters.

Mule deer can bed in the open but out of bright sunlight if possible.  Bucks will not bed with the does.  Does may bed in open country.  When bucks bed, they tend to use something as a cover like behind a rock or scrub sagebrush, even under the shade of a large sagebrush.

Initially Mule deer were thought to be a specie all of their own, I have heard supposition and possible genetics saying that Mule deer are the outcome of inbreeding of Whitetail and Blacktail.  One book says initially the Blacktail's range spread to the midwest where the Whitetail's range pretty well ended.  With this inbreeding, the Mule deer, over a LONG time pretty well dominated the flat land up to the Cascade crest.   If you do your research, there are many subspecies of all deer, depending on their location.  You can read up on this and make your own decision. 

Probably an average mule deer buck would weight in field dressed at about 145#-160#.   The largest mule deer I have killed was a 4x4 with rather skinny horns, but it field dressed at 265#.  This is an exceptional sized Mule deer. 

Curious Montana Mule deer does  Here this Mule deer forked horn buck knows he is safe & his doe companion never even got up out of her bed

Blacktail being a relative of the Mule deer and their horns are basically the same as the Mule deer but not as massive.  Black tail are only found on the west coast from northern California to Alaska.   They may spend their whole lives in a area less than 2 square miles with a core area of possibly only 20 acres.  In this they know and catalog every square foot, knowing it quite well which is substantial part of their survival. 

When spooked a doe or yearling buck may run blindly thru the woods for several hundred yards, but a older/wiser buck knows his escape routes and uses then strategically.  If he runs it will be with his head held high, when he gets far enough away that he thinks he is safe he will then sneak with his head down.   If he is far enough away from you in a semi-open partly regrown logged off clear-cut that he thinks he can sneak to where he can put something between you an him, you may never see him again. You will not find him in an open field (UNLESS IN THE RUT) as he will usually skirt it, or at least stay in protection along the edges.   If he was spooked but could not identify the source, he will very often circle around behind what scared him, trying to identify what it was.

They have different bedding areas that are based on the season as for weather or food.  They like to bed in shade if the sun is out.  Their prime movements are for food or bedding, BUT wind will govern these movements.  A wise buck will locate himself in the thickest brush patch come the first signs of hunting season and will not come out unless pushed.  He will stay tight and let the average hunter come within 30' if he senses that he will not be detected.  If he thinks you are getting too close, he may bust out very near you, then quickly putting brush between you and him.  He will soon slow down then sneak off using all of his senses.

If the weather is cold they stay bedded longer than usual and bed in heavy timber or on warmer southern slopes.  If the weather is not too hot they will have a high activity pattern between 10 AM and noon.  They will get up, stretch, relieve themselves, observe their surroundings, possibly feed some and then re-bed taking advantage of any changing thermal patterns.

The moon, wind and barometer will also govern Blacktail's feeding habits.  During the rut and a full moon. bucks will be more active between about 3 PM and 9 PM.  Nights of no or a very little moon this time may change from 6 PM to 9 AM.   They are very nocturnal, but not to the degree as a Whitetail is.  

During the late winter/early spring when bucks have dropped their horns, you can still identify the bucks by coloration.  Blacktail bucks will have a more pronounced white throat patch, more white inside the legs and under belly.  They will also have a darker forehead patch and grayer nose as the get older.

A strong but constant wind coming from one direction does not necessarily affect Blacktail activity, but a strong gusty wind coming from all directions make them very jumpy.  A low barometric pressure causes them to be less active.  But when this pressure is rapidly rising or falling they become more active, which will be a day before or after a storm.

Now those of you who have heard that deer always travel into the wind, this my come as a shock to you.  No, not really.  Many times they will travel to feeding grounds with the wind to their backs.  Think about it.  Their eyes can see what is ahead of them, their noses and ears can pick up what is behind them.  Now since a deer's vision is limited when feeding, and it's hearing is diminished somewhat by the feeding also, then it's nose is the prime line of defense.  Their back-trail is where a natural enemy would be following from.  If it hears something different, it will take the time to investigate, even just standing still, looking/listening.  If it sees something out of line, it also will try to identify it, BUT if it smells something out of line, it is GONE.

A old Blacktail buck will ALWAYS be the last to the feeding area, and the first to leave, usually by a 1/2 an hour.  He has learned that if anything is going to happen, like an ambush, it may well take place before he gets there.

They are not as habitual as Whitetails are.   Blacktails do not use the "scrape" to the extend that Whitetails do, but use their hornings or rubs instead.   Blacktails may jump a fence, but would rather crawl thru or under them.

Blacktail and Whitetails also favor old apple orchards as a source of food.  When the apples are ripe and fall to the ground, you can usually determine if deer are eating them by teeth marks left on a few.  However in the summer before apples are ripe and fall off, I have seen Blacktails pick apples off a tree by standing on their hind legs, reaching high, picking apples with their mouth.

Here in early September morning, a couple of Blacktail 2 points are heading for a apple tree in a neighbors back yard  & two more across the road in the far field

The rut for Blacktail deer usually starts the first freezing spell of the fall (October/November).  A doe when in the estrus will have a peak activity about from 6 AM to 9 AM and then again from 1 PM to 9 PM.  However a bucks greatest activity period may be between 6 AM and noon.   Her estrus cycle is 28 days.  Gestation is right at 200 days.

During the rut, a doe will usually abandon (temporarily) her now 6 month old youngster and go on the prowl looking for a buck.  Prior to the rut, you will see the does and fawns together, even a couple of does together.  During the rut, the does seem to not want company other than that of a potential mate.   AND she is the one that does the seducing, while the buck just follows his instincts.

Also during the rut, a doe's tail will point straight out, (if you see her like this, keep her in sight).  A big buck in the rut will also walk with his tail sticking out, his head held high, possibly with his neck extended and walk using a kind of a strut.  He will be constantly licking his nose to increase it's sensitivity.  During the rut, a doe just before she is receptive may tease a buck by doing some running hops, bed down, get up, feed a bit and urinate, only to repeat this numerous times.  She will let him smell her, which may excite him as in the photo below.  She may not pick an area normally used by deer either, as shown again in the photo below.  The buck will follow like a silly in love schoolboy with not much else on his mind.

In the RH photo below these two Blacktail bucks appear to be twin brothers as both have identical shaped horns, being two point on the RH side with a large spike of equal size on the other side (seen a lot better in a exploded view).  This photo was taken late December, which is usually considerably later than the normal rut here.   The suspicion here is not a normal life or death fight over a doe, but a sparring match between adolescent brothers, in preparation for next year.

Blacktail doe scent in the air  8AM the day after hunting season ended, in a residential yard Blacktail 2 points sparing, again in a residential yard 
 

The Cascade crest seems to be a natural divider between Mule deer and Blacktail.  However we have killed a few hybrids in this mountain range crest area.  These are definitely predominate Blacktail, but have taller horns and the tails are slightly different, indicating inbreeding with Mule deer.

I have killed a number of large Blacktail bucks that weighed field dressed at 200# to 215#.  The average young 2 point Blacktail will weigh in at about 135# field dressed.  Field dressing is with just the guts, lungs, heart and liver removed, but with the head and hide still on.

Whitetail are a lowland animal that has adapted to civilization and can survive in close proximity to humans.  For a typical Whitetail buck, it's horns only branch off the main beam.  The distinguishing thing of the Whitetail is that when they run, the tail is usually up and the inner white hair show up quite well.   The tail waves back and forth like a flag, if they jump a fence, this flag waves at you.   Whitetail will usually jump a fence.  in some areas, Whitetail and Mule deer territory may overlap, but they seem to segregate themselves as far as feeding and bedding areas.

I have not killed a lot of whitetail bucks, but it seems the average seems to be slightly smaller (at least in Idaho and Montana) than the other specie and the average large one may field dress near 150#.

Here these whitetail Montana bucks in the velvet, heading to a feeding alfalfa field in a residential area just before dark


As shown in the illustration below the Mule deer will have a larger white rump patch which can be seen for some distance.  The white rump of the Blacktail is not as noticeable.  On all deer there is a scent or Metatarsal gland on the outside portion of the hind legs.  The illustration below shows the differences.

  Mule deer            Blacktail deer           Whitetail deer

 


Counting Points ;  There is an Eastern count and a Western count.  The eastern method is counting all the points of the antlers.  This could be a deer with 10 points.  Western counts the most points on a side and will then mentions if there are eye guards.  Western count for the same deer would be a 4 point with eye guards.  However the move is to headed toward counting all points including the eye guards, but defining each side, like a 5X5 for this same deer.

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Reaction to Being Shot ;  Now to the reason this article was originally put together.  Below I will try to describe the animal's reaction to being hit by a normal hunting rifle.  This may be slightly different depending on the distance from the shooter to the animal and then each animal may react slightly different.  Any animal may go down if hit by a HIGH power rifle in a not so critical area if very close range, then get up and run off.  Where, if hit in the same area at a long distance, you may not notice any appreciable impact.  Anytime you pull the trigger, you owe that animal for you to make a concentrated effort to look for it.

Be able to call your shot.  This means, where were the sights aligned when you pulled the trigger?  You can practice this when you are on the range also.  Be VERY observant on how the animal reacts when hit, even a small detail may give you a good indication as to where you hit him and what you may expect.

Your job as a hunter my be complicated if you are hunting in brushy terrain where you may not have a lot of viewable space to watch the animal after the shot, (lots more area for the deer to be obscured in after the hit) as compared to an open countryside where your view is more open.

One of the worst scenarios is if you happen to make a shot just before the end of legal shooting hours and do not put the animal down immediately, AND IT IS RAINING where you are running a chance to not find it, at least until the next morning.  So carry a mini flashlight and extra batteries.

An animal will also react differently to being shot depending on their mental state.  If they do not know you are there or are not spooked they will react entirely different than if they have been alerted or spooked and are on edge ready to explode.  A spooked deer will have his adrenalin pumping and may not even realize it has been hit, going a considerable distance after taking a good hit, where a deer that is calm may be in such a shock or sick right after the shot that they will go down and stay down or only go a short distance with the same shot.   A hit deer that runs without any jumping or bucking or other acrobatics will usually run in the direction it was facing when the shot was fired.

A deer that is hit when running may not give very much immediate indication of being hit at all in instances 1, 2, 3, or 4 below.

(1) Lung shot ;  Here depending on the distance and power of the rifle, they will give you an indication of being hit.  A deer can be knocked down and stay down, or being knocked down only to get up and run, or jumping, then running off.  Many times they will kick their hind feet backwards like a mule, jump and run a few feet, then move off a ways only to collapse.  It would not be unusual for a lung shot deer to go 50 yards if it was spooked to start with.

(2) Heart shot ;  Here I have seen more than one jump straight up in the air, or just take off running full out with no appearance of being hit at all, only to expire within about 50 yards or so. 

 In the photo below, this deer's heart was totally blown away from any connecting tissue and he ran for about 40 yards.

 This is what was left of what used to be a deer's heart, after being hit in the chest of a front quartering shot with a 180 grain bullet from a 300 Weatherby Magnum at 75 yards

(3) Liver shot ;  Here they will usually hump up,  walk off slowly, sometimes as if not even being hit.  They usually do not run far unless you are close and really push them.  They will bleed out internally leaving very little, if any blood, and can go 300 yards or more depending on the severity of the wound.

(4) Gut shot ;  Here, any gut shot deer, may show some indication of being hit, usually it will not go down immediately, but if they do, will get up and move off.  Gut shot deer may "hump up", arch their back, and could do a sort of a stiff-legged trot.  Depending on the severity of the hit, they may run off and if you do not follow close, they may soon get sick then lay down, but if you make a lot of noise in your immediate trailing, they can get up and keep on moving.  This is the time when it is best to set down for 20 minutes before you follow, but each instance will dictate your move and unfortunately experience is a teacher that is hard to share as you may have to use YOUR gut feeling.  Usually they do not leave much of a blood trail as it is all staying inside the body cavity.   If they do leave a blood trail, it will be minimal AND the color may not be red, but a brownish color because it is basically the digested semi-liquid food in the intestines.

(5) Leg shot ;  Here is also not that good a hit as deer can run quite well on 3 legs.  This situation will usually be the front leg as it will be somewhat in line with a lung shot, only lower.  Usually these have a good chance of getting away unless you can get a quick 2nd shot putting the animal down SOON before it disappears.  Depending on if the leg is broken below the body, these may survive as I have seen deer killed apparently a season later with a stub front leg.  Apparently the leg below the shot rotted off.  If the animal happened to be a facing shot at the chest and the shot happened to be to the side only hitting the shoulder blade, there will be no blood trail, AND the animal can go for some distance only to later die.

(6) Back shot ;  Here they will go down, they usually try to get back up on the front quarters, but will have to drag the hindquarters.  A finishing shot will be needed if you come onto them soon.

(7) Neck shot ;  Pretty much the same as a back shot, only I have never seen one even try to get up.  However if you miss the neck bones but hit the jugular vein, this will bleed out the deer quite well, the deer may go for about 50 yards.  This jugular shot would be one that would be more accidental than intended.

(8) Head shot ;  Pretty obvious that this will but an animal down immediately.  Only be cautious as to not shoot low and or forward of the eyes if it is a side shot as you will only hit the jaw or in the large hollow nose/throat area cavity.  If they get back up, be prepared for another rapid shot.  You could also hit a bit lower in the throat where you have a 50/50 chance of hitting the jugular vein.  Or you could have only clipped a horn, just stunning them.  If I have to do a head shot, then try for the base of the ear if sideways or between the eyes if a frontal view is what you get.

(9) Horn shot ;  Here the animal will usually go down only to immediately get up with a headache and run like hell.

(10) Rump shot ;  This shot is surprisingly very effective.  The animal goes down and stays down, they may try to move as in a back shot.  If the bullet hit the backbone at the base of the tail as in a going away shot, there will be very little meat loss.  If you hit slightly lower IN the rectum, the bullet an travel farther forward and depending on the angle, it will still kill the animal, but the reaction shot could be more like a very bad gut shot.

Always follow up on ANY shot that you take.  Identify the animal's location by some landmark reference.  Look for blood, hair or tracks.  Carry flagging tape to identify the area they were in when hit, so you can come back to it if need be.

Ramblings / Lessons Learned ;   You will note that many times I mention field dressed weight.  This was not guessed at as my father had a set of Stillard scales (that I still have) that mounted between the rope block pulley and the gambrel.  These scales used known weights which you attach to a long slightly notched arm where you adjust the weight horizontally until the arm balanced.  And the dates listed for my illustrations may have come off the tags still on the horns or other reference points in my life.

(A)  My first deer was taken when I was probably 11 or 12 years old.  This location was on my step Grandfathers property that had been logged off during the 1930s and was growing back slowly as it was used for cattle pasturing.  It was covered with some scattered 2nd growth fir plus hazel nut / wild cherry trees with some openings where cattle had pastured.   Dad was packing Grand-dads Winchester 1894 30-30 rifle and I carried my new Winchester model 67A 22 RF.  I was going along to get experience in deer hunting and possibly have the chance to shoot a ruffled grouse.  We were working our way up the side of a draw when there on the opposite side was 2 deer bedded down at about 40 yards.

Dad whispered he would take the forked horn and for me to take the small doe.  In those days the last of the deer season was open for does in our area.  He again whispered he would count to 3 and we would both shoot.  I had been previously instructed to shoot for the lungs.  Bang/Bang.  Meat in the pot, as his did not move and mine got up but only went a short distance down hill toward us then piled up.

(B) In 1951 when I was 15 years old, my father and I hunted a section of old logged off land adjacent to the (A) above, that never really grew back to timber.  There was some small second growth in the sides of the draws, but most of the hillsides remained in bracken ferns or brush.  Here (about 300 acres) range cattle were pastured so there were a few openings where they pastured.  This location we had hunted before as it joined my step Grandfathers property and was owned by his sister.  We knew where the old roads were and the lay of the land, but this is the first time that we hunted it as a team with me being on my own.  

I was packing a new Winchester model 94 in 30-30 carbine.  Dad was carrying a old Winchester model 92 in 25-20 (that had a worn barrel, rather inaccurate and why it was given to me by an uncle), but those were all the hunting rifles we had at the time, even though the 25-20 was illegal to use for hunting in those days.

This day he decided that instead of just walking the old cat road leading into the saddle above my grandfathers property then looking into the upper basin, that we would drive the draws and meet in the saddle on top.  My route was down the main draw then up an old cattle trail on the second draw's side to the meeting place on top.  Dad was to go thru the first draw then hopefully push something up into the saddle.

I found out after I started that my way was a lot longer than anticipated by either of us.  I was in the bottom on this cattle trail when I heard him shoot twice.  Looking up in front of near where he should be, on the skyline of a big flat bench, I saw a small buck deer sneaking just under the rim, out of sight from dad then on top, but skylined to me.  It was about 400 yards away but heading toward where I needed to be to meet dad.  I RAN UP that cattle trail trying to get to where I may at least catch up with this deer because I was sure that dad had no clue as to where he went.  The deer went out of sight and went into the head of the draw that I was trying to get to the top of, as I was running up the trail .  Maybe he even saw me running up the hill which pushed him away from crossing the trail I was on and him more into the saddle.  The hill was somewhat steep and I was puffing when I got to the saddle about 600 yards from where I was when I first saw this deer.  Here the old logging had not grown back to fir trees yet and the area was covered with Braken fern and a few scattered 15' to 20' fir trees.  No deer, I ran some more to where I could see into a slight swale on the other side of this saddle.  I jumped up onto a large old burned log so I could see better over the ferns.

There about 100 yards ahead of me was this buck, sneaking away.  I shot 3 times at him.  I was huffing and puffing from this uphill run when I shot, but pretty sure that I had hit him at least once.  The last time I saw anything of him he went into a small patch of Christmas trees sized fir trees along with Bracken ferns close to where I last shot.  Dad caught up to me as I was still standing on the old log, and he asked the necessary questions.  I pointed to where I last saw the deer.  I stayed where I was on the log all the time watching ahead of dad and he took off to find the deer.  Before long he hollered that he had found him and I went over.  This buck, my first with centerfire hunting rifle and the first where I was not standing close under dad's watchful eye was a forked horn on one side with a long spike on the other.

Now the rest of the story.  Dad later told me that when he left me and headed out to find the deer, that he was not sure whether or not that I may be trigger happy if I heard or saw any movement.  So he got behind some small bushy firs, then threw a couple of sticks into the brush and ferns making movement and some noise.  I just stood and looked in that direction, not pulling the rifle up or being skittery.  He then figured he had found a cool headed son as a hunting partner.

When dad had jumped this deer in the first alder draw, it ran uphill into a Bracken fern patch then stopped thinking he was hid.  All dad could see was it's head.  The two shots he had taken was at close range (probably 30 yards) and he had hit it both shots.  One when the deer was going away had went under the skin at the rear of the jaw, went along the jawbone then out near the edge of the mouth about midpoint.  The other shot had clipped the spike horn.

This was the first of many successful hunts our family did in this location.  From it we learned where the deer traveled when pushed and figured out where to ambush them.

(C)  Sometime before I graduated from high school, my cousin from Oregon showed up during early in the deer season.  I took my dad's Savage model 99 in 300 Savage and we went up on the hill behind my parent's place to the 20 acre filed on the far side.  No animals in the field, so I crossed over into some sparse timber that had survived a fire many years before.  The ground was covered with salal and braken fern.

As we picked our way through this salal to get through it and into more open spaces on the other side and an old orchard, ahead of me and to the right about 30 yards a small buck stood up.  I swung on him and fired at his head so fast that my cousin said, "What in the hell did you just shoot at?"  We walked over and he could not believe that it had happened so quickly that he never ever saw the deer.

(D)  About 1953, I shot a nice 3 point Blacktail from across a large field (300 yards).  I underestimated the range and undershot, breaking a front leg just below the body.  The deer went in to the timber on the other side of the field, but entered thru a brushy patch of ferns, Vine Maple and Hazelnut.  I knew the area well and that an old abandoned railroad grade went thru this telephone size timber paralleling the field behind where he went in and that he would probably hit this old grade to help make his escape.  I did not follow thru the brush he entered in, but took a more open area back a bit, hit the old grade and did pick up his track.  It was thick enough in this timber that it was not the brightest lighting conditions.   This timber was probably 8"-12" Douglas Fir that about all the lower limbs had died, making it more open underneath, but thick.  After following him on this old grade for about 100 yards, I spotted a buck ahead of me on the grade about 75 yards looking back over his shoulder at me.  Bang, he dropped with a neck shot.  When I got to this animal it was a small 2 point that had both front legs intact.

I backtracked and sure enough, I found where this 3 point had apparently come upon the 2 point.  The 3 point made a broadside jump to the left (away from the field) over a old 24" log and made his escape into a a canyon that had a large Braken fern patch that had so many deer tracks in where tracking became impossible.   This buck had on purpose set up the smaller one as a sacrifice.  I was close enough behind him that with me shooting the 2 point, taking the time to figure out what he had done, had put the 3 point far enough ahead of me by then I did not have a chance of catching up to him.

The rifle I was using then would have been the Winchester 94 in 30-30 carbine.
 
 (E)  On the 12th of October 1954, my father, brother-in-law to be and I were hunting a big basin of OLD logging done about 1920 that had grown back to Douglas fir with alder bottoms.  A friend and I had found this area that summer after high school graduation when we were peeling cascara bark, which we sold after drying it for 16 cents a pound.  This tree bark is used to make laxatives.  There were no roads into this couple of square mile area, only a old horse/cattle trail.  There were old abandoned railroad grades on the ridges all the way around this basin.  Not many really hunted it because it was so isolated, so we had some virgin country here.

We went up this old cattle trail to the area that we had found during the summer, then split up going up one draw with me on the west side.  I had moved up onto a bench about 1/2 way up and had just stepped out of the alders into the edge of a small clearing probably 50 yards long and 20 yards wide with the only vegetation being Salal and some Braken ferns.  There was slight ditch like depression running lengthwise thru this clearing in front of me.  Running lengthwise along this clearing toward me was a BIG 2 point Blacktail buck.  He came closer, then swung toward me and as he jumped this ditch, I fired at his chest at about 20 yards.  He made no indication that I had even hit him and kept coming toward me.  When he got broadside to me at about 20' I shot him in the lungs again.  That did it and he went down.

As we were gutting this deer out, a couple of my schoolmates who lived down the road about a mile showed up.  They had came in from their places, went up and hit the old railroad grade behind their homes and apparently had spooked this deer right into my lap.

This was the biggest deer that my father and I had ever shot and with the vehicle being over a mile away, with only a cow/horse trail out.  Initially we gambreled it up and I tried to carry it on my back.  Well being young and just out of high school, my expectations of my strength/manliness was over-rated.  Plan B was to cut a pole, tie his legs together with one person on each end kind of like we had see in outdoor magazines depicting an African pole carry.  That may have been fine for flat ground, but not where we were that day, so on to plan C.  This time we resorted to cutting him in two, in front of the hips and making 2 packs. 

 My father was wearing a set of leather pack straps he had made a number of years before since we knew we were going to be a ways in.  He made and had used these before for packing out elk quarters.  We left the head on and strapped the front 1/2 onto his pack straps, which left the hind 1/2.  Dad packed the front 1/2 and my brother-in-law and I traded off packing the rear 1/2.  We set the rump on our shoulders with our head between the legs, the deer's feet pointing forward and we held onto the legs.  The one of us who was not packing the rear 1/2 carried the guns.

This was the first deer I shot that weighed filed dressed at 200#.  You will notice the date.  I purchased a new Remington 760 pump in 30-06 caliber on Friday the 10th, from Montgomery Wards for $104.95, sighted it in on Saturday and shot this deer on Sunday the 12th, and went to work in the woods on Monday the 13th.  This gun is still being used in 2016 but now has been rebored to a 35 Whelen.

This deer is now listed in Washington State B&C record book as #32 under Western Blacktail two point deer category.  I had it mounted many years later using the cape off another large buck.  The pose of the mount was how he looked when I first saw him coming toward me.  It obviously had reached it's prime and the horn formation was declining.   Notice the sqareish shape of the horns and the large knarly eyeguards.

Here my little brother is being introduced to a nice buck at a young age of 4 years old Massive Blacktail squarish horned 2 point & knarly
eye-guards mentioned above

(F) In 1955 on a Blacktail hunt where my father, brother, brother-in-law, uncle, cousin and I were hunting a canyon that had been logged possibly 10 years before, but one hillside had not been replanted back to trees and was mostly covered with Bracken ferns and a few ironwood and Hazelnut trees.  A old fire-trail was on the top of the timbered ridge (that we came in on).  And an abandoned homestead in the very bottom of the main canyon.  With that many of us hunting, I stayed on top and hunted over the ridge to the west, while everyone else hunted to the east and down into the homestead.  There was 2 steep alder canyons that we had passed by going in, east of the the upper fire-trail.

There was another fire-trail along the logged off hillside skirting the closest canyon's southern edge.  My brother-in-law hunted down thru this hillside, met up with the others at the homestead, then came uphill along this fire-trail meeting me close to the top.  We went back down the fire-trail, met the others, decided to hunt back up thru the alder canyon, meeting on the top fire-trail.  The brother-in-law and I were to go back up the fire-trail we had just came down, but to be watchful if anything got chased out because of the drive going on in this side canyon.

On the trip back up this fire-trail, about 1/2 way up the ridge the brother-in-law was ahead of me, for some reason I happened to glance across a sharp steep side draw.  There was a large old growth stump (almost 4' in diameter) on the upper point of this little draw about 40 yards away.  Above the stump was a large Ironwood bush with it's many tassels hanging down.  Behind the stump I saw a patch of white and black, which was a buck's throat patch and it's gray nose.  The horns were obscured by the Ironwood tassels.  This buck was bedded down (looking right at me) right up against the stump with his body obscured from me.

I could not see horns, but by the color and the size of the neck patch and the black nose I knew it had to be a good buck.  My brother-in-law was up the fire-trail by 30 yards.  He had walked past this bedded deer 3 times at a distance of 40 yards while the deer had stayed tight.  I shot for the white neck patch and everything disappeared from view.  I stayed where I was and directed the brother-in-law over to the stump.  The buck never got out of it's bed.  It was bedded so that one jump in any direction and he was safe.  His only downfall was that I happened to stop at the right spot, recognized what I saw while he thought he was safe.  This gun was a Remington 760 pump in 30-06.

This deer was a young prime 3 point with one eye-guard, again weighing in field dressed at 200#.  When we gutted him, his bladder was still full, meaning that he had been bedded there all night and had watched our whole hunt in that canyon.

Prime Blacktail 3 point

(G) Sometime probably about the late 1950s, a hunting partner and person with whom I was working with at the time decided to do some elk scouting in a different area than we normally hunted.  This area was in Pacific county near the coast in an old logged off area that had timber close by.  We drove to the area only to find that the bridge had been either deteriorated enough to be unsafe or the logging company tore it all up, leaving one large 3' diameter log spanning the river.    We had driven this far, OK walk across the log and do our hunt about a couple of miles or so away, working back to the log crossing.

We made our way into this old logging on a ridge that had regrown with small Hemlock about 15' tall.  In the canyon below was large timber that we figured may be good elk habitat and that we could hunt through that back to the log crossing.

We went down through this old logging and into the timber below.  Once there, and moving about 150 yards apart, after going about 1/4 mile, I came upon a small 2 point Blacktail deer that just stood looking at me at maybe 40 yards.  Since it was still deer season and I had not filled my tag yet, I shot him in the neck.  He went down, but was still alive.    Since we were really elk scouting, I did not want to really spook any nearby elk, so instead of shooting him again, I just put my knee on his neck holding him down and cut his throat.  

I had thought that my partner would continue the scouting while I packed the deer out.  No, he was pissed that I had ruined his elk scouting.  He was sure that my shot had scared all the elk away if they were within earshot of us.  Heck all we were here to do was find tracks and identify a potential elk hunting area so tracks would have been just fine, seeing animals would have been a bonus.  No, we were done for the day.    

I gutted the deer, cut it's head off for easier packing, gambrelled it up and loaded it on my back.  He was so mad at me that he never even offered to pack the head out.  He did lead the way out of the timber and along the old fire-trail at the edge of the old logging, up and out of the canyon then onto the road on top that we had came in on.  I carried this deer, the head, and my rifle all the way back to the vehicle.  About 1/2 way out the road he offered to carry it for me.  NO, I had packed the whole shebang up out of that hole and the road was easy going compared to that old fire-trail, I was as stubborn as he was, I would carry it all the way now.

I never offered to share any of the meat, and that was about the last time we hunted together.

(H)  Another time about 1958 my brother-in-law and I were planning on hunting a section of state land that had never been reseeded to trees that had grown up into a lot of miscellaneous brush.  There was an old abandoned railroad grade on top of the ridge south of this.  The Department of Natural Resources had moved equipment in and scar fired (cleared) all this off in preparations to burn it in the winter and then reseed to fir tree seedlings.  This was pretty good hunting, however you had to walk in a mile to get there as a cat road leading into it was impassable for any vehicle we had at the time.  Getting into this cleared land we passed a pretty decent Douglas fir/alder canyon.

We had offered to a friend the opportunity to go with us.  But he procrastinated, (common with him) and when he was not at my place at the appointed time, we left without him.  We went in, hunted the area we had intended to go to, but saw only does.  On our way out, on the old railroad grade on top, we met the tardy friend with his brother-in-law who were going to hunt where we had just came from.  No sense in letting them go into a non-productive area, so we decided to form a group and make a drive thru this Douglas fir/alder canyon then back down to the main road.

I drew the west side of this canyon, the others split with my brother-in-law and the tardy friend in the bottom and the other guy on the far east side.  We were in position that if anything was in the canyon, someone would see it or if it came out, we on the sides should see it as these sides were slightly more open than the bottom.

I had made my way about 1/3 of the way down my side of the canyon.  I could see my brother-in-law occasionally in the bottom or could hear him or the friend as we all moved downhill, I was trying to stay slightly behind them in the drive.  In one location, my side got steeper and a lot brushier so I was forced to crowd closer inward, in doing so, put me to the upper end of a long bench that apparently had a fire at one time but it had grown up only to Bracken ferns.  Immediately to the west was THICK reforested Douglas fir plantings about 20' tall.  I could see down this long narrow fern patch for about 200 yards.  I stepped up onto a large burned old cedar log where I could see pretty well below me into the alder draw and on down into this fern patch.  Being slightly ahead of where I really wanted to be so had a few extra minutes, I pulled out a candy bar, started eating it, when down on the far side of this fern patch was a large buck deer slowly walking broadside to me.  I will never know whether I inhaled the candy bar or not, as it disappeared somewhere, but I shot him offhand at about 160 yards.  He just humped up but continued walking TOWARD me.

I let him keep coming as I knew I had hit him, he was walking slowly and I could see him in this fern patch all the time.  My bother-in-law in the canyon below me began hollered for instructions.  I did not answer as the deer was coming right toward me.  The deer kept coming AND coming AND coming.  It seems that the trail he was on came right by me tight against this reforested patch of firs but he was heading for the brush patch that I had just came thru.  I never moved at all.  He kept coming and when he finally got beside me at a distance of less than 20' I shot him in the shoulder putting him down.  Shoulder shot at that distance, Yah, I know but at this point my nerves were getting rather frazzled.

This deer was a big 4 point with eye-guards with a overall beam width of 19 1/4" and again field dressing just over 200#.  I had initially shot him in the liver with the second shot in the shoulder.  I was worried that the shoulder shot would have bloodshot a lot of meat.  However it did not as it appeared that this deer was very near dead by the time I made at my last shot, no blood left in him to get bloodshot from.  As he was walking toward me, he gave no indication of being hurt.  This gun was a Remington 760 pump in 30-06.

He had been spooked by the other hunter of our impromptu hunting party on the far side of the canyon and was making a big circle around all us to what he figured was his safety in the brush that I had just came out of.  When the tardy friend from the canyon got to the kill site, he said "Damn, it's not elk season yet".

The nice Blacktail 3x4 with eye-guards mentioned above

(I)   I have only lost two deer that I have shot and wounded, one mentioned above in (D).  The second one took place in the same location as (A) but on the next ridge to the south.   This time instead of going in thru my step Grandfathers property then angling up to the flat bench just below the top, I went in from the bottom and up a newly pushed in cat road that went up the steep hill from the north, coming out on the bench we usually headed to from the other way.  This new road then tied into the existing road on the saddle. 

By the time I reached the top of this hill I was huffing and puffing.  As I topped out to where I could see the flat, here was a deer standing about 50' facing and looking right at me.  I pulled down and touched one off.  The deer went down, then up, then down like a chicken with it's head cut off.  This probably went on for 10 or 12 times.  In this ups and downs the deer managed to get under a barbed wire fence that was close behind him.  As soon as he was on the other side of the fence, he ran off away from me toward a large alder draw.

With all his movements I really had no chance to get a decent second shot off even though I was close.  At the place he was standing, I found NO blood at all, but hair, bone and meat.  My brother-in-law and I tried to follow him, but this property was used for cattle pasture so all the grass was ate down pretty low with not much chance of tracking.  We worked our way down into the alder draw for nearly 300 yards, then on both sides then back to the top without finding any clue of him.

Later in talking with my cousin who also hunted that area, he said that he found the deer 2 weeks later about another 100 yards beyond where we quit looking.  It had the left front shoulder blown off.  What we concluded was that since I was shooting rather close range and was not as steady in my hold hence the steep climb that I probably hit him about upper leg joint or the point of the shoulder blade.  The bullet blew up but did not get into the body cavity.  If I had hit possibly 3" more to the right, he would have stayed down.

The gun I was packing that day was my Remington 760 pump in 30-06.  But the bullet I was using was a Hornady 150 gr. soft spire point which apparently was designed to expand at a longer range and therefore at a lower velocity.  It just disintegrated at this close range.  That was when I decided to move to Speer Hot Core bonded 165 gr. bullets and have stayed there ever since with no regrets.

(J) 
 I once shot a buck in the top of the back above the shoulders.  He was in a 20 acre field that had a slightly rolling knoll about 2/3 of the way across it.  Initially, I could not see anything in this field, so I walked out in the middle.  He was over the brow feeding on clover at about 50 yards and all I could see was his head, neck and top of the back.  I had a 22-250 varmint gun at the time that was sighted in for a lot farther away.  I was not sure exactly where it would hit at this close range so chose shooting for the top of the back, if I miscalculated, then I would have just missed him.  

He went down and after I got there, I began to regret taking the shot as I had always hunted with a 30-06 before but was afraid that I had bloodshot the whole back-straps.  When I cut him up I was amazed that I could eat right to the bullet hole.  No bloodshot meat at all.  Apparently this caliber was so fast and at that range that when it hit meat and bone, it's shock collapsed the blood vessels not allowing any blood to leak out into the meat.

(K)   Buckshot will also kill a deer, sometimes.  One day during late buck season my hunting buddy and I went duck hunting.  It was a chilly rainy day.  No ducks and in my attempt to jump a wide water filled ditch, I had slipped back into it getting a lot wetter than anticipated.  We decided to call it quits after a couple of hours and headed home.  He had a football game he wanted to watch on TV anyway.  At home, I was so wet plus there was a beaver pond in a a draw near the edge of an old 40 acre logging behind my house that usually held a few Mallards.

I took off with my Grandads old Winchester model 97  12ga pump.  When I finished crawling up on the pond, nothing there, someone else had been there before me.  Coming back up the timbered hill and before I got to the edge of the logging, I got a premonition, unloaded the birdshot from the magazine and loaded the magazine with both the 00 buckshot I always carried, just in case.  As I stepped out into the edge of this logging, I stood up on an old log in order to see better over the Braken fern.  In front of me was a slight draw, covered mostly with ferns and some replanted Douglas fir that were about 10' tall.  Across this draw looking at me at about 75 yards was a forked horn buck.  No chance of getting closer, I pumped the duck load out and I shot at him with the buckshot.  He went down, then up, then down like a chicken with it's head cut off.  I ran down the draw and when I was about 1/2 way to him when he was up, I fired my 2nd and last buckshot.  Didn't touch or even scare him.  I then ran farther down the draw to the trail he was coming down on, followed it up to him and at about 12' took him with 1 1/2oz of #5 birdshot at the base of the ear with him looking slightly away from me.

That did it.  The birdshot had a pattern of  probably less than 3" dia. and took an eye out, part of his ear and rear part of the jaw.  It was raining pretty hard by then.  I gutted him and gambreled him up, crawled into his legs then proceeded to pack him on my back up the hill to my house.  This distance was probably 400 yards uphill.  I was so tired and wet that I knew if I stopped to rest and let him down, that I would never get back up.  When I finally got there and dumped him on the garage floor, I was extremely pooped.

I was wearing the old black wool long handled underwear and it was so wet that I had to have the wife help me undress.

In dressing him out I found that ONE of the 9 buckshot pellets had hit him in the upper neck just below an ear. 
 

(L) In the Blacksmith trade there is a saying, "You have to strike the steel when it is hot", meaning you have to take advantage of an opportunity when it presents itself.  Sometimes deer hunting has a parallel.  

This day was a Monday in about 1959 and I was driving to work.  The previous weekend proved unfulfilling as to deer hunting and as my deer rifle had gotten wet, I cleaned, oiled and let it stand behind the stove to dry out.  

I was at that time a sawyer in a large portable sawmill with part of my job was to be to work 1/2 hour early to file (sharpen) the head saw then grease the mill for the upcoming day's work.  We fell the timber, yarded it in and sawed it into rough lumber right in the woods.  This setting we were working at was on a dead-end road about 2 miles of the main road.  On my way in to work this particular morning, I saw a decent 3 point Blacktail just off the road on a side spur road.  Meat in the pot - damn no rifle.  Well in those days as a young man there was a phenomena that any pickup truck's ignition system would not function unless there was a rifle in the gun-rack at the rear window.  Here resided a Winchester model 77, 22 LR semi-automatic rifle.

I stopped on the main road and with this deer at about 20 yards standing broadside in this abandoned spur logging road, I shot him once in the lungs.  He just slightly humped up, turned and slowly walked off up this old road about another 20 yards then collapsed.  I checked him then shot him in the head just to be sure.  Then I drove the other 1/2 mile in to our mill setting, told my boss, who then assumed my preparation duties and I drove back to that spur road, then drove up it to the deer, being pretty well obscured from the main road.

As I was gutting him out, the rest of our crew, on their way to work never even saw my pickup up that spur road.  I gutted him, took him home (about 12 miles) hung and skinned him.  I was back to work within 2 hours.  I never told the rest of the crew because we all knew that this deer was in the area and were all on the look out for him.  No sense in rubbing their nose in my getting him. 

(M)  About 1962 I was working in a frozen food processing plant doing plant maintenance.  Our hours were set by when the trucks hauling the corn into the plant showed up, so that day I had to be to work at probably 9AM and would work until about 11PM.  I took the long way to work that morning.  During deer season I always carried a gun of some kind in the pickup.  This day I had a Savage 94 single shot 12ga that had an 20" barrel with a Polly choke and a sling that I used as a grouse gun on my motorcycle.  I also had behind the seat a old beat up Remington #2 rolling block single shot carbine in 7x57 caliber.

I got about 2 miles from home and going past an abandoned homestead where I was looking out into the old orchard.  Then right beside me was a forked horn standing on the edge of the field just off the shoulder of the road.  I was concentrating so much looking into the orchard that I did not even see him until I was right beside him.  By the time I saw him I had driven a tad bit past when I got stopped.  Getting out was not an option as I would have been 15' from him.  Since this was a not a heavily used county road, I grabbed the shotgun and a 00 buckshot, fired from the seat.  Now, I am blind in my right eye so I have to shoot left handed.  Trying to still sit in the pickup and shoot left handed behind me was impossible, so I tried to shoot right handed but with my left eye and since the buck was less than 20' away I figured I could hit him in the head.  Wrong, 2 rounds of buckshot at that range apparently passed between his horns only turned him, where he sauntered casually off across the grassy field beyond the old orchard. 

I made a mad scramble to get the rifle from behind the seat, get a round of ammo in the chamber just as he was going out of sight into a swale.  All I could see of him at about 100 yards over the grass was his rump, top of his shoulder, neck and head.  I shot for the back of his head.  He disappeared.  When I got there, I was amazed in that I hit him 3 times with one bullet.  This bullet grazed the top of the rump, clipped the top of his shoulder and took him in the neck below his head.

A phone call to my boss, (who was also a deer hunter) and I was a couple of hours late for work that day.

(N) This would have been somewhere in the late 1960s.  We had a cocker spaniel that every time I left with a gun and did not take him, he was put out.  That day I had went deer hunting but had not seen anything but does.  Came home early in the afternoon and decided to take the dog for a walk into the neighbors tree farm looking for ruffled grouse and took my Remington model 11-48 12ga. shotgun.  Here he had thinned and trimmed all the low limbs off.  Most of the fir trees were 6" to 8" diameter on the butts.  Under them was growing a lot of salal.  OK, I figured that the grouse would be in this salal, so I was wallowing through it, letting the dog lead the way.

Next thing I saw was 3 deer jumped up and ran away from us.  I always carried a few 00 buckshot with me, so dumped the birdshot and added the buckshot.  A small buck stopped at 30 yards, I fired and only scared him into running farther.

No chance of catching them in this Salal, so I headed sideways toward the hay field that was close.  Getting into this field, I ran along the edge in the direction the deer had went, and cut back into the firs at the end of the field.  The underbrush was a bit cleared here and I saw this buck standing looking at me at a distance of about 80 yards.  No way to get closer, so I fired, NOTHING, he just stood there, this shotgun being a semi-auto, I fired again.  This time he went down.  As I walked up to him, I noticed fresh buckshot marks on the surrounding fir trees which probably had a pattern of 8' diameter.

When I dressed him out I never found a bullet hole in the body or neck.  The only thing I could think of was that ONE pellet hit him in the head.   A very lucky shot.

(O) In the late 1960s there were so many Blacktail deer because of the logging practices creating plentiful food and cover that the last 2 days of the season was "Doe day"  This particular hunt my father, brother-in-law and I were hunting a brushy canyon.  Dad had shot a 3 point that morning and was dragging it to the end of a old logging road.  I was finishing the downhill hunt and came upon a big doe below me about 50 yards standing quartering away from me on the edge of a small steep alder draw.   I shot for a lung shot but hit low.  This deer made one lunge and dove into the draw.  When I got to where she was when I shot, there was a BLOOD trail about a foot wide down to where she was piled up 30' away.  It was as if you had a full bucket of blood and threw it in that direction.

I had shot low behind the left front leg, hit her in the heart and split the brisket open, coming out in in the center of her brisket allowing the now opened heart to pump blood right out the 6" long slot in the brisket.

Right after that my brother-in-law shot a forked horn buck on the other side of the draw.  Now we had 3 deer down.   Since we were in on old non-maintained dirt logging roads, Dad walked down to his pickup then drove it back home, (about 4 miles) got his little Gibson garden tractor and 2 wheel trailer.    These were the days when 4X4s were rather scarce.   Dad drove the Gibson all the way back to our hunting area.  We loaded all three deer on this little trailer and brought them all out together.

(P) I used to do motorcycle trail riding so this would have been about 1970.  Our club put on Enduros, which was laid out motorcycle trails giving the rider may different types of challenges along these trails.   Each leg was timed relating to MPH (but you could not use a speedometer), with a total overall time score.  I had grown up in the area and hunted most of it so connecting old railroad grades to logging roads was an easy way to put together a good trail ride.  These events usually covered about 50 miles total.  They were usually ran in the winter months as fire hazards could exist in the summer and we needed to keep the landowners happy.  There were occasional mechanical breakdowns during an event and those of us who rode "Clean Up" needed a escape route for these riders who were then pushing their bikes out to take instead of following the flagged trail all the way out.

I was working a night shift part of the time then and this year had not had a chance to really do any hunting.  We needed another escape trail off our main trail so after work that morning, I loaded the bike (a 1964 BSA 350 Enduro) in my pickup and set out to start this new escape trail.  I would ride a ways, get off and using a machete, chop enough of the brush out clearing a trail.  Then go back and move the bike to where I had quit and start over on another stretch.  This day I was packing a Ruger Blackhawk 357 Magnum in a shoulder holster.

I had chopped in from an abandoned house up the hill about 400 yards when while holding onto a 3/4" Vine Maple stalk, had hit it once with the machete but for some reason looked up, there in front of me was a forked horn buck and a doe.  It was rather brushy and about all I could see was his head looking at me from about 50'.  That was all I had to shoot at so I figured if I shot at the head, I either hit him with a killing shot or totally missed him.  I held onto that Vine Maple, pulled it tight against it's uncut off roots, pulled out the Ruger, rested on this tree and aimed between the bucks eyes. 

Well I missed the aiming point by probably an inch and half, but took one eye out and part of the skull behind it.  That ended the trail cutting that day as by the time I got the deer out, taken home and care of it would be time to get a little sleep then go to work again.

(Q)  About mid 1970s My brother-in-law and I had done some pre-season scouting locating some bucks in a fairly recent logging (about 4 years old).  The first light of opening morning, we were on our selected spots.  He was on an upper landing about 800 yards above me in the head of a big draw.  I was on a point of a finger ridge where the lower road made a loop around the lower section and dead ending in the next draw but under him.  Here I could look across and up into the side of the draw below him.

As it got light enough to shoot, I spotted a small 3 point and a doe up the draw a little over 1/2 way up.  Brother-in-law Gene shot (getting a 2 point with a 222 Rem.), the buck I was watching only looked up then went back to feeding as he worked his way downhill toward me.  When he got out and away from the brush he was in, I settled down in the root-wad for a rest along the edge of the logging road, held for a lung shot at about 450 yards with a Mauser 22-250 Varmint rifle I had made up about 15 years before that I took that morning because of the possible long shot.  At the shot, the deer humped up but did not go down.  He had been working his way toward me and to my left.   Since he did not go down, I tried to reload while yet keeping an eye on him.  Well, I screwed up and the next cartridge jammed going into the chamber.  I took my eye off the deer, got the round in, but the deer was not in sight when I looked back.  I stayed there for 20 minutes, but never saw any movement in that area, however there was more cover where he was than I had taken into account for which I found out when I got up the hill to the location he was at.

I worked my way uphill and about 50 yards from where he was and Gene shows up coming to meet me.  Between the 2 of us we found his tracks.  I was sure that we were going to find him in the direction I last saw him which was downhill but slightly to my left.  But that area was covered with logging debris limbs the size of a baseball bat that had been drug into this shallow pocket from the logging that it was impossible even for me to go thru.  It was also impossible for this wounded deer to go thru it.  We finally found tracks that he had turned to my right from where he was when I shot then went into some thick brush, going slightly up and side-hilling for about 40 yards.

I had made a beautiful lung shot but at that distance that 55 gr. bullet did not have a lot of energy left.  He acted just about like I had hit him with  22 LR.

(R)  This particular instance I did not kill a deer, but got a very good education from a big buck.  We were elk hunting in Pacific County.  I had made a hunt along one long ridge.  And only saw a cow and calf.  I got back to the vehicle an hour early from our appointed time.  I had a premonition that told me to look over in to a draw 1/2 mile away across the road/creek.  That was just too far to hunt in that short a period of time.  I found out later that the next day someone else had gotten into a herd of elk there.   So, looking around, across the road was a steep hillside knob that on the top in thru the timber I could see thick young hemlock growing under some scattered big hemlock timber.  To the south was a alder box canyon.  I had never hunted that side before.

I decided to climb up into the timber and possibly I could look over into the area I really wanted to go to.  I started over and up the hillside.  Wow, Steep and covered with large Devils club up to about 1/2 way up.  OK, I was committed.  As I got up and out of the Devils club, then reached the hemlock, I jumped something big that made about 3 jumps and then snuck off.  But the hemlock thicket that was so thick I had no way of knowing what it was or even where it went.  Just ahead of me was a good sized Hemlock (about 36" on the butt) that had blown down running north / south with the top into this hemlock thicket.  I climbed up onto it and walked south to where it had broken off about 4' from the ground at the edge of the ridge.  The alder draw's upper side edge was where the stump was.  It was open in the draw below and solid young Hemlock above.  I could see that I would not be able to see over this knob or into the next draw.

I sat down on this log with my feet dangling into the draw, looking across into the alder draw and also where I could see if anything come out thru the thick small hemlock on the top of the ridge which is where I expected to see what I had jumped.   I sat there for about 1/2 hour just killing time, taking in the peace and quiet.  Then I heard a noise close behind and to my right.  Glancing over my right shoulder I caught the glimpse of a deer.  It was close and coming uphill right toward me.  I thought that if there was a trail, it would be on the edge of this ridge and right behind me with this log now covering it up.  I sat there waiting, waiting, looking in that direction over my right shoulder, but nothing came past me.  Something caused me to turn and look to my left into the draw.

There right below me at about 4' was a BIG 4 point Blacktail buck.  If I had had a bayonet on my rifle, I could have jabbed him in the shoulder.  The trail came right tight below the stump instead of above it like I had figured.  He must have came up to the stump, and was looking uphill, the wind was blowing from him to me.  When I turned my head, he jumped away and ran so fast out thru the alder draw that he stumbled and fell down more than once, (probably falling into mountain beaver holes that were numerous in that draw).  I just wish I had a camera with me then.

I am sure that he was what I had jumped initially but since I made no noise afterwards because I got up and walked the log, he circled around trying to find what had spooked him.  Plus it was late enough that he was still in the rut, so maybe he thought I was a doe.

(S) 
On a Eastern Washington Mule deer hunt with may father, and a friend from work, we had driven over the day before, set up a camp off a main road on the upper part of a high pine covered ridge and had done a little scouting that afternoon.  The next morning we split up doing some individual hunting.  We got back together about noon about 1/2 mile from camp and were setting on the road eating lunch with the timbered canyon to one side and looking into the valley far below.   For some reason may father stood up and saw behind was a deer on the same road we were on.  The deer was watching us, when we got up after spotting it, he disappeared back down the rad behind a small knob.

We all scattered, I went to the left up on another small knob hoping to see over the one the deer went behind and the road beyond, Joe ran to the right down the road following the deer to better see where the deer went, with dad stayed put directing us.  I heard dad holler "Above You", but I thought he was yelling at Joe.  I turned, looked at him and he hollered it again, but pointed above ME.  Turning around I saw a smallish 2 point Mule deer running dead away from me uphill at about 100 yards.

It was in a slight depression as all I could see was the upper part of it's body as it ran uphill.  I pulled down offhand and was shooting for it's neck.  When the gun went off, the deer went out of sight.  I did not really have much hope of hitting him as he was running plus the shot was not an easy one.  I really thought it might have made an escape in that depression.  But I ran up toward where he was when I had shot.  I got to within about 30 yards of that location, here was a buck laying down trying to get up ???   Where had he came from, and finally, was this the same one I had just shot at?  Damn, I had hit it.   A shot in the head with a 22 pistol finished it off.

In examining him, I was aiming for the back of the neck, but his rump apparently came up as I pulled the trigger.  I had hit him exactly at the base of the tail with the bullet going up the backbone about 6".   No meat ruined at all.  They teased me about shooting a deer in the ass, but that was fine with me as we at least came home with meat.

This gun was again my Remington 760 pump in 30-06.

(T)  Deer will stay bedded down during a wind/rainstorm.  This particular day the weather cleared off after one of these 3 day storms.  I was running my gunshop then and that morning I took off to go hunting.  I needed to be back in a few hours so I picked a spot about 5 miles away that I had never hunted before, but had driven by many times.   Off the end of the county road, a power line/logging road extended for a few miles.  I took the first logging road to the side.  This road went following the upper part of the ridge along the head of numerous draws.  These were loggings that had partly grown back to brush and some replanted fir trees.

Driving around almost on top of the ridge onto one of the points that this road went around, I spotted something different on the opposite ridge that I had just driven past.  Stopping and looked with binoculars I identified a small 2 point Blacktail feeding at about 175 yards broadside to me.  Since I was still in the pickup and the deer was on the driver's side, I exited thru the passenger door.   Moving around to the rear of the pickup, I rested on the rear of the canopy and fired.  This deer went down, then up, then down while all the time jumping forward each time it came back up.  About 6 or 8 of these jumps then it fell down but I could see it kicking a bit.

It didn't take long to drive back to that finger ridge, but it did take some time to make my way down thru that brush to the deer.  It was still alive.  I had shot low and broken both front legs right at the bottom of the chest but had missed the heart.   I finally decided that with both front legs broke as long as the deer was vertical, he had locomotion on his rear drivers he could keep jumping, but once he fell on his side he spun out and lost traction.

That day I was packing my Savage 2400 12ga./308.

(U) In 1983 I shot a Whitetail buck in Idaho east of Lewiston during a late hunt where there was about 3" of snow on the ground.  It was cold and would freeze at night, but warm up just enough during the day to slightly thaw some, then freeze again the next night.  It was during the rut that we were there.  We were hunting up slight shallow draws off a county road that had scrub timber on some, (largest about 10" in dia.) while other parts had been logged (thinned really).  So there was some standing timber, some scattered partial thinning and thick replanted fir in up to about 15' tall on the rest.

I went up one draw, crossed over thru thick reprod so I could look into the next draw (which had more thinning on than where I came from).  I found a spot that was clear enough that I could see the other main ridge with a finger ridge running toward me.  On the far ridge (about 600 yards) I saw white flags of a Whitetail running.  I had never hunted Whitetail before so my thought was boy these animals are spooky.

A few minutes later I saw a doe running down the finger ridge toward me with a small buck behind her.  She dodged around a few standing trees on the point of that ridge then disappeared in the draw below me.  The small 3 point buck stopped on this ridge looking for her.  He was about 250 yards away from me, across the draw in a small clearing.  I had no other choice, as where he was seemed to be about the only clear spot near there.  I pulled down on him only to find that my scope covers had come loose allowing water from the melting snow off the reprod tree limbs I had just came thru had gotten on my scope lens.  I quickly wiped it off with my shirt, pulled back on him and just as I got the crosshairs on him, he spun almost 90 degrees then jumped away and to my right.  I was on him, so I swung offhand following him, led him a tad and pulled the trigger.

I did not see him make any indication of being hit before he disappeared, but he was close to the brush at the shot.  Looking on the hillside the direction he went I saw glimpses of a deer run thru the thinned trees on that snow covered hillside.   I lined up a dead snag on the hill about where I last saw movement.  At this point I was not sure that it was my buck or another deer that may have been spooked by the shot.  Crossing over the draw and at as close to the location he was standing that I could ascertain, there was so much crusted snow, old and new tracks that it was impossible to track him.  I found no evidence that he had been hit, no hair or blood. 

The only thing to do was to go in the direction that he jumped and followed the general direction that I had seen glimpses of a deer.  When I got about 200 yards, there was a slight clearing with a old cat road coming up thru it in front of me, no timber, just thickly scattered Christmas tree size trees, and brush left over from the thinning.  I stopped short of this clearing to look it over before I stepped out into it.  I just happened to look to my right side about 6' of me and saw ONE drop of blood on a snow covered pile of dead fir limbs.  Up until this point I had no indication that I was even close to following him or had even hit him.

Six feet from that drop of blood he was piled up completely invisible from even 5', under a 10' bushy Christmas tree.  If I had not seen that drop of blood I would never have found him.  He was a small 3 point.  I had hit him quartering high thru the RH flank behind the ribs, just missing the hind quarter, gut-shot, lung shot with the bullet lodging in the ribs by the left front shoulder.  I was packing a Savage 2400 12ga/308 Win Over/Under on this trip.

(V)  In 1978 (4) of us went to Alberta Canada moose hunting.  The person who set this up had hunted with this guide before and one of his suggestions was for us to bring sling shots for ruffled grouse.

I was packing my Remington 760 in 35 Whelen.  At about the 3rd day, the guide took Bill (the person who had been there before), my son and I out to a cleared off pipe line.  He dropped Bill off at the top of the ridge.  This pipe line was straight for miles and was about 60' wide.   Joe, the guide called for moose at Bill's location, then we went down another 500 yards, dropped me off and called again.  He then took Jim another 500 yards and called again.  When he came back to my location he called again as he did when he reached the top where Bill was.

We usually stayed until about noon and then went back to the guide shack for lunch, but this day Jim and Bill decided to take a lunch as before many times when they went back in the late afternoon, there were tracks that were not there when they left at noon.  I had decided since they were going to stay, I would walk back the pipeline to the shack for lunch and maybe see something on the way.

About 10AM a small 2 year old bull moose stepped out in the edge of the pipeline about 250 yards below me.  I let him look both directions and he then started across.  I fired offhand at a chest shot.  He did not quiver, but kept walking across.  I shot again.  Nothing, and he went into the buckbrush on the far side of the pipe line and stopped.  I could see his outline in the buckbrush and with those 250 grain Speer hotcore bullets, I figure that since we had driven 1200 miles, I was going to still throw lead as long as I could see the bull.   Two more shots and the bull turned, came back to where he came from.  In the middle of the pipe line I fired again.  Still no indication that I had hit him.  He went into the brush where he had came from.

When I got to where he was, there was blood.  I pulled may handkerchief out and laid it in the pipeline as an indicator for Bill and Jim to find as I took off into the brush following the blood trail.  No real need for the handkerchief as he did not go much more than 20 yards.  When we opened him up, we found that I had hit him all 3 of the shots when he was on the pipeline.  2 shots from one side and 1 shot from the other which I could cover all three with the palm of my hand.   I was amazed, as I knew I had to have hit something as large as this animal and everything I had shot before (the size of deer) had an indication it had been hit.  On this moose, I never broke a vital bone, but pulverized it's lungs.

Oh yes, we did use the sling shots, as 3 of us put 3 meals of grouse on the table for 7 people that week.  It was a ball using 3/8" lead round balls and ruffled grouse were taken from between 15' on the ground or low brush to 70' up in a tree.  Of course a lot of practice was done prior to our leaving for the north country.

(W) On a sheep/caribou hunt in Alaska in 1985, since we would be in Grizzly bear country, I was packing my Remington 760 in 35 Whelen caliber.  The sheep hunt was first and we flew into the outfitters base camp at Puntilla Lake and from there into a spike camp over Rainy Pass and landed on a small lake in the Yukon watershed.

We chased our tail many days up and down rocky ridges, but never got close enough to fire a shot.  The band of sheep would disappear in the fog, or be so far away that any stalk would have had to be made another day.  The last day, we went into a different drainage, spotted a single ram Dahl sheep ram bedded down up on the ridge, but no way to access him because of no cover.  The guide decided that we needed to backtrack a bit, climb the backside of this ridge and try to take him from above.

As we were making this accent, the wind picked up, blowing near a estimate of 30 miles per hour plus.  Reaching the top, we poked out heads over and below us was this ram.  He was bedded down on a rocky STEEP hillside below us at possibly 400 yards.  He was in a location where there was a rock outcropping on either side of him and we were only looking at him through a narrow slot.  He immediately saw us and stood up.  Now or never, I shed my backpack, used it as a rest and fired with the wind blowing quartering into our face.  The sheep moved out of sight but into an area that put him below us but closer.

The guide took off running down the ridge to where he could see better around the one rock outcropping.  Not me, I went back a bit and picked up my backpack, then followed him.  When I caught up with the guide, he was standing looking at the sheep, which was walking along a horizontal trail below us about 250 yards.  The guide said, "you gut shot him, I can see blood on his flank."  I fired one more shot, but he did not go down, only kept walking along this trail until he went below another big rock outcropping.  This outcropping was below us and small enough that we could see if he came out on the trail which had to be on the other side of it.  We waited and waited, no sheep, then we heard rocks tumbling downhill.  We went down to where we could see, and the sheep had died, then rolled almost to the bottom of the rocky hillside.

When we got to him, we found that the first shot had castrated him, the second shot had taken him in the shoulder.  The guide later said that when he first saw the sheep after I shot that it was standing up with on hind leg stretched as far to the rear as he could.

I was asked initially why I was using this large caliber for sheep, when a 270 would have been fine. Well I knew this gun, and if I had been using a lighter caliber rifle and shooting into that much wind as I was, that lighter bullet would have been blown way off course as compared to the 250 grain that I was using and would have never even hit it the first time.  If he had ran the opposite direction, there was no way we would have been able to even catch sight of him after the first shot.

I learned a lot here in how these guides take care of the meat.  I had taken care of MANY animals in my lifetime, but on this one I was just in his way.  He caped it, skinned and quartered it without even gutting it.  We loaded everything on our two pack boards and made it back to camp before the storm hit us.  But we had to stay there for 3 more days before the plane could get back to bring us out.

(X) On year probably in 1986 I had the chance to go on a spring black bear hunt in Alberta Canada.  Here we were hunting just south of Fort McMurray which is about as far north and east as you can drive in Alberta.  We were set up in comfortable tents near a small lake.  Where we even caught some Pike during the days.  Tree stands were the method of hunting here as the terrain was brushy.  The guides had placed bait near the stands and we would get to the stands an hour before dark, waiting.

This night in my stand which allowed me to overlook a small clearing with thick small poplars behind it.  A sow black bear and a 2 year old cub came to the bait.  After looking her over, I decided I did not want her as she had some hair rubbed off and I had already had shot one better the night before.  Momma did not like Jr. trying to beat her to her food and swatted him on the rump.  He then backed off like a whipped puppy, was standing behind her broadside to me at about 40 yards.  He had beautiful long black hair which would make a decent smaller rug to hang on a wall.  This time I was packing a Savage 2400 12ga. over 35 Whelen that I had just rebarreled the rifle barrel from 222 Remington to the 35 Whelen.   When I pulled the trigger I actually saw blood fly in the scope.  He ran off back into the poplars about 50 yards then all then movement stopped.

I had to chase Momma off by barking like a dog, as just talking to her did not excite her at all.  As she sauntered off back into the poplars, she stopped, looked down for a while then went on.  She was looking at Jr. piled up in the berry vines.   When I got to him and drug him out for the guide to come and get on his quad after he heard me shoot, I did not really examine the bullet path.  But the next day when the guides skinned him out, there was a LARGE entrance hole right behind the left front leg and of course an exit hole on the other side.  The entrance hole was quite large, about 2".

Later the next day the guide went back to the tree stand to re-bait the bucket with me going along.  At the location where the this bear was standing at the shot, there was a small poplar tree about 3" in dia. about 2 feet in front of where he was.  It was now obvious what had happened.  I had hit that tree dead center before it hit Jr.  That bullet had expanded full size BEFORE it hit him, having a rather devastating effect.

 I cut a section out of that tree that had the bullet hole in it.  Canadian Customs was nice and did not make me declare the tree section as a trophy on the way home.

Shown in the photo below is the exit hole of the  35 caliber 250 grain Speer Hotcore bullet doing 2650 FPS at a distance of 40 yards in a 2 1/2" poplar tree.  This bear was standing about 3' behind the tree.  The bullet had expanded pretty well before it hit him.

My trophy popular tree

(Y) On year close to 1986 my son, I, and a neighbor boy, Mike, headed to a location that was an hour and half east at the base of the Cascade range near Packwood WA.  We had hunted it before and hoped to expose this neighbor boy to deer hunting.  If we caught it just right when there was snow on the upper part of the ridge the deer would be forced down into some logging that still had some good sized patches of timber that had not been logged yet.  Usually the snow stopped down a bit in this timber.  This gave them some food above the timber where they could find bourse and yet cover from a storm in the timber.

There was just enough snow for our intended hunt.  We parked on the lower road that bisected the timber.  We split up and hunted up thru this timber headed to where we could look out into the now snow covered old logging.  I was the long man that day going thru some reprod before entering the timber.  When I got into the timber, I spotted a young doe feeding on the upper edge of a spot where I could see thru this timber for about 120 yards.  She took her time.  I did not really want to spook her so I waited her out.  This however put me behind Mike.  When she finally got out of sight and I made my way up to below where she had been, I heard a heavy deer jump and run deeper into the timber.  Mike had spooked it, but the deer circled him then cut in behind and headed downhill.  My son was in that direction so I figured he may intercept it.

When I got to where it had been, there was just enough snow to see really big tracks.  Inside this timber was a rock outcropping that this deer had headed for.  I tracked it thru a passage in this these rocks then down onto a steep hillside that was open enough that I could see for some distance.

Off to my side and below me, my son was working his way along a side-hill deer/elk trail.  He motioned to me that something had went in front and downhill of him.  I motioned to him that yes I knew and I was on it's trail.  I waited for him on his trail, he said that he never saw the deer, but heard it.  We could see a couple of does out on the snow covered logging beyond the timber and he indicated that he would go toward them for a better look.  I said I would follow these tracks.

I only made it a short distance and the instead of this deer following any trail, It turned and ran straight downhill.  This is something I had never seen before, but possibly this deer wanted out of an area where there were 3 hunters after it.  He ran downhill as if it was a D8 cat that the steering clutches were both pulled rolling rapidly downhill with no method of stopping.

I followed the tracks until it got low enough that the snow was no more, tracked it downhill some more then lost the tracks near a narrow gulley about 4' deep.  I figured that if I stayed on the opposite upper edge of this gulley that I should be able to find tracks in the far bank when it jumped the gulley.  I followed this gulley all the way down to new logging road that was cut in thru the bottom edge of this timber.  My son's pickup was parked on this road about 150 yards from where I came out to the road.  The trees they cut in making this road had not been taken out yet were piled up for a self-loader logging truck.  This road apparently was planned to extend farther that it was then because there was a metal gate about 300 yards from it's end.

On the end of this road was a pickup parked with a hunter setting in it.  I walked over to it and recognized a guy that I had re-barreled his rifle the year before.  He was a logger who was recuperating from back surgery.  His father and brother were hunting thru the reprod below while he was just providing their transportation.  I asked if he had seen a deer cross this road.  No, but there was a crossing farther out on the corner.  I said that this animal that I was following did no go that far and the corner he indicated was where we had my son's pickup was parked.

I went back down the road toward our pickup watching the upper side of the road for deer tracks.  Sure enough I found them.  This deer had came off the bank, into the ditch, followed the ditch toward where I just came from.  The gate on this road was open and swung so it was hitting the shoulder of the road.  This diverted him across the road and into a small timbered swale.

From there he headed into the reprod that the other hunters were coming thru.  In about the middle of this reprod he turned and paralleled the hillside, (probably hearing the other hunters) but then I lost it's tracks.  I kept going in that direction and picked the tracks up again just before I exited the reprod, then lost them again.  Beyond this was a small patch of timber and beyond that another logged off track with our pickup above.  OK, I lost this deer, but decided to continue thru this patch of timber in front of me.  The rest of our crew was up the hill a considerable distance so I might be able to set in the open logging and do some watching while waiting for them.  Maybe I would even get a chance to see this elusive deer.

When I got into this timber about 40 yards here was a buck standing on the downhill side of a LARGE old growth windwall log.  Here was a decent 3 point Blacktail at about 20 yards but all I could see was about 3" of the top of his back and his horns behind a small hemlock tree.  His head was hidden and I could could not see his neck so decided to try for a back shot hoping to just skim the top of that log.  Well my rifle was sighted in farther than that and I shot right over his back.  This patch of timber had a considerable amount of young hemlock, young cedar with vine maple growing among the bigger trees.   He turned and ran right back the way he came in.  I knew he was heading for that reprod to escape.  No, he turned then ran broadside to me going uphill at the edge of the timber.  I got a good look at him, there was an opening in the timber ahead of him so when he entered that opening, I swung and fired again, missing him.  He kept going uphill, but now he had put some vine maple, small hemlock and cedar limbs between us.  I kept swinging and got another glimpse, pulled the trigger with him about 45 yards away.

Of course at this point I could not see anything that happened on the other side of this brush and timber.  I went back to the edge of the timber and in the direction he was traveling.  Here was about an acre on this hillside where a fire had burned everything off even all the lower limbs of the large fir trees that were left standing.  Covering the ground now was thick salal and a few Braken fern.  I could not see anything in this salal so figured that any self-respecting Blacktail would head for the reprod to hide.  I followed a old fire-trail up along the edge of this small salal clearing looking for tracks.  At this same time I worked my way back and forth thru the salal near me looking for tracks.  Nothing.  So I figured that I at least owed him another pass down thru this salal and then another farther over then up to the pickup parked directly above all of this.  On the down pass about near the lower part and close to the edge of the timber, here he was laying on his back.

Upon inspection while gutting him, I had only hit him once with it being right thru both lungs.  I could not have made a better killing shot even if he was standing still, I was shooting off a rest in the middle of a field on a the bright sunshiny day.  This day I was packing my Remington 760 pump in 35 Whelen.  If I had not have had it that day, I probably not even touched him with any bullet lighter than that 250 gr. slug going thru all that brush.  

(Z)  1987 was a year I drew a combo deer/elk along with an antelope tag in Montana.  Previous to that I had taken a friend to Alaska for an Dahl sheep and caribou hunt.  He repaid me by setting up this Montana hunt at his wife's uncle's ranch below Wolf Point in the northeastern part of the state.

We hunted around his ranch for a few days, shooting a small antelope, but the Mule deer were not that plentiful and the ones that we saw were smallish.  He decided to move south a bit and up near the SE side of the Fort Peck reservoir to a place that he knew a guy who lived clear out in the sticks.  We drove over, visited his friend, got permission to camp with my friends 5th wheel RV in a field near a dry creek-bed.  From here we drove to a large basin and hunted the ridges.  The first day, the ridge that I went up, by the time we figured out where to go, I did not see any deer.  But in dropping over into the other basin, I did shoot a decent antelope buck.

Day 2 armed me with a little more idea of the area and early morning right after sunrise I was overlooking a upper flat of the main basin we drove into.  Below me were 4 or 5 Mule deer does and yearlings.  But no bucks.  From this vantage point I could see the whole large basin on front of me.  In glassing the far part of the upper basin I got a glimpse of a flash in the morning sun.  The spotting scope identified 2 decent sized bucks feeding downhill toward the juncture of the 2 side draws that I was overlooking.  OK maybe these bucks were following the does in front of me, even though they were a long ways away.  So I spooked the does, which went up over the ridge and into the breaks of the draw I had shot the antelope in the day before. 

I followed them up to the saddle, found a lone sagebrush to break my outline, settled down waiting for these bucks to present themselves below me.  Over an hour later, no bucks at all.  OK maybe they were not following the does and went into the other draw to my north.  I moved around the backside of the knob on the top of the ridge staying on the opposite side of the ridge so I would not expose myself then broke out in the saddle at the head of the next draw.  The only thing other than bare ground here was one rock about the size of a footstool.  I was skylined on top for anything below me.

Clear in the very bottom below, I spotted one of the bucks standing in the shadows of the dry creek bed and in a clay type dirt slide, (which is the only reason I saw him).  Wow, he was downhill probably 600 yards but at a 45 degree angle.  Where do I hold?  What would have been the actual distance that gravity would be acting on the bullet?  This time I was packing my Savage 2400 12ga./308 because the 25-06 Remington 760 that I had rebarreled for this hunt was not shooting as accurately as I could accept for this hunt. 

I had printed up a small trajectory card, taping it on the scope so I could have some idea as to where this rifle was shooting at longer ranges than I was accustomed to with when hunting at home.  But I had not taken into account this steep of a shot.  I had no chance of getting closer, he was looking at me on the smooth rock skyline and the only rest was that one rock in front of me.  OK, showdown time.  I rested over this rock, which also gave me some elevation so as to not shoot the ground in front of me.  I held about 14" over the top of his back and touched one off.  He went down and out of sight.  Soon I spotted a buck running down the flat of the draw 50 yards below where I had shot, then all I could see was feet and horns flopping in the air as he made a summersault.

Next the other buck was running that direction, stopped to take a last look at his lazy buddy, then he took off.

When I got down there, the bullet had hit him in the heart just above the bottom of his brisket, dropping about about 32". 

Before the hunt I had cut out a chart from Field & Stream that gave measurements so you could calculate mule deer's field dressed weight.  I had left it at home, but before I gutted him I wrapped a cord around his chest and tied a knot so I could later measure this distance.

I tied on my deer drag and started dragging him down the narrow flat part of this draw.  I wanted to get him far enough down that we could drive right to him with the partner's pickup.  A week prior to driving over for this hunt I had hurt my back and now it was really hurting with every move that I made, especially with this game drag over my shoulders.  I lowered the drag rope to my waist, which helped.  Finally got him far enough down and on open ground that we could get the pickup there.

When  I got home I measure this knotted cord with it being 2" longer than the largest dimension given in that article.  I did some interpolating and came up with an estimate of 265# field dressed weight.

I never made it back for the elk hunt as my back was still out a month later than this deer hunt.  All the pain and muscle relaxer pills plus the exercise therapy took until after Thanksgiving before I had any relief.

My first Montana Mule deer described above

(Z1)  One year, probably 1988 when I was still running my gun shop, I had not gotten time to hunt, (this happens when you own a business that caters to hunters).  The last day of late buck season, I took off to hunt alone in the same area as described above in 1984.  Again snow on this same hillside, only slightly more this time.  I parked in the usual spot, took off uphill into the timber.  Went up to just under the rock outcropping mentioned in the previous example and on over to the lower edge of the old steep now snow covered logging.  Stopping just inside the timber I spotted a doe and a small 2 point way up the steep hill (about 450 yards plus).  NO possible way to get any closer and I was packing my Savage 2400 12ga./308 which I had the year before made a long range shot on a Montana Mule deer.

The time was about 9:00AM by then.

I settled up against a decent sized uprooted fir tree root and took a shot at the buck.  They both disappeared.  OK, now how do I get up there?  While looking and trying to figure out the best plan, I spotted a buck in a small patch of brush about 100 yards closer.  Possibly the same deer as I could see forks but not the whole deer.  I settled down and fired again.  Again he disappeared.  Now I do have to climb up this steep snow covered hillside.  Reloaded this single shot and again looking for the best route, here another 100 yards closer was a buck running downhill thru an opening in the Christmas tree sized reprod.  I fired again but offhand this time.  This time I saw it turn and lurch forward in one big jump.  OK, reload and almost ready to go up the hill when here he was standing in a snow covered opening within 10' of where he was when I shot, looking downhill.  At this time I was beginning to not be so sure as to where my rifle was sighted in for or whether my range estimation was off due to all of this snow and steep hill, so I held for his throat and fired again.  He went down and then I could see him laying behind the small stump.

It took me an hour of slipping and sliding, climbing over a rock slide then thru old limbs left by the logging plus a foot of snow to get to him.  When I got about 10' from where this deer was laying, I happened to stop take a breath, turn and look back down to where I had came from.  OH SHIT, laying on his back to the side in a snow bank was a small 4 point AND in front above me was a 2 point.   And I was all alone.  Both had horns with nearly identical forks, but the 4 point of course had 2 sets of forks.  From the distance, obstructions and the angle I assumed that I was shooting at the same deer all the time.  My upbringing would not allow leaving one in the woods no matter the consequences.

I had hit the larger deer slightly quartering and thru the lungs with him only going 20' and into the snow bank.  The smaller one was hit right under the chin and he dropped in his tracks.

After gutting both of them out, I got them to the head of this rockslide hoping that they would slide clear down to the timber.  No such luck.  I had to tug, pull, push, kick to get them to move most of the time as these rocks were so large that it stopped the deer.  Even got horned in the pants by the 4 point.  Finally got them to the bottom and into the edge of the timber where dragging them downhill was easy compared to that hillside.  I got the larger one down leaving him above the road, went back and got the other one.

The pickup was parked only a few hundred yards on the road.  I drove up to where I had left them above the road, but found that getting the larger one into a 1968 Ford F250 4X4 was a chore as these older pickup beds were a lot higher than the newer ones.  I had to raise the hind legs up, tie them to one tailgate support, then do the same for the front of the animal.  Then roll it in as best I could starting on the front.  The smaller deer was easy compared to the larger one.

The time was now 4:00 PM, I was tired and only had one deer tag.  I had a friend who usually set up a camp nearby there for the whole season.  I will run down Jess and give the 2 point to him.  OK, I get close to his camp but he passes me on the road driving rather fast.  Trying to flag him down did not help as he thought I was only waving plus in trying to follow him, with the numerous corners and spur roads, he lost me.  I found out later that he and his son had chased a buck into some reprod so he was on his way to get a upper road in hopes of intersecting it.

I was TIRED and it was getting late.  I knew there was usually a game check station at Randle between me and home, but decided to tell what happened and if they believed me, donate the smaller deer to the wardens for food for the jails.  Well, this night, no check station, so after getting home, my wife put her unfilled tag on a deer.

(Z2) On a deer hunt in Montana in 2009, we located a wheat stubble field where Whitetail had torn down about all the fences along the county road where they came up out of a draw, crossed the road and entered this field.  There was about 4" of snow on the ground.  This field was probably 600 yards long by 300 yards wide.  We got there early in the afternoon so we could claim our spots.  Along the county road in the edge of the field was a irrigation system mounted on large wheels about every 40' for almost 500 yards total length.  It was driven by 2 gas motors spaced along the pipe.  My son-in-law took up the far southwest corner of the field, the grandson on the south end of the pipes with me taking up a spot about 150 yards from the northern end of the pipe and the access road.  I took my stand not 20' from the county road against one of these large irrigation pipe wheels having my back to the road as I really expected any deer to come out of the draw behind me and I did not want to be tempted to shoot toward the road.

The plan was to stay until we got animals or until legal shooting hours ended.  About 15 minutes before shooting hours ended, a doe came into the field north of me and near the access road.  It was getting dark enough that with my binoculars it was hard to really see well.  I solved that problem the next year buying a set of Leupold Cascades in 10X42.    My thoughts then were then "if things are going to happen it will have to be pretty darn soon".  About 5 minutes to countdown my grandson called on the walkie talkie and said "Grandpa do you see that buck out in front of you".   If it had not been for the snow background, I would not have been able to pick him out.  I had just seen him, along with another smaller deer in the middle of the field, both heading towards and in front of me, toward the doe just seconds before the grandson called.  I could not tell how big the horns were, but could tell that the lead deer was a decent buck.

I pulled down on him using the wheel of the irrigation system as a rest, but then, he was in line with one of the parking lots of the block management unit that we were hunting.  I let him keep trotting toward the doe, then at about 150 yards from me when he was well clear of the parking lot, I touched off my Remington 760 pump in 35 Whelen.  It was 3 minutes to count down.  At the muzzle flash, it took me a bit to regain my night vision.  This buck speeded up but was still heading for the doe.  By the time I got back onto him with the scope and was about to pull the trigger again, he was running, then without slowing down he reared high in the air, falling over on his back.  I was watching all this thru the scope.    I then called the grandson back and just said "Yes, I saw him".

That 250 gr. slug took him right thru both lungs.  He was not a symmetrical or heavy horned deer, a 8 point by their standards, but to me it was a decent 3 point Whitetail with eye guards.  And the timing on this one did not allow me to be picky as the season was nearing the end, as this was a "Hail Mary" shot.

Montana Whitetail mentioned above

(Z3) In 2010 I did not get drawn for a non-resident deer tag in Montana, but did purchase a nonresident Whitetail doe tag.  I had filled my tag the day before so was simply a spotter/dragger the next day.  My 2 grandsons and son-in-law had made a hunt for Whitetail across a few small brushy draws between sagebrush openings but did not see anything.

The son-in-law had located some Mule deer on a steep hillside behind a farm pasture.  The 2 does with 1 yearling were feeding a goodly distance up the ridge that was covered with sagebrush some juniper lower down with grass and juniper farther up.  The son-in-law said he had seen a buck up there also.  After a lot of glassing, I spotted a 4 point Mule deer bedded down some distance away from the does.  The son-in-law and younger grandson decided to try for him by going up on the far side of an adjacent ridge then hoping to break out to where they could see him.  But he moved before they got beyond the base of the hill.

They finally spotted him and a doe farther down the hill but near the timber of the opposite draw.  The son-in-law shot at slightly less than 200 yards with a Tikka 300 Win short magnum.  The buck went down, then got up and went into the timber heading toward the farther draw.  The hunters went up on the other side of the draw (which was open with some small sagebrush) toward where the deer had headed.  Much searching that hillside and into the timber of that side of the draw but could not find him.  The older grandson went to where the buck was but could not find any blood.

I called the son-in-law on the walkie-talkie telling him that if the deer was hit bad he would probably NOT go uphill.  They finally found him piled up in the bottom of this small rocky draw at the edge of the timber.  The bullet had entered high just under the backbone at the top rear of the right front shoulder, clipped the top of the lungs, traveled thru the guts then exited just in front of the left rear ham.  With a hit this high there was not a lot of shock administered to the animal and no blood-trail.  This high velocity round caused a lot of hemorrhaging with bloodshot tissue between the right shoulder and the ribs.

(Z4)  I will tell one on my deceased little brother.  When he was probably about 13 years old, he, my father, brother-in-law and I were hunting near the end of a county road where there was a logging road that took off just before the end.  At the end of this county road was an abandoned homestead that the timber company had demolished the house, but here was still an old abandoned orchard.  Around this orchard was a small patch of NICE Douglas fir timber.  This logging road took off & headed east up onto about 3/4 the way to the top of the ridges then shirted around the edges of numerous finger ridges.  The main canyon led down to the orchard and this timber.  Another logging road extending up from the end of the county road following the main creek.

We all had walked in on the first logging road, hunted from the top down into the bottom.  None of us saw any deer.  It started to rain.  We had been beating the brush all morning in not so flat ground of these finger ridges with lots of tangled underbrush left after the logging.  We were tired, wet because when the day started out it did not look like rain, so no raincoat (learned another lesson, carry a light raincoat).  We met on one of the landings of the finger ridges about 1/2 way in & decided to call it quits.  We all started out the long way walking the logging road.  My little brother was packing a old crudely converted 7.7 Jap rifle with peep sights that I had given him.  He asked me for my binoculars as he wanted to drop off the top then go directly down thru the bottom again, thru the timber and orchard, then to the vehicle.  OK, I loaned him my 8x30 binoculars.

When we finally hit the county road we met a couple of elderly hunters who were driving out.  They were laughing about the young man who had a toe head buck deer that had funny looking SMALL spikes only about 1/2" long.  In this state the law describing horns says "A boney growth visible above the hair" as being legal.   These old guys were sure that what boney growth that was showing on this deer had NOT rubbed off naturally by the deer.  OH NO, this had to be my little brother Dan.  To his dying day he never admitted that he rubbed that skin off those nubbins.

He did say that since it was raining pretty hard and when he got into the timber that he saw this deer hunkered up near a big fir tree facing away from him.  He put the binoculars on the deer.  He saw testicles so he shot.

(Z5)  Another on my little brother, and this happened in the same logging area as the immediate previous example, only 5 or 6 years later.  He was using the same rifle as depicted above.  We were again hunting this area, but in newer logging above the old road described above.  Our thoughts were to hunt the top of the ridges that now had been logged about 4 years before then to drop down to the old road that skirted the upper finger ridges, using this old road as a rendezvous and easy way out.

We all split up along the top of the main ridge, working our way down toward the road.  My little brother had not spent the time with dad, Gene or I hunting (he had girls on his mind more than hunting) and had not become accustomed to looking more than walking.  He made his part of the hunt before the rest of us, hitting the road before we did.  At this point he had a involuntary premonition of a bowl movement.  Being a young man and not wanting to expose himself to the world at the outer point of the road, he backed up the road into one of the draws that the road went into to do his mother nature call.

There he sat against the upper shoulder of the road with his pants down around his ankles when this spike deer came running off the bank between him and the outer bend of the road, stopping at maybe 20 yards.  He happened to be holding his rifle over his knees.  He pulled the rifle to his shoulder while still in the nature call position and fired.  The deer ran for the point of the road, then disappeared from his view.

When we got there, here was my brother, but no deer.  He was sure he had hit it.  We tracked it in the clay roadside and the tracks went right off the point of the road as if into thin air as if using as hang glider.  Gene and I went over this STEEP clay bank looking for the deer or tracks.  We found nothing until Gene while going back up this steep bank to the road, grabbed a fir limb of a bushy scrub fir that had been bladed over the bank during the road construction.  This tree was laying over the bank, horizontal and a few feet below the roadbed.  When Gene grabbed ahold of this limb, a drop of blood hit him in the face.  He looked UP.  Here was the dead deer tangled in this bushy scrub fir not 10' off the shoulder of the road but totally invisible from above.

(Z6)  This is not one of my experiences but does not pertain to shot placement, but focusing on looking for game.  I had a friend, who was a father-in-law to my now ex brother-in-law, old Jim, who raised 13 kids.  Wild game was something he used extensively to feed the family.  This particular season was very dry and the deer were not in their normal locations.  He hunted Weyerhaeuser logged off land in the St Helens area where there were more roads on top of the ridges than in the bottoms. What he found in this dry season was that there were a few small springs high up on the hillsides that held enough water that the deer were staying close to them instead of near their normal watering areas.

He would line the boys up on one main finger ridge, send them off across the draws, side hilling the smaller finger ridges to the next large finger ridge an possibly to a road.  This way if anything was spooked out someone would get a shot (usually him).  Since he was the oldest and the commanding officer of the group, he took the shortest route and high ground either on or just below the upper road.

This particular morning with the drive in process, his path put him rather close to the road on this particular finger ridge.  In front of him on the next finger ridge was a pull out on the road that went right to the edge of the draw which had a pickup truck and a slide-in camper parked there, backed in so that if the owner opened the camper door, he was overlooking the whole canyon.

Old Jim, being very observant spotted a buck bedded down right below a log on the brow of this ridge DIRECTLY below the camper.  He shot the deer.  The hunter inside the camper came boiling out.  "What in the hell are you shooting at here, there is no buck near here"?  Jim walked over to behind the camper and pointed to his now dead buck laying not 10' over the bank.  The camper hunter was flabbergasted, he had been watching Jim's sons work these side hills, with only one doe had been pushed out.

Now the rest of the story is that on top of this buck's back was potato peelings that the camper hunter had thrown out his camper door that morning when he was preparing his breakfast.

(Z7)  In the photo below is the evidence of what you may expect when using a large magnum caliber rifle and hitting a deer at close range. 

This instance was with the deer facing but very slightly quartering and coming slightly uphill toward the shooter.  Not much of a chance for a normal broadside shot here and offhand a neck shot was not going to be a option because of a fast walk across a large field.  The hold was about center of the body, but the impact was lower, entering between the shoulder and the ribcage, through the front ribcage, obliterating the heart as seen in a photo above.  Then traveling lengthwise inside the body cavity, doing damage to the lower part of the left lung, exiting the ribcage clipping the next to the last rib on the opposite side, with the bullet jacket coming to rest just under the skin at the flank in front of the rear leg.  If there was any guts hit, it was minimal as nothing was seen when field dressing.  Surprisingly there was minimal loss of meat as the shoulder was not touched and after the bloodshot tissue was cleaned / trimmed off most meat was salvaged and made into hamburger.

If this shot had been taken with a rifle of lesser velocity, the damage would have been less.  The other option would be to pass on the shot, or shoot higher for the neck above the body.

 This is what can happen.  Here the shoulder has been removed, allowing access to trim the bloodshot tissue off

 (Z8)  This is a bit different in that no shots were fired.  The fall of 2012 in south central Montana, I was deer/elk hunting alone as the grandson was working that day.  I drove up into a National Forest to a location where there was a 4 way road intersection.  The western branch of the road was abandoned and had been taken over as a community 150 yard rifle range.  I had hunted in other areas off one of the roads that continued on, but this day decided to hunt off this abandoned road, circling to the south and connect to the incoming side road I came in on off the main road in the bottom.  Since I was alone, I decided to carry my handheld GPS unit so that if I happened to get something, I could mark the location.

As I prepared to depart from this intersection/rifle range, I turned on the GPS, -- batteries low.  So I swapped the AA batteries from my pocket camera.  I walked the few feet from my pickup to the firing line, kicked a few fired 44 Magnum cases against one of the large rocks blocking off this road (so I could easily locate them later).  I was standing on a flat round level rock and heard a noise ahead of me and to the edge of the small clearing that a side cat road that emerged into the rifle range.  Out steps cow moose and stops at the 50 yard target.  She stands there for about 10 minutes, looking onto her back-trail at times.  She slowly moves off the old road and small clearing, to stop just inside the timber to the south, still looking back.

I hear more branches breaking and out comes a small 4 point (4 on one side) bull moose at 40 yards from me (I stepped it off later).  A few minutes later another bull, (7 points) joins the younger one.  A few minutes later, more noise and here shows a 10 point full beamed bull.  The small bull nuzzles the older bull.  I stand there motionless for probably a total of 30 minutes plus, total, counting the time watching of the cow.   Then the bulls slowly move off following the cow.

Here I stand motionless with a camera without batteries and so close that I dared not move.  As they moved off, I tried to use my cell phone as a camera, but in that area without much reception, the battery was low and was not enough to allow the cell phone to even take a photo.

OH well, nice memories.

And you thought you had a bad day !
 

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Originated 11-21-2010, Last updated 01-07-2017 
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