I was sitting in my blind… The same blind I had been sitting in day after day for the past few months. It sat on the edge of a pile of bails in the corner of the field. I had started there sitting on pail with my bow across my lap, by now bow season had come and gone and I had along the way upgraded to a ground blind and a folding chair. I had also upgraded to an old Steyr-Mannlicher rifle chambered in .270 win that my aunt and uncle had given me. They had decided that they didn’t want their guns anymore and gave them all away. I was more than happy to accept it. When I first got it, it had a scope but I found it didn’t shoulder very well with it on because the scope sat too high. So I took it off and sighted it in at 100 yards with the iron sights, just as the factory intended. That old gun with those iron sights made me a little nostalgic for something I never had… I love to read, especially books about the old adventure hunters in the early and mid 20th century like Capstick, Corbett, Bell, and Selous. They all used open sights, mostly because optics technology was in its infancy, and partly because the reliability of sights. They were all also prone to fancy European rifles. Holding and shouldering this rifle, every time I blinked I could imagine standing in a humid jungle waiting for the Man-Eater of Kumoan to walk around a rock. Needless to say, I am fond of this rifle and am prone to waxing poetic about nearly any rifle. So lets move the story along.
There I was, sitting tired in my blind. I had faced crushing embarrassment and disappointment during bow season. I had missed four, yes 4 shots, at does with my bow up to that point. They were all clean misses and they were all my fault, for four different reasons. The first was a forty yard shot, that is a distance I can easily shoot in practice with field points, but I didn’t realize that broadheads fly drastically different at that range. I grouped my hunting arrows and found that beyond 30 yards the group just opened up too much to be reasonable. The second miss I was too excited and rushed, it was buck fever, plain and simple, well except for the fact it was a doe. This was really starting to drain on my confidence since I am usually a very talented marksman. The third and fourth happened back to back on the same deer. First I misjudged my distance and shot clear over her back. She snorted and circled around and stopped 20 yards from the blind, a perfect broadside shot was looking at me.. I drew my bow, took a deep breath, and steadied the top pin right perfect behind the shoulder. My release was perfect, there was a strange flump sound and the fletching grazed the bottom of her ribs. She looked at me funny, and trotted off unscathed. I sat flabbergasted staring at the hole in the side of my blind. I had been holding my bow too low causing me to shoot through the side of the blind, thus slowing my arrow and ruining its trajectory…
After these misses I started to think I should sell my gear and take up golf. I remember what an old co-worker of mine once told me. He was an older fellow and had certainly been around the block a time or two and was undoubtedly the best salesman I ever knew. He once told me, all he ever wanted to do was be a farmer he said “I tried and tried for years to be a farmer, my wife and I bought a place and we worked it right down to our last dime. We had rainy springs, drought in the summer, and falling grain prices. I tried and tried, and God simply wouldn’t let it happen.”. Now I am not a particularly religious man, but you’ve almost gotta believe in divine intervention to miss those kinds of shots. Maybe I just want meant to be a hunter.
My wife, of course, figured I was just being silly and gave me a pep talk.. Or maybe she saw how much a set of golf clubs is worth? Either way, she reminded me that that is the nature of hunting and if it were easy I probably would have a different hobby. I had the whole month of November off and she had no intention of letting me and my wounded pride sit on the couch. So I packed up and headed to my mom and step-dads farm, I had historically had good luck there and this year I was awarded a tag for a mule deer doe. I spend just over a week sitting in my moms house hoping the weather would drop. It was simply too hot to go hunting, anything I shot would spoil before we could butcher it and get it in the freezer… My options were to go north to my dads where it was colder, or go look at golf clubs, at least then I could enjoy the heat. I opted to go home for a day and then head north to my dads.
I packed my new to me .270 and headed north. I immediately changed into my hunting gear when I arrived and went to my same old blind that had caused me so much doe frustration during the bow season. I sat for a few hours with my rifle across my lap hoping something would walk by. Finally, just after sunset before last legal light, a doe wandered out to the edge of the field, about 100 yards out. I watched her with my binoculars, she wasn’t small, but she certainly wasn’t big. There were also two more deer behind her, I could barely see them in the trees. I was losing light fast and had to make a decision, I flipped the safety off on the gun, then she turned. I flipped the safety back on and waited.. This happened a few more times. Finally I decided that’s it, now or never. I flipped the safety off shouldered and aimed. I could barely make out the black steel bead on my rifle against her sides in the darkness. Finally she turned broadside and I squeezed off a round. It sounded like the blind was going to launch into orbit, my ears were ringing, the shoot-through-mesh in front of me shredded and the blind filled with smoke. I chambered another round and looked at my doe on the ground. She was thrashing a bit, as they sometimes do.. it hurts to see and I considered shooting again but it would be at the cost of meat which was my purpose for shooting her.. Then she stood up again, and I realized I hadn’t made a very good shot. I quickly shouldered and shot, she went down this time without a twitch. I set the timer on my watch. I like to give deer at least five minutes of peace and quiet after I shoot. I need that time to organize my thoughts, let what happened sink in, calm down, and make a plan. I also like to give that animal a few minutes of peace in their final moments. If they are still alive, I dont want to scare them or have them jump up and run. I never take my eyes of the deer during this time. I had a friend who told me he once shot a beautiful white tail buck, it dropped like a bag of hammers. So he got up and did a victory dance, complete with a spin or two and when he turned around, his deer was gone, never to be seen again, no blood trail, nothing. Don’t get cocky, and do not take your eyes off the prize.
I dug out my tag, texted my dad to come get me with the truck and then headed over to the doe. I walked up from behind and touched her eye with my barrel to ensure she was dead. This, I am told, is the best way. If the animal is at all conscious it will blink, so its an easy and clear test, approaching from their back also ensure that if they are alive and they get up and run, they wont do it over you or give you a quick kick. I looked at my shooting, The first shot was high and far back and the second shot was a little higher than I wanted. It had hit both lungs and the spine. It was the absolute highest I could have hit and still be considered “kill zone”. I also noticed that it wasn’t a she, it was a he. It turned out to be a very small buck, his antlers were only little buttons hidden under his fur, hence being called a button buck, so it still counted as an “antlerless” which is convenient for me.
I was relieved to have some meat for the freezer. I was also reminded persistence pays off and that shooting iron sights is not as easy as it seems. Like many things, it is slowly becoming a lost art. I found that with that course sight the entire kill zone disappeared behind it, yet I have seen people shoot amazing groupings at much farther distances with similar sights. I guess more practice is warranted. I also decided to try butchering this deer myself, it went well, but it was obvious I need much more practice at it.
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