I started hunting deer before my teens. My grandparents and uncle had a camp close to the Mississippi River out from Vicksburg and I was allowed to guest hunt there. Needless to say deer were plentiful and in between my naps in the deer stand, it was a heck of a lot of fun chasing them around with with grandpa, Uncle Bubba and my cousins. My first deer rifle was a .270 and dang near as long as I was tall.
As soon as I was old enough to drive I got a job and shortly thereafter joined my first deer camp in Utica, Mississippi. To make a long story short, lets just say the .270 let me down a few times. In all likelihood it was the Indian and not the arrow, but since this is my story I will tell it how I remember it. Anyway, I decided to go with a more suitable rifle.
My dad and I loaded up and headed off for the gun show where we traded the .270 for a little bigger gun. It was an 8mm magnum to be precise. From that point forward I have been fascinated with larger caliber deer rifles. There is no doubt that smaller caliber, non-magnum rifles will get the job done (with the exception of the .270. I still hate that gun and find it of use for nothing other than squirrels). However, I really like the added margin of safety the big guns bring.
Fast forward another year. All of my friends that hunted were moving towards Browning A-bolts with a Leupold 3-9×50 scope on top. I wanted one……..alot! After saving up all my cash from working, I had a grand total of $1000. Not $1001 or even $1000.01. Since I was still well under 18 and couldn’t buy a gun, I called my dad to ride along and sign the necessary paperwork. We arrived at the store I generally traded with and they ran down a parts list. Browning A-bolt in .300 Win. Mag, Leupold 3-9×50, scope mounts, and a box of shells. Check, check, check and check. Out the door price would be $1060.
Even back then I tried to bargain. That comes from my papaw. The man could sell popsicles in Antarctica. Unfortunately, not enough of his bargaining skill passed down to me or the fella behind the counter figured that my dad and I would give in on the extra $60. My problem was that I didn’t have an extra $60 and come hell or high water, this was going to be the first gun I purchased entirely by myself. So off we went to another local store. I explained my dilemma to the man behind the gun counter and he smiled. A handshake and short time later, I left with exactly the gun and scope I wanted, 2 boxes of bullets, a sling, a fist full of targets and had $40 left over. Until that store closed earlier this year, I remembered how nicely they treated me as a kid and always bought things there.
That Browning gun was the death of many a deer over the years. 69 deer in fact. For each one, I cut a little notch in the stock.
Sometime a bit over 10 years ago the “get a bigger gun” bug bit me again so I bought a 7mm Remington Ultra Mag and put the Browning in the gun safe. For the last couple of years, I thought about pulling the .300 out of retirement and taking it hunting. After much procrastination, I got it sighted in this year and took it along a few times without success.
On December 29, 2012, my luck changed. My best friend asked if I wanted to go with him to another friend of our’s place not far from our deer camp. It didn’t take too much arm twisting. I joked around that “today was going to be the day for number 70 with the old Browning.” As it turned out, I was right.
We got there around 3:00 and a flock of turkeys greeted me at the stand. I counted over 20 before they started moving off. About 30 minutes later, a smaller flock come back out yelping and kee-keeing. After they moved off, a group of does came through. I pondered whether number 70 should be a big fat nanny doe, but decided against it. Shortly thereafter, that big fat nanny doe moved directly downwind and started blowing. I don’t mean she blew a couple of times and eased off. She stood behind a tree and blew for what seemed like an eternity alerting every critter in northwest Hinds County. She continued to blow as she ran off the length of a few football fields. At that point my perceived probability of success was somewhere around negative 30.
As luck would have it, three more does came out a short while later. They walked close enough that I expected them to spook at any moment, but thankfully they didn’t.
They eased across a food plot headed toward a young fella that was hunting with us. He hasn’t killed a deer this year so I sent him a quick text message to let him know they were headed his way. As I put away the phone, my attention focused back on the does feeding. A few minutes later, I heard a faint iiiick, iiick to my right. When I turned my eyes to see what it was, there was a buck standing 20 feet away. Not just any buck, but a buck we caught on video for the last two years. He was picking up leaves where the does had been standing and rolling them around in his mouth like a chew of tobacco. It was this love struck buck’s unlucky day. I shouldered the .300 and waited for him to take a step into a small opening while telling myself “don’t screw this up” a couple of times. With the squeeze of the trigger he was off on a death run. I gave him a little time and eased down to find that the bullet had reached its mark.
Rather than immediately tracking down the deer, I backed out. At the truck, I had a little fun with my friend telling him that I accidentally shot a spike. After he was sufficiently red in the face, I broke the news that Big Willy was down. We went back to camp and retrieved his Texas Blue Lacy dog, Rowdy, and came back to track the deer. Rowdy is young and still learning, but he followed this track like the buck had a biscuit tied to his hindquarter. All in all, it was a good day with great friends.
Oh yeah, I got to scratch out number 70! I hunted with it again this morning, but number 71 wasn’t to be. Maybe next time.