Rancher friend asked me yesterday if I wanted to bring a friend and cull a couple does today. As always, I was more than willing.
We showed up around 3:30 and gathered our gear to head out to the same knoll my boy had shot his buck from. We spread some corn in the road to stop the deer and got set up laying prone in our spot. My buddy was using a custom built Remington 700 shooting Hornady 168gr A-Max TAP ammunition. I was using my custom Remington XP-100 Specialty Pistol in .260 Remington shooting 130gr Berger Hunting VLD bullets.
Now, a little history on this XP-100. I've had it for a few years and shot a doe with this gun/bullet combination back when I first got it. In that instance, I shot her broadside at 100ish yards and the bullet pretty much penciled it's way through the doe. Only opening about 1-2" prior to exiting and leaving a 3" crater in the off side shoulder and hide. The doe ran a short distance into the brush and fell over. Leaving no blood on the ground. I did my full autopsy on the vitals and found little damage to the lungs. The saving grace being that I struck the aorta at the top of the heart and saw the doe go down.
I was very displeased with the bullet performance and shelved the gun until I could work up a load with 140gr A-Max bullets. Planning to use the rest of my loaded Berger ammunition as target ammo. Well, I finally worked up a 140gr A-Max load, but for my .260 Remington hunting rifle. Hoping the same load would shoot well in the XP-100. At the range last week, the A-Max load proved to not be as consistent in the XP as I would like. Crap! But, the Berger load shot OH SO NICE still!!!
I thought I'd give them another try for hunting. Maybe my previous experience was a fluke. So, I loaded them in the gun and waited for a doe.
We didn't have to wait long before several deer showed up. We picked out two lone does and the ready or not game began. We were going to try a simultaneous shot on the two deer. But, the rancher wanted them to be head shots as he didn't want the deer to run off. Trying to accommodate, my buddy and I tracked our respective deer as they meandered, fed, stood in front of, or behind other deer. It was a frustrating endeavor. When I had a clear shot, he didn't. When he did........I didn't. After about 10 minutes of this, I told my buddy to just take his shot. If my doe stuck around afterwards, I would shoot her then. So, his doe finally stood still at about 100 yards and he sent a 168gr A-Max bullet from his .308 Winchester into her head and God dropped a sledge hammer on that deer. The sound of the bullet impacting her head was akin to someone popping a large paper sack. With a resounding "POP", the hammer dropped and that deer hit the ground in an instant. I was impressed.
Deer scattered and I tracked mine. Stopping at the edge of the brush, like Lot's wife, she looked back at the carnage for an instant. And I sent a 130gr Berger Hunting VLD into her skull just below her right ear.
"She's running! You shot her in the jaw!"
Recovering from recoil, I see the doe running to my left (she had been facing to my right) and entering the brush.
Son on a @#%!!!!!!
I was NOT a Happy Camper. I had just let the deer down. I had let my buddy down. I had let my rancher friend down. Piss poor performance is NOT acceptable!!!
I stood up, packed my gear, left the XP on the ground, grabbed my G40 and started for the brush.
"Where are you going?", my rancher friend asked.
"I'm gonna go get that deer", I replied.
"You know how thick that brush is on that hill. She's not bleeding. You'll never find her and if you do, you'll never sneak up on her in that thick stuff. She'll show up in a few days looking for water and I'll shoot her", he said.
"I can't do that. I screwed up. I can't NOT look for her. I gotta try."
My buddy asked if I wanted him to go with me.
"Nope. You take care of your deer. I'm gonna go find mine." With pissed off determination, I hunkered down and entered the brush, pistol in hand.
Two feet into the brush, I saw a bright drop of blood. Then..........another........and another........and another! With increasing volume, I found more and more. Then, 10 yards into the brush, it stopped. What?!? Ain't no way a deer bleeds that much bright blood and stops! I pause and look at the sign. Looking at the blood splatter, I see the spray arching in a fan to my right. Looking behind, I see the same fan.
Ha!!! She stopped and spun around here!!! Going back the way I'd come for about 3 yards, the trail dog legged to my right. The doe had back tracked and taken another trail! Now, it looked like someone had taken a sports bottle full of blood and just sprayed it frantically all over the brush. 7 more yards down the trail, I see a white tail laying on the ground. And.........it ain't moving. crouching down on my hands and knees, I see the doe laying on her side. Dead.
Piecing the mad dash together, the doe had made it 10 yards into the brush and her brain said, "you're done". She stopped, and in a faltering determination I know many have seen a deer do, she spun around and stumbled the last few yards in sheer determination. Hitting the ground as the last swath of life's blood spewed from her throat.
I called my friend on the phone and said, "Dead deer."
I heard him tell my buddy in the background, "Load up. We gotta go get another deer. He found her." It had taken me about 10 minutes.
Now the science.
My buddy and I had taken almost the EXACT same shot on our respective deer!!! Facing to our right and slightly away, we had BOTH placed our rounds at the base of the on side ear and about 1" below. Trying to take out the brain stem and off side of the cranial vault.
His deer's entrance wound:
My deer's entrance wound:
His deer's exit wound:
My deer's exit wound:
Now, granted there are probably some minor differences in the angle. Mine appears to exit slightly lower than his. Or, at least, I ASSUME!! Seeing as his deer is missing the ENTIRE off side of her skull! I can only guess at the exit trajectory of his round. But, mine..........in quite mundane fashion..........poked a hole through her with little fanfare other than a quarter size wound on the off side.
It's kinda obvious what killed my buddy's deer. She had no BRAIN left!!!
On research, I discovered that I had severed the on side carotid artery and the windpipe. Possibly even the off side carotid artery being damaged as well due to secondary trauma. She had bled more than any heart/lung shot deer I've ever taken and had run 28 yards total. In comparison, my boy's deer over Thanksgiving had run 137 yards with it's heart blown up (literally).
So, what went wrong?
Well, I obviously could/should have hit her maybe 1" higher and actually bisected the brain. That's a given. But, the same shot placement from my buddy's .308 Winchester and A-Max bullet LITERALLY blew his deer's brains out!!!
Expansion? Hydrostatic shock? Velocity? All the above?
I do know that his bullet blew her brains out and mine penciled it's way through. Fortunately taking out the most important arteries on the way. I am not happy with my shot. Conversly, I am not happy with the performance of the Berger Bullet..........again.
I will not lay all the blame on the bullet. Had I actually hit the brain, I could have used a FMJ and ended this right there. But, one inch low and my round acting like a FMJ just poked through her like an ice pick while the A-Max caused catastrophic trauma.
Maybe I'm not pushing the Bergers fast enough? Maybe I got a bad batch? I don't know. I do know this is the second case of penciling a round through a deer with this load. Burn me once......shame on you. Burn me twice............shame on me.
I knew better and I did it anyway. I'm a fool. I'm just glad it worked out in the end.
I know Berger makes some good bullets. An acquaintance uses them with resounding effect in a 7mm STW that I load for him and is very pleased. This is my 3rd bad experience with Berger (6.5cal x2 and 7mm x1). I love ya, Berger. But..........piss off! I have 150 rounds of target ammo for my .260 Remingtons.
A-Max it is.
I am more than willing to discuss any theory you guys may have in this case. I'm all ears.