Dawn broke this morning on the last day of Tennessee's deer season, and I have been thoroughly skunked. I've had many shot opportunities on various game that, for one reason or another, didn't result in a kill. That changed this morning.
This deer season, I had three firearms I wanted to take game with: my new 327 Federal Encore build, my granddad's now straight-shooting Mark V 300 Weatherby Magnum, and my 460 Encore, with emphasis on the first two. Unfortunately, deer sightings have been down these past few years, especially early on in the seasons. Some of the nearby farmers haven't managed to get their soybeans harvested, so even my green food plots failed to adequately draw in deer.
The Saturday before Christmas, I began deer hunting again after the December lull with emphasis on getting a doe for the meat. From then until now, I had both weapons raised, ready to fire three times each, but didn't manage to kill anything. With the 327, I missed an easy shot on a close coyote because I didn't realize the muzzle was obscured by the edge of the hay bale I was hiding behind. The second time, a doe came within 40 yards of my position, but downwind, and she bolted before I could shoot. The third time, while trying to aim at a doe at twilight, her companion saw me move and blew a warning before they both ran away.
Similarly, I had that 300 Weatherby aimed at the aforementioned coyote as it ran, and two does on two different mornings but declined to take the shot on any.
As it turns out, though, the 4th time's the charm.The Last Morning
At 7:00 this morning, as I hid between the bales of my hay bale blind on the hill in the 14 acre hay field, I spied a doe along the left edge some distance away. She was alone, barely 10 yards out of the trees 261 yards from my position according to my rangefinder. Before I reached for the Weatherby, the doe looked intently behind her a few times, as though something was behind her. Thinking it might be a buck or more does, I decided to wait. To my dismay, the doe turned tail and ran back into the woods. I was dejected, fearing I just lost the last opportunity of the dear season. However, at about 7:30, my luck finally changed.
The doe reemerged, crossing the field left to right confidently. I raised the rifle, the hay bale acting as a perfectly steady benchrest. Then, another doe appeared. She was about the same size. Then, a third, noticeably larger than the others. She was the one. I flipped the safety off. Before I could shoot though, three more does trotted into the field, and my target took off with them. I looked up to see the first two does almost across the field. In the time it took me to grab my grunt tube, the rear four had travelled halfway across the field.
At the sound of an aggressive grunt, they all stopped. Having lost track of which doe I originally targeted, I swiftly scanned the four rearmost ones and settled on the one I thought was largest. They still appeared to be around 250 yards, so I raised the crosshairs and centered the top of the first BDC circle on the doe. Deep breath, exhale, slowly squeeze the trigger. My grandfather's 300 Weatherby, having spent the previous two decades in a safe due to a severe accuracy problem that I finally solved this spring, shattered the morning silence. The doe turned away, but fell to the ground without further movement.
I ejected the massive Weatherby case and closed the bolt on another round. The five remaining does were startled, but didn't run off. They quickly regrouped, looking around for the source of the noise. I lay the rifle down, content with my harvest. I finally had some venison, and the late Cary Weldon's grandson at long last killed a deer with his favorite gun. Another Opportunity
But then, one of the does began walking toward me, closer and closer to my southeast, and my heart began to pound as I realized the real hunt had only just begun. If I could get one of them within about 100 yards, my 327 Encore could finally taste blood. Before she got within range, the sun rose and caused too much glare on the scope's lens to see her through it. The lone doe soon returned to the others. They milled around for about 20 minutes, alternatively looking around and grazing.
Eventually, one of the does began walking directly toward me, and the rest began to follow. The first ones vanished behind the second, smaller hill in the field, the top of which I knew to be 100 yards away exactly. My heart began to pound again, adrenaline flowing, exciting me in a way that, I admit, rifle hunting never does for me anymore. When the last one had disappeared behind the hilltop, I quickly moved the 327 into position just a moment before the first head appeared at the top of the hill. The first does abruptly cut to my left, attempting to cross the narrow treeline into the neighbor's field. I only had seconds to act.
Not wanting to have to track a deer across adjacent properties, I ignored the first three does that were pointed toward and rapidly approaching or already crossing through the trees. The fourth doe appeared, quartering towards me - this was it. I raised my head, found her through the scope, and pulled the hammer back. These actions gave away my position, and the does all paused, watching me. Once again, I inhaled, settled the crosshairs (more difficult this time because of my excitement), exhaled, and slowly squeezed the trigger.
The struck doe turned and ran back down behind the hill, with the others following closely behind. I grabbed the Weatherby again, ready for a quick followup shot. The five does reappeared beyond the hill, the leftmost one hobbling at an angle. She slowed to a halt, stumbled side to side, then fell to the ground.Aftermath
After following up on the does, I ranged the hay bales from where I had shot both. The mighty 300 Weatherby dropped the first doe on the spot at a distance of 236 yards. The second doe was 104 yards away when I hit her with the 327 Federal Encore, and she ran 81 yards. Not bad, all things considered.
The handloaded 150 grain Hornady SST from the Weatherby hit the first doe dead center just behind her front legs at about 2,780 fps, taking out a rib, both lungs, and annihilating the top of the heart before exiting.
Conversely, the 100 grain XTP from the 327 impacted the second doe at a mere 1,400 fps. I hit her a little low, just below her shoulder, but still managed to clip the heart and puncture the liver. I was surprised to see that it exited her midsection on the opposite side.Final Thoughts
My season's over, but it ended on one heck of a high note. I finally managed to kill a deer with my grandfather's 300 Weatherby. He had retired the gun because it wouldn't shoot better than 7-8 inches at 100 yards, and asked me to help him figure out the issue. Sadly, he died before I managed to solve the problem - a bad muzzlebrake. Even though I'm a handgunner at heart, it just felt appropriate to use the old Mark V one last time in his memory.
I've really grown to appreciate the 327 Federal. It's decently accurate and very pleasant to shoot. Although the cartridge is a bit light for deer hunting, it killed the doe, and honestly, she didn't run as far as the one I hit at about the same distance with my 460 S&W last year. Just goes to show how crucial shot placement is.