I started round-balling, and it wasn’t until about a year later that I saw there was a statewide muzzleloader season in Ohio. When you’re in data processing, the first week in January is tough to get off. Accounting usually wants to close out the books. Oh well.
Ten years later, I finally got the piece out in the field to hunt deer. Kentucky had a season in October, and I was determined to get out and give it a try. I had tried shooting mine ball a few times, but this was definitely a round ball gun. I think the twist was something like 1 in 48”. Mine ball just kind of flew wherever it wanted. However, from a bow hunter’s perspective, at 25 yards who cares? I remember it snowed on me. I remember I jumped a huge doe that was hiding in some tall grass just by the side of the road. She made two bounds and disappeared. I didn’t even have time to put a cap on the nipple. Oh well.
Over the past ten years, I’ve been out hunting probably a dozen times with the Hawken. Getting a deer with the muzzleloader was not a real high priority, but it was something that a bowhunter could readily embrace—close range, not a whole lot of crowds. Muzzleloader season in KY, when I had a place to go was a nice break in between early season and the pre-rut. I had a near miss one year with a doe, I had a misfire once on a nice buck.
The Hawken has played a subtle but pervasive role in my life. I was in the process of cleaning it the day my future wife dropped in for her first visit. I was running late and I had to think fast. I offered the excuse that I needed a shower before our date began. I jumped into the shower with the barrel.
Then there was the time I left my barrel soaking in bore cleaner, so I could go take care of the baby crying. When I got back, I had the bluing totally ate off for the first foot or so. That’s why the original barrel has a nice plumb brown finish. I actually like it better that way.
A year ago, I finally got serious about bagging a deer. I ordered up a 54 caliber IBS barrel from Green Mountain with a 1-in-28” twist. The new barrel was about half the cost of a new-fangled inline. I shot everything I could think of out of it, but could not get a decent pattern. I tried pyrodex, 777, BP, sabots, mine, maxis, you name it. Finally, on opening day, I loaded up some Triple-7 and some buffalo bullets and figured I’d just have to hit them at 20 yards and under.
I had two good chances at doe that weekend. The first one was Saturday afternoon:
(From the 24HourCampfire)
At 4 PM today, I was in a hang-on stand overlooking a grove of oak near the farm's dump. A nice-sized doe walked up and stopped about 20 yards from my stand. This was opening day of Muzzleloader Season in KY. I wasn't particularly interested in the doe, so I warned her:
" You'd better get outta here. " I said to her . "If you don't, I'll make you dinner."
She just stood there. It was a perfect broadside shot. I had a brand new Green Mountain 1-in-28 barrel on my TC Hawken, and I had a Buffalo Bullets over 80grains of Triple-7.
Oh well, might as well take the doe and then I'll have a good start on filling the freezer-- that was what I was thinking
"You'd better get out." I repeated. No reaction. She just looked at me, so I brought up the rifle, aimed it at her boiler room and touched it off.
I have a perfect vision of a nice hit in the chest, just above and behind the front right leg. She took off on three legs and I watched her run about 80 yards, and I heard her go another 20 or so and then the sound stopped.
I got down, walked over, found the blood trail, followed it to where she stumbled over some downed cedars and . . .
. . . nothing. Two little blood splots and a clot of something that might have been lung, and then nothing. I checked the adjoining woods. I scoured the pasture. I got my son, my wife, my dog out. Nothing.
I came back after sundown and got the Coleman lantern to work. There's a blood trail up to the cedars and then nothing. The dog and I went back over the most likely spots for an hour and then we started getting shot at by the goombas over on the neighbor's property. They were blasting away from a neighboring hillside and started firing at us. I yelled, waived the lantern, but they kept shooting. So Barney and I high-tailed it back to the truck. They're still shooting, using my ridge as a backstop.
I am distraught. I just needed to vent.
The next evening I shot over a doe’s back. It was then I discovered the set screw on the William’s Firesight was loose. Oh well.
This year was far more propitious. I tried CVA powerbelts on top of 100 grains of Triple-7. They were shooting through the same hole at 40 yards. So were the Buffalo Bullets. Whatever had plagued me previously seemed to have disappeared. I tightened down on the rear sight and cased the rifle and knew something was going to change.
It did. Saturday started off better than expected. I had gone to bed expecting rain. However, when I got up, the last of the drizzle was leaving, and the radar showed clean to the West. I left my rain gear at home and went out. I was up in the stand and awaiting first light when the drizzle started up again. Over the next three hours, I became the proverbial frog in the frying pan. First it was drizzle. Then it was rain. I pulled my hunter orange wool poncho over me and hid under it. By Eight, I was getting heavy rain and wind, then thunder. I thought about bugging out, but I’d get wetter trying to leave than just staying put. So there I was for an hour, with the stand swaying and the wind blowing and the rain.
When it finally let up around 10, I got down and still-hunted my way home. I managed to sneak up on a flock of turkey, and practiced scattering them in anticipation of a December hunt. I pussyfooted for quite a ways before finally making the turn for house.
I had just mentally stopped hunting, when the tall grass to my side exploded with a massive snort, and then the form of a leaping doe. I leveled the barrel and waited for her to come back out of cover, but she disappeared into a draw, and the next I saw of her was at 300 yards. Oh well. She did pull up shortly after that and look back at me. I took off my cap and waived to her. She had bested me fair and square.
Just before I went in, I decided to see if I still had a live charge. I had not done anything to the weapon since leaving my stand.
That made me feel good. I had managed to keep the powder dry despite the deluge.
In the afternoon, I went out to Garbage Pit. It’s sounds gnarly, but it is actually a nice piece of Oak/Hickory savannah at the top of Beaver Seap. The previous owners used the adjoining field as a junk yard. The deer like to use the neighboring hillside for a bedding area and then come past my stand on their way to The Bottoms. As long as you do not look past the edge of the treeline, it is a beautiful park-like situation.
I got up in my stand around 4. The wind was stiff --15-20 out of the West-Southwest. I had an ample sway in the stand, but I figured if the wind died towards sundown, I might get some movement. Sure enough, around 5, I had two doe come in. If they had picked any other direction, it would not have mattered. However, this was directly over my left shoulder and directly on my downwind side. The lead doe winded me, but never saw me. She stayed out about 80 yards and snorted and fussed before moving off in another direction.
It was 6. I had sort of half-expected the two doe to do an end around and pass by me unseen. However, exactly an hour after I had first seen them, the same pair came back from roughly the same quarter traveling a slightly different path and moving cross-wind. I waited until the lead doe was even with my stand and then brought the barrel down on her chest.
The bullet lifted her off her feet and I still have a vision of her legs rolling in mid-air. She hit the ground and did not move. Her girlfriend was about 40 yards in back. She walked through the cloud of smoke and came up on her friend, taking a dirt nap. Deer are not really deep animals. At least this one was not. She stuck around for a full twenty minutes while I watched through the binos. Sometimes she would start to walk away and then turn around to see if her friend was coming. Mostly, she just wandered around the carcass and watched for some sign. Finally, she flicked her tail and wandered off, munching acorns and grass as she went. I had taken the time to get packed up, and I was down quickly and over to the carcass.
I got her out, gutted her and stuck her in the truck to cool overnight. The neighbor kids all came up to watch. I got up early and sat outside, drinking my coffee and watching all the hunters on the neighboring farms go out to hunt. Around 8, I saw a huge cloud of smoke issue from a grove of trees on the neighboring ridge, and heard the report a second or two later. Around noon, I drove with #3 son to Meyer’s in Lennoxburg to be processed. It was a beautiful day. I came back and finished off construction of the Meat Pole, so that we can say goodbye to the carnage on the front porch.
At Meyer’s they picked the bullet out of the hide on the opposite side. I
weighed it and a large fragment when I got home—165 grains for the big
piece and 38grains for smaller. That leaves 146 grains of small bits flying
around in the chest cavity, along with lots of chunks of rib—all in all a
devastating bit of terminal ballistics. It accounts for the lack of anything
resembling a lung inside the chest cavity.
In the big scheme of things, this was not such a big story. The doe was easily the biggest I have taken, probably going about 160 pounds, but there was something about it that felt as though a huge chunk of my life had passed, like a line of clouds, blowing out in the wake of a Fall front. Autumn has begun.