“Remember, it’s a repeater,” my hunting buddy Jason reminded me after an afternoon deer hunt. Jason, his wife Fran and myself were seated in our deer stands on the farm near Spencerville where we have permission to hunt deer. It was Saturday, November 10th, and I remember it was a blustery afternoon. The tree to which my ladder stand is attached rocked in the high winds as I sat and watched for a deer. At approximately 4:30 pm my chance came when a deer bounded into view directly in front of me. The deer stopped, partially hidden in the brush. I raised my rifle (a Browning X-bolt Medallion in 30:06, loaded with a 150-grain bullet), and found the deer in the crosshairs. The deer stepped forward, offering me a view of its vital areas. I tried to steady the rifle, then squeezed the trigger. After the shot, I watched to see if I found the mark. The deer sauntered back in the direction it came, offering a clear broadside view as it made its way back into the brush. I sat in my stand–like a deer caught in the headlights–watching as the deer went on its way.
As I sat in my stand, waiting as one does after making a shot at a deer, my gut feeling was I missed. Only then, it dawned on me that I could have taken a second shot at the deer. Yes, my bolt action rifle is a repeater. I could have worked the bolt and shot again at the deer when it wandered into view. After enough time passed, and as darkness fell (last shot was at 5:08 pm), I walked up to the spot where the deer stood when I made the shot. I found no blood trail nor any other indication that the bullet found the mark. I waited until Jason came by, and together we scoured the area. We concluded I made a clean miss on my shot at the deer. While this was disappointing, at the same time I was relieved that I had not gut shot the deer. I wondered if maybe the bullet was deflected by a twig or limb and sent spinning into the ether. As a precaution, the next morning Jason and I went to the range and checked to see that my rifle was sighted in. My rifle is indeed sighted in. Knowing my rifle is zeroed gave me peace of mind and eager to get back to my stand.
Buoyed by the trip to the range, the next chance I had to bag a deer this season came on Thursday, November 15th. It was a solo hunt this time. I made my way to my stand for an afternoon hunt. The weather was much improved; it was cold, a little below freezing with virtually no wind. As I watched for a deer, a ruffed grouse flew by. The grouse gracefully flew through the trees on its way somewhere. Just before 4:00 pm, my chance to bag a deer came when I spied a deer through the brush in front of my stand. The deer walked behind a clump of brush so I watched a gap in the brush I thought the deer might step into. However, the deer stepped back into view in the same area I spotted it. I raised my rifle and found the deer in the crosshairs. The deer faced me head on, so I hesitated. When the deer turned to its left, offering a better view of its vital areas, I squeezed the trigger. After the shot, the deer disappeared into the brush.
After waiting the appropriate amount of time, I climbed down from my stand to see if this time I hit the target. As I reached the spot where the deer stood, I spotted the whitetails of 2 or 3 deer in the brush to the right of where the deer I shot at stood. I watched with my rifle ready in case one of the deer offered a shot–I suspected I missed the deer I shot at. The deer melted away into the brush without offering a shot. I searched carefully and for the second time, this season found I missed cleanly. Just as when I missed the shot at a deer the previous Saturday afternoon, I failed to work the bolt and attempt a second shot. Once I concluded I missed, I returned to my stand, gathered my gear, then headed home. I think I need to spend some time at the range practicing rifle shooting technique before next season comes.
Sure, missing two shots at deer is disappointing, but the season continued unabated. On Saturday, November 17th, Jason and I set out to sit for an afternoon hunt. As we walked to our deer stands, we found a fresh scrape on the trail. We spotted deer tracks along the trail also. We will install an additional ladder stand on this trail for next season.
As Jason and I walked up to the meadow that leads to three of the deer stands we have set up on the farm, I mentioned to Jason that there might be deer standing in the brush at the edge of the meadow. I added how I hoped we would drag a deer out at the end of our hunt. As it happened, my hope was realized. Jason shot a nice six point buck. I asked Jason to write an account of the action; it was an exciting hunt he experienced. Here, then, in his own words is what took place:
After we headed to our respective stands, I didn’t see any sign around my stand so I figured I would go back & sit in Omer’s stand where the deer sign was in the field. Just as I got into the stand, three deer snorted at me & took off. I grabbed my rifle, noticed the last deer was a small fork horn buck & gave a Hail Mary shot at him as he hit the woods exiting the field @ about 100m. I followed the deer tracks for about 100-150m, and there was no sign of any blood. These three deer actually ran about 20 meters to the right of my stand in the bush! In hindsight, I should not have fired that shot. It was too rushed & the deer was running… I’m glad I missed cleanly. And I hope that buck grows up to be a dandy mature whitetail who I meet again someday…
Anyhow, I went back to the stand in the field, determined to sit until dark. At about 4:20pm I noticed a bigger buck coming along the same trail that the two does were following with the smaller buck I had missed. I let him get closer, until he was about 75 meters away, taking the time to take off my gloves, turn up the power on my 1.5-5×20 Leupold Vari-X III scope on my 1974 vintage Marlin 336 in 35Rem and using my thumb on the hammer extension to take it out of half cock (safety) to full cock to shoot.
Once he was almost broadside to me, on a slight quartering angle, I fired the first shot & he started to run. So… With the Marlin 336 being a repeater, I fired 2 more shots at him, hitting his liver & a front leg as he ran. At the last shot, he collapsed into the snow & didn’t move.
I reloaded my rifle, carefully got out of the stand & walked over to the deer ready to fire again if needed. He was down. I messaged Fran and you. I took a couple quick pics and got to work field dressing while I waited for you to bring your tag.
I could not be happier that Jason bagged a nice buck this season. Before hunting season started this year, it was unclear whether Jason could take part or not. The demands of his job forced him to cancel his trip to moose camp in October. We waited with bated breath to see if Jason could join us at the farm in deer season. Thankfully, Jason found time to sit and fortune blessed him with a beautiful buck.
There is an interesting backstory to Jason’s choice of rifle and scope for this deer season. As Jason wrote,
My search for a lever action took two years. I was picky as I wanted two things, it had to be made in 1974 and it had to be in 35Rem. Eventually a member on Canadiangunnutz posted he had one, and on my birthday I messaged him asking if he would sell it to me. He about fell off his chair as it was his birthday to… So he agreed. That’s how I got this rifle.
I must say I am duly impressed with Jason’s selection of rifle and scope in this instance. So much so impressed am I that I want to acquire the same combo for myself. Jason agreed to track down a Marlin 336 in 35Rem for me. I hope to have the new rifle and scope in time for next deer season. What impressed me is the ease with which Jason repeatedly shot at the buck, ensuring a quick, clean kill. I think the combination of lever action rifle and scope Jason used so effectively in our hunt is just what I need for the kind of shots I get at deer in the brush at the farm we hunt. When I take to my deer stand next season armed with my new Marlin 336 in 35Rem, Jason’s words to the wise will echo through my mind. “Remember, it’s a repeater!” Yes, next season I will try my best not to sit like a deer caught in the headlights when I have the opportunity to follow up my first shot at a deer if needs be.
Posted by Geoffrey and Jason