Vintage Hunting Part II

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Vintage Hunting, Part II

Today, on my 50th birthday, I was hunting with my son using an old vintage build in the same area where I learned to hunt as a kid.

When it comes to Vintage hunting I’m almost all in.  The gun and caliber, the scope, the clothes, the nostalgia.

Today though, on my 50th birthday, I was hunting with my son using an old vintage build in the same area where I learned to hunt as a kid.  It all meant something to me, every piece of the experience.  The fact that I was hunting with a 70-year-old rifle/scope combination, in my mind, did not limit my chances of success, just the means of which I would have success and how I had already defined it.    I would not be taking a 500-yard shot today.  I would be climbing out of my stand and moving in.  I wanted to be 300 yards or less.  Rangefinding is where I draw the line on vintage.  I had too many bad experiences growing up before the advent of hunting rangefinders.  If I know the range, it’s clean.  So after ranging the buck at 497 with my Zeiss RF binocular, it was out of the tree and on the sneak.

With around 30 deer and about 100 turkeys already in the field and the day waning fast, I had to move quick.  I had a nice bank to work with along the edge of a stream that would get me really wet, but close the 200 yards I was looking for.  I covered that ground as quickly as I could, found the buck still feeding and set up for the shot.  I ranged again, 290 yards.  The buck was quartered.  I was shooting over a flock of turkeys and between a couple of does, and between the fading light and my relatively low power scope, I chickened out on the shot and decided to move again.  And now the buck was actively moving away. 

I no longer had the benefit of the stream bank to hide.  My red flannel and blaze orange self would now belly crawl using tall grass, small cedars and downfalls.  Fortunately, the wind had really begun to howl so all the noise I was making didn’t matter.  I just had to stay out of sight.  Staying out of sight of the turkeys, however, pushed me too far into the brush to be able to see the buck which was feeding on the field edge.  After about 100 yards, I crept toward the field edge and miraculously could make out the buck at 230 yards through the broken branch of a cedar that was about halfway between us.  He had stopped again to feed.   Looking through that old Weaver and having the thought of squeezing a Hornady above the lower branch and below the upper branch of that cedar which was perfectly framing the buck brought a smile to my face.  Like a bonus in the vintage hunt.  But, the broken branch that created the gap was swaying in the wind.  About that time two does walked right past that cedar.  Now I had additional problems.  Even if I did miss the swaying branch to put it above one and below the other, there was now a chance of hitting a doe halfway there.  I had to belly crawl again.  I covered another 30 yards which opened up that hole in the cedar branches enough for me to avoid the swinging branch, have plenty of clearance between the upper and lower and stay clear of the does.  I readied the Remington 721B across a leaned over cottonwood, cringing a bit knowing the stock would now have some marks.  I found the buck’s vitals and reminded myself, as I always do before a shot, with those words my dad told me 45 years prior, “Squeeze it so that you don’t even know when its going to go off.  It should surprise you.” It did.  At the report the old deer bucked and bolted.  I knew I had either a heart shot or a shot too low in the brisket, both of which can cause the same reaction.  My heart was racing.   I had been working a lot of angles in the moments prior as well as getting in a good workout.  I was shaking.  I remember being pretty proud of how it all went down in that moment.  I remember thinking to myself, wow, you did a hell of a job.  You are getting pretty good at this and it only took you half a century.

It’s nice to see that the deer quantity and quality has actually improved in the nearly 40 years since I took my first deer here.

It’s nice to see that the deer quantity and quality has actually improved in the nearly 40 years since I took my first deer here.

My decades of land management has taught me to never spook game unless you need to.  People who whisper after they shoot, some say, are weird.  Well, I whisper after I shoot.  I always whisper when I’m on my land, even if I’m fishing in July.  I never move game or let game know I’m there unless I’m in a tractor.  So, I snuck back to my stand leaving the turkeys to go to roost, all the rest of the deer to feed, and no one was the wiser.  Everybody, save one, was able to continue on the pattern that I set them on 27 years ago when I first started managing this particular piece of land.  After dark, my son and I would drive in and sneak the buck out of the timber just away from the field of feeding deer.  It was the conclusion of something that I wanted to do and started on months ago when I located that beautiful 721B and began looking for its perfect mate in a scope. 

What’s more, just the day prior my 13-year-old son had scored on a beautiful, ancient, massive deer that he had hunted for the past three years.  He was patient and made a one shot kill too.  Neither of our bucks went 30 yards.  But it wasn’t over yet.  We had two days left in our trip together, the ducks and geese were going crazy, and we both had Auto 5’s in the truck.

Cort has hunted for what was known as “Spider Buck” for three years. We wondered if this might be him on the way downhill.

Cort has hunted for what was known as “Spider Buck” for three years. We wondered if this might be him on the way downhill.

Vintage Hunting Part III next week! Browning Auto 5’s and Grandpa’s Arisaka.

James Brion