After harvesting a nice three point buck in 2007 with my .243 caliber Ruger M77 Mk II, my hunting was over for the year. So, I filled my free time reading. I started going crazy, researching different rifles and calibers online.
It wasn't that I didn't love my .243, but I had issues with my scope. I didn't want a new deer rifle. I wanted a bigger caliber for black bear and elk. I purchased a great book, Deer Rifles & Cartridges (Outdoorsman's Edge (Woods N' Water Press)).I know what you're thinking. If he didn't want a new deer rifle, why was he reading a book about deer rifles?
The truth is, the book has lots of information about rifles that work for deer, bear and elk. I love a versatile rifle. But I didn't stop my research there, I read review after review in the hunting and shooting magazines. I studied ballistics charts and recoil charts and stories of people hunting all kinds of animals with all kinds of calibers, bullets, rifles, etc.
I read online forums about the use of different guns for hunting different game. I became obsessed with rifles and ballistics! Now I have to admit, I am a bit recoil sensitive. I flinch pretty badly when anticipating the recoil and the blast of a rifle. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but at least I am realistic.
I just can't shoot the big guns well. I learned this lesson back in 1998 at 18 years of age. After talking to some friends and probably doing very little research I purchased a Savage model 110 bolt action in .300 Winchester Magnum.
It was a scoped combo. I wanted a powerful rifle that would quickly take down any game I might hunt, even at long ranges. Well, I got it. The problem was that I couldn't hit a deer with it, even if my life depended on it.
When attempting to sight it in on a trip we took to Colorado to hunt mule deer, I was grouping 8 inches from about 75 yards! And, after about a box of ammunition I was making up all kinds of excuses for not being able to shoot the Savage rifle worth a crap.
Boy did my shoulder hurt, even with my old slip-on recoil pad installed on the buttstock. Well, I went ahead and hunted with it anyways of course. I didn't take a back-up gun with me to Colorado, which was stupid, because I did have my old 303 British Number 4 Mk 1, still sitting on the gun rack back at home.
I am sure I would have done much better with the old "blunderbuss" (my first big game rifle). I'll tell you more about my unsuccessful but very enjoyable hunting trip to Colorado in another posting, but suffice it to say, I wanted to get a different rifle after that hunting season.
And that's when I got my .243, which I love. So, although I was a little bit tempted, I didn't end up buying a .300 Winchester Magnum this year. After all my research and meditation, I decided to do as Wayne Van Swoll said, and "pay homage," by owning a 30-06.
There were many reasons for the purchase of my 30-06. As I said, I wanted a bigger caliber with more killing power. The 30-06 is very versatile. You can handload for it, (I would love to start doing that just as soon as I can afford to get the equipment) with a wide variety of bullets, weighing from 125 grains to 220 grains. But there is actually no need to re-load for the '06, with a plethora of factory "offerings" for the the trusty Springfields.
My purchase was a brand new Remington Model 700 ADL 30-06, with a beautiful laminate stock.
I wanted the ADL because it has iron sights. After my Tasco rifle scope failed me in 2007, I wanted to make sure that if it happened again I could just take my scope off and hunt with iron sights.
The rifle itself cost about $519. I took my beloved new Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40 rifle scope off of my .243 and put it on the new Remington. Soon I went and sighted it in.
My buddy and I ended up going on only one short bear hunt in the spring of 2008 in the Alsea unit. We didn't see any bears, but we did shoot a few rounds.
So, I was itching to hunt with my new rifle and I had been drawn for muzzleloader elk with my brother, so I wasn't going to be able to hunt elk with it this year. And because my .243 was now scopeless, I decided I had to hunt blacktail deer with the 30-06.
The general season blacktail deer hunt is my main hunt of the year. I downloaded the latest version of Google Earth to my computer and began looking for new places to hunt in the Upper Calapooia River drainage.
Using this as my main method for pre-season scouting, I located some areas that looked promising and made a plan for opening morning. I also went to Sportsman's Warehouse in Salem, OR, and purchased a Petzl TacTikka Plus 4-LED Headlamp I didn't have a good flashlight and the headlamp would come in handy for walking out of the woods in the dark, carrying my rifle and maybe even dragging a buck!
I got this idea from reading Blacktail Trophy Tactics II by Boyd Iverson, which is basically the Bible for blacktail hunting. I love that book!
I was using 165 grain Remington "green box" ammo for the new '06. I headed out early and planned to drive up a certain logging road until I got within a half mile of a clear-cut that looked good on google earth.
I tried to get there early. When I got to the road, to my dismay the gate was closed. But I knew from previous experiences, it isn't always a bad thing to hunt behind a closed gate.
So I donned my new headlamp and my old backpack, loaded my gun and applied my Wildlife Research Super Charged Scent Killer with Pump Spray I had washed all my hunting clothes in Sport Wash, a scent eliminating laundry detergent as well.
I started hiking up the gravel road in the dark, trying to remember each turn to get up to my clear-cut. It was raining and the wind was blowing hard. I knew I was going to be in for a pretty miserable day as far as the weather was concerned, but I knew that on days like this there was a good chance of seeing lots of deer.
As I walked up the gravel road and slowly rounded the corners, it was barely light enough to see some indistinct shadows and shapes. All of the sudden I saw a shadow dart silently from the side of the road, around a tree and into a trail tunneling through the timbers. I thought for sure it was a deer. The "grey ghost"!
I couldn't believe how silently it had sped away. I excitedly snuck up to see if it was still in view, but everything was as still and quiet as ever, as if my imagination had only been playing tricks on me. After hiking about two miles, I found my clear-cut. I started hiking up the old logging road that ran through the middle of it and saw that my clear-cut was almost completely choked out by dense scotch broom, an invasive plant that makes clear-cuts not so clear in a hurry.
In this clear-cut the scotch broom had grown to over 6ft tall. It almost looked like a dense stand of trees. This phenomenon was something that I hadn't seen when doing my "pre-season scouting" on google earth, probably because the images were older than I had thought they were.
Even the old logging road had been overgrown with scotch broom and made for very difficult walking. But I was determined to follow through with my plan of exploring the area and hopefully find a big blacktail buck in his hideout.
In this clear-cut the effect of the rain-blown wind was felt to the maximum and I was beginning to feel quite miserable; soaked to the bone. I trudged on towards the other side of the clear-cut. Occasionally I stepped down off the road to view the lower side of the hill and glass down below. The area below looked quite "deery". I thought I might see a deer at any moment.
As I traveled along, without seeing any game, I became more and more suspicious about the whole situation. I began to think that with the rain and the wind gusting to about 35 miles per hour, the deer were probably in the timbers or on the other side of the hill.
Still, I continued on, all the way to the other side of the clear-cut, leaving the road completely, fighting the thick brush, constantly fighting the rain and wind that was making it hard to see through my foggy glasses (both my eye glasses and my binoculars).
At the farthest point, I was probably about two and a half miles from the pickup. When I reached the other side of the clear-cut I was somewhat disappointed that I hadn't seen any deer. So, I turned around and started making my way back through the clear-cut, found the brush choked logging road, somewhat miraculously, then following it back to the main gravel logging road.
Before leaving the clear-cut I did note that a black bear had recently passed through the area, because there was a huge pile of bear scat right in the middle of the road. I was glad I was carrying my new 30-06, and a bear tag!
When I had finally emerged from the clear-cut, I started walking down the nice gravel logging road, back towards the pickup. I knew I might still see deer at any time. According to Boyd Iverson deer are more wary of danger approaching from the downhill side than the uphill side, so I quietly and slowly walked down the road, paying special attention to what was up ahead when rounding the turns in the road.
As soon as the thought occurred to me, that I might see a deer around the next bend, that was exactly what happened. The rain had lightened up considerably and I couldn't feel the wind any more.
Up ahead in the grassy area near the road, was a deer! It didn't know I was there at first, even though I was standing right in the middle of the road. It was about 75 yards away!
I was pretty sure it was a doe, but I immediately crouched down and looked through my rifle scope to see if I could see any horns. Nothing. I slowly stood up, and now she was looking me. I did my best to look as innocent and nonchalant as possible. I slowly walked to the edge of the road and planned to lay down and watch the doe for as long as she would hang around. Maybe a buck would come out behind her.
But, as soon as I stepped off the hard gravel onto the soft gravel on the side of the road, I lost my footing and I fell right on my back. Now, if that deer wasn't spooked before, she was now.
I watched as she stood at attention with her ears perked up, trying to figure out what the heck was going on. She didn't waste much time and quickly bounded into the timbers.
No buck was going to come out after her now. So, I continued down the road, following the same plan. I was pleased when, not much farther down, I rounded another corner and another doe was standing on the side of the road, not 40 yards from me.
I watched her, standing motionless as she stood staring at me. She stomped her hoof twice on the ground, warning her yearlings that danger may be present. After a minute or so, she and her two yearlings started walking very warily away from me, then bounded down the road and into the timbers.
I was getting excited now, rarely do I get so close to a deer that isn't immediately spooked and running away from me. If I were bow hunting, I thought, I could have easily taken that doe. I attributed my getting so close to these deer partly to having washed my camouflage clothing in Sport Wash, the ultraviolet and scent eliminating laundry detergent and later spraying the Scent Killer spray to my clothing after exiting my pickup back at the gate.
I fully expected to see deer after every other corner now! But, I didn't see any more, and finally made it back to the truck. I was soaking wet and as tired as heck. It was about 11:00 AM. My feet were killing me.
I desperately need some new hunting boots, as every pair that I have worn for the last three years have caused me considerably dismal discomfort and unbearably bliss-less blistering!
So, I wasn't sure if I was going to continue hunting. My original plan was to stay in the hills all day long and take full advantage of my trip, without unnecessarily wasting gas, seeing how at $4.25 a gallon it took $100 dollars to fill up both tanks of dad's old Ford Ranger.
I expected it to last all hunting season. But, I was pretty tired. Maybe even too tired to continue hunting, as crazy as that may sound. Yeah, too tired to continue hunting, let alone drag a deer out... I got in the pickup and wished again that the old heater was working.
It had stopped working some time ago, and this was my main complaint about using dad's old pickup for a hunting rig. Kind of tough to get warmed up without a heater. I guess I could get it fixed, but I haven't gotten around to it.
After some debating, I figured I could at least drive around and try to find some new places to hunt, since my "pre-season scouting" hadn't exactly panned out. Our old stomping grounds further up the road were just about too overgrown to hunt them effectively anymore, which is saddening to my brother and I, as we have fond memories of hunting those high clear-cuts with dad and our other brothers.
After driving around for a while not finding any open areas or clear-cuts to hunt, I was about to give up for the day. I had driven up some unknown roads and had hit a dead-end, or rather, had gone as far as I could go because there were two trucks parked right in the middle of the road. I figured the hunters had dropped down the side of the hill into the timbers.
Since I couldn't go any further and really didn't have any desire to disturb the inconsiderate hunters, I negotiated a sixteen point turn-around on the narrow road, being very cautious not to go off the road, having learned from many unfortuitous experiences not to go off the road!
After turning around, when I got back down to a familiar road I stopped the pickup. It was decision time. Should I go left of right. Left, away from home to continue "hunting" or right, back towards home to rest up for another outing on Monday.
I hesitated for at least half a minute. What the heck, I'll at least drive up a little farther and look for a clear-cut next to the road where I can sit and glass. You're probably wondering why the obsession with clear-cuts. It's simple. I've never killed a deer in the forest. I have killed lots of deer in clear cuts.
I do enjoy hunting through the timbers, but I usually like to stick to what has worked for me in the past. Not much further up the road, there was a big beautiful clear-cut. This looks like a pretty "deery" place, I thought. The clear-cut was just at the right age. It was pretty clear, but there was some tasty vegetation for the deer to eat and plenty of places to hide if they didn't feel safe.
I pulled over to the side of the road and thought, "I'll just take my rifle and binoculars and find a place near the road to glass across to the other side. It was nice to walk without the backpack weighing me down. And even though I was still wet, I didn't fee cold at all.
I like to find a stump to sit behind and rest my binoculars on top of the stump while glassing, reducing the movement of my shaky hands, and improving my vision through the cheap Tasco binoculars (yeah, some new binoculars are on my list too).
I didn't find a place to set up right away. Not far into my walk, a pickup drove by my parked Ranger and along the top of the clear cut, without skipping a beat.
Hmmm, I was surprised they didn't stop to glass down into the steep clear-cut for even a second. I guess they either didn't want to bother me, or they had other plans in mind.
So, I continued walking down, down, down, farther into the bowl shaped clear-cut. Walking was pretty easy and I kept getting farther and farther from the pickup. I began to wish I had brought my backpack, which had my knife and other essentials I would need if I were to shoot a deer way down there.
Oh well, I thought, it's pretty easy walking and I'm not really that far from the truck. I got to a place where there was a steep drop-off and a bench about 50 yards below.
Immediately there was a deer in view, straight ahead about 60 yards away, down on the bench. I was pretty sure it was a little buck! Kneeling down, doing a terrible job maintaining my composure, my heart beating wildly, I flipped my safety over to the "not so safe" position and looked through my Nikon scope. It was a buck!
A nice three point, I thought. I took a hurried shot. BOOM! I don't know why I was in such a hurry, the deer didn't even know I was there. He was just eating away in front of a little vine maple. I guess, in part, it was due to the fact that the last two deer I had shot had given me no more than two seconds before I would have missed the opportunity.
After the shot I looked, fully expecting the deer to be laying on the ground. He was still just standing there! He was looking quite confused however! I couldn't believe I had missed and I couldn't believe he was still standing there!
A little twig that I hadn't seen before was flailing wildly back and forth and immediately I felt better. Now I had an excuse for missing. My bullet must have hit that twig.
I moved to the left a foot or so and cycled the bolt on the '06. "Hmmm, I don't even remember actually putting the crosshairs right on him for that last shot. Take your time, he is just standing there. Crosshairs on the vitals and pull the trigger.
BOOM! I looked again, this time he was on the ground right where he had been standing. I was excited, disappointed, and bewildered all at one time. I was excited that I had filled my tag for the third year in a row. Not an easy feat when hunting blacktails on Oregon's west side.
I was also excited that I would have some delicious venison in my freezer for the next several months, ready to pull out and fry up and eat any time I wanted. I was disappointed mainly that I had missed the first shot, but I was also disappointed that I hadn't taken my time and been more responsible in taking a better shot the first time.
I should have gotten down in a prone position and really thought about what I was doing. Finally, I was a little disappointed that deer season was over for me now.
Bewildered, you ask? Well, I was just bewildered because it never happens quite how I imagine it will, especially having missed such an easy shot. Now the work began. Like I said before, I was already really tired from the morning's hike. I started walking down to the deer and on the way I saw two other deer that I hadn't seen before.
They were both does. They were looking at the deer that I had just shot wondering what the heck was going on. Suddenly, I hear a noise. An awful noise. My buck was making a anguish filled grunt with his head pointing to the sky like a howling coyote.
What the hell? I thought he was dead. I flipped the safety over to the fire position and shot again. This time he was done fore sure. Amazingly, at the shot the other two deer didn't run away. They became more curious and started walking towards me!
For a second I thought they might come and attack me because they didn't look happy! I waved my arms and yelled at them and they still didn't go away. Finally, when I got within about 20 yards of one of them, they got the idea. I went and looked at my buck. I realized he was a two point, not a three point and he was pretty small.
That's ok, definitely better than nothing! I gave thanks to God, as I always do. Now I remembered that I didn't have my backpack with my knife in it. It was about 12:30 PM. Hmmm, I'll just pull it up a ways towards the truck and then go for my knife and gut him out later. Bad idea!
After about 45 minutes of dragging I had made it only about 50 yards, up a steep, slippery and muddy incline of about 45 degrees. The deer seemed very heavy. I felt abnormally weak and dehydrated. I had to stop to rest after every other pull.
I decided at this point to go back to the truck, which was about 150 yards away. I'd drop off the rifle, get a drink of water and bring the backpack with the knife in it and some extra water.
I got him gutted out and put the heart and liver in a plastic bag, then into the backpack. He was a little lighter now. I finally made it up the steepest, and most slippery part. I still had to rest between ever other pull. I continued in the same manner until I was about 100 yards from the truck.
At that point I went back to the truck, dropped off the backpack and got another drink of water. I also shed a couple of layers. I was dehydrating because I was sweating like a mule, despite the rain and the cool temperatures.
I headed back to my deer and continued the work, wondering how I had let myself get so weak. I used to be a pretty tough guy, I thought. When I was about 50 yards from the truck, I actually laid down and closed my eyes to rest for couple of minutes, still wondering how I had gotten so weak.
After standing up, I felt a weird sensation on my neck. Then I realized that something was biting me. I quickly flicked at it with my hand and some kind of green beetle flew to the ground. It was pretty spooky. The bite didn't hurt too bad, but it was stinging a bit and I was a little freaked out.
Well, I finally made it back to the truck for the third time, but this time I was able to load the deer up in the back. Unfortunately, I was too tired to take a picture out in the field with my trophy. I was pretty happy to have made it back to the pickup and start my trip home.
It took me all of three hours from the time I shot him to the time I got him up to the truck, only about 200 yards away. The afternoon turned out to be pretty nice. I took my buck home. My wife and son came home shortly after that. We took some pictures and hung him up in the garage and skinned him.
I had Monday off work and butchered him up myself. As always it was very satisfying to load the meat up in the freezer for a rainy day.