Have you ever had the perfect hunt? What is your idea of the perfect hunt?
If you hunt in Louisiana as I have all of my life, then you know that harvesting a good buck is hard fought even on private land. In any of the woods I’ve ever hunted, good mature bucks are few and far between. Even if you have picture after picture on your game cameras, they are mostly nocturnal, and every mouth breathing coonass with his daddy’s 30-30 is gunning for the same deer. Countless years of pursuit have ended with a texted picture from a friend of a friend holding the rack of the deer I’ve been hunting. Most times, they ran over it with their truck, or shot into a patch of moving palmettos, and walked up on the mature beast of their dreams, and I’m left with rubs, trail cam pics, and a broken heart. However, even a warm day sandwiched between cold fronts can produce a good buck if you’ve got your butt in the right seat at the right time.
I got roundhouse kicked in the face by the flu this year. So, from Christmas Day of 2017 through the New Year of 2018, hunting was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to be able to stop dry heaving, coughing up a lung, and generally whining to Mrs. Greatoutdoordinary about all that ailed me. I hate getting sick…it’s like a hangover without the benefit of having the good time that earned the hangover. It’s just the crappy hangover. After I was appropriately humbled by my microscopic viral adversary, and was finally able to drag my sorry rump to work, I got a text from my wife that said “You need to go hunting this weekend. We need some meat!”
This was the first time that my wife actually told me that I had to go hunting! After 15+ years of marriage, maybe playing hard to get was the trick to having your wife tell you to do the thing that you’ve been begging to do since you said “I do”! Or, maybe she hates the taste of store bought meat, and that was the trick….Hide the meat, and she will “force” me to go! Eureka!
But I digress. I decided that I’d go the following Saturday, but was still pretty weak from flu so I decided to make an afternoon hunt which allowed me time for one of my other favorite weekend pass-times…sleeping in. Barring a house fire, there are only two things that will get me up early on a Saturday. Hunting (sometimes), and…. well, this is a family show, so you can guess the other thing.
On Saturday afternoon, I decided to hunt what we call the Black Ladder Stand. We call it that because it’s black, and has a ladder…forget it, you wouldn’t understand. It sits in the crown of an old elm tree, and you can shoot down two shooting lanes that are cut in an “L” shape approximately 800 yards to the North, and 300 yards to the East. The bend in the “L” is where the stand is located giving you the perfect shooting position down both shooting lanes. The wind would be out of the East & Northeast, so it should be perfect. I knew that I would be hunting a pack of does whose trail cuts across the shooting lane at about 250 yards on the eastern shooting lane. My hope was to bag a buck chasing those does, or a fat hog that I could put in the freezer.
When I arrived, there was a big sow, and about 5 little pigs feeding in the road that I would take South to get to the Black Ladder Stand.
By the time I snuck (I know it’s not proper English, but I refuse to say sneaked) down the road, they fed into the woods, and despite being within 80 yards of them, I never could get a clear shot at the sow. They fed off into the surrounding woods, and I decided to get in the stand, and hope they crossed the road again giving me a clear shot from an elevated position (later I would be very glad that I hadn’t taken a Hail Mary shot at one of the hogs).
I got in my stand, set my rifle on the shooting rail, removed my sling, placed my pack under the seat, and leaned back against the ancient elm’s trunk. A measly 5 minutes passed, and I saw the familiar shape and color of a deer step out onto the eastern shooting lane at just under 200 yards from my stealthy perch. As I picked up my rifle to check the deer out through the scope, I thought “man, the body looks pretty big.” The buck was traveling on the downwind side of the doe trail which was 250 yards away from my stand. With the wind blowing out of the East, the wind carried the scent of any hot doe from the doe’s trail to the crossing buck, then directly to me (and not the other way around which is how I like it). Bo Derek was picking up scent from the ladies like a clubber from the Jersey Shore, and he had impure ambitions on his mind other than tricking me.
I centered him in the scope just in time to see his head turn to face me, and I saw the headgear stretching outside of his ears, and recognized him as Bo Derek, the Perfect 10. My crosshairs found his shoulder, and I heard the crack of the rifle before I knew what happened. He dropped like a brick. The handloaded 95 grain Barnes TTSX fired from the 6.8 SPC was enough for him to make dirt angels where he had been strutting confidently only moments earlier.
I showed up, sat in a stand for a few minutes, and had a mature 10 point step out within 200 yards, standing broadside, and dropped him in the road. Ask God for any more than that, and you’re getting greedy, kids! To top it all off, this was the first hunt that I’d made all season with a weapon in my hand, and not a camera. I’d been filming for my daughter, but this was my first solo hunt for myself. I couldn’t ask for better.
I called Pops, who was kind enough to brink me his cart, truck, and pulley to load him up, and bring him back to be cleaned.
After I got a chance to yank the hide off, and do a post mortem, the results were pretty clear. This deer died of influenza…just kidding. This deer was special, because Pops actually ran a .308 Winchester through this deer’s front right leg the week prior. It missed any bone or vitals, and the deer moved around just fine (until I shot him).
Do not continue on if you do not like bloody things. Although, you don’t have to “like” bloody things to continue either…
My handloads preformed flawlessly. The shot I made was a little higher than I’d normally like, but the result was a quick kill.
The 95 gr Barnes TTSX handload managed to do the following:
- Entered high on the shoulder
- Shattered the spine (which is why he dropped)
- Penetrated the chest cavity liquefying the lungs
- Passed through the opposite shoulder, shattering the ball joint that connects the scapula to the humerus.
- The bullet was found (intact, and perfectly mushroomed) against the hide on the opposing side after exiting the shoulder.
To see the recipe for my handloads for the 6.8 SPC II, check out Handloading for the 6.8 SPC II.
What is your perfect hunt?