Last Minute Whitetail
The week had been hot, I mean for September in Kansas, really hot. It started off on Monday at 85F., which was bad enough. The deer hardly moved, only a few young critters showed and those mostly does. By Thursday the temperature was 103F and not a deer showed a hair the whole day.
I decided to go home on Friday. Just couldn’t take any more of the heat. I had anticipated a great hunt with the Kelso brothers, the best whitetail outfitters in Kansas, let alone the nation. Usually the weather in September is a pleasant 55-65 F in the daytime with chilly nights and the deer are feeding avidly, getting ready for winter. Usually conditions are perfect for an early fall muzzleloading whitetail hunt.
Well, not this time. Too hot, deer not moving, even the hunters seeking the shade at mid-day in shirtsleeves and shorts between sessions in a tree or blind. I got my stuff all packed up, ready to go on Friday morning before the heat got started again.
Got up Friday at 4 am to a cool breeze, about 45F. Goodness, what a releif. Maybe the deer would start moving. I decided to stay for the morning hunt, just to see how it went. I was all packed up so I could leave anytime I wanted if things didn’t pan out.
The morning brought out the deer, more than we had been seeing and bigger ones too. I saw several 8 pointers just none big enough. I didn’t want the meat, had plenty at home in the freezer. I wanted a big set of horns, if I got one, the meat would go to the local orphanage. The change was encouraging enough to make me want to stay for the evening hunt. I would go home on Saturday.
The evening hunt was even better, the weather cool and pleasant, more deer than ever, several bigger bucks, but again just not big enough. It was tempting to think of staying for the morning hunt. It would be the last day anyway, I could always drive half way home in the afternoon and still make noon church on Sunday.
Saturday morning broke even cooler than Friday. I actually needed a light jacket in the early morning cool. I was planted in a different blind than the day before, really a different blind every day, depending on wind direction and feed conditions. I saw a good half dozen shootable bucks but didn’t want to waste a bullet on any of them. All were fairly close, all easy shots with my WHITE Thunderbolt .451 rifle. just not quite big enough. but it was enough to get me to stay for the evening hunt. It was getting dark about 8 pm, so I would hunt till eight, then head for home, drive all night if I had to.
That afternoon saw me at a water hole I had seen before, had hunted turkeys there several years before. I was in a bale blind- bales of hay stacked around and me hiding behind them. I had a 100 yard shot to the near edge of the water. Far to the right was another glint of water, about 200 yards away. The guide said,” them deer will come out right in front of you, don’t worry about that other water, too far away anyway”. He was used to muzzleloaders with less range than my ThunderBolt.
Sure enough, right away I starting seeing deer around the near water, totaling about 30 as the day passed. I saw 2-3 at the far one too, but still nothing I wanted to shoot. Finally it was getting dark, the sun setting behind the trees to my right, deer in plain sight at the water 100 yards away. It got darker and darker. At ten to eight I started putting my shooting equipment away. I had stacked it in plain view on the bales for a fast second shot should I need it. Something caught my eye at the far water, two bucks fighting, one much larger than the other. I could see a mass of horns above the larger ones head, but it was so dark by then that I couldn’t make out any detail., even with my 10 power glasses.
I had rested the rifle in my lap when the thought came that this was the only chance I was going to have. It was now or never. Never was very tempting. But I put the crosshairs on the bucks chest, the rifle resting steadily over the hay bale. I had sighted the rifle in at 140 yards with its 350 grain saboted hollow point bullet. The combination of bullet, sabot and rifle was one I had invented and marketed under the White brand over two decades ago. I knew the combination to be capable of great performance, so the 180+ yards to the buck didn’t bother much, I knew the bullet would get there with plenty of energy, more than 1200 ft lbs. I also knew from extensive testing that the bullet would drop only 6 inches below point of aim at 200 yards and that 2-3 inch groups at 200 yards were ordinary.
Once the bucks stopped fighting and stepped apart a little, I held high on the bucks chest and tripped the trigger. There was a solid “WOP” following the shot. The bucked whirled around once and tipped over, flopped breifly on the ground then was still. It was five minutes to eight.
This is what we found 180+ yards away right next to the far water. There are ten points, fairly symmetrical, scoring well up in the 140’s. The buck was easy a four year old, weighed more than me and I weigh 220. The bullet had hit just a little lower than mid-chest , went across the top of the heart, blowing the big dorsal aorta off the heart than taking out the far shoulder. That shot into the aorta is always deadly, instantly dropping blood pressure with a quick death. The deer hadn’t traveled six feet. This is not a bad result for the last ten minutes of the hunt. It just goes to show that the hunt isn’t over until the hunt is over!