Thumb Area Features
Tom Lounsbury Outdoors
click on the picture to enlarge
Deer Under the Wire By Tom Lounsbury
Because I was assisting with a youth deer hunter during the two day “Liberty Hunt” last weekend, I didn’t participate in the early antlerless deer season until the final afternoon (personally I’m not pleased with the early antlerless season and the early youth deer hunt being tied in together during the same timeframe). The primary focus was on the youth hunter having a great time and I didn’t carry a firearm. I did however have Sunday afternoon to myself and without hesitation I went out hunting to bag a good “eating doe”.
The firearm I selected to use is a favorite deer popper of mine I call the “Pug”. It started out as single-shot 20 ga H&R “Pardner” with a 28 inch bird barrel that I purchased as a used gun a year ago. I had a gunsmith cut the barrel off at a (legal) 18 inches and install a ghost-ring rear sight and a green fiber optic front sight. It is also drilled and tapped for a scope if I ever decide to go that route, but for now it suits me just fine. What I ended up with is a very compact and lightweight hunting piece that is easy to (quietly) load and unload for safely dealing with ladder-stands and it’s smoothbore barrel will group foster-type shotgun slugs very effectively out to 100 yards.
I used this shotgun for the first time while still-hunting at midday last year and located a bedded doe and was able to stalk in to 30 yards and shoot the deer behind the ear. It was the perfect deer gun for me in this brushy type, up close and personal environment.
The raised stand I opted for on this final afternoon was near a water source and several heavily laden apple trees that I believed would offer deer some enticing refreshment after being bedded all day during some balmy temperatures. Thanks to those temperatures the deer didn’t start moving until the final half hour of daylight and I spotted deer coming out and grazing a bit in the clover firebreak that bordered a nearby CRP field filled with tall prairie grasses. With only 10 minutes left in the season, a large doe with an almost as large fawn in tow emerged out of the prairie grass near me, and began heading my way, and I let them come. Although at less than 100 yards, the doe was in range, but offered only a frontal shot, and I was pleased to let her close the distance. For me I prefer the closer the better, and a fully broadside target standing still, if you please.
At 60 yards, the doe stopped and turned broadside with her nose in the tall prairie grass to obviously check something out. I was already locked on with the “Pug” firmly braced on a good rest and as the bright green bead of the front sight settled on the deer’s front shoulder I touched the trigger with only a couple minutes remaining in the season.
I’ve been hunting deer with shotguns for 5o years now and have been able to develop an ear for shots by the sound of a shotgun slug when it impacts a deer, which you can hear directly after the explosion of your shot, when deer are 50 yards or more away. A sharp “thwack” sound similar to two pool balls smacking together usually means a shoulder hit. A similar but slightly duller “thwack” usually means a ribcage hit, and a hollow “thonk” means you probably just messed up and hit too far back.
In this case I heard a sharp thwack and knew my shot was true, but much to my dismay the doe was in a dead run straight into the tall prairie grass, and from my elevated position, I was able to keep track of the angle she headed, and I knew she covered at least 75 yards before disappearing completely from sight, and I was certain she was down for the count. My original goal was to anchor the doe on the spot with my preferred high-shoulder shot, because I have found tracking deer down in prairie grass can be quite a challenging endeavor, especially when it is 7 foot tall blue stem as was the case here. Blue stem also adds to the challenge by having segmented stalks that feature a bright red coloration, which tampers with discerning blood sign. I would discover later that while my shot had hit the shoulder dead-center and did a good job, it was an inch lower than I had wanted to save me a bit of an ordeal, which I have been through before.
I went home, left the Pug there and got flashlights, rope and donned a pair of faded jeans, the reason for this being when you can’t see blood sign in prairie grass I have found that it will rub off onto your pant legs to clue you in. In that type of cover the blood rarely reaches the ground and is more prevalent at knee or slightly higher height. I soon found myself venturing into the tall grass starting from the point where the doe had been standing when I shot her, and I was hoping to duplicate her angle of travel. Of course what you saw from an elevated position 60 yards away in daylight becomes quite a bit different on the ground with grass way above your head.
There was no moon either, and besides being swallowed up by the grass, it was one real dark night. My bright-beamed flashlight had a range of less than 10 feet in the dense cover, and although I could see the North Star, it was my only reference point in a world without landmarks to get my bearings. I wasn’t lost mind you, just a bit bewildered as to my exact location in a dense and almost suffocating maze. Even though I discovered a splash of lung blood above my right knee, I couldn’t find any further blood signs to follow. I could see that I needed to back off and return at first light, and I knew the doe would keep okay overnight with the predicted near freezing temperatures, as long as coyotes didn’t find her first, which can be a concern these days.
As soon as I had enough daylight I was right back in the tall grass following the doe’s angle of travel and thanks to being able to relate to landmarks, I located the dead deer within a matter of minutes. She surprised me by going further than I had originally thought, a full 100 yards despite a broken shoulder and no lungs (deer are very tough critters). Most of the blood, for some reason despite an exit hole, had stayed in the body cavity, with the only blood trail being made during the final 10 yards of her dash. So when I ended up with a splash of blood on my pant leg, I had just missed locating the deer under near impossible odds in the dark.
The doe was aged at the local DNR office and turned out to be a two and a half year old offering some mighty fine venison. Bagging that deer just under the wire makes it even more flavorful.
The author's son Jake Lounsbury with a Thumb early season doe he bagged
with a 20 ga H & R Ultra Slug shotgun. The early antlerless deer season
alllows hunters to fill empty freezers with some really great venison.