By Marshall Williams.
Saturday morning and the coffee pot near the ALOOF round table was
getting a workout; a hint of Fall was in the air and the Order had been
offered the use of a hunting lease and cabin in a county known for big
deer with big racks. Unfortunately,
it also was one of those "shotgun only" counties and the Order
was considering what would be the best shotgun load for deer hunting.
The members’ deer hunting background and experience varied
considerably and the discussion was enlightening.
Judge did not hunt deer. He
commented, “I’m a bird hunting purist and favor the .410 bore for
such pursuits.” However,
within the order it was well known that the judge freely shot rabbits
when occasion offered, and it was quietly rumored that he passed up deer
only because he was too lazy to carry a large animal out of the woods.
Judge, maybe you can get your next deer like your last one, hit him with
your car." the Major’s remark brought a chuckle from the
membership who knew how the Judge’s car came to be called ‘Deerslayer.’
But then the Major chided him about his little shotguns.
“Everyone knows that little .410 slugs are inadequate for deer."
the Judge’s .410s inadequate was dangerous ground; the Judge loved his
little guns and was highly protective of them.
But today he did not argue the point. Instead, he looked
thoughtful and observed, "You know, the little .410 slug has about
as much energy and makes a big a hole as the old .38-40 and .44-40 and
those two killed a lot of game. It seems to me that if you put it in the
right place, the little .410 slug ought to work as well.”
Major hunted nearly every year in Pennsylvania. Since he liked big
bullets and could not use an automatic rifle, he brought home his
venison with an extremely accurate old lever action Marlin in .35
caliber, a rifle model with 24 inch barrel and half magazine.
However, he ventured, “I often attend police combat matches and
use a short barreled auto with an adjustable peep sight and choke tubes.
I can keep his shots in the big”A” zones of the combat
targets. If I installed a
rifled choke tube on it, I bet I could get performance with those new
sabot slugs with the big hollow point bullets.”
course, Topper quite likely would have preferred one of his little 28s,
he used them for nearly everything anyway, but he observed, “You know,
no suitable deer load is available for the 28 gauge.”
on a vast store of useless knowledge, the Judge offered, “Once upon a
time manufacturers made both a half-ounce hollow base slug load and a
half-ounce punkin’ ball in 28 gauge.
Probably worked as well as the 20 gauge slugs.”
Topper drew no consolation from this remark.
sentimental reasons, Topper's personal deer gun was a Winchester Model
94 in .32 Special, and a most satisfactory deer gun it was, but, as he
had grown up in the great Southwest with its wide open spaces, he
appreciated rifles with good scopes and flat trajectories.
He opined, “I don’t think I need a new gun for this; I want
one of those modern, rifled-barrel designs with the cantilevered scope
mounts. The gun writers
claim that they get near rifle-like accuracy with sabot slugs.
And the slugs work like a good expanding rifle bullet.”
With his usual business acumen, Topper was saving himself half
the cost of a new shotgun. Then
he continued “If I mount it on my trap gun with the Monte Carlo stock,
I bet my eye would be in just the right place to look through the
scope.” Topper liked this
idea a lot. The other members would have agreed with him except their
minds were fully occupied in efforts to picture the high tech barrel and
scope with the customary dull utilitarian finish mounted on Topper’s
fancy engraved and gold inlaid, not to mention very expensive, trap gun.
the Order, only Sunny had regularly hunted deer with a shotgun. His gun,
an older Ithaca Model 37 "Deerslayer," was an interesting and
very effective choice. With
its carbine length 20 inch barrel and six pound weight, it was a handy
gun. Made in about 1960, the old Ithaca predated the rifled shotgun
barrels, however, Ithaca's “Deerslayer” barrels had a special boring
designed to give best accuracy with the hollow based "Foster"
slugs. The barrel's
interior dimensions resulted from a great deal of knowledgeable
experimentation, allegedly the personal work of legendary Uncle Dan
LeFever. At 75 yards, Sunny
could cover any five shot group with the palm of his hand, and often the
holes touched each other. In
addition, using trap loads, the gun shot smooth open patterns.
Thus, the little gun doubled nicely as a grouse and quail gun.
had grown up in the big city and had taken no interest in hunting until
his sons reached their teens and started deer hunting with black powder
guns. Even then he had
limited his participation to assisting in butchering operations.
In addition, as a relative newcomer to the shotgun sports, his
prospects were somewhat limited by his ‘battery of shotgun.’ It
consisted of a Remington 11-87 with two choke tubes: Skeet and modified. He commented, “I already have a good deer rifle so I can
not justify the expense of rifled barrels and scopes for just one hunt,
but my Skeet and trap gun has three inch chambers.
Maybe I could use the three inch buckshot loads.”
The rest of the Order considered this a reasonable course,
provided the range was short.
Then Grundoon unintentionally livened up the discussion by asking which choke tube would work best. Topper was all for ‘straight cylinder.” The Major countered and advocated modified, and Sunny thought full choke ought to be best. The matter became so heated that, in order to prevent injury to innocent bystanders, the Judge, who had taken no part in the argument, prudently collected the salt shakers, coffee mugs, sugar dispenser and other potential weapons that happened to be laying on the table.
Major saw the Judge doing this and, being an imposingly tall man of
great military dignity and of a highly suspicious nature, called out,
free-for-all paused. Facing
the Judge and looking him straight in the eye the Major asked, “You
old fart, where’s your horse in this race?
Does your silly old notebook have any information?
And where is it anyway? I
couldn’t find it in time to settle this matter before everybody got
Judge said, “I hid my notebook and I ain’t tellin’ where.
Some folks were taking liberties with it. And yes, it does have the answer, but I still ain’t tellin’.”
Then he searched through a box of odds and ends, pulled out a small flat
box and said, “If you really want to know, here’s some standard
‘double-nought’ buckshot. Take
ten minutes and go pattern Grundoon’s gun through each choke and see
if you learn anything.” And
that is just what they did. When
they were done, it was obvious that the buckshot holes from the modified
choke made a noticeably smaller pattern than the holes from the Skeet
tube. There seemed to be no question which choke would be the better
choice for deer hunting.
the hunting season approached, the members made preparations. Sunny
fired a couple of Foster-type slugs through his gun to make sure the
sights were still on at 75 yards. They
were. The Major installed a
rifled choke tube on his police gun and experimented with various types
of slugs. His results were
mixed, but when he found one that grouped well within the “A” zone
of an IPSC target at 100 yards, he declared himself ready. Topper
acquired his new barrel, scope and mounts, and, being unskilled in the
use of screwdrivers or any other tool not related to gardening, he got
the Judge to install them. After
that, he experimented with various sabot slugs and found several which
would put three shots into four inches at 175 yards, his intended
maximum range. Grundoon
tried various buckshot loads and settled on the three inch magnums with
OO buck; it kept at least 12 of the big pellets in a 20 inch circle at
40 yards. The Judge did nothing except make acerbic comments about
everyone else’s efforts. He
announced that he would go along for the outing, but would limit himself
poking around after woodcock with one of his little .410s.
the day of the big hunt arrived, the Order set about the business at
hand. Sunny scouted a bit
of woodland where he had good visibility for his smoothbore slug gun.
Topper put up a tree stand at the edge of a large meadow where he
hoped his long range equipment would be at its best. The Major thought a
bit of still hunting across some hills would suit him.
After the others left, Grundoon asked the Judge where he should
hunt. The Judge
acknowledged he was not a deer hunter but thought he could give some
sound simple advice.
took Grundoon to the swampy area and pointed to a thin path across the
soft ground and through the underbrush.
“That,” he told Grundoon “is a deer trail.
Deer make them the same way as people, by walking over the same
place regularly. If you
follow that trail and look on the ground, you will run across something
that looks like rabbit pellets, only larger.
Them’s deer turds. And
if you find an areas where the bark has been scraped off a tree, that’s
a rub. And if you find a
little open space on the ground that looks like somebody kicked the leaves
away and it smells like urine, that’s a scrape. And that’s all I
remember from my Boy Scout handbook. Now you follow this trail until you find the right kind of
sign, then settle yourself in the brush about 30 yards from the trail with
the wind in your face. A deer
will walk down that trail again, and it might be while you are there. Now
I am going to walk around and look for birds not too far away, and who
knows, maybe I will scare something by you.”
Grundoon set off to do as he had been told. The Judge picked up a
tiny double, dropped two long skinny shells in the gun and put ten more of
the long shells in his right hand pocket.
Then, to keep them separate, he put a couple of shorter skinny
shells in his shirt pocket.
typical opening day fashion, occasional shots were heard throughout the
day from all quarters, but no one had any idea whether it was a deer
hunter or a rabbit hunter. In
late afternoon, The Major, and Topper returned to the cabin to relax with
a cup of ALOOF coffee fortified with some 100 proof pain reliever.
As they sipped the potent brew, they talked over the days lack of
success and tomorrow’s promise and speculated on whether Grundoon might
be freezing or what sort of small stuff the Judge might have scared up. Just before dusk, they heard a loud boom followed by a sharp
pop. The shots were quickly
followed by a lot of whooping and hollering.
A few minutes later, excited conversation out side the cabin
announced the return of Grundoon and the Judge; they were dragging a nice
was first out the door and asked what happened.
The Judge was laughing too hard to reply, but Grundoon excitedly
told the Order, “I did just what the Judge told me. I followed the deer
trail looking for pellets, scrapes, and rubs until I saw the right sign.
Then I sat down in the bushes with the wind in my face and waited.
A few minutes ago this deer walked by and I shot her.” The Judge
burst out laughing again but managed to splutter out, “The sign, tell
them about the sign you found to guide you.”
Grundoon said, “Oh, it’s the one by the highway.
It says ‘Deer Crossing’.”
everyone’s laughter had subsided, the Major suggested they hang the doe
and start butchering, but the Judge stopped him with the remark, “Wait a
while, we still have to bring in my deer.”
deer? Why you only had that
little .410.” The Major was
Judge casually replied, “I had a couple of .410 slugs in my shirt
pocket. A big eight point
buck was following Grundoon’s doe.
Since I knew that you guys would drag him in and butcher him, I
slipped a slug in the little gun. When
the deer was 25 yards away, I shot him right through the ‘lights.’ He
jumped about ten steps and dropped.”
Reprinted curtesy of Shotgun Sports Magazine, P.O. Box 6810, Auburn, CA 95604. www.shotgunsportsmagazine.com