November 20, 2008
Petzal: Very Little Drops Dead
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
Two weeks ago, I showed up at a South Carolina plantation to hunt
whitetails. The owner, a hunter of vast experience as well as a person
of the highest literary and moral worth, asked me what rifle I had
brought. I said a plain-vanilla .270, and his reaction was as though I
had announced I was a descendant of William Tecumseh Sherman, or that I
carried a turd in my pocket for company.
The .270, he said, was notorious for letting deer escape, even
fatally shot ones, and this was not only his experience but that of the
owner of a nearby plantation who had kept careful records over many
As it was, I killed four deer, all lung shots, one shot each. One
dropped in her tracks; the other three ran 50, 75, and 30 yards, which
is about average. I've been hunting whitetails in South Carolina since
1983. In that time I've used everything from a .257 Roberts to a 7mm
Weatherby magnum and a great deal in between. I have not seen any
evidence that one cartridge killed any quicker than another. My
experience is that most deer (probably 70 percent) go on a last mad dash
before piling up. I've never seen one go more than 100 yards, and very
few have gone that far. I don't believe they run with any destination in
mind; they only run.
As the late Finn Aagaard pointed out, deer will go as long as
there is any oxygen in their brain; when that runs out it's all over,
and they can absorb the most horrendous damage and still cover ground.
The moral is, shoot good and keep looking. None of my four deer left a
blood trail, but they were found almost immediately. One time, I was
around when a very good hunter shot a very good Alabama buck and it took
a day and a half to find the animal. It would have been easy to quit,
but the hunter didn't. Neither should you.