Rifles photo

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This past week, in Wyoming, I was watching deer come into a field of winter wheat, looking for a nice eating buck. At just about the last minute of shooting light I saw one, facing me at 125 yards. I put the crosshair on the center of his chest, pulled the trigger, and he ran like hell with not a sign of being hit.

Usually the center-chest shot is instantly deadly. Last year, I hit a whitetail buck in Maine in that spot and he simply sagged sideways, deader than meaningful tax reform. But this buck ran off into the dark, surrounded by half a dozen other panicked ungulates. I sat and waited the customary 5 minutes, took out my flashlight and went to the spot where he had his collision with a rapidly moving object, and looked for blood. Nothing; not a drop.

The other two hunters in my party arrived, and they didn’t see any signs of a hit either. But I was sure I’d gotten him. I had a good, steady rest, and when the gun went bang the little green dot* was right where it was supposed to be. So we looked, and after 10 nerve-wracking minutes we found him, piled up about 125 yards from where he’d taken my bullet.

Said bullet, a 130-grain Hornady SST**, had demolished his lungs and penetrated two-thirds of his body length, exiting behind his ribs. How he could take a hit like that, show no sign of it, not bleed a drop and run as far as he did is beyond me, but that’s what happened.

The moral of this is that if you think you hit and your sight picture looked good, you probably did hit, and you are obliged to look and keep looking until you find a dead critter. Very often you’ll get a flinch or a leap, or the thump of a bullet strike, and very often you’ll see where the hooves dug in and find at least a drop or two of blood. But very often you won’t, and this is nothing more than a sign to look all the harder.

*More about the little green dot in a subsequent post.

**I’ve used a variety of the new Hornady bullets over the past 3 years, and their performance has been unfailingly flawless.