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 years.
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.