column By: Dave Scovill | January, 20
Several years after leaving Oregon to see the world courtesy of the U.S. Navy, I stopped by the ranch to hunt deer. My old friend, boss and mentor, Bill Strader asked if I would take a hike up the ridge behind the house and push some deer out for his brother-in-law Dave. The idea fit nicely into my plan, and I set out shank’s mare up the creek bottom to stay out of sight as much as possible.
In that part of the country, deer were often taken at relatively close range as they broke from cover. It made for fast action, but an experienced hunter knew the drill. They called it “jump shooting.” Not to be confused with Oscar Robertson’s jump shot, the challenge was to put the deer down in mid-stride, normally a rear raking shot at relatively close range, mostly measured in feet, vice yards.
Either way, I’ve never been able to figure out how a scope fit into that scenario. It did, however, offer insight into the popularity of the Winchester .30-30, one of several rifle and cartridge combinations that some folks have been berating for as long as I can remember, apparently because they were limited to fast-action, short-range deer hunting, sans scope, in creek bottoms, clear cuts and tall timber, where they have performed admirably for the last 124 years.
Ironically, even back in those days, writers were apparently oblivious to the fact that those so-called range restrictions, in spite of the negative tone, were precisely the reason folks used them in the first place. The problem for manufacturers was the thousands of hunters who appreciate those old geezer calibers and rifles and wouldn’t get rid of them, or at least set them aside and buy something new, preferably whatever writers and manufacturers happened to be hawking at the time.
Approaching below the crest of the ridge, all was quiet until the distant drone of a crop duster increased to an ear busting blast as it released a load of fertilizer and banked sharply to the north directly overhead. Fertilizer pellets stung like of load of No. 8 shot across my head and back as the plane passed over at maybe 100 feet. That’s when I saw the bucks, a whitetail and blacktail, that had been bedded under a buckskin log less than 20 yards ahead. They didn’t appreciate the rude wakeup either.
The blacktail was the first to its feet, charging around the end of the log, bearing down on me like a politician looking for a microphone as the whitetail followed. I yelled. The blacktail turned right, heading down the hill toward Dave as if his tail was on fire. The whitetail came on, taking a 240-grain semiwadcutter slug from a Winchester Model 94 .44 Magnum in the center of its chest at a range of maybe 10 or 12 feet, flipped over and skidded to a stop just short of sticking an antler in my leg.
As the sound of the crop duster’s engine faded, I heard a shot from down the hill where the blacktail had been headed. The pilot of the crop duster came around later to apologize for not seeing me until it was too late. Bill and I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to take the inadvertent strafing seriously.
I was reminded of that episode a few years back while attempting to move quietly through a brush-laden creek bottom in Kansas with a scoped muzzleloader. In theory, I hoped to get a shot as a buck busted from its bed, but it was pretty much a pipe dream. I cussed the scope, bugs and shin tangle during the two hours or so that it took to weave through thick brush in the humid creek bottom. Two bucks were pushed from that mess, but even as they rose from their beds, the brush concealed everything except the tops of their antlers.
Of course, the best way to hunt that creek bottom would be to set up a blind. I walked by an old, dilapidated shell of 2x4s and shredded plywood at one point, looked inside to find several spiders and their webs and decided to continue on. A blind on the ridge was the place to be when shadows rolled across the hills and the bucks would head straight for the feeder.
Unlike folks on those television hunting shows, I have a serious dislike for sitting in stands or blinds a few yards from a feeder. No doubt, some hunting situations almost demand that sort of approach, and my hunting partner and I managed to take several fine deer in Kansas using blinds during the muzzleloader seasons. For all the hours sitting in a blind, however, the word “adventure” never entered my mind.
Fed up with the boredom of sitting in a blind on one hunt, I managed to put a stalk on a buck in tall grass and got a slug in it at 20 feet or so. Lacking the occasional opportunity for a freelance stalk like that, whitetail hunting in the Midwest can get pretty dull.
The only jump shot attempted in Kansas was on a coyote that emerged from a ditch and took off at full throttle. It was stopped by a .45-caliber, 270-grain cast semiwadcutter (RCBS 45-270-SAA) launched over two White Hots pellets from a scoped CVA muzzleloader at 10 or 12 yards.
While I have managed to take a few deer and larger game with jump shots, a lot of hunters openly condemn the practice as irresponsible. It has also occurred to me from time to time that folks often condemn one thing or another because they can’t do it or simply have no interest other than philosophical. They are certainly entitled to an opinion, but there are just too many times when the animal gives the hunter a relatively easy shot, that for whatever reason turns into a bullet in the liver, paunch or leg. If you can’t get another bullet in it immediately, it may run for a mile or more and lay down, watching its back trail. Assuming a blood trail, when the hunter approaches the wounded animal, it jumps up and takes off like a scalded cat. If it runs straight away, there’s a good chance of putting it down with a hip or spine shot if the bullet is up to the job. If it offers a broadside shot in timber, the challenge is to thread a bullet between the trees. Either way, the hunter must be prepared for the worst, and be mentally fit with the skill to make the jump shot.
Several years ago guide Shane Wilcox and I were in pursuit of black bear a few miles south of Livingston, Montana, when we spotted a bear about 75 or 80 yards from our position. While Shane raised his binocular, I aligned the sights of the Winchester Model 95 .30-06 on the bear’s chest and pulled the trigger. The bear took off to our left at warp speed.
I worked the Winchester’s lever as quickly as possible, pushed the sights out in front of the bear’s nose at some guesstimated distance and fired. As we walked over to the dead bear, Shane remarked that it appeared to die at the sound of the second shot while in midair after vaulting over a big log, then slammed head first into a Ponderosa pine.
Field dressing revealed two bullet holes, one in the lungs, the other in the top of the heart. As we took a rest during the somewhat arduous task of dragging the bear out of the tangle of broken limbs it finally landed in, Shane observed that dragging a dead bear out of the woods was much better than looking for a wounded bear in the woods. For my part it was more or less like pass-shooting a big, fat four-legged brown goose.