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Story time - my first handgun buck

Old 07-15-2016, 09:56 AM
Typical Buck
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Default Story time - my first handgun buck


In 2012, I finally began hunting with a handgun. I had turned 18 the previous fall, which is the minimum legal age to handgun hunt in Tennessee, and I finally saved up enough for a Smith and Wesson Model 460, my dream handgun. I practiced throughout the summer and into the fall, becoming proficient to about 50 yards. Unfortunately, my 460 developed an issue with its cylinder and had to be sent in for repairs. Come opening day, I still didn't have it back, and a large 8-point walked within 40 yards of my blind, well within handgun range. I shot him with my 270 of course, but I had been deprived of a perfect opportunity. What really stinks is I got the revolver back two days later.

I went all through the 2012-2013 season without getting a deer with my handgun. I didn't kill a single deer the next season. When the 2014-2015 season came around, I got two bucks, one with a crossbow during muzzleloader season, one with my dad's 300 Weatherby at 280 yards. Still no handgun deer, though.

In January 2015 after deer season ended, I decided to revise my approach. While I loved my 460, I just couldn't shoot it that well. I never felt comfortable shooting it past 50 yards, which was a significant issue on our farm, where shots tend to be much further. In fact, up to that point, all of the coyote and deer I killed on our farm averaged 153 yards. There was no way I could shoot that far with a revolver.

But what about a specialty pistol? I decided to build myself a Thompson Center Encore handgun with a 15" 243 Winchester barrel. Although it took a bit of tweaking to get it to shoot right, I ended up making a 1.5" 5-shot group at 100 yards that spring using 58 grain V-Max bullets. Unfortunately, I ran into another problem with it. While working up handloads for it using heavier bullets, I just couldn't quite get the 85 and 95 grain bullets fast enough that I would be comfortable taking a deer beyond 100 yards. Maybe they would have, I don't know, but my approach to deer hunting has always been to use more gun than strictly necessary, but not to go overboard, hence my choice of a 270 rifle. So, I began contemplating another barrel for the Encore, possibly a 15" 270 barrel since I already reloaded for that caliber.

While posting on another website, one of the senior members offered me a great deal on a custom handgun barrel he hadn't used much, along with a set of dies and 100 pieces of brass. I took him up on that offer. When it arrived in the mail, I quickly put it on the Encore and installed a pistol scope. It was a setup that I knew for a fact would take a deer out to 300 yards or more if I could shoot that far.

What caliber, you ask? 300 Winchester Magnum. In a handgun. I picked up some 150 grain Winchester factory loads just to get it sighted in initially at 100 yards. My chronograph clocked them at 2950 fps out of the 15" barrel. I began to handload for it using 150 grain Hornady SST and 155 grain Hornady A-Max bullets at a somewhat subdued velocity compared to the factory rounds.

The best part about the gun? I could definitely make a 100 yard shot from a field posiiton, maybe even a 200 yard shot while prone and off of a rest. I was ready for deer season.

The Hunt

Saturday, November 21st was the opening day of gun season. Two weeks prior, I guided my sister during muzzleloader season and watched as she took the buck I had been after. Since she was gone for the weekend to a rodeo, neither my dad nor I had to take her with us that morning.

We stepped outside into a light drizzle as the first rays of sunlight began to illuminate the eastern horizon. After putting the dog in his pen, my dad and I went our separate ways to different ends of the property, him with his Mark V 300 Weatherby Magnum, I with my Encore on my shoulder and my 460 on my hip. About ten minutes later, I was in my blind overlooking my 1 acre clover plot from its southeastern corner.

Before I even had time to get comfortable, I saw movement not even fifty yards away. A doe was walking down the northern treeline. She approached to within revolver range and stopped. Although I had decided to take a doe, there wasn't nearly enough light to make a shot. She evidently wasn't afraid, because I heard her trudging around just out of sight on the neighbor's property for the next thirty minutes.

Just after shooting light, I heard the distinctive sound of a 300 Weatherby bullet finding it's mark about a third of a mile to the east, where my dad was.

I soon saw the doe again, this time in the neighbor's field, and she eventually wound up in my plot over 100 yards away. As I put the Encore on my camera tripod, I realized how unsteady I was, especially considering I was shaking like a leaf. I quickly figured out to put my foot on one of the tripod's supports so I could rest my elbow on my knee. However, the doe wouldn't stay still for long, and due to the slight slope in the plot, her vitals remained somewhat obscured. She soon vanished beyond the trees, and I saw her run off to the north.

For the next 45 minutes or so, I saw nothing. Then, while glancing toward the far end of the plot, I saw antlers ducking down. Big ones. I quickly got into position and put the Encore on the tripod to look through the scope. Nothing. I put the Encore down and raised my binoculars. Nothing. The buck must have been walking away from me when he put his head down, and I only caught a glimpse. I blew two grunts with my grunt tube, but nothing responded. Kicking myself for letting him escape my attention, I glassed the rest of the plot to ensure nothing was sneaking up on me. There wasn't, needless to say, so I looked one more time down the plot.

There he was, his rack and massive neck giving him away as a mature buck. I quickly got into position again when he put his head down to sniff at the ground. The crosshairs flew all over the place as buck fever took hold. He was slowly coming my way. Even the sight of a broken brow tine didn't deter me. This buck was going down.

I paused for a second. If he continued walking like that, he'd be within revolver range. Should I take him now, or should I wait? I estimated there was about a 50/50 chance he would either get within revolver range or leave the plot. The question was quickly answered when he turned north, toward the neighbor's field. I cocked the hammer back and took aim, the crosshairs still flying wildly all over him. I used two more grunt calls in a vain attempt at stopping him. It was only when I yelled "Hey, buck!" that he paused, perfectly broadside.

It's funny. While practicing, I have to force myself to inhale, slowly exhale, squeeze the trigger, and follow through. Now, though, I can't even recall doing so, it came to me so naturally. The crosshairs steadied as I exhaled, and I slowly began squeezing the trigger.

BOOM! I lost sight of him as the gun recoiled, the muzzle blast rattling the fabric of the blind. By the time I caught sight of him again, the buck jumped up and ran - all of two yards. I was out of the blind as he collapsed, throwing the Encore on my shoulder while drawing the 460 from its holster. There was no need for a follow up shot.

I was calm during the entire walk up to him. I was calm while I marveled at the size of both his body and rack. I was calm while I ranged my blind while standing over him - 98 yards. I was calm while walking back to the blind.

Then, the realization of what I'd done hit me. I had finally accomplished something I've dreamed of doing since taking the hunter safety course back in '07. I realized I just took my first deer with a handgun. I fell to my knees, nearly dropping the Encore because I was shaking so badly.

The Aftermath

I met my dad back at the house. He told me he had shot an 8-point at about the same spot as my sister's buck two weeks prior. I hooked the trailer up to the tractor in order to move the bucks out of the rain until we field dressed them.

When we were at the check in station, the three game wardens and about a half dozen other hunters came up to get a good look at our bucks. They all thought it was the coolest thing when I said I got him with a handgun at about 100 yards. One kid in particular was quite amazed when he found out you could even hunt with a handgun.

While inspecting him, the game wardens determined he was a 4 1/2 year old. You don't see a mature buck like that everyday, especially here in Tennessee. I would have thought my sister's buck was older than this one, but hers was only 3 1/2.

The Mount

Just a few months ago, I got a call from the taxidermist that my mount was ready to be picked up. I don't normally get shoulder mounts made since I prefer to just mount the antlers myself, but I figured since this was such an important buck to me it needed a shoulder mount. I think the taxidermist did an excellent job.

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Old 07-15-2016, 02:36 PM
Dominant Buck
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Great story with pictures. That is one buck to be proud of and you earned it.
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Old 07-15-2016, 03:18 PM
Fork Horn
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Great story. Love when persistence pays off. Congrats on a Dandy.
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Old 07-16-2016, 06:12 AM
Giant Nontypical
Join Date: Oct 2013
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Cool. I've taken several deer with a handgun. Most fell to a T/C Contender in 7mmTCU. But the first deer I took with a handgun was a big mulie doe and she fell to a Ruger in .41 Mag shooting what I believe was a 210 gr slug. Not much of a story on her. She was standing about 100 yards off a dirt track and I drove past her, pulled the truck off the road and stalked back to her. About a 40 yard shot and she went down in a heap when the bullet hit.
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Old 07-31-2016, 05:24 AM
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Nice shot. Great buck!
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Old 07-31-2016, 05:56 AM
Typical Buck
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Thanks, everyone!

Originally Posted by hookeye
IMHO you need to pop one with that .460 next
You can do it.
That's at the top of my to do list for this season.
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