There is this lemming-like quality to deer hunters. Every year a bunch of us go running off the DRT cliff. Oh, some run over the Bang-Flop cliff, that’s over on the next ridge. Some take a dive into Poleaxe Canyon. I’ve run off of them a few times. It’s usually a soft landing, unless I hit rocks. Running off the Dead-Right There cliff (DRT) usually means I just end up with a new deer rifle that I have a hard time explaining to myself a few years later.
I ran off that cliff last night, only I was dreaming. By the time I shook myself awake, I was well past the worst of it. The dream went pretty much the way it always does. It starts off with a re-hash of whatever happened on my last deer hunt. The last deer I shot was actually a fairly uneventful affair. The deer came out in a field and stood broadside. I shot. The deer walked over to the fence line, about 30 yards away. He stopped to think how he was going to negotiate the fence. I shot again. The deer died. It should be end-of-story.
The problem was me. I didn’t quite mark the deer’s point of disappearance correctly. I was close, but I tried to cross the fence about 10 feet shy of the actual mark. The deer was piled up against the fence, but I did not see him, and went on an agonizing trip down a ravine fretting over what was seemingly a lost buck. It wasn’t until I came back out a half-hour later to find help that I walked a few feet farther down the fence line and found the buck.
A hunter’s brain doesn’t work logically all the time. The obvious thing here is to blame myself. However, my subconscious did the typical hunter thing: it blamed the cartridge. It took a couple of days, but sure enough, I woke up dreaming of a new 308 WIN load for the Savage 99. It all made sense in the dream, too. I was going to increase the velocity some and try to get a load that might reach out a little better. If I could dump a few more ft/lbs of energy in that buck, I might get him to drop right there. Yeah, that’s what I wanted, a bang-flop kind of shot.
Something went off in my head. All of a sudden I was awake. DRT, BANG/FLOP! It’s starting!!! Oh no! Not that again. In the dream, the supposition was that somehow I could change the outcome of the hunt. Never mind the fact that my 308 WIN load in that rifle gets out the other side of the deer. Never mind there are already good exit wounds. I needed something more, something better. I needed speed, energy, better expansion. . . I NEEDED-
Shaman, ol’ buddy, you need to wake yourself up and get the coffee brewing. I chased the dog off my slippers and padded into the kitchen and tried to make sense of all this. There actually was a kernel of logic there.
The thing that got me going in the dream was the memory of every other shot I’d taken with the Savage. Usually, when I get out with the Savage, I bag a nice buck. Usually I nail them at something inside 30 yards. Usually I get massive damage to the heart/lung region and a nice exit wound. The deer runs away– under 50 yards and piles up. To date, I’ve had to shoot deer with the ’99 twice only twice. Once in 2006 a buck I hit at 70 yards. He went another 40 and bedded. He required a finishing shot. Two days ago, I hit a buck in the boiler room and watched him walk off the field. I put a second into him, and he was dead in 10 feet.
When I took that inventory in my dream, the glaring problem seemed to be deer running after the shot. In my dream, I wanted my Savage 99 to work like one of my 30-06. Of my various 06 rifles, the dream told me they were better for bang/flops.
There! See, I have to keep shaking myself. Every time I start thinking bang/flop or DRT or “Pole-axe” I know I’m dreaming again. Yes, my 30-06 and 35 Whelen have produced some fairly instantaneous kills over the years. However, they’ve had their share of runners too. In fact, deer run about the same with both the 30-06 and my 308 WIN and even the 35 Whelen?
35 Whelen! Shaman! What are you thinking? Certainly the Whelenizer kills them dead. Well, yes. I shoot them with my Rem 7600 in 35 Whelen and they usually die in their tracks, but it is no more often than either of the other two rifles. Even dumping THAT much more energy into the deer is not THAT much more of an effect. In fact, of all the deer rifle purchases, I have to say the Whelenizer was my biggest disappointment. It is not the rifle’s fault or even the cartridge. It was my expectations. I expected deer to be blown off their feet in some magical way. The truth is they just die. Mind you, I love my Whelenizer, and if I ever get drawn for an elk tag, I’ll be ready. However, that was the last time this DRT dream got the best of me and I ran off the cliff.
The comparison is even more interesting when you figure that I’m deliberately downloading the 308 WIN to 300 Savage levels to better match the conditions I encounter in my treestands. This last buck I bagged was my longest with the Savage 99 to date. You take all three of my main deer guns that I brought out this year, and their performance is remarkably the same. The deer die. Some go down on the spot. Some run a little. Once in a while, one stares at you or goes back to eating.
This is what I was mulling in my dream. I was going to take the Savage 99 and turn it into one of my slightly downloaded 30-06’s by just increasing the amount of powder. They’re using the same bullet– a 165 grain Hornady Spire-Point. I ran the numbers through PointBlank after I woke up this morning and started to ponder. I normalized both loads to be dead-on at 150 yards. The results? The 308 WIN is on the left; the 30-06 is on the right.
At the range I took this last buck, there would have been a little under 100 ft/sec difference in velocity and about 200 ft/lbs of force. However, if I slide down the chart on the right a little bit, I see that the velocity and force that I’m throwing at the deer with my Winchester M 70 at 15o yards is almost exactly the same as my Savage 99 308 WIN at 100 yards. Wow! All of a sudden that DRT idea vanished into thin air.
Yes, I could take my Savage 99 and make it an open-field gun. It would not drop deer any better than my Winchester Model 70, and my Mod 70 has the occasional buck do a little running. The point was that I was not going to improve things all that much. The Savage 99 is a fantastic deep woods treestand gun for me. I finally got a chance to shoot it at 100 yards and. . . well, the deer went 30 yards. If the fence had not been there he might have gone another 30. Me? I’m still fretting over that half-hour I spent looking for a non-existent blood trail. The point is even a 20% change in velocity and force does not turn a deer rifle into a death laser.
So over the cliff I went, chasing the DRT dream, trying to blame a bum tracking job on the cartridge. The bullet , the rifle, the load, the scope– it’s got to be one of them, right? For all you guys out there that are still trying to figure out how that 416 Rigby got into your closet, I feel for ya!"Dreaming the DRT Dream",