Here on the homestead, game cameras are put out in late spring/early summer. I like to see how the deer look right after surviving the winter. Although there were numerous road kills, all less than a mile from the homestead during this past winter, it was good to see does, two of them with twins, on the camera. Donna and I cut and brushed out a new trail in our back 40 this spring and Toby brought us two deer skulls, one a spike buck. Not sure what caused their deaths but those two boosted the count to 7 within our immediate area that didn't make it through the winter. I also hate to seen venison hit on the road, albeit the bald eagles and scavengers don't let it go to waste.
We've had mild to normal winters these past several years and the deer population, according to Minnesota DNR, has been increasing. Around mid-summer, the DNR published their harvest numbers for the hunting season and my zone was increased to a 2 deer limit per hunter. This was up from last year's hunters choice which allowed one deer of either sex to be taken. Donna and I decided we only needed one mature deer for the freezer.
As fall approached, I decided to purchase an archery tag since it provides me with a 3+ month window to fill it. Long story short, I grew tired of seeing deer anywhere from 60 to 150 yds from my blind....and with an exceptional amount of rain during most of October, I felt like a wet sponge more times than not. As firearms season approached, I bought another tag and laid off archery hunting for a couple of weeks to let the deer settle back into their routines.
It was about 10 days before opening weekend when my wife asked if I had sighted in my rifle. She'd heard a few gun shots reminding her of the approaching opener. I told her I hadn't since I hadn't "unsighted" it since last season. (grin) She reminded me that life wouldn't be fun if I missed my deer because of a rifle issue so I agreed to check it. I moved my shooting bench to the wood shed (it was drizzling on and off) and hung a target at 100 yds in front of the backstop. I grabbed the stool from my reloading bench. I was ready.
Since retiring and moving to the homestead, I stopped hunting with the .30-06 and .308 Win rifles as I'd done many years back. A couple of years before retiring, I bought a 6.5 Grendel upper from Alexander Arms and put it on an unused AR-15 lower receiver. Topped with a Vortex Diamondback HP 4-16x42 optic, it is has become my favorite whitetail hunting rifle. Meat damage is virtually nonexistent. I load my own ammo and am using Nosler 120 gr Ballistic Tip bullets over a charge of BLC-2. At the muzzle, this gives me a bullet moving at 2530 FPS with 1700 foot pounds of energy. Of all the deer this handload has been used on, there have been no pass-throughs.
The temp was in the mid 30s at the time which was close enough for typical hunting during the first part of November in my area. The cold bore shot from my 6.5 Grendel AR was dead on. I smiled when I saw the bullet hole in that little 3/8" bull....very satisfied with my rifle's performance.
I took a second shot using the 1st hashmark on the BDC reticle and the POI was 1" higher on the target....just a bit left of center, like the first shot. Again, this was where it should be. There was no reason to burn any more of my handloads. As long as I did my part on opening weekend, I was confident my shot placement would be right where it belonged.
I was using a blind I installed this past summer. I got the metal
blind from a friend and did a little welding on it to install a guard rail.
I picked up an enclosure for it. As I've grown older, my tolerance for
sitting in freezing drizzle has bottomed out. <grin> It happened to
me last season and ultimately cost me a nice buck. I set this one up at
the end of one of my two hay fields. It was near a food plot that I
started last season which had seen a lot of use between September and
mid-October. The deer had moved out into the hay field during later
October based on the frequency of droppings in that area. The field is 400
yds long but I had no ballistic data for a shot that long. If I could get
something to come into range, around 250 yds or less, I would be good to go.
I had a comfortable chair in the stand and had designed the guard rail height to
serve as a rest. The pipe insulation I zip-tied on it made it comfortable
to shoot from. My stand was as ready as I could make it.
About 45 minutes before sunrise, about when I could start seeing objects (other than hay bales) on the field, the two grey things on the field finally turned into a doe and a fawn. I was after horns....but not because I wanted a rack to hang on the wall. I wanted does in the area for breeding so a two or three year old buck would do just fine in my freezer. The doe went into the woods leaving the fawn to graze by itself. Thirty minutes after sun rise, the doe and another fawn came out onto the field near the first fawn. This was obviously one of the does with her twins that I had watched all summer on the game camera. They all migrated to the opposite side of the field, heading into a small pine grove.
Several hours later, this is what I was seeing. Every now and again, a distant gun shot would break the silence but compared to previous years, things were off to a slow start. The frost had melted and the temps were holding in the mid-thirties. To pass the time, I read an e-book on my tablet. Eventually, one of the fawns reappeared from the pine grove and grazed for about 15 minutes before disappearing back from where it came. As the clock neared late morning, I headed for home. It certainly was an uneventful opening morning.
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