11/25/11 — Ducky weather calls for wing shooting deer

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Ducky weather calls for wing shooting deer

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 25, 2011 1:48 PM

It was raining and the wind was blowing 20 miles per hour. The day before, I would have wanted such nasty weather because ducks had been on the menu.

But today, I would have much preferred dry, calm weather because I was hunting deer. I dislike getting my favorite deer rifle soaked, yet I had promised my family fresh, smoked venison for Thanksgiving dinner. A soaked bolt-action requires removing the action from the stock to dry it out and re-lube it, which in turn requires checking the riflescope zero before returning with it to the field.

The family's holiday feast would be tomorrow and I had been hunting for a big buck all season long without success. Buck hunting can be a long, boring quest while waiting out sightings of does and button bucks, but the best deer for the smoker would be a doe or yearling, so that's what I would take if the chance were presented.

In the pickup was my waterfowl gear and shotgun --, a Mossberg 930 semiautomatic with a painted finish that was impervious to the elements. When the rain would not quit and the wind would not quiet, I traded out the smoothbore shot barrel for a rifled barrel with a cantilever extension holding a scope sight. Stuffing five Remington Copper Solid slugs into the action and sliding into my hip boots and foul weather duck-hunting coat, I slipped into the sopping woods.

Walking less than a hundred yards on the trail to a tree stand that had a roof to keep off some of the rain, I jumped the first deer. The gun was slung over my shoulder and I couldn't get it up fast enough to align the sight, so the deer's flag was the only success of my hunt so far.

'Slow down!' I told myself. In my haste, I overlooked the fact that the weather front would have the deer moving, feeding heavily in preparation to wait out the storm. In my budding deer-hunting career, I had been a stalker, taking deer routinely at a range of mere yards with bow or gun. This day presented the perfect stalking conditions, but I was in such a hurry to sit in a dry tree stand that I had allowed lack of caution to cost me a deer.

I slowed my pace and thought I was doing some sneaky hunting until I bumped another deer, then a pair. All of the whitetails high-tailed it before I got the shotgun to my shoulder. When a flock of turkeys moved out of the forest, engulfing me en masse, I knew my stalking had slowed to perfection.

The birds had the shotgun frozen at a port arms. There were 23 gobblers, jakes and hens. Such a mixed flock is unusual in winter and I was enthralled as they scratched through the leaves as close as 10 feet away.

Two yearling deer burst from cover. They ran at the turkeys, kicking up their heels. The turkeys counter attacked, spreading their wings and rushing at the deer. Hens purred and cut aggressively, and the gobblers popped and clucked. One gobbler displayed his fan, despite the driving rain.

The distraction gave me the chance to raise the shotgun without the movement being detected by turkeys or deer. The wind waving the leaves and branches camouflaged the motion and the spattering of raindrops against the forest floor masked the sound of the safety being thumbed into the "off" position.

The deer lost the skirmish and departed rather indignantly. The crosshairs aligned on one of the deer and the shot sent turkeys fanning and running in all directions. The crosshairs hit the shoulder of the second deer then moved just ahead as the deer's legs shifted into high gear. The one-ounce copper slug struck the deer through the heart and it fell as though thunderstruck.

The makings of the Thanksgiving day feast was downed in a couple of seconds. Now all that was necessary was hauling the two yearling deer to the skinning rack and firing up the smoker. Wing-shooting deer is not for those who prefer the comfort of a dry tree-stand - or for the faint of heart.

But it's a highly-effective method given the proper equipment and attitude, downshifting your gait to a snail's pace rather than merely blundering through the woods.