Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kansas Deer Season Opening Weekend 2013

Hoping to go "Elmer Fudd" on a tasty deer.

Over Thanksgiving we went bird hunting and I noticed that there were a lot of deer tracks on the 160 acres of crop land that my Dad owns.  This year, the farmer had harvested corn which made me think there was a good chance that I might have a chance at some deer.  I decided to give it a shot (pun intended) on opening weekend of the Kansas firearms deer season.  It was the start of my second season that I had made a real attempt to deer hunt.  My previous season had been spent in a ground stand in a wooded area.  I was not sure what to expect since Dad's land is wide open.  I packed my Remington 700 in 30-06 and made the drive down the night before to my parent's place.

On Dad's land, there is some cover by the south edge of the property (tall "prairie" grass, a few trees and the shed).  I thought maybe I could use that for concealment.  I woke up at 5:30 A.M. and my Dad and I arrived at the land about 6:45 A.M.  It was still dark, but the sun would be starting to come up soon.  As the weatherman predicted, it was in the single digits and the wind chill put it at negative single digits.  The plan was to sit on some stools in the tall grass and hope that the deer would come from the general north direction since there was a northerly wind blowing at a good 10-15 mph clip.  I worried that maybe the temps plus the wind might discourage the deer from coming out into the open.  My Dad hopped back into the truck after an hour of sitting outside.  I could not blame him.  It was freezing and with no real wind block.  After another half hour or so I jumped into the truck as well.  We stayed in the truck and kept our eyes peeled to at least see if any deer were out.  We decided to call it quits for the morning around 9 A.M.

I was anxious to get back out for the afternoon.  I knew the chances were slim during the day, but I thought it would not hurt to go back out early and just observe if any deer were crossing the land.  I got back around 1 P.M. and sat in the truck with a good book.  The temperature had climbed to a whopping 12 degrees F and the wind held steady.  At around 4 P.M. I had had enough sitting around.  The land has a slight rise that runs diagonally from the northeast to the southwest.  I decided to try and see if there were any deer in the northern half of the field at this point since I knew the sun would be going down in another hour or so.  I hopped out of the truck and walked to the southeast corner of the property.  I slowly traveled north using the rise in the land to conceal my movement.  I stopped every few steps and knelt down and looked around me slowly to make sure I was not missing any deer on the horizon.

I finally came to a point where I needed to start heading northwest to crest the rise in the land.  I felt that if I was going to get the drop on any deer, then this would probably be my best chance.  Luckily, the north wind was still blowing and this helped carry my scent and sound away.  I was about a hundred paces in when I picked up movement.  I immediately, but slowly, got on my knees and used my binoculars to see what it was.

Bingo!  Two white tail doe.  It was at this point that I went to shit.  I put my binoculars away and brought my rifle up.  I was aiming from the kneeling position and I estimated that I was about 300 yards out.  Now, understand that I knew where on the land I was approximately and I knew the distances of said land to certain land marks.  At the time, I did NOT know how to range the deer with the actual scope (Leupold VX-2 with Duplex reticle).  So, that was a strike against my confidence on if I could make the shot.  Not only that, but I was fairly shaky.  I decided that I would stalk a little closer since the deer did not seem to notice me.

I crouched and walked a few paces and stopped.  I repeated this over and over.  At various times, one would look in my direction.  I would immediately stop and slowly take a knee.  I would then wait until they went back to eating.

I worked to within probably a little over 200 yards.  At this point, my breath was ragged from being excited and I knew I had to figure out a way to calm down or at least steady my aim.  I slowly proned out, but immediately realized that was a no go due to the corn stalk stubs that were in the way.  I then slowly got back into a kneeling position and glassed the first deer again to see how shaky I was.  I was not as shaky, but I felt I could probably get closer.  And then, my luck died.  A truck came down the road bordering the eastern side of the property.  The deer immediately alerted on the truck and trotted north onto the neighboring property and out of sight in the tall grass that dominated it.  The sun was going down and I decided it was the end of the day for me.

I was so mad.  Mad at the truck and mad at myself for being so damn excited that I could not steady my shot.  I still keep replaying it in my mind.  I decided to try and learn from this experience.  Here are some of the positives I took away from it:

  • Played the Wind Correctly - I had looked at the forecast to plan where in the field I wanted to start out and in which direction I should head if I did end up walking the land.
  • Used Land as Concealment - I had not been out on my Dad's land enough to remember the rise in the land.  I think I did a good job of using what little concealment there was.
  • Stalked Slowly - I was able to sneak within 200 yards or so in an open field.  If I had made it even 50 more yards, then I would have taken the shot (provided I was steady enough).
  • Knew My Ballistics - I had zeroed out at 100 yards and knew my bullet drops and wind drift for my hunting round, Federal's Fusion 30-06 150 grain.  However, I had only taken shots at 100 yards.  This did not help my confidence which fed into my nervousness (and the shakes as well I would guess).

And, of course, there were some things I should have been better prepared for:

  • Known How to Range Using My Scope - I actually did have one piece of information that would have helped, but at the time it flew right out of my head.  I already knew that at maximum magnification (9X for my scope) at 100 yards the thinner lines from post end to post end covered up exactly 8 inches of my target.  I found out afterwards that this is referred to as subtension.  What I did not know was that a deer is on average 18 inches from back line to brisket.  This would have allowed me to have a better idea of the distance I was working with.  I would then have had more confidence in taking the longer shot.
  • Calming Myself Down - I am not sure how to address this outside of learning to be certain of my approximate range and point of aim.  I have read that visualizing before you even see a deer helps.  I have also learned that forcing oneself to breathe deeply also helps.  I definitely was breathing raggedly!  I would also speculate that knowing your range and bullet drop is no substitute for practicing at longer range.
  • Practiced From the Kneeling Position - I do not do this enough.  I was used to my previous experience of having something to rest my rifle on.  I had nothing out in the open field and had to use a standard kneeling position (similar to what I practice with when shooting my AR).  Probably time to do more kneeling shots with the Remy.
  • Realized That Prone Was Out of the Equation - This is a minor point.  I should have known that trying to fire from the prone through and past hundreds of corn stalk stubs was out of the question.  It may have saved me some precious time by not trying to go into the prone in the first place.

I plan on going out to the range this upcoming weekend and practicing some shots from the kneeling.  I also am going to go with the goal of establishing exactly at what magnification 18 inches (the average size of a deer from back line to brisket) subtends in my reticle for a given distance.  The hope is that I can then take an 18 inch target, set it up at 100, and figure out at what magnification the 18 inches subtends from thin post end to thin post end (remember, I just have a Duplex style reticle).  I can keep doing this for given known ranges, magnification settings and the constant 18 inches to have a quick way to approximately range deer.  If I decide I want to hunt something else in the future, then I will need to do the same using a known target size equivalent to the game I want to hunt.

Extended Deer Season in Kansas starts January 1st.  I've been invited out to some wooded land to hunt.  Hopefully, I'll be more successful in the woods and with my lessons learned under my belt.  I appreciate any tips you could give me especially regarding how you calm yourself down enough to take a steady shot!


  1. I'm always a bit calmer under stress than most people I know but when I have a buck in my sights I get the adrenaline dump shakes. To cure them, I focus on my front sight and control my breathing. I slowly take a breath, hold it for about 5 seconds and quietly control the exhale. I also only fire on the hold. Seems to work wonders for me. I also run POA/muscle memory drills with my hunting rifle. Like martial arts, muscle memory trumps excitability. Your results may vary.

    1. Thanks for the tips. That was along the lines of what I was thinking (breathing control, getting into firing position drills, etc). Good to know my mind was on the right track.

  2. Couple of thoughts for you - the sitting position is slightly more stable than kneeling. Not sure if that would clear the stalk stubble or not. You didn't mention the sling - that can help as well. One last thought when you zero the rifle try to set it up so that you don't have a lot of holdover on longer shots I.e. 2 to 3 inches high at 100. Winchester has a ballistic calculater on their website, play around with it. You can get a feel for max range with a deadon hold.
    Good luck - Scofflaw

    1. You know, I actually practiced this prior to going out this year and I didn't even give it a try when the time came. You're absolutely right, it would have been more stable and probably would have cleared the stubble.

      I'll play with some zeros. Currently, I'm at 100 zeroed, but like you mentioned, longer shots require almost 7 inches of holdover at about 300 yards (if I recall correctly).

      Thanks for the tips!

    2. If you practiced sitting and kneeling positions before the season you are ahead of 95% of hunters that only shoot from the bench. It seems that when a deer presents itself things seem to happen quickly, a deep slow breath seems to help me gather a little composure. If you're going to be hunting woodlands very much, you might want to consider a climbing treestand. I've seen a lot more deer since I left the ground. Scofflaw