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Jack O’Connor’s Ultimate Phrase on The best way to Decide a Deer Rifle

This text by former taking pictures editor Jack O’Connor, initially titled “Deer and Deer Rifles,” first appeared within the September 1962 difficulty of Out of doors Life. It was later reprinted as a chapter in his basic guide The Looking Rifle.

THE SCENE was the Arizona desert and the time was about two generations in the past. One of many actors was a thin, long-legged child, a slipshod lout with huge toes, inexperienced eyes, gentle hair, and a disguise so browned by the solar that on the uncommon events when he wore a hat and his straw-colored hair couldn’t be seen he was usually taken for a light-eyed Mexican.

The opposite was an equally skinny, three-year-old buck mule deer, slabsided and possibly beset with worms. The child known as the buck a blacktail as a result of in these days everybody in Arizona known as mule deer blacktails. The buck was not very nicely nourished nevertheless it had a spindly four-point head, which within the East can be thought-about a 10-pointer.

Anyway, when he was searching quail, the child had discovered an space all tracked up by desert mule deer. As well as, he had really seen a doe and a fawn. In these lawless days, the sight of a deer was uncommon on the Arizona desert for the reason that animals had been hunted in season and out.

Jack O'Connor with a desert buck.
O’Connor with a desert buck, photographed within the early Forties. Out of doors Life

So, saying nothing to anybody about his plans, the child had gone out the subsequent day with a rifle as an alternative of a shotgun. It was a .30/40 Krag with a 30-in. barrel. The child had paid $1.50 for it. He had purchased it from a bindle stiff (tramp) who had been camped down by the river beneath a wrecked railroad bridge. The bindle stiff had discovered himself in nice want of a bottle of corn squeezings and in no explicit want of a rifle simply then. His asking worth for the Krag was $3, and the bottom worth he would settle for was $1.50. By a curious coincidence, the value of a bottle of popskull was $1.50, and the child occurred to have that a lot scratch with him.

So the bindle stiff received his jug and the child received his rifle. Ammunition, as he now remembers it, value about $1.25 a field. The cartridges had been loaded with the lengthy 220-gr. bullet with loads of lead uncovered. The bindle stiff had evidently identified a factor or two a few rifle, as he had placed on a selfmade entrance sight that lined up with the navy rear sight in order that the outdated musket shot at level of intention at about 150 yd.

So, that frosty winter morning the child was sneaking cautiously by that tracked-up desert forest searching for a deer. Typically he couldn’t see over 100 yd. since this was a rustic of paloverde and ironwood timber, saguaros ( large cactus), and cholla ( leaping cactus) . Then the child turned aware of a motion on the opposite facet of an ironwood tree about 50 yd. away. He suspected it was a deer, and the shock was so violent that afterward he had a headache.

Subsequent he knew it was a deer, because the animal moved a bit and he might make out grey disguise and dingy white rump; then he noticed the deer’s head because the animal reached up and delicately nipped off a tasty little bit of browse.

After what appeared like an hour however was most likely lower than a minute, the buck was pretty nicely out within the open. The child might see the gray-shiny antlers. It was time to shoot. Shaking, he lifted his rifle and tried to maintain the selfmade entrance bead in the course of the deer.

He was trembling so violently that the entrance sight jerked on and off the buck. He tried to recollect to squeeze the set off. He tried to make himself stop shaking. He hated himself as a result of he couldn’t. He was desperately afraid the buck would see him and take off.

Jack O’Connor’s Final Word on How to Pick a Deer Rifle
Then-shooting editor Jack O’Connor with what he thought-about a very good deer rig: a .308 Winchester Mannequin 100 topped with a “Leupold variable-power scope.” Out of doors Life

Lastly he yanked the set off. The buck was gone, and the child stood there, his coronary heart pounding, his head aching, his palms nonetheless trembling, his legs weak. After the roar of the shot, the desert appeared deathly nonetheless. He heard a quail name, and much off within the quiet desert air the candy and melancholy whistle of a freight practice. He had blown his likelihood and he’d most likely by no means get one other.

Slowly he walked over towards the spot the place the deer had been. There have been the tracks all proper; he might see how that they had plunged by the mushy, sandy soil because the deer had run. Desperately he tried to consider an alibi. It was that damned, long-barreled rifle, he determined. What he’d wished was an actual deer rifle, a .30/30 Winchester or Marlin carbine. However these value $15 down on the ironmongery store, and so far as he was involved they may as nicely have value $1,000.

Hopelessly he adopted the tracks. He had gone about 50 yd. when he received one other violent shock. He noticed blood. He might hardly consider it. At first there have been just a few drops. Then he discovered a giant splash, then extra. He adopted the blood. Then he noticed one thing grey and quiet beside a bush forward of him. It was the buck-and the buck was useless. The outdated 220-gr. mushy level had struck simply ahead of the flank and had come out behind the left shoulder.

Perhaps the truth that that outdated Krag occurred to wobble on simply as the child yanked the set off had quite a bit to do with making him a hunter. Anyway, the child grew up, turned a father and a grandfather, and nearly yearly of his life he has hunted deer-whitetails and mule deer, huge deer and little deer, deer in brush and deer in open nation, deer on the flats and deer in mountains nearly rugged sufficient for sheep, deer far north in Alberta and British Columbia and deer south in tropical Sinaloa.

He has hunted deer with that outdated .30/40, with a .256 Newton, a .250/3000 Savage, a .30/30, a 7 mm. Mauser, a number of .30/06 and .270 rifles, a .35 Remington, a .257, a .348, a .35 Whelen, a .300 Weatherby. He has killed deer with a .22 Hornet, a wildcat 2-R Lovell, and a .22 rimfire.

What number of deer this chap has shot he doesn’t keep in mind, nevertheless it has been fairly just a few. He has completed a little bit deer searching in Pennsylvania and South Carolina and fairly a little bit of it in Texas, however a lot of the deer he has shot have been mule deer (of the desert and Rocky Mountain selection) and Arizona whitetails. He has heard of mule deer which have dressed out at 400 lb. and extra, however he doesn’t consider such an animal exists. The heaviest buck he ever weighed subject dressed was, as he remembers it, 235 lb., however he has shot two bucks that weighed about 175 within the quarters, and he thinks they may have gone 250 subject dressed. The heaviest Arizona whitetail he ever shot weighed 118. He as soon as shot a whitetail buck with 19 factors in all and has shot a number of mule deer with 13 and 14 factors altogether. He as soon as killed two deer with one shot and as soon as helped a few companions put 14 pictures right into a 110-lb. buck earlier than it went down. The antlers with the widest unfold he ever shot went 37 in., however he has seen mule deer heads that went from 45 to 48 in.

Best rifle cartridges for deer hunting.
Outdated-time favourite drugs for whitetails was (from left): .25/35, .30 Remington, .30/30, the .32 Particular, .303 Savage, .35 Remington, and the .348 Winchester. Out of doors Life

This hunter has missed extra deer within the brush than anyplace else. One of the best shot he ever made on a deer was with a scope-sighted .30/06 at 330 paces. He might see solely the buck’s head and neck, took a relaxation over a log, held what regarded like about 9 inches excessive of the neck, and broke it. His worst shot was a clear miss-before two witnesses—at a standing buck broadside at not over 125 yd. He was afraid the deer was about to leap, and he yanked the set off.

A great deal of deer searching has satisfied this chap that deer are straightforward to kill if the bullets hit in the suitable place and behave correctly. He additionally is aware of that if the bullets don’t hit in the suitable place deer are very exhausting to kill.

ALMOST ALWAYS this deer hunter, if he has the chance, tries to put the bullet by the lungs again of the foreleg. If the deer it not broadside, he goals to drive the bullet up into this space. He likes the lung shot as a result of it’s a giant goal straightforward to hit, and since if a bullet positioned there behaves correctly, the deer seldom goes far and is usually useless inside just a few yards of the place he’s hit. Moreover, the bullet that goes by the buck’s rib cage backward and forward destroys no edible meat.

This hunter thinks there are two very completely different sorts of deer rifles—one for use in brush and forest and the opposite for use in hilly, open nation. For the sort of brush and forest searching completed for whitetail deer within the East, for blacktails west of the Coast Vary in northern California, Oregon, and Washington, for mule deer early within the season in thick spruce and fir at excessive altitude, and for mule deer within the brushier elements of the Sonora desert he likes a lightweight, fast-operating rifle with a brief barrel. He thinks such a weapon needs to be chambered for a fairly heavy bullet at average velocity.

“A great deal of deer searching has satisfied this chap that deer are straightforward to kill if the bullets hit in the suitable place and behave correctly. He additionally is aware of that if the bullets don’t hit in the suitable place deer are very exhausting to kill.”

The rationale for that is that the heavy, round-nose bullet that isn’t touring at breakneck pace will get by brush with much less deflection than sooner, lighter bullets with sharp factors. However he additionally is aware of that any bullet will be deflected by brush. He remembers one time when he took a shot at a moose by heavy brush at what he remembers as being about 30 yd.-and missed the entire moose. His subsequent shot on the moose was within the clear and he killed it. He remembers additionally three pictures at a whitetail buck that foolishly ran in a semicircle round him by heavy brush. The primary two pictures, he afterward discovered, did no harm besides to nick the buck with some fragments of bullet jacket, however on the third shot the buck went by a gap and the 180-gr. 30/06 bullet piled him up.

In contrast to many hunters who look down their noses on the .30/30, he thinks it a superb cartridge for this type of factor. And he likewise regards the .32 Particular as a very good brush cartridge with ample killing power-at average ranges and with well-placed shots-for any North American deer that ever walked. He additionally thinks that the sunshine, fast-handling Winchester and Marlin lever actions in such calibers are about proper for deer.

As a result of there may be all the time a risk that the primary shot at a deer in brushy nation could hit a limb or a twig and deflect, he thinks that for searching of this kind a lever motion, a pump, or a semiautomatic is a good suggestion for the woods hunter. All of those are sooner than the bolt motion. The Winchester Fashions 94 and 88, the Marlin Mannequin 336, the Savage Mannequin 99, the Remington Mannequin 760 pump, and the Remington Mannequin 7 42, the Ruger carbine, and the Winchester Mannequin 100 are all gentle, helpful, fast-operating weapons.

Jack O’Connor’s Final Word on How to Pick a Deer Rifle
For brush searching, O’Connor says a bolt-action isn’t the. best option. Out of doors Life

This outdated deer hunter, as we now have seen, has killed deer with a .22 rimfire. They had been killed at a Mexican waterhole at very brief vary. He has likewise killed deer with fastidiously positioned pictures with varmint calibers just like the .22 Hornet, the 2-R Lovell, and the .22/250. Nevertheless, he has seen the high-speed .22 bullets go to items on giant bones (if a deer will be mentioned to have giant bones) and even on ribs, and doesn’t assume deer needs to be shot with any bullet weighing lower than 90 gr. He thinks a minimal of 100 gr. is healthier.

For brief-range woods taking pictures, he thinks any pretty heavy bullet that opens up rapidly is ample for deer. The outdated .44/40 cartridge with its 200-gr. bullet at a muzzle velocity of 1,310 ft. seconds has most likely killed extra whitetail deer than every other cartridge with the attainable exception of the .30/30. The .44 Magnum revolver cartridge shot within the Ruger carbine needs to be lethal.

BUT IF HE had been getting in hock for a brand new brush rifle, he thinks he’d purchase a Marlin lever motion or a Remington pump for the .35 Remington cartridge or a Mannequin 88 Winchester or Mannequin 99 Savage in .358.

He regards the uncared for .358 Winchester cartridge with its 200-gr. bullet at 2,530 or its 250-gr. bullet at 2,250 as most likely essentially the most lethal woods cartridge in existence—not just for deer however for elk and even moose. The .358 has the ability and weight to drive deep on the rear-end pictures which the woods hunter all too usually has to take.

Over time this deer hunter has had extra bother with bullets that didn’t open up quick sufficient than he has had with bullets that penetrated too deeply. He thinks that if the deer hunter has a alternative he ought to take the fast-opening bullet.

For woods taking pictures he hasn’t received a lot use for open sights. Underneath the stress of pleasure, it’s straightforward to shoot over with them for the reason that tendency is to not get the bead down into the notch. Receiver sights are higher, however one of the best iron sights had been the peeps near the eye-the outdated Lyman tang and cocking-piece sights. They weren’t essentially the most correct sights on the earth, however they had been adequately correct for 50-100 yd. taking pictures.

One of the best sight he has ever used within the brush is a low-power scope (2½ or 3X) due to the extensive subject of view and due to the flexibility of the glass sight to resolve element, to “look by” the comb, to inform deer from limbs and twigs.

For open-country deer searching at longer ranges, this chap likes a flat-shooting cartridge giving a reasonably gentle bullet a velocity of from 2.700 to three 200 ft. seconds. Then he likes to sight in for the longest vary that won’t give him midrange misses. The world is filled with good, open-country deer cartridges—the .30/06 with the 150-gr. bullet, the .270 with the 130-gr., the .280 with the 125-gr., the 7 mm. Remington Magnum with the 150-gr., the 7 x 57 Mauser with the 140-gr., the .300 Savage and the .308 with the 150-gr. He has by no means shot a deer with the .243 however considers it solely ample with the 100-gr. bullet. He bases this opinion on a great deal of use of the now-dying .257 Roberts on deer.

Nevertheless, he has completed extra open-country taking pictures of mule and whitetail deer with .30/06 and .270 rifles than with the rest. The quickest-killing .30/06 bullet he ever used was the outdated 150-gr. Western hole level. Bullets he preferred for the .270 had been the Remington 130-gr. Bronze Level, the 130-gr. Speer and Sierra, the Western Silvertip, the 120-gr. Barnes. Among the managed increasing bullets don’t open up fairly quick sufficient, he thinks, and don’t give kills fairly so fast. He remembers a buck he shot together with his rifle rested over a rock at about 325 yd. Mud might be seen to fly above the deer’s again because it stood on a hillside. “Over,” his companion mentioned. However earlier than he might shoot once more, the buck was down. If the bullet had opened sooner the deer would have collapsed in its tracks.

 For this open-country taking pictures at deer, this hunter now makes use of 4X scopes. They’ve ample subject and so they give a greater image of the deer and extra exact intention. Nevertheless, this hunter admits that most likely a 2½ or 3X scope will do nearly as nicely for any huge recreation, even at ranges of 300 yd. and over. Earlier than World Warfare II, he used 2óX scopes nearly solely and by no means felt himself underpowered. Flat-shooting, high-velocity, bolt-action rifles, reminiscent of these described, are additionally glorious for these Jap hunters who shoot from hillside to hillside at deer when the leaves are off the timber and bushes and for individuals who plan to shoot throughout pastures at deer popping out of the woods to feed.

The Sept. 1964 cover of Outdoor Life magazine, featuring a hunter and a brown bear.
This taking pictures column initially ran within the September 1962 difficulty. Out of doors Life

 However they’re in no way perfect for unusual woods searching. The quick bullets deflect badly within the brush, this deer hunter thinks. As well as, the 4X scopes are a bit shy of subject for brush searching, and the bolt motion is on the sluggish facet for the quick second shot.

LIKEWISE, a lot of the brush cartridges will not be a lot good for open-country taking pictures the place pictures will usually be taken at 300-350 yd. Used correctly, the ,30/30 is an effective killer on deer. Shot wildly at deer 250-350 yd. away, it isn’t so .scorching. When this chap received out of faculty his pocketbook was skinny and he had bought his rifles so he would have sufficient jack in his denims to take fairly women dancing. He ordered the then brand-new Mannequin 54 Winchester rifle in .270 caliber, however till it got here he tried to make do with an historical Mannequin 8 Remington computerized for the .35 Remington cartridge. He hunted in semiopen nation of juniper, piñon and yellow pine, and the pictures he received had been lengthy. It was a fairly irritating expertise.

However cartridges just like the .308, the .300 Savage, and the .30/06 when used with appropriate, round-nose 180-gr. bullets do fairly nicely for the comb in addition to for open nation. The .270 and .280 with the round-nose 150-gr. bullets are usable within the brush and shoot flat sufficient for a lot open-country taking pictures. As soon as this chap hunted within the jungles of India, shot all the pieces together with hog deer, noticed axis deer, wild boar, and even peacocks with the 150-gr. Core-Lokt and Hornady round-nose soft-point .270 bullets. He didn’t have a lot to complain of.

The outdated deer hunter on this little piece is, after all, your correspondent. The piece is directed largely to the various hundreds of Out of doors Life readers who’ve completed little or no deer searching however who can be out for deer this fall. The outdated deer hunter needs them nicely and hopes they get a very good bullet in the suitable spot. In the event that they do, they’ll discover that just about any moderately potent rifle will get them venison.

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