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dgfavor

Shooting Bedded Deer

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dgfavor

Hunting on Monday morning I glassed up what appeared to be a real nice buck in a high secluded brushy draw on my place - it is a place that is only visible from a couple angles and requires some "sneakiness" and sagebrush hopscotch just to get in position to even look there.  I didn't get great look at him but knew he was a nice deer.  He immediately disappeared into the brush and just never came out. I knew he had settled in for the day.   I backed out and re-grouped with my wife and brother in law who had tags.  The bucks are wizards at positioning themselves in these brushy draws to offer great visibility of the country in front of and below them, they tuck in under the brush to gain excellent concealment usually from above, and set up with perfect wind direction to detect anything coming up behind them in their "blind spot".  They sit extremely tight and often just let us fools walk right past them...I have had a couple literally require being purposefully booted/talked to/scolded/coaxed/etc. to get up if I was fortunate enough to even see them.  When they do decide to go...they freaking go and all you usually see is a bouncing white rear end.  We had already had 2 blown stalks Sat and Sun into 20yds on bucks we knew where they were at but just got schooled on how the game is played.  Anyway, we hatched a plan to post up my BIL in a high saddle that is usually the preferred escape route when deer get moved in that area...it was probably 500yds from where the deer was last seen, he could get there unseen, he would have wind in his face, the deer would likely settle a bit by that point and hopefully offer a shot about 50-100yds....anticipating my wife and I would likely bump him out of his bed approaching from above and he would not offer her a shot.

 

My wife and I backed completely out, went and grabbed the Ranger and drove around the country to BLM about a mile over the ridge and behind the deer.  We hiked up the backside, back onto our land, and peaked out at the top of the draw I had last seen the deer.  We peaked over and glassed up my BIL's orange hat peaking above the sage right where he needed to be.  I took a look at my wife's scope and it was at 12x so I dialed it back to 4x, anticipating things might "get western" fast, we discussed our "no running shots, no skyline shots, no shots remotely in BIL's direction, etc which honestly was not necessary - my wife has got pretty cool head.  We started down along the left side of the draw with her a little more in the open and me skimming right next to all the brush, stopping and glassing literally into brush 10-20yds from me looking for ears/horns/noses/etc.  We got about a 1/3 of the way down and about a dozen does/fawns moved out from the very bottom and went straight up the open hillside above them not following the playbook by traversing around to the saddle where BIL was posted.  Hmmm...I talked with the Mrs., took a range to the hillside the does were exiting on...205yds...told her to aim dead on if he goes that way, stops and offers a broadside shot was the new plan.  We continued down the draw and came to a slight break in the brush on our left side so I dipped down into the bottom of the draw to give a bump to the brush on the right side...as I did I caught a glimpse about 10yds slightly behind me of a very tall, very light colored antler sticking above a small clump of ryegrass at the base of a mahogany tree.  I...flipped...out, went stumbling back towards my wife, loudly whispering "he's right here, he's right here"...who knows what else I blabbered about.  She on the other hand calmly sat down, got her gun on her knees and was ready for a shot.  We gathered ourselves, moved slightly, and could easily see a very, very big, super tall "lifetime" perfectly typical 4x4 - waaay bigger than I thought - quartered to us, curled up but flat as a pancake on the ground at 30yds.  We all sort of sat and stared at each other.  He did not offer any reasonable shot at vitals - whereever his vitals were oriented in that position which was not even clear to me.  We just did not feel it was a reasonable shot even at that range.  I was not even sure the ballistics/trajectory/etc at that range anyway fearing maybe a simple pass thru without significant terminal damage  - she was shooting 6.5 Creedmoor with 143gr. Hornady with muzzle velocity ~2700fps.  From experience, I knew he would win the waiting game and just sit us out until dark.  I still felt like our best hope was to get him up and hopefully make for the exit thru the saddle with my BIL getting a more satisfactory shot.  My wife agreed so I went about trying to get this guy up.  I went back up the hill behind the brush and from that position there was definitely a better shot angle if he stayed put but it would be a front quartering angle with his vitals still pretty well tucked under a curled front leg/shoulder with his head laying on the ground in front of that. I felt a good chance we would end up with a shot too far back without good bullet expansion, etc.  Plus we had overhanging branches from that angle.  Sooo...I went for throwing rocks...no response, if anything he sunk into the ground even more...I was probably 20yds, my wife remained in the open at 30yds.  I broke sticks, shook tree branches, told him to "stand up", "get on", kept mumbling "holy cripes honey he's a nice deer...be ready".  She told me to stop, her arms were getting too tired holding her gun so we took a break and went back to staring at each other.  She shook out her arms, remounted her gun and I decided I was going to just crawl thru the brush right at him...so I did and he did nothing.  I started to think maybe he was wounded and couldn't get up...or might just take the opportunity to take me out!  Just as I broke thru the brush into the slight opening about 15yds from him, he freakin' launched giving my wife a split second broadside shot but at the same time lowering and recoiling his springs to make a Matrix like 180 degree contortion...she shot right over him...he bolted exactly the way my wife and I had just come...completely the opposite of the playbook and all my BIL saw was a huge rack going out over the skyline.  My wife went on a swearing tantrum for a few minutes, I scoured for blood/hair/etc, had my BIL come and do the same to double check me and that was that.  I convinced my wife we had just had the equivalent of a catch and release on a 22" rainbow that sipped a perfectly drifted dry fly, we high fived and went about our day.  

 

Sooo, long story but question is...at that range, with deer bedded and no clear vitals (we did have clear head and upper neck for discussions sake), with that weapon/bullet/etc...what shot is good?  is any shot good?  what are ballistics for such close range?  We have no regrets, we had a great experience, we did not wound a really magnificent deer and I'm thinking we will learn something from it.  What say anyone?  I have been doing some reading on shooting bedded animals - seems to spark alot of different thoughts on both technical and emotional/ethical fronts.  I have read bullets will do some oddball things at close range that can't be anticipated...but in general still kill very effectively.  The only right answer to the story was not too wound the animal and then not harvest him or have some awful chase over the course of hours/days so we got that part right...but man, I'd love to be showing you a photo of my wife with that bugger.

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MAArcher

I met this guy years ago.  He was running a building supply company in western Mass.   I was there on business and when I walked into his office, the walls were covered with photos of him with giant deer.   Turns out he shot them all with a bow, all on foot and most he had shot in their bed.   Blew my mind that anyone could consistently do that year after hear.  

 

At 30 yards with a rifle?  I'd shoot him between the eyes.  Or neck or spine or down his ear hole or whatever lethal spot I felt I could identify.  At 30 yards I'd shoot through a shoulder if that's the shot I had.   As far as trajectory, it depends on how high the scope is off the bore and what point blank is (point blank being when the rising bullet crosses the line of sight).  But at 30 yards and a common zero between 100 and 200 yards and a scope an inch and a half above bore, you're probably shooting a bit low, maybe an inch.       

 

As far as preferred weapon for those conditions?  If you weren't going to take shots over 100 yards and wanted to be able to punch through a little brush, I've killed a slew of deer with a 12 gauge slug under those conditions.  If you're going to shoot through brush, then you want the biggest heaviest bullet you can get.   Matter in motion tends to stay in motion.   Heavier bullets deflect less and retain more energy.  This is contrary to popular misconception that lead to people thinking shotgun slugs are safer in residential areas.  A tumbling 12 gauge slug will actually travel further than a tumbling 30-06 under normal hunting conditions due to the dramatic difference in ballistic coefficient under those conditions.   

 

Not something I've researched but the ideal "brush gun" caliber that will also be called upon to shoot over 100 yards is probable one of the 45 cal straight wall big bore rounds in a lever gun.  Topped with something like a 3MOA red dot sight.  

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bobman

my two cents 
 

IMO experience there is no such thing as a reliable “brush gun” all bullets can deflect And or shatter if they hit a limb

 

I wouldn’t shoot a trophy in the head 

 

you've butchered deer So you know where the spine is in the neck

 

I would of shot it in the  center middle of the neck where it meets the body and expected it to anchor him
 

and I would of immediately jacked another round in in case he managed to rise up

 

made for a great exciting story though, I’m wishing you had your camera with you

 

I think you did the most ethical thing however which is never take a shot you aren’t sure you can make. I bet your wife is a hoot, she sounds like a heck of a girl.

 

 

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E.Young

On shooting at that range, I currently sight my .308 in to one click high (1/4") at 25yd which puts me back at POA/POI on at 200yd, which is +2" at 100yd and -2" at 400yd. In SWVA, I did 1/4" low at 25yd which gives point blank again at 100yd. The first sighting has covered me on everything I can need, but back home in the Blue Ridge, a 200yd shot was never gonna happen. With the above, I've had 100% success shooting bedded deer in the shoulder. Have never had one get up, but I will caveat that that's a sample size of probably 6-8 deer. 

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406dn

It is always amazing how smart animals truly are. I once watched a big 6 point bull elk several hundred yards above me, play hide and seek with two hunters. The bull was, at most twenty yards from the hunters. He would move slowly, keeping a tree or two between him and the hunters. After the hunters moved maybe fifty yards, the bull snuck off where they had come from. Those two guys never knew the bull was there, from what I could tell.

 

Now as to the possible shot. If I thought that there was a clear shot to the deer,,,, and it would have to move thru open country to escape,,, I'd have been inclined to take the shot. Way back in the day I witnessed a friend shooting a nice whitetail buck in the a$$ as the deer ran straight away from him. He hit it in the right ham. The deer did not go two steps. It did require a finishing shot. 

 

I've killed several bedded deer and I have always considered them to be some of my best jobs of hunting. One whitetail buck I killed was so close he was fuzzy in a 4 power scope. I did not see him at first as I was stalking a different deer. I only saw the tips of his antlers as I made the final few yards of crawling on my belly to get to a final shooting spot. He was bedded looking away from me. If I had crawled a few more yards,, he would have certainly gotten my scent. He managed to get up and run maybe twenty or thirty feet before giving up the ghost. 

 

Every hunting career will include memories where a big one got away. 

 

 

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406dn
58 minutes ago, bobman said:

 

I bet your wife is a hoot, she sounds like a heck of a girl.

 

 

She is.

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WPG Gizmo

I have come upon plenty of bedded deer but I will not shoot one laying in their bed.  I have one hill I hunt that on a cold morning it will be the first place to get sun I know this same as the deer do and they tend to bed there.  I will sit in a spot and glass the hillside I can normally pick out one or two and on more than one occasion there are 2 sharing the same spot.  They are not spooked they at the right time will stand up and that is when I take one I get a better shot that way. 

 

My prefered shot no matter the weapon is a broadside heart lung shot and I am willing to wait until I get that shot if it means that I go home empty handed I am fine with that there is always another day and another deer.

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bobman

There are a bunch of counties here in Georgia where hunting deer with dogs is legal. It’s normally done with beagles.

 

I used to do a lot of it with my shorthairs and my 12x12x3006 drilling, taking a mixed bag of deer and quail was a normal outing

 

when you allow shorthairs to point deer and walk a clear cut in south ga you will find out just how good deer are at holding tight and allowing you to walk past them.  
 

I had many many points on nice bucks where I literally had to almost step on them to get them to “flush”. It’s can be heartstopping when you’re expecting a covey or a woodcock 

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NCgrouse

I'd have got close enough to see the largest portion of neck and front shoulders possible and let her rip. Lots of people try to aim at deer "just behind the front leg." 

 

I prescribe to straight up the leg, lower 1/3 of the body. Google the "vital V", and that's what I do regardless of what weapon I have. 

 

But yeah in that case, neck or shoulders or upper back and pound away.

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Zkight89

It'd be awful hard for me to not shoot him right under the ear. However I'm no trophy hunter by any means. 

 

 Pretty much any shot would've likely presented a second shot to finish him if necessary though. Great story and experience with or without ending in a shot opportunity! 

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vabirddog

Neck at 30yds? Yes all day long. Head? I’d hate to on a huge buck but I would If thats what I had. It can be repaired.  The object is to kill him as cleanly As possible and both will do it. Imo 

 

btw sounds a lot like grouse hunting and you were the dog. They always go the toughest way. 

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dgfavor

Good stuff guys, thank you for the input!  I definitely feel like we probably could have taken that deer, as does my wife...but it might have been "ugly", very up close, front row and maybe traumatic emotionally/mentally dealing with a poorly chosen shot...or might have been one shot, no movement, done deal.  We'll never know.

 

I live in country that is largely suited to open country 100+ yard shots (100yds would be close range) so have never really considered a "close quarters" type of gun for just this situation...I guess I would feel better putting a big heavy bullet into a neck at that range than I would a scorching long skinny boattail VLD like we were armed with...I have no technical data to back that up.  I considered having her take a neck shot but was really worried about a pass thru without terminal damage then a followup shot fiasco. 

 

Back at it tomorrow!

 

A couple years ago we had moved a couple smaller bucks over a ridge into a patch of brush and felt like they were still in there.  We posted a good friend with his boy on his first antlered deer hunt on the saddle we felt they would go thru when bumped again and the deer did just that.  As the deer cleared the saddle, the boy took good aim at his vitals, fired and shot the buck right thru the ear!  Popped his opposite side antler right off!  Stoned him dead.  Very next day, my brother watched a decent buck bed down on a relatively open sagebrush hillside.  He snuck down in on him hoping not to bump him but of course that's what's happened.  He didn't bolt but kind of jogged off broadside and my brother took a shot at the vitals and said he absolutely cartwheeled him...when he got to his deer, he looked him over and couldn't figure out where he hit him then noticed blood in his right ear...he hit him right thru the right earhole!!  Crazy!  Better to be lucky than good seems to be the rule at our camp!!  That was this deer:

32879970_20161011_12422145.thumb.jpg.30c1a8756cdad3427fa39338d7916735.jpg

 

I thought I had a photo of the other buck with my friend's son doing the trophy pose but holding the shot off antler in place with his hand!  Can't find it!  😂

 

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Brad Eden

Great story. I’m always amazed at how different hunting in the North East is to hunting in the open west. Stalking deer in the open must be a trip. Generally, we just don’t get that many opportunities up here to shoot or even see many deer especially bucks. If I found myself in that situation with a bedded buck, but in the woods or even in a marsh or a blueberry barren I would probably try and slip a bullet into the neck. I have enough full shoulder mounts now and even if this was a mountable trophy a taxidermist could likely fix the hide or a European skull mount might suffice.
 

Ive only shot one deer in the neck. I had tracked this buck in the snow all morning. He was traveling with a doe. They ended up in a pinch point where they would have to cross a road or enter an open barren. I knew I was pressuring them by the way they would stop and meander around, likely looking back. I stopped and brushed off a stump and sat down under some low hanging hemlock boughs and waited. A few minutes later I saw the 5 pt buck making his way uphill, nose in the air looking around. He ended up in my lap and my only shot was the neck at around 20-30 yards. He dropped in his tracks. 

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max2

IMO - Neck shots hold them .  That said DG I liked the way you folks handled this situation. A lot of thought went into this and you made the correct call.  You have more time ahead to bring it home.

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GLS

My brief and unmoving entry into deer hunting started and ended about 40 years ago.  It never took.  In the club was a man who specialized in moving slowly through an area with a Ruger .44  Carbine topped with a 1X scope.  It would take up an hour for him to move 100 yards slipping tree to tree through the woods.  His deer were shot while they were bedded down.  With his skills, it was more of the "Indian, not the arrow" with his success.  Gil

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