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Old December 5, 2002, 08:00 AM   #1
Dave McC
Staff In Memoriam
 
Join Date: October 13, 1999
Location: Columbia, Md, USA
Posts: 8,812
The Ugliest Shotgun in Howard County....

Was what my friend Billy called it on first sight. But let me backtrack.

It was 1976, and a new idea had filtered in, that of a dedicated shotgun for deer hunting. I was shooting some benchrest rifle, and owned a couple good sporters, but my home county then and now was shotgun only. I had been using a Model 24 Savage combo gun,but the 22 LR bbl was illegal under the Game Code.

So, a little research led me to a used Mossberg bolt action, with Polychoke type gadget adorning the end of the bbl,two round magazine,and a fairitomiddlin' trigger.And it was goodncheap, about $50, IIRC.

So, a gunsmith friend cut and crowned the bb to 18" and a little, mounted a ramp and bead, and after the forend was shortened, a shim was installed at the tip to pressure the bbl into consistent vibrations.There was a little bifurcated bump at the receiver ring that served as a rear sight.It was filed down to raise elevation with the old Remington 7/8 oz slug, and the front drifted to center the group at 50 yards. Billy's farm was where we did our shooting then, and a picnic table was our bench. Sling studs completed the package.

I had been doing some small game hunting and had scouted out a 2 year old 6 point, knew where he scraped, slept, and fed. Had him within 10 feet once while squirrel hunting and KNEW I could bag him opening day. You know what's coming...

About 7:30AM opening day, I inserted a slug one rib behind the shoulder crease on him at 40 yards or so. He hunched and jumped, then spun and took off on the death run. For better or worse, he headed towards the farm boundary, and the farm next to the one we hunted was being hunted also. We had recovery rights, but...

The buck ran right into a father and 14 year old son hunting for the first time as they entered the woods a good hour after first light. A fusilade of shots rang out and I got behind cover fast. I ducked and covered, then hollered and approached the scene, meeting the father first. I advised him I had shot a buck that must have run towards him, and we heard the kid holler, "I got him"! Arriving where the buck lay, I noted the kid had his fingers OUT of the trigger guard, the safety was on, and it was pointed in a safe direction. Then, I looked at the deer and noted that there was a neat hole right where I aimed, another shot had taken off some hindquarter meat,and a nick on the withers. The kid was absolutely ecstatic, and I looked at that buck,looked at the kid, looked at the Dad, and took a deep breath. I shook the kid's hand, congratulated him on HIS buck, and walked back into the woods.

OK, look me right in the monitor and tell me you'd have done differently.

Well, I hunted hard all that week, came home to sleep and reassure the woman that's now Wonderful Wife I hadn't been shot or fallen out of a tree, but without another shot opp. We drove, we still hunted, we stand hunted, we wore ourselves out, and the deer remained elusive. Billy and the rest commiserated, but the loss of that buck did hurt and I regretted my noble gesture just a bit. Last morning of the season, I dragged myself out of bed determined to see it out to the bitter end.

I hunted a different property that day, I had phoned an old friend who didn't hunt and secured permission to hunt on some family property nearby. Grown up into climax forest, I had camped there as Boy Scouts and knew it well. And, there was a nice bridle path running along a ridge top that ensured quiet movement.

The wind turned out to be right in my face as I eased into the woods. I had applied for and gotten a doe permit, and was determined to make meat if I could.

So, I eased down the path like a ghost. Moving in the classic 3 slow steps,stop rhythm of a feeding deer, I covered about 125 yards in the first hour. To the left,the ridge fell away rapidly, down to a gully used as a passage by deer to go to a nearby cornfield,but the corn was long gone.On the right, it was much more level and only slowly tipped down. The top was covered with some downed trees, some standing white oak, poplar, hickory and beech, and plenty of laurel and honeysuckle.

There had been snow, and I could see very well. A doe was down in the gully, and I knelt down in the path as it moved closer, determined to take it when it was less than 50 yards away. Then I noticed noise behind me in the thick stuff. I tried to ignore it, but it did sound like large critters moving around. Finally, I slowly rotated my head and noted tines floating above a laurel bush less than 30 yards away.Many tines.

Adrenaline time....

It seemed an eternity until I could ease around and face the other way, still kneeling. It seemed another eternity until I brought my ugly Mossberg up, and a third eternity passed until the owner of that rack moved clear of the laurel and turned broadside at maybe 25 yards, maybe closer. I squeezed that trigger knowing this might be the last chance that season, and possibly the biggest deer I'd ever get a shot at. The sound boomed into the brittle air, and where the deer stood was empty. I chambered another round, took a really deep breath and looked for the deer. There was no obvious sign of it. I moved forward and found exactly ONE tiny drop of blood.Tracks headed away, so I followed them. Maybe 75 yards away,there was another gully, and crumpled at the bottom was the biggest buck I'd ever seen. There was no way I could get him out of there by myself, so I hung my orange hat there to mark the spot and hauled **** to Billy's. He and his brother had given up and slept in that morning. That soon changed, and with the two of them and another buddy, we headed back with shotguns, rope, more knives than most butcher shops and grave intent.The guys marveled at the buck,bigger than any they'd seen,and he was hauled out, dressed and dragged to a waiting truck, a Chevy P/U, naturally.

A quick trip to the check in station got me more attention that I was used to. He checked in at 176 lbs dressed,9 points with a 17 7/8" inside spread. By contemporary standards, he was one H*ll of a buck. He was also the biggest taken in the county that year out of 54 deer. That rack still looks mighty good to me.It's over the fireplace.

Fast lunch, and we went back and drove that area again, Billy taking what he thought was a doe but turned out to be a smallish buck that had lost his antlers.

As we hoisted Billy's up next to mine for hanging and skinning,I asked Billy with a grin if he still thought my shotgun was ugly. He grinned back and said "Yes,but it looks a lot better to me. I'm gonna get one".

He did.....

Last edited by Dave McC; December 5, 2002 at 05:30 PM.
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