One of the best things about having a gun shop is that I am able to experiment (or just play) with different stuff at a reasonable cost. Some "stuff" works very well, other don't. So, I would like to tell about a new set-up that worked really well.
I tend to be a very traditional hunter, using mostly double shotguns (preferably side-by-side) and even double rifles (in this case reason won and it is an over-under) for most of my hunting, but for the 2017 Michigan Deer Season I wanted to try something different.
I decided to give a rest to the medium and large bore rifles and experiment for the first time with a screaming quarter bore, the 257 Weatherby Magnum. First introduced in 1944 and said to have been Roy Weatherby's favorite creation, the 257 WM is one of the flattest shooting commercial cartridges, being able to harvest most of the big game animals of North America, short of of the brown and polar bears and bison. While it may not be ideal for elk and moose, with proper bullet construction and placement the 257 will do the job there as well.
As the launch platform for the very, very fast little pill (bullet weight varies from 87 to 120 grains) I select a modern version of the Weatherby rifle, the Vanguard Back Country. I sold the same rifle to a customer early in 2016, a recoil sensitive bow hunter, and he took it to Alaska and successfully hunted dall sheep and caribou, and I was very impressed with the rifle at that time, so I figured, why not?
With such a hot rod, my whole idea was to have a relatively long range pack, as that would align with the potential shots I could get on a new property I was hunting, and since you can't hit what you can't see, I need good optics to top the Vanguard.
My choice of scope was the Hawke Frontier 30, 2.5-15x50 SF with the LR (Long Range) illuminated reticle. I had previous experience with Hawke scopes on several of my air guns, and I like their quality and value, so I knew that this would match the Weatherby rifle well.
The reason for selecting this specific model is that I wanted a 30mm body scope for maximum adjustment range a light transmission. Then I wanted a scope that had a low enough magnification that could be used on a running shot at relative short range and high enough magnification to allow precise shooting at the longer end of the spectrum of shots that I could possibly take (400 to 500 yards). The 50mm objective also helps with the light gathering, and illuminated reticle provides a positive aiming point in low light conditions, the situation one is more likely to encounter during the twilight hours that deer are most likely to be moving (although that is not the case, as you will find out).
One thing that I could not get away from was shooting premium controlled expansion bullets, and that is why I select the Nosler Trophy Grade ammo loaded with 110 Grain Accubond bullets, with a muzzle velocity of 3,400 feet per second.
Sighting the rifle was one of the easiest times I ever had. Virtually no recoil and precise scope adjustment, allowed me to shoot a small group two inches high at 100 yards in minutes, and I ready to go hunting. And the lighted center dot in the reticle was easy to see under full sunlight.
On the day before Opening Day I received a visit from dear friend Mike Vander Muelen. He was visiting some friends in the Traverse City area and was going to spend Opening Day in their deer camp, but had no plans to hunt. I convinced or rather forced him to buy a deer license, and let him use one of my rifles for the day, and since I was a bachelor for a couple days we agreed to meet on the sixteenth and maybe hunt together, and after that have dinner and libations.
November 15th, Opening Day was almost a deluge. It rained overnight and the rain just did not let go until late afternoon. I sat all day on my blind, reading, checking my phone, snacking, but never letting go the hope that eventually a deer would come by. And sometime towards dusk I saw movement, not three or four hundred yards away, but maybe three or four hundred feet away.
A young buck was moving towards my blind on an old logging road, and at around twenty-one yards he just turns broadside! The little red dot from the center of the reticle rested just behind the buck's right shoulder and a third of the way up. At the shot the two hind legs kicked high in the air, and the buck spring forward, and after a run of about thirty yards just flipped upside down. Heart shot.
Young but legal
Next day Mike met me at my shop, Hampel's Gun Co. in the morning, and then we went to my home to get ready for the hunt. Before we left I fired up my Big Green Egg and put a whole rib side on it, so we could satiate our hunger when we came back late in the night!
That almost did not happen. We arrived at my blind around 2:00 PM, and not fifteen minutes later, there comes, through the same old log road, a nice mature Michigan buck, bigger than any deer I've ever shot, and the rifle was on my side of the blind!
But Mike had not hunted in several years (his fault, not mine), and as much as I may torment him, I really like the guy. I could see the buckfever mounting on when he asked for the rifle. I considered teasing him a bit, but he would suffer, so I passed him the Weatherby. He rested the forend on the window frame, looked through the Hawke Frontier, adjusted the magnification, took a deep breath and ... the deer moved closer.
The deer kept coming and suddenly turned broadside, but before Mike could take a shot he jumped over a fallen log and ... moved closer. And then there it was, at the exact same spot I shot my younger buck the day before.
And Mike could take it no more, he aimed carefully and suddenly the Vanguard barked, and the deer took of, the front right leg at a ninety degree angle, like a wing, and we lost sight of him on some multiflora bushes.
And Mike was devastated, almost in tears (this is my story and I tell it anyway I want. If he disagrees he can write it his way!), but I assured him that the running deer was dead, he just did not know about it, and we would find him within a hundred yards, probably northeast of the blind. He did not believe me at the time, but I was proven right at the end.
Mike and his nice buck
Since we are both old grandpas and not fit to hard work (again my story, Mike is right now crossing the country west to east in a bicycle - crazy guy!), I called Steve at Williams & Bay and asked for his help in looking for the dead deer.
We looked, and looked, and when we were about to get discouraged the three of us almost simultaneously saw the dead deer laying among the autumn leaves.
Well, eventually we made it back home and to the green egg, and those were some of the best ribs, venison or otherwise, anyone ever tasted. And the libations where almost as good, especially since the tight fisted Dutchman from Zeeland, Michigan, bought them! (And again, this is my story!)