We had spotted the buck from the top of the steep canyon about 45 minutes previously and had since that moment been slipping and sliding down the rock strewn hillside, while trying to stay hidden from our still unsuspecting target. This stalk down the treacherous slope was more reminiscent of a sheep hunt than the pursuit of a whitetail deer but as I had explained previously to my present hunting partner six months ago, our whitetail in the Salmon River breaks have habits more akin to mule deer than their Virginianes brethren.
Randy Brooks and Tilly the tracking dog. This buck was taken on a steep downhill shot at 400 yards.
My friend Randy Brooks (of Barnes Bullets fame) and I had been planning this excursion for a couple of years. Our plan for this outing was to mix a bit of scientific research, by way of running a few tests with the relatively new 150 grain .284 diameter Tipped Triple Shock bullets, with a great deal of pleasure enjoying a Northern Idaho hunting adventure.
As Randy was on a rather tight schedule, the day before his arrival I conducted the accuracy phase of the test by shooting multiple groups at 100 to 300 yards with the blue tipped projectile. All of these tests were completed with my old standby .280 Ackley, which is mounted with a Leupold VX3 4.5 to 14 scope that has a target turret for vertical adjustment. As all of the groups shot this day were well under the magic one MOA mark I considered this phase of the project to be well and thoroughly done.
For the past 20 years our method for sighting in at the various distances is to wrap a piece of masking tape around the turret, then shoot the gun at each distance from 100 to 600 yards and make a mark on the tape for each distance. Sort of low tech but very effective. I had a few days back completed this task and was now ready for Randy’s arrival. As our 1000 yard range is conveniently located literally right out our back door, he could upon arrival step out on the deck, take some familiarity shots and be good to go. One other part of the test that I failed to mention, some three weeks back I had purchased a new Leu-pold TBR (True Ballistic Range) 1000, laser range finder, with built in illuminated slope dope indicator and I couldn’t wait to use it on an actual hunt. Our tests on the range indicated this instrument to be accurate to plus or minus one yard.
Our stalk down the side of the mountain, due to the loose rocks and the 40 degree slope of the terrain, sounded more like a cavalry charge than a ninja sneak. Consequently at about 400 yards from the buck we decided we had better set up for a shot before we frightened the still bedded deer clear into Montana. Down went my backpack and Randy made ready to launch one down range. I took a quick read on the TBR, it indicated 404 actual yards to the critter, and a TBR reading of 350 yards. I reached over like a good little spotter and turned the scope to the 350 mark. “Send it” said I, as I stared through my 10 power glasses. At the shot the buck only pricked his ears as the bullet went six inches over his back. I then swapped the binos for the TBR and took another bearing. This one read the same as the previous. “Send another one,” I again said with confidence. At the report the critter showed a little more concern than he had at the previous, as the bullet again hit the dirt in the exact same spot as the last. Keep in mind my friend is a very accomplished rifleman and even though he said not a word, I’m sure at this point, he was no doubt wondering about my dubious skills as a spotter. It was obvious at this point that what I was doing wasn’t working so I reached over and turned the turret down six clicks. This time at the shot the buck folded on the spot.