Yesterday was the last day of our black powder season. I had been busy working and had not been able to get out the first several days and then we had a big snow storm and the back roads I needed to drive on were solid ice. Finally yesterday the sun had melted the ice and I was able to get to the farm. I was packing my T/C Encore .45 which was zeroed 2 weeks prior dead on at 100 yds with a 3-9 Leupold and shooting the Hornady 200 gr SST sabot at 2200 fps. Shooting previously had shown this load to be 8-9 inches low at 200 yds.
I worked my way along the big field that bordered the creek and did see 2 groups of deer but they saw me first. I was hoping for a 200 yd shot at a stationary deer to test the performance of that bullet at longer distance. I climbed up on top of the ridge and slowly worked my way around glassing the edge of the woodline looking for does (had a doe tag). As I crested a small ridge I spotted a group of deer feeding along the edge of the woods. I ranged them at 236 yds so I ducked behind cover and eased up closer. Now the largest doe ranged right at 200 yds.
I laid down in prone position and had a nice rock to rest my arm against. I was very steady on the doe. I waited for her to turn broadside and for a fawn behind her to move. The doe turned and cleared so I settled the crosshairs about 3 inches over her back tight behind the shoulder and gently squeezed the 2.5 lb trigger. BOOM, cloud of smoke, expected to see the doe thrashing on the ground. Instead she is standing there staring at me. I stayed behind the gun for a few minutes hoping they would move into the trees so I could move. No dice so I decided to try to reload. I got out my speedloader and lifted the barrel up from my reclining position and poured in the powder and pushed the sabot in the barrel. I couldn't get the bullet moving down the barrel with my poor leverage position, so I put the other end of the ramrod against a rock and shoved the bullet in that way. I was watching the deer out of the corner of my eye and they had moved out into the field to investigate.
I got a new 209 primer seated and rolled back into shooting position. The big doe now ranged 170 yds. She turned broadside and I settled the crosshairs up on the shoulder blade and squeezed off the shot. I saw the bullet kick up snow somewhere beyond her and decided that I had shot low.
Unbelievably the deer let me reload again the same way I had for the second shot. I guess since I was prone and the sun was somewhat in their eyes, they didn't know what to make of me. I have noticed before that deer many times don't spook at the sound of a shot.
The doe was now quartering away to the left but was looking to the right. The way she was facing her entire neck and shoulder were lined up. I ranged her at 160 yards. I steadied the crosshairs on her neck, figuring the bullet should impact somewhere on the neck or shoulder if it was high or low. I shot again and nothing. Now I was out of ammo. I waited a few minutes and the deer lost interest and moved back to the treeline.
I ducked under cover and dropped down the hill to head about 3/4 mile to my truck and my possibles box to clean the rifle and hopefully resight the scope. As I neared the truck I had the sinking feeling that I hadn't thrown my bullets in the box. Sure enough I hadn't. I rummaged around in the box and came up with one 225 gr Powerpoint and then found one SST.
I knew the open sights were zeroed so I decided to just take the scope off. The question was, did I zero it a little high at 50 yds with 100 gr Triple7 and the Powerbelt or a little high at 100 yds with 120 gr Triple7 and the SST? I thought about it and remembered it was zeroed with the SST load for a Utah trip I had made. I loaded up the SST and headed back up the hill.
I looped around and checked the field from another direction, hoping to catch the deer farther up the ridge. I spotted some does out in the field farther down the ridge so I dropped back into the trees to loop around on them. The snow in the shaded areas was crusted and crunchy and I was making lots of noise but I wasn't worried because the deer were 400 yds away. as I came around the edge of the treeline I suddenly froze. About 50 yds away there were 2 fawns bedded down. I could see a larger deer next to them through a cedar tree. Now the bigger deer snapped its head around to look at me. I knew I was mostly hidden and the deer would probably investigate. The deer stood up and the two fawns plus another I hadn't seen also stood up. This was the spot the deer had moved to the treeline earlier after my misses. It was the same doe and fawns!
I slowly raised the rifle and thumbed back the hammer. The doe would take a few steps and stare. I kept my sights trained on an opening and when the doe stepped into the opening I bleated at her. She stopped broadside so I steadied the sights behind the shoulder and squeezed off the shot. BOOM! Big cloud of smoke. When the smoke cleared the doe was down strugging weakly and then she was still.
I walked up to the deer and saw that my bullet had taken her right behind the shoulder. I sat down next to her and thought about the morning's events for a few minutes. The odds of my scope being jarred off zero were quite low and the odds of getting off 3 shots at the same deer with a muzzleloader were almost nil. To take the same deer cleanly later in the morning with open sights and my one and only bullet, well that was just icing on the cake. Every now and then, things come together when you think you have lost the game.
I'll never know where my scope was hitting since I had to take it off to use the open sights. I wish I had a crystal ball to find out!