Well, for back Thursday from a Pere David deer hunt. Was a fast trip, lots of driving with lots of construction delays, summer driving is a pain sometimes!!!
First off a bit of background on the Pere David Deer. They have been extinct in their native China for 2000 years!!! The imperor of China kept some on his private estate and several hundred years ago he gifted some to some kings in Europe. Some of those were sent to Texas and now for the most part, the USA is the new native home to Pere David Deer. There are a few ranches outside of Texas that have them but they are certainly not wide spread.
The Pere David Deer has a strange antler design which can only be discribed a a series of forks that make up a basic 4x4 main frame and also a host of smaller kicker points. Some bulls have a few, some have dozens of these smaller points. Body size they are similiar to a cow elk but more compact in size, just heavier built to be similiar weight. Trophy bulls will be mature bulls of 6 years of age up to 10 years. They truely are a unique addition to any trophy room and for those against high fence hunting, thats the only option to hunt and harvest a Pere David deer so if your opposed to such things, might as well stop here.
Anyway, got to the ranch Monday evening, it was 100 degrees!!! We had some dinner at the ranch house and then around 8:00 we headed out to do some scouting. We found a group of Pere David Deer right where the ranch owner said they would be, hanging around the ponds which are in very deep, heavily timbered canyons. This group had 5 bulls total with one mature bull. Looked pretty impressive. We looked them over for 30 minutes or so just to see if there were any others in the timber that would show themselves but they never did if they were there. We spied on the bulls from around 500 yards not to spook them but they still winded us and blew out down the valley.
We drove out to another pond and just as we got there we saw a very large, very heavy bull slip into the timber. Only thing I could really see was he was MASSIVE and huge framed but as far as points, had no idea what he had. As we set on that pond until dark, 10 more pere davids showed up, 5 cows, 3 calves and two 4 year old young bulls.
We stayed until dark to avoid spooking the deer and then slipped out back to the ranch house. That night we boiled in the cabin all night. I did not sleep a bit laying there in a pool of my own soup sweating my rear off. We had decided to get a very early start to hopefully get some hunting in before it heated up. I got out of bed at 4:00 am just because I had laid there all night, might as well get up and go sit out on the deck and listen to the elk cows talking to their calves.
Just as the horizon started to light up we headed out. I told our guide Ron, I really wanted to try to see some of the mature bulls together so that we could get an idea how they compared in size as there were supposed to be three bulls that were in the 8-10 year old range. Ron said that the one we saw slip into the timber quickly at the second pond was the 10 year old and he had a HUGE frame and mass far above the two 8 year old bulls. He did say however that the one 8 year old bull we did not see the night before had points all over hell, at least 25-30 scorable points compared to the heavy bull with 10 to 12 total scorable points. I am a sucker for mass but wanted to see this other bull just to see what he had to offer.
I have always been a handgun hunting nut, in fact for a stint of around 12 years, thats the only method of weapon I hunted with. My passion for handgun hunting has always been big bore revolvers but also love the high intensity specialty handguns as well. I had both on this trip, a Ruger SuperRedhawk in 480 Ruger with a Burris 1.5-4x scope and the other a T/C encore fitted with a 17.5" 338 Win Mag handgun barrel and a 2.5-7x TC recoil proof handgun scope. Because of the terrain and heavy timber, I decided to start the hunt with my Ruger. I was confident with that revolver out to 125 yards but wanted to get under 100 yards and I felt that was a great match for this timbered area we were hunting.
We drove to the edge of the timberline and then walked into the valley which was around a 1/2 mile hike. We set up on a rim above the second pond where we had seen the big heavy bull the night before. As it lit up, three deer became visable. One was a calve, one a young bull and the third was one of the 8 year old bulls, not the one with alot of points but still a very nice bull, easily a top 50 in the world class bull (at least thats what Ron said). We set there for about an hour and then heard some bulls "Barking" farther down the valley. I can only discribe the noise these things make as a loud bark, its truely amazing and a bit startling when you year it for the first time!!!
We decided to slowly make our way down the valley rim wall, through the timber and hopefully sneak up on what was making the noise. The plan worked pretty well. We got into a position and saw a bull in the timber before he saw us. We could only see his rump so we set up to watch. We could hear another bull that we could not see so we were hopeful. With these mature bulls around, more then likely only other mature bulls would be "talking back". It took about an hour but we finally got a look at the bulls headgear and he was stunning, points running the length of all his tines, truely amazing. We figured he was a 230 to 260" scorer which would make him easily in the top three for handgun kills and top 25 for all time SCI.
Then we looked to out right and a pair of big Aoudad Rams came running over the hill, on the same trail we were sitting on. They about messed themselves when they ran into us at around 10 yards and blew up through the timber making all kinds of noise which alerted the Pere David deer down in the valley and they blew out of the valley again.
By this time it was lunch time so we headed back to the ranch house to eat. It was also getting hot so we decided to take a nap after lunch as I had not slept any the night before and had gotten up at 4:00 AM the morning we left on the trip to nebraska. I was ready for some shut eye. Suprisingly, the cabin had actually cooled off as the wind was blowing and we had set up a couple fans and opened all the windows before we left for the morning hunt. As such, I took a solid nap. When we woke up, it was mid afternoon and around 85 degrees. Hot but much cooler then the day before in the afternoon. We went out for the evening hunt but only ran into a herd of cows and one of the three bulls. By this time we had numbered the mature bulls in order of my interest in them. Number 1 was the heavy bull which up to this point we had not seen more then a few seconds. Number 2 bull was the bull with all the extra points and Number 3 bull was the other mature bull, very similiar to #2 but with less extra points.
We set till dark but no one else showed up at the pond so we packed it in for the night and headed back to the ranch house for dinner!!!
That evening several lightening storms came through which really cooled off the temps and I slept like a baby!!! The next morning we set out again at dawn and again, walked into another pond. As we got closer to the pond we could hear alot of "Barking" coming from the valley. We could hear three distinct barks so I was pretty excited. We snuck onto the rims to get a good view and set up. Within minutes a bull came out of the timber, it was bull #2, very impressive. It was hard not to pull the trigger on this bull. The range to this bull was 110 yards so I held off with the 480 Ruger in my hands. The wind swirled and the herd busted out of the area. HOWEVER, as they did they ran across an earthen damn between some ponds. The timber was covering them but we could see their reflection in the pond as they ran by, This was the first time I got a decent view of the heavy bull. It was about 5 seconds. He ran out on the damn after the other deer and stopped, I was in AWE. If he was what I thought he was, he was huge, no comparision between him and the other mature bulls, at least not in mass and frame size. I told Ron I wanted to try for him.
We decided to try to do the old Leap Frog trick that often works well archery hunting for elk, the deer ran up a draw that ran up off the valley and we ran up the one next to it, we would top over the crest between the draw and set up hoping the herd would walk by us and offer a shot. Well, there is alot of timber here. Our plan worked great but the timber spoiled three attemps. I was within 50 yards of the bulls twice but could not get off a shot with my revolver because of the timber.
Finally we went for broke and ran up the draw to the top where it opened up into the high meadow. Ran out and set up next to the last pine tree before things were all open meadow. Ron set up next to me and his son on the other side of me with the video camera. Three young bulls cleared the timber and trotted by. Then bull #3 broke timber and posed at around 85 yards. Lined the revolver up and the bull looked pretty small in the handgun scope set on 3x!!! Still I knew a shot would be possible and certainly doable at this range with the 480 Ruger as it routinely puts three shots inside 3" ctc at 100 yards using the 425 gr Cast Performance loaded to just under 1200 fps. Its the most accurate revolver I own.
Next were the cows, calves and younger bulls that worked their way by us from 50 to 120 yards. The wind was perfect right into our face. IF the other bulls followed the same path, it may work out.
It took about two minutes but bull #2 broke out of the timber at a slow trot and then stopped right at the edge of the timber shadow line. I was watching him through the handgun scope when a big grey shadow passed in front of him. I pulled off the handgun scope and grabbed my binos, it was bull #1. This was the first time I have hunted Exotic species that I had that "OH MY LORD" thought pass through my mind. As good as bull #3 looked and as awsome as #2 was, bull #1 simply looked stupid huge in mass and frame. I had no reason to count points or consider bull #2 with his rack of points, there was no consideration, it was #1 or none. He continued walking out into the open. I asked Ron to give me a range, 105 yards, a bit on the long side but I was taking the shot. I gave the bull a chirp to stop him and he did instantly, quartering toward me. I centered the big bores reticle solidly on the bulls onside shoulder and sent nearly an ounce of lead toward the big bull. The bull jumped at the impact and tore off full speed for around 150 yards. I was starting to wonder if I had hit him but then his head started to lower and he started to slow down and quickly got weak and fell dead!!
I wanted to center him on the point of the shoulder..... I missed, impact was roughly 1.5" inside where I was holding, the 425 gr hard case made a perfect 1/2" hole in took off the top of the heart, punched a hole through both lungs and exited near the last rib on the offside. About 30" of penetration, not to bad on a 500 lb class animal. I was amazed when I got up to the bull. The mass was just crazy and his rear points were amazingly long. We loaded him onto the trucks flat bed with the power lift (thing of beauty!!) and headed back to the ranch where we hung him, skinned him and put him in the cooler. Then we got down to the serious work, the scoring of his rack!!
Ron told me your doing pretty good if you get a bull that squares 25"and that should easly get you into the record books. That means a bull with front main beams that are over 25" and back points that are also +25". My bulls fronts were 29" and 30"!!! Even more impressive, his back points were 34" and 35 4/8"!!!! AMAZING. 37" spread and 10" base circumference (only diameter score you get on these). Minimum score to get into the SCI books is 150". My old boy scored an even 232 0/8". That is good enough for #5 taken with a handgun in the world and #24 on the all time SCI records. Not to bad!!!
They are not the most beautiful deer on the planet but like most game, an old, mature animal is most impressive and will be a great addition to the trophy room. Add to that, the meat is amazing. A bit tough but GREAT flavor in the steaks.
Pere David Deer rut during our early summer so they make agreat off season hunt if your up to the heat which was pretty hot for this northern boy but it was a great time!!!
The Encore 338 Win Mag will have to wait for my early season elk hunt of Oklahoma whitetail hunt or hunting here at home. I am sure it will get bloodied this year.