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When the Chips are Down

Blacktail deer hunting can be a frustrating endeavour. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you don’t come out on top. A buddy of mine, one of those guys I really only keep in contact with once fall rolls around, gets out about as much as I do and he didn’t get off a shot this past fall. He saw bucks and lots of does but never got the opportunity to pull the trigger. I toed a little more on the luckier side, though our stories for the fall are similar.

My ups and downs carried from the start of the season in September through to it’s end mid-December. A close stalk the first week bow hunting, passing up a 300+ yard shot at a buck due to a heavy cross wind, rain and falling darkness, there was the small fella who kept his vitals covered and the one that busted me sitting down in a clear cut, just to name a few. It was a fun season with a lot of sightings and close calls.

Come the middle of November without a kill, a sense of pressure starts to build, this is when I automatically gravitate to a particular rifle. Surely if you’ve hunted for a while, you know what I mean. The rifle isn’t anything special, to my knowledge this particular model isn’t made anymore, though easy to find on any used firearms site. It’s a caliber that is common as dirt with a middling 2.5-10X scope perched on top, the details of which aren’t important. What makes it special is that everything I’ve pointed it at has died.

I shot my first blacktail off-hand at well over a hundred yards on a rainy day with it. So much moisture I had to wipe the lenses before settling the crosshairs. There was a black bear that ran after the first shot (from a rest) and off-hand I stuffed a second into him at 200 yards. You could say I like the rifle and the rifle likes me. Feeling like the chips were down I was carrying it this past fall while still-hunting a small strip of trees. When the opportunity presented itself I quietly talked myself through the shooting process, deep breath, exhale, squeeze the trigger and again the go-to rifle put venison in the freezer.

Over the course of the blacktail season I carry a few different rifles: Dad’s Model 94 when I feel like I need a trip down memory lane or the weather is too harsh for a scope, an inline muzzleloader that I enjoy shooting and my 12 gauge slug gun when spending a day in the thick stuff is called for. When the season is dwindling and I don’t have fresh venison in the freezer it’s the old ought-six pump that gets called upon to complete the job and get that tag cut.

See you on the water or the mountain.

-Matthew Mallory

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