Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ragweed Buck

Mornings like today's are few and far between. That's probably a good thing because I don't know if I could stand to be any more obsessed and addicted to deer hunting than I already am. A couple more days like today could really do me in.

The story behind this deer starts, to a certain degree, with something I learned a couple weeks ago at the Middle Tennessee QDMA Field Day. During a discussion of the importance of native plants for wildlife, Clint and Chris mentioned that ragweed is both high in protein and a favored food of deer. The significance of that didn't really hit me at the time, but luckily, I remembered it last week while I was scouting for spots to hunt during opening weekend of bow season.

I was checking an area that has had some good buck activity in the past when I noticed that a small overgrown field was full of ragweed. On the edge of the field, I found a freshly opened scrape about twenty yards away from a white oak that had dropped a few nuts (a rarity this year) and a red oak that had also dropped some of the biggest red oak acorns I've ever seen.

Neither tree was what I would consider to be a dominant tree. The nuts that were on the ground appeared to be due to squirrels, not an active acorn drop. It was clear from the churned up ground that deer were feeding there, but there just wasn't enough food on the ground for the sign to accumulate to the degree that normally gets me really excited.

Nevertheless, the combination of acorns, browse, thick cover, a fresh scrape, and lots of walk sign got my attention. It definitely had potential and I decided to hunt it when I had a favorable wind.

Last night, the weather channel was predicting 46 degrees and a SSW wind for the morning. I checked a topo map and sure enough, the wind was perfect for that spot. I thought about waiting a while to let the acorns start to drop a little heavier but I had a gut feeling and eventually I decided to give it a go.

I arrived at the spot about fifteen minutes before legal shooting light and picked out a tree to climb by flashlight. Here is the setup.

I had only been settled in for a couple minutes when I heard a "snap" out in the weed field. Something was definitely headed my way but it was too dark to see into the field. I eased up out of my seat, clipped on my release, and fought back that first shot of adrenaline that can develop into a full-blown case of sewing machine knees if you aren't careful.

As I scanned the edge of the field, straining my eyes to catch a glimpse of movement, a buck materialized in the scrape and started pawing the ground and chewing on the overhanging dogwood limbs. It was still about twenty minutes before sunrise and the light was just starting to come up. I could tell from the deer's shape that it was a good sized buck, but I couldn't make out any details of its rack.

Under other circumstances, I might have waited to get a better look before taking the shot, but with archery gear in the woods, you sometimes don't have the luxury of time. I decided to take the shot if I got a chance.

Luckily, the buck turned to the right and started to "do his business" as my mother used to say. That was the opportunity I needed. I put the twenty yard pin behind his right shoulder and concentrated on getting a smooth release and following through like I've done a thousand times in the back yard.


The buck vanished back into the thick darkness of the weed field in an instant. I followed the sound of it crashing off and thought I heard it fall. Or had I? Two other deer had exploded out of the thick cover when the buck bolted, so I really couldn't be sure of what I had heard.

I replayed the scene over and over in my head as confidence and doubt battled it out. "The shot felt good." "The impact sounded good." "Did I shoot the right one of the three?" "I think I heard it fall." "What if I hit that little limb that I can see now?" "Was it as good a deer as I thought?"

I decided to give it about an hour before I took up the trail. The wait was agonizing so I distracted myself by taking the above photos and texting my son and some buddies.

Finally, the time came to get down. With a mixture of anticipation and dread, I approached the scrape where the buck had been standing when I shot. "Please let me find a bloody arrow where it ought to be."

"Yes!" There it was, covered in bright red blood and stuck in the ground about two feet away from the scrape and the buck's last "business." You can click on the picture to enlarge it.

The deer had run back into the thick weeds, so I had to track him carefully. There were very few actual drops of blood on the ground (at least that I could see) but by moving very slowly, I could follow the tiny spatters of blood on the tall blades of grass and weed stems.

It took me about twenty minutes to cover the fifty-or-so yards to where the deer lay, but I eventually crested a small rise and spotted him down in the thick stuff.

Wow! What a rollercoaster of emotions in the course of a couple hours. Exilaration, confidence, doubt, hope, dread, joy, awe...

When I checked the deer's stomach contents, I expected to find lots of acorns. Instead, it contained nothing but ragweed and other browse. "Well I'll be," I thought, "you're never too old to learn something new. I guess those fellas from the NRCS and TWRA know what they're talking about."

As I drove my four wheeler the two miles or so back to my truck, I purposely took my time so that I could savor the moment. The sun was shining and glistening like diamonds off a clear stream beside the trail. The air was cool and smelled of fall. A plan had come together and a nice deer was riding shotgun behind me. I remember thinking, "Man, if you don't love this, you just don't love life."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Middle Tennessee QDMA Branch Field Day

On September 13, the Middle Tennessee QDMA Branch held its kickoff event with a mini-field day at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort's Outdoor Demonstration Area. Chris Wolkonowski, Area Resource Biologist with the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service and Clint Borum, Private Lands Biologist with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency were on hand to discuss the planning and initial implementation of a conservation plan they developed for the 100 acre site.

Chris and Clint discussed how they developed the conservation plan in conjunction with the landowner, taking into consideration the landowner's objective for the property, which was to develop it into a showcase for wildlife habitat management practices. The plan will take three years to implement and involves removal of invasive species, establishment of early successional habitats, field borders, firebreaks, upland wildlife habitats, native warm season grasses,foodplots, and much more.

Attendees were treated to a wide ranging discussion of the steps that have been taken thus far, including herbicide applications to control invasive species like johnson and bermuda grasses and chinese privet, establishment of cover crops to control erosion and reduce browsing pressure, and the planting of numerous test foodplots in a wide variety of seed mixes.

NRCS Biologist Chris Wolkonowski points out one of the invasive species, bush honeysuckle, that is being eradicated from the site.

Of particular interest to the QDMA members on hand was a discussion of the key ingredients in a habitat management plan designed to hold and develop quality deer on a particular piece of property. Their number one recommendation... cover is king. Food is generally not a limiting factor in the southeast, but cover is.

They recommend creating cover by establishing early successional habitats through clearcutting of selected areas of the property. They also recommend taking steps to encourage the growth of native plant species which can be more nutritious and more drought resistant than cultivated species. Finally, after those steps have been taken, then the landowner should think about adding foodplots.

Their recommendation for foodplots... a mixture of red, white, and crimson clover which will provide three to six years of high quality, low maintenance food at a minimal cost.

TWRA Biologist Clint Borum discusses foodplot strategies in front of the foodplot demonstration area.


Clint and Chris recommended several books for those who are interested in learning more about native plants, invasive plants, and foodplots.

Native Warm Season Grasses, by the UT Agricultural Extension Service. Available in print through your County/Regional UT Extension office which can be located here.  Or, if you prefer, it can be downloaded free here.  If you download it, you will need to download each chapter separately.

A Guide to Successful Wildlife Foodplots, by the UT Agricultural Extension Service.  Available in print through your County/Regional UT Extension office which can be located here.  It can be downloaded for free in its entirety here.

A Landowner's Guide to Native Warm-Season Grasses in the Mid-South, by the UT Agricultural Extension Service. Available in print through your County/Regional UT Extension office which can be located here.  It can be downloaded for free in its entirety here.

Forest Plants of the Southeast and Their Wildlife Uses, by James H. Miller and Karl V. Miller. Available from Amazon.

Weeds of the Southeast, by Charles T. Bryson. Available from Amazon.

Friday, September 9, 2011

QDMA Field Day Announcement

Anyone interested in improving white-tailed deer habitat is invited to attend the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Course being held by the Middle Tennessee Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association. The event will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13, at the Gaylord property on Pennington Bend Rd, across Briley Parkway from the Opryland Hotel.

Speakers from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will discuss topics of interest to deer hunters, land owners, and land managers including Managing Your Property for Wildlife, Creating Early Successional Habitats, and Food Plots vs. Native Habitats. In addition, the speakers will cover USDA/TWRA Programs for Wildlife, including the creation of free conservation plans and federal assistance programs for wildlife habitat improvement.

The meeting site will be outdoors and will include hands-on exhibit of a conservation plan being implemented on the property. Admission is free and the event is open to the public. Directions are available here or on the our facebook page at www.facebook.com/midtnqdma

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Risky Business

A doe suffering from Chronic Wasting Disease
 Under existing Tennessee state law, it is illegal to transport live whitetail deer into the state and it is illegal to domesticate any whitetail deer, imported or native. That could all change if House Bill 1112 and its counterpart Senate Bill 1568 are voted into effect by the state legislature. The bill, titled “The Whitetail Deer Breeding and Farming Act” is aimed at legalizing the importation, farming, and commercial shooting of whitetail deer in the state of Tennessee.

If passed, the bill will require deer farmers to import all farmed deer from out-of-state sources and will allow those same deer to be shot in small enclosures by paying customers. Some use the term “canned hunt” to describe the harvest process, but I will not, because that activity has nothing to do with hunting. I prefer to call those operations canned shooting preserves.

The bill includes language intended to reduce the potential for introduction of disease, but in so doing, it creates a huge regulatory burden on the TWRA without providing adequate funding. If the bill passes, something will have to give. Either the TWRA will be financially incapable of providing the specified oversight, or it will be forced to divert resources from other activities.

Keep in mind, we the sportsmen of Tennessee, provided the funding years ago for the re-introduction of our present deer herd and today we fund the operation of the TWRA through our license fees and taxes on hunting and fishing gear. I, for one, don't want my contributions to be diverted away from the good work the agency does and certainly don't want to fund the policing of the activities of a few people who would willingly put our valuable wildlife resources at risk for their own personal gain.

As a Tennessean and as an avid hunter, my opposition to this legislation is twofold. First, I believe that legalizing the importation of whitetail deer opens the door to CWD, a very serious, very deadly disease that has the potential to wipe out our entire deer herd and our deer hunting heritage. Second, I believe that our hunting heritage is based on ethics and sportsmanship, not raising pen-raised animals to the shot by the highest bidder.

How the Bill is Being Presented (with my rebuttal)

Like many Tennessee hunters, I was unaware of the pending legislation until recently. Then, a couple weeks ago a member of TnDeer posted a link to this video of a presentation by a Texas deer farmer before the Tennessee House Agriculture Committee.

As I watched the testimony, my blood pressure began to rise as the presenter weaved numerous half-truths about the risks and benefits of deer farming and artfully dodged potentially contentious questions about canned shoots. But when the bill's sponsor, Rep. Frank Niceley, spoke after the formal presentation I really couldn't believe what I was hearing.

At 1:09:05 in the video, Rep Niceley addresses the audience and says, “I've been involved in the wild animal hauling business for the last ten or fifteen years and I have hauled deer to game preserves all over this country and you can't realize how much money is in this.” Wow! I guess that's what you call disclosure, but it leaves little doubt about his motive in sponsoring this bill, particularly since one of the stipulations is that any newly established farm has to import their stock from out of state.

At 1:09:38 Rep. Niceley says, “Tennessee was a pioneer in hunting preserves years ago, most people don't realize that.” Very true. Most people also don't realize that the current explosion of nuisance wild boar in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and on the Cumberland Plateau is a direct result of imported European Wild Boar escaping from those early hunting preserves.

The marauding pigs have cost us, the property owners and taxpayers of the state countless millions of dollars in property damage and eradication costs and it seems very unlikely that we will be able to control their numbers without significant additional spending. In fact on the Cumberland Plateau, year-round hunting seasons with unlimited daily bag limits have failed to stem the tide. The TWRA has now begun to pay for professionals to help with the eradication efforts.

Fast forward a week or so to this videotaped session of the House Conservation and Environment Subcommittee. In his opening remarks, Rep Niceley explains that this bill doesn't create deer farming. He says, “We've farmed deer in Tennessee longer than any living soul can remember. We farm every kind of deer in the world. We farm elk, moose, axis, sitka, fallow, you name it, muntjack, you name it. If it's a deer in the world, we can legally bring it in under strict health guidelines.” He goes on to say, “The only thing this bill does is add one kind of deer to all the other deer in the world that we can farm. It adds whitetail deer.” He then asks his opponents why, if we have been able to farm all those other types of deer, why can't they add just one, the whitetail.

Well, Rep. Niceley, that's an easy one. Because when deer farming was first allowed in the state, CWD had not been discovered. Furthermore, none of the species you mention have native herds roaming around outside the fences. Why does that make a difference? If a CWD-infected axis deer escapes, it is much less likely to transmit that disease to the native whitetail population than if the escaped deer is another whitetail.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

The transportation and confinement of whitetail deer can potentially lead to the transmission of a variety of nasty diseases into livestock and wildlife populations, but there is one disease that represents a clear and present danger to Tennessee's wild deer herd and to Tennessee's hunting tradition. That disease is called Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD for short.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a transmissible neurological disease of deer and elk that produces small lesions in brains of infected animals. It is characterized by loss of body condition, behavioral abnormalities and it always results in death. CWD is classified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), and is very similar to mad cow disease in cattle, scrapie in sheep, and Creutzfelt-Jakob Disease in humans.

There is no known reliable test for the presence of CWD in live animals. The only accurate tests today require tissue samples from the brain and lymph nodes of suspected animals – which can only be collected from dead animals.

The two most significant factors affecting the spread of CWD are the transportation of diseased animals and the confinement of those animals in high-density habitats (particularly deer farms).

Proponents of the current bill would like to downplay the seriousness of the potential threat to our state, claiming that the bill includes safeguards to prevent the spread of disease. Those safeguards are dubious at best since there is no accurate testing for the presence of CWD in live deer and infected deer can live and pass along the disease for years without any visible symptoms. As mentioned above, those safeguards also depend on rigorous enforcement activities which are not adequately funded under the bill.

Other Enforcement Issues

Anyone who has ever kept livestock knows that eventually, just about every fence is going to fail. Whether it is from trees falling on it during windstorms, floodwaters washing it away or eroding the soil out from under it, animals digging under it, unintentional breach by leaving gates open, or vandalism aimed at removing animals from the property, eventually a fence is going to fail. And when it does fail, it isn't going to take a captive herd of whitetails long to escape. According to the Minneapolis StarTribune, over the past five years, almost 500 captive deer and elk have escaped from Minnesota farms, and 134 were never recaptured or killed.

All it takes is one CWD-infected deer escaping and mingling with native deer and a catastrophic epidemic can begin. Intentional release of non-trophy captive whitetails (primarily does) has also been documented when the cost of feeding and maintaining captive animals exceeds their value as breeding stock or meat.

Willful disregard of the safeguards is another issue that well-intentioned, yet weakly-enforced regulations will be powerless to combat. With trophy-class whitetail bucks fetching tens of thousands of dollars, the incentive to skirt the law for a quick dollar will prove irresistible to some. In this case a Minnesota smuggler reaped $300,000 in sales from a single customer in Texas (which has closed its borders to imported deer in order to reduce the risk of CWD). In another case, the Colorado DNR covertly established a game farm several years ago to investigate rumors of an active black market in cervids and discovered that the practice of smuggling non-certified animals into the state was rampant.

Wisconsin's CWD Experience

Rather than speculating about what could possibly happen if CWD is introduced into our native deer herd, let's look at Wisconsin to see an example of what is happening.

CWD was first discovered in Wisconsin in 2002. Now, less than a decade later,Wisconsin is at the epicenter of the CWD epidemic in the United States. The difficult situation the state now finds itself in is succinctly summarized in this opening paragraph of the State's fifteen-year plan for combating the spread of the disease.

After more than eight years of chronic wasting disease (CWD) management in Wisconsin, it is increasingly clear that controlling CWD in Wisconsin’s free-ranging white-tailed deer will be extremely challenging and will require a substantial commitment of human and financial resources over an extended period of time. Disease management in free-ranging wildlife populations generally is difficult, expensive, and controversial, particularly when significant wildlife population reduction is a part of the plan.

Pay particular attention to the words “significant wildlife population reduction.” What that means in plain English is that in one CWD-positive area of the state encompassing about 375 square miles (240,000 acres), the DNR has undertaken the task of eradicating every single wild deer. That's right, every single wild deer, over 25,000 of them!

Those of us who have spent years hunting whitetails know that endeavor is almost certainly going to be a futile effort. Not only that, but it is going to cost the state's taxpayers dearly, both in terms of direct expenses for testing, monitoring, and for paid sharpshooters, but also indirectly in the form of lost revenue on hunting licenses and taxes on hunting-related spending.

In addition to the deer testing and deer eradication expenses, now State of Wisconsin is appropriating money to pay $465,000 for the purchase and permanent quarantine of 80 acres of CWD-tainted land that was formerly a deer farm.
Estimates of the total direct and indirect economic impact of CWD on the state of Wisconsin vary, but $50 million to $100 million seems to be a very conservative number.

Ethical Issues

Make no mistake about it, the primary purpose of deer farming is to raise large-antlered bucks destined for canned shooting operations. That's where the money is. To produce those large racks, farmers feed their bucks a variety of supplements and inject them with growth hormones to stimulate antler growth.

Once the bucks grow to a shootable size, they are either sold to canned shooting operations or are turned out into the farmers' own shooting area where they can be harvested by anyone willing to write the appropriate-sized check. Some operators like World Class Whitetails of Ohio even allow you to go online to pick out “your deer”. When you arrive, it will be there waiting for you in a 200 acre enclosure with minimal cover. This article written several years ago describes a typical day there.

I don't pretend to speak for all Tennessee hunters, but the dozens that I communicate with on a regular basis overwhelmingly oppose such practices on ethical grounds. Whitetail deer are wild animals and should remain wild. We do not support the genetic and chemical manipulation of wildlife and we do not support the unsportsmanlike harvesting of deer in canned-shooting operations.

We like our heritage of fair-chase hunting and do not wish to see that ethic tarnished for the profit motives of a few. We do not want to be like Texas, where most trophy-class bucks are killed in fenced enclosures while feeding under a corn-feeder. We appreciate the beauty and elusiveness of a wild whitetail. We do not want to see our hunting heritage endangered by the risky importation of potentially diseased deer.

We do not want to see deer farming in Tennessee.

What to Do

Get involved!

Time is of the essence. The Conservation and Environment Subcommittee of the Tennessee House of Representatives will vote on the deer farming bill on Tuesday, March 29, 2011. If you oppose this risky and offensive legislation, please get in touch with the committee members. The Tennessee Wildlife Federation is taking a leading role in mobilizing concerned sportsmen. Their website includes links and easy instructions on reaching committee members. Please take the time to call or write.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Shed Hunting

A couple weeks ago, a good friend asked if I would like to participate in his hunting club's annual shed hunt.  I jumped at the opportunity to see and walk a one-of-a-kind piece of prime hunting land, lay my hands on a bunch of nice sheds, and make some new friends (the other members, most of whom I didn't know.)

So, I spent the past weekend walking about 2000 acres of some of the finest deer hunting land I've ever set foot on.  The property, located in west Tennessee, contains a perfect blend of lush row crops and foodplots, mature hardwood timber, dense cedar thickets, gnarly kudzu-covered drainages, and a spectacular 8o acre lake.  In short, perfect deer habitat that has been managed for big bucks.

The club members had the shed-hunting process down to a science.  Ten of us spread out along a 300 yard line with about 30 yards between us.  One person was designated the point person.  Sometimes the point was in the middle of the line, at other times he was on the end.  It depended on the terrain and the width of the area we needed to cover.

We all wore an orange cap or vest which allowed us to keep visible contact with each other.  We each keyed off the person to either our left or right (toward the point man) in order to keep a straight line as we walked.  The two people on the ends and one person in the middle all had two-way radios.

The point person would follow a terrain feature (usually a creek) and the rest of us would try to maintain our 30 yard spacing, stay abreast of the guy to the left or right, and look for sheds.  It took a little while to get in the groove, but pretty soon it get easier.

When we needed to swing the line to make a bend or if one side got slowed down by difficult terrain (remember those kudzu washes) the wingman would tell the point man by radio to slow down until the line was straight again.

Collectively, we walked about a hundred and ten miles - double that if you count the ups and downs - and picked up well over a hundred sheds and buck skulls, enough to half-fill the bed of a 3/4 ton pickup.  The find of the day was a matched set of thick chocolate-colored 8 point sheds found about 30 yards apart.  It's hard to say what they would have scored without knowing the spread, but 150 would be conservative.

I had a terrific time and thoroughly enjoyed the cameraderie of a bunch of guys who enjoy having a good time together. The true discovery of the weekend occurred after dinner and about three rounds of margaritas, when one of the guys observed that "tequila makes the ticks fall off."  We're thinking that's a pretty good bit of campfire wisdom and a heck of a country song.

On a bittersweet note, this was likely the last shed hunt for this group.  The owner of the club has decided to sell the property.  He lives in middle Tennessee and wants to focus on hunting closer to home so that he can spend more weekends with his family during the fall.  It is being offered at a very reasonable price of $2750/acre, so it will likely sell quickly.  Interested and qualified buyers can contact me at 615-479-8594 or at chris@cpanderson.com to learn more.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Bust'em Boys - Reloaded

The 2011 Alabama youth duck hunt witnessed some fine shooting by the Bust'em Boys.  The weekend started a little slow with sub-freezing temperatures and calm air conspiring to freeze up the timber hole we had planned to hunt.  Last year's timber hunt was unfortunately not going to be repeated.

Saturday morning, the boys hunted a blind on the edge of a flooded cornfield and killed a couple ducks.  They returned to the same blind that afternoon but soon relocated to the middle of a partially flooded cornfield where they wallowed around in the mud and had a great hunt.

Sunday morning they hunted a small pond and had a barn-burner for the first 30 minutes of shooting time.  As we stood there waiting for legal shooting time, dozens of ducks circled, most of them eventually landing and safely taking off again.  Just as the clock hit 30 minutes before sunrise, a group of about 20 mallards worked in and it was game on...

Many thanks to Papa Bust'em for hosting another terrific youth hunt.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Feelin' Ducky

What an incredible day! Four limits of mallards in just over an hour and an amazing 150 yard retrieve on the banded hen pictured above.  My recollection of that day two weeks ago...

Warm temps
Blue Sky
Blazing sun
Not the kind of day
That get's you Feelin' Ducky

But a North wind's building
Tonight a winter storm blows in
Freezing temps mean
Hungry ducks ahead

First a single
Then a pair
Then a pair of pairs
Screamin' out of the blinding sun
Then plummet to the ground

Now the gates open
The sky's alive!
Ducks swarm like flies

Fathers and sons
Man and beast
Work as one
To meet the tide

Time stands still
In my mind
A blur of frenzied motion
Days like this
Are rare to find

Man, I'm Feelin' Ducky

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Late-Season Dominant Trees

If you need proof that dominant trees exist late into the year, take a look at this photo I took on January 13.  We had received about 5 inches of snow which completely blanketed the ground except where it had been disturbed by animals.

The circle of dark exposed leaves in the center of the photo is where numerous deer had pawed back the snow to get to the acorns that had fallen months ago from one specific white oak tree.  As I rode the property, I saw several other similar spots.

It was interesting that the feeding areas were all located directly underneath the canopy of a specific tree and generally didn't extend beyond that. 

With binoculars, I could scout dozens of acres from one spot.  The big brown circles stood out like, well... big brown circles. Unfortunatley our deer season had already closed, or else, it wouldn't have even been fair.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How I Became an AR-15 Convert

Go to any hunting forum and suggest deer hunting with an AR-15 in .223/5.56 dress and you are sure to get howls of protest about how it is underpowered, won't penetrate, isn't a suitable weapon/caliber, blah, blah, blah...


With the end of deer season approaching, I've flipped the switch from trophy bucks to meat hunting.  I want to make sure that I don't run out of my favorite sausage before next year.  As a personal challenge, and to debunk all the crap that has been written about the inadequacy of the AR as a deer rifle, I decided to try to fill my 3 does/day limit from a single group of does using my son's Remington R-15 VTR.  Although I've never deer hunted with a .223 before, it just didn't make sense to me that it wouldn't be just as effective as any other modern caliber, given a well-placed shot.

The R-15 VTR is a sweet shooting sporterized version of the venerable AR-15.  It is chambered for the .223 Remington and sports a free-floating varmint/target barrel (see where the VTR designation comes from?) and a decent stock trigger. I've topped it off with a Nikon 3x9 scope. 

So last Sunday morning I set out to fill the freezer, to fulfill a personal goal, and to test out the deer hunting abilities of the AR.  At about 7:15, as luck would have it, three does showed up and began feeding on acorns on an adjacent ridge.  They were about 110 - 120 yards away and totally unaware of my presence.

I waited until I had a clear broadside shot through the trees at the largest doe, settled the crosshairs behind her shoulder and squeezed the trigger.  Since I didn't have to worry about chambering another round and because the recoil of an AR is practically nil, I was able to maintain my cheek weld and scope picture and quickly swing over to the second doe.  At the sound of the first shot, she had picked her head up and gave me a perfect broadside shot - which I quickly took.

The third doe had decided that things were getting a little dicey and took off.  Again, because I didn't have to adjust my hold on the rifle, I was able to quickly swing over and track her as she ran off.  When she passed through an opening in the trees, I pulled the trigger for the third time.  Altogether, the whole sequence probably took less than ten seconds.

I was pretty sure that I had made good shots on the first two deer since they were stationary and I had a good rest, but I was afraid that I might not have led the running deer enough.  It turned out that I was right.  The first doe was shot through both lungs, the second, through the heart.  Neither went more than about 30 yards.

The third deer was hit through the hams, but still only went about 150 yards before piling up in a creek.

Count me among the converted.  I'm not ready to call it quits on my .270, but from now on, I'm pretty likely to reach for the AR when rifle season rolls around - particularly when I'm looking to put meat in the freezer.