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.