As some of you may recall, my lovely bride surprised me with a nice old Savage 99 this fall for our first wedding anniversary. I spent my free weekends, very rare these days, at my loading bench and Rabbit creek getting the old rotary shucker shooting like I wanted. I was having a time of finding components, brass being nonexistent for 300 savage and me never shooting anything under 180gr bullets out of my 06s for so long. Due in no small part to one of our fellow forum members' generosity, you know who you are, and a couple friends around town I was able to gather a variety of 150 and 165gr bullets and a motherload of shiny new Hornady brass. An old friend who was leaving the state had given me several old cans of 4320 a couple years ago and it turned out to be just the ticket. After a little tinkering with seating depth, mostly to assure the last round would feed from the magazine, I found that the darned thing shot about 6 or 7 loads to the same sight setting. I settled on a load that should move the Hornady 150 spire point around 2600fps and loaded a box up.
I was was doing all of this development in order to take both my Savage and my wife on their first trip to Kodiak for a deer hunt. She would be packing the little 270 that I built her on an FN Mauser action and gave her for Christmas the year we were engaged. I made her practice shooting offhand every weekend to help with the shots in the tall grass that I knew would come down on the island. After she had gotten to the point of being able to hit a pie tin every time at the 100yd mark with her plinking load of whatever cheap 130gr bullets I have lying about at 2550fps, we rezeroed with Hornadys 130gr spire points over a max load of H414 for a shade over 3000fps.
A scheduling snafu with the TV people almost crushed our plans before we could get going. Me grudgingly accepted their offer to pay for the airfare if we'd go over thanksgiving instead. Monday morning we were up at 5:30 to hop on our 7:30 flight down. We pulled into kodiak just in time to hustle our gear across the parking lot to Island Air's office and hop in their Piper Cherokee to take us to Larsen Bay and our final destination for the next week.
After getting our gear settled in our bedroom our host poked his head in to ask if we wanted to head out for an afternoon recon in the boat. We of course replied in the affirmative and hurriedly grabbed our rifles, binos and jackets. We cruised out towards the head of the bay without a deer sighting, just some sea ducks and a humongous red fox on the beach. As we rounded a point the Captain started to comment on how he'd seen very few deer in the area we were going by this year when I caught movement on the rocks. I pulled my glasses up to see three deer materialized before me, a doe, a spike by fork, and a nice buck!
I pointed the group out to the Mrs and asked if the buck looked like anything she was interested in, yes yes yes! Was her reply! The Captain drove us back around the point and put us on the beach so that we could put a stalk on what would hopefully be my wife's first buck. We had to climb up and over the point to try and come down on the little herd. In my haste to leave the cabin I had neglected to change my boots and was wearing my old Lacrosse Burlys with the bottoms worn slick as snot, I would find out shortly that this was a mistake of the first order. We made our way up the bank in the mud I'd swear someone greased with her in the lead and me floundering for traction spending most of the time on my knees and back. You can bet I was smiling the whole way though, the view from back there is one I enjoy, and I'm always amazed at her strength and determination since being diagnosed last year with MS, never mind that were were off work and DEER hunting.
As as I floundered to the top of the ridge my bride was calmly waiting for me and quietly pointed out that the deer had climbed their side and met us at the top. I put the glass on them with my binos to try to sort out the big buck from the others as all three of them fed in the tall grass. When I picked him out I told her to take the 45yd shot as soon as she was ready and that I would back her up if needed since she would have to shoot from the standing position. I heard her take a deep breath and exhale as I watched the buck through the sights of the old savage. Just when I was about to ask if she was okay with the shot, BAM her rifle spoke and the big buck vanished in the grass. The others stood and watched wondering what was going on until we shooed them off and walked up to her prize. As we got to the buck I could tell that he was old and while I'd assumed he was a big three by three, he was actually a monster forkie. Her shot was true and had taken the old buck squarely through both shoulder blades with no exit. We took some great pictures of a smiling young woman with her very first deer, beautiful Uyak bay and the mountains of Kodiak in the background. Surprisingly there was almost zero meat damage when I skinned and boned him out that night back at camp. I recovered the jacket under the offside hide, it had opened all the way to the base and she'd the core, which I expected at that speed and distance.
The next morning the weather was beautiful and we cruised way out from camp all the way around into the usually nasty Shelikov Straight. When I spied a group of does up ahead we formulated a game plan knowing that there was bound to be a buck nearby. As I had spotted them and eventually spied a monster 4x4 with them as well I was given the go ahead to try for the big boy. Well, 5 shots and a big buck not even waiving as he hightailed it out of there was all that I was able to make of the opportunity. The shot was near 200yds and the old boy just stood for it until the last shot when he put her in gear and headed for parts unknown. Everyone else saw the whole thing unfold from the boat and to say I was embarrassed would be an understatement.
On to the next spot we cruised, stopping along the way to watch and video, and unfortunately smell, a huge colony of sealions. Strange creatures they are as well as stinky, but something most people don't see everyday and really a neat experience. When we came to the next good beach we spied a decent 3x3 up the bank a ways and it was my turn to redeem myself and get some of my dignity back, I hoped. As I got onto the rocks he heard me and stood up about 50-60yds away to have a looksee. I settled the gold bar on the sourdough post onto his shoulder through the aperture and took the slack out of the trigger. The 300 barked, hair flew and the buck put it in gear and headed out. As he passed me left to right I swung the post to the leading edge of his chest and let drive again, and again, and again. With each shot he only seemed to pick up speed, what is happening my brain was screaming when at the fourth shot he collapsed. I quickly headed toward where I'd last sighted him only to have him get up and start toward me! I nestled the blade in the center of his chest and fired my last shot, finally dropping him for good.
Imagine my surprise when I knelt over him to find that all 5 shots had been true! I had a three shot group through the shoulders that could be covered with a softball, one through the ribs 8" further back and the frontal shot. Strangest thing was that the frontal shot somehow put the largest hole I've ever witnessed in the bucks chest, at the entrance point! You could literally fit a nice sized cantaloupe in the entry even though the bullet traveled on back into the chest to exit the belly and reenter and break the rear knee, exiting again. We somehow managed to hide the gaping hole in him to take some beautiful pictures down at the beach.
After getting the deer taken care of and onboard we decided to try our luck at trolling for king salmon for a while on our way back. An hour of trolling produced 4 gorgeous chrome kings in the 15# range, perfect for supper. As we watched the sunset color the sky we nodded of in the cabin for the ride back to camp.
The next morning we were up for coffee and decided to stay close and hunt the mountains behind camp as the Mrs had gotten a little queezy on the boat the day before. We headed up the trail with the sunrise, giving me a chance to spend a day alone with my bride teaching her a few things about slipping through the woods quietly, reading deer sign, and enjoying a morning in the forest that can only come rifle in hand and with all senses on the lookout for your quarry.
Turns out the snow was crunchier than stale cornflakes and the deer had moved to lower elevations judging by lack of tracks as we made out way to the top of the mountain. As we snuck along she whispered to me and pointed to the base of an old dead birch. There in the hollow stump, just her head peaking out was the most beautiful, snow white ermine. As I retreated a few steps and made a mouse squeak with my mouth the little weasel was lured out, allowing my bride to creap up and snap a bunch of great pictures. We must have fooled with the little rascal for 5 minutes when movement up the trail caught my eye. Looking closely I could make out lathes of red hair ghosting through the underbrush, quietly I leaned over and whispered "Fox".
Before we left on this trip we had a rather heated discussion about whether she was okay with me shooting a fox or not, she has a soft spot for the smaller predator species for one reason or another and nearly had a coronary last winter when I shot a coyote. The conversation ended with me agreeing to lay off the lynx as long as bobcats, fox, coyotes, wolves, and mtn lions were fair game. Seeing how lynx are her favorite and I've only ever seen one anyways I thought it a fair enough deal.
As the fox played peekaboo with us on the trail I was hesitant to shoot even though she agreed back home. I certainly didn't want a silly fox to ruin or thus far perfect trip. She surprised me by leaning over and whispering," what are you waiting for SHOOT". I made a squeak through my front teeth to draw him out of the brush and touched off the savage as the blade settled on his chest. To my astonishment he rolled once and ran into the brush. I replayed the shot over and over, knowing the trigger broke at the right time and the sights were in the right place but we couldn't find any sign of the fox, vanished like a wraith. We found where the bullet kicked up snow and started ever widening circles, she startled me by exclaiming "look blood". I walked over and sure enough there was a little blood on some frozen grass, doing the circle thing again I found more, finally stepping over a fallen log to see a big beautiful red fox lying on his side. I had switched to a load using 180gr Hornady RN at an estimated 2300fps after the giant hole in the deer the day before, figuring the trajectory wouldn't matter as we were heard to the deep woods. Apparently it didn't even expand as I made a perfect heart shot at 35yds with a dime sized exit and a pencil entry.
After pictures we headed back down the hill to skin my fox before he stiffened up and my wife shocked me by saying that the next fox was to be hers. After all we have matching bear hides and caribou racks in the house, so she may as well have a fox. Her opportunity for a fox came the next morning with another big red at 30yds. I told her to aim for the head to keep from ruining the hide with her 270 and unfortunately she shot right under his chin spraying snow everywhere and putting the fox into warp drive and out of sight.
We we had a great trip, spent thanksgiving with good friends doing the things we love in a beautiful place. Saw no bears or even any sign and proved to ourselves what we already knew. Old guns, old calibers, simple bullets, wool mackinaws, Stormy Kromer caps, and lined pacboots still work just fine.