MANY YEARS AGO I was hunting deer in some rugged hills west of Uvalde. We had seen one particularly large buck in a rugged, brushy canyon that ran west from a small, clear creek.
On this day we hunted the canyon on foot, but found nothing that interested us, so we piled into my pickup and started around to another location. We crossed the creek and were driving parallel to a rocky ridge when I spotted a big buck just below the ridgeline.
Grabbing my .270 I jumped out and took a rest over the hood. The deer was standing still at about 150 yards. I put the crosshairs on its chest and squeezed off the shot, expecting a dead deer.
At the shot, the deer took off at a trot across the face of the ridge, obviously none the worse for the shot. I jacked another round into the rifle, shot again, and heard the bullet hit meat. This time the buck hit the ground.
My brother and I got out and walked up to the deer. When we got there we found only one bullet hole in its chest. Wondering where the first shot hit, I started looking further, and to my surprise and consternation, found a perfectly expanded 130-grain bullet stuck to the hair on the buck’s flank, on the side at which I was shooting.
When we skinned the deer we found only the one hole in its chest. No other marks were on the deer anywhere. What happened? I still don’t know.
In hunting stories in the 1960s, you would sometimes read about a bullet passing through an animal so fast that the bullet did not have time to expand. I never believed such stories, as they were contrary to my own experience.
In those days I used a .25-06 a lot for both deer and predators. For the predators I shot explosive 87-grain bullets, and for deer I used 100-grain bullets.
One day my brother and I were calling for bobcats on a brushy flat near the east end of the Anacacho Mountains. I had called a couple of times with a distressed rabbit call when I saw a nice buck come out of a small canyon in the end of the mountains and head toward us.
I kept calling and the deer kept coming. He finally stopped about 10 yards from me. I counted his points and he had ten long tines. Deer season was open. so I shot him carefully behind the shoulder with that explosive little 87-grain pill. At the shot the deer dropped.
When we began to skin the deer back at our house, I expected to find bloodshot meat for several inches around the entrance hole, but I was surprised. It looked like I had shot him with a solid bullet.
There was very little bloodshot meat, and the bullet had made small holes in both the entrance and exit points. The bullet, which would blow up on a jackrabbit at 100 yards, had opened hardly at all on a deer at 10 yards.
My only conclusion was that the old stories had been true. At the extremely high velocity—3,500 fps—the bullet had simply not had time to expand. It had penetrated the deer so quickly that any expansion had taken place after the bullet was out of the animal. Strange but, apparently, true.
Another time I was again hunting bobcats. I was armed with a Remington M700 BDL in .17 Remington, firing a 25-grain hollow point bullet at 4,000 feet per second.
I had shot a number of coyotes, bobcats, and gray foxes with this load and it had proven to be amazingly deadly. I was sitting on top of a slag heap from an old asphalt quarry using a mouth call that sounded like a cottontail rabbit.
One second there was nothing in sight. The next second there was a big, juicy bobcat sitting on his haunches looking at me from about 75 yards. I put the crosshairs on his chest, squarely between his front legs, and squeezed off the shot.
The next thing I knew the bobcat was jumping all over the place, making leaps six feet in the air and squalling like a banshee. In a few seconds it calmed down and sat there licking its chest.
This time I shot it carefully behind the left shoulder, and it collapsed in a heap. When I went to pick it up I saw that the first bullet had hit it squarely in the brisket and exploded, making a crater about two inches across and an inch or so deep. It was hurt, but not fatally wounded.
The second shot hit it behind the shoulder and exited the far side—two shots, same load, two very different results.
I have had other bullets do some strange things, but nothing as strange as these. Hunting bullets today are so accurate and so well made that the failures of the early days are almost unheard of. However, sometimes there are happenings that are just plain hard to explain.
Email Steve LaMascus at [email protected]