Not Superstitious, But I’ll Take Any Help With Deer Hunting

This old buck was aged at 6.5 years old and rough-scored a smidge under 144, falling to a Federal "Deer Thug" round from the Mossberg MVP FLEX .308 rifle.

This old buck was aged at 6.5 years old and rough-scored 144, falling to a Federal “Deer Thug” round from the Mossberg MVP FLEX .308 rifle.

I’ve never been too big on lucky pennies or a rabbit’s foot, a special cap or shirt, something like naming your shotgun or rifle to give it a little flair.

Superstitions don’t settle well with me. Never have had any talismans to take on a hunt or anything like that. I don’t worry about bananas in the boat, either, when I’m fishing. I know some guys freak out a little when someone has them on board, usually a bass tournament angler or saltwater captain. I’ve seen both throw bananas overboard and then blame them for whatever bad thing happens during the day.

By Alan Clemons, Managing Editor

So when I was pumping gas at the station in Protection, Kan., before my hunt last week at Tall Tine Outfitters, the penny on the ground by the pump didn’t mean much. Just a penny, discolored with age, lying in the grit. Still, I had to pick it up. After all, if nothing else, a penny is one more smidge of money I didn’t have.

Head up, though, I noticed. Pennies lying head up are supposedly good luck. Tail up and you might as well leave it in the dirt. I guess maybe that’s like walking under a ladder or something. But, whatever. It’s a penny.

I picked it up and finished pumping gas, then drove the remaining six or so miles through town to Tall Tine. Ted Jaycox founded it 13 years ago in this small town of about 500, just 18 miles north of the Oklahoma border, and manages his 18,000 acres for big bucks. Bowhunters and gun hunters arrive from all over the country each year for great hunting opportunities. Many of them see more bucks than they’ve ever seen before and kill the biggest of their lives.

Being Prepared for Hunting
Three of our crew of four got into camp late after cross-country travel and delays, so we opted to sleep late the first morning of our five-day hunt. That gave us time to prep our gear and sight in our rifles.

For this hunt we were using the Mossberg MVP Patrol and versatile MVP FLEX rifles, both in .308, topped with Swarovski Z3 series scopes. Anytime you’re traveling by air with scoped firearms it’s imperative to check them not only for your peace of mind but also for the ethical aspect of doing everything possible to make a clean, effective shot.

Getting scopes dialed in after cross-country airline travel is ethical and smart.

Getting scopes dialed in after cross-country airline travel is ethical and smart.

I love the FLEX format because of the interchangeable stock and grip options. I outfitted my bolt-action MVP, which had an 18.5-inch bull barrel, with the pistol grip and adjustable stock. With heavy clothing such as parkas or for shooters with a shorter length of pull, the adjustable stock is quite nice. It’s great for maneuvering in ground blinds. It also is available in a 20-inch barrel, and either easily breaks down into a quite unassuming package that can be stowed in a vehicle for travel.

The MVP Patrol has a 16.25-inch barrel threaded for a muzzle break (which is standard) or suppressor. It’s also great for blinds or tight quarters while delivering lethal performance for North American big game.

“You hear some say that short-barrel guns can’t reach out, but we took these two MVPs (used in Kansas) to Wyoming for prairie dogs and were shooting them at a measured 425 yards,” said Linda Powell of Mossberg. “You may lose some velocity but the tradeoff is accuracy. They’re great for the variety of hunting options, from big game to predators, and with all the options of the FLEX you can set up a rifle with a standard stock, adjustable, pistol grip or have the different accessories for other members of your family.”

Despite the biting wind gusts signaling the arrival of the cold front roaring in, bringing snow that night while we slept, we got the scopes zeroed at 100 yards. I daresay if the weather had been a bit more favorable we might have burned through some more of the ammo. But once we got dialed in, it didn’t take any arm-twisting to get back in the house.

Dean Capuano of Swarovski dropped this wide 10-point on the second day.

Dean Capuano of Swarovski dropped this wide 10-point on the second day.

Ample Opportunities, Careful Thinking
Jaycox has numerous stands on his property, each set up for wind and the best locations at creek or woods crossings, fields and for gun or bow. Kansas allows feeders so he also has them on many stands, within bow range for archers and about 100 yards or so from gun stands. Thousands of game camera images help him keep up with bucks, measure rack sizes and see what’s going on.

Jaycox does some serious deliberation about where to place hunters. Because he knows better than anyone what deer are found in the different areas, he’s keen on hunting the same stand frequently. If he’s seen a couple of big bucks then — if the wind’s right — he’s not going to put a guy in a stand one day and bounce him around every day thereafter.

Shane Alexander of Montana explains to Tall Tine Outfitters owner Ted Jaycox what he'd seen in the stand that afternoon, as two bucks on the floor are ready for skinning.

Shane Alexander of Montana explains to Tall Tine Outfitters owner Ted Jaycox what he’d seen in the stand that afternoon, as two bucks on the floor are ready for skinning.

“I know some guys get tired of seeing the same thing or going to the same stand,” he said. “But If I’m pretty sure one’s in there then we’ll hunt that stand. But only if the wind doesn’t change or get wrong. If that happens then I’ll be thinking about other areas. There’s no point hunting a spot with a bad wind if there are better opportunities.”

The double-seat ladder stand I was in the first afternoon overlooked several hundred acres of sandy scrub dotted with plum bushes that provide cover for deer. Cottonwoods, elms and cedars offer wind breaks, too, for deer and hunters. Falling temps and wind out of the west-northwest, but changing daily, didn’t bother me due to the protection from a nice stand of trees.

Probably a dozen does and a couple of small bucks came to the feeder I was watching. A really nice, tall 8-point popped out following a couple of does. They ignored him, and he gave up on them, before he began lip-curling and checking the does near the feeder. He stuck around for a while, walked about 10 yards from my stand and then into the woods behind me. That was darn cool.

The buck stuck around in the area overnight with the does, showing up the next day but only briefly. A secondary rut was going on, Jaycox surmised. I wasn’t the only one to see bucks hounding does. Aaron Carter with the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine saw a head-turner on a flat-out run with a doe ahead of it. Powell and Dean Capuano with Swarovski also saw bucks chasing.

Linda Powell of Mossberg connected with this great 10-point with her .308 MVP FLEX rifle.

Linda Powell of Mossberg connected with this great 10-point with her .308 MVP FLEX rifle.

As usual, it was fun to witness and see the activity, especially with snow greeting us the second morning. The arctic blast out of the Rockies missed us with ice, but we did get snow. That was pretty cool.

Capuano killed a wide 10-point that morning with a Mossberg 4×4 in 7mm Rem Mag and topped with the Swarovski Z6i series scope. That was a great way to crack the ice for us. Having seen deer, and with the weather changing almost daily to single-digit temps and changing wind, we all were ready for something positive to happen.

That afternoon, the solid 8-point I’d seen the day before was nowhere to be seen. Likely sticking close to his does, the only action was a trio of does that blitzed the feeder and popped out. One ran in on a rope, ate for maybe two minutes and then ran off with her tail up like something was amiss. Perhaps the coyote that sauntered through the day before was lurking somewhere.

About 3:15 p.m. a buck appeared more than 400 yards away seemingly from nowhere. I guess he’d been bedded down and until he turned his head to show the sticker tine, I thought it was the same one from the day before. As he came closer I got a better look at him through my binoculars and saw a forked brow. Then, some funky trash in front of the brow tines. Unique character in the rack, age, and an attitude like he was The Man helped convince me.

The MVP FLEX sent the 165-grain Federal “Deer Thug” Power-Shok bullet through the tip of the knuckle of the front right leg and then into the chest. The bottom of the chest exploded as the bullet expanded, resulting in devastating impact to the heart. The trashy 11-point buck staggered about 40 yards and fell within sight.

The next afternoon, Powell and Carter connected on their bucks. Powell was shooting the Mossberg FLEX while Carter had the MVP Patrol and a special hand-load ammo he’d whipped up. Her buck fell within 50 yards; Carter’s was toppled by his shot that entered the front shoulder and exited the rear, virtually destroying everything inside.

Saturday morning while Carter and Powell were hunting, I slept in and did a little laundry. Part of the spoils of tagging out early. I heard a little “tink” and looked on the floor, spying my new lucky penny that had fallen from a pants pocket.

I don’t believe in such stuff. But I’m keeping the penny.