Deer hunters love tradition, guns, arguments and myths. Best of all is arguing about traditional gun myths! Here are some of my favorites.
MYTH NO. 1: GUN WITH SUPERPOWERS
My gun is so powerful that it knocks bucks 10 feet back and flips ’em on their heads.
Who wouldn’t want a firearm like that? The person who had to fire it, that’s who.
Long ago, there was a rather bright individual named Isaac, last name some kind of cookie … Newton. That’s him. This Newton guy is kind of famous for understanding and explaining some basic laws of the universe, such as gravity and, “For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.” This explains why your rifle kicks, and why no shoulder-fired firearm yet used to terminate a deer has knocked one back 2 feet, let alone 10.
Go out and shoot any deer-hunting gun. If it doesn’t knock you back 10 feet, it’s not going to knock a 200-pound whitetail 10 feet. If you really want an eye-opener, fill a tire innertube with 50 pounds of sand, place it on a stump and try to knock it off with any deer rifle in your arsenal; I’ll bet it doesn’t go 2 feet, and surely not 10.
MYTH NO. 2: LETHAL ENERGY
My bullet needs at least 1,000 foot-pounds of energy to cleanly kill a deer.
Really? Tell that to a few million bowhunters who routinely take deer with arrows carrying 50 foot-pounds of kinetic energy. Or poachers who plunk whitetails through the chest with .22 Long Rifles pushing 140 foot-pounds of punch.
Energy doesn’t kill deer, tissue destruction does. Break down essential life support organs and deer expire. Hit the brain or the spine from the shoulders forward and they usually die instantly. Hit the heart or lungs and they live until blood pressure drops so far that they faint. When blood stops delivering fresh oxygen to brain cells, they die in about 10 minutes, but the deer usually loses consciousness in 3-12 seconds. This is why a heart-shot buck can dash 100 yards or more before falling over. How far a wounded deer travels depends on how severely the blood supply to the brain has been compromised.
Sometimes “shock” kills deer instantly. Poorly understood, shock somehow transmits the impact energy of bullets to the brain, even if just the heart or lungs are hit. Sometimes even kidney shots will do the trick. But you can’t predict it or count on it. Shock near the spine can knock a deer out temporarily.
Not even magnum elephant cartridges will always anchor deer in their tracks. (left to right: .30-06, .416 Rem. Mag., .416 Wthby Mag., .458 Lott, .460 Wthby. Mag.)
MYTH NO. 3: MAGNUM MADNESS
To kill deer faster and deader, I need to use a magnum.
Ha. See Myth No. 2. A hunter told me he’d bought a .300 Ultra Mag. in order to drop whitetails in their tracks. “How’d that work out?” I asked. “I shot a doe in the chest with a 180-grain bullet,” he replied. “She ran into the swamp and I never could find her.”
Bullet diameter, weight velocity shape and construction are important to performance, but proper bullet placement is most important. Better a tiny bullet in the heart than an elephant bullet in the guts. And even an elephant bullet through the chest doesn’t guarantee any deer will die in its tracks. Always follow up every shot with a careful examination of the area where the deer was standing. Hard-hit deer sometimes act as if nothing happened. Ten seconds later, they fall over.
MYTH NO. 4: FLAT-SHOOTING PHENOMENON
My super magnum shoots flat to 500 yards.
Again, laughable. Only if it’s a laser. Bullets begin to drop the instant they leave the barrel. Because gravity pulls at 32 feet per second and it takes a bullet about a tenth of a second to travel 100 yards, not even the world’s fastest magnum hits point-of-aim at 100 yards. All bullets must be angled upward to reach downrange targets. Throw a 150-grain Hornady A-Max 3,600 fps from a .300 Rem. Ultra Mag. Zero it at 100 yards and at 300 yards it has already dropped 7 inches. At 500 yards it’s down 31 inches, and at 700 yards it has plummeted 78 inches. But, zero it at 300 yards and it’s 3 inches high at 200 yards, but “only” 19 inches low at 500 yards.
A half-second after being hit (see hair in air behind buck) with over 3,000 foot-pounds of energy from a 7mm Rem. Mag., this buck hasn’t been blown so much as a foot backward. Note: bullet hole behind shoulder is entrance wound.
MYTH NO. 5: THE BETTER BULLET
Round-nose bullets hit harder than spire-points.
Sorry, just the opposite. As bullets fly downrange, air resistance slows them, just like it slows a bicyclist. To retain speed, cyclists shave their legs and hunch over. Bullets get similarly streamlined by stretching out their noses and hiding some of their bellies in tapered boat-tails. Round-nose bullets expose more surface area to air drag, so they lose velocity and energy quickly.
Start a 150-grain, .308-caliber round-nose and a 150-grain, .308-caliber boat-tail spire-point at 3,000 fps; when they reach the 200-yard line, the round-nose will be packing 1,394 foot-pounds of energy. The spire-point will still be hauling 2,026 foot-pounds.
Don’t believe every myth you hear in deer camp.