Saturday, November 13, 2010

Deer Season 2010

Well, it's deer season here in the Bluegrass state.  People from all walks of life have picked up their latest and greatest super-duper magnum monster deer rifle that they probably spent a month salary on, then topped with the cheapest scope they could buy.  Then they more than likely took it to someone else to sight in for them "because it just kicks too damn hard!"  Of course they need the rifle to shoot 1" groups out to 600 yards, but they only want it sighted in hitting about an inch above zero at 100 yards cause that's good enough.  If they see a monster buck out too far, they will be able to hold right on him and hit exactly where they're aiming.

I used to enjoy deer hunting when I was younger.  I had a great place to hunt with no pressure from outsiders to mess up a hunt.  I stopped hunting deer when my dad decided he could save money on groceries through the winter by stocking up on venison.  He worked with a bunch of guys who liked to hunt but didn't like to eat deer.  So dad volunteered to take any deer that they shot and if they wanted to keep the head as a trophy that was fine with him, he just wanted the meat.  There was a sweat gum tree right beside our house, and on opening day of deer season, I would come home and dad would have 2-3 deer hanging in the tree to dressed and processed for the freezer.  As the season would progress, and more guys would tag out, there would be more deer hanging for me to help clean.
This is about how many deer I would have to help process every couple of days during our 11 day season.

With all this venison in the freezer, here is what our typical menu would be:

  • Fried tenderloin (awesome) with mashed taters and gravy, biscuits, mac'n cheese.
  • Venison soup - venison ham or shoulder cubed and browned cooked in with typical soup ingredients (taters,beans,corn,onion,tomaters).
  • BBQ venison shoulder
  • Smoked venison ham
  • Roasted venison (ham,shoulder, or neck roast)
  • Summer sausage
Now, this was all good the first time it was prepared and served.  However, this was the only meat in our diet, and I kind of missed stuff like hamburgers, pork chops, or most anything else that would break up the monotony of venison 4-5 nights a week.  This is also about the time my wife and I started dating.  She was almost a vegetarian by choice, as she couldn't stand the idea of eating a cute little deer that was just skipping through the woods minding its own business when a mean awful hunter shot it dead.  22 years later, she has overcome her issues with being a meat-eater and loves typical store-bought and processed  meat, but will not eat wild game of any kind.  Since she refuses to eat venison, and I am still burned-out on it, I have no reason to go after a mucho-grande buck.  I wouldn't mind having a little fried tenderloin, but it's just not worth the work involved to get it.

.358 Winchester
.358 Winchester (l to r) 225 gr Nosler AccuBond, 250 gr Nosler Partition, 180 gr Hornaday XTP, 158 gr Remington semi-jacketed lead point.

Because of my interest in firearms, and the fact that I might muster the desire to deer hunt again, I have a rifle that I have wanted for a while that fits the bill for hunting whitetails here in my area.  I had some interest in the .358 Winchester for a good while.  I liked the tradition of the caliber itself.  It was designed as a short-medium range caliber with enough power and density from the .35 caliber bullet to take all North American game from elk to groundhogs depending on how it was loaded.  I also like the fact that a person who reloads can load this round very easily and with a wide range of bullet selections.  The .35 caliber is nowhere near as popular as a .30 caliber in having a many bullet choices for reloading, bu there are so many bullet makers on the market, plus the fact that .357 caliber pistol bullets can also be loaded for the .358 Winchester, makes the round quite versatile.

Browning BLR '81

The rifle I found in this caliber was the Browning BLR.  I am no fan-boy of Browning, but I do like this particular rifle.

The only other lever action that I have owned was an old model 94 Winchester in .30-.30.  I never shot the 94 very much, and a .30-.30 has the ballistics of a flying brick.  The .358 in a BLR allows the reloader to use spire pointed bullets for better velocities and ballistics because the rounds are loaded from a box magazine in the bottom of the receiver.  A few bolt rifle were also chamber for this round, but are quite rare to find, but they also allow the shooter to use pointed bullets.

I liked the short and fast aiming of the BLR.  One advantage of the BLR design is the trigger and trigger guard all move with the lever when cycling the action.  This prevents unintended pinches and also allows the shooter to work the action quite fast.  My rifle is equipped with sights, but I attached a Leupold Vari-X III 1.5X5 power scope on it for quick target acquisition and ease of aiming.  With the scope on the 1.5 power setting, I can see the tip of the front sight, but the field of view is large and clear, and there is no parallax to have to adjust.

I haven't shot a deer with this rifle, but a friend of mine decided to try a wild hog hunt down in Tenneessee a couple of years ago, and this is the rifle I took on the hunt.  I had just bought the rifle about 2 months prior to the hunt and had been working up various loads.  I decided to take a load using the Nosler 250 grain Partition bullet as I had always heard a how tough wild hogs are to kill and the Nosler Partition bullet has a great reputation for taking tough game.  I got a shot on a 260 pound boar at about 75 yards.  I don't know if the .358/partition bullet combination is exceptionally deadly, or if wild hogs aren't as tough as their reputation, but one shot at the hog quartering away from me took him down instantly!  The bullet entered just behind his right-front shoulder and exited through the upper left chest.  I know that old boar hit the ground hard and never even twitched one time.  When the processor cleaned the hog, he told me the bullet passed through and did lots of damage in the process.  That confirms the reliability of the partition bullet for me.  Especially since a bunch of yankees from Minnesota was hunting another section of the same property as we were and got a shot at their hog with a 20 gauge slug.  The shot was bad and they decided to drive the hog and get another shot at it.  By the time all the shooting was done, that poor old hog had been run all over the country and had 7 slugs in him.

If you like old calibers and like having a round that can be loaded with a diverse number of bullets, try out the .358 Winchester.  I know you'll like it.


  1. "I don't know if the .358/partition bullet combination is exceptionally deadly, or if wild hogs aren't as tough as their reputation, but one shot at he hog quartering away from me took him down instantly!"

    Hogs are tough, but there's nothing on this continent tough enough to shrug off a well-placed 250gr. .35-caliber bullet. :)

  2. Tam's got it right. If my muzzle energy math is correct assuming a 2000 fps muzzle velocity, that bullet is carrying over 2000 ft. lbs. of energy when it leave the barrel and probably retains a fair amount down range. Unless you're using ball ammo that goes straight through (I've got a .45 ball slug on my desk that went through a car with very little deformation), it pretty much spells automatic dirt nap for just about anything on the planet short of African big game.

  3. Oh, and I don't get how .358 is an "old caliber", since it's a post-WWII whippersnapper. Its biggest competition in brush-hunting leverguns comes from .45-70 and .35 Remington, which predate it by roughly fifty and eighty years, respectively. ;)