By Leon Archer
I couldn’t help myself; after writing last week about my memories of the deer camp itself, I had to follow up with the other things that flooded into my mind.
While the physical deer camp itself was a part of the lure for me and my friends to hunt in Deposit, N.Y., one has to remember the overarching purpose was to hunt deer.
We were young and inexperienced and we expected we would see a deer behind every tree and come home with a big buck at the end of our stay.
It seldom worked out that way even though we hunted long and hard from morning until the last light of day. We spent a lot of time walking and not much time sitting.
It’s hard for a boy of 16 or 17 to sit for very long hoping for a deer to walk by; our system just isn’t wired that way. Fifteen to 20 minutes always seemed to be sufficient to convince us we were sitting in the wrong place, and a better hunting spot was probably one more hill or valley away.
I spent a lot of time looking for that perfect location.
We actually got a little better with time. We learned to efficiently drive a section of woods with watchers placed in logical spots for deer to use when fleeing the drivers.
The amazing thing is that sometimes we got it right. Dale got a spike horn buck one morning on his watch, and Rex got a nice 8-point one afternoon. He always had the patience to sit for hours at a time, and if you were driving towards his stand, you could be confident that he would be there when you arrived.
The first year I hunted at the camp, I blew a chance at a 4-point one afternoon when I was still hunting by myself.
I had just reached the top of one of the Catskill foothills, and looking at a steep angle into the ravine below I saw this magnificent deer, and he had no idea I was there. I was hunting with a 35 Remington lever action. I was sure that deer was dead meat.
I drew the bead into the rear crotch sight and placed it on his shoulder. I expected that when I pulled the trigger, he would drop like a rock.
The woods reverberated with the blast, but the deer still stood unharmed. I racked another shell into the chamber and aimed even more carefully if that was possible.
When I fired the second shot, the deer began looking around, no doubt wondering where those shots were coming from, but he was none the worse for my efforts.
As a relatively new hunter, I figured the deer was too far away and that I should raise my sights. My next shot was aimed about two inches above his shoulder, the next about 6 inches and the fifth and final shot was launched with my aiming point about a foot above his body.
He finally realized that he might possibly be in danger and trotted out of sight. I couldn’t believe what had just transpired. I reloaded my rifle, and walked down to where the deer had been standing in hopes of finding blood, but it was in vain. I had missed five shots at a standing target.
Later that evening as I recounted my tail of woe back at the camp, three things happened.
First, Rex took out his knife and cut off the bottom of my shirt tail and nailed the piece on the wall. Next he asked me what I had the rifle sighted in at. I told him a hundred yards. Third, he asked me where I had held on the deer. I described my efforts in detail and as I did, a smile grew on his face.
Rex explained what I had done wrong. Basically it was this; when one shoots uphill or downhill over a fair distance he needs to hold low. Shooting more closely to parallel with the pull of gravity has a much different effect on the flight of a bullet than when shooting perpendicular to the pull.
In recognition of gravity, a rifle is sighted in so the barrel is actually pointed at a spot above where the sight is pointed. The bullet ends up dropping over the distance of its travel in order to arrive at the aiming point of the sights.
I guess I had a blank look on my face when he was talking, because he finally tore up a paper bag and drew an illustration to show what he meant. It took a little while for that to sink in, but learning it has helped me put venison in the freezer a number of times over the years.
I didn’t get a deer that year, but I could hardly wait for the next season to roll around and give me another chance. I knew the deer camp would be waiting.