Handgun Hunt: A South Texas Buck in the Snow
By Scott Fisher
I have been hunting in the brush country of South Texas for the last 18 years. During this time, I have been lucky enough to have taken some great whitetail bucks, as well as numerous does, feral hogs, javelina and varmints. I mostly hunt with a rifle, but I have also taken several deer and pigs with a bow, or crossbow.
In the fall of 2017, I decided I wanted to try something new and take a deer with a handgun. After doing a lot of research at Guns and Shooting Online, I purchased a Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter revolver in .44 Magnum with a 7-1/2 inch barrel. I topped it with an UltraDot red dot sight.
With the revolver I bought several brands of ammo to try. I had previously owned several .40 caliber semi automatic pistols, as well as a .357 Magnum revolver, but I have to admit I was a little intimidated by the .44 Magnum after some of the forum posts I had read online.
I started shooting with regular .44 Special loads, then graduated to some Buffalo Bore Heavy .44 Special loads using a 255 grain Keith style bullet. After that, I tried some of .44 Magnum loads from Federal, Remington and Winchester. Accuracy was very good. Almost anything I tried in the Super Blackhawk grouped under two inches at 25 yards.
The Buffalo Bore loads were significantly more comfortable to shoot than the full power .44 Mag loads. The 255 grain hard cast bullet in the Buffalo Bore loads have a muzzle velocity of approximately 1050 FPS from my revolver. After doing a lot of reading online, I decided that they should be adequate for whitetails, as long as the distance was reasonable. I sighted-in my revolver to hit two inches high at 25 yards with the chosen load. Later, I shot some at longer distances to check bullet drop.
Early in the season I took a doe at about 40 yards. She was quartering towards me and I hit her at the base of the neck. She dropped at the shot and never got up. The bullet had exited behind the far shoulder. After examining the wound, I was confident that the load would be adequate for a good-sized buck.
In early December we were expecting a cold front. I had to work that Friday, but had everything packed and was able to leave for deer camp as soon as I got off work. It is about a three hour drive to our deer camp. The temperature was dropping during the drive and, as I got within about 30 miles of camp, I started to see a little sleet on my windshield.
Our lease is close to Laredo and it is very unusual for us to get any kind of frozen precipitation. It usually only drops below freezing a couple of days a year and sometimes not at all.
When I reached the camp, several guys were hanging around the camp stove drinking beer. We talked about where we were going to hunt in the morning and at about 10:00 PM I retired to my camper and went to bed.
I slept great during the night and it was tough to get up when the alarm went off at 4:45 AM. I brushed my teeth and got dressed. When I opened the door of my camper to go next door, where one of my buddies was cooking breakfast, I saw SNOW! There was about 2-1/2 inches of snow on the ground in camp. It had been probably 25 years since there has been measurable snow Laredo and this was the only time I have seen it during my 18 years on the lease.
The rut was just getting started and the prospect of hunting in the snow was even more exciting. I quickly ate breakfast, then drove the seven cold miles to my deer blind in my side-by-side ATV. It looked like we had gotten more snow up at the front of the ranch, as there was about a three inch layer on the steps to my blind. I had gotten there a little early and I was glad I had a propane heater in the blind.
As the sun came up I could see that several deer were out feeding. I had taken my .44 Magnum revolver in the hopes of getting a mature buck in handgun range. I had never tracked a deer in the snow and was looking forward to the opportunity.
For about an hour I could see an eight pointer (Eastern count) feeding, but he stayed at least 150 yards away. He finally started coming closer and eventually turned broadside at 70 yards. I put the red dot on his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. He dropped at the shot, but I had hit him high, near the spine, and he was trying to get up. Another quick shot to the lungs anchored him.
I was a little disappointed that I did not get to try tracking in the snow, but I was glad it was a quick kill. How many people can say they killed a buck in the snow in Laredo, Texas, especially with a handgun?
I have since taken a couple more deer and a javelina with my Super Blackhawk, including another doe at 60 yards last week. All of them were taken with the Buffalo Bore heavy .44 Special loads. If you ever had doubts, a 255 grain, .44 caliber bullet at 1050 fps is perfectly adequate for whitetail inside 75 yards.
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