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Late antlerless season a chance to hunt in a different fashion

January 17, 2019
Windham

I wrapped up my deer hunting this last weekend. I was hunting in Nebraska’s late antlerless deer season which ran from December 1st to 15th. For the last few years I have used this season to create a hunt, using different weaponry, just to do something different. My regular hunting partners have had a lot of fun doing this over the years. Several have commented that they never would have thought to do it on their own.

Most deer hunting in Nebraska is done with a rifle. I wanted my hunting partners to experience something different, so I began suggesting alternatives. The goal was to have everyone show up in camp with the same type of gun, but not something they would have normally used.

For example, over the years we have hunted with big bore revolvers, lever action rifles using only iron sights and shotguns with slugs. Last year the theme was vintage military service rifles, World War II or older. There was a very unique collection of rifles in the rack for that camp! We have had some interesting and fun hunts this way!

Rodney Aden, of Gothenburg, is a regular hunting partner. He is an accomplished hunter and has been hunting deer in Nebraska for over 60 years. The year we hunted with our slug guns we hunted thick timber along the Platte River. The trees and brush are generally so dense in this kind of environment that your shot is usually less than 40 yards. It is not a hunting scenario where you need a rifle equipped with a scope, but most hunters statistically hunt in the fashion. Aden used a borrowed 12-gauge pump gun fitted with a special slug barrel with rifle sights. He harvested a nice doe with a shot of some 30yards.

“I never thought of hunting with slugs,” Aden told me after the hunt. “A shotgun is a very effective way to hunt the river bottom. I asked myself why I had been hunting with a rifle all these years. You pull the trigger and the deer is down! There is no tracking and trailing when they get hit with a slug.” He had a very valid point and that is what I wanted my hunting group to see. There is more than one way to hunt deer.

The theme for this year’s camp was vintage deer rifles that were chambered in calibers that have fallen off the radar for many hunters. Gun and ammunition manufacturers are constantly creating new calibers which require new rifles and that translates into sales. Just watch what comes out of the 2019 S.H.O.T. Show next month. Classic cartridges seem to slip into history when you are bombarded by the newest, latest and greatest rifle and cartridge being marketed every year!

Thad McCall is a regular in my camps and drives in from Bellevue for the hunt. Being a big fan of lever action rifles, he chose to hunt with a Marlin 336 chambered in .35 Remington. The .35 Remington is a great round for deer through black bear sized game. It is a very popular cartridge in the eastern United State, but never seem to catch on west of the Mississippi.

The .35 Remington is also popular in the Pacific Northwest. “When I lived up in Washington State, anytime you looked at a rack of guns in a gun shop, you’d see six or eight .35 Remingtons standing there and maybe a couple of .30-30s,” said avid hunter and friend, Russ Derickson. “That was a very popular cartridge.”

Joe Arterburn, a longtime friend and writer for publications like Gun Digest, Petersen’s Hunting and Outdoor Life, brought a classic Savage Model 99 lever action chambered in .250-3000. This cartridge was developed by Savage for their Model 99 over 100 years ago. It was a .25 caliber bullet and the first commercially produced cartridge to have a muzzle velocity of 3000 feet per second. Aterburn wrote an article about his Model 99 for the October 2018 edition of Gun Digest and this hunt was a perfect follow-up article.

My contribution to this hunt was a 100+ year old vintage 8x57 Mauser bolt action with a full Mannlicher stock. This rifle is a rare showpiece. When it was built, it was adorned with high quality checkering, engraving and double-set riggers. It is topped with a low-power post and crosshair scope and has the classic looks of a rifle that might have been carried by German aristocracy or maybe just out of the hands of a Boer hunter in southern Africa. A lot of 8mm Mausers were brought home from World War I and II by American soldiers who sporterized them and hunted deer with them for years.

Arterburn was the first to put a deer down. It was Saturday morning and as he watched the world get brighter, deer begin to filter through the timber. He picked out a doe that was going to pass about 40 yards from him and lined up his sights. His .250-3000 only allowed the doe to go a few yards before it folded.

Sunday afternoon I was sitting in a group of trees and spotted a young deer that must have been spooked by something. It was high-tailing it my way and was going to cross in front from me about 50 yards away. I got the deer in my scope, set the trigger, added a bit more lead to my sight picture to compensate for the speed at which the animal was running and touched off a shot. The deer went down instantly and slid to a stop.

McCall got to see a few deer and had his .35 Remington at the ready several times but was never able to get the shot he wanted. And while he did not fill his tag, he still had a great time. “Just being able to get away and come out here where you can see the horizon and some nice sunsets is worth it all for me.”

I hope everyone had a great deer season. The long wait until next fall has begun.

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