Let me share my experiences on a recent deer hunt in central South Dakota, where the weather conditions were absolutely extreme with sub-zero temperatures and 20–30 mph winds. My hunting partner, Wayne van Zwoll, and I each had two deer licenses and carried Savage rifles, his in .243 Winchester and mine in .308 Winchester. Whereas van Zwoll’s Model 14 featured a classic wood stock and blued barrel, mine was more meat and potatoes, the Model 16 with a synthetic stock and stainless barrel.
My buddy filled the first tag with a 150-yard shot after a careful stalk. Since he’s a professional outdoor writer, I won’t reveal the details other than his initial success was not surprising — a learned technical writer about all things firearms, he’s an equally adept hunter.
My big chance came at first light on my last day hunting east of the Missouri River, when my guide and I spotted a dozen deer feeding in a huge cornfield. A big buck was chasing does and we waited and watched for half an hour, hoping they’d move closer or toward more approachable cover. Apparently a coyote entered the picture, as the deer suddenly vanished. We had to circle wide to relocate them. Suddenly, a buck popped its head from heavy cover, with only its nose and antlers visible. The normally quick-to-flee creature apparently felt confident about its camouflage as I approached to 250 yards, got a solid rest, and squeezed with the scope zeroed at the top of the neck. The buck went down in an instant and a celebration began. The Federal 150-grain bullet was absolutely spot-on, despite zero temperatures and standing rest shot.
The second leg of the adventure was an on-your-own effort that turned up lots of great habitat in exciting landscapes, yet not the big buck we sought.
Our host wanted three deer to eat for the coming winter, and it appeared we’d disappoint until the last effort. We covered 100 square miles of croplands, creek bottoms, and rolling prairies without getting an opportunity, but the last location was at the edge of a small town that bordered a giant sunflower field.
We had barely stopped the truck when white flags filled the air and a dozen whitetail ran for cover. Wayne and I bailed out, grabbed our rifles, and began to follow. Crazily, a herd of bucks was coming our way and we quickly dropped to a prone position. I had a pair of Bushnell range-finding binoculars and quickly whispered to my buddy, “230 yards.” He shot first. The impact of the .243 bullet was clearly audible. The rest of the deer headed for the sunflowers, but began to circle back within ten minutes.
Eventually another 1.5-year-old buck stepped out at about the same distance. I squeezed the trigger and the buck went barely 50 yards with a solid heart shot.
Deer hunting can be crazy. We had spent the two previous days afield from dawn to dusk, yet bagged two bucks in less than an hour on the outskirts of town. Best of all, our host was thrilled with the young venison. No doubt it will have a hint of sunflower taste.
You can find information about the Model 14 or the inexpensive 16 at savagearms.com. You’ll love the AccuTrigger feature and will fall in love with this rifle, as I did. Also, look for their 2015 additions, including the chambering of the .338 Federal in more options. The .338 Federal round is a necked-up .308 that provides a heavier bullet and more knock-down power without the recoil of a magnum rifle. If you’re a fan of bigger bullets without heavy recoil, you’ll love this caliber, especially in the Federal Trophy Copper bullets.
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