WHEN OL’ FLOPPY EARS SAUNTERED THROUGH MY SHOOTING LANE FOR THE third consecutive morning, I knew the day was going to end well for me, but not so much for him. I’d been watching this particular whitetail for the past few mornings as he worked through the mesquite brush looking for does to harass and morsels to satisfy his palate … and my itchy trigger finger desperately needed a scratch.
Related Video: Whitetails With An AR
There was nothing wrong with this central-Texas buck that made me pass him the first 2 days of the hunt—he was quite handsome, in fact. With a long, swayed-back body, blocky shoulders, an apparent “I’d love to whip your rear-end attitude” and uncharacteristically floppy ears, he definitely appeared to be the bully of this particular ranch.
Now, anyone who’s hunted with me knows I’ve got major issues with going home with an un-punched tag in my pocket. It’s something I’m working on with therapy and lots and lots of practice, but my trigger-happy persona wasn’t initially a problem during this hunt. I was simply having too much fun enjoying the ride.
First, this was my inaugural trip to Texas, and I felt like I was on the moon. There were no tall trees, there were no hills and there were no lakes within eye-shot. As far as this Minnesota boy was concerned, central Texas and the moon look a lot alike.
Second, all my research—and there was a lot of it—indicated that the big Texas snakes were hibernating this time of year. My guide, between chuckles, confirmed … although I still spent a vast majority of the hunt looking at the ground … just in case. Had there been a real threat of running into one of those slithery Texas mascots, I would’ve shot the first deer I saw and retired to the safety of the lodge.
Third, and most importantly, I was packing some seriously cool firepower. This was my first hunt with Remington’s R-25 (and also my first hunt with any AR—also known as a modern sporting rifle), and I felt like Ralphie on Christmas morning after receiving his Red Rider BB gun with a compass in the stock. If my “pearly whites” were actually pearly white I would’ve spooked every deer in Texas from the glare because there was nothing that could break my smile.
Making New Friends
To say I was intimidated when I first pulled this gun out of the case would’ve been an enormous understatement. Based on what I’d seen in chain e-mails and on TV, this was, by definition, a military-style self-defense weapon—not a hunting tool. Or so I thought.
“It’s not gonna bite ya,” NAH Editor Gordy Krahn said as he closed his office door and handed me the gun. Apparently my hesitation was more obvious than I thought.
“I cleaned it last night, so it should be ready to go,” Gordy continued. “It spent the past few days at deer camp with me, and you’re lucky it came back; my nephew wanted to keep it.”
After getting the Reader’s Digest version of how to properly and safely shoot the rifle, I departed for the range with two full boxes of .308 Win. ammo … and I didn’t leave the range until all 40 rounds were gone: It took me only fi ve rounds to zero the gun. The other 35 rounds where shot out of pure euphoria.
Rollin’ On The Moon
Although I still had 2 more days to hunt, I didn’t know how many more chances Ol’ Floppy Ears was going to give me. Per my experiences, karma generally follows the “three strikes and you’re out” rule, and karma is something I refuse to mess with. Besides, after showing photos of Ol’ Floppy Ears to my guide, Bobby, he threatened to leave me back at camp the final 2 days if I passed another opportunity—and I refuse to mess with guides, too.
As usual, the buck was standing like a PBR bull after dumping a cowboy, watching a group of does feed out in front of him, as I slid the rifle into shooting position and settled the crosshairs. Even with a steady rest and a “gimme” 70-yard shot, buck fever was making those crosshairs dance.
And during the exhaling of my third deep breath, I cut the bullet loose.
When Bobby came to pick me up, he grabbed the rifle from me, looked it up and down and then looked at the buck lying beside me.
“You figured out how to aim this thing, huh?” Bobby grinned.
Reaching for the gun I couldn’t help but break smile. “Give it back; this rifle stays with me.”