Death of a Tree: The Tale of a Nosler Bullet
I consider myself a pretty damn good shot. My eyesight isn’t the best, but that’s not the only variable in marksmanship. It’s the one variable that is limited in how it can be corrected, but others can. Like weapon, optics, and ammunition.
When I first moved to Missouri and took up hunting deer again, the first deer I killed was shot through the spine. It died, but it suffered. And that didn’t set well with me. I was using an old British Enfield .303 which had been fitted with a scope. And try as I might, I just couldn’t get the rifle to shoot a decent grouping. So I bought me a modern bolt action rifle. I fitted it with a quality American made Redfield Revolution scope. And I began hand loading my own ammo, to get the best accuracy from the rifle/scope platform.
I load 130 grain Nosler Accubond bullets. The Accubond is a lead core, copper jacketed hollow point with a plastic ballistic tip. With the right hand load recipe, my deer hunting platform is accurate and deadly.
So I was confident in my abilities as I headed out last Sunday to my tree stand about an hour before sunrise to hunt deer. At 7:30 that morning an 8 point buck wandered into my kill zone. I watched as he walked near my tree, waiting for him to present a good profile so I could shoot. He finally turned just inside a tree line about 80 to 90 yards away, and I lifted the rifle and sighted in on his side at what I thought was the sweet spot.
BOOM! The muzzle flash obscured my view through the scope, and when it died out, the deer was gone. I heard him crashing through the woods for about 30 seconds, and then I thought I heard him hit the ground. I safed my weapon, lowered in from the stand, and waited about 10 minutes, to make sure he wasn’t just resting before getting his wind back.
I walked over to the spot where I shot, and began looking for a blood trail. I walked around about 5 yards out from the spot, but couldn’t find any sign of a wounded deer. I was confused. Until I went back to the spot, and saw this.
Yeah. That’s a bullet hole in a 3” tree sapling.
This is the back side. A testament to the expansion power of the Nosler bullet.
I was pissed. I couldn’t believe I had missed this big deer. I grabbed my rifle and headed back to the stand. It was only 7:30, and I could still sit for a while until my designated time of 10:30 to come down. After a half hour, the gun shot is a distant memory to any deer in the area, and others could still wander through.
As I sat in the tree stand, I began to reflect on the shot. I raised the scope to where I now knew the sapling was, and realized that at that distance, the sapling was hidden from view in the scope by the crosshairs. I put the scope on high power and realized that the hit was in a spot that SHOULD have hit the deer.
At 10:30 I came down from the stand, ready to head home and prep for the afternoon hunt from a different stand. But I wanted to get pictures of the tree shot, so I headed back to the site. I snapped the pictures above and this one.
In looking at this angle, I noticed what appeared to be a trail directly behind the sapling. I had assumed that the deer had run to the right, since that was the way he was facing. So I walked directly back from the shot area, and 10 yards away I saw it. A huge splatter of bright red blood. I DID HIT THE DEER.
Bright red blood usually means a lung shot. I walked a little further and found another big splatter. That told me he was spraying blood with every breath. Following the trail, I finally found him.
I gutted him right where he fell. One lung was completely collapsed. The heart was intact, so this was a lung shot. I found an entrance wound, but no exit wound. I tried to find the bullet in the lungs, but no luck. I dragged him out, and loaded him on the ATV and headed home.
As I washed the blood off of me, the ATV, and from inside deer, I noticed a bulge on the opposite side of the deer, and realized that it was the bullet.
A 130 grain bullet had been reduced to 83.4 grains. Which means the bullet retained 64% of its mass as it passed through the tree and into the rib cage of the deer. It is a testament to the Nosler bullet that it didn’t fracture, and retained a substantial amount of mass to allow for a kill, through a tree.
The deer is at the processors, being turned into summer sausage and beer sticks. The tree will probably die, and break off at the wound. And me, I’ll keep loading Nosler bullets, confident in the ability of the ammo, and of my marksmanship.