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by Mike Winnerstig a.k.a. Mikewin Last updated: 2009-08-28 14:38:28
Getting to the ranch
On a quite recent business trip to the eastern U.S., I took the weekend off - well, I didn't need to work during the weekend - and returned to the Wilderness hunting ranch outside Everett, PA. Couldn't resist making some more use out of my .44mag S&W hunting rig! I had also invested in a great, custom made holster by Dave Jansen at QuiteHide.
I wanted to try this rig in the slightly non-real-hunting experience you get when hunting at a high fenced operation. This gives a lot of experience under controlled circumstances.
So I returned to the ranch a Friday evening, very late - it's easy to misjudge the driving distances and driving time in the U.S. I tried to get in touch IRL with both jamesfromjersey and Dan B during this trip but at both occasions, it simply took too much time to drive from one place to another. In contrast to much of Europe, it is very difficult to drive very fast in the U.S. because there are cops everywhere....
Anyway, I got to the ranch and met a bunch of semi-drunk bowhunters from upstate NY. They greeted me nicely but became very skeptical when I told them I was going to handgun hunt the same morning as they would be in the woods with their bows and arrows. I had spoken with the ranch owner, Andy, earlier and he assured me that we were going to hunt on a very different spot of the 575 acres of the ranch. I told the bowhunters this and when I added on and passed around a bottle of Swedish vodka (Absolut, one of our best brands) we were all friends....
The next morning, I went out with the owner to spot and stalk a four-horn ram he had had for about a year. It was a mean one, Andy told me: it had killed three other rams at the ranch during its time there. And although the ram showed up just after a 15 minute walk, it took me about 1,5 hour to get into a good shooting position. The ram was obviously very streetwise; he hid behind a group of other, obviously more stupid rams, and he constantly kept a distance to us of about 50-70 yards. This is a completely comfortable distance if he had been alone, but he wasn't - he used the gang of about eight other rams for cover. Andy and I decided to split. Andy then gently pushed away the other rams - except for a small Corsican - whereas I took a position on top of a ridge, looking down.
But then the darned four-horn - streetwise, as I said - ran toward one part of the high fence and manages to get through a gate that was partly open. It was not the gate out of the ranch, but instead led to a smaller compartment of the ranch used for feeding (about 200x100 yards). The corsican was with him still.
Andy thus decided to go into the smaller compartment to push him out, but failed - the ram only ran away from him and not at all out. I then decided to go in as well, not to shoot him there but to help push him out and then take him when he went outside the feeding compartment. Andy told me that this was risky; "when he gets out of the gate, he could start running into the woods of the ranch and then we will see him next time at dinner time or so..."
But I decided to try it. Not a very long time after that, the ram gets out of the gate and goes into the main parts of the ranch again. "You could take the shot now, if you're comfortable with the distance - it's more than 70 yards", Andy told me quietly. I was pretty comfortable - I used a tree trunk for rest and knew the gun was in good shape. I had tested it at the NRA 50 yard range in Fairfax, VA just a few days earlier. The ram just paused a little and looked back on us - a nice broadside, I thought. Still, I was a bit tense when I squeezed the trigger and let off the 300gr XTP @ about 1300fps. The ram jumped up a bit but started to trot away just after the shot.
"Well, that was a looong pistol shot", Andy told me, "probably the longest one somebody ever did on this ranch...I'm happy that it wasn't me, I could never have made it...". Well, I was not really happy either at that moment, because the ram did just trot away, although I thought he moved more slowly for every pace. Andy and I started to walk toward the place it had been when I fired, a lasered 77 yards or about 70 meters. No blood whatsoever.
But when we got there, the ram - about 50 yards ahead of us - seemed just to have bedded down; it laid in what seemed to be a very comfortable position for sleeping. "I think you got him", Andy said. I answered essentially that either the ram is dead or he is just plainly bored by our presence....
After a few minutes we walked up to the ram and he was dead enough.
Analyzing the hunt
The 300gr XTP had penetrated both lungs and exited through a very convincing hole on the left side. But we didn't know that at the time because the thick wool of the animal had soaked up all blood, which also explains the utter lack of a blood trail. However, I was a happy handgun hunter!
The animal was not a small one, at about 180 pounds or 90 kgs. After having some problems dragging it out of the woods and onto a buggy, we got the ram to the skinning department of the ranch. The exit hole was certainly convincing.
I believe this ram will be a great wallhanger! Purists might argue that high fenced ranch hunting is not real hunting, which might be true, but you do get lots of opportunities to test your rigs and your loads and that works great if you're newcomer. The QuiteHide holster I used during this trip worked perfectly well, for example. And the load too. Good to know before you go on a real hunting trip...
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