Labs as Deer retrievers
The Scotch in me sometimes gets me into trouble. Thompson/Center Arms' popular MaxiBalls have two wide belts of lubricant attached in deep grooves on the .50-caliber bullet. When I took the bullets out of their box, I noticed that the lubricant had dried and cracked. I reasoned that this would be no problem as their passage through the barrel would surely heat them up. Right?
During the morning a deer approached my tree stand, and I shot it at a range of about 30 yards. The deer ran, but I did not expect any difficulties in finding it. The deer was close, the shot looked good for a just-behind-the-shoulder kill; and it was not until I started looking for the deer that I began to feel that something was seriously wrong. Walking the blood trail I found splotches and drops of red blood, but no deer.
After an hour's fruitless searching I returned home to get my deer-recovery team. At that time it consisted of Persephone (the dominant momma Lab), and Zeus II (the unlikely offspring of a golden retriever and a beagle - honest) and old Othello who was a blind pointer that was long past his prime. Persephone and Zeus took off at a run (this is the reason for using a leash on a trailing dog) while Othello slowly sniffed his way, leading me unerringly along the deer's path. We plodded 100 yards, 200 yards and then 500 yards. Although still finding blood, Othello and I could not locate that deer.
Finally, I heard a faint barking ½-mile away from where I had shot the deer. The barking was considerably down-slope at a mile-long pond. Supposing that was my dogs and they had the deer bayed, Othello and I proceeded.
The barking became more intense as I approached the wooded pond's edge. The cover at the bank was so thick that I could not see. Gingerly, I stepped out onto some clumps of growing pond weed that were in about 3-feet of water. These clumps supported me, but unsteadily. Looking out, I could see a deer swimming about 20 yards away with Persephone gaining on it. Trailing the show was Zeus, barking as he swam.
Is that the wounded deer? Whatever I did, I had to do it then. There are two conflicting state laws. One is that every effort should be made to recover a wounded animal, and the other that it is illegal to shoot a swimming deer. I shot the deer. Persephone overtook the animal and drowned it.
She then looked toward shore and tried to retrieve the deer. That is what Labs do, is it not? She apparently took it as her sworn duty to bring things back that were in the water. She could not grab the deer with her mouth and the deer's legs keep getting in the way. After making several attempts she swam to shore as if to measure the distance and then made another try. I could almost hear her thinking, “Surely I can get it that far.” She failed. I called her in, and we returned to the house.
The day before this hunt I had pulled my boat out of that pond. With some difficulty I took the fiberglass johnboat down off its rack, loaded it onto my pick-up and drove it as far as I could towards the pond. Then I drug the boat over the deadfall and cypress knees to the pond's edge, fought a hard paddle through ¼-mile of thick pond brush to get to open water and then paddled a ½-mile against a stiff wind to the deer. Persephone was in the boat with me, and she was the first to spot the deer. It has been blown into the middle of the pond and was now in 15 feet of water. I dared not try to load the deer into the tiny boat in such deep water.
Tying a line to the deer I paddled back to my launching area with the animal trailing behind. Persephone kept her eyes focused on the deer to make sure that it did not get away. Alligators in Georgia kill deer as they come to water. My vision of a worst-case condition was for a gator to grab the deer and swamp the boat.
Fortunately, there was no gator encounter, and I managed to get the boat firmly enough supported on the near-shore pond growth that I was able to pull the deer into the boat. Once ashore I had a steep drag to get both the deer and the boat up to the truck. Ugg!
At home, there was no one to help me hoist the deer on the skinning hooks under my shed. I had to skin it on the tailgate of my truck. When I started skinning, the only bullet that I found was the one I had shot into the animal's neck. Was this the deer that I had shot from my stand, or was this another one? Skinning lower and lower I was surprised to find a bullet in the deer's rear leg.
What happened was that although I had aimed at the animal's shoulder, the dried lubricant on the MaxiBall had apparently fallen off in slabs destabilizing the bullet and causing it to yaw wildly off course. It had hit the rear leg instead of going behind the shoulder.
I had learned my lesson. I boiled the dried lubricant off the old bullets and relubricated them before I used any more from that box.