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The Bottle Rocket Shot

By Darin P. Fager

Darin FagerAt 6:45 a.m. on November 17, 2007,  I heard a grunt about 200 yards away in a small stand of trees. A few minutes later, a doe came down out with a monster buck chasing about 20 yards behind her.

She was running full speed, and he was mirroring her like a cutting horse with his head fully extended about 6 inches off the ground. They ran in a circle and went back up into the trees.

For the next 45 minutes, he grunted every 10 minutes until about 7:30 a.m., when the doe made another loop down out of the trees. He was right on her and making a noise I can only describe as growling. It was a low, strong constant grunt. She stopped in some saplings and he did likewise.

He was about 135 yards away, and I was already set up with a bipod and a field chair. I was hunting with a .50-caliber Thompson/Center muzzleloader with a thumbhole stock. I’d practiced out to 150 yards with this gun and was completely ready for what looked like an open shot. I squeezed the trigger.

After the cloud of smoke cleared, the buck was still standing there. I couldn’t believe it! Did I miss him or was he about to fall over dead?

I immediately started the process of reloading while watching him. The bullet got stuck in the speed loader.  I had to push it out with the ramrod, pack it down and recap the gun.

Again with the rifle rested and steady, I fired a second shot. I can only describe what looked to be a bottle rocket coming out of the barrel with a big, arched, 50-yard smoke trail.

The buck looked at me and turned back to the doe.

I thought I was done and felt my heart drop. I sat there for 5 minutes scoping the deer. I thought the barrel was plugged and fired a primer to clear it. The buck started to move uphill.

With slightly shaking hands I reloaded again and took aim. The buck was now quartering away at about 150 yards. I squeezed off my last shot, and that was it for him.

The taxidermist green-scored the rack at 204 5/8 gross inches.

My only explanation for the bottle rocket is I was in a hurry to reload and mignt not have fully seated the powder and bullet completely downbore. I was very lucky.

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