“Daddy, can I borrow you .30-30 this afternoon, if I get the animals fed and still have time to hunt before dark?”
“If there’s time!” he replied. We were in the cattle, hog and chicken business, had our own beef and pork feedlots, and usually 10,000 or more chickens. Back then I was pretty much the “automatic” feeder and “waterer” for all. Feed came in 100-pound sacks, and water was usually carried in 5-gallon buckets. This before my Dad finally installed real automatic feeders and water, which he did about the time I graduated from high school.
Dad’s deer rifle was a lever-action, Winchester Model 94 .30-30 Win. It had initially started out open sight, but then he and my uncle who also had one, decided to add Weaver K4 scopes, mounted on the side. Using 170-grain .30-30 ammo that came in a “red box”, they could shoot 3-inch groups at 100 yards. “Good enough to shoot a deer!” Hunting behind our rural southern Texas home most shots were seldom more than 50 yards.
I dearly wanted a “deer rifle” like my Dad’s and uncle’s. I asked to use Dad’s a lot! My deer gun at the time was a single-shot, 12-gauge shotgun.
In time I had my own deer rifle a .30-30 Win, but chambered in a Savage Model 340 bolt action rifle, topped with a Weaver K4 scope. It was later followed by a .257 Roberts, a .270 Win, 7×57 and a lot of others during my years as a hunter, professional wildlife biologist and “gun writer.”
Fast forward several decades to present day. Having recently hunted more than a fair amount with a Mossberg Patriot Predator chambered in 7mmPRC, shooting Hornady’s 175-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter, and topped with a Trijicon AccuPoint which I dearly love, I thought it would be fun to return to an earlier day, back when lever actions were the standard and preferred deer rifle.
I decided to go with two lever actions manufactured by Rossi, a .30-30 Win Model R95 and a .44 Mag Model R92. The R95’s receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounting. But after I shot it open-sight using Hornady’s 160-gerain FTX Leverevolution, I decided to hold off installing a scope. With that combination I could keep all my shots within less than 3-inches at 50 yards. No doubt the rifle is capable of considerably greater accuracy, but for my current purpose that would be more than sufficient.
With the R92, shooting Hornady’s 240-grain XTP Custom ammo, I first shot it at 25 yards. I put six shots into one ragged hole. Backing away to 50 yards I put all my shots within a 3-inch group. Again, sufficient accuracy, me shooting open sight.
My goal, for the lever actions, was hunt and take management bucks and does on my lease in western Texas and wild hogs in other parts of our State.
I have often made the statement, “Hunting, to me, means getting as close as possible before pulling the trigger!” Hunting with the Rossi lever actions that was going to be a requirement!
Our western Texas hunting lease is 8,000-acres prime whitetail habitat. Half of it looks like the mesquite and cactus of south and southwestern Texas, the other half resembles the juniper and oak covered hills of Central Texas.
We can legally bait deer in Texas, including using automatic feeders to “throw” corn at specific times. I planned on hunting over a feed area only if I failed hunting the way I really like to hunt, still hunting, moving slowly into the wind, spotting a deer at a distance and then stalking to within as close as possible, and of course rattling. By the time I made it back to my lease the rut was essentially over, and bucks were starting to again form bachelor herds, although not all.
A couple of days into the hunt, I found a waterhole frequented by a considerable number of deer. There, I found where three trails converged, and, I could back into a small clump of mesquites that would break my outline.
After creating “makeshift” crossed shooting sticks, I settled in for the afternoon’s hunt. I had been there less than twenty minutes when a mature doe appeared. I waited until she was 25 yards away, broadside and looking toward the water. I had cocked the R95’s hammer soon as I had seen her. I aligned the back sight with the front bead and the deer’s vitals to break the opposite shoulder, then pulled the trigger. At the shot the doe simply fell to the ground. I quickly levered in a fresh Hornady round and again sighted down the barrel at the doe, which lay still.
A few moments later I walked to her side, the first deer I had shot with a lever action in over 50 years. Surely felt good to do so!
I was ready to try for a buck. Our lease is under Texas’ Managed Land Deer Permit. The number of bucks and does taken each year on the property is determined by annual surveys, short and long-term goals and objectives, and numerous other “factors”. Each lease member is assigned a number of doe and buck tags, and those can be taken anytime between October till the end of February. Our individual buck quota amounts to one large or “trophy” buck of our choice, plus usually four other bucks comprised of older 8-point or less bucks.
I decided to use my Rossi R92 .44 Mag lever gun. I felt comfortable taking a shot out to 75 yards. Closer would be better!
A cold front blew in, bringing with it rain and a stout northerly breeze, perfect for hunting the north-south low ridges of the south part of the property.
Shortly after first light I started slowly walking from bush to bush. I had walked possibly 200 yards when I spotted a deer, laying down and facing into the wind. I could not see the head, so moved to the right. There I could see antlers. He was an eight point, about 17-inches outside spread. He was laying broadside, facing away. Moving slowly, I able to get within 40-yards. There I sat down, set up my “shooting sticks,” rested the .44 Mag lever action in the crux, leaned against a cedar, then waited for the buck to stand.
Laying down as he was, I could not see much of his body. I wanted to make certain he was mature. Twenty minutes later the buck stood. The first thing I noticed were his darkly stained hocks, a sure sign of maturity. A quick look at his swelled neck and a bit of a flap under this jaw line, convinced me he was at least 6-years old.
I aligned the front bead, back sight with the buck’s vital then squeezed the trigger. He went down, I quickly levered in another round. The buck did not move.
Moments later at the buck’s side, as usually the first thing I did, after making certain the animal is dead, say a prayer of thanks, was run my index finger across deer’s lower jaw teeth to confirm age. The buck’s premolars and molar were worn flat. He was at least 6-years old.
I could not have been more pleased with the buck, the performance of the R92 .44 Mag and the performance of the Hornady 240-grain XTP ammo.As I walked around to the other side of the deer, I spotted what looked like the spent bullet. It was! After exiting the opposite shoulder, the bullet had simply fallen to the ground.
With our property being on the Managed Land Deer Permit I still have some more deer I have to take before our extended season’s end. I will be doing more hunting with my two Rossi lever actions shooting Hornady ammo. Will tell you more about those hunts in the future.