It’s something we’d been talking about doing and back and forth about for years – a whitetail hunt on our property, that is. Hannah Kelly, state representative for District 141 in Missouri, is a busy young woman. Between her duties as a legislator (one of the youngest in the state and recently elected to a leadership role in her party) and a real estate broker, there’s not a lot of extra time. This is the story of Hannah’s first whitetail success.
Sponsored by Ruger
Hannah and I always planned to hunt together, since she’s only been out a few times sitting alone in a stand, with no luck. But, every fall, other things came up and duty called. This year, my family and I tagged out early, and I reached out to Hannah to see if she’d like to hunt over on my place. We have been watching deer on our trail cameras, and I knew we had a healthy herd, and we needed to cull not only does, but also, some bucks.
“First of all, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it,” said Hannah, “and that I don’t have to sit on the sidelines during deer season.” She has a hunter education certification, and is familiar with how to shoot rifles, pistols and shotguns. Hannah also belongs to a ladies’ shooting group, called The Sunshine Shooting Club, where she routinely practices her skills, keeping them fresh.
She continued, “Also, I wanted to provide meat for my table and for others, and third, it’s all about conservation and controlling the whitetail population here in Missouri.”
For this hunt, Hannah needed a gun and what better gun to loan her than my trusty Ruger Model 77 Mark II? Yes, it’s an oldie but goodie, and if it had notches for whitetail I’ve taken throughout the past 20 years with it, it would be an ugly stock with lots of scratches on it. It’s a model with a composite stock, chambered in .257 Roberts, which is perfect for Ozarks hunting, unless you want to reach out past 200 yards.
Since we had a time crunch, at first light, Hannah sighted in my Ruger M77 Mark II rifle so that we could double check its accuracy, and also so that she could get the feel of this particular load of ammo that my husband prepared. You can see the results of her 3 shots here.
Then, we packed up the old ’87 Toyota hunting truck and headed down to park about a quarter mile from my hunting blind, situated on top of a building that is used for storage on a 400-yard rifle range. Hannah adjusted the rifle in the DeathGrip tripod and positioned the gun downrange. No sooner had she taken a seat, when the deer appeared. I don’t just mean 1 deer. A few does and then, a huge buck showed up. She knew she needed to wait for that buck to get within range, and when he got to about 210 yards, she took the shot. I watched as his front knee appeared to buckle a little bit, and then, he darted off into the woods. After about 30 minutes, we went looking. After 45 minutes and no blood trail, no distressed earth signs or anything that would indicate a wounded buck, we made the call that she had indeed … missed. A miss is better than a bad hit any day.
The second morning we went out again at dawn. On this day, the deer got the message that Hannah’s bullet only worked up to about 200 yards, or something, since they all hung around down at the 350 range. And, that’s the day that Hannah discovered what hunting is all about. Somedays, you don’t get a shot.
Then, almost a week went by and on the last day of Missouri’s whitetail season, it happened. Then, it happened again. It seemed as though something had changed with her. All of a sudden, Hannah wasn’t looking to me for whether to shoot or not. She made the decisions to shoot, she placed the rifle accurately and that morning, she tagged a buck and a doe.
That’s when Hannah learned about hunting and that you can never predict what is going to happen. “One thing I’ve learned is that hunting is like a sport with skills that you hone. It’s not just about picking up a gun and going to the woods,” said Hannah.
“It really helped that I knew what I was working with, and what the gun could do,” she added.
After we located the doe, that had expired about 30 yards farther into the woods, we began the process of field dressing first the buck and then, after the drag, the doe. The buck, fortunately dropped at 150 yards. Hannah did the work of field dressing both deer, following the instructions of my husband, who arrived to help us with the haul.
Indeed, this particular gun is perfect for whitetail hunting, and this caliber, for when you don’t need to shoot that far. It’s lightweight, has a big stainless-steel bolt handle and a 3-position safety, which allowed Hannah to lock the bolt when she wanted to load and unload the rifle. It’s an excellent, safe gun for beginner hunters.
It’s also lightweight enough that I easily run-and-run the hills and hollers of the Ozarks whenever I choose to hunt this method.
The Model 77 Mark II also comes with an internal box magazine that is flush with the stock. I’ve never experienced a malfunction with this set-up, and I have run some of the finest manufactured deer rifle ammo through it, as well as my husband’s custom loads for it.
It’s been hunting all over the state of Missouri, and it’s the rifle I used way back when, and saw my first whitetail success (where I also downed 2 deer). I knew it would be crucial to this story, and I’m delighted that it worked out for Hannah. In fact, I think she wants to buy one for herself.
Although this model isn’t in Ruger’s lineup now, you can still find it for sale, used. Ruger makes a series of Model 77 rifles that are definitely worth a serious look for hunting, in a variety of calibers. They feature the same qualities that made this gun such a stand-out.
Leupold gifted me a mighty fine scope, a VX-6 3-18x44mm, which also contributed to her being able to get on the 2 deer that she brought in later to the local neighborhood meat processing plant. Although this scope also is no longer made, you can always substitute another Leupold scope for hunting purposes. All of them are great quality. Hannah couldn’t believe how well she could see through the scope, even in the early morning hour.
https://www.ruger.com/products/americanRifle/models.html?n=ovNext year, Hannah and I are talking about putting her on a rifle that’ll go the distance in that field – the Ruger American in 7mm-08 Remington. Lucky for her, I’ve got one of those, too, and it just so happens that it has a notch or 2 as well.
Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. She is a contributing editor at "SHOT Business," and her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications. She also is a travel writer, and you can follow her at https://www.ozarkian.com. View all posts by Barbara Baird
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