Austin Sterne

January 19, 2015 | Tags:

My 12-year-old son, Austin, harvested his first deer it in Arizona’s North Kaibab area late Sunday afternoon during the Juniors Antlerless Deer Hunt. The deer was a good-sized, five-year-old doe estimated to weigh 150 to 160 pounds on the hoof. One shot through the neck at 65 yards dropped it in its tracks. Austin used a bolt-action Remington Model 700 .270 shooting Federal Premium ammunition loaded with 130-grain Barnes TSX copper bullets. The bullets were provided by our Game and Fish Department free of charge as part of a voluntary partnership effort with hunters to reduce lead exposure to the California Condors that have been re-introduced to the area.

One week before the hunt, the safety on Austin’s customized Model 96 Mauser chambered for the 6.5 X 55mm Swedish cartridge failed. The milled piece on the shroud that holds the safety in place broke, making the firing mechanism unreliable and unsafe.The .270—which was to be his alternate rifle—quickly became his primary shooter. We practiced at the range to improve his accuracy with the rifle and familiarized him with its operation, balance and feel. Although the rifle was heavier than he was accustomed to, Austin made the shot count when the opportunity presented itself.

We were hunting north of the number 236 road at the edge of a burn adjacent to some juniper thickets when he shot the doe. We stalked out into the open and set up near some low brush and dead trees. We were approximately 100 yards into the burn, and positioned where we could see the deer come out to feed for the evening. We started glassing and watching an area where we had seen many trails leaving the junipers.

Ten minutes after we sat down, three does came out to feed. They kept looking our direction, sensing something but not overly alarmed. As they continued to feed in our direction, Austin raised his rifle. When the biggest doe stopped, her vitals were obstructed by branches, leaving only her head and neck exposed.

Austin asked if he could shoot her in the neck. I told him that if he could hold steady and had a clear shot, he should take it. From a semi-sitting position, he used his knees as a rest and squeezed the trigger. He later told me he’d lost sight of the deer at the shot. I’d seen the whole thing, and told him she had dropped in her tracks.

I am so very proud of him. We saw deer every day, but he refused to shoot until conditions were right. He showed great patience and hunting ethics, passing on many deer because they were moving too quickly, had their vitals obstructed, or were in front of or behind other deer that might be wounded if he fired. We must have seen more than 100 deer by the third day, when he finally harvested one. He’d also had the opportunity to see some very nice bucks that were tending does and showing signs that the rut was beginning.

I told him he’d shot his first deer just a half mile from where I’d taken my first deer–a doe I’d also shot in the neck. He thought that “rocked” and hasn’t stopped talking about the experience.

To both Barnes and Federal, I would like to say, “thanks for a great product.” Not having used Barnes Bullets before, I was skeptical about how they would perform. They proved to be extremely accurate, punching one-inch or smaller groups at 100 yards. They also performed well on game. I look forward to using them on future hunts of my own.

To Kathy Sullivan at AZGFD, thank you for finding us a box of this ammo and bringing for the hunt. Hopefully, more manufactures will load Barnes Bullets in the future, so availability won’t be an issue. Good luck to California with the Condor program. Austin and I found the presentation we saw very informative, and he has been proudly talking about helping the Condors.

—Jim Sterne