When I first heard the goal of a then-developmental, as-yet-unnamed deer load from Winchester, I was intrigued but also a bit skeptical. The aim of this product, formally unveiled by the company today as Deer Season XP, is to give hunters exactly what they’ve been requesting for years—a load that will drop deer in their tracks, or darn close to it. Like the folks at Winchester, I’ve heard plenty of wishing for ammo that would somehow eliminate the need for lengthy tracking through dense brush and swamps or over ground covered with rock or, what I consider most challenging of all, across bare, just-tilled fields littered with other tracks. Once a deer—even those mortally wounded—disappears from view and enters various obscuring terrain or cover, the chance of recovery drops greatly. In many places that problem is compounded when we cannot get permission to track our game onto neighboring properties, or when wounded game moves onto a busy roadway.
There are lots of reasons why hunters would keenly want a “knockdown” deer load, me included. However, I couldn’t help but wonder two things: 1) Isn’t terminal performance on game mostly about shot placement? 2) Short of making a low-percentage brain or spine shot, is it really possible to drop a deer in its tracks?
While everyone at Winchester acknowledged that the overriding importance of shot placement hasn’t changed, they encouraged me to take a firsthand look at just how well the developmental load met its fast-knockdown objective. Given how well this creative company has come up with practical shooting solutions in recent years, with products like PDX-1 cartridges for home defense and TrAAcker training shotshells, they didn’t have to twist my arm.
Sworn to secrecy, NRA Publications videographer Tom Rickwalder and I joined Winchester’s Greg Kosteck for a sneak preview last December at a Texas ranch loaded with nice 8- and 10-point bucks. Since the product won’t actually hit the shelves for several months (sorry, not in time for 2014 deer seasons), suffice it to say, collectively, three shots fired, three bucks down. The total tracking job for those three deer was about five feet.
How Winchester designed this load will undoubtedly generate lots of conversation. We plan to take an extensive look this fall and you’ll be hearing plenty more about Winchester Deer Season XP from American Hunter well before the 2015 deer season. For that matter, I suspect you’ll be hearing more about Deer Season XP from many places.