Since I am addicted to hunting with single-shot rifles, I jumped at the chance to do a Texas whitetail hunt as a guest of Uberti, using a Uberti High-Wall rifle. Besides that, Benelli USA brand marketing manager Joe Coogan has been a good friend for a number of years and we don't get to share a hunting camp together all that often. It was all set up to be a win-win deal, except for the weather, but I'll get to that a little bit later.
The particular Uberti rifle that I would use for this hunt was a Model 1885 High-Wall Special Sporting Rifle, in .45/70, with a 30-inch octagon barrel. It had been drilled and tapped to mount a new 3x9 Burris scope that will be introduced at the 2014 SHOT Show. Hornady provided 325-grain LEVERevolution ammunition to go with the rifles. Realtree even provided some excellent camo garments for the hunt. In other words, we had quality gear all the way around.
Not long after I arrived at the Jack Baggett Ranch, south of Ozona, Texas, we headed for the range to make sure the guns were sighted in. I was quickly impressed with the accuracy of the High-Wall as I fine tuned the scope to deliver shots dead-on at 100 yards. The recoil of the Hornady .45/70 cartridge was dampened considerably by the 10-pound weight of this Uberti single shot. I might add that the Burris 3x9 scope gave a wide, clear field of view that I certainly appreciated since it has become a little difficult for me to see conventional iron sights.
The Uberti High-Wall is a good copy of the original single-shot designed by John M. Browning and has an external hammer. Now I will let you in on a little discovery that I made on this hunt. A safety issue can exist when a hunter has cocked his rifle and then decides not to take the shot. Typically, he will gently squeeze the trigger and use his thumb to ease the hammer down. Of course, this can all turn into a negligent discharge when the weather is cold and fingers have lost much of their feeling.
With the Uberti High-Wall you don't have to take a chance of the gun going off when you didn't intend for it to do so. All you have to do is completely lower the lever and the hammer will reset to the down position. Since the rifle does not have an ejector, you don't even have to go chasing your cartridge because it stays in the chamber.
The first day of our hunt was conducted in very mild weather. But the weatherman was predicting that a cold front would blow in by evening, what many call in Texas a “blue norther.” And blue norther it certainly was, with rain, ice and some snow, falling. When advising my out-of-state hunting companions, I confidently predicted that the deer would really be moving in the hours before the storm hit. I was wrong. I further, and equally as confidently, told them that we wouldn't see anything the next morning as the deer would be all brushed up and trying to stay warm. I was wrong again.
Neither Joe Coogan nor I particularly like to hunt out of a blind, preferring to hunt by the challenging spot and stalk method instead. But with the rain, sleet and snow falling, a tight, warm box blind just didn't seem nearly as bad. Fortunately, this ranch had some very nice, covered blinds on it and we took full advantage of the opportunity to stay dry and fairly warm.
On the second morning of our hunt, a number of deer came wandering by, including several small, immature bucks. However, at about 8:30 a.m., a mature 10-point buck came in to check out the several doe that were in the clearing and to straighten out a big fork-horn buck that needed a lesson in showing proper respect for his elders and betters.
At about 80 yards, I took a shot that would impact the 10-point's right shoulder, quarter through his thoracic cavity and exit through his short ribs on the left side. At the shot, I heard the bullet smack and saw the buck flinch before he ran into the nearby cedar brush. Tony, the guide, and I took our time getting our stuff together, confident that we would find a dead deer just inside the cedar brush. Wrong again.
The buck wasn't lying just inside the brush. In fact, we couldn't find him anywhere. On top of that, we also couldn't find any blood, not a single drop. We searched the area for about an hour before giving up and going to get the tracking dog.
It took the dog less than five minutes to find my buck, which had run about 70 yards in a direction that Tony and I had never considered. The bullet had been well-placed but there was only a caliber-size exit wound, indicating that the Hornady bullet had expanded very little, if at all and, thus, left no blood trail. However, this should not be considered a criticism of the Hornady LEVERevolution bullets. In .45/70, they are designed to work on much heavier game than a Texas whitetail. In years past I used the same designed bullet, in .444 Marlin, to take a big bull elk and the bullet did the job quite nicely.
The next afternoon was Coogan's turn to collect some venison and, if anything, the weather was worse. By about 5:30 p.m., we had only seen a few does and were about frozen out. The hot coffee back at the lodge was sounding better and better. With this in mind, Tony headed off to get the truck and Coogan and I started to get our gear together. Naturally, that's when a really nice 10-point buck came trotting into the clearing. Of course, just as Joe started to put the Burris crosshairs on him, here came Tony with the pickup and the buck ran into a nearby rocky draw. However, Tony had seen what was going on and just circled back the way he had come. That maneuver pulled the buck out of the draw so that he was standing broadside to the blind at about 85 yards. The only trouble was, the window of the blind wouldn't allow Coogan to swing his rifle muzzle far enough to the right to get on the deer.
Now that blind was kind of crowded for three chairs so, with Coogan trying to move his chair farther to the left, I folded up the guide's chair to get it out of the way. Still not enough room! I moved my chair as far to the left as it would go. Still not enough room! Finally, Coogan was nearly into my chair and on my lap when he got the crosshairs centered on the buck's shoulder. As calm as could be, Coogan put his .45/70 bullet into the deer's shoulder and dropped him in his tracks.
I am especially glad that Coogan didn't actually end up in my lap to make his shot. And I am forever grateful that there wasn't a camera crew around to record the whole adventure.
Double B Outfitters handled the hunts on the Baggett Ranch. The guides are knowledgeable and friendly. The lodge is clean and comfortable, while the food is to die for. In fact, if you hunt with these folks and don't gain weight, you need to see your doctor right away.
The Uberti 1885 High-Wall Special Sporting rifle honors the tradition of American hunters that goes all the way back to John M. Browning. At the same time, topped with the fine Burris optics, it is as modern as tomorrow. It is sort of an “Old Meets New” combination that I thoroughly enjoyed.