Handgun Hunting & The Trespasser's Buck

Sometimes, even an old sheriff can only step back and laugh ... this was one of those times.

posted on November 21, 2023
Muley Buck Public Domain
Mule deer: Smarter than your average trespasser.

It was a memorable day, hunting with my friend Bart Skelton. Bart had invited me to hunt mule deer with him on the Laney Ranch, north of Deming, New Mexico. We were handgun hunting and Bart was armed with the 7½” Ruger Flat Top .44 Magnum that had belonged to his famous father. My gun was an Old Model Ruger Super Blackhawk, also in .44 Magnum. Both guns were stoked with 250-gr. Keith hard-cast SWC bullets over a substantial amount of 2400 powder.

That Super Blackhawk was a favorite hunting gun of mine, although it sure hadn’t started out that way. I originally bought the Super only because I couldn’t find one of the original Flat Tops like Bart carried. I didn’t mind this particular Ruger single action so much as I just couldn’t get along with the grip shape. It just didn’t fit me. Somewhere along the way, I had discovered that the grip frame from the Ruger Old Army percussion revolver would fit the Super. So I had swapped out the grip frame and stocks; problem solved.

Earlier that morning we had stalked into a mess of javelinas and, after some fast shooting, had managed to get two of those little cactus pigs on the ground. Now we were headed up into the hills in search of mule deer. Bart had a favorite high basin where he nearly always had seen deer.

Lead on, Mr. Skelton. Lead on.”

Upon entering the high basin, the first thing we saw was not a mule deer, but a hunter who was trespassing on ranch property. He was sitting on a rocky point overlooking a little canyon and, from all indications, had been there for some time. The fellow claimed that he thought he was on state land where he had a right to be. Bart wasn’t having any of that and began explaining how important it was for this guy to beat feet, hastily, to avoid a warm, personal visit with the local game warden.

Now, I could see that Bart was in control of the situation and that this trespasser wasn’t going to present any problems. So, instead of standing around and glaring like an ex-lawman, I strolled over towards the head of a ravine that fed down into the canyon, the ravine being something like 40 yards directly below where the trespasser had been sitting.

To my surprise a heckuva nice 8-point mule deer buck came blowing up out of that ravine. His race for safety took him across in front of me at about 15 yards. I don’t remember drawing the Ruger .44 from the Thad Rybka crossdraw holster, but it was in my hand and I spanked that buck through the shoulders with my shot.

The trespasser, of course, had had no idea that there was a deer anywhere around. And there is no telling how long that old buck had been hidden in that ravine just waiting for the hunter to leave. The whole episode was one of my favorite handgun hunting memories.

Bart and I had many a good laugh about the whole thing. The trespasser ... not so much.



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