Feature Dragunovs


Saleen's 1999 Hunt


I guess I'll start with the first hunt I took my dragunov on.  It was in late Nov - early Dec of 1999 at the Sobrero Peak Ranch in West Texas near Big Bend Park.  The first morning I started hunting a ridge about a half mile or so behind camp, and right away I saw several bucks hanging out near the top and moving along.  I tried all morning to get close enough to them, but I never could get a shot closer than perhaps 300 yards or a tad more, which was a bit further than I felt comfortable with.  Now, I'd take that shot with confidence, but at the time I had put maybe 100 rounds through the gun at a maximum of only 200 yards so I declined the long shot.  Frustrated with essentially just chasing them, I just dropped down low and hauled ass for about a mile to try and get in front of them.  This tactic had worked for me in the past since Mule Deer aren't nearly as skittish as Whitetail, so it wasn't exactly an off the wall idea.

Now, the terrain is pretty rough where I was, so even hauling ass I wasn't moving too fast.  This coupled with the fact that a mile or more of bottom terrain equaled perhaps a quarter mile up on top, and the time it took to complete the manuever was probably a couple of hours at least.  I picked a really steep ascention point that was well concealed from the area that I expected my quarry to come by, and I expected to simply lie in wait at the edge for them to amble into my sight picture so I could take my pick.  This would have afforded me perhaps a 125 yard shot, which I was more than comfortable with, and to make matters better it was within a quarter of a mile of a plateau that I'd seen the ranch hand take a jeep to, so I figured actually getting the deer down to camp would be fairly easy as well.  Unfortunately, the deer didn't intend on cooperating.

I got to the top and slowly came up scanning the area for targets, and slowly stood up as I scanned to the left towards where I expected the deer to come from.  As I stood, I heard rocks to the right and spun around to see the deer trotting down to a slightly lower plateu.  They had actually been in the kill zone when I came up, and had obviously heard or smelled me closing in so they moved on to what they figured was a safe distance to observe.  At this point, however, I don't think they'd seen me so I held my position and watched for awhile.  Sure enough they simply started grazing and just glancing my direction every now and then so I began to try and find a shooting position where the vegetation would afford me a prone rest.  I knew that they were outside of 200 yards, but by God I'd worked too hard that morning not to put one on the ground so I'd decided that as long as I could put at least 8 points on the larger of the group, I was going to take the shot.

Over the next half hour or so I worked my way around to a good position, dumped my pack to use as a rest, and started glassing the largest of the group.  He was grazing with an ocatilla behind him which made it difficult to count horns through the 4x scope at a range I later determined to be 250 yards.  After a few minutes, however, he stepped out and I could put 4 on each side of him so I put the chevron on the sweet spot and let one round fly.  I was shooting Hornady 165gr "Custom" (grey box) which had given me a best of 1/2 MOA at 200 yards in 5 shot groups weeks before the hunt.  The rifle was dialed in for a 200 yard zero, and since I was slightly elevated I didn't do any corrections for the extra range figuring that all things considered I'd be close enough to get the job done well.  Thanks to the low recoil of a semi auto, and the fact that I was proned out, I was back on target before the round hit, so I actually got to see the strike.  It smacked him point of aim, and he simply fell over.  No thrashing, no twitching, no nothing.  Just real, real dead.  The others in the group looked up, saw him, took a few more munches of grass and hauled ass as I stood to walk down and claim my prize.  Post mortem showed that the 165grSP round performed flawlessly; mushrooming out and stopping on the far side just under the skin.  As is often the case, the deer wasn't as large as I'd hoped he'd be through the glass, and the brow tines weren't really enough to count as points (meaning he was an honest 8 point instead of a 10), but overall I was quite satisfied with the hunt and ecstatic over my Dragunov's performance in the field.

At the time of this hunt, my dragunov had been sent to a guy named Mike at MSC I think for parkerizing, and the bolt may have had AKE's then-available Russian SLFP installations.

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