The last time I had my rifle in the field was 2003 (I
missed 2004 and 2005 thanks to OIF-3), but it was a great year to hunt.
Starting in 2002 I switched to the Cox Ranch lease near Sanderson TX, and in
2003 there had been plenty of food and water so horn production was excellent.
In fact, many of the hunters who have been on the lease for as long as 20 years
couldn't remember a time where consistently excellent horns were the norm rather
than the exception. In addition to the horns, there was a pretty decent
population as well, so it was an all around great hunt.
There's a high ridge line that I had gone to the year before which is seldom traveled due to the difficulty in ascending (and corresponding difficulty in getting anything you shoot back down), but it was where the big bucks could be found so I decided to try it out. On the way in, however, Dad spotted a beautiful buck down low and he spooked around the bend near where we were planning on parking for the trip up. I thought maybe I'd see him later and figured there'd be no way he'd still be in the low area when we got around the bend. I was wrong.
I picked him up about 40 feet up from the base on the hill and frozen watching us with a beautiful broadside shot. I bailed out of the truck with my pack and plopped down for a prone rest while Dad glassed him and gave me a range of 167 yards. I was zeroed for 200, so I put the chevron where I wanted it and sent one 168gr Hornady AMAX downrange. It struck him exactly where I wanted it to (it's hard to miss with this rifle), but unlike times before the animal broke and ran. That had NEVER happened to me before, so I hesitated assuming that the rifle was off because I knew the shot had been a good one. I was following the deer in the reticle considering what to do next when Dad called the hit, and about that time the animal went down about 40-45 yards from where he'd been shot. He started thrashing around pretty good, but due to the vegetation I couldn't get another shot to finish him off quickly and he expired perhaps a minute later.
Post mortem inspection showed a perfect shot, but once again the bullet passed through and through with minimal apparent damage (entry / exit the same). Inside, the heart and lungs were pretty much destroyed so my guess is that the animal was fully oxigenated and working off of adrenaline since we has scared him up just before the shot. Be that as it may, I think I'm pretty much done with ballistic tips from here on out because they just don't seem to perform like the SP rounds do.
At any rate, here's a picture of the last animal taken with the Dragunov. I may use it again a few years down the road, but I have 2-3 other military style sniper guns that I want to use first. This particular rifle now wears synthetic fore grips, but it has yet to be fired again.....