One of my favorite hunting buddies is Randy
Mitchell, but this year we’d not even had
the opportunity to do a squirrel hunt. So I was
really happy when I got the invite to come down
for the muzzle loader season in Kentucky. Not
only because we’d get to hunt together
again, but also because I’d missed my
opportunity on a couple of Indiana bucks and
the season was over. If I was going to get a
deer this year, it had to happen here.

I had been on business up in Michigan, but
hurried home to Carmel, kissed the wife and
kid’s hello and goodbye, then took off on
the three hour drive to Kentucky. When I’d
left Ann Arbor there was a lot of snow on the
ground, and a howling blizzard blowing ….
However three hundred miles south I’d left
the bitter cold and snow behind.

I met up with Randy the following morning at 6:
00 am, it was dark and raining with a
temperature in the twenties. We drove out to
the clubhouse on his lease and signed in, then
drove out to the eastern side of the property
where Randy had set up a buddy blind. We
hiked a couple hundred yards from the truck to
his stand. If you’ve followed the hunting
adventures on his website, it is the same spot
where he’d taken a doe a few weeks
earlier (the story is posted on Bundled up like the
Michelin men to ward off the crisp predawn
cold, we climbed up into the stand and belted
in. I was sitting on the left side with Randy to
my right. After about twenty or thirty minutes
Randy whispered “ I think I saw a coyote â
€¦. No wait it’s a doe …. And another oneâ
€�. Watching to see what would happen (we
both had doe tags), the deer started down the
side of the hill at about seventy yards. Then
suddenly, we heard the lead deer snort and they
took off at high speed back up the hill. We
reckoned they had winded us, and I mentally
kicked myself for succumbing to my morning
cup of coffee ….. the wind was barely blowing
and the rain was drizzling down, but I was sure
this is what had blown it. As it turned out, Iâ
€™m glad they didn’t come closer or I
probably would have shot!

We sat quietly with the rain picking up strength,
but still enjoying being in the woods. After
about a half hour I felt compelled to slowly
glance over my shoulder, only to see a small
buck about eighty yards away coming down the
hillside. My pulse quickened then my excitement
faded as I could count out this was a four
pointer and the lease has a six point rule. But
then I noticed a bigger buck following him …..
elbowing Randy I whispered “deer� then
turned to keep an eye on the two moving along.
In a break in the branches I could see the
second buck was bigger and at least eight
points, but neither showed any indication they
were going to slow down. As the second buck
momentarily stepped into a clear shooting lane
about fifty five yards out, I lined him up in the
crosshairs and let out a little squeak. I wasnâ
€™t sure if this tactic would draw him up or
spook him, and the volume was so low he might
not have heard me …. But regardless he
stopped at that moment and I squeezed the
trigger instantly. The buck was offering a
quartering shot and I’d placed the crosshair
on his right side just behind the front leg. The
two deer both bolted back up the path theyâ
€™d been following, as Randy slapped me on
the shoulder and said “good shot Jim, man
that is a nice animal�. As we watch the lung
shot buck move about forty yards up the hill, he
paused and shook once, then went over

We waited about five or ten minutes while
unhooking our safety harnesses, then made our
way through the dense ground cover towards
the downed deer …… but we couldn’t
find a blood trail in the wet grass. I was sure it
was a good hit, and unless the deer had belly
crawled up and over the hill he had to be there.
But we could not find blood anywhere! Randy
stayed below cutting the trail and I hiked up hill
to the right of where I thought the buck had
dropped then started to slowly move back
towards where I figure he might be. I spotted a
nice set of antlers poking up and called down to
Randy, who was working up directly to where I
was standing anyway …. He was only a minute
away from having found the deer as well. My
heart was beating hard as I said “look, this is
an eight …. No a ten point buck� as he
joined me. Randy replied “man Jim, this is a
beautiful animal … look again it’s a twelve
pointer� as he bent down to examine it.

Now I’ve got to say something about
Randy’s character; he had offered to let me
take the first deer as he’d already taken
one this season, but we were hunting the lease
at a spot he’d set up, and I knew he’d
have loved to have had the chance to take this
buck himself. But there was nothing but a real
and genuine joy that I’d had the opportunity
to shoot such an animal. He’d put me up at
his house, taken me to his hunting grounds, and
been a great companion in the field, you have
got to like and respect a man like this.

We dragged the buck up to the road (no mean
feat, that) and Randy went back to get the
truck. We heaved the animal into the bed and
drove back to the club house where I gutted
and we hung the buck. On examination we
found that he weighed 150 pounds and though
he had a nice rack there was not a lot of bulk to
it. He was young and would have been a truly
great buck in a couple years, but I was still
thrilled with him! As I pulled his guts out, it was
obvious that the soft lead ball had done massive
damage to both lungs and took out a rib. The
projectile could be palpated and had come to
rest under the skin on the left shoulder. I cut
through and retrieved the ball which had been
scored and partially flattened. The gun had
performed just as we had expected, delivering
outstanding accuracy and power.
Muzzle Loading Airgun
and Kentucky Whitetail
Hunting Deer with a
Muzzle Loading .50
Caliber Quackenbush
A little bit about the gun; it is the .50 caliber
Quackenbush rifle that Dennis had built for Randy a
couple years ago. It is set up to deliver three full power
shots at about 275 fpe, and flings round ball with
consistent half inch fifty yard groups. The particular gun
is a little unusual with respect to the bolt and loading
port. Randy, through diligent effort was able to gain
permission to hunt whitetail in Kentucky with the
proviso he set the gun up as a muzzle loader. To do
this, Dennis built a probe that is screwed in place with
the effect that it prevents a projectile from being
loaded in the typical fashion. It must therefore be
loaded as with any other firearm muzzle loader. I have
this set up on my .308 as well, and think it is a good
accessory to order along with your Quackenbush rifle.

I drove home reflecting on the hunt, it was picture
perfect with everything working just right. We had
gone out again that afternoon but hadn’t seen any
more deer, but outside of wanting to see Randy tag
another one I was more than satisfied with the
outcome. The next morning we did a short squirrel
hunt then dropped my deer off for processing and I
drove home. Next time I am going to have to host
Randy to some kind of hunt to repay him for this trip!
This was my first whitetail deer with an
air rifle. Randy Mitchell has been
instrumental in getting approval to use
big bore air rifles for deer hunting in
Kentucky ... with one proviso.... it has to
be set up as a front loader.
Dennis Quackenbush built a replacement for the
standard bolt which makes it only possible to load
the gun from the muzzle. It is an easy conversion
to implement.
No ground shrinkage here, this guy got bigger
the closer we got!
Two happy hunters, Randy and I looking over the
rewards for sitting in the cold rain.
Opening him up to field dress, evaluate the
efficacy of the shot,  and retrieve the round ball.
The ball had penetrated the right side passed
through a rib (breaking it) and both lungs, then
come to rest just beneath the skin on the left