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Try Something New this Deer SeasonBy: Rick Windham

Are you a dedicated deer hunter? Do you have a number of hunts under your belt with a rifle? Want to make your hunting more challenging? Try hunting deer with a pistol.

Handguns are very capable of taking deer size game. With a little practice you can sufficiently place shots that will drop a deer just as quickly and humanely as any rifle.

A handgun by itself makes a hunt more challenging. It is far easier to aim and shoot a rifle at long distances than it is with a handgun of any design. There are “handguns” manufactured that are simply short bolt action rifles with a pistol grip. These are very specialized pistols designed for long range silhouette shooting…I’m not taking about these.

I’m referring to a good old-fashioned revolver, either single or double action, or maybe a single-shot rig like the Thompson Center Contender. In order to make the hunt more challenging, I prefer using open sights, very low power scopes or “red dot” systems.  

Properly set up, a scoped pistol can easily take deer size game out to 50 to 75 yards. With practice, this kind of shooting is within the capabilities of most hunters. I have one hunting partner, a real pistolero, who can make consistent shots beyond 100 yards with his scoped Super Red Hawk .44 Magnum!

Handgun hunting requires you to become a better hunter because you have to get closer to the game. Let me rephrase that, handgun hunting “makes” you a better hunter. It is one thing to launch a shot across a field at a buck 300 yards away, but it is an entirely different experience when you have to sneak into his backyard and place a shot from well within his natural defense systems of sight, hearing and smell!

Laws governing handgun hunting vary from state to state. In Nebraska, you must use a handgun that generates a minimum of 400 foot/pounds of energy at 50 yards. Popular cartridges like the .357 Magnum, .41 Magnum and the .44 Magnum fall into this realm. The new .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum tops the list of production handguns.

Pistols like the T/C Contender mentioned earlier in this piece offer some familiar rifle  chamberings, like the venerable .30-30. This is an excellent choice for the hunter that would prefer a single-shot pistol.

I have taken deer with both the .357 and .44 Magnums. My shots have been between 10 and 35 yards. Both calibers performed perfectly at these short ranges. Not long ago I had the opportunity to hunt with a very unique revolver, the .500 Linebaugh. The most powerful handgun made!

A friend of mine in Texas offered to let me hunt with this pistol (his personal brand of bear protection when he’s in Alaska) and even provided some ammunition. Now any time someone offers me the opportunity to “test” a new gun, I’m not going to turn them down.

This was a handful of handgun! It is a pistol designed for very big and very dangerous game. If you would ever need to knock a charging grizzly bear backwards, this is the pistol for the job. The vital statistics for this gun are awesome!  

Built on the Ruger Super Blackhawk 
single-action frame, the .500 Linebaugh 
does not look that imposing at first 
glance. It’s not until you notice the size 
of the bore that you take a second look, 
and then you see that the cylinder carries
only five shots rather than the traditional 
six. One chamber has been eliminated 
to allow more metal to remain in the 
cylinder to contain the massive pressures 
produced by the cartridge. 

Since Nebraska does not offer a season 
on Cape buffalo or rhinoceros, I had to 
settle for whitetail deer. I chose a spot 
that is a favorite of mine, deep in the 
middle of the Sandhills. It was late in the
 day and long shadows were beginning
 to stretch out across the ground.

I was watching a tree line that angled around me from north to west. I had seen many deer during the afternoon, but the “right” deer hadn’t showed up yet. Several does grazed in front of me about 50 yards away. I caught a bit of movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a nice 4x5 buck ghosting along just inside the edge of the tree line. He was watching the does and surveying the situation.

It seemed like hours, but the buck finally stepped into the clear and trotted toward the does. I waited. He was about 80 yards away, but I wanted him closer. The buck began to graze and drifted closer to my position. At 60 yards I figured it was time to get serious.

I raised the Linebaugh and quietly thumbed back the hammer.  The buck was standing broadside to me, deep in the shadows, giving me a “textbook” shot. I got a good two-handed grip on the pistol, braced myself, and squared up the sights on his lower chest. The buck raised his head quickly, maybe he heard me?

A gentle steady pull on the trigger and the Linebaugh recoiled hard. The muzzle flash temporarily blinded me, but my vision returned in a couple of seconds. At these kinds of ranges you can hear the “hit”, so I know I connected with the shot.

My vision cleared and I saw the buck take his last step and he collapsed to the ground. The bullet had passed directly through his heart and he only covered about 15 yards from where he had stood.

As I examined his rack I noticed several points were shattered from sparring with other bucks. He wasn’t going to be a Boone & Crockett record book deer, but it was a great trophy for me. This is the kind of deer hunting story that will live on for years in many hunting camps to come.

If you want to try something a little “wild” this deer season, think about hunting with a handgun. I bet you’ll have a blast!

"The Legend of Old Scarback"By: Rick Windham 
Ever have someone tell you all leeches are the same? Well, I can say for a fact, that this is not the case. It all started in 1993, on an early spring walleye fishing trip. My long time fishing partner, Virgil Honeydew and I had set aside some time from our busy personal schedules for a little relaxation.

We traveled north to a lake known to be a good producer of walleye and stopped in at the local bait and tackle shop for a little advice. Virgil took the lead, and approached the proprietor, "What are the walleye biting on these days?"

"Leeches! They're the hottest thing going right now", was the response.

"Well then", Virgil shot back, "Better give us several dozen. We don't want to waist our time running back here every couple of hours getting more bait." With that business completed, we put our boat in the water and went in search of our intended quarry. We managed to steadily catch fish for most of the day.

Along about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, Virgil caught another nice fish, and asked me for another leech. I rummaged around for a while, then noticed that we only had one leech left. "We're down to the bottom of the barrel, Virgil. He's just a little one; too", I said and tossed him the leech.

Virgil picked up the leech and looked him over. "Little is right. He must have been the runt of the litter. He can't be more than an inch long if we stretched him out!"

Virgil rigged the leech and started to toss him in, but the leech had other ideas. First he coiled himself up into a knot around the line. "Hey! Let go there", Virgil shouted.

"Having trouble, partner?” I asked.

"Nothing I can't handle", Virgil growled back. "Just as soon as I get this thing straightened out, I'll be back in business."

Virgil wrestled with the leech for a couple of more minutes, and it looked to me like the leech was winning.

"Need any help there, Ol' Buddy", I queried.

By this time the leech had a ball of line about the size of your fist wound up, and I swear it was going for a choke hold on Virgil. "Stubborn little cuss", Virgil gasped.

Finally, Virgil extricated himself from the leech's grip and tossed him over the side. It wasn't two minutes, and Virgil had another walleye in the boat. "Time to head for the dock", I said.

"Hold on", Virgil said, "I still got my leech." Sure enough, the little guy was still there. "I'm gonna try for another one,” he said with a flip of his wrist. Bang! Another fish! Virgil caught three more nice walleye, and each time the leech made it through the ordeal and was tossed back in for another round.

"We've got our limit," I said, "Time to head for shore."

"I guess so", Virgil said as he looked at the leech. "Shame to waste such a good leech, though. He's got a few teeth marks, some battle scars and his tail has been nipped off, but he's still kicking. He's a fighter."

"Then keep him", I quipped jokingly. "Take him home and save him for our next trip. That's your new secret walleye weapon." I never imagined that Virgil would actually take my suggestion seriously, but he did. The next thing I knew, Virgil had removed the leech carefully from the hook and was looking for a leftover sandwich bag to carry him in.

"I think I'll name him, Scarback", Virgil stated proudly. "Has kinda nice ring to it, don't you think?" I've long since learned not to confuse any issue with logic, especially when dealing with Virgil. I just went along with it, assuming that the idea of keeping a leech would soon pass. Wrong again!

About a week later I ran into Virgil. "Hey!" he says, "You gotta come over to the house. I got something to show you." I figured he had some new piece of gear he wanted me to see, so I stopped by on my way out of town. As I pulled into the yard, Virgil came running out of his shed yelling, "Come on, hurry up!" The way he was acting, I thought maybe he had himself a world's record fish or something.

He dragged me into the shed and asked, "Whadya Think?

"About what?"


"That, what?" I said, still confused.

"That there," Virgil pointed to his workbench, "My new leech motel." Sure enough, Virgil had fashioned a little aquarium out of a couple of pickle jars and some plastic pipe. "Real slick, ain't it?" He stated proudly.

"You're really serious about keeping that thing, aren't you?" I looked him straight in the eyes.

"He ain't a thing. That's Scarback. My secret walleye weapon", Virgil flatly stated.

"You think you can actually get him to catch more fish for you?" I asked tentatively. Virgil has been able to pull off some pretty strange things, so you never know what to expect.

"I dang sure do!" Virgil said. "Why, I've already got him in training." I wasn't sure I wanted to know about the training program, so I left it at that. A week or so went by before I heard from Virgil again. As is normal for Virgil, "Doya wanna go fishing with me tomorrow?" he asked.

When he showed up at the boat ramp the next morning he had old Scarback with him in a zip-lock plastic baggie. I don't know what Virgil had been feeding him, but Scarback was up to about two inches long, and appeared to be putting on weight as well.

Virgil reached into the baggie and Scarback immediately latched on to his finger. Virgil removed his finger with Scarback gnawing on the end of the digit to get a better grip. "He's a little testy this early in the morning. He's sorta like the Pit Bull of leeches," Virgil said.

We had just pulled away from the dock when Virgil said, "Do you wanna see what I taught him to do." I had little choice because there wasn't any place in the boat to get away from them. Virgil proceeded to pry Scarback off his finger with his filet knife, then lay him on the deck. Virgil then put the end of his finger on the tip of Scarback's tail.

"He can do sit-ups", Virgil said proudly. Sure enough, Scarback did curl up several times in what approximated a sit-up. "Ain't he smart", beamed Virgil. I wouldn't consider Scarback a genius, but it wasn't bad for a creature with no real brain. Eventually we arrived at our fishing spot and Scarback was rigged on a hook. To my surprise and amazement, Virgil and Scarback proceeded to take several nice walleye. Thus a legend was born.

Virgil and Scarback's relationship continued on for several years.  Virgil took good care of Scarback. Everything you could imagine a leech could want was provided. The pickle jars were updated to a real aquarium and the zip-lock baggie evolved into a fur-lined, hand-tooled, leather carrying case. "Just wet the fur down a bit, and Scarback is good for several hours," Virgil told me.

As the years went by, the legend of Virgil and Scarback grew. They were even banned from a few walleye fishing tournaments after rumors surfaced about Virgil training him to recognize certain species of fish. Scarback grew, and by the time he was about five, he was six inches long and probably weighed in at a couple of ounces.

His attitude and bad temper grew, too! In 1998, Virgil and I were getting ready for the fishing season to begin and I asked about Scarback. I wandered over to his aquarium condo to take a look. Scarback attacked the glass! "Be careful," Virgil shouted over the snarling, "He's getting real cranky in his old age. Sometime I've got to use mace just to get him into his carry case."

Being associated with Virgil and Scarback wasn't always fun and games. One time we were on our way home from a fishing trip, and decided to stop at a nice restaurant for dinner. Virgil and I both ordered steaks, medium rare. When they got to the table, Scarback must have smelled blood and wanted some for himself, because he started climbing out of his case.

Virgil was squirming around making a spectacle of himself, and the waitress came over to see if there was a problem. An attractive young lady of about twenty, probably working her way through college, I am certain she had never run into anything like us.

"Is something wrong?" she asked very politely. "Can I do anything for you?"

"No, Honey", Virgil said, "Just having a little trouble keeping my leech in my pants."

That did it! The manager was summoned and we were escorted to the door and instructed never to return. No amount of explaining or complaining did us any good. We were really embarrassed, especially when one of the local deputies followed us out of town.

The legend of Scarback ended in the spring of 1999. Virgil had rigged Scarback once more to a hook, and cast him forth into the water to do battle. At the apex of the arc, Scarback separated from the hook, fell gracefully into the water and disappeared. Virgil sat silent and stunned, with his mouth and eyes wide open.

We watched the rings on the surface where Scarback had entered the water, hoping for a sign. Just as we were about to give up hope, he surfaced. Scarback swam over to within about six feet of the boat, floated on his back and did a couple of sit-ups as if to wave goodbye. Then he slipped below the surface forever.

Well, the trip back to the dock and home was very quiet. I tried a couple of times to cheer Virgil up by saying things like, "It'll be OK, Partner. You and Scarback had some good times together. I can't think of anyone who has ever treated a leech better than you."

Nothing seemed to work. For the remainder of the trip, Virgil sat silently looking out the window. Even when I dropped him off at his house, he only nodded when I said anything to him and muttered, "Thanks". Then he turned and walked away.

I was pretty worried about Virgil for a while. It must be pretty tough stepping down from legend status after he'd been there so long. Then one day I stopped by to see how he was doing. I found him out in his shed.

"How you doing, Partner", I said as I stepped through the door.

"Just fine as frog fur", Virgil responded happily.

"What have you got going there," I asked peering over his shoulder.

"Well, I decided to start me a worm farm, so we could always have a supply of bait. Whatcha think?"

I looked over the operation, and as worm farms go, it looked fine to me. I mean, they all looked happy.  I did notice a little enclosure off to the side. "What's this for?" I asked.

"Oh, that's for my new pet worm", said Virgil. Some hair stood up on my neck, and I knew I should never have asked.

"I named him, Homer", Virgil went on, "I found him when I was sorting out the batch of worms I got. He's pretty smart for a worm. I thought I'd try to train him like I did with Ol' Scarback. Then I thought, what if I just used Homer as a stud, and worked on a program of selective breeding........................"

I knew it was time to pull up a chair.

The .500 Linebaugh is more pistol than 
you need for whitetail, but I couldn't pass 
up the opportunity to hunt with a