Wednesday, February 19, 2014
February is a transition period for those of us who enjoy the sport of hunting. The duck decoys and waders have been put away. Dove hunters have retired their game and shell bags for one more season. Deer hunters have vacuumed the last bit of shelled corn from their vehicles and put the rifle back in the safe until late summer. Blaze orange and a variety of camouflage has been replaced with appropriate football attire for the last big event, and tuxedos for the various social functions that kick-off the new year. Grand stories of hunting exploits emerge over steaming stacks of oysters in various Lowcountry venues. The local taxidermists are busy fulfilling orders of first-time deer trophies, elaborate Wood Duck drakes, and a possible bobcat that some lucky hunter happened to spy slinking through the swamp at an opportune time.
The men in the crowd enjoy this time of comradery and tale-telling, as their mates, for the most part, sit quietly, rolling their eyes as they hear the story one more time.
One story stands out for me. A novice deer hunter, I have enjoyed some exciting hunting experiences over the last few years thanks to the generosity of special friends.
I have hunted from both an elevated deer stand with a high-powered rifle, and at ground-level, leaning against a Cypress tree in the local swamps with shotgun in hand, anticipating “old mossy” to come ripping through the brush being pushed my direction by a skilled “driver” on horseback. Local hunter and outdoor enthusiast, Greg Kitchens, took deer hunting to a new level one cold morning on a family property in Georgetown County using a handgun.
Colonel Greg Kitchens, USMC, is an accomplished marksman to say the least. Col. Kitchens is the Officer in Charge of the United States Marine Corps Shooting Team. This group consists of a team of active-duty Marines and a second team of Reservists. The “teams” are comprised of three groups: Rifle Team, Pistol Team, and a Combat Shooting Team. Greg, in addition to his command duties, serves as a competitor on the Pistol Team.
Greg began hunting deer with a handgun in the early 1990’s. Over the years, he honed his shooting skills. He researched, and selected a Smith and Wesson Model 29 Classic DX .44 Magnum with a 6.5” barrel and a 2x Leupold scope specifically for deer hunting.
Choice of ammunition was next on the list. Greg carefully chose a 300 grain jacketed hollow-point made by Hornady. Rounds were hand-loaded. Regarding range and accuracy, Greg stated that “inside 100 yards, with a good, steady hold,” he could maintain effective accuracy with that set-up. “Since the 90’s, I’ve harvested several deer at 50 yards or less.” The Colonel’s skills would be tested on an annual hunt on family property in Georgetown, S.C. one cold morning, late in the season.
The target area was ranged at 80 yards. Patiently waiting as the sun came up, Greg saw two deer come into range. He acquired his first target, and with a steady hold, squeezed off the first round. The shot hit its mark. Greg chose to send another round as the deer began to move. Shot number two hit its mark as well.
Shifting focus, Greg eyed the second deer. That deer did not run off. Greg steadied his aim, took another steady hold, and fired another round down range at the second deer. Within minutes, Greg had successfully harvested not one, but two deer. Not only did he accomplish this at an astounding 80-plus yards with a handgun, but one shot was made effectively on a moving target. Mission accomplished.
Years of focused practice paid off for Colonel Kitchens.
Michael M. Cochran is an avid outdoorsman and hunter.