We have all heard it in one iteration or another, that is the legend of the indeflectable bullet. Usually, said fertilizer is accompanied with a yarn of greater than or equal to proportions. It likely goes something to the effect of: “Uncle Joe had chased that buck for a week, night and day. When he jumped him it was a 200 yard shot through a pole patch at a dead run. That bullet had to travel through a dozen trees before it hit that old buck. Good thing he was shooting his .30-30 that day, it won’t glance off like those new guns do.”
I suppose this fable has been around since nearly the beginning of time or at least with the advent of muzzleloading firearms. The funny thing about projectiles is they all can be deflected by obstacles encountered on their flight plan. Traditionally, the heavier and slower-moving bullets were thought to have done better at busting brush than lighter ones flying at much higher velocity.
Even in today’s hunting camps, it’s surprising to see just how many hunters still buy into this theory as fact. The truth is, any bullet of any caliber at any velocity stands the chance of deflection in any brush. Everything from the diminutive rimfires all the way up through the cavern-esque Elephant rifles are subject to the laws of physics. There are rare occasions where your bullet can go through brush without glancing too far off target. This has more to do with the relative distance between the obstacle and your intended target than bullet’s size, speed or construction. These exceptions can give the impression that one’s bullet could as a rule penetrate the brush successfully when in fact the bullet (which had been deflected) made contact with its intended target before it could veer too far off course. The other 95 percent of the time, a deflected bullet results in a clean miss or a wounded animal. Nobody wants that.
Years ago, I drew a Sumpter Unit buck tag. The area I hunted in was quite thick in brush and trees. After hunting a couple of days, I came across a younger whitetail buck standing not 50 yards away through some pine saplings. Obscured as his body was, it was to be a headshot or nothing. Taking a standing rest, I squeezed off a shot. I could’ve sworn I had hit him, as he appeared to drop at the shot. As I neared his location, it was apparent to me that my bullet had missed its mark. A green branch I had not seen midway between myself and the buck was shot right in half, barely hanging by a thread. Luckily the buck had only ran a short way down hill, and taking a much better shot through a clear alley in the trees, I got my venison. The buck had been completely unscathed by my first shot.
The real reason the old timers preferred large-caliber, slow-moving bullets was for their penetration and knockdown, of course. When jacketed bullets were a rather new notion, the controlled expansion science we enjoy today had not yet been conceived. In short, the best way to keep from having to track wounded animals in the brush was to put them down right there, something larger calibers have always excelled at. That’s still a good idea today, if you ask me.
Whatever size of gun you shoot, take the time to pick a clear shot. Your freezer will fill up much faster that way.
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