Last hunting season, my primitive weapon unbelievably misfired on the biggest buck I had ever seen. And it wasn’t the first time that Marlin .444 had messed up, and another hunter eventually took that 140-class, 235-pound deer.
Luckily, later that week using my wife’s Thompson’s Center Encore .460 primitive rifle, I downed my first huge mature buck. The story on those monster bucks can be found here.
So this season, I was determined to not keep borrowing my wife’s gun when I wasn’t bowhunting. I put together a very unique custom 4.2-pound primitive rifle which is the lightest, smallest primitive firearm ever built, to my knowledge. Details on the gun are included at the conclusion of the story.
This December, I had been challenging myself on primitive days with my 1970s .44 mag Contender primitive pistol on Louisiana public land, taking a doe, a hog, a 4-point and a tall 6-point buck. I wanted something larger for my next racked buck, but in Mississippi, primitive pistols aren’t legal — so I swapped out my barrels to my newly created .35 micro rifle on the vintage Contender frame and headed across the river.
My buddies all know that I love non-typical deer the most. When I get pictures of them on camera, I’m constantly talking about them. There’s just something special about a rare, unique rack that I enjoy much more than typical-racked bucks.
This season, I’m in a contest where the number of antler points is how the deer is scored. I told everyone I wasn’t looking for the biggest buck, but the one with the most points was my main goal this year.
I had hunted hard every morning and evening during the first week of January on my winter vacation. I usually stalk hunt, but a knee injury kept me sitting in the climber long hours. The first of the two hard freezes for the winter really made those all days sitting and facing a north wind very tough.
I had passed on several does on bowhunts, and knew those nannies would soon lure in a nice buck to the area. I let several smaller-racked bucks and spikes walk in my spots in Louisiana and Mississippi. I figured a big bruiser would inevitably come to run off those young guys and claim its turf.
Sunday arrived and the Saints playoff game was about to begin. I really wanted to watch the game with my wife before she left for the weekend. I planned on hunting the entire following week alone at the camp, but something felt wrong about missing a hunt — I knew I couldn’t kill a buck on the couch.
As I approached 300 yards from my spot, I attached my drag rope to my boot that I keep in a ziplock. The 3-foot long rope is impregnated with vs1 scent. I use the waxy stick just like bow string wax to keep my twisted nylon string fully scented. It works much better than a drag rag, which often catches brush.
I got set up and prepared to get wet with approaching rain storms. As usual, I gave a quick initial rattle and sat down. I had already rattled in several bucks this season. And what do you know, a couple minutes after rattling, the gnarliest buck I ever laid eyes on walked just 15 yards from me.
He came from behind me downwind on the same path I had walked, but I had to wait until the deer moved past me to position for a shot on the non-shooting side in a bow climber. My body was trembling, but I steadied myself as best I could. I squeezed the trigger on a freehanded quartering away shot at 30 yards, and the buck dropped on the spot.
I got to hang out with my wife after all since she drove on over to celebrate with me in the woods while my buddy came to help drag out the beast. I drug the deer for about a half-mile, but my injured knee started locking up. I’m glad Brian Cifero came out to help pull the rest of the way.
We tossed up that buck on the roof rack of my wife’s new Highlander SUV to transport it to the cleaning area. It was quite a sight seeing those big horns up there.
The buck ended up having 16 points, along with an old bullet wound on its neck — which is probably why it had such a unique rack with a split G2, a split G3 and several odd kickers. The bases were heavy at 5 inches.
I watched the recorded game of the Saints beating the Panthers while processing the meat that evening, which made it a day I’ll never forget.
Two days later, I let another nice buck that was slightly bigger than the 16 pointer just walk on by at 30 yards while I took pictures. My goal was a non-typical brute, and my mission had been completed.
Still, I kept deer hunting in the freezing conditions all day everyday to the end of my trip just filming deer and grinding through tough conditions because being in the woods is where I love to be.
But my unique rifle is now not so unique, because two of my buddies ordered the same one.
Since I pack-in my climber and loads of gear with camera equipment on every tree hunt, I’ve been enjoying having lightweight, easily-maneuverable weapons.
I already had an ultra-light Contender frame which had a 10-inch .44 mag pistol barrel on it. Those Thompson Center guns are extremely reliable and durable. It was an early model from the 1970s that has the lightest trigger pull I’ve ever felt.
I got that frame and pistol barrel for a couple hundred dollars used on gunbroker.com. (I often find great deals on that website.)
All I needed was a Contender rifle barrel over 16 inches for it to be a legal rifle. The barrels on these Contenders swap out in just seconds.
All of the factory barrels in legal primitive calibers came as long heavy bull barrels. I found that the E. Arthur Brown Company designed custom barrels in practically every size and caliber for the Contender and Encore frames. However, all of their primitive calibers came as bull barrels as well, except for the .35 Remington.
So I ordered a .35 Rem in an ultra-light tapered 18-inch barrel.
At the time, I did not know much about that old caliber, which isn’t widely used these days. I found out my dad actually used one in his younger days and downed many deer with it. It’s a great woods gun with a very flat trajectory and power out to 200 yards. With a brass casing similar in size to a .308 Win, the .35 Rem isn’t hard recoiling like the commonly used .35 Whelen, .444 Marlin and .45/70.
However, there isn’t a huge selection in factory ammo for this caliber, but Hornady makes a very accurate round using a 200-grain FTX bullet. I practiced at 70 yards, and the gun put hole in hole from the bench.
Next, I ordered an ultra-light camouflaged synthetic Bantam stock. The thing weighs just ounces, with a short 12-inch length of pull.
Then, I got a 12-ounce Leupold VX-3i 3.5-10 x 40mm scope brand new on eBay for $303 dollars. I find these scopes are highly reliable and the best low-light ability for the price. Finding wholesale dealers on eBay will save you several hundred bucks, and their lifetime warranty is great.
I finished off the gun with an elastic gun sling that holds four bullets, and a six-bullet stock sleeve which allows for an elevated cheek insert pad.
With the scope attached, the gun weighs only 4.2 pounds and is only 31 inches long. Everyone who handles it can’t believe its small size.
This micro rifle has already brought down a buck that was anything but micro. Needless to say, all those points bumped me up to 1st place in my hunting contest.