The Danjo Doe
Russ Chastain 04.17.17
My father’s passing was tough for me. He was my best friend and favorite hunting buddy, and hunting without him was probably the hardest part of the grieving process. This old wheel gun had been his, and when I used it, I felt connected to him.
It all began long ago, when I was in my teens and Dad took me along to an estate sale. I liked guns just fine back then, but hey, I was a teenager. So I was looking through LPs for my flavor of rock music while Dad made a deal for an interesting handgun. It was a Dan Wesson Model 44 double action revolver, it came with two barrels, and one barrel wore a scope.
Dad loved that gun, and named it Danjo.
The old Weaver scope fell apart before long, was rebuilt by the factory, fell apart again, and was finally replaced by a Leupold M8 2x scope. This created a durable and accurate firearm, capable of taking game at a pretty good range. But Dad never could bring himself to hunt with the old thing. He’d done a good bit of handgun hunting in his youth, but in the areas we hunted there just weren’t that many chances at legal deer, so it made sense to carry the best available tool for the job, and a revolver ain’t it.
After Dad passed away, I became Danjo’s new owner and decided to take it hunting. And the first time I tried to bag a whitetail with it, I failed miserably.
I kept carrying it, but less enthusiastically. And my first handgun deer was taken with another old revolver, a long-barreled Ruger Blackhawk 44 Mag, which naturally became my favorite. After putting another deer and a hog in the freezer with that gun, I was pretty happy with my life as a handgun hunter.
Then one November in the deer woods, my father’s birthday rolled around. It was the sixth one since he had passed on, and it had been five years since my earlier Danjo SNAFU. Out of nostalgia, I strapped the old Dan Wesson across my chest and went hunting.
After an unproductive morning hunt, I spent the afternoon and evening in a different stand. And by the time things began to grow dusky, it looked as if I was going to strike out again.
Then came a crash in the dry brush to my left, shortly followed by a deer ghosting up the darkened slope to feed in the food plot.
There’s a reason I used the word “ghosting.” I barely saw the deer, although it passed through one or two openings within about 30 yards of my stand. I had to pretty much follow its progress by the sound it made, but once it got into the open of the food plot, things were different.
I used my rifle’s scope to determine it was a legal doe, then decided to try Danjo’s scope. The older scope had failed me in low light more than once before.
This time, I was pleased with my sight picture, although at just 35 yards it was tough to keep the crosshairs on target. If you’ve ever shot a handgun with a scope, you know what I’m talking about.
I cocked the old wheel gun, laid my father’s crosshairs on the deer’s vitals, and prayed: “Thy will be done, Lord.”
The trigger squeeze was not instant. Whenever the reticle wavered outside of the kill zone, I would hold the trigger pressure steady until I settled back down, then I’d begin adding more pressure.
When the gun fired, the doe kicked her heels and ran in the direction she had been facing, with her tail held high. She was quickly out of sight and crashing through the brush–and then the crashing ceased.
The good: I probably had a deer down. The bad: It was almost dark and I didn’t have much of a flashlight.
I got down and tried to find her, but failed. So I called for backup in the form of my friends Richard, John, Ashley, and Jake. As the only non-human of the bunch, Jake was arguably the most important; he’s a little Jack Russell terrier who does a great job of tracking down hit deer.
Richard spotted blood where the deer had left the plot, and Jake took off like a rocket as soon as he got to that spot. John sprinted after the dog to keep him in sight, and in very short order, the deer was found.
After congratulations and good-nights, the other guys headed off to their camps while I shucked out the deer. When my work was done, I was able to sit back and smile at the way the day had turned out.
I had finally gotten a Danjo Deer. As far as I know, it was the first game ever taken with that gun, and it had happened on Dad’s birthday.
It doesn’t get much better than that.