Record Quest: The Old Guard

Rhode Island's muzzleloader season opened Saturday. Unlike New York and Connecticut, muzzleloader is the first gun season in Rhodey.
On Thursday we hit the range. Bob Barrow sighted in his kit-built T/C Hawken Rifle. He put it together in the late 1970s.
The Hawken has an elaborate two-trigger safety. The hammer is manually raised, the cap placed, then you have to pull the back trigger to engage the front trigger. Pull the front trigger and the gun goes boom.
Bob tried black powder and Triple 7 loads.
He experimented with both round balls and pre-lubed Plainsmen bullets, poly patches and linen.
Round balls with linen had that frontier feel, but you couldn't beat the power and accuracy of Triple 7 with a modern bullet.
Sandy Allen, a small animal vet, took Bob and I on this Rhode Island hunt--a first for both of us. Sandy lives in Charlestown. (And maned the spotting scope.)
Bang on.
That afternoon we hit the woods.
There are dozens of huntable parcels of public land in Rhode Island. Not bad for a state about the size of a decent Montana wildness area.
We scouted most of Thursday and Friday morning.
It rained both days so the water was high ...
... and the fields wet.
But there was a lot to see nonetheless--landscape and deer sign.
We scouted down deer trails and around obvious food sources.
The deer found this one.
Bob, a retired teacher, and Sandy normally hunt Montana in November. Bob's wife Gerry told him to take care of the deer that eat her flowers this year instead.
Beyond his veterinary practice, Sandy hunts all the walks and flys. He runs a small charter operation and throws lobster pots in the summer.
On opening day we setup in separate spots near a bird area. I met up with Sandy in the early afternoon, having seen nothing but some good scrapes.
Locked and loaded.
Sandy's been bow hunting since September without much luck. This time he brought his lucky knife.
There was good sign all over the place.
It was thick in the woods. Dense small hardwoods and pine, mostly. We hiked back in and we setup on a bowl over some green food stuff.
About 1p.m. we heard a shot from Bob's direction. Twenty minutes went by, then another shot. Sandy's cell phone rang and I could hear Bob on the other end from three feet away.
When we found him with a nice 8-point was on the ground. Bob had starting into the cutting.
Two does about 40 yards away, flags up, were moving fast, then five minutes later this buck with the crab claw front brow tine stormed through.
Bob stopped him with a 50-yard money shot. The second shot was insurance.
Sandy gave us an anatomy lesson. "Happiness, gentleman, is a warm gut pile," he said.
Tagged and soon to be bagged.
The old buck with his young buck walking out of the woods.
A good three-year-old deer, 145 pounds on the hoof. Not bad for six hours into the season, on public land, in the smallest state in the union.

The nation's smallest state isn't known for producing trophy deer, but sometimes veteran experience can overcome the odds. Check out these photos of a throwback muzzleloader hunt in Rhode Island.