Hunting Northern Michigan with the 277 Wolverine
When we first learned about the .277 Wolverine in our “Ferocious Wolverine” article, the first thing that popped into my head was deer hunting. After we posted our initial range & hunt report, I was itching to take the .277 Wolverine to a high power rifle friendly state to harvest some venison. The year before I traveled to West Virginia with a .25-45 Sharps we had in for testing, and came up empty handed. That all changed this year thanks to a generous invitation to take the Wolverine to what better place, than the Wolverine state; Michigan.
A very welcoming gentleman that I met over on the Wildcat Forums was gracious enough to invite me up to his property in northern Michigan for a few days during the late doe season. His name was Mike, and I met him because he was selling some awesome AR500 steel targets, which you can actually buy from Mad Dog Weapon Systems. Mike’s targets are awesome, and quite affordable. I picked up some of his groundhog/prairie dog swingers, along with a coyote silhouette. In dealing with him, we got to talking about hunting and I told him about my WV failed hunt the year before, and so on. That’s when I was totally blown away by his offer for me to come hunt with him on his property, and he even offered up room and board for me and my family. In the end, only I was able to go, but I’m still to this day shocked by his graciousness in that offer.
If you saw our original .277WLV range and hunt report, you may remember that I built up a nice, light 16″ upper that I had planned to take deer hunting. It features an Aero Precision upper receiver, a 16″ MDWS 1/11 twist SS .277WLV barrel, MDWS NiB bolt head spaced to my barrel, a 15″ ALG Defense EMR V2 rail system, and a Leupold 1.5-4x Mark AR scope mounted in an American Defense MFG (aka ADM) Recon scope mount. All in all, it was about the perfect setup for hunting deer in various terrain.
Well, shortly before my trip, Mark from MDWS teamed up with the folks at Eisenach Arms and sent me a sweet 18″ upper to take instead. Mark knew I was really wanting to get my hands on an 18″ or 20″ Wolverine barrel, as I wanted to squeeze every single FPS out of it that I could. What arrived on my door setup was something of pure beauty. Mark had assembled a wicked cool upper that included an AWESOME side charging upper and BCG combo from Eisenach Arms, an 18″ MDWS 1/11 SS barrel, a Black River Tactical low-profile gas block, tube and their Covert Comp muzzle device, and finally a really nice 13″ free-floated hand guard from Warthog Tactical (AKA Johnathan Whitney on various gun boards). The end result was a very well balanced 18″ upper.
Next, I had to think about optics. Luckily, Nikon Sport Optics had recently sent us one of their M-223 scopes for testing, and it was perfect for this trip. This is their M-223 1.5-6×24 BDC 600 scope, which I mounted in a spare 30mm Aero Precision Ultralight mount that I had on hand. Right away I was impressed by how bright and clear this scope was, which was a good sign for a $600 scope. While that is expensive for many, it’s really inexpensive when talking about good glass. And, good glass is very important when you’re hunting, especially in adverse conditions, like poor or low lighting.
So, with my upper chosen, my scope mounted, next came figuring out which lower to use, along with picking some ammo. The former was a quick and easy decision. I snagged the Aero Precision Gen 2 lower from my existing .277 Wolverine build, which is setup in carbine format with a LaRue Tactical MBT trigger (with their new heavy trigger spring installed). Then came ammo. At the time I was looking at some Barnes TTSX loads, which have proven to work very well on whitetail in various other calibers. I then came across some 100gr Nosler Accubond loads from our good friends over at JB’s Firearms, and I ended up choosing those. Bruce notes that his Accubond loads travel at about 2650fps from an 18″ barrel, which is really smoking for a 100gr projectile from the AR15 platform and 5.56mm parent case. While zeroing the rifle at 50 yards, I noticed that my new 18″ barrel really liked these 100gr Noslers. I didn’t get out to 100 yards to do a true evaluation (look for that possibly in the future), but I shot enough of them at 50 yards to know that they were going to fly very well.
With everything in place, I packed my bags, grabbed a huge cooler from a buddy, and started my journey to northern Michigan. Being in NW Ohio, the drive wasn’t too bad. About 6 hours with a few pit stops along the way.
Arriving in Michigan
Upon arriving in Michigan late Sunday night, I was taken aback by the beauty of this state. I was surrounded by beautiful, thick woods, with lots of spruce, pine and other evergreens, mixed with some hard woods like oak, etc. The land had some rolls to it, along with small lakes and ponds all over, which added to the beauty of the area. They had received a fresh 6″, or so, of snow the day before I arrived, which unfortunately was the first snow I’ve seen this winter, and it was short lived. The weather up north has been freakishly warm, which has had its pros with extended range time, but the con is no snow on the ground for deer season. I for one love hunting with snow on the ground, partially because it makes it much easier to spot deer with my vision.
As we started the hunt early Monday morning, the temps began to rise. By mid afternoon, much of the snow was gone, with only a few patches here and there. It was also raining a bit, not heavy, but enough to further reduce the amount of snow on the ground. The morning hunt was unsuccessful, which my host was not surprised about. He had told me many times that the deer always came in more towards the late afternoon, and as the day progressed, his notions were realized.
The Main Event
With most of the day behind us, it came time for our last stand of the day. I had two spots to choose from, both of which were excellent locations where there was a lot of deer traffic. Mike has some of the best blinds I’ve ever had the pleasure to use, which really give you a nice vantage point, and an excellent 180 degree view of the land. His positioning of these blinds was about perfect as well. Being both spots were so good, I could not pick which one I wanted to hunt that afternoon. So, Mike asked one of his daughters which spot I should take. She noted the one I’d have the best luck at, and boy was she right.
Mike and I parted ways as he headed to one spot, and I another. We were pretty confident that we’d both take deer, as both locations were ripe with sign, and Mike had recently put out some sugar beets and corn in anticipation of my visit. Mike really takes care of the local deer population, putting out food during the winter months, and planting various crops in the warmer months that the deer just love. As I sat in the blind, which happened to be elevated a good ten to twelve feet in the air, I was again taken by the beauty of this area. We were hunting up in the Presque Isle area, which is just mesmerizing. As the light began to fad, I started to really keep my eyes peeled. I was continuously glassing the area, and ranging landmarks so I knew where to hold. I had a great view, with various shot paths ranging from as close as 45 yards, out beyond 150. Mike told me they’d come in right before dark, and to watch for the big does as they’d “rat me out”. Sure enough, as the light was slowly escaping, three doe came out of the woods north of my position. I had been watching more towards the west, so I was some what surprised to see them out of the north. I started glassing the deer to see which was the largest, as I am a meat hunter. While I love to hunt deer, I’m not just a trophy hunter. I rarely will take a shot at a buck, unless he’s a monster, as I want meat; and in my experience, doe taste much better than a buck who’s recently been through rut.
Of the three doe that entered the field, the first one to start to cross the rye field was the best. The three slowly crossed the field, about 30-40 yards apart from one another. The entire time, all three doe were staring right at me! I knew they couldn’t smell me as the wind was out of the west, and I know they couldn’t hear me as I was being quieter than an outhouse mouse. As time went on, and the light was quickly leaving, I decided it was time to take my shot.
The doe up front was about 70 yards out, and just standing there still as could be. I reached up slowly and quietly to grab a pair of ear muffs that were hanging from the top of the blind, and BAM! I hit them with my finger, knocking them off the nail from which they were hanging, and they crashed to the floor! I quickly regained my composure after the shock of the loud sound, and I opened the small slit of a window on the blind and stuck my 18″ barrel out as fast as I could. The deer hadn’t moved an inch, and were still staring right at me. The light was fading, and after the commotion I knew I had to take my shot. So, I lined up the crosshairs of the BDC reticle from my Nikon scope on the first doe, and gently squeezed my LaRue trigger. I heard the loud report from the rifle, and saw three deer running away. The doe I was aiming for jumped, with her tail twitching like crazy as she raced to the north west, while the other two went back the way they came. Unfortunately, due to the set-up, I was not able to get the shot on video.
I was confident that my shot was good, and that twitching of the tail was a sign I had seen before when taking deer. As I climbed down from my stand, the light was almost gone. Thankfully, I had a nice Duracell 1300 lumen LED flashlight with me, which has a nice flood option. As I began searching for the doe, it wasn’t looking good. After 20 minutes or so, it was nearly dark. I was starting to second guess myself, and began to wonder if I had missed the shot. I was positive it was a good shot, but not seeing a spec of blood had me worried. The weather was no help either, as it had been sprinkling the entire time.
As I retraced the doe’s steps the best I could, I finally saw some blood on a small patch of snow that remained on one of Mike’s access roads, which the doe had crossed right after I shot her. Instantly my confidence was boosted, and my heart started racing again. It was a bit of a difficult track, as I was only able to pick up blood when it was on snow, and the snow was scattered in small patches here and there, until you got into some of the thicket or woods where the warmth and water didn’t melt it all away.
Slowly I tracked her route until I finally saw brown! She ran maybe 50 yards from where I had shot her, and dropped. Right away I could see she was a big ole girl, which was a huge blessing as we needed the meat. She was so heavy, that I had a heck of a time dragging her out to the main access road, and I could not even get her into my F350’s bed by myself. I proceeded to wait for Mike, as I finally got a hold of him shortly after finding her. Cell service was not the best in the areas where we were hunting, and in some spots you had zero coverage.
Upon opening her up for field dressing, we immediately noted that the 100gr Nosler had taken out both lungs, with one about blown in half and the other having a very large hole in it. After letting her hang overnight, we quickly worked to quarter her up for my trip home. The temps were rising, and I was worried about losing meat. As we began to skin her, we got a better look at how well the 100gr Nosler Accubond performed. Overall, I had very little meat loss, which is always a plus.
Here you can see a small entrance wound, with some damage to the tissue from the transfer of energy as it stuck the deer.
The exit hole was quite impressive, but not overkill. It was about the size of a Kennedy Half Dollar.
The trip was a success, and the .277WLV really performed well for me in the Wolverine state . The rifle performed beautifully, and after some use, I was really digging the side charger. At first, I wasn’t quite sure I’d like it. I was worried that dirt, debris, or moisture would enter into the side of the upper, due to the right side being machined out to accommodate for the side charger’s travel path. While I didn’t bust much brush on this trip, I didn’t have any issues with those concerns. What I did find was that the side charger allowed me to load my weapon very quietly. With a standard charging handle, you really need to slingshot the handle when charging the weapon, to ensure the bolt picks up a round and goes fully into battery. If you ride the carrier, you’ll likely experience a jam. With the side charger from Eisenach Arms, you can slowly and quietly push the carrier into battery, without worrying about jams.
All in all it was a great trip, and I want to personally thank my new friend Mike for the invite, as well as all of the great companies that helped supply this build. I was able to enjoy some great hunting in a beautiful new area, not to mention the fellowship and great food my host and his family provided. While I’m an Ohio State fan, don’t be surprised if you see this Buckeye buying some land in enemy territory in the near future!
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