Do we really need another cartridge for deer hunting? Well, shelves at your local gun store are filling up with Winchester Ammo's new Deer Season XP. It's a new cartridge that I had the chance to hunt with, and I was pleased with the results.
At the range, the bullet performed as I had hoped. At 100 yards other hunters and myself consistently nailed one-inch groups and smacked steel at 300 yards. In the field, I dropped a mature doe at about 130 yards. She did not go 20 yards and expired in the middle of the recently plowed up field. The new bullet passed through completely with a giant exit wound as evidence.
The next day, I put my sights on a mature buck feeding with a younger buck at 160 yards. It was a tougher shot because he stood in taller grass on the far side of a slight crown in the hay field. I pulled the trigger but didn't see him stagger and drop like the doe had.
He was just, not there. I wondered if I had missed, or if I had gut-shot him and he was now in the woods on the other side of the woods.
I should have had more faith in this new bullet.
If he was wounded, I should wait, let him settle, and then go check for a blood trail. If I found no trail, then it might have been a clean miss. But then the younger buck — the one I had not shot at — walked slowly back from the woods and didn't take his eyes off the spot where the buck was when I last saw him. When he walked a wide circle around that spot, I knew my big buck was down right there, right where the Deer Season XP struck him.
I expected that the deer was spine-shot, and that accounted for the drop-in-his-tracks. But, no, it was a double-lung and heart shot. The bullet flew accurately, expanded quickly, spent most of its energy making a mess of his vitals, and left the other side.
After the hunt, I spoke with Mike Stock, who oversaw the cartridge's development for Winchester Ammo. He told me why I had such a great day.
The quick expansion took place because Stock's team designed the bullet with an extremely wide polymer tip and thin walls at the top of the bullet. This lead-core bullet expands rapidly as the polymer pushes in and the walls give out. As the bullet penetrates, the walls stop expanding when they reach the solid core that brings the momentum through the vitals.
Others on the hunt had their bullets stop on the far side of the ribs or skin, but both of mine went straight through and funneled huge amounts of blood out of the exit hole.
"It worked just the way it was designed to," Stock said.
Sure it has a unique design, and it performed as advertised, but maybe what this cartridge "is not" makes it truly unique. Winchester's Deer Season XP doesn't cost what other premium cartridges cost. A box of 20 is about $20-22.
Compare that to the $45 and $50-plus boxes of premium cartridges, and it's pretty impressive what Stock and his crew have done for the 10 million deer hunters across the USA this fall.