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Hook & Barrel
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An Unforgettable Experience Hunting Blacktail Deer in a California Vineyard

The days of your grandpa walking into the woods to hunt deer with his rifle and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth are pretty much gone. Hunting has evolved into a high-tech, sub-minute of angle precision glass experience. While many people still fill their tags with modest hunting rifle setups, there has been a growth in what I term precision hunting.

Tactical Precision Deer Rifle

Mossberg Patriot LR Tactical 6.5 Creedmoor

In today’s world, any hunting rifle off the shelf is expected to shoot 1 MOA. What’s 1 MOA? A Minute of Angle is an angular measurement. A MOA is 1/60th of a degree. 1 MOA spreads about 1 inch per 100 yards. Skills behind the gun have also grown exponentially. This blurring of lines between the tactical world and the hunting world gave me an idea. I had the honor of being invited to a blacktail deer hunt with Mossberg. For this hunt, I had access to Mossberg’s entire line of exceptional hunting rifles. The rifle I chose however was the Mossberg Patriot LR Tactical in 6.5 Creedmoor. This is their newest tactical rifle, and I was determined to show that it was equally as good for hunting.

Mossberg, Blacktails & Wine, Oh My!

This Blacktail hunt was unlike any hunt I had ever experienced. The biggest reason is that it would take place in a California vineyard. Steinbeck Vineyards in Paso Robles, California is a beautiful place. They have been making wine for over 140 years. That is seven generations and all in one family. Our host was the ever-gracious Linda Powell of Mossberg. I believe Linda could read our minds and shared with us “Don’t be fooled. This is harder hunting than you think.” And honestly, it was.

hunting california blacktail deer at steinbeck vineyards

Taking on the Terrain

My guide for the hunt was a gentleman named Lucas Paugh. Lucas had guided at Steinbeck more times than he could count, and he reiterated what Linda had said. The challenge is that the distance between the rows of vines is about 8 feet. We would spot a deer, move to get a better look and the deer would vanish. The day slowly rolled on and one of my hunting partners had maneuvered in to finally get a shot on a buck. He set up, got on the gun, and broke a good shot. The deer bucked and then ran. We followed it about a dozen rows before it just sat down. Unsure he could make a good follow-up shot, my partner asked Lucas to finish it. It was at that point that my “tactical hunter” concept was once again proven.

hunting california blacktail deer at steinbeck vineyards

Lucas’s gun was a custom rifle. A 7mm Rem Mag with an AG composite texture stock, 22-inch Proof Research barrel, Defiance Machine Anti-X action, and a Leupold VX-6, 3-18×44 scope. The point was that if you are hunting, you can’t miss. This is especially true on major hunts that can cost upwards of $8,000. Lucas quickly dispatched the deer and we soon moved to admire the handiwork.

My Blacktail Triumph

fred mastison and mossberg's linda powell

The opportunity to prove my point occurred the morning of the second day. We had barely rolled out of the lodge area and there he was.  A large buck daring me to try and get him. Lucas and I bailed from the truck quickly and crept our way from section to section. The deer walked slowly between the vines. We moved to get ahead of him and began to set up. I grabbed the shooting sticks and balanced the rifle.

Right then he emerged and continued walking through the open space between rows. I had pressure on the trigger as he began to disappear into the next row of vines. Lucas urged me to wait now, but for some reason, the deer stopped. I could see my target area, but he was mostly obscured by vines. No sooner did Lucas ask, “Can you make that shot?” I broke the trigger and placed the round right through the heart and lungs. I quickly ran the bolt for a follow-up shot but it wasn’t necessary. The buck took two steps and fell over.

Mossberg Patriot LR Tactical Rifle Features

Mossberg Patriot LR Tactical Rifle

While we waited, I had time to really appreciate the new Mossberg rifle. The Mossberg Patriot LR Tactical had performed exceptionally well and dropped the round exactly where I intended. These Patriot rifles were designed to achieve high levels of accuracy at extended distances in an adjustment-ready, customizable package. They are using a custom MDT stock with aluminum V-Block bedding for improved accuracy and an M-Lok compatible forend. Other standard features include a patented LBA adjustable trigger, a suppressor-ready threaded barrel with a removable cap, and an 11-degree match crown. It also has an oversized bolt handle, spiral fluted bolt, top-mount 20 MOA Picatinny rail/scope base, and a seven- or 10-round MDT AICS-style magazine. 

Why It’s a Perfect Fit

Aesthetically, the Mossberg Patriot LR Tactical is very good-looking. The stock is the biggest departure from previous patriot models. It is user-adjustable for the length of pull by use of three spacers (0.75-inch range), and the comb/cheek rest height is user-adjustable up to 2 inches. You simply loosen the tension knob, adjust the height to the desired position, and re-tighten the knob to lock it in place. Mossberg offers the rifle in three calibers. .380 Win, 6.5 Creedmoor, and the new 6.5 PRC cartridge.

The oversized bolt knob fit my hands well and made cycling the bolt very easy. The action was smooth and would certainly improve over time. One aspect of the stock that I appreciated was the almost vertical nature of the grip. I find this to be more natural and made trigger manipulation much easier. Mossberg has once again proven that they are much more than a shotgun maker. The Patriot LR Tactical is a rifle that fits a variety of roles. Light enough to be a hunter, accurate enough to be a precision rifle, and fast enough to be used in competition.

hunting california blacktail deer at steinbeck vineyards

After-Hunt Analysis

With my rifle evaluation over we went to collect the deer. It was at this point that I got to experience the most unique aspect of hunting Steinbeck Vineyards. Once you take a deer, you come back to camp and enjoy a glass of wine from the specific crop that you hunted. It was an elegant and enjoyable way to wrap up the day. As I reviewed the event in my mind on the flight home I was pleased. Ultimately, regardless of application, we want our rifles to be hyper-precise and reliable. Mossberg has never failed to deliver in this and the Patriot LR Tactical had done just want I had expected it to do.

For more information on Steinbeck Vineyards and their guided hunting packages, visit steinbeckwines.com

Specifications: Mossberg Patriol LR Tactical 6.5 Creedmoor

CALIBER: 6.5 Creedmoor
BARREL: 22 inches
OA LENGTH: 42.25 inches
WEIGHT: 8.8 (empty)
STOCK: MDT Adj LOP, Comb-Synthetic (Flat Dark Earth)
SIGHTS: Picatinny rail
FINISH: Matte blue
MSRP: $1,085

For more information, visit mossberg.com

Mossberg Patriot LR Tactical Bolt-Action Rifle Review
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