Hunting With a Cetme
The Cetme is a Keeper
Opening morning of 2006 deer season I watched a trail on top of the hill near the large pines. When I was cold and stiff and could sit no more I headed south and east through the scrub brush of what had once been a cow pasture to an area where I had seen deer sign for years but rarely encountered and never harvested deer.
I was carrying my Cetme (a Spanish rifle chambered in 308 which is the immediate technological ancestor to the German HK 91). After WW2 the German engineers couldn’t build new weapons in Germany, so the relocated to Spain and developed the Cetme for the Spanish Government. When they could reopen for business in Germany, these engineers improved the Cetme and rolled out the HK 91 which went on to military use in several dozen nations from the 1950’s through today). My version of the famous rifle had a Mossy-Oak camouflage stock and a five round magazine stuffed with 150 grain Speer semi-jacketed soft points over IMR4350 in a 308 Winchester cartridge. This load prints about six inch groups with open sites at 100 yards for me, so I thought it would be adequate for hunting in hilly, wooded terrain. But it was my first attempt at actually hunting with a 308.
I had sat watching a trail for about three hours and decided that I might have more luck walking around. I’d walk for a few yards, stop a few minutes and walk a few more steps. Eventually, I paused and heard deer walking on the far side of a rocky ledge. I knew the area well. This ledge is shaped like a half buried football 20 feet high, 30 yards wide, and 200 yards long. Because the ledge is solid rock, tree cover is sparse in the immediate area. So even though there are thick woods around the knob, I had about a hundred yards line of sight down the face of the ledge in both directions and could see that there were no deer on the rock itself even though I could hear them walking in the leaves on the far side.
Although the ledge was between us, the deer were only about 35 yards away. They had been bedded on top of the ridge until I just got too close for their comfort. When I approached they slipped down the back side of the rock and that was the movement I heard. They obviously knew I was there, but I couldn’t see them and they couldn’t see me. The rock face between us was far too steep for me to climb over before they could bound out of sight on the far side and it completely blocked my view of them. What could I do?
The deer and the ledge were to the east. It runs north/south and I had a clear view down the face in both directions. Abandoning any attempt at stealth I turned north and took a few noisy steps parallel to the ridge. The sound of my steps in the dry leaves crashed through the woods. As expected, when the deer heard me move north, they started south. It had actually occurred to me that I might panic them into making a blunder so I ran noisily directly toward the knob as if I was going to climb over it and follow them. I’ve found that deer rarely flee in a straight line for long and that held true this time too. As they bounded away I stopped and turned south where I could see down the side of the ledge and brought my rifle up to my shoulder. God was smiling. Because the deer followed the curve of the rock on their side. Had I actually followed them over the top, they would have simply circled the knob and been out of sight on this side as I went down the far side. Instead I stayed put and they bounded into sight at the far end of the knob and stopped looking back, waiting to see me blundering over the ridge.
Nesting the front post down in the V of the rear sight, I took aim at the chest of the deer most visible through the saplings and fired. The small buck was standing facing me at a slight angle. At my shot, he spun 180 degrees, scrambled a bit and ran out of sight directly away as I fired again. I was a little surprised that he didn’t drop in place.
I topped off my magazine and went looking for him. Where he had stood I found blood and a bit of shattered leg bone nearly an inch long. I was pleased to have hit him, but with a leg wound I expected to have to track this deer until I could get close enough for another shot to put him down.
I slowly followed the obvious blood trail hoping to see him watching his back trail again. I was pleasantly surprised to find the little buck down and breathing his last only about 150 yards from the point of impact.
I’m pleased with the load performance in that the bullet held plenty of power to break bone and keep going opening an exit wound over an inch in diameter and causing enough blood loss to prove quickly lethal. Shooting offhand with iron sights through some tree cover I suppose I can’t complain with the end result of my shots, but I had aimed for the chest and hit this deer in the leg so I was initially disappointed in the accuracy.
Retracing the bullet’s path I later found the reason why. My shot had cut off a pencil sized sapling about 10 feet in front of the deer. After shearing through the sapling, the bullet’s path had shifted a few degrees left. This caused it to miss the deer’s chest and pass just outside his ribs until it hit the front of a hind leg just below the hip. The bullet broke the leg bone clean off just below the joint sending shards of bone through the hind quarter (and three feet beyond!). The exit wound was over an inch in diameter. The impact of this shot is what spun the deer around 180 degrees. I am surprised that it didn’t knock him off his feet completely.
Despite the intervening vegetation having caused me to not hit where I aimed, the first shot from the rifle at game proved lethal. My hurried second shot hit the flailing broken leg low as the deer ran away. So over all I can recommend the Cetme as a suitable hunting rifle for hilly wooded terrain where shots are relatively close and substantiate the old cliché about how a 308 “turns cover into concealment” with lethal effect. I haven’t hunted with the Cetme again yet, but I have no doubt that I will, so watch for a follow up story.
I know that I was lucky to hit a major blood vessel, but the bottom line is that venison is in the freezer and I never sell a firearm that I have taken game with, so in the end, the Cetme has proven itself as a keeper, earning a permanent place in my collection.