The Fusion Four

By Jace Bauserman

Young hunter kneeling beside a dead deer with an adult hunter

The rifle kicked him like a mule and the scope split his forehead. He cried—hard. Don’t judge. The boy was only 10 and a mere 65 pounds soaking wet. The rifle was a 300 Win. Mag., and to make matters worse, it didn’t weigh much. I’d shot it myself, once. I didn’t want to shoot it again.

Sadly, although my friend is an excellent father, he had a go-big-or-go-home mentality when it came to big game hunting. His son had drawn a coveted mule deer tag, and this was the weapon he’d chosen for him. When his son’s opportunity came on the hunt, he missed. It was a bad deal all around.

It didn’t have to be. With more accurate entry-level rifles and soft-shooting cartridges entering the marketplace every season, there have never been more ways to introduce new hunters the right way. Even better, high-quality yet affordable bullet designs make smaller cartridges even more effective.

A Better Way

I learned from my friend’s experience. When my son Hunter turned 12 and was able to hunt big game in Colorado, I bought him a 243 Win. that fit him perfectly. The gun produced very little recoil and the ammunition, Federal Fusion 95-grain, was affordable. He shot the rifle a lot in the months leading up to his pronghorn hunt. He learned to love shooting and became obsessed with grouping rounds. The gun didn’t abuse him, so he learned to relax, breathe and squeeze. Hunter went through boxes of ammo, and not once did I complain about dropping greenbacks.

Fusion Rifle ammo being loaded into a magazine

We spent months on the bench, and he learned what his rifle topped with a simple 3-9 could do at ranges from 100 to 400 yards. On one of the last practice days before his big outing, he welded a trio of bullets at 350 yards. He turned to me and said, “I can put the bullet where I want it. I’m going to punch animals in the lungs, Dad.”

October 2018

Pronghorns are the perfect animal for youth. In most areas, they are abundant and tags, even for nonresidents, don’t break the bank. We’d seen a number of bucks, and after a long stalk, we were 206 yards from a bedded bruiser.

Out of stalking real estate, my buddy Jason got Hunter set up on his sticks. I was running the video camera and shaking like a leaf. Few things rival the feeling of watching your child get ready to take a shot at their first big game animal. Hunter was cool and collected. I whispered that we could possibly close about 50 more yards, but he looked at me and said, “No, I will just kill him from here.”

young hunter kneeling beside a dead antelope

Jason coyote howled to get the buck on his feet, and he didn’t take another step. Hunter’s high-shoulder hit was perfect, and the buck expired in seconds. He’d done his work and put in his time on the bench. He was confident in his rifle and load, and a gorgeous buck was the result.

December 2018

It was the ninth day of Hunter’s plains whitetail season. We’d seen a few deer and he had passed a buck, but conditions were hot and warm. Finally, we got the front we needed, and the deer were on their feet. We’d watched 13 bucks on the field that morning but opted not to close the distance because of a bad wind. The evening sit would be different. The wind would be perfect.

We got in early, and when the first buck hit the field, Hunter was ready. The buck was only 100 yards away, but he was small, and the decision was made to wait for something a bit more mature. For the next 30 minutes, the parade of deer continued, but the heavy 8-point he wanted had yet to make an appearance. With light fading, the buck appeared on the far end of the field. He stood alone, 332 yards from our position. Hunter didn’t hesitate. In fact, I barely got the buck in the spotter when the shot went off. The deer mule kicked, ran in a circle and died. The hit was right behind the shoulder and took off the top part of the heart and the bottom of the lungs before exiting. It was a difficult shot—one I’m not sure I could have made—but his confidence in his weapon and bullet allowed him to make a clean harvest.

October 2019

It was Booner or bust. I’d found a monster pronghorn during archery season and the buck eluded me. Hunter was determined to kill him. After a full day of searching, we found the buck. He was bedded in the bald open with 23 does. Hunter was two-months post major knee surgery. A bad basketball accident resulted in a broken femur and stalking on his crutches was going to be difficult.

Young Hunter kneeling beside a dead antelope

With a little luck and some help from the Man upstairs, we closed the distance to 264 yards. The buck spotted us, but it was too late. Hunter was on the sticks and was bearing down on his target. He squeezed the trigger and another Fusion found its mark. I’ve been blessed to go on some great hunts around this magnificent country, but standing there with my son over an 84-inch Colorado speed goat tops them all.

December 2019

The weather was perfect, and it was the first night of Hunter’s plains whitetail season. The field was alive with deer, and one buck was tempting. He was a smaller 8, but the lack of buck sightings during my archery season and absence of buck activity on our trail cameras pressed Hunter into action. The shot was 100 yards on the dot, and he was almost smiling as he squeezed the trigger. Some might call it cocky; I call it confident. The shot was perfect, and Hunter had taken his fourth animal in as many shots.

Young hunter kneeling beside a dead deer with an adult hunter

I don’t tell you this story to brag. Yes, I’m extremely proud of my boy, but truthfully, I want to help. Remember, learning to shoot should be fun. It shouldn’t be a painful, miserable experience. Fit your son or daughter—or any new adult hunter—with a weapon that truly fits them, feed it reliable, accurate ammunition like Federal Fusion and let them shoot a lot. Then, enjoy the ride!