Today I got a phone call from the sporting goods store that my background check was approved and I could purchase the hunting rifle that I picked out last Friday. It was an exciting moment for me, I haven’t purchased a new rifle in quite a while, other than the ones for my son Kyle or my muzzle loaders. Even more exciting is the thought of cashing in my 16 preference points for deer this coming fall to use that new rifle on a monster mule deer.
The last time I hunted with a high-powered rifle was the year Kyle was born, in 1995, that year I used my .444 Marlin lever action, which I love, but only used it that one time on a Colorado plains white tail deer hunt, and it only took one shot to get my deer that year. Before then, and since then, I have hunted exclusively with a bow or a muzzle loader, and every year I had put in for a deer preference point, and now I have 16, which means I can hunt in a trophy area, which is why I wanted a rifle with a range of more than 200 yards.
This is going to be a truly new concept for me, all of the deer and elk I have taken with my bow or muzzle loader have been less than 50 yards, with my biggest elk at 7 yards with a bow. I have shot rifles in practice at much farther distances, but this will be my first time going after a deer with the potential of a long range shot. That means a lot of shooting practice between now and November, which I am looking forward to. I have guided plenty of hunters on rifle hunts, so I know how to do that part, it’s the shot that I need to practice now.
My new gun is a Savage 111 .30-06, bolt action with a synthetic stock and a 22″ carbon steel barrel. I really wanted to get a good walnut stock gun with nice checkering, but considering that I only use a rifle once every 17 years, I thought that would be a little extravagant. The Savage is a good, solid gun, and came with a Bushnell 3 x 9 scope, it has a magazine, which I prefer much more than the guns you load down into an internal magazine. The good thing about the synthetic stock is that it is very durable, and I won’t mind getting a scratch on that stock as much as I would on a walnut stock.
In 1993 I got a .54 caliber muzzle loader rifle kit as a gift, and I spent six months making that gun. I shaped and sanded every piece to a fine precision. I had the brass, metal parts, and walnut stock so fine and polished that it looked like a gun you might see in a museum or a high-dollar gun shop, I was quite proud of my work. Then I took the gun on an elk hunt, and it rained and snowed for six days. I took it over some of the roughest terrain you can imagine, in the worst conditions you will find in September in Colorado. I shot an elk that year, but when I got home after the trip, the gun that I had spent so much time on was all torn up from the hunt, and that kind of broke my heart to see it that way. I spent all those months to create a work of art, then I took it out and tore the hell out of it.
After that hunt, I refinished the gun, and decided to buy another muzzle loader to hunt with that I wouldn’t mind so much if it suffered the wear and tear that a gun takes on a high country hunt when I am crawling through heavy timber, rock slides, and the elements. I still shoot the gun I made, it is incredibly accurate. It is a great gun to take to rendezvous, and I have to brag about the craftsmanship that this gun exhibits. I have since made a couple of other guns, and I really enjoy the satisfaction of doing that, it is a very rewarding endeavour.
For big game hunting this fall I am hoping to get a muzzle loader tag for elk in September, and a rifle tag for a trophy deer in November. I am very excited about those hunts, it keeps me awake at night just thinking about it. I will start practicing with my new rifle next weekend. I would start this weekend, but I am amped up about ice fishing, so I have to do that first.