Full Circle, A Case for the One Gun Hunter
By Cal Bablitz
It wasnít my first firearm, but I considered it to be my first ďreal gun,Ē if that makes sense. The first rifle I bought, because it was exactly what I wanted, not an army surplus .303 or ancient shotgun of questionable descent purchased simply because a neighbour was selling it for a price that I could afford. Like many people when they make such purchases, I pondered the finer points of calibre and the various brands far more than I needed to, but eventually I became the proud owner of a Ruger M77 chambered in .270 Winchester. I bought the .270 planning to add a larger caliber rifle for bigger animals later. However, as fate would have it, I moved north that year and the Ruger went straight to work putting animals of all sizes into the freezer.
Because I had a moose or elk tag in my pocket more seasons than not and premium bullets were not readily available in the small town where I lived, I kept my .270 sighted-in for 150 grain Remington CoreLokts. The North Country was mostly thick timber, so I mounted a 2-7 power scope on the Ruger 77. It was my only big game rifle for many years. Other priorities kept me from adding more rifles to my collection, but in truth I didnít feel very handicapped. The combination shot flat enough and had enough magnification for hunting mule deer in the open country, the 150 grain bullets had plenty of penetration for even the biggest animals, the recoil was manageable enough for prolonged range sessions and I didnít find the rifle overly long or cumbersome when hunting in big timber. I felt that it was about as good of a compromise as could be made to handle the various hunts that I would do during a typical season.
Eventually things changed and I started to add to my rifle battery. I began to experiment with all manner of rifles. I added small rifles for small animals and big rifles for big animals. Iíve had rifles for hunting in big timber and rifles for hunting open country. I had safe queens that rarely saw the field and beater guns that got used in the worst conditions. I bought guns that I used for hunting and other rifles I shot exclusively at the range.
After Iíd done enough experimenting I began to come to some conclusions about my rifles. The best gun for hunting in thick bush is the rifle that, when you shoulder it quickly, your cheek is on the comb in just the right spot every time, your eye looks squarely through the scope without any fooling around and the crosshairs are on target. The best rifle for hunting open country is one with which you are familiar. A rifle that you know its limitations (and your own) and that you shoot with confidence, knowing exactly where the bullet will go. For me, this is usually the same rifle. It is almost always the rifle with which I have been spending the most time at the range.
For me, my gear acquiring tends to go in cycles. For one half of the cycle, I try new things, fill closets with gadgets and generally waste money. At some point I figure out what I like and begin the other half of the cycle. I grow embarrassed at my excess, I wonder how the simple act of putting meat in my freezer somehow got so complicated and expensive, and I think longingly of the days when a rifle and a good pair of boots were all I needed to call myself a hunter. Then, I began to whittle my collection back down.
Some rifles were harder to part with than others, but oddly enough I am back where I started, the proud owner of a Ruger M77 in .270 Winchester. Itís sighted in for 150 grain CoreLokts and it wears a 2-7 power scope. When I bring it to my shoulder I look squarely through the scope with no messing around and the crosshairs are dead on target. When I take a long shot I know exactly where that bullet is going to go and how it will perform when it gets there. Once again I hunt everything from wolves to moose in both open and thick country with one rifle and I still donít feel greatly handicapped.
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