The Traditional Hunter

By Michael Gietz

The myriad of rifle calibers available today for the deer hunter are enough to make a simple man's head spin. They say that the smart hunter is the one who matches his gun to the game he wants to hunt. I say the smart hunter is the one who matches his gun to himself and his own capabilities.

Quite a few hunters are adept people who are successful in business and able to hunt game all around the country and the world. They can afford high priced rifles and ammo and God bless 'em. However, this article is not for them.

This article is for the hunter who works at a job every day while dreaming of being in the field. It is for the hunter who can't afford a week at a guided ranch, but can go out on the weekend during deer season on public land and hope to find that 4 point buck and be happy that he has a shot at it.

In a perfect world, we can all afford that sweet rifle and can all deal with the recoil of it. I have a .30-06 bolt action as well as a Marlin .45-70 1895GS lever action and a .30-30 Marlin 336SS. I will tell you now that I will take the .30-30 every time and I will try to sneak in on game to within 200 yards just so I can shoot it with my 336. I don't mind my .30-06 and I like my .45-70 Marlin Guide Gun, but I love my .30-30 more.

That brings me to the point of this article. I have been thinking of buying another rifle, a long range bolt action to compliment my two Marlins. My .30-06 is old and dying and needs replacement; so what shall I get? Another .30-06 or maybe a .270 Winchester or perhaps a .308? I have been doing research and the .260 Remington, 6.5x55, 7mm-08 and 7x57 are quite possibly the greatest rounds ever invented, given recoil versus long range energy. Let's not rule out the .25-06 or the .243, both are fine calibers. And remember, the .300 magnums are great killers, at both ends and a .270 Magnum might be even better. A .338 Magnum will drop everything, including me, and the .458 Magnum would sure be handy if I ever went to Africa. So what should I get?

And then it dawned on me. Even though I can put 4 1/2 out of 5 rounds in the 10 ring at 300 yards (given a good rifle and ammo and knowing the wind), I finally concluded that I don't feel comfortable shooting at a live animal at that distance. Sure, at the range, I can kill deer and boar all day long at 300 and even 400 yards on paper, never mind the wind or the slope. Get me in the field, drawing down on a live animal, with the wind blowing, and shooting up or down hill looking through bushes at a target moving in and out of trees and suddenly, I have to be honest, I'm not so sure of my accuracy anymore. I realized that, even though I'm a fairly decent long distance shooter and I have no problem squeezing off a round at a ground squirrel 400 yards away with my Savage 12FVSS .22-250, I feel irresponsible shooting at a deer beyond 200 yards. It's not that I can't make the shot, or that I'm afraid to. I think it's that I feel that the animal deserves better.

Call me crazy or stupid, but I believe that a deer deserves my effort at stalking it within 200 (+/-) yards. Sure, I could blast it at 300 yards with a .300 WSM from a tree stand, but what if I could sneak up on it to within 200 yards and put a 150 grain .30-30 Hot-Cor handload into his vitals? Wouldn't that be deer hunting Utopia? What if I were hunting Black Bear in the Sierra's; on the deck creeping over the rocks at high altitude with a .45-70 lever gun set up with a Thompson/Center Hawken Hunter 1.5 x 5 scope and five 350 grain Hornady Interlock hand loads ready to go. Could there be anything more gratifying?

Call me outdated, call me whatever you want, but I just discovered that I don't need that new rifle after all. Not that I won't buy it anyway, but I think I have just about everything I need to hunt anything in North America with my Marlin 1895GS in .45-70 and my Marlin 336SS in .30-30.

Yes, they are old and somewhat outdated cartridges, but there is something that makes me feel giddy and almost childlike when I pick up a lever action rifle on an early Autumn morning and lay it on my lap while sipping coffee and staring out across the open field at the tree line. I know that, theoretically, I don't have much of a chance with these traditional rifles, but maybe if I keep quiet about it the deer and bear won't realize they've been shot by such antiquated rounds. Wouldn't it be great if, in the midst of all these new super long range, ultra-high powered, flat shooting rifle calibers, I could sneak around in the woods like a hunter with a .30-30 or the .45-70 and still bring home the game?

I guess that's not possible anymore, at least according to the gun writers and "experts". I guess the deer and the bear have finally caught on to my obsolete, brand new lever guns. I suppose there's no room in the woods for a traditionalist like myself. However, if you happen to be out hunting, please don't tell the deer and bear about my silliness. As an traditional hunter with no chance anyway, I'd appreciate it.

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Copyright 2005 by Michael Gietz. All rights reserved.