It's Still Good Enough
[The most popular deer cartridges]
I live in the free zone of Pennsylvania. You know - west of Philly, east of Pitt, north of Harrisburg, south of Erie. The heart of Whitetail Country. Here hunting is a religion and whitetails are the ultimate game. Schools are closed the Monday after Thanksgiving, kids contract “buck fever”, everyone has a story to tell. Right now, the air buzzes with arguments on the “perfect deer rifle”, which plucked at my inner Kirk.
[30-40 Krag - still good enough?]
When did whitetail deer take on a mythical status and become nearly as hard to kill as an armored T-Rex? I remember a time when the 30 US (AKA 30-40 Krag) and the .300 Savage were considered ‘real gud’ rifles for hunting whitetail. My first foray into the deep hill country was taken with my Dad - me with a 20 gauge H&R Topper loaded with “punkin balls’, while Dad carried a borrowed .32 Winchester Special. I remember drooling over the shiny blue barrel, the dark walnut stock and having visions of Lucas McCain, Josh Randal and The Duke dancing in my head. Slug guns were for kids - a REAL man carried ...a Model 94 Winchester in 30-30!! When my 16th birthday arrived and that very rifle (a battered and well used 30-30) became mine the world of whitetails became my domain.
[Never should have sold it]
Time passed. Experts in various magazines extolled the virtues of the 30-06, the .308 and the .270. It seemed that the 30-30 was no longer powerful enough to drop the new evolution of bigger, stronger, faster whitetails. They were smarter, too. Why, no hunter worth his salt would venture out with a 94 Winchester! It could barely reach 100 yards, had low muzzle velocity, and, well, dang it, it was OLD! Still being young and longing for the latest coolkid caliber, I now lusted after a .308, preferably a Model 99 Savage (I’m a south-paw). Alas, something called Life kept interfering until, one glorious day, my brother presented me with a Browning BLR in the much coveted .308. NOW I was ready for the new and improved whitetail! Bring it on!
Time passed. The .308 passed on for various reasons. Whitetail continued to evolve. The bionic versions of the early 21st Century now required nothing less than a 7mm Remington Magnum to stop them. Better yet was the .300 Win Mag. Either was capable of dropping a 600 pound whitetail ant 4 miles. Again, now being late middle age and still dumb as a box-o-rocks, I drank the Kool-Aid. A left-handed Savage Model 10 in 7 mag became my new companion - and it did drop deer and it was very accurate but… It kicked like a mule and weighed more than I really wanted to drag around.
Time passed. A triple bypass was in my future. Gun forum guys (the true fount of all wisdom) advised me to get rid of the 7mm, the tremendous recoil would, without a doubt, crack my chest wide open. Again, you guessed it, I drank the Kool-Aid and another rifle found a new home. It was replaced by a left hand Savage Axis in .243. “Why, ya might as well hunt with a .22 LR! Were ya born stupid!?” Probably. But it had almost no recoil, was very accurate, had plenty of speed and was light as a feather. Still, visions of whitetail built like M1 tanks moving at Warp 7 filled my head. Should I get a 50 BMG or just stop hunting?
[Home again - and still good enough]
Last week I shot the hand loads I’ll use the Saturday after Thanksgiving to take, I hope, another whitetail. The rifle I’ll carry is my father’s battered, scarred and slightly rusted 30-30 Model 94. Deer haven’t evolved, despite what some gun magazines preach. The current "cool kid" caliber...isn't that cool. The woods where I hunt still prevent shots at much more than 60 yards. The old rifle still shoots 2” groups at 100 yards. A 150 grain flat point is still big enough. Yea, I’m an old fart and I believe that the old gun is still good enough.