My Grandfather’s rifle…
I was 12 years old, fresh out of Montana Hunters Safety class and very eager to get a nice, tasty, “trophy” mule deer that would let my Dad and my brothers know I was a real hunter. Not to mention that in those days the extra meat in the freezer also meant that Mom would be happy because the family would eat that much better all winter. So getting a deer wouldn’t just make me a hunter, it would make me a man, a provider for the family, and at 12 I was ready to prove it to the world.
It was on a weekend, and not only was it was late in the deer season, but it was an early winter and we already had 6 inches of snow on the ground and plenty of snow drifts that were 4 feet deep. My Dad came in and told me that he’d seen a couple bucks cross over the ridge northeast of the house. He said that it had just started to snow a little and that if I got a move on I might be able to catch them because he was sure that they’d try to bed down pretty quickly to stay out of the storm.
I jumped at the chance, and quickly bundled up and pulled on my snow boots. Then I asked Dad if I could take his rifle because it had a scope and I didn’t want to miss a nice buck shooting my old .30-30 with a rear peep sight. He said OK and just that quick I grabbed his .22-250, a hand full of cartridges, and headed out the door to saddle a horse and catch up with those bucks.
I chose to ride one of our Shetland ponies named Blaze. He was a good little horse and, off we went with a light snow falling as we headed up the hill. Before I got to the top of the hill I stopped and lead Blaze up to where I could see over the top, but not expose myself. I could see what appeared to be the two bucks, but I wasn’t 100% sure because they were over 500 yards away in the falling snow. I realized that I could go around the end of the hill, down a draw and up the next hill to get in perfect position without ever been seen and all the while staying down wind.
When I got to the bottom of the last hill I tied Blaze to a tree at the bottom and, barely holding my excitement in, I scrambled my way up the snowy hill. As I approached the crest of the hill I dropped down and carefully inched up to the top and laid down on my stomach. I could see the two bucks, both of them beautiful 4 point Mule deer, laying close together about 120 yards straight across from me. I wiped off the scope and pulled the .22-250 up to my shoulder.
I picked what appeared to be the cleanest shot and put the cross hairs right behind the shoulder blade and squeezed off a shot. Much to my surprise both bucks immediately stood up. I quickly chambered a second round, took aim at the now standing, alert, but stationary, buck that I had chosen and squeezed off another shot. Both bucks turned and started bounding broadside up the hill and away from me. I aimed and fired again before they reached the top, but in total shock I watched them both disappear over the hill into the great beyond.
I trudged back down the hill, mounted Blaze and, now feeling both cold and totally disappointed, headed back home. What had happened? Nervous buck fever? Or was it that I just didn’t have any skills? I was angry, ashamed, confused and didn’t have a clue why I wasn’t proudly bringing home a mule deer buck.
What I found out about a week later was that Dad’s rifle scope hadn’t been sighted in and was shooting approximately 4 feet to the right and 2 ft high!! I couldn’t believe it, I had been presented with the perfect opportunity to prove myself and I didn’t trust the peep sights on the rifle that had been handed down to me from my Grandfather. Instead I chose to take a modern rifle that couldn’t hit the broad side of barn!
As much as the news made me feel like it wasn’t my fault, I was still racked with guilt for not trusting my Grandfather’s rifle. The rifle I had target practiced with, and that had been entrusted to me to carry on a legacy of bringing home meat for the family.
I’ll never forget that day and I’ll never go hunting again without making sure that I know the rifle I am carrying has been accurately sighted in.
A free Hunters Safety Study Guide and a glossary of terms can be found at http://HuntersSafetyEducation.com