I’ve been hunting whitetail dear since I was a tyke. Over the years I’ve tried different rifles and calibers, but I always come back to the Remington Model 700 .260 that my father gave me as my first rifle. It’s seen a lot of use, doesn’t have a high-priced optic and no longer looks like anything special, but it has a story as well as a sentimental value that are irreplaceable.
My dad taught be to shoot and hunt beginning when I was about five. We’d spend hours on the range or walking through the woods looking for signs of wildlife. I vividly remember Dad taking me to a friend’s hunting club in hopes I’d spot a deer. Around 2:30 on a cold December afternoon we climbed into a shooting house nestled in a tall cedar tree overlooking a tempting food plot.
I eagerly scanned the field for movement. After looking for a while I caught a glimpse of a buck moving through the woods towards us. He paused in the tree line, checking the field for danger and then moved out to feed. Just before the light faded, he moved close enough to where I felt comfortable taking the shot.
I fumbled around trying to flip off my safety, making way too much noise, and the buck looked right at me. My heart was pounding out of my chest as I carefully aimed the .260. With a deep breath I squeezed the trigger. Once I’d recovered from the recoil, it dawned on me that I’d gotten my very first deer.
That buck wasn’t a monster, but it was my first and I was so excited I couldn’t sit still. We waited a few more minutes to make sure he wasn’t going to get up and run. It seemed like an eternity at the time, but we finally went to recover my trophy, and put in a call to my mother letting her know I had finally been successful. I can remember my dad being so happy for me as well as proud of my shot placement, a direct result of all of all of his lessons.
That rifle took a lot more deer until my junior year of college. Getting back from a morning duck hunt, I realized that my house had been burglarized. They got away with all of my most important possessions: my guns as well as my stash of Mountain Dew in the fridge.
While I hated to lose my guns, I was devastated by the realization that I wouln’t be able to pass that Remington 700 down to my kids one day. I dutifully filed a police report, giving them the descriptions and serial numbers of all of the stolen guns.
I had mentally written my guns off as a total loss when, several months later, I got a call from the police letting me know that they’d located them at a pawn shop about sixty miles away. I jumped in my truck with my best friend Chandler who’d also had a shotgun stolen that day, and headed to retrieve our arsenal.
When I arrived, it was immediately evident that the thieves hadn’t cared for the firearms quite as well as I would have. They looked like they’d been thrown around, possibly in the back of a pickup truck. The scope on my 700 was scratched and the finish on the wood stock was badly marred in several places.
Nonetheless, I was thrilled to have them back. That call from the police was the best news I could have gotten.
Shortly after I got my guns back, I headed to the range to gauge the extent of the damage to the scope. Fortunately, it wasn’t severe and it took only a few shots to get the 700 zero’d again.
A couple days later Chandler and I decided to take some time for an afternoon deer hunt on his family farm. After sitting on a pond dam overlooking one of our food plots for a while, a doe stepped out looking to graze. I waited for a while, hoping for a buck, but he didn’t show and again, the light was fading fast.
I raised my rifle and took aim just like I did that first time. With the sights lined up, I slowly squeezed the trigger, dropping the doe in her tracks. Once again, the feeling was overwhelming, especially now that my beloved rifle was back in my hands.
I have other rifles now that are more expensive and equipped with better glass. But I still find myself picking up the 700 when I head into the woods in search of whitetail. It’s never failed me and I keep adding more deer to its legacy, the better to bore my kids and grandchildren some day. I though about refinishing the stock, but decided I’d leave the scars to add a little more color to the story.