"Modern" hunting rifles, hunts with Dad, and today's realities


Active member
Jun 4, 2022
Bat Sh!+ Crazy, California
Yesterday I was mounting a new scope on a rifle, and being that is was Father's day, I could not help think how different (sometimes the same) rifles, hunts, and expectations are from the early 80's to today. I remember being given my first deer gun in 1982, (a 2nd, or 3rd hand old bolt action Savage 30-30). No scope, worn out barrel, had a crack in the stock butt, but mostly kept shots inside a paper plate, at 50 kid paces in the AZ desert. It seemed a box of ammo was less than $5 bucks. Took a couple CO mule deer at less than 30, maybe 40 yards in the early to mid 80's. He was from Paonia (GMU 53,521), and I'm pretty sure I remember buying our buck tags at a gas station on 133 at the edge of town although I do remember getting a doe tag in the mail 1 year in 84 or 85?. Seems like we did not run into too many hunters back then in that area. Sold that worn out rifle once I got a job at 16, and saved up enough for a Ruger m77 30-06 with Dad's help, and got a cheap scope. Remember that thing seemed to kick me like a mule. Trigger pull was horrible, and it did not seem too terribly accurate either. I do not remember shooting over maybe 150yards. Sold that gun, picked up a m77 mk2 in 270win as soon as they came out, and moved on to bigger and better, as the hunting and shooting bug had really bit me.

Moved to CA and I bought into the magnum craze, and as a young adult in my early-mid 20's, went through several rifles as the career could afford. Rem700s, savage 110s in 7rem mag, 300win, a Howa that was in 300wby, a 7STW in the 700 Sendero, a model 7 243win, a 700 in 220swift, another Ruger 77 in 270, and several scopes, but seemed to like Leupold vari-x2s and splurged for a Zeiss once. Then replaced the vari-x2s for vari-x3s, etc. Spent many a day in the garage floating barrels, bedding stocks, changing stocks, changing triggers, handloading, weighing everything, mic'ing everything, etc. Saw the birth of plastic tipped bullets, the new and horribly inaccurate (in my guns) Barnes X, newer and tougher bullets, better match bullets and had to try them all along with all the powders. Powder, brass, bullets were all super easy to get, big selections, and they even shipped all of it directly to me in CA. We mocked the core-lokt and win grey box and their
silly old bullets. Seems all the rifles I bought had issues too, too heavy, and one could not do without Timney triggers back then because all the factory rifles were set at like 7-8lbs or more. Custom barrels were also a must have. The 90's and early 2000's were horrific for triggers, and factory guns in my opinion. Tags and preference points seemed to become all the rage in the 90's too, and some tags I wanted started to get difficult to draw. Took pigs and deer in CA, a CO deer every year, and a couple elk with my big magnums. Some areas were a hard draw for deer, but we drew every year in some good-great hunt units. Also experienced a partial retina detachment because I had my bell rung so many times at the range with those big guns. Got into competitive bench rest + more hunting, and all that went along with that. Custom light varmint guns in 6BR and 6Ppc, 40x scopes, hours of handloading, copious sums of cash spent, etc. This raised my expectations of my hunting rifles/scopes/loads, and of course more changes, cash spent ensued with them. Through life, divorce, jobs, moves, sold almost all of it 18 or so years ago and got out of the BR game and complicated hunting rifle thing. Kept my big 7 and 220swift for deer, pigs, yotes on the annual hunting trip(s). Basically out of guns altogether, and only hit the range prior to the 1 or 2 hunts per year, just to verify zero. Glad I had plenty of ammo leftover and had no need to buy anything since then.

Fast forward and zero gun/ammo purchases for over 15 years, I pick up a little scoped Ruger 17hmr, and started plinking more. Cute, accurate, cheap to own and shoot. Great to stay tuned up for hunting. But buying that gun in CA, and getting ammo was a real pain. Decided to move down from my big 7 and back to a 270win, did a bit of shopping, and picked up a Ruger American (another pain in the ass purchase process, but cheap). After pulling it apart to see what it was all about, I was damn impressed. For a cheap gun, lots of plastic, I was tickled to find out it had a nice trigger, was floated, and the way it was bedded seemed solid. It's pretty light too. Shot it with blue box fed, and was impressed with out of the box accuracy, but did not have a dedicated scope, so back in the safe it went. Hunted with my 7 the last couple years, but bought a VX-3 for the 270 and intend to use the new light, cheap 270 moving forward. Putting that scope on reminded me of a few things:

  • Today's factory rifles are just impressive (we have become spoiled)-even the cheapies are better built
  • Same goes for optics, and bang for the buck-amazing stuff out there for the money
  • Ammo is a pain today in every way-was so easy and cheap to get everything associated back a few decades, even in CA
  • No more buck tags at a gas station in CO today, and you better have several to a couple dozen preference points for great areas
  • Preference point creep is in fact insane-everywhere, and I'm used to getting consolation whatever tags now if I'm lucky
  • I still hate copper bullets and won't shoot them except in CA
  • 5 buck a box 30-30 ammo won't be coming back
  • Deer probably have not gotten any smarter, and I could probably still take them at 30-40 yards with a horribly inaccurate used up rifle
  • The chase today for the perfect light mountain hunting rifle is no different at all, except I won't play that game anymore
  • Everyone still debates bullet types and brands (elk and mule deer have body armor nowadays, they only had shields in the 90's)
  • That old core lokt, win grey box, fed blue box work fine now, and probably did then
  • And finally, how did we exist before the 6.5 manbun! ;)

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