In the early 1960s, it seemed every adult male in the little Saskatchewan farming community in which I grew up did at least some hunting. There were maybe a dozen real enthusiasts who always got their deer, even went on hunting trips after antelope, moose, bear and elk. Sometimes they would let a hunting-crazy kid tag along on local deer hunts. Almost to a man these experienced hunters used lever-action rifles. The old guys (i.e., 30 and up) used Savage 99s, mostly in .300 Savage, though I recall at least one .250 Savage.
The younger generation swore by the new Winchester 88 in .308 Win. All the rifles wore scopes, usually 2 1/2X or 4X Weavers. It was years before I saw a scope that wasn't a Weaver.
What made these rifles so popular? Tradition, certainly, but also reliability in temperatures, which ranged from +10 to -40, and speed of fire. The preferred method of hunting ("pushing bush") meant most deer were shot on the run, and the combination of fairly powerful cartridges and last follow-up shots helped correct the occasional bad shot.
The handsome Sako Finnwolf lever action was made for a few years but never became very popular, likely due to its hefty price tag. I've only seen one used in the field. Wish I had one, they sure were pretty.
Lever action rifles chambered for .308-class cartridges mostly didn't survive the swing to magnum cartridges and bolt actions. Hunters became enamored with long-range shooting and forgot the virtues of easy packing, fast-handling rifles. Fortunately there is still one rifle in this class, and it's a good one, the Browning BLR. Judging from the variety of models in the catalog, the number I see on dealer shelves and feedback from dealers, the BLR is doing very well.
I first started reading rumors of the new BLR in the late '60s, but production didn't really get into gear until around 1971 or '72. Original BLRs had a steel receiver and straight-grip stock.
They are slick, handsome and handy rifles. I've never known an owner who didn't like his BLR, and I've seen the neat little rifles in some unlikely places. I recall visiting a small farm bordering the northern Saskatchewan forest where a middle-aged couple scratched out a modest living with a bit of farming, some gardening, hunting, and trapping. Their little cabin had no electricity or running water; most of their possessions were old and worn, but in a place of honor on the wall was a bright, gleaming, lovingly cared for BLR.