Like John Taffin's quest for the "Perfect Packin' Pistol," my own quest has been for a "Perfect Deer Rifle." Except my term is so lame, lacking the triple alliteration. I've tried to come up with something better: "Dandiest Deer Dropper." "Wonderfulest Whitetail Whomper," "Marvelous Mulie Musket"--but as you can see, my efforts have been embarrassing.
Here's a look back at how my search has gone. These dates are only approximate. I don't really organize my life by decades. Maybe I should?
The 1960s: What 1 wanted was a Weatherbv Mark V 257 WM. As a teenage farm kid, what I could afford was a cutdown Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mk. III in 303 British. But danged if it didn't work! At age 141 shot my first deer with it hunting on my own. following tracks in the snow until-more by luck than skill--I got a close range shot. I also used a borrowed Winchester 94 .30-30 "back then."
The 1970s: The '70s were eventful for me. I graduated from the university, got a job at what seemed like a fabulous salary, got married, and bought a Winchester 70A .270 Win. a month after the wedding. This acquisition led to our first marital spat. "Couldn't you hunt deer with your duck rifle? I really think you could if you wanted to." The 270 cartridge was (and is) about perfect for deer, the rifle was reliable and super accurate, but with steel bases/rings and a steel-tube Weaver scope it weighed 9-1/2 lbs. field-ready.
Other highlights from the 70s include a Remington 600 .308 Win. (too loud, too muzzle-light); Ruger .44 Mag. carbine (too range-limited); Ruger 77 .250 Savage (too close to perfect, might have ended the quest!); pre-'64 Winchester 70 Featherweight .30-06 (recoil a bit hefty with the hard buttplate).
The 1980s: Back then I took up IPSC Practical Pistol competition, which became my main shooting interest for the next 15 years. With handguns filling my inner need for continual experimentation, I actually made some practical deer rifle choices.
Winchester reintroduced the Model 70 Featherweight in the early '80s. I bought a pair in .270 Win. and 7x57 Mauser. When Remington introduced the Mountain Rifle, I bought one in .280 Rem. Except for flirtations with a pre-'64 Model 70 .257 Roberts, a Belgian Browning .270, a Model 70 .300 Win. Mag. and a couple others, these three handled my whitetail and mule deer hunting for quite a few years. I was getting close to my ideal, but still....
The 1990s: After some complicated trading I...