The Buddy System: Sixgun Style

There's More To A Hunt Than Filling A Tag

Mom was dying of cancer and I’d recently learned how to log on the Internet. After discovering “gun forums” I kept returning to one in particular. Some guy was always posting pictures of critters he’d shot with his sixgun. His name was Dick Thompson. Reading his adventures helped me momentarily escape the harsh realities I was living. Mom died shortly after and I found myself accepting Dick’s invitation to go on an elk hunt in Idaho, Land of Elmer. The rest is history. I shot a cow elk with a sixgun, a first for both. Over the years I made more visits to Dick, along with many phone calls and texts.

Reunion And Rendezvous

Let me introduce you to Dick. He actually met Elmer Keith a couple of times, driving to Elmer’s home in Salmon, Idaho. Dick only hunts with handloads, using cast bullets of his own making. He hasn’t hunted with a rifle in 40 years — something I still struggle with, but Dick forgives me. He says he’d rather shoot a grasshopper with a sixgun than a 6×6 bull with a rifle. What’s not to like, right?

Dick and I are long overdue for a rendezvous of the hunting kind. Having permission to hunt a private ranch, he invites me out. In need of some wide-open spaces — along with catching up with my good buddy — I eagerly accept.

When I land in Pocatello I’m met by our mutual buddy, Steve Call, and visit with him for a day or two, before he drives me to Dick’s. After backslaps and hugs, Dick hands me an S&W Model 696 to strap on during my stay. Now that’s a buddy! I ship my guns to Idaho to avoid any airport shenanigans.

Goofing off for three days, we pack in a lot of fun. We sight-in guns, make sixgun stocks, buy freshly dug Idaho spuds to ship home, and drive around, enjoying the beauty Idaho has to offer. And we eat a lot of Mexican food at El Toro, our temporary “base camp.”

Dick’s Old Model Blackhawk .44 Magnum. Cruddy pic but we took it in the field. Sorry!

Lotsa ladies. Not too many gents!

Hunting’s Easy

For this hunt I’m using a Ruger 5-shot .454 Casull/.45 Colt loaded with HSM 300-gr. softpoints, along with a 14″ TC Encore Pistol in .30-06. It’s loaded with HSM 165-gr. soft points. My two-gun strategy? Use the Ruger out to 75 yards and the Encore for farther shots.

Dick’s carrying a Ruger Old Model Flattop .44 Magnum, loaded with Keith-style cast bullets over 10 grs. of Unique. We’re getting around on 4-wheelers to hit our chosen spots.

Opening morning, we see a group of six mule deer with a decent buck among them. It’s barely legal shooting light as I get off the 4-wheeler, but they skedaddle before I can cock my gun. Getting to our prospective spots, we wait for the deer to come out to feed. We both see numerous does and fawns. No bucks. We hunt till lunch and re-group.

The afternoon hunt is a repeat, as we return to our same spots. Ol’ Dick ends up shooting a “forky” through the brisket while it’s walking straight toward him. Not bad for an iron-sighted sixgun at 92 yards — and you wonder why I like hanging around Dick? He’s been getting it done with a sixgun for over 40 years. Again we see a lot of deer but the bucks are holding tight.

Tank’s Blackhawk Bisley .454 Casull in a Barranti Leather NW Hunter rig.

Finding’s Tough

The next three days, we hunt hard, trying to fill my tag. Dick puts on drives, we try other areas, all the time taking in beautiful country and enjoying our time together. All our tactics work, we jump several. Only problem, none are sporting racks. But it doesn’t really matter, we’re both having a blast.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the hunt itself more than the actual taking of game. Mind you, I’ll gladly drop the hammer, but these days it’s a more deliberate decision, savoring the memories, etching them in my mind for easy retrieval later.

Besides, this was real hunting. No guides, just friends spending time together, soaking up the sights. While some may think Dick’s deer is “just a forky,” it’s a trophy for sure. Like Dick says, “Any animal taken with a sixgun — especially an iron-sighted sixgun — is a trophy.” Amen to that.

And while my tag wasn’t filled, something more important was. My spirit, heart and soul were saturated with nothing but good memories. Sometimes “tag tacos” can be pretty filling, especially when you eat them with a buddy.

Purchase A PDF Download Of The GUNS Magazine July 2018 Issue Now!