With A Brand New Hunter Behind The Scope.
By John Taffin
My article on the Ruger .243 American Compact appeared in the November 2015 issue, and I said this: “I found, in particular, the Ruger Compact Rifles chambered in 7-08, .223, and .243 were a true pleasure to carry all day, delivering anything I needed a rifle to deliver, and they fulfilled another need: less recoil. I’ve spent a lot of time shooting heavy recoiling leverguns such as those using heavy .45-70 loads; however, as I’ve grown older (and wiser?), recoil has not only become more unpleasant, it can cause physical issues simply because as we age we become more fragile.
“Our own Dave Anderson has reported eye problems which are most likely from heavy recoil, and the late John Wootters reported the same thing later in his life. I think they are both right on. This brings us to the current rifle offered by Ruger, which is a total departure from the Model 77. This new rifle is the American, and the American I have been testing (I already sent them a check to purchase it) is the Compact version chambered in .243.
“Why did I order my test rifle in .243 instead of .308 or .30-06, two of the grandest cartridges to ever come forth? Re-read the last paragraph. The .243 is the “do-almost-anything” cartridge, and it does it with very mild recoil, even in a light rifle. Chamberings such as the .22/250 or .220 Swift may be much better for long-range varminting, while the .338 Winchester and .375 H&H are certainly a highly viable choice for really large game and preferred for dangerous game. However, for those of us who spend 99 percent of our hunting time with critters in the coyote- and whitetail deer-size range, the .243 is about as good as it gets.”
A few years earlier when it was my custom to travel with friends to Oregon to hunt exotic sheep, goats and feral pigs, I used the Ruger Compact Model 77 chambered in 7-08 to good effect; however, the ranch we regularly hunted on changed owners and practices, with these changes, it was no longer an acceptable place for me; another reason was my longtime hunting companion Roger Bissell had passed, so those trips were no longer in the cards. Add to this the fact I mostly hunt with a handgun, and it didn’t seem like the Ruger .243 would ever be pressed into service for my personal hunting except for varminting.
Earlier this year, my son-in-law Michael Seals began to show a greater interest in firearms and shooting. When he and my daughter were married in 1981, I started the custom of giving everyone in the family who married, both kids and grandkids, a Ruger 10/22 .22 semi-automatic rifle, and later adding a .22 pistol so they would have it for camping. Throughout all these passing years, both Michael and my daughter have been shooting these .22’s somewhat regularly.
Michael is a computer expert, and I lean heavily on him for everything I need to set up and use my computer, including, most importantly, all of my writing projects. He is also a very talented musician with his own band and writes his own music. Family, his work and his music have kept him very busy all these years with very little time left for shooting. Then things took a dramatic turn earlier this year when Michael’s good friend (who happens to be the son of a friend who I used to shoot silhouettes with) talked Michael into putting in for a controlled hunt with him.
Success! And good eating!
Now Michael had never shot anything larger than a .22 rifle and never hunted before––good fortune would have it they both drew tags for cow elk and antlerless deer. When Michael told me this, I was very happy and blessed to be able to begin working with him to get ready, at least as far as the shooting part goes, for his initial hunt. I chose the Ruger .243 American Compact for him for several reasons, including accuracy, an excellent trigger, lack of punishing recoil and the fact he would not have to worry about scratching the polymer stock or hurting the rifle in any way.
I asked Michael to write down his feelings on this whole situation and here, in his words, are his thoughts and feelings on being a brand-new hunter:
“Background: I did not grow up around guns or hunting. It’s not that I had a particular bias against guns or hunting, I just had no point of reference for them. In spite of the fact my father-in-law, for the past 34 years, has been and still is one of the preeminent authorities on handguns, and spent almost all of those 34 years hunting some type of game, I still did not have a burning desire to try my hand at it. That is, until I saw a video of John’s Elk hunt. This particular hunt was organized by several of John’s closest friends and supporters. The hunt was captured on video and shown for the first time at a special event honoring him in October 2014. It was so well done it seriously moved me to consider taking up the sport of big game hunting myself, wanting to be a part of something I’d been missing out on for so long. After all, I live in Idaho, and I’m married to the daughter of John Taffin. How could I not?
“Since I’m really a book-type of learner, I decided I would get myself a good book on the subject. I found a thorough and readable introduction to guns in John Malloy’s The Complete Guide to Guns & Shooting, which my father-in-law had recommended. Covering the basics, this book works from the assumption the reader knows nothing about guns. It served as a primer to my journey.
“Development: For several months, I mostly kept the idea to myself, until one day when I was having dinner with my close friend, Eric Murrell. He is an avid hunter, and I shared my thoughts about wanting to try my hand at it. About a month later, Eric called to ask me if I was really serious and offered to take me out with him on his next deer and elk hunts in the fall. I said I’d give it some thought, but it didn’t take long to realize this was probably my one and only chance to get involved in the sport of hunting. I called him back and said, ‘I’m sure.’
“Over the following months, we put in for our tags, bought our licenses and met to discuss our strategy. Since I had never hunted, I pretty much had to swallow my pride and get advice for just about everything. In between, I felt pretty much every emotion I could feel. Fear and anticipation welded together inside of me, but I kept on going through every step of preparation, trusting that somehow it would not be a disaster. In the meantime, John and I were having discussions about what rifle I was going to use. Decision: His Ruger American .243 Winchester, and if I brought home a deer, the gun was mine! He took me out to the range to get it sighted in. Now trust me, if I thought going hunting with Eric was an intimidating proposition, imagine how I felt going out with the renowned Mr. Taffin as my instructor!
The rifle of choice—the Ruger American Compact .243, topped with a Weaver 6X
classic scope: simple, accurate (inset), reliable and rugged.
“In any case, he was patient and a great teacher, and I managed to shoot well enough on my first trip to the range so he took me out the second time, shooting at even further distance. It only took four shots on my second trip and he proclaimed I was ready to go. I felt a sense of accomplishment and relief, and at that point as confident as I was probably going to feel. The only thing left was the actual hunt.
“The Hunt: The first weekend we got up early, as hunters do, and set off to our spot and proceeded to hunt. It was a little surreal for me, but I was thrilled to be finally doing this thing I’d avoided for most of my adult life. It felt great; unfortunately, we didn’t see any deer that weekend, plenty of elk, but they were not yet in season. Isn’t that always the case? Two weeks later, Eric and I went out to the same location. This time I could try for either a deer or an elk. We set up our tent and decided to go out while there was still a bit light left and do some scouting.
“We had not been on the trail for more than 20 minutes when we came across a herd of five does at about 150 yards. Fortunately, this was the distance at which I had practiced range shooting with John. I took aim and shot, hitting the deer in the leg. I don’t remember much because my heart was pounding, but I tried to relax and do what I had practiced; I pulled the trigger a second time: Perfect shot! It was just like everything I’d read about it and imagined trying to do. I was probably jumping up and down like a little kid. It was only a young buck, and I’m sure it amused my friend Eric to no end. But it was my first kill, and I was thankful and relieved I had finally gotten my deer.
“In retrospect: I am grateful to my father-in-law, John, and to my longtime friend Eric for the great experience. I learned so much about shooting, hunting and the bonds built between family and friends on a hunt. Even though I still have much to learn about the sport, and regardless of how much hunting I do in the future, I will treasure this first hunt forever. Within weeks, I was already thinking about the next hunting trip, and both my son and son-in-law have expressed a desire to go hunting with me next year. Can you imagine, me, a novice hunter, leading two inexperienced hunters? Well, I guess that’s just how it begins! Oh, and the cherry on top of the cake: That Ruger .243 rifle is now mine.”
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