At a Christmas gathering, a relative displayed a deer rifle he had just acquired. It was nice looking.
The rifle had a variable power telescopic sight, and it was chambered for the .25-06 cartridge, an excellent deer load. An attractive wood stock added to the gun’s appeal.
And it was a single shot.
Many Arkansas deer hunters tend to regard single shot rifles as “kids’ guns.” Most hunters go afield with firearms holding five or so rounds, and a few hunters are out there with the implements that media types like to label assault rifles with large capacity magazines.
There is no practical hunting need for something with a 30-round magazine, but today’s writing is not on the touchy topic of gun control or doing away with high capacity magazines. We are merely talking about the single shot rifles and their place in today’s hunting, deer especially.
In recent weeks we interviewed and wrote about two youngsters who had notable success with single shot rifles. One, a 12-year-old, had taken three deer with his .243 single shot. Another, 7 years old, had scored with a .223 single shot then a .243 single shot in addition to downing a deer with a crossbow and another with a muzzle-loader. Both of those are single shot weapons, too.
This writer usually hunts with a bolt action rifle that holds four .30-06 cartridges in its clip plus another in the chamber. Most times, the chamber is empty until arrival at the deer stand. I have never needed “a quick second shot,” that strategy often mentioned by Arkansas hunters. Yes, I have worked the bolt and shot again at a wounded deer.
If we look at the so-called good old days of deer hunting, we often believe that the old pioneers and Native Americans were better hunters than we are today. That is probably true. They were much more familiar with the woods for one thing, and they used single shot rifles or bows.
The old-timers did not take “bean field shots” at deer, meaning long-range ones. They shot deer 25 to 75 yards away for the most part.
These old-timers made their first shot an accurate one because that was all they had to work with. It took time to reload a muzzle-loader, more time than to notch and aim a second arrow.
In today’s hunting, we have thousands of young people out there with guns like the Rossi .243 – relatively inexpensive and simple to operate. The youths usually hear something like “take your time, and make that shot count” when a deer comes within range.
Lighter recoil is often mentioned as a benefit to young hunters with these .243-type single shots. Talk to a kid who has shot a deer. He or she likely will not mention the gun kicking on the successful deer shot.
That relative’s appealing .25-06 single shot rifle is a Harrington and Richardson, a venerable American firearm maker. The single shot rifle line includes many choices of caliber from the .223 types all the way up to .500 S&W, a big load that looks like a .44 Magnum on steroids. The old but good .45-70 is also available, along with the ever popular .30-06.
Almost any centerfire rifle you can find is sufficient for Arkansas deer — if it is in the hands of a capable shooter. These hunters become capable by practice and by paying attention to the basics of shooting.
Two other appealing features of single shot deer rifles are that they are a little lighter than repeating rifles and that they cost a whole lot less, unless you go to a custom made item.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.