I was fifteen my first opening day, legal hunting age in Ontario at the time, though I was still a year away from being old enough to buy my own gun. A young hunter’s first opening day is a big deal and to properly celebrate the occasion Dad had let me carry his rifle while he took his shotgun. Nonchalantly holding his 30-30 in the crook of my right arm, like I’d seen all the older guys do made me feel like a man, like I was part of the hunting gang, though I was still a kid.
Creating memories with Dad's rifle thirty-three years after I carried it for the first time.
The gun was a Winchester Model 94, quite possibly the most popular deer rifle ever produced. It came into Dad’s possession around 1982, bought from his cousin Dooner when they purchased a hunting camp and he needed something with more reach than his smoothbore. The rifle fit what he was willing to pay and for nearly forty years he carried it during the moose and whitetail seasons, resting locked up in his closet the rest of the year. That old lever gun now sits in my safe, carrying it gives me a melancholy satisfaction, a connection to the man who gave up his rifle on my first opening day.
Just this past fall I was sitting on a small knoll, taking advantage of a pinch point in a patch of brush. I was enjoying a hot coffee on a cool day and thinking about Dad when two does came up on my right. Sitting still as a church mouse, stretching my eyes as far as I can, a third blacktail with spikes poking above his ears materialized. As he walked past I slipped the rifle to my shoulder, front bead on his ribs, nestled in the notch of the rear sight. The little buck was on the ground before I could finish cycling another shell into the chamber, proving the effectiveness of the 30-30 once again. A thousand thoughts ran through my head as I shed a tear and it felt like a circle had closed.
See you on the water or the mountain.