I Failed as a Deer Hunter



Last month I missed my first chance ever to shoot a deer.

Arizona has a lottery system to determine who gets to participate in the harvest. Winners were announced in July or so. I had until early November to get ready.

My family has no hunting tradition, so I’m on my own. Before the hunt, I needed to choose and purchase a rifle*, choose and purchase optics (a scope), learn how to shoot accurately, learn how to hunt deer, and make several advance trips to my designated hunting area to scope it out (exactly where are the deer?). Furthermore, I need new eyeglasses. As you might imagine, I’m fairly obsessive and compulsive about doing things the right way. I ran out of time, thanks to other aspects of life that were more important. Oh, well. Maybe I’ll be ready by next fall.

I did spend a couple hours with my son checking out rifles at Bass Pro Shop in Mesa, Arizona. They had many on my list of prospects.

Notes On Rifle Choice

Although a wood stock is aesthetically appealing, a synthetic stock probably makes more sense in terms of withstanding weather-related stress such as rain, heat, cold, and extremes of humidity. Plus, the synthetic stocks are $200 cheaper.

I’m leaning towards .308 caliber since it packs enough punch for elk hunting. .30-06 would do the trick, too.

I was not greatly impressed with Savage rifles, although the Weather Warrior was not bad. I don’t remember otherwise which Savage models I held. The salesman at Bass said it’s a little more trouble to mount a scope on the Savages. Savages are popular rifles.

He also told me to consider stainless steel barrels.

The Weatherby Vanguard Series 2 Sporter with synthetic stock was OK, but not one of my favorites.

I ruled out the Ruger American simply because I like the Tikka T3 better. I have a Ruger revolver and recommend the company. I also have a soft spot for Browning firearms since I’m happy with my Browning BDA .380 semi-automatic pistol.

The Sako A7 is too expensive, even with synthetic stock. I don’t remember the price, but must be over $1,500.

All of the following are in the running for future purchase:

  • The Tikka T3 (Hunter or Forest model) is made by Sako and I was favorably impressed. $600 with synthetic stock.
  • Browning A-Bolt Medallion (not chambered in .308, but in .30-06).
  • Browning X-Bolt Hunter.
  • Browning X-Bolt Medallion.
  • Winchester Model 70 is very nice. The Alaskan model is probably the only one on this page that comes with iron sites, an option I like. It is chambered in .30-06 but not .308
  • Remington 700. Several different models, and perhaps not in .308 caliber. At least one has iron sites (BDL model). But has Remington solved the dangerous trigger issue?

If I had to choose one right now, it’d be the Tikka T3.

Steve Parker, M.D.

 *Mike S., thanks for offering me the use of one of your rifles. But my goal is a Parker family rifle I can pass down to the next generation.

PS: I just learned that a Remington 700 is what Charles Whitman used to kill 16 people from a tower at the University of Texas (in Austin) in 1966.

4 responses to “I Failed as a Deer Hunter

  1. I’m not big on guns, too loud for me, so when I decided to be a huntress, my husband got me a Horton crossbow. I got lucky that my husband is a good and patient teacher. I can’t count how many hours we spent in the woods during spring turkey season, but I didn’t get a single turkey. I don’t think it was so much a “failure” because I learned so much about tracking, calling, scouting. I continued to practice all summer on hay bales, the deer decoy, targets.

    When deer season rolled around, each weekend was dedicated to hunting. Opening day of muzzleloader season, my husband offered me his Optima Magnum muzzleloader with a Nikon scope. Having never shot a muzzleloader, I was nervous of the noise, the kick, but was oblivious to both when that 12 point buck was in the cross hairs. (he’s in the freezer now)

    Anyways, to be a failure, one must “give up”. Spending time with your son, learning, being prepared, is all part of hunting. A goal to have a Parker family rifle to pass down the line, well, that sounds like you’ve not failed at all, you’ve lain the foundation for a tradition.

    (I can’t recommend a rifle, but Nikon scopes are crisp and clear, they are fairly pricey, but they have a lifetime warranty.)

    • Shannon, thanks for the encouragement and helpful advice!

      Regarding recoil at the moment of truth, I’m glad to hear it wasn’t a problem. One of my acquaintances suggested I use 300 Win Mag caliber, but the thought of higher recoil than .308 is a bit intimidating. Not so much for me since I weigh 170 lb, but for my son and daughter that I’d like to teach. They weigh 120-135 lb and are not muscular.

      In Arizona, bowhunting is the most reliable way to win a deer tag. I think we have a muzzle-loading season, too.

      Congratulations on the 12-pointer!


  2. I shoot with a Remington 700 BDL in 7 Mag for deer. Definately overkill for a deer but a good all round gun. The 700 is a reasonably priced gun that looks great and will last you a lifetime. Good luck on the deer hunt next time.