Two More Notches in the Stock
I admit it. I’m a sucker for nostalgia. Baby pictures of my kids can make me cry, I still have dreams about my dad, I sometimes search eBay for my first motorcycle; a 1967 Ducati Monza Jr., and my ideal vacation would be a return to the place where Janine and I went on our honeymoon. All of these things, and many others like them, strike a chord of melancholy within me. I guess it should come as no surprise then that this sentimentality can even find its way into my redneckedness. Yes, I’m even sappy about deer hunting. My favorite hunter orange hat is one that my Nana knitted for my dad back in the 70s, and the only rifle I carry into the woods is a 1927 Remington Model 14 in 35 Remington. Most of the deer hunting I have done in the past several years has been with a bow, but when I take a gun it’s a gun that has been passed down through my family for generations; from my great uncle, who bought it new, to my grandmother, to my father, and then to me. All of my life I have seen this gun propped up in the corner of a bedroom or stashed behind some clothes hanging in a closet. Occasionally when I was growing up I would ask my dad if I could see it. He’d take it out and let me hold it. I’d run my finger along the four notches carved in the stock; one for each of the deer that Uncle Leonard had taken with the gun. I’d examine the “L.M” carved into the foregrip and stock, marvel at the patent dates on the barrel going back to 1912, and savor the feel of that cold blue steel and rich walnut in my hand. I asked my dad time and time again if we could shoot it, but he was always a little apprehensive about it, what with it being as old as it was. Although he owned a good many guns, he was not an aficionado and he did not know if it was safe to shoot. After he passed away it became mine and on New Year’s Day 2009, after having become sufficiently satisfied that it was perfectly safe, I squeezed the trigger and fired off the first round that gun had shot in 50 years. It was very sweet. That morning my friend Corky and I shot up a whole box of ammo and I was in love with the gun. The next weekend found me in a tree on a white oak ridge at just the right time. When a nice mature doe came along, the old Model 14 roared to life and did its job once again. That sense of nostalgia came on strong as I connected the present to the past, carving a notch in the stock alongside the ones my great-uncle had made. The next weekend was MLK weekend and I was in the woods with my new love once again. This time as I sat along a creek bottom a heavy bodied buck walked by me at 15 yards. The iron sights were true to their mark and he dropped in his tracks. I didn’t shoot a deer with it in 2010, but that year I reached a new level of sentimentality. Having discovered that the Model 14 was also manufactured in 25 caliber, I figured it would be the ultimate in father-sonnery if I got one for Oliver to carry, while I carried the bigger brother to it. Before long I found one for sale in Oregon, and after a little dickering and bartering, it found its place in my safe alongside the 35. Oliver has yet to take a blade to the stock, but I shot a doe with his little 25 in December of 2011, but that’s a different story. MLK weekend of 2012 had me in a climber along the same creek bottom as where I had shot the buck two seasons before. I had seen a big buck from this stand two weeks earlier but he proved to be a little farther than my eyes and iron sights were able to deal with, and he got a pass. On this day though, I had been in the stand for an hour or so when I heard something just crashing through the woods. I looked to my left and saw an 8 pointer stumbling, staggering, and crashing into trees. Although he was a bit smaller than I would have normally shot, it was plain to see that there was something wrong with this deer. He stumbled past me at 25 yards, came to a stop broadside and became the 7th harvest for the family heirloom. As it turned out, this buck had been hit by a car, and from the looks of the injury, probably that same morning. All of that brings me to this morning’s hunt – MLK Day 2013. A north-northwest wind was perfect for the same stand along the same creek bottom. Nostalgia, along with a chill, was in the air. I walked in before daylight and settled in my stand under a leaden sky. The Model 14 rested across my knees, and a cold shiver reminded me that I was thankful for my Nana’s knitting. Within a half an hour a small buck trotted by, ears pinned, obviously perturbed by something he had seen or smelled. (Most likely Corky, who was hunting just north of me.) I watched as he dematerialized into an overgrown clearcut just beyond the creek. At 7:00 AM I caught the flicker of an ear on top of a ridge, some 80 yards away. Then full sight of a deer. Then two. As providence would have it (we Presbyterians don’t believe in luck, you know) the bigger of the two gave me a broadside shot at about 50 yards. This is a pretty far poke for me with iron sights in thick woods, but luck was with me (oh yeah, we don’t believe in that) and after a brief run the first deer of 2013 was on the ground. I settled my nerves, gave the gun a pat and thanked the Lord for a good hunt on a beautiful morning. The night before I had downloaded the book of John onto my iPod and I had intended to listen to it but the action had started so soon I had forgotten. My prayer of thanks reminded me of that, and just as I was about to get it I saw movement again on top of the ridge. Two more does walked along the ridge and each followed the same path the two had earlier. This time I watched and waited and the second deer, the bigger of the two, began walking toward my stand. I had intended to sit and wait for a buck, but when she got to within 15 yards of my stand I began to crave the feel of the 35’s recoil on my shoulder and hear the BOOM of her round. I settled the bead on her scapula and squeezed the trigger. Two deer within an hour of each other for the old Model 14 – what a great morning. Afternoon chores kept me from carving my two new notches, but finally this evening I got to do the honors. The last time I saw Uncle Leonard was at least 40 years ago, but tonight I am thankful that he bought this sturdy old woods gun for our family to enjoy.
How about you? Any nostalgic stories, or special family heirlooms that flip your switch?
Posted on January 21, 2013, in Hunting and Wild Game Recipe Blog Entries and tagged 25 remington, 30 remington, 35 remington, alabama deer hunting, deer hunting, mountain bike hunting, pump action rifle, remington model 14, remington model 141. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.