When I was young (how I regret that phrase), the old guys used to bore me with stories of how much better the hunting was, how much better the guns were, how much better—and simpler—cars and trucks were or even how much prettier the girls were when they were young. Now that I am among the old guys I am sometimes tempted to wax similarly. But was it really better 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years ago?
Forty years ago killing a trophy whitetail was quite an achievement. There were plenty of deer around, but management for trophy deer was in its infancy. Nowadays there are literally dozens of B&C whitetails taken each year from all over the country. A similar scenario is true for elk as well. To be sure, there continue to be challenges and work to be done in the conservation arena, but there is no doubt that in many cases hunting has improved.
When I got started in all of this stuff some four decades ago, the Winchester Model 70 that hunters knew and loved had been replaced by a much cheaper bump-and-run rifle. Rifle pundits of the day wailed and bemoaned the passing forever of “The Rifleman’s Rifle.” Used, pre-’64 Model 70s commanded $700 to $1,000, when a new Model 70 or Remington was about $240. At that time there were several of us who had memorized the weekly delivery schedule of guns to several guns stores in our area, and we made those rounds each week in order to be able to get a Smith & Wesson premium revolver in .357 Magnum or .44 Magnum. If you were 30 seconds late another guy would lay claim to one of these beautiful instruments as it came off the truck. Today any well-stocked gun store will have several Model 70 Classics (the pre-’64 action) in a choice of chamberings, as well as some good Smith & Wessons. Sure, the prices appear to be higher today, but gas was barely a buck a gallon in the early ’70s, too.
Point is, after returning from the SHOT Show a couple of weeks ago I am thoroughly impressed with the variety and quality of the guns available today. Modern manufacturing technology has brought custom quality to the masses at prices that heretofore were thought impossible. Except for the hopelessly hoplophobic places like California and New York City, laws and attitudes toward guns and hunting have started to progress toward our side. It’s a good time to be a gunner and a hunter!