By Nick L. Notte, West Rutland, Vt.
At the age of 12, my son Brian, after hunting since he was 8, decided he wanted to advance from the .22 Mag. and 12-gauge he was currently using in pursuit of deer to a deer rifle like his grandpa’s. So, Brian got a job helping a family member who raised beef and went to the farm a couple of days a week to help with baling hay and feeding livestock. I took him to a local gun store where he put a $20 deposit on a Winchester .30-30. He paid another $20 every week after that until the rifle was paid in full.
Brian was the proud owner of the rifle of his dreams. Of course we had to get a scope and sling, and get out to the range to sight it in. He was so excited with deer season just around the corner that he got a friend with an ATV to take him to camp, where he scouted out the place he anticipated killing his first deer on opening day with his brand new Winchester.
Opening morning in the treestand, Brian sighted on a buck and fired. To his amazement the deer did not go down. He proceeded to fire again, wounding the deer. We tracked the deer until all signs were lost before we gave up.
Some years passed, and it wasn’t until he went off to college at Vermont Tech that he had his second chance to bag a trophy. Vermont Tech is located in a wilderness setting in an awesome part of Vermont, and the hunting is great. As long as you checked your rifle into safe keeping, the college allowed you to bring it. One afternoon he decided to try his luck in the woods near campus, and lo and behold, a beauty of a buck appeared. Lining him up in the crosshairs, Brian squeezed off a shot. The deer went down but got right back up. Brian tried to eject his empty and load another round, but in the excitement he short-stroked the lever causing the rifle to jam and a crucial part of the action to break.
That was it. Brian determined in his mind that .30-30 Winchester was jinxed, nothing like the rifle his grandfather had bragged about. I felt bad for him and made a deal to give him a .30-06 Remington Model 760 pump in trade for the .30-30, and he jumped at the chance. I had the rifle repaired and put it in my gun safe. I said to myself that someday Brian will have a son of his own, and I will give him that rifle to try his luck.
It wasn’t long before Brian had a son, Dillon. Dillon was at the house one day, just old enough to talk, and I showed him the rifle that would someday be his. For the next few years of his life, every time he came to the house he would sit in the middle of the bed in the spare room and hold that rifle in his lap. He would caress it like a puppy, and you could see in his little face his mind was racing, anticipating the day he would be big enough to take it out hunting with Dad and Papa.
Like his dad, we started Dillon early at 8 years old, but the rifle was too big for him and so he had to use smaller guns when tagging along with Dad. We soon realized that we could purchase a youth kit for that rifle with a much shorter synthetic stock. After assembling the new stock and seeing it fitted him perfect, he was off to hunt like a big-game hunter with his big-game deer rifle.
That rifle proved not to be the jinx Brian said it was, as at the age of 9, Dillon bagged his first deer with it. I will never forget the phone call from his father from the kill site. Brian was so excited for Dillon his voice was shaking.
Dillon is now 17 years old and has shot seven deer with that “jinxed” .30-30 Winchester. This past season he bagged a nice 6-pointer at a dead run. He has a trust in his deer rifle much like his passed great-grandfather. Dillon swears that when he is an old man like “me,” he will still be putting the game down with the .30-30 Winchester that his father claimed let him down twice in his early days and that was proclaimed a jinx.