One Shot at Success

rifleFor just a minute, put aside all your stereotypes about guns and their value and maybe even their aesthetics and think about what it is you want your gun to do and why.

When I did that I came up with a reasonable set of requirements for my firearms that have since gotten me thinking about hunting in a whole new way. What I wanted of my guns was simple. I wanted them to shoot where I was aiming. I wanted them to deliver a payload that was able to quickly and cleanly kill the game I was after. I wanted them to function flawlessly under any condition in which I chose to hunt and I wanted them to be light and easy to carry in the field. In short, I wanted a utilitarian object to fulfill the specific needs of a specific situation.

I may be the exception rather than the rule, but I don’t see my guns as status symbols or as works of art. In fact, the one really beautiful gun I owned (a Ruger No. 1) was traded away for a pair of workhorse guns.

Today, I own all kinds of hunting guns. On the shotgun side I own doubles, pumps, and autoloaders. My rifles include bolt-actions, leverguns and an autoloader. But these days when I head to the field I find myself more and more often reaching for a single-shot. And that has never meant that I’d risk not having a successful hunt. I have, at one time or another, bagged every game animal I’ve ever hunted with a single-shot.

This all started because I was too protective of that Ruger No. 1 to carry it in the woods. When I bought the Ruger I was intrigued by the idea of taking to the woods with one shot. But then the figure and finish on the stock was so nice that I found the gun more often in the safe than in the woods. So I traded it away for a Savage 110 and a New England Firearms SB2 Handi-Gun with a 12-gauge tube and a .30-30 Winchester barrel. Then I got down to the business of hunting. Still, the idea of hunting with one shot never really left me.

I kept the NEF with me on every trip as a back-up gun. Finally, after five years, I got the chance to use it when a nasty fall left my bolt-action rifle with a broken scope. I assembled the little single-shot .30-30 and bagged a nice whitetail buck with a perfect neck shot from my tree stand.

From that day on, I drifted more and more toward single-shots. The breaking point came a couple years later during a South Dakota pheasant hunt. The dog had a particularly good point, the wind was right, the planets were aligned, and my trusty Mossberg 500 did not fail me. Bang! Bang! Bang! The first day of my South Dakota pheasant hunt was over that fast. I had my first and only triple on wild pheasants…and I was disappointed. The next day, and for the rest of the week-long hunt, I carried my single-shot. No matter how many birds got up. I shot one time, at one bird–and I loved it. I never failed to get a limit and I never failed to get in a full day of hunting; real, honest, exciting hunting.

That same year I found a used NEF rifle chambered in .223 Remington on the rack at my local sports shop. I traded away an inexpensive side-by-side that was gathering dust to get that rifle. With a little bit of scope that gun has put plenty spending money in my pocket by dropping at least 25 coyotes over the years. That little .223 shoots minute-of-angle groups anytime I can find a steady rest. I couldn’t ask for more.

I finally replaced the Savage in 1995 when I acquired a Harrington & Richardson Ultra Hunter chambered in .25-06. I’m not really sure how the organizational structure works with H&R 1871 Inc. To me, the H&R and NEF guns look the same, feel the same, shoot the same, are made at the same factory and have different names. Go figure. At any rate, the first five shots I ever fired with the gun measured just over 3/4 of an inch at 150 yards. On the gun’s first day in the field it dropped a dandy antelope doe stone dead at 290 yards. My transformation was complete.

I now own three NEF or H&R receivers and, let’s see, seven barrels: .25-06, .30-30, .223, 3-1/2-inch 12-gauge, 3-inch 12-gauge, 20-gauge and a .410-bore. And I’ve killed everything from cottontails to Canada geese, from cagey coyotes to monster mule deer and never felt a twinge of guilt for abandoning my repeating guns.

Sure, there have been times when I’d thought I’d like to have a repeater, but I’ve found that knowing I’ve got only one chance to make everything right and take a perfect shot has made me a better hunter. Nothing drove that home more than this year’s duck adventure at Potholes Reservoir in eastern Washington State. I found myself at the mercy of weather conditions any summer vacationer would love: clear, blue skies, warm temperatures and no wind. As duck hunters we almost cried. But as I sat there with my trusty one-shooter and best shotgun scope, I got to thinking. Were the decoys as good as they could be? What about this camouflage? Am I hidden well enough? Is my face covered?

When I finally did see ducks in the air I had to concentrate on every note my call was producing. I sat as still as a stump in that blind and I waited until those ducks were way past committed to dropping into the decoys before I rose to shoot. Then, when I did shoot, I made sure I did everything right. I ignored the barrel and looked at the birds. I kept the gun swinging right through the shot, and, you know what, I bagged a bunch of ducks. I never got a limit, but I had a great time doing it.

And that’s what it’s really all about, isn’t it. Anything that makes us better hunters and that keeps us interested in and excited about our sport gets good marks in my book anytime. Sure, some of my hunting buddies have laughed and called me cheap. After all, there some other companies out there making single-shots–Ruger and Dakota come quickly to mind–but I’ve selected based on my needs in the field. Most of my shotgun barrels have been factory-fitted to one receiver so they are interchangeable and my rifles are customized perfectly for the conditions in which I hunt. For me, it’s more about the hunting than it is about the guns. While a few hunters may look cock-eyed at me as they uncase a Beretta or Browning, the satisfaction I get these days from toting a single-shot doesn’t have a price tag on it.

The best thing about hunting with a single-shot is that you don’t need to go and buy a new gun to try it. Just load one round in your favorite repeater, then see if the knowledge that you only have one chance to succeed doesn’t make you a better hunter.

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About the Author:

Logan is an avid hunter and has been hunting for over 25 years. He mainly hunt in Northern Minnesota and Arkansas during the summer. Visit his website for hunting Gear Reviews, guides and blog posts! Follow him on twitter: @bestrifle