It was 1974. I had ordered a .45 caliber, Pennsylvania long-rifle kit from Dixie Gun Works, with the sole purpose of shooting my first deer. It took months to build the rifle. Most evenings after work I'd head down to the garage to continue work on the kit. It was an obsession!
Now, with some kits, one would only have to assemble the lock, trigger and "furniture" into to pre-routed stock. Not this kit! It contained a huge block of curly maple that had to be formed into the stock. Yes, the channel was cut for the octagon barrel, but that was it. Nothing else was done! Huge amount of work!
Additionally, all of the German-Silver "furniture" was sand casted, meaning I had to completely finish the parts so they shined like a new dime. Then, the stock had to be hand-carved to fit each of the metal parts, such as the lock plate, trigger assembly, tang, tenons, etc. It was an enormous amount of work just to get it to the point that it was ready for the bluing and stock finishing.
Of course, I couldn't just slap some store-bought finish on the stock. I had to buy 10 packs of Red Man Chewing Tobacco, mash it in water till it made a watery, brownish goo, and rub it into the stock till the right color was achieved. Then, I had to apply 12 coats of Formby's Tung Oil before I could head out into the wilderness, and track down the great prize! With that done, and everything spit-shined, I was finally ready!
I jumped into the Bronco, the one that looked like a tin box on wheels (talk about an ugly 4-wheeler) and lit out for the deep-country. After arriving at the intended spot, I commenced to loading the long-rifle. The procedure I used was nearly identical to what our fore-fathers used in the Civil War. This is no simple task, ya know. First, ya dump 55 grains of fffG black powder down the barrel. Then you put the patched, .45 caliber ball into the top of the barrel, with the nib sticking outward, of course. Then, with the ram rod, jam it down ito the barrel till it's all the way down, touching the powder. You know you're home when the rod makes a nice, high-pitched sound when it's dropped onto the ball. Next, set the hammer at the half-cocked position and insert the cap onto the nipple. (I'm not making this up.) Now, you're ready to start walking towards the prey.
I did just that. I was walking down a lane, about six feet wide with a corn field on my right, and a stand of trees on my left. Quiet, quiet, quiet, so as not to spook the prey. And then, about 15 feet in front of me, a huge white-tail buck, complete with horns, stepped into the lane from behind the trees. He stopped. I stopped. He looked at me. I looked at him. I raised my rifle and fully cocked the hammer. Then I aimed at his chest....
Did you ever have a spiritual moment where you got all tingly, and you knew you had just witnessed something special? This deer had the most beautiful, huge brown eyes I had ever seen. There was no way I could shoot this majestic animal.
I lowered the rifle, yelled at him and watched him bolt into the corn field.... Very strange. I had no problem taking a rabbit, squirrel or duck, but not a deer. I never hunted again, except for the ground hog that was destroying our garden. I felt badly about that, but he wouldn't listen to reason.
The rifle just hung around the house for a while, and eventually I hung it in a place that helps me remember that special day. Heck, I still get tingly when I look at it. Definitely a defining moment in my life. Now, don't get me wrong. I'll still partake of some venison chili, or sausage if given half the chance.... In fact, my grandson is out hunting up north as I write this. As of earlier this evening, they hadn't had any luck, but I'm pulling for him, all the way.... Happy Hunting!