Dave's Place: The Luck Rotation

When you're not seeing any bucks, try another gun.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Not long ago I posted several columns, including many of your letters, regarding whether I should keep or trade my new Winchester Model 70 Classic Compact in 7mm/08. For those of you who were following along and are now perhaps wondering about the final outcome, I should let you know that I decided to keep the rifle. After having the trigger lightened and shooting it several more times, it turns out I'm quite happy with it.

Last week, I took it to my friend Paulie's deer camp in New York's Adirondack Mountains. I also took my Marlin 336 in .35 Rem. At deer camp-or at least this deer camp-it's important to have at least two rifles. First, there's the practical matter of having a backup. It's 15 miles from the nearest paved road and who-knows-how-far from the nearest gun shop. If you don't bring an extra rifle and something goes wrong with the one you have, your hunt is over.

Much more important, however, is the less practical matter of luck. And at this deer camp, you need a little. Which is not to devalue the skills of the hunters-I can't speak for myself, but all the other guys here are unquestionably skilled woodsmen. But in an area that covers more than 10,000 acres and supports a relatively small number of bucks that have a penchant for roaming widely and unpredictably, skill can usually only put you in the vicinity of a buck. To put one in your sights, you typically need a little luck. And if the weather is unseasonably warm in late October, as it was this past week; if the bucks are staying on their beds most of the day and putting down virtually no sign, as they were this past week; you need a lot of luck.

And so, you bring an extra rifle, because if you're having no luck with one, you can try carrying another. There were only four of us in camp this time: Paulie, his brother Dave, his dad, and me. Yet there were no fewer than 10 guns in the rack.

And they were needed. One morning, Dave said, "I think I'll take out the .300 today. Maybe that'll change my luck." The next, Paulie said to me, "You've been ignoring your .35. That might be the ticket today." And so it went until every one of the 10 guns was used at one point or another.

That none of us saw a buck-much less killed one-while I was there isn't terribly important. After all, we weren't up there solely to kill a buck. If that were the case, we'd go somewhere else. Though we all hunted hard, we'd come mostly to shoot the bull, play some cards, hang out together, and generally enjoy a tradition that, at this camp, is over 100 years old.

Some folks might suggest that our seeing no bucks, despite carrying 10 different guns, proves that one thing has nothing to do with the other. I would disagree. Rather, I'd say it proves that we didn't bring enough guns. And while I wasn't really planning on getting another deer rifle any time soon (as I've been unable to come up with a reasonable excuse), now it looks like I'll just have to.

Oh well. Bad luck, I guess.