Advice on Outfitters...Self-Defense Rifle

Choosing an outfitter in South Carolina and a rifle for self-defense.

Field & Stream Online Editors

Q: I was hoping you might be able to give me advice on an outfitter in South Carolina for deer hunting. I've never been to a hunting lodge before and hear bad stories on some. This is a big decision for me, and I haven't seen any hunts that took place in South Carolina on TV.--F.T.

A: Sorry, but I don't know of any deer lodges in South Carolina, and my extensive network of deer hunting friends hasn't turned up one either. I understand your hesitancy about booking a hunt, as some outfitters are far better than others.

In the Deep South, the only lodge I can personally recommend is White Oak Plantation in Alabama. They've been in business since the 1980s and offer hunting for deer, turkeys, and quail. They have two lodges, one pretty deluxe and the other more spartan, so there's a price for everybody. Contact White Oak Plantation, Dept. FS, 5215 County Road 10, Tuskegee, AL 36083; 334-727-9258; e-mail whiteoakhunts@mindspring.com.

Q: I'm looking to make a gun purchase, but I don't hunt. This firearm would strictly be for self-defense while hiking and camping in the western United States, Canada, and Alaska. I've decided on a rifle, since handguns can't be transported through Canada. At the local gun shop they're all infatuated with the new .450 Marlin. How do think this would work? While I personally am not opposed to climbing a tree, I frequently take my family along, and their safety comes first. Can you recommend anything else other than a .450 Marlin?--E.S.

A: The .450 Marlin is a fine cartridge. It was developed to safely duplicate the ballistics of "hot" handloads in the .45/70, which has been available in Marlin lever-action rifles for many years. A Marlin lever action in .450 would work--if you can tolerate the somewhat tough recoil. A big, hard-hitting bullet doesn't do any good if the bullet only hits air!

If you're at all recoil sensitive, I'd suggest the good old .45/70 instead, in the Marlin 1895 Guide Gun with a handy 18-1/2-inch barrel. Loaded with Winchester's fine ammunition featuring the 300-grain Nosler Partition Gold, it will stop any varmint in North America at the close ranges you'd be shooting.