A Rifle for the North Woods

sauer

The Great North Woods begins roughly in Aroostook County, Maine, and stretches way, way up into Quebec, eh? It’s one of the true yowling wildernesses left in North America, and is where I went last week to hunt the depressing woodcock and the insufferable ruffed grouse. In the course of this hunt I was nearly killed by an enraged cow moose who charged the pickup in which I was riding, and encountered a truly cool rifle.

It belonged to the camp owner, and, if I got the story correct, was bought by his grandfather prior to World War II, then used by his dad, and now carried by him. It was not, as you might expect, an old lever gun. It was a pre-World War II J.P. Sauer, made in Germany before Sauer and other Teutonic gunmakers devoted all their efforts to Der Fuhrer und Vaterland.

It was built on a military Model 98 Mauser action, and is as slick as leiderkranz spread on braunbrot. (You want to see how smooth you can get a Mauser action, you should try this sumbitch.) It's cursed with that abomination on hunting rifles, the double-set trigger, and has a beautifully done half-octagon barrel with a quarter rib. The Sauer is chambered for the .30/06, and has a rifling twist that allows it to shoot only round-nosed 180-grain bullets. Sights are a front bead and a big rear peep.

The walnut stock has some very nice fiddleback figure to it, and the comb is too low for a scope, which counts for naught because this rifle was designed for iron sights. The Sauer was an expensive when it was imported in the 1930s, and is probably worth around $1,200 today. Even though it’s 80 years old, maybe more, it’s still perfectly suited for its job, which is shooting deer at close quarters. As its owner says, “I’m damned if I’m going to carry an ugly rifle,” and this is a lovely one.

Contrast that with the hunter my guide told me about, who showed up for a black bear hunt with a .338 Lapua topped by a Nightforce scope, all this for a shot from a blind at 35 yards.

“It killed the bear deader than hell, but you could have done the same thing with a .35 Marlin lever gun. But the hunter was happy, and that’s the whole point. What’s the use of hunting if it doesn’t make you happy?”

I agree. But up here, I think I‘d go with the Sauer.