While we all work toward putting the ideal gun in our hands come hunting season, sometimes it's OK to head into the field with the “wrong” gun. It's what happened last week, when I deliberately went hunting with a firearm that gave me a significant handicap over other choices in the gun vault.
In my case, I was after early season coyotes and wanted to see how the fur was coming along. Killing a truckload of 'yotes was not on the agenda—I just wanted to harvest one or two and check on fur condition.
With an accurate .204 Ruger, .223 Rem., .22-250 Rem. and a .243 Win. all begging to go hunting, I grabbed a Marlin lever action rifle in .444 Marlin and filled my ammo pouch with cast bullet handloads—hardly the ideal coyote rifle.
With the big Marlin topped with a Vortex Razor red-dot sight, I was reasonably confident of being able to take a coyote out to 100 yards, and that became my self-imposed limit. My first stand produced a mature female at half that distance and the lead I launched resulted in a skinning session that revealed an almost prime hide.
The second stand produced a coyote, too, but this one hung up at 92 yards and wouldn't come a step closer. Inside my limit, I told myself and took the shot. It was a clean miss and resulted in my first educated coyote of the year.
Stand No. 3 was a dry hole, but a noon-hour fourth stand had one inbound ‘yote within 60 seconds of starting to call. A large male, it went down to the Marlin/Vortex combination at 52 yards. Skinning showed it was in similar shape to the first coyote. So, I quit for the day and headed home to process these hides and wait one more week before coming back out with different gear and a serious rifle.
Going hunting with the wrong rifle was, in my opinion, a complete success. I got to hunt with a gun that doesn't get out enough, and it added the spice of variety to my hunt. Think about what you have in the safe that might do the same for one of your hunts. Perhaps it's a family heirloom that hasn't been hunting for a generation or some other gun you like, but that isn't the perfect firearm for any particular hunt.
It doesn't have to be perfect. As long as it's capable of taking game humanely within the limitations you set for yourself, it should be a gun you can take afield and enjoy spending the day with.
Sometimes, the right thing to do is use the wrong gun.