Epiphany on the Veteran’s Highway

Paul Smith
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I had an epiphany of sorts the other day, like Paul on the road to Damascus, except I was on the Veteran’s Highway heading to Carbonear.

I suspect my resolution enroute to teach physics will not have significantly far reaching effects on the planet, unlike the other Paul, Saul originally, who through his dramatic conversion delivered Christianity to the Gentiles. There were no blinding lights on the Veteran’s, just early morning fog spread like a faded grey blanket over Conception Bay.

I could barely make out the silhouette of the old Kyle in Riverhead. Meanwhile the sun attempted a breakout somewhere out over Bell Island. It might end up being too nice a day to be stuck inside lecturing. Oh well, one must put food on the table.

I like simple things, devices I mean, stuff that just functions as required. I just don’t gravitate towards complexity for its own sake. It’s why I love those old lever guns, like the Marlin and Winchester variety. They are simple designs that function flawlessly, are wicked easy to disassemble for cleaning, and can be repaired by any bloke or gal reasonable handy with a screwdriver.

They have stood the test of time and mountain man.

Browning, on the other hand, designed a lever gun with a rotating bolt. You cycle the lever and through the wizardry of gears and levers a solid steel bolt rotates, locking its lugs into the rifle’s breech, thus chambering a round. Is this unnecessary complexity?

Essentially, the Browning BLR is a bolt-action style rifle with a lever mechanism. Why? To be fair, the ingenuity and complexity of this lever action allows it to shoot high-powered rounds like the 30-06 Springfield and .300 Winchester Magnum. But I just don’t care. If you can’t field strip it with a multi-tool or Swiss Army knife I don’t want it in my gun locker no matter what round it shoots.

There are too many moving parts for my taste. Which rifle would you choose if you were embarking on a two-month canoe trip through the backwoods of Alaska?

It’s a no-brainer I think. Are more moving parts advantageous when facing an angry grizzly? What sort of rifle wins out in the zombie apocalypse test? I like simple, reliable, and easy to fix.

I ponder upon these sorts of thinks while driving alone.

I’m a sleepy driver and thinking keeps me alert. On my epiphany morning I wondered how to go about shooting my next moose.

I’ve used all sorts of rifles and calibres: .270, .308, .300-mag, 30-06 and so on. I’ve messed with lever guns, bolt actions and single shots. I shot my last moose with a black powder muzzleloader. You may remember me writing about that particular hunt. The whole experience was pretty cool and rewarding. There’s a lot more to it than just buying a smoke pole and pulling the trigger.

I had to learn to load and shoot the thing to a degree of speed and accuracy that I was satisfied with. I spent a bunch of time both on the Internet researching, and shooting at the range, before I ever set foot in the woods with my muzzleloader.

Anyway it all worked out and I shot a very nice early October bull.

What’s next? You might be thinking bow hunt.

The truth is that I’ve already had

a crack at bow hunting, several decades ago, before it was popular at all in these parts. I shot a compound bow for about five years. I actually got to be a pretty decent bow shooter, practising just about every morning during the summer months.

I’d shoot arrows before my morning coffee while the sun was at my back in our yard. At the end of it I could keep arrows in a small beef bucket cover from 50 yards. That’s my minute of beef bucket criteria, plenty good for practical hunting purposes.

I wandered along a path away from bow hunting — not sure exactly why — time clouds precise memories, but I suspect the modern bow’s complexity to be the culprit. Pulleys, peep sights, and mechanical releases are just not my cup of java.

Although I always did shoot free-hand release. I’m not being critical of modern cam and compound bow hunters, the game’s just not for me.

To my way of thinking, a lever gun is simpler and more primitive, certainly a muzzleloader.

On to the epiphany.

What is the most primitive weapon that one might use to kill a moose? What skill set might best serve if global technology comes crashing down? There might be no .300 mag rounds on the shelf or no parts for one’s space age bow.

What about the old stick and string? I had one when I was a kid, albeit a lighter draw weight.

Folks who roamed the woods and ate her bounty have been hewing long bows and arrows from tree and forest for thousands of years.

That’s what I’ll do. I’ll once again, after a too-long hiatus, anchor the arrow and let fly.

This time I’m hunting with a simple wooden long bow.

By the time I dipped the hill for the descent into Carbonear my mind was set firm.

 I’m now at the reading stage, magazines, Internet articles and so on. I’m even blessed enough to have a couple of buddies who shoot long bows, not for hunting, just for fun.

That will do.  

I’ll get together with those boys for a few shots over the summer.

 I’m aiming for autumn of 2015. I’m going to the U.S.A. in August so I’ll mosey on over to one of those gigantic Bass Pro shops where I could certainly handle some bows.

I’m going to buy one for now but you never know, some day I might whittle my own.

Now imagine that, shooting a moose with a bow carved from the woods by your own hand. Now that’s what I call hunting.

Maybe I daydream too much.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every

opportunity. He can be contacted at

flyfishtherock@hotmail.com  or follow him on twitter at @flyfishtherock.

Organizations: Swiss Army, U.S.A.

Geographic location: Saul, Conception Bay, Riverhead Bell Island Alaska Carbonear

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