I learned to hunt whitetail in my mid-40s. I finally used a birthday present, a Ruger Model 77 Mark II rifle, that my husband had given me several years earlier, to tag 2 does in northern Missouri. This was the start of my life with Ruger’s whitetail hunting rifles and becoming a whitetail hunter.
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About that present … I recall when I received the Ruger rifle, I thought, “What in the world?” I smiled and said, “Thanks. Maybe some day.” My husband had purchased it new, at a gun auction. I stored it in the big gun safe and didn’t take it out for about 2 years, thinking that it was wishful thinking on his part that I would ever hunt. I continued to shop at Christmas fairs with my daughter on opening days of deer seasons.
Then, she graduated and left home. And, I decided I wanted to learn to hunt. I wanted to participate in this tradition that filled our freezer with delicious venison (Note: I was recently in Vienna, Austria, and venison was selling for 26.50 Euros a pound at the local open air market.).
My husband – a former RAF rifle team commander in the UK – accompanied me to the range, helped me sight in a new riflescope on that Ruger rifle – Model 77 Mark II, chambered in .257 Roberts – at 50 yards. Then, I took the group out to 100 yards. It came with a synthetic stock and stainless barrel, and the trigger is so smooth.
I put a sling on it and went to a National Wild Turkey Federation-sponsored Women in the Outdoors doe hunt in northwestern Missouri, almost up by Iowa. The outfitter told me, as we sat in an elevated blind in a field, “There’s a reason that Bill Jordan, from Realtree, hunts up here. You’ll see why.” It didn’t take long. I saw why. Two fat does meandered into the field, about 150 yards away. I lined up my sights, took one shot and down she went. My guide asked, “You’ve got another tag, right? Take the other one, too.” I did. I was the hunter that year that brought home the bacon.
That was about 15 years ago, and I’ve been using that amazing, accurate gun, paired with a Leupold scope, in the Ozarks, with success. I found that something is genetically wired in me to endure, enjoy and be enthusiastic about the tradition of hunting. Actually, it’s really everything up to the second of pulling the trigger that is exciting. After that, it’s a time of relief, thankfulness and then, getting down to the nitty-gritty of field dressing and possibly, butchering a deer.
With hesitation, I agreed to shoot a new model of Ruger rifle 2 years ago for our whitetail season – the Ruger American in 7mm-08 Rem, with a Trijicon scope. Again, I went through the process of sighting it in. After all, who would ever take a rifle out to a big game hunt, or any hunt, without first sighting it in to see where the groups of shots fall?
On opening day in Missouri, in 2017, the sun rose and a big buck (9 pointer) showed up and started sniffing the tree line and scrapes along a field where I sat in an elevated blind. I had never shot at a buck before, preferring to tag does. This guy was big for Ozarks’ standards – big body that is – so that means lots of sausage there. I took 1 shot at about 85 yards, and he bolted into the nearby woods. I found him about 45 minutes later, after waiting at least half an hour, lying 30 yards away from where he’d stood when I took the shot. Fortunately, my son showed up to help me drag him out of the timbers.
The Ruger American cost less than the gun my husband bought at an auction for me. I believe either gun would be a great asset to a whitetail hunter, and especially one who wants to be mobile. We spot-and-stalk here, too, and that’s important. Overall, though, the design of both guns will fit most women quite well.
Here are some specs on the guns, and links to where you can find them.
Along with the features I described above, this rifle comes with a black Ruger recoil pad, a hinged floorplate, full-length claw extractor and what I really like – a 3-position safety. Its barrel is 22 inches. Although Ruger no longer makes the “Mark II” version, it does offer the Model 77 Series. You can, though, sometimes find this gun at auctions and online gun stores that sell used guns.
Ruger offered its new American series as, I believe, an entry way into the world of hunting. Paired with a decent scope, the rifle should pay for itself after a couple of hunting seasons and meat acquisitions. I use the standard American, but it comes in several options and a wide variety of calibers. It even offers a “compact” model, for smaller shooters. Some of its features that work well for Ozarks timber hunting include the fat bolt, which is easy to run when I’m wearing gloves and doesn’t interfere with a scope. For a beginner, the highly visible tang safety would be a definite plus. Prices run around $489, and up, depending on the model.
Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. She is a contributing editor at "SHOT Business," and her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications. She also is a travel writer, and you can follow her at https://www.ozarkian.com. View all posts by Barbara Baird