One of the great things about hunting is doing so with old friends. I dare say some of us would probably quit going afield if we were not able to make the trips with familiar old hunting partners. In fact, I know some hunters who did exactly that: When their old buddies were gone, they gave it up.
There have been long discussions of this in barber shops and hunting camps, and much has been written about it (some of it is even worth looking at) by the outdoors media.
Basically, there are two schools of thought here. One deals with hunting alone and all the alleged advantages — solitude, going it on your own, being comfortable with yourself (I'm certainly not in that club), and all that. The other side touts the camaraderie of hunters, enjoying the outdoors with friends and family, and bringing new hunters young and old into the fold. Both sides have merit, and — guess what — you can do both. You don't have to stay on either side.
We are talking about hunting alone or with old friends and family here. What about hunting by yourself but with an old friend. Say what, Larry?
I have written before about old guns that belonged to family or a hunting partner which are very special to us. The trail-worn '94 Winchester handed down by Dad or Granddad seems to be a part of you. Same for the old Browning A5 shotgun or the pre-1964 Model 70. When we go afield with such a firearm, we are as close to having them back beside us as we can accomplish on this earth. It was their gun, and when we sit with it watching an old deer crossing or wade through the bird cover, we are reunited for a fleeting time.
For me, it can be much the same for the calibers of certain rifles. I have long been enthralled with the once popular .220 Swift (search Long Live the .220 Swift on Facebook), and I have always been a fan of the .22-250 Remington. These cartridges dredge up great memories for me from back when my Dad and I shot and hunted with them. Old rifle calibers, some of which have fallen out of favor with the modern shooting world, intrigue me, and I want to carry them more in the field. Don't ask me to explain this; they just do.
Near the top of this list is a sweet little rifle cartridge known as the .257 Roberts. Like many of the old calibers, the .257 Roberts has an interesting history (at least to me).
In the early 20th century, Major Ned H. Roberts was a hunter, shooter, guns writer, firearms inventor and tinker. Roberts' colleagues included no less than shooting icon Col. Townsend Whelen, among others. Roberts worked with Whelen for years on a wildcat caliber then known as the .25 Roberts. While Whelen and others collaborated on the .25 Roberts project, the bulk of the credit for developing this cartridge must go to Roberts, as the Colonel himself noted in a letter to a fellow shooter, "he doubted that any man had ever spent so much time perfecting a rifle cartridge." Ideas on exactly which casing to trim and neck down to build the cartridge on went back and forth, but Roberts settled on the 7x56 Mauser.
In 1934, Remington made the move to take the wildcat .25 Roberts, tweak the casing a little and give the world the .257 Roberts. For decades, this .25 caliber cartridge was considered a top choice by hunters for all but the largest North American big game. What made the .257 Roberts so popular (and still should) is that it has plenty of power for deer and larger animals but is very forgiving on recoil. The .257 was edged out in popularity later by the likes of the .243 Winchester and the 6mm Winchester, the 6mm being a necked-down .257 Roberts.
While it is not clear who did it, somewhere along the line, the .257 Roberts was given the nickname .257 Bob, or just "Bob." This lovely little cartridge, so rich in shooting history and lore, became a good and trusted friend to take afield with you, so you are hunting with Bob.
Recently I had the pleasure of taking a new hunter afield, Jesse Scott, from Alvon, West Virginia. A brand-new hunter, 10 years old, hunting with Bob, an old friend of almost 90 — it was pretty special. If you are interested, you can read more about Jesse's first deer and hunting with Bob as part of a "Hunting with Bob" series on the Hunting Wire website.
Do you have a special firearm or caliber you love taking afield? If you have been hunting very long, I'm betting you do. If you are new to hunting, I kind of envy you. You are making your memories now and will have old friends — those made of flesh and bone, and those made of wood and steel — to reminisce with for years.
"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.