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A few years ago, New York began allowing the use of centerfire rifles during firearms deer season in the Central New York county where my dad lives. I know a few folks who’ve made the switch from shotgun to rifle; but my old habits die hard, which is why when I hunt whitetails up home I still use my very first deer gun—a Remington 11-87 Premier I got for Christmas some 20 years ago.
There are a number of practical reasons I still reach for the 11-87. Its 21-inch rifled barrel facilitates easy carrying through the thick understory (I’m not much for sitting in a stand), the open sights allow for quick target acquisition on moving deer (I’ll never mount a scope on that gun), and the reliable gas-powered auto-loading action makes a follow-up shot, when necessary, a cinch. On top of all that, the gun just flat out fits me better than any I’ve ever used.
My Premier is a rather elegant gun (especially compared to my brother’s knockaround 870 Express) with its elaborate receiver engraving and gold-plated trigger, its excellent bluing, and high-gloss wood stock. But it’s no mantle piece. Every season, as opening day approaches, I look forward to grabbing it out of the closet, stuffing it full of slugs, and hitting the deer woods once more.