The day’s many trials and tribulations had come to a head. The pre-production new Model 70’s fore-end rested on shooting sticks, and my right elbow on the guide’s left shoulder. Together, the crosshair, then positioned low on the nilgai’s shoulder—for the preferred heart shot—was solid. The bull, which was feeding from right to left while slightly angling toward us, was unaware of our presence, although we were a mere 49 yards distant.
“Wait for the broadside,” whispered ecstatic, yet restrained, guide Ray Gray, Jr. Almost as if on cue the bull turned, temporarily positioning itself perpendicular us. “Okay, when you’re ready, take him,” Gray added placidly. A forward push of the thumb disengaged the Model 70’s three-position wing safety. Suddenly, the entire scenario felt strangely familiar. In that moment of Déjà vu I found myself coaching my own shot …
...“Take your time, Aaron,” I advised. “Inhale ... exhale ... ease the trigger ... ” Boom! The Winchester bellowed. “The shot was spot-on, she won’t go far,” I thought. The mortally hit doe dashed into the hardwood stand to my left. “Neck, Neck, Neck!” Gray said anxiously. The urgency in his voice freed me from my Model 70 memory. “Coming to,” so to speak, I instantly recognized the situation at hand.
Jutting outward from the brush for clearance, along with being silhouetted by the setting sun, had conjoined to reveal our position. It truly was now or never. There was a problem, though; the bull was angling sharply toward us, eliminating the preferred side-on heart shot. Fluidly, and without hesitation, the crosshair was resettled on the base of the neck and tension applied to the trigger. At the shot, the 180-gr. Nosler E-Tip—loaded in Winchester’s Supreme ammunition—grounded the 500-pound-plus bull. Two rapid follow-up shots ensured it stayed there.
Looking back, how could my mind not have slipped, even if only momentarily? It was only two months earlier, while hunting Virginia’s whitetails, that I fielded my New Haven, Conn.-manufactured Model 70 Classic Sporter in .270 Win.
The sample Model 70, a Featherweight version in .300 WSM, used for my nilgai hunt was only marginally different from my personal rifle. Sure, there’s the new M.O.A. trigger and serrated bolt release button among other subtle changes, but the new Model 70 retains the platform’s most-desired features-controlled-round feed from a Mauser-style full-length claw extractor and a three-position wing safety. Honestly, outward appearances reveal only subtle differences between the new Model 70 and the old, and once shouldered, those perceived are even fewer. That February day in South Texas, thanks to the mesquite spine and briars, not to mention the 10-plus-mile walk, there was a lot of blood and sweat shed. But, thanks to the new Model 70, like my Classic Sporter, there were no tears.