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Doug Bowser 12-18-2017 03:42 PM

My lee-enfield rifle and the bear hunt
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My .303 British Rifle and the Bear Hunt
By Doug Bowser
I have a Lee Enfield No. 1 Mk III* made by Enfield Lock in 1918. I was 16 years old in 1958, when the first large group of military rifles were imported after WW2.
Countries all over the World were rearming themselves with semi-automatic and automatic rifles. Many of these countries were still armed with rifles designed and sometimes made before the turn of the Century.
Some of these Countries were never involved in a serious conflict and they had many military rifles in their arsenals that were never used. Argentina, Chile and Columbia had rifles that were brand new.
To see the early Mauser rifles in 50 foot racks was impressive. I could not afford the price tag of $39.00 for a new Argentine 98/09 with matching bayonet, so I looked at the .303 British rifles.
Besides, the .303 ammo was available and the 7.65x54mm was not.
E.W. Edwards department Store had bargain basement .303 rifles starting at $8.88. They were brought into the basement in barrels of grease.
The Brits stored their rifles in barrels of grease since the days of the Brown Bess. That is why many of the British rifles have black oil soaked stocks.
The store employees had the greasy rifles on the floor of the basement and we were allowed to clean the bores. I picked one out, paid for it and went home to have my Mother go to townon the bus to pick it up. I also bought 100 rounds of .303 ammo made by Winchester in 1946.
I was supposed to go deer hunting with my Brother-in Law, Ted, and my 1894 Winchester .30 WCF broke a firing pin. I wanted a lighter rifle than the issue .303, so I chopped off the stock.
Later I took off the clip bridge so it would look like a lee Speed sporter, installed a recoil pad, took the rear sight off and installed a Williams 5-D receiver sight (5D stood for $5), installed a front sling swivel and drilled a huge screw in the back of the trigger guard for a trigger stop.
Remember, I was only 16 and I thought it was beautiful. In 1990, I found a stock set that was not grease soaked and I replaced the old wood. The rifle is quite accurate. It shoots under 2” at 100 yards.
On my deer hunting trip with Ted, I was using Remington 215 grain soft points. We had permission to hunt in the number 4, New York area, near Big Moose.
I was on the side of a ravine and I heard a lot of movement behind me. There was a good sized black bear running toward me. I don’t think it saw me and when I fired the rifle, the bear fell instantly.
The 215 grain bullet entered the right front shoulder and angled through the body, smashing the heart. I waited a few minutes and there was no sign of life.
I already reloaded the chamber and I touched the bear’s eyeball with the barrel of the rifle. Th bear did not move.
Ted showed up and said: “What did you shoot that thing for?” He also told me I would have to drag it out of the woods by myself. We field dressed the bear and I tied a rope around it’s front legs and started dragging the beast out of the woods.
Here was snow o the ground and the bear slid easily. Sometimes it slid too easily. Going down one hill the bear started sliding and it ran me over twice as we rolled down the hill together.
I got the critter on the car and we took it home. I did not like the meat from the bear. A local butcher wanted it to make sausage. The sausage wasn’t bad,
The whole trip proved one thing: A .303 British was potent medicine against a 250 pound black bear.
I gave the .303 rifle to my Uncle Frank and when he passed on, my Aunt gave it back to me. It is still quite accurate and it reminds me of a great hunt I had many years ago.

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