Joe Taylor is a retired U.S. Army Major General and Defence Sector Executive. He has hunted on four continents, including several safaris to Africa. He, his wife, and their four vizslas make their home in south Texas. In this campfire blog Joe relives the moment he first heard the news that Rigby were producing their eagerly anticipated Highland Stalker. After purchasing a classic .275, Joe tells us the story of his Highland Stalker’s first outing on a two-day whitetail hunt in south Texas’ Hill Country, in January this year.
The first evening before had hardly been a disappointment. In less than a couple of hours, half a dozen does and several small bucks had drifted by my stand. Just at dusk, a large buck materialised from the far woodland, less than 150m away. Something looked odd about him as I tried to determine his size and age. My initial hopes of an unusual non-typical were dashed when he turned his head revealing only a single antler. This was the last week of the Texan long general deer season, and the big buck had already dropped an antler.
He would wait until next year, but I nevertheless was compelled to place the crosshairs on him in order to simply feel the perfection of my rifle on its maiden hunt. We were not hunting in the Scottish Highlands, but equally the Hill Country of Texas is a beautiful highland area abounding in wildlife. Two years before I had concluded it would be the perfect American home for a Rigby Highland Stalker in the traditional .275 Rigby.
Nearly a year before that, I had become aware of a new Rigby project, as Lance Hendershot, an old friend and proprietor of Hendershot’s Sporting Goods in Hagerstown, Maryland had hinted that a new medium game rifle, based upon Jim Corbett’s fabled .275 might be in the works. Lance is one of the few distributers of Rigby products in the United States. A few months later, I was impatiently standing outside the Rigby tent at the Dallas Safari Club convention waiting for an opportunity to collar Marc Newton, the managing director of John Rigby and Co., to see if I could discover anything about the new rifle.
To my delight, Marc ushered my spouse and me under the awning and laughing he said, “this may be the worst kept secret in the industry,” as he handed me a prototype of Rigby’s modern interpretation of Corbett’s .275 I was smitten. From its simple, elegant lines and classic styling to the solid heft between the hands, the rifle reflected every virtue of those Rigby-produced stalking rifles which accompanied young British officers across the Edwardian Empire. More than a few also found their way to the shores of North America, inspiring a small industry in custom built rifles reflecting the simple elegance of the British deer stalker rifle.
I placed my order with Lance, and in the summer of last year received the welcomed news that the rifle would be shipped to Texas that following week. With the rifle, Lance sent boxes of his wonderful Extreme Custom Ammunition loaded with the 156 and 170 gr Oryx bullet, in correctly stamped brass. I am fortunate to have my own rifle range on our ranch on the San Gabriel, and the next morning found me sitting at the bench getting the rifle and its new Leica scope working together as they should. After a bit of adjustment, both bullets produced sub-MOA 100-yard groups, with only an inch of vertical separation between them.
The early fall was taken up with travel to Montana for grouse and then Mozambique for buffalo. All too soon Christmas was upon us, and it was not until the second week of January before the patient little Rigby rifle settled into the backseat of my pick-up for the short drive to a friend’s ranch well into the Texas Hill Country. Fortunately for me a south Texan winter is usually quite tolerable.
The second morning found my Rigby and I in a different stand, looking down a long trail through typical Hill Country scrub oaks. Again several does materialised at first light, and shortly after I was admiring a very young eight-point buck with great potential, when all of a sudden a bit of movement under the trees caught my attention.
My binoculars quickly resolved that motion into a mature buck some 120 yards away. I very slowly raised the rifle, and as the majestic creature paused at the edge of the trail, I launched a 170 gr bullet on its way. The buck took a few steps and it was time to climb down to admire the lovely 10-pointer.
The .275 Rigby is ideally matched to North American deer. Like a host of 7mms before it, the Rigby will also perform brilliantly on African plains game.
In October, this same rifle will be on its way to Spain with me to hunt Gredos ibex, but it is next year’s whitetail season that I am truly anticipating. The gray bucks of south Texas are truly a worthy game. My Rigby “Texas Hill Country” Stalker has already proved itself more than worthy.