I ended up with three guns. I think I have a long gun for every need now. I took advice (unusual for me) and bought a .22 first. Internet people said everyone should have a .22, it would be good training, and cheap to shoot. They had me at cheap. What clinched the deal was that I discovered that the Savage 64 was really the old Canadian “Cooey” semi-automatic. It was available at Bass Pro, and wouldn’t you know it - my workplace had just given me a gift certificate for Bass Pro for a 10 years service gift.
I took the base model with iron sights and plastic stock, and got some subsonic rounds (for in the barn rat shooting) and a big box of cheap federal rounds. I soon had my first rat kill.
The gun was also handy in dispatching poultry for Sunday dinner, but I will need higher velocity rounds for clean kills, especially for Raccoons that seem very tough to put down.
Not too long after, as waterfowl season started to disappear, I got a single shot break-action 12 gauge shotgun (Harrington and Richardson). The gun is quite nice looking with a traditional wooden stock.
I have yet to shoot it at anything other than targets, as geese seem to only fly over when I am empty handed. That said, it is super handy and light. Finally I completed my collection (for now) with my favourite. A sporterized (and thus cheap) Lee Enfield S.M.L.E. Mk III*. This gun is just a lovely machine - a .303 British bolt action rifle with a 10 round magazine. This one was made in 1916, test proofed in Birmingham. It shoots well. When time allows I will be able to do some target practice and find out how accurate it is - but it is certainly “good enough” for hunting purposes. One day I would like to restore it with the full wooden stock, but for now it suits well enough as it is.
That said, I think I have all the bases covered: a .22 for small pests (up to Raccoons), the shotgun for waterfowl and possible big game hunting (with slugs), and the S.M.L.E. for big game (Deer, Moose and Bear, and bigger predators such as Coyote or Wolf). The best part: I did it all for right around $500 - about the price of a single new budget bolt action (such as the Savage .234 I was considering).