Written by Craig Nyhus, Lone Star Outdoor News
Johnny Quiroz II’s father took him hunting when he was a young man, letting him shoot his first deer, a 6-pointer, at age 9 or 10, using the Colt Sauer 25.06 that he planned to someday give to his son.
The rifle, though, took quite the journey.
“My father’s .25-06 rifle was stolen from our home shortly after shooting my first buck,” he said. “The gun that accompanied us on all of our hunting trips was gone. At the time, I was more terrified that someone would break into our home and take our stuff.”
The pair hunted on a 100-acre lease that shared a fenceline with the famous King Ranch near Encino. Then they lost the cherished hunting lease.
“A group of doctors had come in and offered a substantial amount more money to the ranch owner to take our place,” he said. “At the time, the ranch owner was going through financial problems and reluctantly had to take the doctors’ offer. My father understood and started the search for a new hunting lease, but we didn’t hunt as much after that.”
The Colt Sauer was stolen on March 28, 1990. Over the next 20-plus years, Johnny’s dad would occasionally talk about the old gun. Johnny worked as a fishing guide in the Texas Hill Country, graduated from Southwest Texas State University and spent four summers in Alaska as a fly-fishing guide, finally returning to the Valley to work as a full-time photographer and part-time surf-fishing guide.
Last year, though, the conversations returned to the rifle.
“I was sitting at home working on my guiding and photography websites when my father called and said, ‘I need to talk to you. Can I come over?’ I told him of course he could and that he should make plans to stay for dinner. We hung up the phone and I contemplated what it was he couldn’t tell me over the phone.”
Johnny’s father came to his home with an old rifle — the Colt Sauer 25.06.
“My father began to tell me the most unbelievable story. He told me that he received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice stating that the DEA had seized 20 assorted firearms during a drug raid in Edinburg (in February, 2013), and that one of the serial numbers matched a rifle under his name from a police report submitted in 1990.”
The letter asked if Johnny’s dad would like to have his old gun back. Six months and mounds of paperwork later, the rifle was returned to its owner.
“Twenty-four years after my father’s Colt Sauer .25-06 was stolen, it was now back in his hands and he was handing it over to me,” Johnny said. “My father choked up as he told me he had always intended to pass the rifle down to me as a family heirloom and now was the moment he could do so. It was a very special moment, and the rifle that I had shot my first buck with was back in my hands.”
After hearing the story, the Lone Star Outdoor News Foundation invited Johnny on a deer hunt, with the old rifle.
A week or two before the hunt, the unthinkable happened.
“My wife and I bought a home and had just moved in,” Johnny said. “Then it got broken into. The only thing the thieves took was a brand new TV, though. They didn’t take the rifle — it was the first thing I looked for.”
During the late January hunt, and after two days of seeing young deer that didn’t result in a shot, an older buck finally appeared and the rifle was about to be used.
“I was calm until I got the go-ahead to shoot,” Johnny said. “Then my heart was pounding.”
After looking at his buck and posing for some photos, Johnny knelt and said a prayer, thankful for the hunt and showing respect for the animal he had just harvested.
“I couldn’t help but think of where this rifle has been or what it has shot at,” he said. “My Colt Sauer .25-06 has taken an incredible journey from the hands of a loving father to a greedy thief, collected by a drug trafficking compound, seized by the DEA, returned to it’s rightful owner and now passed down to an only son.”
And 24 years after being stolen, the 25.06 is serving its intended and lawful purpose.
It was used to take another deer.