I guess everybody is different. I grew up shooting 30-06's with steel butt plates and to me they don't kick much at all.
What kind of rifle were you shooting? I'm betting it was something that weighed quite a bit more than the OP's rifle. The M1917, for instance, weighed between 9 and 11lbs, depending on attachments, which is between 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 lbs heavier than the OP's gun. That extra weight makes a huge difference in felt recoil, I've found.
Ammunition makes a big difference, too. 150 grain loads loaded similar to M1 ball ammunition have a lighter recoil than modern 165 grain loads loaded to 2800 fps, which is what the OP is shooting.