September 14th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

The Best in the West Team Knows That Hunting Is More Than Simply Putting Another Head On The Wall 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY JIM SESSIONS

Like all good hunting stories, this one features some interesting characters and a great ending. And although it is mostly about a bighorn sheep hunt, it begins and ends with a couple of Wyoming moose hunts.

A few years back, Tim Thompson was helping to find a nice bull for Mike Schmid and the Intrepid Outdoors team. Mike and Tim are friends from Big Piney and LaBarge, Wyo., and both are avid outdoorsmen. On this occasion, Mike killed a great Shiras moose with his bow. But sometime during the trip, Tim mentioned that he was building preference points for sheep, and would be looking me up when he drew.

Fast forward seven years. While viewing the list of successful applicants for Wyoming sheep, I saw Tim Thompson listed as “successful” for Area 5. I knew my phone would be ringing soon, and around the middle of August, it did. Tim was on the other end of the line asking, “You ready to go sheep hunting?”

Unfortunately, my September was slammed with a moose hunt in Alaska and bighorn sheep and mountain goat hunts in Colorado. To complicate matters, we were filming each hunt for The Best of the West show, so Tim’s once-in-alifetime bighorn hunt was put on hold until early October.
I ACTUALLY PREFER HUNTING at this time of the season. There is less pressure, and the mature rams have darker, fuller capes later in the year. I’d hoped to explore some country that I’d been on the fringe of, but not in its core, but the ridgeline trail accessing this area quickly becomes impassable with a few inches of snow and a good wind.

The weather held, so we drove to the trailhead, and in about an hour had the horses and mules loaded and began the steep ascent into uncharted country. We arrived at an excellent location for glassing a lot of country, and quickly set up camp and began peering into the rocky ridgelines, alpine basins and the timbered pockets that rams seek for protection. Out first evening was filled with several elk sightings, including some mature bulls.

The next morning, we began the same ritual that all sheep hunters know: glass, glass and glass some more. Again, we spotted elk in most drainages and ridges, but shortly after his second cup of coffee, Tim exclaimed, “I think I got rams.”

This band of bighorns consisted of two half-curls, a young three-quarter curl and two old mountain monarchs. The two old boys looked to be about the same age (“ancient”), but had completely different horn configurations. One looked very massive, with a close tight curl, and the other had great mass throughout his length, with a much more open curl. Both were simply magnificent as they grazed on the south-facing ridge.

I felt we should watch the rams and let them dictate our next move. There was just one small problem; the rams had made it into a steep timbered drainage before our intercept. I found the tracks of both big rams crossing a windblown cornice directly below our ridgeline lookout. We continued glassing into the timbered pocket below and across from us. I didn’t have much faith in our present location.

We headed back to our spike camp, stopping periodically to let our stock eat snow. We got back to camp and continued glassing. Way up high and a four-hour ride by horseback, I spotted two rams feeding on an easterly facing cirque. One of the rams was fully mature, with broomed full curls. We now had a backup plan if our first group of rams had left the country. We continued watching the weather and glassing until darkness enveloped the mountain basins.

The next morning brought high expectations as the weather held, and soon we spotted the band of five rams to the north of camp. We quickly saddled up and were picking our way to their location as the sun began to rise. Our final approach was from the north, over a barren slope which dropped directly into their primary bedding area of steep slopes and dense evergreen pockets. We crawled into position and began scanning the slope for rams. I spotted two on the edge of a timber finger protruding from the volcanic outcrops prevalent in the area. We had the three-quarter curl and the tight full curl feeding broadside at 450 yards!

Tim Thompson proudly shows off his bighorn ram.

Tim Thompson proudly shows off his bighorn ram.

TIM QUICKLY MANEUVERED into a stable prone position, and I had the video camera positioned and set to capture the moment. We continued glassing the tree line for the big open-curl ram. He was very distinct in that he had recently knocked a chunk of horn out of his left curl at the first quarter.

In short order, our ram filtered out of the trees and was feeding, unaware of our presence. The downhill angle was accounted for with a “shoot to” distance of 425 yards. Tim dialed the Huskemaw turret to 425 on his The Best of the West Signature Series rifle and prepared to break the shot.

At the report, our ram dropped to the turf and rolled 6 feet and settled against a fallen pine. The other rams were momentarily confused, but soon followed the old tight-curl ram over the spine and down into the jumbled canyon. I finished the video shots needed for a future episode, and we hiked to where our stock were tied securely on the other side of the ridge, and then slowly picked our way down the rotten volcanic spine directly above the fallen ram.

We bailed off our mules and followed an elk/sheep trail down the final distance. Tim was fully enjoying the moment, and floated around the steep hillside like he was 20-something again! The moment Tim swung the ram’s head around, I stated, “I think you shot a Booner.”

This ram was one of those rare trophies that continued to get bigger the more we looked at him. Many hunters know exactly what I’m talking about, and I hope many others will experience this in their hunting careers.

We had gone into this hunt totally unguided, explored country neither of us had ever been in, and came out with an exceptional animal – 177 4/8 Boone and Crockett points and 14 years old, for those of you who like the stats. Fortunately, Tim was using the complete Best of the West Shooting System, which made taking a difficult shot look easy. But the bottom line was this: We thoroughly enjoyed the hunt on public land, and in addition to using the proper equipment, we were successful in taking the animal because of our combined years of knowledge and hard work.

But the story doesn’t end there.

In 2015, I had the needed preference points to draw a Shiras moose tag near the area Mike had killed his bull. Since Tim’s ranch is located in the same general area, one phone call to my friend was all that was needed to plan an October hunt.

By chance, Jon Bloom, another good friend, called and informed me his daughter had drawn the same moose tag. Brennae Bloom currently serves in the United States Army
as a human resources specialist, and had only a brief window to hunt. One more phone call to Tim and his wife Jody, and Brennae was also teed up for a memorable hunt.

Skyler, Jon and Brennae Bloom pose with Brennae’s magnificent Shiras bull moose.

Skyler, Jon and Brennae Bloom pose with Brennae’s magnificent Shiras bull moose.

AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT, Brennae was up first, and Tim had a specific bull moose in mind for her.

I’d explained to Tim that Jon had been in a terrible accident resulting in extensive neck surgery, and Tim and Jody were all in, along with their son RJ and daughter Amanda. On opening morning, the Bloom family trio of Jon, Brennae and her brother Skyler were ready to go. Brennae was long range-capable with her dad’s rifle topped with a 5-20X50 Huskemaw. This scope was critical, because their established lookout point provided a great view of a willow bottom, with distances ranging from 200 to more than 1,000 yards, all from an elevated position.

About midmorning, the giant made his appearance. Brennae was ready, having already established a very stable prone position. The bull was ranged at 550 yards, and was in eminent danger. The shot broke the morning stillness, and soon, Brennae was kneeling next to a magnificent Shiras sporting a 57-inch spread. The bull was field dressed in short order and hauled to the barn, courtesy of the Thompson Ranch front-end loader.

Later that October, I hunted with Tim and his family, and harvested a very nice 40-inch bull of my own at 680 yards, although I did fire a “warning shot” before settling down and placing a bullet through his heart.

To top it off, my wife Lynn also had a moose tag in another unit, and she made a great one-shot kill on her moose at 350 yards. Our family and friends have enjoyed many meals with moose being served as the main course. And along the way, I was able to enjoy the fall season with good friends in spectacular western Wyoming.

From a moose hunt to a sheep hunt, then back for three more moose hunts, our story had finally come full circle.
TRUE HUNTERS UNDERSTAND that hunting is much more than just killing an animal. For many of us, it is our escape from the pressures of everyday life, and is an integral part of who we are. But it is far more rewarding, in my eyes at least, to make sure that we are always giving back to the sport we love. Of course, I always advocate for hunters to become more educated and proficient in their choice and use of weapons, but there is more we can do beyond ourselves.

To me, the act of helping other hunters is much more satisfying than simply (and selfishly) putting another head on the wall. Find a way to use your knowledge and resources to make another hunter’s dream come true. Become a mentor for a youth, invite a senior for a day in the field, or make yourself available to a new acquaintance. The experience will reward you with great memories that last a lifetime.

And if you take the time to mentor another hunter and bask in their success, it will become your success as well. ASJ

Author Jim Sessions (right) and Tim Thompson pose beside the moose Jim took in western Wyoming.

Author Jim Sessions (right) and Tim Thompson pose beside the moose Jim took in western Wyoming.

For more information about The Best of the West and Huskemaw Optics, visit thebestofthewest.net.

Posted in Hunting Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

September 12th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

CHAD ‘MONEY’ MENDES BALANCES A DYNAMIC CAREER INSIDE THE UFC’S OCTAGON WITH A PASSION FOR THE OUTDOORS

STORY BY BRAD FITZPATRICK • PHOTOS BY CHAD MENDES 

It’s difficult to imagine two more different environments than the UFC Octagon and the Sierra Nevada mountain range in autumn. It may be harder to imagine that anyone could feel equally at home in both places.

Everything in and surrounding the ring – the bright lights, screaming crowds, intrusive cameras and Octagon Girls – can dazzle and distract, yet none of it merits a moment of Chad “Money” Mendes’ attention when he circles an opponent. Inside the cage, a moment’s distraction is all that is required for the top fighters in the world to take you down.

Compare that frenzied environment with the giant old-growth forests of northern California, where the silence can be as overwhelming as the Octagon’s noise.

Two different worlds, worlds apart. And Mendes belongs to both.

To truly understand this perplexing puzzle, you must focus on what the ring and the woods have in common, not what makes them different. In both the Octagon and the backcountry, your senses are honed to a fine edge. That’s part of what it takes to survive in these respective environments. Fighting and hunting also offer physical challenges, and if you disagree, you’re probably not hunting like Chad Mendes, who prides himself on finding big bucks and big bulls that others can’t because he goes places others won’t.

Mendes learned to hunt by following in his father Alvin’s footsteps. Today, he hunts right beside him (left). On this trip, they were joined by Mendes’ fiancee Abby Raines.

Mendes learned to hunt by following in his father Alvin’s footsteps. Today, he hunts right beside him (left). On this trip, they were joined by Mendes’ fiancee Abby Raines.

BUT PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT thread connecting the wilderness and the Octagon, for Mendes at least, is that both sturdy strands tie directly back to his father, Alvin. For Mendes’ two great loves—wrestling and the outdoors – were shared with his father from a very young age.

“At five years old, my father made us bows from the fiberglass poles that mount on ATVs,” Mendes recalls, laughing a little at the thought. “He made arrows, and we shot targets in the backyard. Later, it was BB guns, shooting cans off hay bales.”

Mendes remembers going to school and waiting impatiently to get back home so he could shoot until darkness forced him indoors, where he would go to sleep anticipating the next day … and the next shot.

Mendes frequently fishes the Sacramento River near his home for fall Chinook and other species.

Mendes frequently fishes the Sacramento River near his home for fall Chinook and other species.

Something else entered Mendes’ life at age five, and that was wrestling. He brought that same focus and dedication to the sport that he brought to shooting and hunting, and once again, his father was right beside him.

“My father coached me in wrestling from the age of five through high school,” Mendes says. Apparently, the elder Mendes did a pretty good job, as Chad went on to become one of the best high school wrestlers to ever hail from central California. (He was raised in the small town of Hanford.) At Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he earned two PAC-10 championships and was named a two-time D-1 All-American.

While still in high school, Mendes met fellow wrestler Urijah Faber, and during his summers home from college he helped Faber conduct wrestling clinics. After finishing up at Cal Poly, Mendes traveled to Sacramento to train with Faber full-time as part of Team Alpha Male.
Throughout his college and UFC career, Mendes has been known for an intense physical training regimen that helps the 31-year-old stay in top condition. But when he isn’t training, Mendes is often in the woods, and it has been that way since he was a boy.IMG_0715

HE BEGAN BY FOLLOWING HIS FATHER through the forest, learning to move silently and to watch for game. Soon, Mendes’ woods training began to progress. He took his hunter safety course and began chasing blacktails in the Sierras with a bow and a rifle. And although he’s hunted all over the world for a variety of game, the diminutive blacktail still holds a place in his heart.

“Some people ask me why I hunt them,” Mendes says. “They’re small, but I enjoy it. I’ve always enjoyed hunting blacktails. There are big bucks out there, but they’re a challenge to find.”

Mendes faces some pretty tough opponents inside the Octogan as well as outside; he took this Florida gator (above) with a bow during a hunt with Triple M Outfitters. But intense workouts with trainer Joey Rodrigues keep him in top condition.

Mendes faces some pretty tough opponents inside the Octogan as well as outside; he took this Florida gator (above) with a bow during a hunt with Triple M Outfitters. But intense workouts with trainer Joey Rodrigues keep him in top condition.

If you imagine that Mendes’ other passion – the one that puts him in the crosshairs of some of the most dangerous men on the planet – has hardened him to the killing of game, you’re wrong. He doesn’t hunt for the kill, and he respects the game. His father taught him that, and if you haven’t figured out by now, Chad Mendes listens to what his father says. It’s served him well so far.

“He has been in my corner for about the last ten fights, and that’s been great.” But on a recent elk hunt in Utah the roles were reversed, and Chad suddenly found himself as the corner man for his father.

“This big bull came in, maybe 355 or 360 [points]. A six-by-seven,” Mendes says with a laugh. “Dad was getting ready to shoot and I was videoing. I had to calm him down, tell him to relax. It was great.”

As previously mentioned, the challenge of being in peak physical condition has served Mendes well as a professional athlete. But it’s also served him as a hunter, and that same drive to compete – primarily against himself – compels Mendes to hunt harder and to travel on foot into more remote country.

Today, instead of following at his dad’s heels, Mendes blazes trails into country where few hunters are willing to go, and that’s where Mendes finds some outstanding trophies. He’s had great success with both blacktails and big Ohio whitetails, and he counts elk among his favorite species to hunt with both a bow and a rifle. Northern California is also home to some excellent game country, and there Mendes chases turkeys and wild hogs. He’s also been to New Zealand, where he’s hunted fallow deer and red stags.

Mendes is equally comfortable taking on large game with a gun or a bow. Here he poses with an aoudad, or Barbary, sheep.

Mendes is equally comfortable taking on large game with a gun or a bow. Here he poses with an aoudad, or Barbary, sheep.

HIS UFC TRAINING DOESN’T ALLOW Much free time, but Mendes devotes a portion of each day to some hunting- or fishing-related activity.

“If I’m not hunting, I’m shooting or I’m out scouting,” he says. That same drive that has compelled him to become one of the most watched fighters is the same passion that drives him to hunt where there are no crowds, no reporters and no cameras. Well, sometimes there are no cameras; Mendes is a regular on outdoor television shows, and he’s also a member of Team Weatherby.

This gobbler was no match for Mendes’ patience and determination.

This gobbler was no match for Mendes’ patience and determination.

Mendes has been lucky – blessed, in his words – to have had the opportunity to turn his passion for wrestling into a profitable career, and for someone who has received many honors, he’s remained humble. But fighting for a living does not make for a long career. Each bout takes a physical toll, and there are always new, younger fighters coming up.

Hunting is all about family with Mendes, and he’s often accompanied by Abby and his dad, who also sparked his interest in wrestling at a young age.

Hunting is all about family with Mendes, and he’s often accompanied by Abby and his dad, who also sparked his interest in wrestling at a young age.

Although he is currently sidelined because of a rules infraction for taking a banned substance, Mendes has made it clear to his fans and the world that the substance wasn’t a steroid but rather a peptide found in, oddly enough, medication for plaque psoriasis.

Mendes will surely fight again, but for how long, even he doesn’t know.

Finz & Featherz Guide Service is Mendes’ newest project. The service provides hunters and anglers the opportunity to fish and hunt with a variety of celebrities.

Finz & Featherz Guide Service is Mendes’ newest project. The service provides hunters and anglers the opportunity to fish and hunt with a variety of celebrities.

“There’s no retirement system for fighters,” he says. For that reason it’s critical to make wise investments for the future, and Mendes is doing just that. He’s started Finz and Featherz Outfitters (finzandfeatherz.com), which offers hunters and anglers a rare opportunity to go on a hunting or fishing trip with a celebrity. Several of Mendes’ fellow MMA fighters go on these trips, including Faber, T.J. Dillashaw and Paige Van Zant, as do other professional athletes and celebrities from outside the Octagon.

For hunters and anglers, Finz and Featherz provides a once-in-a-lifetime chance to pursue big fish and big game while rubbing elbows with some of their heroes. For Mendes, it’s an opportunity to launch a second career, one that will make him that rare guy who is able to earn a livelihood from not just one, but from two great passions.

But Mendes won’t brag about it. He’ll just smile, and say that he’s blessed. ASJ

Hailing from California’s Central Valley and best known as a UFC fighter, Chad Mendes also enjoys traveling far in search of great hunting. He took this red stag in New Zealand.

Hailing from California’s Central Valley and best known as a UFC fighter, Chad Mendes also enjoys traveling far in search of great hunting. He took this red stag in New Zealand.

Posted in Hollywood and Pop Culture Tagged with: , , , , , ,

September 3rd, 2016 by Danielle Breteau

The Sun-power Technology We Have Been Waiting For

Review by Danielle Breteau

Solar chargers and gadgets that run on solar can be found all over the place, and like many I have tried almost all of them disappoint. Some never fully charge, lose their charge too quickly, fall apart, short out if they get wet or any number of things that render it useless after just a couple tries. These are all the reasons I fell in love with Sunjack.

First: The basic specs for the 14-watt version (also comes in 20-watt)

– Four solar panels that come in an easy-to-carry and pack case

– Fast-charge battery pack

– Fast charge cable

– Carabiners

– One-year warranty

Second: The dimensions

– Folded 9″ x 6.5″ x 1.75″ (23cm x 16.5cm x 4.5cm)

– Fully unfolded 9″ x 31″ x 1″ (23cm x 79cm x 2.5cm)

– Weight 1.75 lbs (0.8 kg)

The good stuff

My first impression of the Sunjack after taking it out of the package was wow! The quality of the case, stitching and construction was exceptional – good sign. Then I expanded the case and was impressed to find four full solar panels. Surprising for such a thin case, but the test was yet to come, and test it I would.

Sunjack 1

Sunjack 2

Sunjack 3

Sunjack 4

114812_239166cffd404631b768c2e577b92596-mv2_d_2448_3264_s_4_2

The Sunjack was clearly designed by those who need and use these devices. It comes with a carabiner and multiple attachment points around the case, so that you can hang, attach, suspend and clip onto almost anything and any angle. Nice touch.

On the back of the case – non solar-panel side – there is a mesh compartment which neatly stores the Sunjack portable battery (more on that in a minute) and cable as well as the solar plug-in with dual USB ports. This is actually attached to the case, so you cannot lose it. I would lose it.

Some solar chargers only offer the ability to either charge a portable battery or charge directly to a device – not both. Sunjack offers both.

Let the testing begin – Mwahahhahaa!

I can be pretty tough on things, so I expect my gear to take a beating. I put the Sunjack through some pretty impressive paces to include purposely leaving it out in the rain, dropping it and the battery pack numerous times and basically using it as it was intended – to provide power for the earth-wandering explorer/survivor. Almost to my dismay, it continued to work flawlessly.

Charging directly

Using my iPhone 6 Plus, I ran down my battery to just five percent and plugged it directly into the solar charger. It took about three hours to fully charge my phone. It also charged my Ipad in about 3.2 hours from a 10 percent starting point.

Charging the battery pack

Charging the battery pack that was included with the kit took about two full hours. Not a bad rate of charge considering the time it took to charge a phone and tablet.

Charging the iPhone from the battery pack

This is where this little device excels. Charging directly from the already charged battery pack, I was able to charge my iPhone from eight percent to fully charged in 32 minutes … twice! On a single battery pack. This means that if I left my house with a fully charged Iphone and battery pack, I could get three full iPhone-battery cycles without plugging into a wall – SOLD!

No other solar charger or solar battery pack has ever provided this kind of speed, and the battery pack is tiny – about the size of a standard iPhone.

Another great feature is the battery-pack charging port. Because the port is not one of the two USBs on the pack, you can charge the battery pack and an iPhone simultaneously.

I love this little device, and am happy someone in the solar world finally got it right. Thanks, Sunjack

This article originally appeared on SailingwithJODA

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

August 17th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

The American Military Continues To Influence Many Segments Of Society, And The Hunting Community Is No Exception

STORY AND PHOTOS BY SCOTT HAUGEN

For those who’ve attended or read about the SHOT Show for the past 15 years, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that the American military has had an increasing positive effect on the shooting sports, especially hunting. This welcome development is nothing short of phenomenal, and it becomes more evident with each passing year.

I make my living as a hunter, TV host, writer and speaker, so it’s been intriguing and inspiring to watch the influence of our country’s armed forces transition into every facet of the world I love so much. Take equipment, for example. Many hunters took their first deer with a government-issued .30-caliber rifle, one that may have been their dad’s or granddad’s. Today, the hunting rifle and optics world is dominated by military representation, and Trijicon scopes are a testimony to this.

It’s been more than 10 years since Trijicon entered the hunting world, and a television show I hosted was the first one they sponsored. I later went on to host and produce Trijicon’s The Hunt, which currently airs on Amazon Prime and in more than 40 countries. Even though Trijicon has become well known to hunters, not everyone is aware that the company had made quality riflescopes and sights for military and law enforcement use for more than 15 years.

Settling in for a long-range shot at a deer, Haugen (right) relied on a bipod, shooting bags and a specially designed tactical scope to make good on the 960yard shot. Having a spotter made the hunt even more “special forces” like, and brought a unique element to the total experience.

Guns are another example. Some old school hunters didn’t like it when ARs entered the hunting world, but as people became more educated on what ARs were, the literal translation of what an AR platform rifle is and how they worked, they quickly gained traction. First, predator, varmint and hog hunters used them, now they’re popular with many deer hunters.

Accessories that go with guns and hunting have also evolved, having been deeply rooted in America’s military history. Knives, flashlights, survival kits, boots, packs, navigation devices, even clothes, have stemmed from our military. Not long ago I was in Alaska’s Arctic with my son. For lunch one day we broke out some MREs, and although any current or former member of the military would know these as a field ration or “Meal, Ready to Eat,” it was something he’d never had. He’s 14 years old and loved it, and was intrigued when I shared stories of how this is what many military men and women survived on. MREs have come a long way, or so I’m told, but it’s just one more example of our military having an influence on hunting and the outdoors.

The very first rifle sling I had was one given to me from my grandfather, from when he served our country. It was an old leather sling with multiple holes for length adjustment. The sling was an inch wide and tough as nails, and it is still one of my favorites.

Predator hunters have greatly benefited from military influences. From ARs to dual-mounted optics, the end result has been more efficient hunts that help control predator populations.

Not only has military-designed gear had a visible impact on hunting, but on shooting form as well. For decades hunters went afield with their rifles, maybe a pack, but that was it. When it came time to take a shot, it was usually done standing, off-hand. If a tree was close, the hunter might try to lean on it to get steady. Or, if the grass wasn’t too high, the hunter might lay down in order to attain a stable shot.

Then bipods, shooting sticks and shooting bags made their way into the hunting world, thanks again to our military. Attaching a bipod to a rifle was something I’d never heard of or seen while growing up hunting in the 1960s and ’70s. Like all things “new,” they came
into the hunting world, but many hunters from previous generations wouldn’t use these shooting aids, which is unfortunate.

The author’s wife, Tiffany Haugen, connected on a one-shot kill on this pronghorn, thanks to shooting off a steady bipod from a prone position. For generations, hunters have benefited from what military personnel have shared with us, from gear to shooting form.

Last fall I was in deer camp in Wyoming. It was public ground and the sagebrush-studded hills were full of hunters. What amazed me was not the number of shots I heard during the first two days of the season, but how many people I talked to headed back to camp, transporting deer that had been shot in the leg, face, guts and everywhere bullets shouldn’t hit. None of them had used shooting aids.

One hunter in our camp, an older, retired man, missed nine shots at three different bucks. When I asked him why he doesn’t use a bipod or shooting stick, he replied, “Never have, don’t need one.” “No, obviously you do!” I insisted. I took him aside, showed him how to work my Bog Pod tripod shooting stick, and told him to take it. He killed a buck with his next shot.

Many of our armed forces pride themselves on shooting accuracy, and more and more hunters are starting to do the same. We owe it to ourselves, our fellow hunters and the animals we pursue to deliver quick, clean shots.

AR platforms, complete with specialized scopes, continue to grow in popularity among the hunting community. Here, an AR topped with Trijicon’s ACOG – a widely used scope in military and law enforcement circles – goes to work on a prairie dog town.

For people like me who make a living hunting, we can’t afford misses. Every miss costs time and money for everyone involved on the hunt, from myself to camera crews, outfitters, producers, editors and even networks. There’s pressure to hit the mark, which is why, for the past several years, all of my shots have come off a shooting stick, a bipod mounted to my gun, or shooting bags.

A couple seasons ago I took my first buck with a longrange rifle, what my dad and his friends, in their late 70s and 80s, refer to as a “sniper rifle.” Now, the gun wasn’t really a sniper rifle, but the $4,000 scope I had atop it was designed for snipers, and the sturdy bipod and shooting bags I relied on were used primarily by tactical shooters. I devoted many hours of practice to shooting that rifle from a prone position, learning about everything related to long-range shooting. I was able to connect on a nice buck at 960 yards while filming for a TV show.

Today, we see more hunters shooting from prone positions using shooting aids on television, in magazines, and on the Internet. Why? Because it’s more accurate, that’s why. Think about it. We wait all year for hunting season, then spend days, even weeks afield, and yet our success or failure often comes down to a single shot. It only makes sense to make that one shot as accurate as possible.

Many hunters who spend time in the dense deer woods, stalking with shotguns and open-sight rifles are now carrying their guns differently, thanks to the influence of the military and armed forces. Gone are the days when hunters trudged through thick brush, gun slung over their shoulder, and then quickly forcing it into a shaky shooting position when a buck pops up.

These days, guns are more frequently carried in a semi-shooting position, butt held above the shoulder, one hand on the stock, the other on the forestock. This allows a shot to be taken in a fraction of the time of the other hold, something that’s not only applicable in some deer hunting situations but when tracking dangerous game or wounded animals anywhere in the world.

Veteran Orlando Gill gets a congratulatory handshake from author Scott Haugen on his first bear. Orlando served in Afghanistan, where he lost a leg in action.

Last but not least, the discipline and hard work that our special forces are built on has entered the hunting world. Physical training and dedicated shooting practice has never been so prevalent, and our military is largely to thank.

I’ve never served in the military, but have many relatives and friends who have. My great uncle was a paratrooper who jumped on the beaches at Normandy and served on the front lines. I couldn’t get enough of his stories while growing up.

To the men and women who’ve served our country over the years, and continue to serve, I thank you. You help keep America free, and great. Your efforts and dedication
have prevailed in upholding our Constitution and Second Amendment rights, and for that, all hunters in the United States should thank you. Keep up the great work, and may God bless you and your families. ASJ

Editor’s note: Scott Haugen has been a full-time writer for 15 years. To see instructional videos on shooting, hunting and more, visit his new website, OutdoorsNow.com.

Posted in Hunting Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

July 22nd, 2016 by Sam Morstan

INTERVIEW BY AMERICAN SHOOTING JOURNAL  PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF LEGENDARY ARMS WORKS

Recently, we had a conversation with Legendary Arms Works’ sales and marketing executive Walter Hasser, who filled us in on the Reinholds, Pa.-based (717335-8555; legendaryarmsworks.com) company’s back story and its exciting future plans.
American Shooting Journal How did cofounders Mark Bansner and David Dunn team up to get LAW started?

Walter Hasser David and Mark go back a few years, as Mark worked on a few of David’s guns when he was operating Bansner’s Ultimate Rifles. After David had been operating a firearms retail store and indoor range in Pennsylvania for a couple of years, he began noticing the trend of American-manufactured firearms decreasing in quality and sending products offshore to be produced. He wanted very badly to do something about it and believed, as we all believe today, that a firearm is something greater than the sum of its parts and deserving of the attention of craftsmen.

Furthermore, a larger portion of the American shooting population should have access to a higher level of quality versus just a handful who can afford a full custom rifle. David’s first step in realizing his dream was purchasing the M704 design and rights to manufacture from Ed Brown. His second was to form a partnership with the best custom gun builder and share his vision with the country.

Part and parcel to LAW rifles is the company’s unique controlled round-feed system.

Part and parcel to LAW rifles is the company’s unique controlled round-feed system.

ASJ How much did Mark’s passion for hunting inspire him to have his own firearms company?

WH Mark is an extremely passionate hunter and the type of guy you want in your camp. His ideals and character set him apart, both afield and in the shop. He likes getting his hands dirty, solving problems, working with people, growing and affecting those around him. And he holds a deep respect for the sport and the industry as a whole. Mark understands the emotional and spiritual experience of hunting big game. As an artisan he holds a heightened sense of how that experience is amplified when undertaken with a fine instrument. I believe he takes great pride in contributing to that experience for our customers.

ASJ In terms of hunting rifles, can you describe some features of your guns and how they can be effective?Legendary Arms 3

WH Our M704 Action design is completely unique. A true controlled round-feed system that also has the luxury of single feeding without first depressing a round on the magazine follower is a great advantage in many scenarios. The fixed ejector blade is ruggedly simple and eliminates the common user error of “short stroking” during the cycle of operation, as the spent case will not eject until the bolt is fully cycled. The action is the perfect foundation for the perfect hunting rifle – not to mention the precision CNC machining quality and one-piece bolt.

ASJ What is your favorite LAW model and why?

WH “The Professional” is our flagship rifle and best seller, and it’s easy to see why once you have it in your hands. The balance is perfect and craftsmanship is unlike any other product in its price bracket. You have the luxury of a fully custom mountain rifle in a package for one-third of the price.

ASJ How has LAW evolved over the years and what plans do you have for the future?

WH A very significant development you’ll see from us this year is stepping into the realm of tactical and longrange precision rifles. To date our product line has been based around hunting rifles, but we are not just a hunting rifle company. We are a manufacturing company – a small, veteran-owned business with a large veteran workforce committed to bringing great rifles and great customer service to a bigger portion of the market than before. We have some very talented folks on our product development team, with backgrounds in law enforcement and the military, along with competitive shooting. This year we’ll be bringing a chassis system to market that I think you’ll love!

Legendary Arms Works is proud of their line of hunting rifles, and the company will soon move into the tactical and long-range fields too.

Legendary Arms Works is proud of their line of hunting rifles, and the company will soon move into the tactical and long-range fields too.

ASJ Is there anything else you want to say about the LAW brand?

WH We’re very grateful for our customers and the opportunity to manufacture and sell these products into this market and this industry that we all care so deeply for. ASJ 

Editor’s note: For more on Legendary Arms Works, like them at facebook.com/ LegendaryArmsWorks.

Posted in Industry Tagged with: , , , , , ,

July 20th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

Terry Raahauge 2nd Annual Memorial Shoot
In support of the American Cancer Society
Saturday July 30th & Sunday July 31st

Terry Raahauge lost his battle to cancer in 2013. He was a well-liked, fair, and honest man, and his family name is known by hunting and sporting clay enthusiasts all over the State of California.
We urge everyone to attend, even if you are not a shooter.
This shoot is NSCA registered, but non- registered shooters are encouraged to come and join the fun. Bring your family and friends to support the American Cancer Society in Terry’s memory.

This event is also a great tuneup for the upcoming dove season!
Saturday: (50 Target) Prelim, Sub Gauges -$40.00 ea. (fees Included)
Sunday: (100 Target) Main Event -$85.00 and Super Sporting- $40.00
(fees included)
Lunch catered by Pedi, delicious all you can eat Taco Bar (“Authentic Mexican Food”).
“Outdoor Gear” Raffle, sponsored by Kittles Outdoor Sports of Colusa.

RSVP REQUESTED by calling the club at 530-724-0552 or fill out the attached application and send to Raahauge’s P.O. Box 408 Dunnigan, CA. 95937. Please make checks out to Raahauge’s.
Donations for the raffle are welcomed. Attached is a tax deductable form you can fill out and send to us if you would like to make a donation of Goods or Cash.

Your Generous Donation is tax deductable. Thank you for supporting this much needed cause for a cure for Cancer. Proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.

MemorialShoot1 MemorialShoot2 MemorialShoot3

 

Raahauge’s Hunting and Sporting Clays

P.O. Box 408 Dunnigan, CA 95937

530-724-0552 / Fax: 530-724-0299

traahauge@yahoo.com / www.lincraahauges.com            

Posted in Events Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

April 27th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

ONE ON ONE WITH EVA SHOCKEY

Story By Larry Case • Photographs Courtesy Of Outdoor Channel

The 2016 Archery Trade Association (ATA) show was in full swing at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, and it was packed to the gills. I stood amongst a throng in a long line that did not seem to be moving.  A guy next to me was telling no one in particular how beautiful Ms. Eva  Shockey was – for the fifth time! Another Eva admirer standing in front of me was giving a running commentary of her career in the outdoor and hunting industry– he seemed to be well informed.
As I have never been good at waiting for anything, I considered bolting from the line before someone could say “Hey! Don’t you want to see Eva Shockey?”
Well, of course I wanted to see her, but like a cottontail rabbit kicked out of brush pile, I jumped out of line and sprang full speed down a crowded aisle. I guess I am a bit of a coward. I was supposed to procure an interview with Eva, but chickened out again.

Eva wanted to spend more time with her father, so she took steps to learn about his biggest passion –hunting – and immediately became a fan herself.

Eva wanted to spend more time with her father, so she took steps to learn about his biggest passion –hunting – and immediately became a fan herself.

EVA SHOCKEY HAS BECOME the face of women in the hunting movement, and that is a big deal. There have been exactly two women to grace the cover of Field & Stream magazine in the last 100 years: the first lady was Queen Elizabeth; the second Eva Shockey.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation reported that the increase in hunting participation from 2008 to 2012 among males was only 1.9 percent; among women it was 10. In those four short years, the number of female hunters jumped from 3.04 million to 3.35 million. Did Eva have anything to do with that? Many would say yes!
Being the daughter of Outdoor Channel-icon Jim Shockey and often appearing with him on his programs did not hurt her start in the industry. But even in the limelight of her father, Eva is developing and blazing her own niche in the hunting world.
These days, Eva is considered a women’s hunting advocate superstar, not just Jim’s daughter. I saw this time and again as I walked the aisles of the ATA show. Passing by a booth where she was signing autographs and taking pictures with adoring fans, many of them young girls and ladies, it seemed clear she had a special bond with them.
I didn’t think I had much hope of landing an interview with her on my trip, but I made a call to a lady who knows everybody. “Be over here at our booth at 4:30,” she said nonchalantly. “You’ve got fifteen minutes for an interview.” I showed up early, still not believing it, and within few minutes, here came Eva and her manager –pretty as you please.
They are both polite and gracious as can be. To be honest, that was not what I expected. There are celebrities in the outdoor world who act like rock stars. This is not the case here, and soon Eva and I were sitting at a table talking as if we were on the front porch having sweet tea.

Eva spent a lot of her formative years tagging along with her father while he filmed TV hunting shows, but did not start hunting herself until she was 21 years old.

Eva spent a lot of her formative years tagging along with her father while he filmed TV hunting shows, but did not start hunting herself until she was 21 years old.

AMERICAN SHOOTING JOURNAL What is your life like right now?

EVA SHOCKEY Very busy and exciting because every day I learn new things, talk to new people and try new products. I just got married in June (2015), and have a wonderful husband named Tim Brent who is also a hunter and a professional hockey player. So, between his hockey schedule and mine, it is pretty hectic!

ASJ Did you grow up hunting?

ES I grew up around hunting. My dad has been a hunter for my entire life, and we’ve had TV hunting programs for 15 years (currently Uncharted and Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures – all on Outdoor Channel), so I was always on his trips. I didn’t actually start hunting seriously until after college when I traveled for my first big-game hunt in South Africa. Since then, I have not stopped.

ASJ Did you enjoy hunting from the beginning?PHOTO 2a IMG_5328

ES I loved it. I was always curious about it, and wanted to do something to spend time with my dad. He was obviously very passionate, and I wanted to see what it was he loved so much. The first animal I hunted was a warthog [laughs], because I was not sure I would like it, so I wanted to hunt something that was kind of ugly [laughs again]. After that I was hooked and jumped into all of this rather quickly. I didn’t intend for this to become my career.

Larry Case sat down with Eva at the Archery Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., and she couldn’t help but goof off – funny girl. (LARRY CASE)

Larry Case sat down with Eva at the Archery Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., and she couldn’t help but goof off – funny girl. (LARRY CASE)

ASJ Do you enjoy archery and bowhunting?

ES Yes, I love archery! I have been shooting a bow for a while now, but in the past three years I’ve become more serious about it. People who bowhunt know that it takes more time to hunt this way than it does to hunt with a gun. I split my time 50-50 between bow and gun hunting, but I am growing more and more in love with my bow.

ASJ There are more and more young women who seek you out and follow you as an inspiration. What do they tell you and what do you share with them?

 

ES The number of girls involved in hunting has really increased from just seven years ago when I started. I often hear that they appreciate me because I am a lady who hunts, and I don’t go into the woods pretending to be a guy. I don’t start swearing and spitting as soon as the hunt starts. I don’t want to be a guy. I stay true to myself – as ladylike as I can [laughs a little], classy as I can. I’m still me just wearing camo. That’s my biggest thing! You don’t have to be masculine to hunt, and you can just be yourself and love the outdoors.

We may not know what is around the next corner for Eva, but you can be sure she will stay true to herself and make her next chapter epic.

We may not know what is around the next corner for Eva, but you can be sure she will stay true to herself and make her next chapter epic.

ASJ That really hits home with the ladies, I bet.

ES I think so. There are different kinds of girls who hunt, but for me, this is just who I am. I don’t think anyone should have to apologize for being a woman who loves being in the woods while wearing camo and doing the same things that any guy out there does.

EVA DOESN’T HAVE to apologize, indeed! She is the face and the voice of the greatest force to reach the outdoor and hunting arena in the past century – women hunters.
The industry is lucky to have her. ASJ

Eva Shockey is the modern image of women who hunt. Having grown up immersed in the hunting industry and around her Outdoor Channel, TV-celebrity and wildlife-icon father, Jim Shockey, has not kept Eva from blazing her own path.

Eva Shockey is the modern image of women who hunt. Having grown up immersed in the hunting industry and around her Outdoor Channel, TV-celebrity and wildlife-icon father, Jim Shockey, has not kept Eva from blazing her own path.

 

Posted in Hunting Tagged with: , , , , ,

March 28th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

A Sad Day For A Poor Little Deer And The Jerk Who Shot Him.  

Story and photographs by Tim E. Hovey

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement division has a limited number of wardens available to cover the entire State. There are approximately 400 wardens responsible for protecting our natural resources from poachers. Considering that there are over three million sportsmen in California, wardens are definitely outnumbered in maintaining order in the outside world.

Poachers are a huge detriment to the resournces that are carefully tracked and governed. With limited enforcement resources, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife rely on fellow sportsmen to report any illegal activity

Poachers are a huge detriment to the resournces that are carefully tracked and governed. With limited enforcement resources, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife rely on fellow sportsmen to report any illegal activity

To assist in their efforts, enforcement sometimes rely on the sportsmen themselves to report fish and wildlife violations through the CalTip program. Hunters and fishermen who witness crimes against the resource can call the CalTip hotline and report the violation anonymously.
Having enjoyed the outdoors my entire life, I take great offense to those who break the rules. Being a biologist, I understand the reasoning behind seasons, size and take limits of our consumptive resource. These guidelines are established through sound science and are applied to our hunting and fishing resources to provide a sustainable yield of that resource. Poachers don’t follow the rules, and they don’t care about resources.

A few years back I decided to pick up a deer tag down in San Diego County, very near my office at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. My plan was to wake early, hunt for an hour or two before work and then head straight into the office. I mentioned my plan to another biologist Jason Price and he asked if he could tag along (no pun intended).
Early the next morning I met Jason at the parking lot near the hunting area. We hiked in about a mile and started glassing just as the sun came up. We were late in the season and it didn’t seem like much was moving. After an hour of not seeing any deer, we were discussing our next move when we heard a single shot from the larger hunting area across the road. We had an hour left to hunt and we decided to head over to the larger parcel and finish out our morning.
We parked off the main road, several car lengths in front another vehicle. We grabbed our gear and walked into the hunting area. As we crossed a walk-in gate, I spotted another hunter walking out of the area towards the other vehicle. Jason and I quietly hiked in and started glassing. The area was a huge open field littered with several groups of oak trees. I had hunted this area the year before, and the small oak islands often held deer.

Tim Hovey (right) is an environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and avid hunter who understands and respects the regulations on our natural resources.

Tim Hovey (right) is an environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and avid hunter who understands and respects the regulations on our natural resources.

We had been glassing for a short time when I spotted movement under an oak tree about 200 yards out. The small buck stumbled out of the brush, dragging his back legs. He would drag himself a few feet and then fall over. I could see a back wound that had clearly damaged the spine. I also noticed that the young buck was a spike, an illegal age class to harvest during deer season.
We made our way over to the young buck. He made several feeble attempts to escape, but the gaping back wound had clearly severed the spine. He pulled himself up and then collapsed. To end his suffering, Jason walked over and dispatched the deer.
From what we deduced, the hunter we had seen leaving the area was probably responsible for shooting the illegal buck. Since we had finished the job, we knew that our hunt was over. We headed back to the truck and called the local warden to report the incident.
Walking back our vehicle, we noticed that the other vehicle was still there, and the hunter was poking around the bed of his truck. We knew he was waiting for us to leave, so he could go look for his illegal buck. I called the state dispatch and was patched through to Warden Sean Pirttle, the enforcement officer for the area. He was based out of our office and we had worked together on a few other smaller projects. Pirttle came on the line and I told him we were still on scene along with the other vehicle. While I was on the phone I made sure I was out of sight of the other hunter. Pirttle mentioned that he was about five minutes out and would be there shortly.
While we waited, Jason and I acted like we were packing up to leave. Since the hunter had remained there the entire time, I felt he must have known that the buck he shot was illegal or he would have dragged it out already.

This little spike was not only shot illegally, the poacher had made a bad shot, crippling it by severing its spine. The poacher left this little deer wounded but alive, and it was found walking around dragging its hind quarters behind him. Tim humanely dispatched this suffering animal.

This little spike was not only shot illegally, the poacher had made a bad shot, crippling it by severing its spine. The poacher left this little deer wounded but alive, and it was found walking around dragging its hind quarters behind him. Tim humanely dispatched this suffering animal.

A short time later, a green warden truck pulled up between our two vehicles and Pirttle got out. This I expected. What I didn’t expect was the passenger side door opening up and two federal wardens getting out. Pirttle had been giving them a tour of the state wildlife areas when dispatch had contacted him about the illegally shot deer. I remember thinking that today was not a good day to be a poacher.
The two wardens walked to the other truck and Pirttle approached our vehicle. He smiled and winked as he got close. We reached into our wallets and handed him our licenses. Checking us as well made it appear that Pirttle had just happened upon the situation.
He asked us what had happened and what we saw. We told him the story. After a brief discussion, he mentioned that he may want us to accompany them out to the area. After a few minutes, the wardens and the hunter started walking across the road to the hunting area. Pirttle looked to me and motioned us over. I still had my rifle shouldered and for a second I thought about bringing it with me, but I left it in the truck instead. The six of us hiked a short distance lead by the other hunter. He stopped at one of the oak groups and pointed towards another set of trees two hundreds out. I could hear him explain that he took a shot at a buck over by the distant trees. The area he was suggesting was over 400 yards from where we had found the crippled buck, and in the opposite direction.
Pirttle glanced my way as the hunter started talking with the wardens. I subtly shook my head indicating that the suspect was lying. I also nodded my head back towards where the deer was really located. Pirttle nodded and reengaged with the hunter.

In California, hunters can anonymously report crimes against resources using the CalTip hotline.

In California, hunters can anonymously report crimes against resources using the CalTip hotline.

Within minutes the group reversed course and was headed back towards the true location. We were approaching the oak grove where we saw the deer when Pirttle grabbed my arm. I

looked over and he was pointing to a legal buck walking 90 yards from where we stood. The buck was a nice 3X3 and it had no idea we were there. Pirttle leaned in, “you should have brought your rifle,” he whispered.
We finally reached the base of the grove, and the hunter admitted that he may have taken a shot at a buck in this area. I let Sean know that he was telling the truth. Up on the hill, we located blood and a pretty noticeable drag mark leading to where the dead deer lay.
The hunter finally admitted that he had shot at a buck in this area and couldn’t find it. He also admitted that he had no idea if it was a legal buck or not.
Pirttle escorted him back to his truck, issued him a citation and sent him on his way. We helped Pirttle load up the small buck as evidence. He thanked us, gave us a ride to our truck and drove off.
Before Jason and I headed back, we made plans to hunt the area the next morning. I got behind the wheel to head to work and thought about the big buck we had seen. I closed my eyes and realized I should have taken my rifle. ASJ

Posted in Hunting Tagged with: , , ,

March 1st, 2016 by Danielle Breteau

Old Gobbler Gun Meet High-tech ammo


Story and photographs by Walt Hampton

It’s that time of year again, when grown men (and, yes, women!) begin a strange and wonderful ritual of late arrivals to work and practicing bird calls. I have to confess, I am a spring turkey addict; I simply love to hunt them. From my first experience in 1964 to this day, hunting spring gobblers is my favorite pastime.

Walt Hampton

Sometimes the next-must-have turkey shotgun is not the best option. Trying different ammunition and properly patterning your gun can turn an old classic into a finely tuned tool.

THERE HAVE BEEN SOME WONDERFUL advances in the shotgun and shotgun-ammo world for the turkey hunter, thanks to the sport’s great popularity. A shotgun for turkey hunting differs from the standard field scattergun in that we’re looking for a gun that delivers a consistent, small, concentrated pattern of shot at a nominal 40-yard range. The premise may seem simple, but the engineering that has to take place to build such a gun is complicated, and is made further so by the construction of the ammunition. In the old days, before the overshot polymer wad cup, the shotgun shell contained powder, a couple of cushion wads and the shot – end of story. Now we have found that the genius invention of interchangeable choke tubes (versus the fixed-choke barrel) may spin or strip the wad, causing wide dispersion of the shot column. This may be perfect for quail on the wing, but not what we want for wild turkey.

Turkey Hunting - Walt Hampton

The penetration of your load is just as important as the pattern, and should be tested at your maximum shooting range.

SINCE I HUNT with traditional single- or double-barrel guns, one of the best innovations, in my opinion, has been the invention of the new Flitecontrol wad, (which defies traditional wisdom and breaks at the rear first) and Heavyweight shot from Federal, which have given some of my old shotguns new life. If you have a traditional 12- or 20-gauge single-shot shotgun with a fixed choke, or any shotgun where the choke does not strip the wad, you should give this ammo a look. Hornady followed Federal with their version of this new wad technology, and also now makes loads that are, in some guns, a turkey’s worst nightmare. A turkey gun is only as good as the pattern it will consistently produce, and our ammunition manufacturers have stepped up to the plate with this new thinking.

There have been some wonderful advances in the shotgun and shotgun-ammo world for the turkey hunter

FINDING THE GUN/AMMO TURKEY combination is complicated because it’s nearly impossible to get a smooth-barrel gun to pattern multi-projectile ammunition consistently. It’s not like a rifle where we can reasonably expect some consistency in groups; indeed, I have yet to see any shotgun/shotgun shell combination that would 100 percent of the time shoot the exact same number of pellets into a 3-inch circle at 40 yards. We have to set a number that we will deem acceptable for the killing shot at a standardized distance (40 yards) and work towards it, trying different choke constrictions, pellet sizes and power combinations. In a nutshell, we are looking for repeatable center density and killing power in the form of penetration.

Turkey Hunting

A turkey shotgun has to deliver a consistent, small and concentrated pattern of shot.

Proper sportsmanship requires that you make a genuine effort to pattern your gun.

MY WORK WITH FACTORY AMMUNITION indicates that if your gun, regardless of gauge, will put at least 10 pellets – and the more, the better – into a 3-inch circle at 40 yards every time, and those pellets at 40 yards will penetrate a plastic 20-ounce soft-drink bottle, you have a 40-yard turkey gun. Here is where things get sticky. There are more No. 6 shot in an ounce than larger shot sizes, so the pattern of No. 6 should provide a higher density on the paper, but that is not always the case. I’ve seen some guns shoot No. 4 or No. 5 shot (I really like No. 5, by the way) with much better pattern density than No. 6. Also, the relatively new mixed-alloy shot like Hevi-Shot, Bismuth or Heavyweight in like sizes will outpenetrate lead. The question is, if it won’t pattern well in your gun, should you use it?

Let’s assume you have a turkey gun. Sight your gun in at about 20 feet with a low-brass shell to get a sense of where you will hit with a repeatable sight picture. If you have adjustable sights – all turkey guns should have them – you can sight in your gun here, and know that you are getting the same sight picture with each shot. You should then shoot the shot sizes you wish to test at the 25- and 40-yard range on standard pattern targets with a 3-inch circle aiming point. This will tell you, or should, what your gun prefers. You should shoot at least five shots on different targets with each shot size, and 10 is better to get a real picture of what your gun is doing. You want tight, even patterns with no holes in them. The guy who fires one round at a turkey-silhouette target and pronounces his gun patterned has no business being allowed to buy camouflage. Pattern your damn gun before you shoot at a turkey.

PHOTO 3

Once you have settled on a shot size, you can try the short or long magnum shell loadings in lead or nontoxic shot if your gun is chambered for them. I’ve seen some guns pattern great with a standard load of one shot size, but with magnum loads another shot size will pattern better. In almost every case I’ve seen the most consistent patterns with nonmagnum loads, and some of the new wad technology ammunition will pattern better from nonfull-choke guns – this was certainly true for my Savage 24V in 20 gauge, with its 24-inch modified fixed-choke barrel.

Turkey hunting - Walt Hampton

Federal reinvented the turkey shotshell with their Flitecontrol wad, and Hornady followed suit.

Fire a shot with each shot size and pellet type (copper plated, pure lead, alloy combination, etc.) at a plastic 20-ounce soft-drink bottle at 40 yards. You will see that some shot sizes and pellet types will penetrate the front of the bottle and not go all the way through, and some (like Hevi-Shot, Bismuth or Heavyweight) will go all the way through the bottle and keep on trucking. Remember, the pattern is worthless if the shot bounces off the turkey. You should test the penetration of your chosen load at your maximum shooting range.

What is important is the consistent delivery of no less than 10 pellets into the 3-inch circle at 40 yards. If pure lead will do it in your gun, then that is what you should shoot. If only lead-free shells will work, then there is your answer.

We want that gobbler dead before he hits the ground. Before you plop down your hard-earned dough for a new turkey cannon, give that old clunker in the closet a try with some of the new ammo technology; it might just surprise you. ASJ

A turkey gun can be any gauge, style or action type, as long as you understand its limitations.

Posted in Hunting Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

January 8th, 2016 by Danielle Breteau

The Metro Gun – For The Quiet Shooter

This Ain’t Your Father’s Double Barrel

Story and photographs by Larry Case

Few would argue that John Moses Browning was not an inventor of firearms par excellence. Just trying to list Mr. Browning’s accomplishmentsw in the gun world can leave the garden-variety gun writer, like me, feeling a bit queasy. You just know that you are going to forget something. From .50-caliber machine guns to the legendary 1911 pistol, Browning’s list is long and varied. You may suspect that I favor some of his shotgun wizardry, and you would be right. The 1897 Winchester pump shotgun is one of my favorites, and it paved the way for the iconic Winchester Model 12.

Even though this gun is very long, the barrel hides behind the bead, so from the shooter’s point of view, it’s an easy transition.

I believe that Browning had the traits of all great inventors. First, they are brilliant in that they can conceive an idea, then picture it and finally have the tenacity to stay with the concept until the job is done. Whether it’s Eli Whitney working on the cotton gin – was also involved in mass producing firearms for the government, by the way – or Thomas Edison, who fooled around with that lightbulb thing until he got it right, great ideas often come from the most unexpected places.

Let’s talk about L.P. Brezny. Brezny is one of those guys who is hard to put a handle on. He hails from the windswept plains of South Dakota and is a former policeman – think old cowboy and sheriff with some trapper and mountain man thrown in. But what Brezny is first and foremost is a shooter. Everything from shotgun to long-range-rifle shooting is in his bailiwick, so much so that his books Modern Shotgunning and The Gun Digest Book of Long Range Shooting are widely read. He has helped more than one shotgun ammunition manufacturer develop shot loads over the years, and has created his own shotgun-choke system aptly named the Dead Ringer. Most recently, Brezny has invented the Metro Gun system. “Metro Gun?” you say! “What is that?” I am so glad you asked.

PHOTO 3Several years ago, like all great inventors ahead of their time, Brezny saw the need for a shotgun that would go easy on the ears. Urban sprawl causes tighter constrictions on where shotgunners can shoot. Often, there might be a location where one can shoot, but it would really help to keep the noise down – keeping peace with the neighbors, and all of that. Also, reducing the decibel level can increase one’s success rate when hunting certain animals and birds, particularly crows. Remember the old adage that necessity is the mother of all invention? Well, Brezny needed to shoot more crows. In order to do that he needed to have a shotgun that made very little noise, so he created the Metro Gun.

The Metro Gun – essentially, an extra barrel attached to a shotgun – is a clever combination of silencer, suppressor, choke and recoil-management system.

Brezny does a lot of shooting and hunting, which includes animal-control jobs. The common crow can be a real pest in agricultural areas; ditto for feral pigeons. Shotgunning for these birds is often done in close proximity to barns, buildings, humans and livestock. One can easily see how a low-decibel shotgun would come in handy for these situations.

The system is very easy to install. Just remove your screw-in choke and replace it with the screw-in Metro barrel.

After a lot of testing, blood, sweat, tears and a bunch of ammunition sent down range, Brezny delivered. Essentially, the Metro Gun is a 32-inch barrel extension that simply screws onto the end of your existing shotgun barrel. Just remove your screw-in choke and insert the Metro barrel. Voilà! You are ready to shoot quietly. The Metro barrel is ported along its entire length, which allows gas to bleed off a little at a time. The Metro is so long that most of the gases are gone by the time they get to the muzzle. Very little gas equals very little noise!

With an average of 72 decibels using subsonic shotgun ammunition, Larry Nibert doesn’t even need to put ear protection on little Gwen Nibert.

How little noise? Most tests show that with subsonic shotgun ammo, the report will create only 72 decibels of sound and just 82 decibels with supersonic. Some compare it to closing a car door. Winchester, Remington and Federal all make shotgun ammunition in the subsonic line.

Mr. Brezny noticed other benefits too. Not only was there much less noise, there was much less recoil – it will make your shotgun a soft shooter – and delivered a better pattern. Essentially, the Metro acts as one long choke tube. Brezny routinely gets reports from Metro customers on how effective his barrel is for game. Ducks don’t flare after the first shot, and with no blast to drive them away, crows continue to come to the calling,

Would some consider the 32-inch Metro Gun a bit long and wieldy? Probably, but Brezny insists that while shooting, the barrel “disappears behind the bead.” Also, at only 1.1 pounds (the 25-inch Raven model weighs less), not much weight is added.

If you have a situation where you want to shoot a shotgun but would like a lot less noise, you need to check out the Metro Gun.

Eli Whitney, John Moses Browning, Thomas Edison and L. P. Brezny all had the vision and made inventions happen, but only one of them made the quietest shotgun you will ever see. ASJ

Editor’s note: For more on the Metro Gun, visit metrogun.com.

Porting along the entire length (main image) of the barrel allows gases to escape gradually from the Metro Gun. Less gas equals less noise. Among the benefits of this system, the decibel level is so low that crows (center inset) are not startled by shots. While the Metro Gun seems long with its 32-inch barrel extension, the shooter doesn’t realize the difference when the bead is lined up with the barrel. The extension weighs only 1.1 pounds, and even lighter on a shorter model.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Long Guns Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

January 7th, 2016 by Danielle Breteau

Hogs, Dogs and Heroes

Special Forces Wounded Warriors On The Hunt

Story by Walt Hampton • Photographs by Reaper Outdoors, SOWW and Walt Hampton

LOGO United States ARmy Special Operations commandHaving been raised as a hunter, I am guilty of forgetting how important that simple pleasure is to my life. What defines my personality is the ability to take up a weapon and go to the woods to enjoy the sport with never a thought of what it would mean to lose that privilege, or what it would take to regain that part of me if, God forbid, I was so challenged.

Hunting has always been an integral part of my life; it is my connection to God, the land and to those who over the years have meant the most to me. LOGO Special Operations Command USMCIt is a concept that many men far more articulate than I have tried to define over the years. I can only offer my belief that it is the hunt itself and not the kill that adds character to our lives, but the kill necessarily punctuates the act with the finality that completes the experience. When this activity is something you do well, imagine the struggle it would take to regain your soul if it was lost.

There are folks out there who have never been exposed to hunting, never LOGO Naval Special Warefare Commandconsidered taking it up or participated. What I have enjoyed over the years is watching when an introduction to the sport is done correctly and in the company of people with similar backgrounds and values – we gain another good soul to our ranks. Now, when you take men who already have focus and intelligence, such as our special operations personnel, and put them into LOGO Joint Special Operations Commandthis scenario, you see a transformation that is smooth and seamless from warrior to hunter; after all, these are just two different words for the same thing.

LOGO Air Force Special Operations Command

 

 

The inspiration

PHOTO 9Bobby Dove was a Green Beret medic who lost his right arm and leg in Afghanistan in 2012; his road to recovery revolved around adapting to his situation so he could get back into the woods. Hunting was that one thing that would define being normal again. Three months after his medevac he was on Buck Mountain in Virginia with us, and I watched him focus on the task at hand with repeated failures as he worked to regain what he thought he had lost. When he was eventually successful in completing his hunt by fair chase and on his own, you could see the transformation. He is a part of my family so I was there to see it, and it was the pinnacle of my hunting career.

Not long after that hunt, Dove was selected to participate in an event put together by an organization called Special Operations Wounded Warriors (SOWW) for their flagship event called Takin’ Bacon 2014. This is where wounded special operations personnel are teamed up with some of the finest dog men in the South just to hunt feral hogs.

When Dove and I initially arrived at the event, I was happily surprised to see Chris, an Army Special Forces wounded veteran who I had met in Dove’s hospital room when he first returned from overseas. Chris, a double amputee, was attending the event as one of the hunters. Chris had never hunted before this event, but ended up taking the most hogs – four all together – as well as the largest: 285 pounds. If you are one of those folks who likes to keep score, here is the breakdown of that weekend: eight special operations Purple Heart recipients took 24 hogs in three days. Oh, did I forget to mention that there were no guns allowed on this hunt – it was conducted solely with knives.

The lowland swamp country of North Carolina was the perfect setting for Special Operation Wounded Warriors’ (SOWW) flagship hunt, called Takin’ Bacon 2015.

This was not meant as a stunt. The knife was one of the first human weapons, and is often the weapon of last resort. It is a symbol of the level of commitment that each special ops person makes to ensure the job gets done – simply put, to never quit. A specialized knife was designed for this event by Mil-Tac Knives and Tools, and each of the hunters were presented with one of their own. It is a serious tool for men who understand the importance and value.

image1If you look at many special ops logos – Green Berets, Rangers, Navy SEALs, even the center of the Purple Heart – you will find the bladed weapon.

 

The Hunt

The hunt was purposely made to be difficult. It was imperative that these intensely committed individuals were challenged. If you were to take this group to a canned-hunt area and sit them in a box blind over a bait pile so they could pull a trigger on a released pig, they would laugh in your face. To be worthy, a thing must be earned.

I have attended several charity events over the years. The most remarkable impression I have from this experience was SOWW’s approach with these hunters; they were not going to be able to blend into the surroundings. Each was given a blaze-orange cap and told the only requirement of the weekend was that they wear them, so the focus of all other participants and visitors would be on them. Once the hunt began, they would be turned over to the dog-handler guides. The rest was easy; they were here to enjoy themselves. I also found that the warm family atmosphere represented by the presence of some very respectful kids made it feel as if I was attending a family reunion more than a charity function.

Each SOWW member had just one requirement: wear a bright orange cap for easy identification.

Over the course of three days 24 hogs fell to the blades of these operators.

 

The Dogs

PHOTO 8aIf you are going to do something, you should do it right. It was no coincidence that SOWW masterfully orchestrated this event by pairing the hunters with dedicated dog men who know what they are doing. The low-country swamp is no place for amateurs, be they man or dog, and to watch the performance of both at the top of their game was a rare privilege for me. These dogs are not pets; they are just as dedicated and professional as the operators who followed them into the impenetrable brush and waist-deep muck. The demonstration of their singularity of purpose was, in a word, magnificent. Doing what their kind has done for man for thousands of years, these animals made the connection of swamp, man and dog to represent the very essence of hunting. For a moment this changed the focus of a wounded man from what he thought he couldn’t do to what he can.

Each SOWW member was paired up with a master dog handler and swamp hunter guide for the event.

The swamp does not care how many legs you have or who you are; you must earn your place here and when you have done this, in the company of men and dogs that must prove themselves every single time they face these obstacles, you become accepted into their circle, and the accomplishment makes an indelible mark on your soul.

 

The Transformation

PHOTO 13For me the purpose of the entire event was captured in this example: One of the hunters, a veteran of Mogadishu – yes, that Mogadishu – who was reluctant to participate in the event at all and initially held back, eventually hit the swamp behind the dogs in the dark of night. He emerged from that experience wet to the waist, briar-cut and bruised, his hands stained with the blood of his quarry, and started immediately texting one of his wounded teammates to tell him how he should come to the swamp with him for next year’s event.

No one left the event without a smile on their face and plans to return next year.

Wounded special operations hunters come from all different branches of the military, but out here, they are all brothers and dedicated hunters.

Each step in the process of a wounded soldier’s recovery has its place and meaning. No one thinks that a single hunt is a cure-all, but there are wounded operators out there who sustain both the physical and mental effects of war, and who we must reach. We have to let them know what could be the most important message of their lives – you are not alone.

Having had this opportunity to meet and come to know these exceptional individuals has made an impression on me that is hard to articulate. I can only say that my pride in my country and love for our way of life has been reinforced. For those of you looking for what being an American truly means, I know some men who can show you. You can bet that I will be back amongst them next year.

Each operator invited to join the hunt received a knife designed and manufactured by Mil-Tac Knives and Tools.

With the camaraderie of other wounded operators on that hunt, Dove was so impressed that he became a SOWW board member. Please help support this organization, their events and the fine work they do. ASJ

 

Author’s notes:

* Bobby Dove and his Green Beret teammate Cliff Beard operate Hooligan Charters out of Destin, Fla., and provide inshore fishing adventures.

* Clint McDaniel, one of the dog handlers who volunteered his time and effort to the SOWW charity hunt, is a top-shelf taxidermist with Candler’s Taxidermy Studio in Pelzer, S.C.

* Mil-Tac Knife and Tool created the knives that were presented to each of the hunters. Visit them at mil-tac.com.

 

Editor’s note: At the request of the author and SOWW, the names and exact location of this event has not been shared. 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Hunting Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

November 1st, 2015 by Danielle Breteau

TOP 10 Blades Of 2015

TOP 10 Blades 2015

BLADE CATEGORIES

 

Hunting / SurvivalCold Steel

 Warcraft Tanto

Cold Steel Warcraft Tanto

Why we love this blade ♥ Wield this thing once and you may never let go. The weight and balance alone immediately lets the user know they are handling a profound tool. A true blade of blades.
Style Tanto
Overall Length 12 3/4 inches
Blade length 7.5 inches
Blade material Steel U.S. CPM 3-V High Carbon
Blade thickness 5 mm
Blade width 1.5 inches
Handle material G10 Glass epoxy
Overall weight 13 ounces
Features Diamond like coating – Highly rust and scratch resistant
Comes with Secure-Ex sheath. Extremely well balanced as a survival blade
All business
MSRP $329.99

Hatchet / Axespyderco-logoo

H01 SzaboHawk Tactical Tomahawk


Spyderco Axe
Why we love this blade

♥ It’s not just a tool, it’s a close-combat weapon, and offers a curved handle that places the center of balance midway along its length. That makes this axe faster!
Style Tomahawk
Overall Length 11.88 inches
Blade Length 4.89 inches
Blade material D2 Tool Steel, TiCN Coated
Blade thickness 0.30 inches
Handle material G10
Overall weight 24.7 ounces
MSRP $349.95

Editor’s PickTops-color-logo

Baja 4.5

 

TOPS Baja 4.5
Why we love this blade

♥ It comes with a fire-starter flint because yes, this is for those types. A rugged blade with a handle meant for gripping in the wettest and messiest of outdoor survival situations. Makes us want to go outside bearing it in our teeth and growl a lot.
Style Spear point
Overall Length 9.25 inches
Blade length 4.88 inches
Blade material 1095 RC 56-58
Blade thickness 0.160 inches
Blade width 1.25 inches
Handle material Green canvas micarta
Overall weight 6.2 ounces
MSRP: $160

Folding / PocketOntario-Knife-Company-Logo

Joe Pardue Folding Knife

ONTARIO KNIVES Ontario knife utilitac 1-a
Why we love this blade ♥ Designed by Joe Pardue. Clean, simple, ease of use. Not over the top. Only five moving parts on this Tactical-assisted opening mechanism
Style Drop point
Overall length 8 inches
Blade length 3.2 inches
Blade material AUS-8 steel
Blade thickness .12 inches
Blade width 1 inch
Handle material Zytel
Overall weight 4.5 ounces
MSRP: $76.25

 

FixedHOGUE

EX-F02 point blade 4.5

Hogue
Why we love this blade ♥ It’s all about the grip. The overmolded rubber give the perfect grip and spongy effect while still maintaining a hard solid frame. Just so we are clear, it’s the grip of the knife we are talking about here.
Style Spear point
Overall length 9 inches
Blade length 4.50 inches
Blade material 154CM
Blade thickness 0.16 inches
Handle material Polymer and overmolded rubber
Overall weight 4.77 ounces
MSRP $149.95

InnovativeSOG

Switch Plier 2.0 Quick release Multi-tool

SOG Plier openWhy we love this blade,…um, contraption ♥ It has a spring-assist opening, allowing the user to access and open it single handedly. That’s ridiculously brilliant!
Style Multiple
One handed use
Twelve tools which include:
Blade steel type 420
Three-sided file
Awl
Bolt grip channel
Bottle opener
Can opener
Medium flat screwdriver
Multi-angle needle nose pliers
Needle Nose Pliers
Philips screwdriver
Ruler
MSRP $64

Best ValueCRKT

KISS (Keep It Super Simple) Pocket knife

CRKT Kiss open
Why we love this blade ♥ With it’ simplistic design, this little knife is the perfect companion and at a great price, plus it looks super techy.
Style Tanto
Overall length 5.75 inches
Blade length 2.25 inches
Blade material 3CR13 steel
Blade thickness 0.12 inches
Blade width Unknown
Handle material 3CR13 steel
Overall weight 2.3 ounces
MSRP: $39.99

Concealedbenchmade-logo

Adamas Backup Dagger 175BKSN

 

[#Beginning of Shooting Data Section] Nikon D800 2015/06/22 20:19:25.40 Time Zone and Date: UTC-8, DST:ON RAW (14-bit) Image Size: L (7360 x 4912), FX Lens: VR 105mm f/2.8G Artist: Adam Michaud                         Copyright: New World Industries                                   Focal Length: 105mm Exposure Mode: Manual Metering: Matrix Shutter Speed: 1/100s Aperture: f/18 Exposure Comp.: 0EV Exposure Tuning: ISO Sensitivity: ISO 100 Optimize Image: White Balance: Flash, 0, 0 Focus Mode: AF-S AF-Area Mode: Wide Area AF Fine Tune: -- VR: OFF Long Exposure NR: OFF High ISO NR: ON (Normal) Color Mode: Color Space: Adobe RGB Tone Comp.: Hue Adjustment: Saturation: Sharpening: Active D-Lighting: OFF Vignette Control: High Auto Distortion Control: OFF Picture Control: [NL] NEUTRAL Base: [NL] NEUTRAL Quick Adjust: - Sharpening: 2 Contrast: 0 Brightness: 0 Saturation: 0 Hue: 0 Filter Effects: Toning: Map Datum: Dust Removal: 2015/04/14 05:34:25 Image Comment: New World Industries                 [#End of Shooting Data Section]
Why we love this blade ♥ Sweet hidden little dagger for all those special moments
Style Double edge spear point
Overall length 5.47 inches
Blade length 2.50 inches
Blade material 440C steel
Blade thickness 0.125 inches
Blade width 1 inch
Handle material Vinyl coated tang
Overall weight 2.32ounces
MSRP: $105

TacticalAttelboro Knives

The Attleboro Knife

 

The Attelboro Knife

Why we love this blade ♥ Built by special forces and ultimate outdoor Grizzly Adam’s types. This knife is totally for the tough guys and has a glass breaker, because that’s what you need.
Style                                   Spear point
Overall Length                   9¾ inches
Blade length                       4½ inches
Blade material                    S35VN Steel
Blade thickness                 .150 inches
Blade width                       1 3/8 inches
Blade coating                    Cerakote Finish
Handle material                Phenolic canvas laminated
Overall weight                  6.1 ounces
Features                          Spear point with uniquely-angled serration’s on a portion of the blade                                         and only on the right side. Ergonomically designed for both large and                                         smaller hands. Butt of the knife features a beveled glass breaker
MSRP $295

Historic / Replica

Steve Auvenshine

Steve Auvenshire Contemporary Makers Blog Art Riser

Why we love this blade ♥Anytime you mix the authenticity of a master craftsman’s skill from a long gone era, with the ingenuity of a master craftsman of today, you end up with something of beauty.
Style Spear point
Overall length 7.25 inches
Blade length 4 inches
Blade material Forged 1084 tool steel
Blade detail The climbing vine design on the spine was created using needle files
Historical era Typical of a small patch knife from the 18th through mid 19th centuries
Handle material Whitetail antler
Blade design The knife has a pewter bolster with a hidden tang and the blade was finished with a chemical etch.
MSRP Custom

Congratulations

to all of the

Top Blades of 2015

We will see you next year!

We look forward to the next round of the TOP 10.
 GOOD LUCK!

10-Top-HolstersTop-10-Targets

American Shooting Journal
Executive Editor Danielle Breteau
Media, Inc.
Executive Editor Danielle Breteau
14240 Interurban Avenue South
Suite number 190
Tukwila, Washington 9816

 

Posted in Top 10 Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

October 22nd, 2015 by Danielle Breteau

A Deer Hunt

Story and photographs by Walt Hampton

She was a big old doe, with that long head and thick, squared-up body; she conducted herself with a caution and attention not seen in the younger deer. She was alone with no trailing fawns; they had been weaned and were off seeking their own way, and she was only concerned with the white oak acorns at her feet. Hidden in a pile of brush, just an odd-shaped stump, nothing to worry about here, I watched her, had been watching her, as she had first appeared and while she worked the thicket, first out of range, now closer, now close enough. I had hoped for a shot that she would never detect, but of that I was disappointed; at the moment of truth she suddenly turned her head toward me and the arrow was away and that was that.

The first deer of the year is always for me a jolt back in time to the very first one, decades ago— the nerves, the concentration, the frost on my boots, the first crows of the morning, the sun just painting the tops of the trees. I do not expect anyone else to understand why I am here and what I am doing — if you do not hunt, you cannot conceive the concept. This is one human endeavor that must be experienced, that cannot be told in words. It is life. It is my life.

She wheeled and smashed her way through the brush that was impenetrable, through the blackberry and catclaw that would stop a tractor, and in an instant she was gone, but the crashing I could still hear — then the last crash and silence. I played it over in my mind, seeing it all again and I knew I had done it right. I fished a cigar from my pocket and gave her the time that she, and I, needed.

When the cigar was done I gathered my things and found the blood where she had disappeared. With care I worked out the trail as so many I have worked out in the past, slowly, listening and watching. She left the thicket and crossed the heavily frosted broomsage corner, down, always down, toward the creek. It was in the creek I found her and relief washed over me, and joy and yes, a moment’s regret — but just a moment. She was living and beautiful and now she was meat and it wasn’t really pride I felt so much as accomplishment and gratitude — that’s as close as I can get you to where I was this morning, standing beside 2015s first deer, in frosted grass to my knees, and the sun just hitting my shoulders and two chickadees greedily pecking the blood on the dead leaves.
That is a deer hunt. ASJ

Posted in Hunting Tagged with: , , , ,

September 22nd, 2015 by Danielle Breteau

Fifty-plus Caliber Freedom

The Advantages Of Hunting With Muzzleloaders

Story and photographs by Mike Nesbitt

Believe it or not, there are some real advantages to hunting with muzzleloading rifles and smoothbores. Those advantages are not found in the ballistics or the rapidity of follow-up shots; the real advantages are found in making a good shot from the beginning and knowing that the hunter will be reticent to take a shot until a good hit can be expected. Those can be real advantages.

There are more areas open to hunting this way as well. I’m making this statement in a very general sense, but many areas, sometime entire states, are closed to hunting with high-powered rifles. Areas like that are usually open to shotguns, loaded with either buckshot or slugs, and often those same areas are open to muzzleloading rifles. Let’s face it: We can’t have a good and successful hunt without a place to do so.

More than a few years ago I enjoyed hunting in Iowa, and at that time the farms, if not the entire state, were closed to shooting with high-powered rifles. That was fine with me: I was a dedicated muzzleloader shooter and hunter at the time. I hunted with John Hambleton from Iowa Trophy Hunting; Hambleton has since passed away, but his son Todd is still running the show, if you ever want to go.

The Hambletons cater to archers and hunters with muzzleloaders for deer, and when I was their guest I carried my .50-caliber flintlock Hawken made many years ago by Ozark Mountain Arms. That particular gun builder left the market in the early 1980s, but anyone who has a rifle by them would agree that those were very fine rifles. I loaded a powder charge with 80 grains of FFFg powder by GOEX underneath a patched .490-inch round ball. With that charge and that ball load my rifle was more than ready to make some venison.

It was pretty chilly, well below freezing and often below zero. What I thought about more than the cold was that in such weather there is hardly any moisture in the air. This made my flintlock more than ready to go. Getting good ignition with a flintlock on that hunt was never a problem.

PHOTO 3

The author’s new .52 caliber Leman named “So Tacky.”

The day my tag was filled, Hambleton had taken me to a specific spot and told me, “Stand right there.” He added, “Don’t move around.” With those instructions, he left. I found out a short time later that Hambleton doubled back and went to the bottom of a wooded ravine where he knew several deer were sheltering from the wind. I hadn’t waited very long when about 60 whitetail came storming out of there and galloped right past me, not more than 30 yards away. This was my best chance and I knew it. While the deer were going by, most of them about 30 yards away, I looked for a good buck. As more deer approached I saw the buck I wanted, not a big one, not what we’d call trophy sized, but a nice meat buck. Right as that buck passed me by just a little bit my flintlock fired instantly, which sent the .50-caliber round ball all the way through its chest, getting both the heart and the lungs.

PHOTO 2

Though it came at the cost of a cut thumb, “Big Foot” Folty grins with his first deer taken with a flintlock.

Of course, we didn’t know that right away. The deer kept going and I’ll admit that I lost sight of him while I reloaded. But blood began to show on the trail and soon that blood led us to the dead buck. Hambleton complimented me on my shooting and I had to compliment him on his guiding.

Don’t take my story as any kind of guideline about the legality of using a muzzleloading rifle in other shotgun-only areas. Each and every hunting area can have its own definitions about which guns can be used, so be sure to check.

Another way that muzzleloaders can offer an advantage is when on private property. We must all ask permission when seeking to hunt on another mans land, and if the landowner understands that you will be hunting with a muzzleloader or perhaps a bow and arrow, they may be more prone to allowing it. The reason is because with just one shot, and what we generally accept as a short-effective range, the hunter will usually be more careful, which means less wounded game.

4Your first successful hunt with a muzzleloader will change you as a hunter and it will be a day never to forget. A friend of mine named “Big Foot” Folty was rather new to muzzleloading when he bought a Leman-style rifle made by Matt Avance from Tennessee Valley Muzzleloading. Big Foot’s Leman was a .54-caliber flintlock nicely stocked in curly maple with brass furniture; a gorgeous rifle that any gun enthusiast would be proud to own. His backyard borders on a cattle ranch and the ranch owner allows him to hunt there. Big Foot doesn’t take that permission lightly, and most certainly does not abuse it. He once offered to take me on a hunt, but I too would have had to ask for permission.

One morning late in the season when does were legal, Big Foot loaded his Leman with 90 grains of GOEX FFg powder under a patched .54-caliber round ball, and left on a hunt. With a final check of his flintlock’s priming, he was keeping an eye on a frequently traveled deer trail, on which the deer would be returning to cover after feeding. He was experienced at deer hunting, although this would be his first deer with a muzzleloader.

Big foot

“Big Foot” with his Tennessee Valley Muzzleloader .54 caliber rifle when it was brand new.

Luck was on his side: he saw two does approaching, but something gave him away and the pair retreated. One of them, however, paused just before disappearing about 80 yards away and turned broadside while looking back. That was just what Big Foot wanted and the shot was made.

It was a good shot, but even so, Big Foot reloaded before even thinking about approaching the deer. When he made his way to the deer, she wasn’t quite dead, so a second shot put a definite finish to the hunt. That first deer with a muzzleloader was all his.

Then it was time for some knife-work. Ol’ Big Foot got a little careless and sliced his left thumb rather well. In the photo of him with his rifle and the doe, his thumb is clearly bandaged. Ever since then we’ve referred to that late season as the thumb-cutting moon. ASJ

Author’s note: The Hambletons own Iowa Trophy Hunting and P.S. Manufacturing. You can check out their website at psmfgco.com. For excellent muzzleloaders, visit TVM at tennesseevalleymuzzleloading.com

PHOTO 1

For those who love to hunt with muzzleloaders and smoothbores, many find that kitting out with all the appropriate accoutrements makes the experience even more enjoyable.

Posted in Black Powder Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,