March 2nd, 2017 by AmSJ Staff

[su_heading size=”30″]With the introduction of two MSR-10 rifles for hunting and long-range shooting, Savage Arms gives shooters some excellent choices.[/su_heading]

Story by Craig Hodgkins | Photos by Savage Arms

 

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]S[/su_dropcap]avage Arms’ new line of next-generation semiautos comes to the marketplace with an attitude – the company has cleverly co-opted the MSR acronym for branding the guns, using the tagline “MSR now stands for Modern Savage Rifle” – but the guns are poised to deliver in the field and on the range as well, with everything from expanded caliber choices and badass designs to a full suite of custom upgrades packaged as standard features.

The new MSR-10 Hunter is part of a four-gun family of next-gen semiautos from Savage Arms. (Inset) The Long Range ships with one 10-round magazine (foreground) and the Hunter uses a 20-rounder.

Although the four-gun family includes two MSR-15 models in 5.56mm (the Recon and Blackhawk), our focus here will be on a dynamic duo of aptly named, hard-hitting MSR-10s, the Hunter and the Long Range. And while the company’s slick new AR-15 rifles are already gaining a reputation as straight shooters, the chance to zero in on building a better AR-10 was a perfect fit for Savage – offering opportunities to play to the brand’s strengths, including longrange accuracy and innovation.

SAVAGE MAY BE BEST KNOWN for its extensive collection of bolt-actions for hunting, competitive shooting and plain old plinking, but the company has also been in the AR business, off and on, for years, quietly creating custom barrels for other manufacturers.

Simply put, the AR-10 platform offered Savage engineers a chance to innovate. According to Al Caspar, president of Savage Arms, “One of the stumbling blocks to unbridled creativity with the AR15 platform is the nagging need for conformity – in other words, keeping the rifle compatible with a variety of accessories. With AR-10s, there are far fewer such constraints. Savage engineers were able to think outside the box to bring gamechanging features to both the MSR Hunter and MSR Long Range.”

While developing its modern, precision AR-10s, Savage also addressed other longstanding shortcomings of MSRs designed for larger cartridges.

“For example,” Caspar added, “AR10s have traditionally been heavy, bulky and unwieldy. We tackled these issues head-on, shaving off unnecessary weight and trimming size with a smaller, lighter chassis that strikes a perfect balance between performance, fit and function. As a result, both the MSR-10 Hunter and MSR-10 Long Range feature a compact AR-10 design that feels and handles more like an AR-15.”

The buttstock on the MSR-10 Long Range is a Magpul PRS Gen3.

“Savage’s new AR-10s also feature custom-forged uppers and lowers for a look unlike anything afield or on the range, plus a free-floating forend that locks down so tight you can bridge a scope mount from forend to receiver with no loss of accuracy. Tactical Blackhawk! grips, buttstock and flip up sights are also standard.”

Professional 3-gun competitor Patrick Kelley knows a thing or five about the needs of long-range shooters, and he knows the Long Range model well, having been involved in early testing of the gun.

“It’s got all the cool features that a free gunner would want in one package,” said Kelley at the recent SHOT Show in Las Vegas. “A longer gas system, 5R-rifled barrel, Melonite coating, 22-inch barrel length for 6.5 Creedmoor, 20-inch in .308 Win. An M-Lok hand guard.”

“The upper and lower are both proprietary,” Kelley added, “and shorter in length, which allows us to make the gun more compact, bring the center of balance back closer to the center line of the shooter, which makes for better handling. The bolt carrier group is also lighter than a standard bolt carrier group. Again, less reciprocating mass means a lower recall impulse.”
“It’s got every feature in it it should have,” Kelley concluded, “at a price point that will make you smile and make you want it all the more. (This) rifle has all the cool features that little boutique gun makers can do, but in one rifle from a large manufacturer: Savage Arms.”

A closer look at the muzzle of the Long Range model.

BOTH MSR-10S ARE AVAILABLE in .308 Win. and 6.5 Creedmoor chamberings, each of which offers applications in hunting and long-range shooting. The .308 Win. is a fine all-around choice for big game, not to mention a top traditional pick of snipers and other long-range shooters. A relative newcomer, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a long-range performer developed for target shooting but perfectly capable in hunting applications as well.

The nonreciprocating side charging handle on the Long Range model.

Savage tailored barrel length to caliber and purpose. The .308 Win. version of the MSR-10 Hunter sports a 16-inch barrel (and weighs just 7.5 pounds), while the 6.5 Creedmoor Hunter carries an 18-inch barrel. MSR10 Long Range barrel lengths are 20 inches for the .308 Win. and 22 inches with 6.5 Creedmoor.

Regardless of length, all barrels are button-rifled and paired to their particular action with Savage’s obsessive attention to precise headspace control. To further enhance accuracy while reducing fouling, the bore features innovative 5R rifling. And to extend barrel life, Savage applies an ultradurable, Melonite QPQ surface hardening treatment inside and out.

Although the MSR-10 Hunter hit the market too late for extensive range testing before our monthly print deadline, American Shooting Journal columnist (and current cover boy) Mike Dickerson enjoyed obvious success with the brand-new gun on a recent west Texas hog hunt. (MIKE DICKERSON)

With roughly 10 million modern sporting rifles already in the hands of American gun owners, there’s no denying the platform’s appeal for a variety of uses. And, after talking to thousands of shooters online and in person at ranges across the continent, Savage knew exactly where to aim with their new line. The company is convinced that both new MSR-10s will quickly find a place in the hands and hearts of discerning shooters, and with early results trending so favorably, it would be hard to argue otherwise. ASJ

Posted in Long Guns Tagged with: , , , ,

February 28th, 2017 by AmSJ Staff

[su_heading size=”30″]Choosing the right loads and chokes is all part of preparing your turkey gun for spring success. [/su_heading]

STORY AND PHOTOS BY TROY RODAKOWSKI

[su_dropcap style=”light”]W[/su_dropcap]hether you prefer a 20-, 12- or even a 10-gauge shotgun to go after your spring gobbler, the time is now to pick the right load for maximum effectiveness. You might only get one chance at that trophy bird, so why not give yourself the best opportunity at a quick clean and ethical harvest?

Using range finders and shot-tracking equipment such as the Bullseye system can be very helpful.

There are many turkey choke tubes on the market, and folks often ask me which one is best. I always tell them to pick a choke designed for your gun and the load you plan to shoot. But whatever you do, choose something, because you shouldn’t head into the woods without a turkey choke. Trust me, you are not doing yourself any favors by not having one.

Choke tubes come in four standard sizes, commonly known as cylinder choke (C), improved cylinder choke (IC), modified choke (M), and full choke (F). Essentially, turkey chokes are extra full. Once upon a time, the standard for shotgun patterns was the 30-inch circle and what percentage of the pellets in a shotgun shell was delivered inside that area. The idea was to have an evenly distributed pattern inside the circle, but modern turkey hunters want something tighter than that.
TURKEY CHOKES ARE DESIGNED specifically to keep your pattern tight at various distances. Turkey shells have more of a powder charge than a typical shotgun load, and this is where this distinctive choke will pay dividends. The general rule of thumb is that it takes three pellets to break a clay target and six pellets to take down a small game bird.

Counting the number of pellets in the vitals is key to finding the best patterning load for your gun.

Of course, as the size of the game bird increases, so does the number of pellets that are needed for a successful shot. In other words, it takes more pellets to kill a turkey than it does to bag a quail! Shot size is also important, as a larger shot will be needed to take down a turkey. In order to choose your chokes, you want to predict how far away your shot is going to be.

Hunters go after spring turkeys using a variety of methods; so one load won’t be perfect for everybody. But everyone can pick the perfect load to match his or her style of hunting. First, determine which size shot you like best – 2¾-, 3- or 3½-inch shells loaded with size 3, 4, 5 or 6 shot? Again, you need to shoot several through your gun and see which one patterns best on paper. There are even pelleted blends with specially designed wads for greater distance. Last year I hunted with Federal 3rd Degree Turkey Loads, copper-plated lead pellets in size 4, 5 and 6 shot. I was impressed with the effectiveness through my gun prior to season, especially at intermediate ranges.

There are old fixed-choke guns that will shoot certain loads better regardless of other factors. I like to start out with standard No. 6s and see what the pattern looks like before trying something different. My father has an old Remington 870 fixed full choke, and he seems to shoot size 6 loads through it best. Newer 20-gauge shotguns will shoot size 7s at 1,100 feet per second, and these are great for a young hunter or beginning sportsmen or -women.

FOR HUNTERS ON THE MOVE, lighter guns with good loads chambered in 3- and 3½-inch size 4 or 5 shot with velocity over 1,100 fps are more desirable. Regardless, a hunter needs to practice with several loads and determine which one works best. I like to find at least two that pattern well, choose one that I prefer and have another on standby. Why have two, you may ask? Well, I have found that not all loads are readily available especially during season, so this way I don’t find myself running out of shells halfway through the month of May and have to scramble to find another type that I’m comfortable with. Does that sound like planning ahead? It sure does.

Blends of copper and lead with specially formulated wads have increased pellet density and range for gobbler gunners over the last few years.

The bottom line is, you want the largest possible percentage of pellets in the vitals as possible. Pattern your gun according to the type of terrain you’ve chosen to hunt. For example, if you are hunting thick brushy country, make sure to pattern for 30 yards or less, and in a more open environment pattern out to 40 yards. Counting your pellets at each range and figuring out your kill percentage provides valuable information.

You will be very surprised at the different performance of various loads at the similar ranges. The ideal pattern for a turkey gun is 100 pellets within a 10-inch circle at 40 yards. Achieving this density essentially means that there should be a large enough percentage of pellets in the vitals to ethically harvest your turkey.

These loads have been very consistent for the author over the years.

WHEN PATTERNING YOUR GUN, remember to always shoot from a stable rest,
bench or sled. I like to use my Bullseye camera system (bullseyecamera.com) or other digital range finder to help simplify the process. This also helps save time running up and down range and changing targets. No matter what shot size you choose, the pattern should equate to 25 to 35 percent (on average) of pellets in the vitals or 10-inch diameter. Density is the key ingredient in determining which load you prefer and works best.

You can make your own targets out of butcher paper or print out your own. Several outdoor companies sell high-quality shoot-n-see style targets that can be found at Cabela’s, Gander Mountain and other sporting goods retailers. A general rule and helpful reminder is that most turkey guns are patterned for 40 yards or less, since this distance is universally considered “ethical” to shoot and harvest a bird.

But spring is nearly upon us, so now is the time to quit reading about turkeys and get out there to burn some powder in preparation for a great season. ASJ

It’s not easy to bring down these amazing birds, so why not take a little time to make sure your time counts. A favorite shotgun with a turkey choke and a consistent load is all you need.

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

February 19th, 2017 by AmSJ Staff

[su_heading size=”30″]Just in time for Valentine’s Day, our man afield offers 10 timely treks chosen to provide a happier hunting ground for you and your sweetheart.[/su_heading]

STORY AND PHOTOS BY SCOTT HAUGEN

[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]F[/su_dropcap]ebruary is here, and with it, excitement and so much to do. Winter projects are wrapping up, spring is around the corner, and love is in the air. The second month of the year graciously provides us with an entire day to honor our special someone, and if you’re looking for something extraordinary to get your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, consider a hunting adventure you’ll remember forever.

The Haugens pose with Tiffany’s massive black bear, taken on a spring hunt in Canada. The day after this, Scott connected on a giant cinnamon phase bear, making for one of the more memorable hunts the couple has shared together.

I’m not talking hard-core hunts in foul weather for trophy class animals, where freezing temperatures and extreme terrain prevail. I’m referring to fun hunts to share where game abounds, the weather is mild, the action fast-paced, the terrain is easily managed and the days afield not overly long. Of course, you need to set aside time for some relaxed sightseeing and romantic dinners, which may come over a campfire, but if you’re together, it’s just that much more special.

Throughout our 26 years of marriage, living in Alaska and overseas, my wife, Tiffany, and I have been fortunate to hunt many places together. Here’s a list of some of the most memorable hunting experiences we have enjoyed together. I believe you will enjoy them as well.

1. BEAR BOUND

Spring is one of the most productive times to hunt black bear in North America. Be it over bait in the states that allow it, or spot-and-stalk-style hunting in the lush, grassy meadows of the Pacific Northwest, there’s no shortage of great bear hunting opportunities.

Idaho allows bear hunting over bait, and color phase bears run high in some areas. Sleeping in and hunting the evening hours will make it feel more like a vacation than a hunt. Spotand-stalk hunts can be had in multiple Canadian provinces, too, where bear densities are mind boggling and the terrain is easy to negotiate. Just be sure to bring mosquito repellent.

Bear meat is some of the best eating wild game out there. Get the hide off fast; remove the fat from the muscle and get the meat quickly cooling, and you’ll be enjoying it for months to come.

2. TURKEY TIME

There’s nothing quite like being in the spring turkey woods: warm days, wild flowers blooming, birds singing and lovesick toms gobbling like crazy. Turkeys can be hunted in every state but Alaska.

One epic turkey hunt for you and your sweetheart is in Hawaii, where the birds thrive. Florida is another wonderful option for a couples hunt. Texas, South Dakota and western Oregon are also great places to hunt turkeys, and see some beautiful sights along the way.

Wherever you go, make sure to hit the state or states where multiple tags are available. If you have the time, driving to and hunting different states can be easy to do, and may offer great side attractions in the form of museums, historical points of interest and, of course, restaurants. Don’t overlook fall turkey hunting, which can be exciting, especially with a dog!

The Haugens have traveled to many countries, experiencing memorable hunts along the way. Here, the couple is in Zimbabwe, where Tiffany took her first waterbuck. After the hunt, they toured Victoria Falls.

3. HOG HEAVEN

Ask my wife what her most memorable hunt was, and she’ll likely reply hunting hogs in Florida. Our whole family was along on this unforgettable trip, and atop a monster truck-like swamp buggy, we pounded bacon with ARs, shotguns and rifles. It was a thrilling way to hunt, and an effective way to put a dent in the overpopulation of pigs on the land we hunted. It also yielded a couple coolers full of some of our favorite wild game to eat.

Texas has high pig populations, and baiting and spot-and-stalk approaches can be employed there. Sitting in a blind over bait offers a level of addicting anticipation that needs to be experienced to be appreciated.

California has great, year-round hunting for wild hogs. Spring and fall are favorite times, as the pigs are actively feeding and the weather is very comfortable. Of course, California swine often resides near vineyards, making it easy to find something to do in the evening together as well.
4. QUACK ATTACK

Be it an early-season teal hunt, a midseason outing for local birds or a late-season adventure for migratory fowl, spending time in the duck blind together is relaxing. Of course, the earlier it is in the season, the more comfortable the weather will be. Then again, late-season, high-volume hunts in the cold can offer unmatched shooting action that can keep you warm.

With a dozen decoys, a call and some basic gear, getting equipped for hunting waterfowl is easy.

If you don’t have access to good public lands, gaining permission to hunt on private property is much easier than getting the green light to hunt deer or elk. Don’t overlook your goose hunting options either, for these can offer great action around the country, be it for Canadas or snows.

Thanks to comfortable weather, easy terrain and lots of animals, pronghorn hunting is considered by many to be the perfect couples hunt. On this adventure, the Haugens were joined by their older son, Braxton.

 

Not only can hogs be hunted many ways, their numbers are high and on the table they’re among the best of the best. Here, Tiffany is all smiles with a hog she took with an AR, one of many pigs her and her husband would take on this trip.

5. PRONGHORN HITS

The perfect couples hunt for big game has to be pronghorn. The weather is nice, animals are plentiful, you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to start the day, and if you blow an opportunity on a buck, you’ll soon be commencing a stalk on another.

While some states only offer pronghorn tags through a lottery system, others have over-the-counter options. Parts of Wyoming offer overthe-counter tags for nonresidents, for both buck and doe, making it the top state for such a hunt. Consider putting a bipod on the rifle, or at the very least, use shooting sticks, and practice out to 300 yards, as shots can be long in this open country of the West. These hunts are big hits among couples and families.
6. VARMINT MASTER

Varmint hunting offers high-volume, fast-paced shooting action to couples eager to head afield. Be it prairie dogs in the spring, summer, early fall, or ground squirrels farther West, there is a lot of great shooting to be had.

Prairie dogs occupy many of the Rocky Mountain states and open plains, and the fact they do so much property damage means finding a place to hunt isn’t that difficult. The last prairie dog town my wife and I hunted in Montana, stretched for more than 7 miles and was over a mile wide. Needless to say, we experienced a lot of shooting.

In eastern Oregon and northern California, Belding’s ground squirrels abound, and firing more than a thousand rounds per person, per day, is common in some of the alfalfa fields overrun by these varmints.
7. PLEASANT PHEASANT

While the season for wild pheasants has come to a close, there are numerous bird preserves that offer outstanding hunting opportunities around the country, even in Alaska. In most states, preserves are open through March, and reopen again in August or September.

Not only are these high-percentage hunts, but the accommodations can be as fancy as you want to get, which can be appealing to couples. Then again, you can find affordable operations, allowing more bangs for your bucks in the form of pheasant, chukar, quail and occasionally more exotic species.
8. DOVE LOVE

My wife and I gone dove hunting together for nearly two decades. Early in the September season, when the weather is hot, we enjoy floating rivers and hunting birds off gravel bars. Later in the season, we move to fields and travel routes connecting feeding and roosting areas.

While early-season hunts are warm and comfortable, many states have extended their seasons into October, and the shooting for migratory doves in large flocks can be exceptional. These are some of the best eating birds out there.
9. WHITETAIL QUEST

One of the country’s best deer hunts to experience with your sweetheart is for whitetails. Blacktail deer hunting is physically demanding, often taking place in wet, brushy country. Mule deer habitat can be rugged and the weather less than hospitable. But when it comes to whitetails, North America’s most hunted big game animal, the options are many.

Since whitetails occupy so much river bottom and farmland habitats, the terrain is easy to negotiate. They can be hunted from late summer into winter, and with high densities, seeing deer is almost guaranteed and the chances of punching a tag are high. Whitetails can often be hunted from ground blinds, making it comfortable for both of you when temperatures drop. If looking to put meat in the freezer, there are some good over-the-counter options, and easy-to-draw tags in many states.

Author Scott Haugen and his wife, Tiffany, take in a stunning sunset after having doubled on Merriam’s turkeys in Wyoming. There are some great turkey hunts for couples to enjoy around the country.

10. ADVENTURES ABROAD

Don’t overlook the joy of traveling abroad to hunt with your loved one. This is also a great opportunity to combine a hunt with a vacation.

New Zealand is tops when it comes to hunting prized red stag, and more, and the people and the country are simply wonderful. Australia also offers some good deer hunting in its southern and western states.

Africa is a place that offers a lot, both in terms of species to hunt and sites to see. Plains game hunts are affordable, with kudu and gemsbok topping the wish list of many hunters.

This Valentine’s Day, consider giving your spouse a hunt as a way to say “I love you!” With this gift you’ll both be able to spend time in the field together, and travel through some great parts of North America, even the world. ASJ

Editor’s note: Scott Haugen is a fulltime freelance writer of 20 years. He recently began a booking service geared to help others enjoy hunting and fishing adventures around the world. Learn more at scotthaugen.com. 

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

February 15th, 2017 by AmSJ Staff

[su_heading size=”30″]The Norma Oryx is designed to provide a perfect blend of expansion and penetration, and is available in calibers both popular and rare.[/su_heading]

STORY AND PHOTOS BY PHIL MASSARO

The 180-grain, .30-caliber Oryx, in original form and expanded

[su_dropcap style=”flat”]T[/su_dropcap]hree does jogged across the little valley below me, pausing only to look over their shoulders. It wasn’t long – a matter of seconds – before I heard the telltale grunting.

He wasn’t the biggest buck I’d ever seen, but he had eight points and a big body, and at that stage of the season he was a shooter. Head down, searching side to side, neck swollen, he cruised along giving the does’ scent the utmost attention.

At 90 yards, he stopped and gave me a quartering-toward shot, and I placed the crosshairs of the 6.5-284 Norma just inside his foreleg, gently breaking the trigger. At the shot, the buck flipped backward onto his back, legs in the air, and stayed in that position. The 156-grain Oryx had taken him through the heart and lungs, and proceeded to exit just behind the offside ribs, killing him instantly.

Norma also provides premium-grade, quality brass cartridges, including these for the .300 Remington Ultra Magnum, available as factory ammunition (shown) or as component parts.

THE ORYX IS A PREMIUM BULLET, designed for a perfect blend of expansion – to create a large wound channel – and penetration – to ensure that the wound channel reaches the vital organs. Usually designed in a semispitzer profile, the bullet’s copper jacket is engineered to be thinner at the nose, to initiate expansion, yet gets thicker toward the flat base of the bullet.

In addition to getting thicker, the rear portion of the jacket is chemically bonded to the lead core to make sure that things stay together. Chemical bonding, resulting in what we call a “bonded core” bullet, prevents bullet breakup, and slows the expansion process down to allow the bullet to penetrate deeply. It is one of several methods used to resist overexpansion, a problem common to standard cup-and-core bullets at high-impact velocities, and the Norma Oryx does this well.

Norma loads the Oryx in some rare calibers, such as the .308 Norma magnum.

Being a semispitzer, the Oryx may not possess the high ballistic coefficient (BC) figures that some of the sleek, polymer-tipped hunting bullets may have, but at normal hunting distances that doesn’t pose a huge problem. Inside of 400 yards, shots can be made with a bullet in this conformation, and the additional terminal performance can make a big difference when it really counts; should tough shoulder bones, thick hide, or gristle plates need to be penetrated, the Oryx will definitely hold together for you.

Norma loads the Oryx in their factory ammunition, in calibers from .224 inches all the way up to .375 inches. The smallest are a good choice for those who wish to use a .22 centerfire on deer and other similar game. The standard big game calibers, say from 6.5mm up to 8mm, can be used with an additional level of confidence, should the shot angle be less than desirable.

The .375 300-grain Oryx.

The heavier calibers, from .338 inches up to the .375 inches, will take full advantage of the Oryx’s stature, as these calibers are often used to pursue the largest animals that can be effectively hunted with a soft-point bullet. Norma offers the Oryx in mid- to heavyweight projectiles for caliber, at standard muzzle velocities. Retained weight is often high – above 90 percent in most instances – with expansion usually doubling the original diameter.
THE ORYX IS AVAILABLE IN MOST of the popular calibers, such as the .270 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .308 Winchester, .375 Holland & Holland and .300 Winchester Magnum, but also has embraced some of the rarities, like the .308 and .358 Norma Magnums, as well as the Weatherby and Blaser Magnums. Hailing from Sweden, Norma loads many of the metric calibers, like the classic 7×57 Mauser, 9.3x63mm, 8×57 and 9.3x74R, as well as some of those lesser-known calibers here in the States like the 7×64 Brenneke and the 7x65R.

The American PH line includes the 6.5-284 Norma, with the 156-grain Oryx bullet.

Norma also offers the Oryx as a component bullet for the handloader, so for those of you who like to hunt with your own ammunition, the Oryx remains a viable option.

In the field, I like the Oryx for any situation where a difficult shot angle may be the only shot you get, or in an instance where stopping an animal may be necessary. The Oryx would make a very good choice for a hunter who wanted to use his or her .270 Winchester for elk; at 150 grains, the heavy-for-caliber bonded core slug will definitely hold together well enough to reach the vitals. I also like the Oryx for many of the African species, as well as for our North American bears. Thinking lion and leopard, as well as eland and wildebeest, the Oryx – in a suitable caliber – will provide enough expansion to shred the vital organs, yet will break those tough shoulder bones that guard the vitals.

I also think that a .338 Winchester Magnum or .375 H&H Magnum, loaded with a heavy-for-caliber Oryx, would make an excellent brown bear combination, and would certainly handle any black bear that ever walked. For a hunter who wants to pursue bears with his standard deer rifle, the Oryx will handle the shoulder bones and put that bear down quickly. For those who hunt deer with the popular .243 Winchester, the Oryx will surely get the job done, at just about any angle.

The classic .30-06 Springfield is even better when mated with the Oryx.

Is it accurate? My 6.5-284 Norma will print three of those 156-grain Oryx bullets into ½ MOA groups, as will my .300 Winchester Magnum with 180-grainers. My .375 H&H puts three 300-grain Oryx bullets into exactly 1 inch at 100 yards. For a trio of hunting rifles that will handle most all of the big game scenarios across the globe, that’s more than enough accuracy. ASJ

In the .375 H&H, the Oryx bullet makes a good choice for truly large game.

Posted in Ammo Tagged with: , , , , ,

January 7th, 2017 by AmSJ Staff

[su_heading size=”30″]Before heading out on a trek, hunters need to ask themselves a simple question: How many knives do I really need?[/su_heading]

STORY AND PHOTOS BY SCOTT HAUGEN

[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]W[/su_dropcap]hen it comes to hunting knives, what do you really need? The question is straightforward, but the answer can become complicated by thoughts of what you want, rather than what you actually need. Personally, I own dozens of knives. They are great tools, and serve a range of purposes. But when I go afield, I keep it simple.

On all the hunts I’ve been fortunate to embark upon around the world, I almost always take only one knife afield. This knife has to be able to withstand punishment and perform to my liking, and it’s also got to be lightweight. When scaling granite peaks for mountain goats and sheep, ounces can feel like pounds after a few days.

When you get an animal down, the field dressing, skinning and quartering begins. Each of these tasks can be completed with one knife, and once you know the connective tissues and how to work a knife around them, you can even leave the saw behind.

When you get an animal down, the field dressing, skinning and quartering begins. Each of these tasks can be completed with one knife, and once you know the connective tissues and how to work a knife around them, you can even leave the saw behind.

MANY KNIVES ARE DESIGNED for specific purposes, but for hunting, I don’t feel as if I need multiple knives. On a recent hunt, I met up with a buddy in Alaska. It was his first trip to the Last Frontier, so he wasn’t sure what to fully expect. He cracked open his gun case and inside were six knives, including one with a heavy, 12-inch-long blade and a ball compass on top. I laughed. He didn’t. “What are you doing?” I quizzed. “I didn’t know what knife to bring, so I brought a bunch,” he smirked.

We were going on a grizzly and black bear hunt across open tundra. About the only thing we needed a knife for was carrying out routine tasks, and to skin and butcher any bear we killed. In my opinion, a person needs only one knife for those tasks.

As with all fly-in hunts to remote drop camps, weight is a concern with bush plane pilots. With strict weight limitations, and given the fact we were going to be gone for over a week, I wanted to take all the weight we could in food, clothes and essential gear, not knives we’d never use. When my buddy asked what knives I was taking, I held up one, a 3-inch-bladed Kershaw knife, specifically their Skyline model. “No, really, what knives are you bringing?” he asked again.

“Oh, I forgot this,” I smiled, holding up a compact sharpening steel. I explained how all skinning, field dressing, caping and deboning can be done with one knife, and that it doesn’t have to be big. I’ve broken down numerous deer, elk, bear and African game with a 2-inch blade, and many with a 3-inch blade. Using bigger blades than that is fine, if that’s what you’re comfortable with, but if you’re just embarking upon the world of hunting, big, bulky knives aren’t necessary.

This year marks my 40th year of big game hunting, and I’ve always kept things simple with my knife choices. You look for a knife that fits your hand, keeps an edge, and is constructed with a handle that won’t slip when covered in blood, fat or water.

You don’t need big, long blades when it comes to handling game in the field. Knives with 2-, 2.5- and 3-inch blades are enough to handle breaking down deer and elk-sized game. The author has used the orange-handled Kershaw Skyline knife to skin and quarter everything from brown bear to deer, elk to Cape buffalo in Africa.

You don’t need big, long blades when it comes to handling game in the field. Knives with 2-, 2.5- and 3-inch blades are enough to handle breaking down deer and elk-sized game. The author has used the orange-handled Kershaw Skyline knife to skin and quarter everything from brown bear to deer, elk to Cape buffalo in Africa.

I know many hunters who take their personal-carry knives afield, and that’s great if that’s what they like. Some folks prefer fixed blades over folding knives, and vice versa. Personally, I like a fixed-blade knife with a handle that’s easy to clean of dried blood and gut content.

A VERY IMPORTANT FACTOR when choosing a hunting knife is getting one with quality steel that’s easy to attain an edge on. While softer blades may dull more easily than hard steel, they are easier to regain an edge on when in the field. Knowing the anatomy of the animal you’re breaking down, and using the knife to cut, not saw or force through bones, will help in maintaining an edge on your knife. All cuts are easy to make and should not be forced, especially through joints and cartilage.

Animal fat can quickly dull a knife, which is why it’s critical to have a quality steel to easily hone that knife. At the same time, cutting through cartilage, tendons and ligaments can be tough on knives, making quality steel even more important. Having a blade you can hone in the field – one that reacts to a good steel – is important in regaining that edge in order to continue safely and efficiently breaking down an animal.

While it’s occasionally unavoidable, try to refrain from cutting through hair and into dirt. Sometimes big animals like elk, moose and bear are impossible to move around by yourself, meaning a cut may slice through skin and hit dirt, which dulls a knife. When cutting the hide, do so from the skin side, not down through the hair. To do this, make a small hole where the cut will begin, then get the blade inside the skin, cutting upwards through the hide. This will help keep an edge and should allow you to get through multiple animals before having to sharpen your knife again.

When your knife does become dull in the field, sharpen it right away, for a dull knife leads to bad cutting techniques, and that’s how accidents happen. When hunting, I rely on two simple yet very effective sharpeners. In my daypack, I’ll take one sharpening steel afield to touch up the knife while breaking down animals. My favorite is Kershaw’s Ultra-Tek blade sharpener, a 600-grit oval steel that’s very lightweight and works wonderfully in quickly regaining an edge. When back in camp, if I need to further sharpen the knife, I’ll use a whetstone or a Work Sharp guided field sharpener.

Rarely do I take a compact folding saw afield when deer hunting, for a deer’s skull – the only part of an animal I use a saw on – isn’t so heavy that it needs to be split, like moose, caribou and elk do. When quartering big game in the field, I don’t use a saw to split the pelvis or remove the legs, neck or ribs – that’s all done with a knife.

Having the right knife to get the job done is important. Here, the author removes the cape from a mule deer in spike camp using the same 3-inch bladed Kershaw knife he relied on to gut, skin, quarter and debone the buck.

Having the right knife to get the job done is important. Here, the author removes the cape from a mule deer in spike camp using the same 3-inch bladed Kershaw knife he relied on to gut, skin, quarter and debone the buck.

ONE WORD OF CAUTION when embarking on a big game hunt where you’ll be breaking down an animal in the field, and that’s to be aware of the state’s recovery laws. Most states require a proof of sex to accompany the meat from the field to camp or home. This is usually best retained by keeping the genitals attached to one hindquarter, and/or bringing the head of the animal out. When bringing the head out, if sawing off the antlers to cut down on weight you’re packing out, cuts are often required to be made below the eyes, so the eyes are intact. Some states require the meat to stay attached to leg bones, too, meaning complete boning out of meat while in the field may not be legal.

If you will be transporting game heads across state lines, know that multiple states require the brain to be removed from the skull. This means you’ll need a saw to cut through the brain cavity, so be prepared. Prior to heading afield, make sure you know the meat recovery and transport laws of the state you’ll be hunting in.

Find a knife that works for you and familiarize yourself with how it handles. Practice at home, rubbing fat and blood on the handle and getting it wet to see how it performs. Once you know what a knife is capable of, as well as the anatomy of an animal and how to disarticulate its joints and muscles, you’ll see why a simple blade is all that’s really necessary. ASJ

Elk hunting in the backcountry can be demanding, yet to break down an animal, all you need is one quality knife and a sharpener, maintains the author, here reaching the end of the trail with a pack string carrying his bull out of the woods.

Elk hunting in the backcountry can be demanding, yet to break down an animal, all you need is one quality knife and a sharpener, maintains the author, here reaching the end of the trail with a pack string carrying his bull out of the woods.

Editor’s note: For copies of Scott Haugen’s comprehensive DVD, Field Dressing, Skinning & Caping Big Game, send a check for $20.00 (free S&H) to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489. This, along with his many books, can be ordered online at scotthaugen.com.

Posted in Knives Tagged with: , , , ,

October 14th, 2016 by AmSJ Staff

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An interview with Sam Kolb of Bullpacs hunting packs.

By Steve Joseph

Steve Joseph How did Bull Pacs get its start?

Sam Kolb About 20 years ago, some elk hunters out of Lewiston, Idaho, packed out an elk on some rickety old aluminum pack frames and swore there had to be better equipment out there for the job. Their search left them empty-handed, and since they ran a machine shop they decided they’d make their own. After several years and countless hours, they finally fine-tuned a frame that was super strong, pretty lightweight and much more comfortable for those long packs out of the mountains loaded with elk.

Though they weren’t really interested in making that part of their machine shop production, they had the production aspect all figured out. Their mother, Janice, moved back to Lewiston and was looking for work when the business idea was born; the shop would manufacture Bull Pacs and Janice began sewing the components, assembling packs and shipping orders. In 2014, Janice decided she wanted to retire from pack production, and after months of training and passing of the baton, our family moved Bull Pacs to Vancouver, Wash., where we have continued with pack production and started working on new accessories and ideas to go with the Bull Pacs.

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SJ What sets Bull Pacs apart from the other packs?

SK We’ve always had a passion for good, solid hunting gear. When I first laid eyes on the Bull Pacs, the solid design and workmanship definitely stood out. Once I tried it on, I loved the way it fit and was convinced it could comfortably handle any load I was able to shoulder. I couldn’t wait until the next season to try it out with a load of elk meat! That was 14 years ago and I have packed thousands of pounds of game on my original Bull Pac, with very few signs of wear and tear. I was actually surprised at just how tough and comfortable Bull Pacs really were, whether packing out elk quarters or just hiking the backcountry in pursuit of the next big adventure!

SJ What about accessories that are available?

SK We have started producing a number of new accessories to outfit new or old packs. Our most popular addition is the rifle mount, which mounts securely to the Bull Pac frame and provides hands-free use when hiking or packing meat, but still allows quick access to ones rifle without removing the pack. We have also developed a decoy extension that allows a person to securely strap on super-tall loads that are otherwise unwieldy to haul around.  We have started carrying RAM Mount accessories to facilitate attachment/use of flashlights, Go Pro cameras, spotting scopes and cameras or other similarly threaded electronic equipment. We have a couple different sizes of game bags for bone-in quarters or boned-out meat. We also have Bull Pac Straps for quickly cinching download on the pack frame for hauling meat and/or gear. And we are just finishing up an axe mount similar to the rifle mount to facilitate safe axe hauling. We have several other ideas we are working on, with things to come in the future.

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SJ  Speaking of, where do you see Bull Pacs heading in the future?

SK We are excited to continue the company’s legacy that’s built on quality, durability and personal customer service that Bull Pacs has provided to the outdoor community for years. While we love the Bull Pac, we are also working on a number of accessories and other innovative adaptations that will make your Bull Pac useful in a number of different applications.  We hope to continue to grow as a grass roots pack company that represents solid, no-nonsense gear that gets the job done and doesn’t let you down, for the everyday hunter.

SJ You have a lifetime warranty. How important is that for your customers?

SK We do our best to produce products that will provide decades of worry-free use. What good is a warranty if it craps out on you in the bottom of the canyon? However, as we all know, anything mechanical can break. If you have something break, slip and land on a rock and bust a weld or have something you don’t think held up as it should have, we will happily take care of it and make it right! We pride ourselves on customer service that’s second to none.  We treat our customers how we’d want to be treated and don’t make excuses if an issue arises. More people like a company that stands behind their product, and we make sure our customers feel appreciated and are well taken care of!

Bullpacs.com (208) 798-3299


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

September 26th, 2016 by jhines

Hunting season is just around the corner, have you been out shooting to polish your skills? Stationary targets or moving targets? Shooting at something that’s moving is challenging. However, a proficient shooter can make it look simple like this hunter here in the video below. This hunter dropped 4 hogs in a row within a minute with no time to spare, hope this gets you inspired for the upcoming hunting season, enjoy!

Source: I Love Hunting Facebook

Posted in Just Plinking Tagged with: ,