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Tips For More Grouse

trees3Learn to Recognize Good Cover
Some hunters seem to have a sixth sense about where the grouse are. This isn’t magic but rather the culmination of years of experience, observation, and a working knowledge of what the birds need. These guys are constantly reading about grouse habitat and lore; they take note of wherever they hear drumming in the spring. They know that good grouse cover holds food and provides protection from predators — if it is near an evergreen stand or gravel so much the better.

Take a page from these hunters. Every time you or your dog move a bird, have a good look around after the smoke has cleared — you’ll see a pattern soon enough. Study grouse biology at home; carry field guides when you hunt; learn to recognize common grouse foods in your area. After a while you’ll develop that sixth sense too.

Keep a Log
Every serious grouse hunter I know keeps a hunting log. Some maintain elaborate leather-bound journals in which they detail particulars of the hunt such as the date, cover, number of flushes, dog work, weather, harvest, and crop contents of the birds. Other keep it simple, by marking covers on their handheld GPS. Either way, the hunter is reminded of the places that produced grouse last season.gps

Do this consistently and it won’t take many seasons before you have a bevy of early, mid, and late season options. The more options you have, the better your chance of having a grouse dinner.

Break Some Clay
Over the course of a season, few of us get enough shots at grouse. So it only stands to reason that a hunter ought to make the most of each opportunity. I do this by honing my shotgunning skills in the off-season. Skeet, trap, or sporting clays keep a hunter sharp so that mounting and swinging his scattergun becomes second nature. You’ll still miss — grouse have a way of humbling everyone — but you’ll also make some shots that you might not have without the off-season practice. It just takes a few of these to turn a mediocre season into a great one.

Don’t Forget the Dog Days
Spring and summer are tailor-made for training your dog. Despite this, few of us take advantage of the opportunity. Instead, we expect our dogs to work flawlessly on opening day and we’re actually surprised when that doesn’t happen.

Does your flushing dog hunt too far ahead and blow cover before you get there? A little “hup training” (teaching your dog to sit on command, no matter how far away) in the off season goes a long way towards remedying this. You might also consider brushing up on retrieving drills or introducing your dog to pigeons or game farm forays prior to the season. Some advanced training, such as steadying to wing and shot (where a dog sits down automatically at each flush) might require the help of a professional dog trainer. If that’s what you want, the off-season is the time to do it.

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Pointing dogs have their own set of training needs, which might include bolstering staunchness, retrieving, hunting range and finding dead birds. Whatever your canine hunting partner’s flaw is, the off-season is the time to address it.

The idea is to learn to handle your dog so that you perform as a well-oiled team during the hunting season. There are plenty of great dog training books and videos — the off-season is when you should benefit from them most.

Follow the Food
Grouse eat hundreds of types of food and each provides a clue as to where the birds are hanging out. That’s why it’s a good idea to check the crop of every bird you shoot. Knowing what grouse are eating helps you understand their habits and tells you where you should focus your hunting efforts. If the last three birds you shot were full of blackberries, for instance, it’s definitely time to hunt any of your covers that hold these shrubs.

Against the Wind
A dog relies on his nose to find birds. So why would you hunt with the wind at its back? We all know that there isn’t any good reason for doing so, but it’s one of the first things excited dog handlers forget when approaching good cover.

If you hunt into the wind, your dog will work closer, scent more game and, hopefully, find more birds. It’s a simple but often overlooked strategy that can make the difference between a full and empty game bag. This is also an important consideration when looking for a lost bird. Take your dog downwind from where you think it fell and let it start hunting from there.

Stop and Start
A good grouse hunting dog provides opportunities that you might not have otherwise had, but that’s not to say that a dog less hunter can’t do well. The key, for a dog less hunter, is to stop and start through likely cover and change direction often. These unpredictable patterns unnerve grouse and invariably pressure them into flushing. Another added bonus is that when you stop you can sometimes hear the put-put-put of a grouse moving just ahead of you. If that’s the case, get the gun up and rush it.

Don’t Hesitate
A good upland shot doesn’t hesitate. He takes the first available shot, even if it’s not a great one.

If you wait for a better chance you’ll rarely get it. Similarly, if you are leading a bird that disappears behind a screen of leaves, follow through, and shoot anyway. You’ll be surprised how often you connect. If not, shells are cheap.

While we’re on the subject of shooting, be ready for the second flush. Often, especially, early in the season when birds are still in their family groups, multiple flushes do occur. If you keep this in mind, they won’t catch you flat-footed — or with an empty gun.

Follow Up
Whenever you flush a bird and don’t fold it, mark where you last saw it. Most times they won’t fly much further than 150 yards. If you marked it well and follow up immediately, you have a good chance of forcing a second flush.

 

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Another advantage of following up on grouse is that they sometimes lead you to new covers. If that’s the case, don’t forget to mark it.

Lastly, never assume that you missed any grouse that you shot at. After the shot, keep quiet and listen. Sometimes you’ll hear a mortally wounded grouse doing its death dance against the ground — that’s the one that you thought you missed.

The Right Tools
A fast-handling 12, 16 or 20 gauge shotgun is ideal for birds. Most gunners like double guns. Some happen to prefer a pump because that’s what they shoot best with.  However, don’t discount the light weight, easy to carry .410 shotgun.  Nice little gun with ever growing in popularity in our neck of the woods.

Whatever, your preference, you can’t go wrong using 2 3/4-inch shells filled with 7.5 shot. Grouse aren’t tough birds and it doesn’t take much to bring them down. Since most shots are within 15 yards, the more open-choked your barrels are, the better.

Other essential grouse hunting tools include a quality blaze orange upland hunting vest with a lined game pouch; brush pants; comfortable, well-supported hunting boots; and a compass and/or GPS. If you are hunting with a dog, a whistle, water bottle, portable dog dish, dog first aid kit, and lead are important too. When working heavy, thorny cover, a pair of shooting glasses that protect your eyes are worth their weight in gold.

Conclusion
No one ever said grouse hunting was complicated. But it does take some planning, know-how and skill. Over the last few years, these strategies have made many a much better grouse hunter. Hopefully, they’ll do the same for you.

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Dropping the Hammer

By: Al Voth

How Safe is Your Vintage Firearm?
If you’re a serious gun nut and you haven’t noticed the increased interest in shooting, reloading and hunting with old style guns in the last decade you’ve probably been in a coma. Rifles and shotguns that haven’t come out of the closet in eighty years are being brought into the daylight, getting cleaned off and carried out to ranges and hunting fields. This particularly includes classic old lever action and single shot rifles. I haven’t been immune from this old-gun bug myself, as an 1894 lever action in .38-55 is one of my current project guns.

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Firearms with external hammers are common. At the top is a lever-action rifle, a pump-action shotgun occupies the middle spot and at the bottom, a bolt-action .22

The Winchester I’m working on is a great example because it’s been in production for well over one hundred years. But that old lever gun and all the other golden oldies hunting again aren’t the same guns Winchester and other manufacturers are producing today. Today’s guns might look similar but they are built of better materials, to tighter tolerances and have improved safety features. On the 94 in particular, the manufacturer has added a tang safety and a rebounding hammer. And while I often hear knowledgeable gun people bemoaning the addition of a safety as a cosmetic detraction, I never hear anyone complaining it makes the gun less safe. While those same Winchester experts will know every intricacy of the 94’s mechanism, including how to use it properly and safely, too many hunters don’t. A recent incident I’m familiar with serves as an illustration.

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Hunting with older guns, like this lever-action, can be dangerous if you don’t understand the principles of handling an external hammer.

Ignorance Can Kill
Two friends went out after moose, one of them carrying an older Winchester 94. By today’s standards that is hardly a state of the art moose rifle and the hunter in question had more than one ultra-modern rifle at home. For whatever reason, he chose to use the older 94 that day. By all accounts, he was a skilled and capable hunter. However, he didn’t understand the manual of arms for the 94 and in this case, what he didn’t know killed him.

As a testimony to their skill and abilities, these two had a moose on the ground before noon. The available evidence then shows that when the shooting stopped, our hunter pointed the rifle in a safe direction and carefully and conscientiously lowered the cocked hammer.

In the process of moving his truck up to the kill, our man with the 94 had occasion to rest the butt of the rifle on the running board. Being safety conscious he pointed the muzzle upwards in a safe direction as he fiddled with something else, confident in the knowledge that although the rifle chamber was loaded, the hammer was safely down. But like many hunting days it was wet and snowy and the running board was slippery. Somehow, in all the activity, the Winchester slipped off the running board and the rifle fell butt first toward the ground; his grip was still on the barrel, but it was insufficient to slow its fall.

From the heel of the butt to the spur of the hammer is about fourteen inches and the rifle weighs six and one quarter pounds. When the rifle fell, it dropped all of those fourteen inches and the spur of the hammer struck the running board with what was probably most of the rifle’s weight. The rifle discharged and the bullet struck the owner, killing him.

Was this a bizarre accident resulting from freak circumstances; or maybe a failure of the firearm’s safety devices? What about operator error? Do you know why the gun discharged? If you or a friend has a hammer gun sitting in the closet, then you better read on.

How Do You Hunt?
There isn’t a hunter in the country that would walk the woods with a round in the chamber of a lever-gun and the hammer at full cock. It’s too dangerous and it’s obvious that it’s dangerous. At the same time, I’ll bet you a steak dinner there are a significant number of hunters in the woods carrying old hammer guns with the chamber loaded and the hammer fully down; a condition which could be argued as being at least as, or even more dangerous, than carrying it with the hammer fully cocked. It’s a safe bet for me, because since encountering the fatal incident mentioned above, I’ve been asking every shooter I encounter with a hammer gun to show me how they make such a loaded gun safe. Too many ease the hammer to a full down position on a loaded cartridge.

Why is this dangerous? Simple, with the hammer fully down, it rests on the firing pin, which is in direct contact with the primer. A sharp blow on the spur of the hammer and the rifle will fire.

The generation for which older external hammer guns were originally made was comfortable with the idea of manually operated, exposed hammers. Having the hammer visible and easily manipulated by the operator was considered a safety feature. That generation of gun-handlers was comfortable with the concept that a firearm with the hammer fully down wasn’t necessarily safe, especially if it was loaded. Somehow, that principle has been lost to this generation. With the resurgence of interest in those old rifles, we need to relearn some of the lessons of our grandparents.

Hammer Down is Dangerous
We’ve already discussed lever action rifles, but there are other firearms we can add to the list as well; including a number of bolt action rimfires, pump-action .22’s and lots of exposed hammer shotguns. Some of these models are no longer manufactured but others are, in modernized versions. It can be difficult to tell from serial number ranges or a visual examination when a firearm’s internals have been changed. And how do you know some previous owner hasn’t deactivated a safety feature?

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This double-barrel shotgun demonstrates graphically how the hammer contacts the firing pin, which in turn contacts the primer, even when the hammer is at rest.

But let’s not limit our discussion to old guns. Have you ever seen someone load the chamber of a modern bolt-action rifle, and then while holding back the trigger, ease the bolt handle down? Their theory is that in this condition the rifle can’t fire because it isn’t cocked. And all that’s needed to ready it for shooting is to lift up and press down on the bolt handle, thus cocking the rifle. They think they’re being extra safe. Wrong! Depending on the design, their method is quite likely putting the firing pin in direct contact with the primer and even a light tap on the back of the bolt will fire the rifle.

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In rifle design, it doesn’t get any more modern than stainless steel and plastic. But like an old fashioned hammer gun, if you lower the striker on a live cartridge and hit the rear of the bolt, this rifle will fire.

To answer the question as to whether or not your particular firearm is dangerous to carry with the hammer down, do the following test. First, you’ll need a primed cartridge case. That’s no bullet, no powder, just an empty cartridge case with a live primer in place. If you’re a reloader, it’s a simple matter to make one up. If not, you’ll have to pull the bullet from a factory round and dump the powder. This is easily done with an inertia bullet puller available from most gun shops. With a double and triple check to ensure your case is only primed, slip it into the chamber of your firearm. Carefully point it in a safe direction, close the action and gently lower the hammer to its full down position.

A kinetic bullet puller, like this RCBS model, will quickly and safely convert center-fire cartridges into primed-only cases.

A kinetic bullet puller, like this RCBS model, will quickly and safely
convert center-fire cartridges into primed-only cases.

Then with the smallest hammer in your tool box, give the rear of the hammer a tap. Use about as much force as you might in driving a small finishing nail with that same hammer. Odds are your little tap will generate a little bang. If it did, any questions you had about the characteristics of your firearm are settled. The only thing left to do is repeat that demonstration to everyone who uses that particular gun. Don’t just tell them about it. Telling is theoretical. Put a primed case in the rifle and repeat the test, showing them what happens. It’s a lesson they won’t forget.

Testing a pump-action .22 to determine if a blow to the hammer will discharge the rifle.

Testing a pump-action .22 to determine if a blow to the hammer will discharge the rifle.

If silence was the result of your tap, you need to extract the cartridge case and take a close look at the primer. You’re now down to two possibilities. Either your gun is safe for hammer down carry or you just didn’t tap hard enough. A close inspection will tell you which the most likely scenario is. If there is any denting in the primer at all, you had some energy transfer and the firearm is unsafe to carry with the hammer down. If there is no mark at all, you may want to try repeating the test with a slightly harder hit. If there is still nothing, odds are you’re okay for hammer down carry.

A Browning 92 demonstrates the three positions commonly found on guns with external hammers; full-cock, half-cock (or safety position) and fully down.

A Browning 92 demonstrates the three positions commonly found on guns
with external hammers; full-cock, half-cock (or safety position) and fully down.

What About Half-Cock?
Any discussion about hammer guns and in what condition they are safe to carry invariably turns to the half-cock or safety notch. This is an intermediate hammer position somewhere between fully down and fully cocked and is intended to keep the hammer away from direct contact with the firing pin. The most common question, once people understand its purpose is-is that intermediate notch safe?

I think the answer is the same in every case. It’s far safer than hammer down-presuming the notch and sear are in good condition. Whether it’s safe enough for carrying in that position is dependant on the firearm’s individual design. Probably the best known example of one that isn’t safe is the Colt Single Action Army revolver. That’s why the universal recommendation to handle it with only five of its six chambers loaded, and the hammer down on the empty one. Lever action rifles, however, are generally far more durable and trustworthy. Each design has its own characteristics.

Short of taking your particular hammer gun apart and inspecting the parts, there are a couple of simple tests that will give you some indication of the gun’s condition. First, with the hammer in the safety notch position and the gun empty, pull the trigger firmly. Apply approximately three times the amount of force normally required to fire the gun. If the hammer drops, your gun needs attention. A second test is to reposition the hammer in its half-cock or safety notch position and then using your thumbs, try pushing the hammer forward. This is called a push-off test. Obviously, the hammer shouldn’t move. Never strike the hammer with another object to test the safety notch, use only a firm pushing motion. If your hammer gun passes both of these tests, the intermediate notch is probably in good condition.

In the half-cock or safety position the firearm's sear usually rests in a deeply undercut hammer notch. On the right hand hammer this notch is intact; on the left one the notch has broken out, making the gun unsafe.

In the half-cock or safety position the firearm’s sear usually rests in a
deeply undercut hammer notch. On the right hand hammer this notch is intact;
on the left one the notch has broken out, making the gun unsafe.

Your gun checks out okay. Does that mean its safe to carry hammer down? It’s still possible for the safety notch to break away completely and thus allow the gun to discharge. Certainly, you’re not going to allow that to happen deliberately, but if sufficient force were to strike your hammer, it could shear and the result would be unstoppable.

You’ve come to the point where you have to find your own comfort level with the mechanism. The job I recently retired from required occasional attendance at autopsies and maybe it’s a result of seeing too many gunshot wounds, but my comfort level with all safety mechanisms (not just safety-notches) is pitifully low.

Hunting Choices
Perhaps an example will serve to illustrate. I sometimes use a lever action model 92 in .357 Magnum when I’m calling predators. When I leave my vehicle, I typically load five cartridges in the magazine and leave the chamber empty while walking in to my stand. Sure, I can blunder into a coyote while moving in, but a flick of the wrist is all that’s necessary to go from safe to fire. When I reach my destination and set up to call, I lever a cartridge into the chamber and set the hammer at the intermediate notch. I judge that to be a safe condition considering the activity I’m engaging in.

Notice the difference. One situation is dynamic and active and for it I keep the chamber empty. The other is sedentary and in those circumstances I’m comfortable with a loaded chamber and a half cocked rifle. When I start to move again, I go back to chamber empty. That flexibility, in my opinion, is the key; adjust to the circumstances and you’re as ready as you need to be and still safe.

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Hunting: Muzzleloader

Muzzleloaders are a lot of fun to shoot! The concept of a single shot makes shooters try to do their best on every shot. Large puffs of smoke belching from the muzzle after each shot, makes this a very visual shooting sport. As well, muzzleloaders are capable of firing a variety of bullet weights and powder charges, giving them the ability to be a multi species firearm.

For years, people have shot muzzle-loading guns. Most shooters fired old style flintlock guns with open sights. Some shooters found these early muzzle-loading firearms reminded them of their forefathers and helped these individuals re-live the past. However, for many shooters, these guns were unappealing, inaccurate and were a royal pain in the butt to shoot and clean. Thus, there were a very limited number of people involved in muzzleloader shooting and hunting.

Over the course of the past several years, the interest in muzzleloaders and muzzleloader hunting has grown and continues to grow. Much of this growth is due to several gun manufacturers developing inline muzzle-loading rifles that are built with today’s technology, using yesterday’s ideas. These fine firearms are fun and easy to use, have high percentage ignitions and are highly accurate. In addition, they’re easy to disassemble and clean.

These new muzzle-loading guns resemble modern center-fire rifles. They have excellent safety mechanisms and precision rifled barrels. Many of them come tapped and died directly from the factory, so all a shooter has to do is add bases, rings and a scope. It’s very common these days for shooters using in-line muzzleloaders with scopes to achieve one inch groups or better at a hundred yards.

Along with the invention of new muzzleloaders, there has also been a major advancement in gun cleaning solutions. There are all kinds of effective no fuss, no mess gun cleaning solutions designed specifically for muzzleloaders. These new cleaning chemicals make cleaning muzzleloaders a breeze. With these new products, gone are the hours of cleaning after each session at the range or in the field!

Hunters are also quickly discovering that muzzleloaders offer new hunting seasons, high levels of success and many other unique opportunities.

Extra Seasons and Hunting Benefits
Many states and provinces, including my home province of Saskatchewan offer special muzzleloader hunting seasons that are separate from regular rifle seasons. Many of these special seasons are approximately a month before the regular rifle hunting seasons and are often set up to coincide with or run just before the peak rut of the big game species. Hunting with a muzzleloader during these bonus time periods can prove very exciting and productive. Antelope, deer, moose and elk become more mobile and visible just prior to and during their rutting periods as they try to prove their dominance or search for mates.

In many jurisdictions, special muzzle-loading seasons are often held after all other hunting seasons are over. Typically, these extra seasons are several weeks long. They give hunters ample opportunity to get out in the field and get in some bonus hunting action when big game animals are often patternable as they concentrate on cold weather feeding areas.


Inline muzzleloaders such as this one, have made muzzleloader hunting for
big game animals, much more enjoyable.

During muzzleloader seasons, there are usually fewer hunters in the field than during a regular rifle season. This gives muzzleloader hunters an excellent opportunity to harvest an animal. Fewer hunters means less pressure and less pressure means that the animals should continue acting in their natural ways. With the animals’ daily habits remaining unchanged, muzzleloader hunters should be able to pattern the animals. If the hunter is able to determine when, where and why an animal will be in certain location, it should increase the hunter’s odds for success.

Since in many areas muzzleloader seasons generally start before the rifle seasons, the muzzleloader hunter is able to get a jump on the rifle hunters. This early start accompanied with the fact that there are fewer hunters in the field, should allow the muzzleloader hunter to see more animals and get more opportunities at harvesting a big game animal before the rifle hunters move in.

Muzzle-loading Tactics
Using game calls to attract big animals can be very productive during the muzzleloader seasons. Whitetail and mule deer will often respond to grunt and bleat calls. In the early part of the season, when the rut is just starting to fire up, they may come to your call out of curiosity. If this is the case, be patient as their approach will typically be very slow. Later in the season when the rut is in full swing, be prepared for fast action, as the deer may come storming in to investigate your call.

Many a muzzleloader hunter has rattled in a whitetail deer. To be successful during the early part of the season, you should just tickle your rattling antlers together to stimulate a minor sparring match. Try to scrape your rattling antlers on trees and bushes, trying to fool a buck that there is another buck in his territory. Later in the season, when the rut is more advanced, you can use more aggressive rattling techniques to stimulate full-scale battles.

Elk can be called into range with bugles or cow calls. If the bull elk are bugling, try bugling back to them. With any luck, they will respond and move into muzzleloader shooting range. If the bulls are not calling, try using a cow call to entice them into shooting range. Often a simple series of cow calls will bring in an entire herd of elk.

If you get a chance to hunt moose just prior to the breeding period, bull grunts can be used to effectively coax a bull into range. The reason for this is that bulls will be competing with one another for dominance. However, if it’s breeding season, the bulls will be more interested in checking out the call of a cow in heat as opposed to responding to a bugling bull looking for a fight.

Some muzzleloader hunters pursuing antelope will use a decoy to try and lure in their buck. Although this technique can be highly productive, it can also be very dangerous. Other hunters may see the decoy and be fooled by it. The result could be someone shooting at the decoy and killing or injuring the hunter hiding behind the decoy. In most antelope/muzzleloader situations, I prefer to set up near a watering hole and try to catch a love struck buck as it comes in for a quick drink.

Added Bonuses
Muzzleloader hunters are usually able to go hunting in decent weather conditions. During a typical muzzleloader season, the temperatures are usually moderate to warm. Snow and winter blizzards are a rarity. This means the traditional hunting attire of long johns, toques and parkas can be replaced by T-Shirts, sweat shirts, light jackets and ball caps.

Many gun ranges have realized the growth of muzzle-loading. As a result, special muzzleloader ranges have been built to meet the unique needs of smoke-pole shooters. Having spent time on such ranges, I have found that muzzleloader shooters tend to be friendly, outgoing individuals who are willing to help other shooters, teach them tricks of the trade and talk hunting and shooting for hours on end.

Book, magazine publishers and Internet websites, such as www.biggamehunt.net have also recognized the growth of muzzle-loading. Over the past few years, there has been a steady growth in the number of books and articles published on muzzleloaders and muzzle-loading hunting. With increased access to product reviews, reference materials, hunting stories and hunting techniques, muzzleloader shooters are able to learn more about their sport. Increased knowledge means greater satisfaction and a greater desire to participate in the sport.

Game of Accessories and Gadgets
Muzzleloader shooters will also find that shooting a muzzleloader requires a variety of accessories and gadgets. These items are fun to accumulate. They are even more fun to use!


A few accessories: bullets/sabots, ram rod T-handle, cleaning jag, wire brush,
ball/quick starter, speed loader and cleaning solution are needed for your muzzleloader.

The ramrod is probably the most used muzzleloader gadget you require. One of the main functions of the ramrod is stuffing bullets down the barrel. However, it is also used for maintaining and cleaning the muzzleloader barrel. Ramrods are typically threaded on both ends for adding a variety of gun care attachments.

In addition to your ramrod, you’ll also need a jag (ribbed attachment for cleaning), ramrod extension, bullet puller and a short starter or bullet starter.

For those shooting loose powder, a powder measurer and a flask are essential. For a couple of dollars, you can also get a powder can nozzle that allows you easily pour powder right out of the can.


Just a few of my favorite things: bullets/sabots, speed loader, powder flask,
powder measurer, T-handle, ball/quick starter and a jag.

Whether you shoot loose powder or pellets, express loaders are a very good investment. These small tubes are made to hold a bullet and premeasured charge of powder. Express loaders make reloading a quick process and one that you’ll appreciate, especially when you have a 1200 pound moose requiring a second shot coming straight at you.

A capper unit serves a dual role of helping you put percussion caps on your gun’s nipple and allowing you to carry a few spare percussion caps. Speaking of nipples, a nipple wrench is necessary for removing and replacing the muzzleloader’s nipple. In most muzzleloaders, the nipples must be removed before the gun can be cleaned. Since the nipples are threaded and generally tucked away, a specialized nipple wrench is another must.


A variety of muzzleloader accessories resting on a possibles bag. Included are a powder flask, primers, ball/quick starter, powder measurer, capper and a speed loader.

Black-powder and pyrodex are highly corrosive propellants as they attract moisture. At a minimum, you require cleaning patches, a wire brush, cleaning solutions and gun oil. However, as previously mentioned, with today’s technologies, there are a variety of cleaning solutions and accessories that help make muzzleloader cleaning an easy event.


Cleaning is made easy these days!

After shooting your muzzleloader, you should clean it. For best results, get in the habit of cleaning it after every hunt. If you shoot your gun and store it away without cleaning it, you’ll be in for a big surprise (and it won’t be pleasant) the next time you go to use your muzzleloader.

A small glass jar with a lid on it is ideal for soaking small parts in cleaning solution. As well, an old toothbrush works great for cleaning hard to reach areas of your muzzleloader.

You will require a good set of screwdrivers for taking your gun apart and ensuring that everything is tight. Teflon tape is great for wrapping around the threads on the gun’s nipples. A simple wrap of teflon tape makes the nipple easier to remove and prevents it from seizing. If you are shooting your muzzleloader with a scope, a roll of electrical tape is a good investment. Since black powder and pyrodex are so corrosive, you can save damage to your scope’s finish by covering the scope tube with electrical tape.

When hunting, you will need to carry your muzzleloader accessories with you. Some hunters like to go with backpacks or bags they can carry, while other prefer a pouch that attaches to their belt. Whatever style you choose, make sure that it is big enough to carry all the equipment that you need, yet not so bulky that you continually leave it at home or in your truck. As well, make sure it seals shut, so that you don’t loose your equipment as you stalk across the countryside.

Limitations and Potential Restrictions
Muzzleloaders have changed dramatically over the past few years. However, it’s important to remember that they are still only capable of firing one shot at a time. In addition, they also have a limited effective range. While stories abound of hunters taking big game animals at long range shots with muzzleloaders, they really are a close to moderate range firearm. While many of the new in-line muzzleloaders loaded with a maximum charge have the capability of taking animals out to ranges of 200 plus yards, I personally try to limit my shots to 150 yards and prefer those in the 100 yard range.

Before heading out on a muzzleloader hunt, take time to check the regulations for the jurisdiction you are planning to hunt. Some states and provinces may have restrictions in place that do not allow hunters to use in-line muzzleloaders or scopes on their muzzleloaders. In addition, there may be restrictions in place for minimum caliber sizes…………Article by: Mike Hungle

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Tips On How to Shoot Fast

by David E. Petzal

How_to_Shoot_Fast

The sign of a first-rate intelligence, said F. Scott Fitzgerald, is the ability to hold two conflicting ideas in the mind and still function. So it is with fast rifle work. Riflery is a sport of deliberation and precision, but the demands of the real world very often make deliberation and precision impossible. Gunsite Academy sums it up to a T: “A good fast shot is better than a slow perfect shot because you won’t get time for the perfect shot.”

What follows is about shooting quickly after you have positively identified your target. It’s not about blazing away at sounds or snap-shooting at what you think is an animal.

Develop Your Mental Clock
The first step in shooting fast has nothing to do with shooting. It involves learning how much time you have to shoot, and whether you have to shoot fast at all. Much of this can be acquired by watching critters and reading their body language. A whitetail aware of evil nearby does not act like a whitetail whose greatest worry is where he’ll find a date that evening. An animal that’s 400 yards away does not act at all like the animal right under your tree stand.

On occasion, I’ve given the hunters with me heart failure because I waited and waited for a critter to move just a little bit to give me the exact shot I wanted. And I always got it because I knew that animals never stand still, and I knew that whatever I was about to drop the hammer on had no idea anything was amiss.

Eschew Perfection
Unlike shot gunners, who send out hundreds of pellets with every pull of the trigger and are happy if one or two of them get the job done, riflemen have it dinned into them that they have to be precise. It’s not enough to get a bullet in the 10-ring; you want to get it in the X-ring. If you’re shooting groups, you want to shave off every tenth of an inch you possibly can. And the way you do this is by being deliberate and getting everything perfect before you pop a cap.

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This is exactly the opposite of how a good game shot operates. Animals have not evolved with 10-rings or X-rings. What they have are hearts and lungs, and a hit anywhere in either counts. Modern hunting bullets are so destructive that catching a distant corner of a lung will result in as certain a kill as a shot right through the middle of said organ.

Don’t Forget to Aim

On the other hand, you still have to aim. Many misses occur because hunters panic, get the crosshairs somewhere in what they think is the general vicinity of the beast, and yank the trigger. (The closer the critter, the more this seems to happen.) A little while back I listened to a Wyoming outfitter recounting in disbelief how a client, resting his rifle on shooting sticks, had managed to shoot an elk in the buttocks at 60 yards. “How do you hit an 800-pound animal in the ass at 60 yards?” he asked me, still indignant. (He tracked the poor creature for two days and eventually lost it.)

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The answer is simple. When the moment comes, most hunters can only think: “OMG, this is the only chance I’m going to get!” Everything else, such as the fundamentals of riflery, goes right out of their heads.

Furthermore, too many hunters don’t practice. For them, the mechanics of mounting the gun, acquiring the sight picture, and pulling the trigger are about as familiar as those of piloting a space capsule.

What to Do?

I can’t tell you how to acquire cold blood. Jerry Fisher, the great custom gun maker, once told me that after you take about 300 head of big game you calm down. That sounds about right.

Short of that, the way to learn to shoot fast is roughly this: First, know your animal. There is no shortage of game-critter anatomical charts that you can study. Know where the lungs are. That’s always the percentage shot.

Second, when it comes time to shoot for real, envision an aiming point on the beast and hold for that. And the nanosecond the cross hairs are even close to it—not precisely on it—shoot. Fast, good shots, remember?

To practice shooting fast, you need a .22 rifle and a whole bunch of NRA 50-Yard Slow Fire Pistol targets. These have an 8-inch bull that’s just about the size of an animal’s boiler room. Set your scope at its lowest power and, at 20 yards, fire a five-shot string, lowering the gun from your shoulder between shots. What you’re trying to do is get that round off the instant the cross hairs are anywhere in the bull’s-eye. If the bullet hits in the bull, it counts. If it doesn’t, you missed.

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It takes me about 1.7 seconds to mount the rifle, aim, and get the shot off. Since my skill with a gun is legendary, bordering on mythical, this is a good time for you to try to match. When you can get all five rounds in the black, every time, back up 5 yards. Eventually you will be shooting from 100 yards, and if you can put 20 out of 20 shots into the bull at that distance, shooting fast, I will buy you a cigar. Or you can buy me one for telling you this stuff.

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Bargain vs. Premium Ammo

You get what you pay for. That’s an adage we generally believe in. But does it hold up with respect to ammunition? We set out to answer that question by testing the accuracy of a variety of value-priced .308 hunting ammo against more costly stuff.

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Methodology
Using three .308 rifles in the test—one hunting rig and two precision rifles that we knew would be ringers.

We put a number of budget and premium loads through all three rifles over the course of one day, ensuring the results wouldn’t be influenced by different environmental conditions. We also used a standard 5-shot-group protocol, and shot two groups with each load at 100 yards. As a control to establish a baseline level of accuracy for each rifle, we also shot 5-shot groups using Federal’s Gold Medal load with 175-grain Sierra BTHPs.

Using the baseline match load to calculate a ratio for each hunting load by dividing the size of the hunting-load groups into the size of the match-load groups. The closer to 1 that ratio is, the better the hunting load performed. None of the hunting loads outshot the match load, so all these ratios were greater than one.

Results
The outcome was interesting. The best hunting ammo was Hornady’s American Whitetail 150-grain Interlock SP. Compared to the baseline groups with the match ammo, this budget-priced load ($19.29 for a box of 20) shot nearly as well as the match ammo in all three rifles and had an impressive 1.41 average ratio. Federal’s Fusion, another bargain ammo ($21.49 for a box of 20) was second best among the loads, with an average ratio of 2.02.

The only expensive load that delivered consistent performance in all three rifles was Federal’s 165-grain Trophy Bonded Tip ($34.49 per box), The two Winchester loads had nearly identical levels of performance, though again, the less expensive 180-grain BST (2.11 ratio average) outshot the more expensive 150-gr. XP3 (2.81 ratio average).

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It’s worth noting when purchasing premium ammo that the promise of greater accuracy is certainly implied because it uses better quality components, but that much of its benefit is based on the idea that it will perform better on game.

Conclusion
It pays to try different loads in several different bullet weights in your rifles. Investing money to find an accurate load is the cheapest way to get the most from your rig.

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Muzzle Affect Accuracy – With or Without?

tapeIf you hunt in rainy places, you probably know about electrical tape, the basis of vigorous debate in almost any camp.

The tape, stuck over the muzzle, is used to keep precipitation and debris out of the rifle’s bore. But many hunters argue that the protective layer throws off your bullet’s impact point. Others say the flimsy barrier won’t deflect the bullet.

Which is it?

After testing the accuracy of two bullet types fired from the same .308 bench rest rifle, first without tape over its muzzle and then with electrical tape covering the bore. The results of eight 5-shot groups: Tape does not significantly degrade accuracy. Just as important, the tape also did not shift the rifle’s point of aim.

If you tape your muzzle to keep out the elements, you needn’t worry about shooting through it.

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How to Pattern a Shotgun + Video

Shotgun patterns are measured at 40 yards for all gauges, except .410 bore. .410’s are patterned at 30 yards. Patterning is a simple process, but time consuming due to all the counting required. Here is the correct way to pattern a shotgun.pattern2

  1. Set a big piece of blank paper on a frame 40 yards from the muzzle. (Butcher’s paper cut into 48″ squares works well.)
  2. Shoot at the center of the paper.
  3. Draw a 30″ diameter circle around the center of the resulting pattern, so that it encloses the greatest number of holes.
  4. Count the pellet holes in the circle. (It helps to mark the holes with a magic marker as you count them, so you don’t lose your place.)
  5. Cut open an identical, unfired shell and count the pellets in the shell. (The actual number of pellets may vary from the theoretical number based on shot size and weight, so it is best to count them.)
  6. Calculate the percentage of pellets that hit in the 30″ circle. (Divide the number of holes by the number of shot in the unfired shell.)

That is it; you have now officially patterned your shotgun. Of course, every shot varies, so ideally you should repeat the process 10 times and average the results. (Analogous to shooting a group with a rifle, rather than just one shot.) Your shotgun’s pattern percentage will vary if you change the shot size, the amount of shot in the shell or the hardness of the shot, so you need to pattern all the loads you actually shoot in a given gun.

Pattern percentages will usually (but not always!) go up if you increase the hardness of the shot, decrease the weight of the shot charge, buffer the shot inside the shell, or decrease the muzzle velocity of the shot charge. Pattern percentages will typically do down if you use softer shot, increase the weight of the shot charge or increase the muzzle velocity of the load. These generalizations primarily apply to traditional lead shot, your gun may vary.

pattern1The percentage of pellet strikes that constitutes what choke varies, depending on the source. These percentages are typical:

  • Full Choke: 70% or higher
  • Improved Modified: 65%
  • Modified: 55-60%
  • Skeet No. 2: 55-60%
  • Quarter Choke: 50%
  • Improved Cylinder: 45%
  • Skeet No. 1: 35-40%
  • Cylinder: 35-40%

 

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