Evolution of a Hunter (partial)

Deer Season is over here, and No, I’m not really evolved-there yet because I didn’t succeed, but things are different now. That bit I mentioned a while ago about coming to an understanding and appreciation for MossyOak™ and RealTree™ camo and clothing has deepened in the past few days. I had to get in my hot-air balloon and go up a bit and elevate my perspective.
To paraphrase and mangle 1 Corinthians 13: When I was a Shooter I talked guns like a Shooter, I shot steel like a Shooter, I Carried like a Shooter should, and I reasoned like a Shooter pie-ing a corner in a shoot-house – but when I became a Hunter I put the ways of raw-Shootiness behind me…
It’s also because of the new up-Country location, where Hunting is accepted as natural and normal. Early in the morning while dressed in Mossy-Oak and waiting for my hunting partner to show-up, I had a few hunt-related conversations with passers-by, and none of it was negative and most offered good-wishes for good luck. People asked where we were going, “Up past Ice-House to Loon Lake.” “Oh there’s bear up there too, got a bear tag?” And yesterday, “Last day of the Season and I didn’t fill my tag.” “Oh that’s too bad, my cousin got a big six-pointer but I didn’t get out and missed it too, felt real bad about that, first time in years.” There’s a whole ‘nother conversational topic available, and a box of ammo just sitting on a shelf that still has many rounds in it. Hunting is not a high round-count kind of activity – but I did put a lot of miles on my boots last week and almost didn’t even notice that fact. I wasn’t tired and wore out, only a bit cold (or too-hot) and generally felt pretty good and mostly refreshed and invigorated by the whole experience. There’s still Bear-tags available and that season ends at the end off December – but I’m not going after bear with a .243 Winchester that’s for sure! I do have a .30-06 rifle I can use for that, but I have to return to Shooty-Ways and zero the thing. So my collection of mostly mil-surps is also changing.

Hunt the High Country

Loon Lake up in the Sierras at 6,358′ altitude is across the “hilltop” from Lake Tahoe below (6,224′) and one of the destinations along the famous Rubicon Trail. I’m blessed to have like-minded and enthusiastic neighbors one of whom had heard there was big bucks up there, and invited me to hunt-along with him.
The plan was to leave at 5:00AM. I prepped the truck the night before stowing my long un-used camping cooking-gear in a Rubbermaid ActionPacker bin along with the tent and some (warm) clothing, an and threw EZ-Up and a collapsible table into the back of the Ford and cinched the tie-downs.
I got-up at 4:O’dark-freezing-30 on Friday, and showered (to warm-up, brrr!), then threw together the remaining ice-chest amenities: some frozen meatloaf, beer, milk, water, beer, Starbucks doubles-shots (the last coffee I would see for 24-hours – and grabbed the rifle…and that set me back a half hour. In a hurry I hopped in the F-150, keyed the ignition, and took-off up to Highway 50 heading-up to the turn-off at Ice House Road to hunt.
As I passed through the small community of Camino I opened up the cell phone to call (illegal here in CA, wrong to do it but I did it anyhow) and let him know I was just a half-hour behind and making-up time. As I bombed up the mountain in the dark I got a call and picked it up to find out his alarm had failed and he was the one behind me. For once! I stopped up in Pollock Pines to wait and meet-up, and imagining I was on a more relaxed camping-type expedition went in to Safeway and got: some salt-and-pepper, ground coffee for the little Italian espresso maker, a bag of chips – and fortunately, two ready-made sandwiches.
Up at loon Lake (and way out of cell-phone range) it was a gorgeous morning, and the sun came out to warm us up. We walked and glassed down a power-line road off the side of a high bluff. We went out to a drop-off and looked over the deep ravine 200-feet below and across the majestic mountains. On the top the wind swirled around, so we hiked back into cover and tramped across marshy high-alpine meadows covered in beautiful weathered lodgepole pine deadfall. We snuck between fallen trees and through stands of young evergreens. Every shiny broken tree branch looks like an antler, and each weathered gray stump looks like a doe bedded-down in the tall grass. We saw signs of bear everywhere and I felt a bit under-gunned with just a .243 but my neighbor was carrying a Winchester Model 70 in 7mm Magnum so I felt a little better – Plus I also had my P245 on my hip and two re-loads.
After seeing more bear poop and beat trails through the very congested underbrush, we beat a path around another rather large swampy “lake,” past bear-bushes and through densely woven thickets of manzanita and bear-berries, and made our way back to the truck. No does up here for the rutting bucks to chase and little deer sign. No rubs on trees and more coyote scat than deer prints. What we did see looked days or even weeks old, half-filled with pine needles and tree-duff.
So we headed down off the top-country to high-alpine country where there was a bit more cover and warmth. Van Vleck is a horse camp and there’s a Forest Service Bunkhouse and large meadows with plenty of cover and forage to hunt. So we went out and hunted.
Hunting is a lot like tramping through the woods looking at stumps and shadows with binoculars and enjoyin Nature while carrying a rifle. We hiked around for several miles in every direction and repeated the experience on the following morning until around midday when we called it a day. In the absence of deer we ensured our rifles were properly sighted-in on a stump, lasered at 180yds., and were rewarded with satisfying THWACKS with each shot. OK not our fault.
Deer are not stupid and it was freaking cold at night, as evidenced by a heavy layer of frost on the ice-chest in the morning. They probably all went down to lower and warmer elevations to frolic, eating all the fallen apples at Larsen’s Apple Farm, and rutting about in the land of plenty. There’s a whole bunch of them piled up in ditches by the road where they ended up after an automotive encounter.

Never say Never

Meeting my hunting guide tomorrow after work. His work. Whenever that is. He’s eager – I think, he says so anyhow. He’s also 30 so there may be some time-estimation variables askew in there somewhere. Maybe I’ll go take a drive up by the property tomorrow…
Meanwhile the A/C on the F-150 gave up the ghost after twenty years and is now mainly emitting Hot rather than Cold. So I need to get it over to Ponderosa or find a closer shop.

Country Musings

(Edited and re-posted from my comment at Sebastian’s) I’ve never been to a big NRA convention, nothing outside a “Friends of the NRA” Dinner-fundraiser. They’re too far away and politics-oriented. The Gunblogger Rendezvous is more my style, but there’s another NRA-dinner happening just before the next-next weekend gun-show, and it’s a small-scale affair run by locals for locals at the American Legion Hall on Greenstone – and it’s really just for fun. I got us tickets because that way we can meet and talk to more people and settle-in here.
What I have noticed moving away from the city/suburbia nexus to the country/rural region is that there’s a huge attitudinal shift in just 20-miles of driving. Out here in flyover country I’m only thirty minutes from the hated City, but it’s a thousand miles mentally.
People are not especially noticeably or outwardly more conservative (how would that manifest, more NRA t-shirts?), and they are as fluent in urban computer-speak and tech-culture as anyone in the Bay — but their hobbies and sports and activities and JOBS are decidedly not the kind of cubicle/paper-shuffling that exists within the City Walls.
They do ride bicycles up here but often for many-many miles, so it’s not just PC virtue-signaling (and the bike weenies are still jerks). They also ride big loud motorcycles and in packs. Some leather-clad, patch-adorned motorcyclists drive Japanese bikes too, so it’s not just Harley’s. The young men drive little econo-boxes until they grow up and buy a truck – and a ranch or farm to live-on/work-on. People ride horses, still – it’s not just for little girls. They shoot bows-and-arrows in school and then go to hunt with them – and everybody has guns. There’s a thousand square miles of very rugged country-mountain stuff as a huge backyard, and it’s criss-crossed with rough roads, so that keeps the relative population low at any given time besides weekends, and trucks with lift-kits are not just Suburban-Poseur Signaling, either.
Anyhow it’s a very different from the blinkered, concretized mentality of the Urban Space we escaped, which most Country People I talk-to, both young and old, find dangerous, decayed, ugly and unfriendly. They have self-selected and live out here on-purpose, rather than go to the bright-lights just thirty minutes away. Bright-lighters come up here to gawk and gape and think they are superior (they’re not), then drive on to more bright-lights in glittery Tahoe to lose money.
The Anti-NRA people are centered in the Coastal Cities and its fiefdom-exurbs, and it’s because they are part of that machine and they like it that way. But people escape from that all the time and especially the young who want to experiment and live a fuller life: a life with guns and with trucks, with animals and critters, and with Freedom and Liberty – things that that the oppression and demand for conformity that life in the City prevents. So they get away from all that crap and live outside the box, out in the Country.

How do you spell “tchotchkes” -?

In the Bavarian Alps, Switzerland, and the mountainous parts of Italy and Austria, all the little shops of trinkets and mementos have a sign in English saying, “A thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever.” … Yeh, it’s a shop loaded with tchotchkes and misty-eyed tourist crap. Hunters have them too.
Since being a newbie to Cable TV, watching hunting shows on the Pursuit channel has been an eye-opener. Or closer. Besides the obvious QVC shopping-shows and various frying-pan/make-up/weight-loss machinery/grilling-whatever salesmen, where else (but America) is a half-hour hunting   show nakedly dedicated to product placement. So I bought a spray-thing of “Dead down-wind.”
Apparently all our scented laundry items, soaps and deodorants, and various other scents produce an easy to identify vector for deer and other game. ! Unless you wear the super-duper electronic physical-zone erasing clothing with the electro-fibers that reduce your electronic footprint/signature, so that deer will walk right up to you, because they see and sense electronically, not through a optical cortex.
Shades of super-electro higher spark-plug ignitions of Hot Wire – and Monster Cable.
Anyhow, what else?
Hunting blinds. I know hunters share an intimacy that’s different, or is it similar to motorcyclists except you need to be quiet instead of loud? So is a hunting blind that kind of personal? Is it like a motorcycle helmet, “That’s Yours Not Mine?” Because I have a little EZ-Up canopy I could drape with camo and not share – would that work? Thinking aloud here…
The same dye-sublimated print $20 Mossy Oak shirt at “Resplendent-Splendid Outfitters” is only $7.99 at Wal-Mart – and after the season they go on-sale for pa hunted.$2.99 each… Trying to figure-out this hunting shit. None of the things on-scene today were there when my Grandpa went out in a big, lined, canvas duffel-coat.
I haven’t worn a pattern-shirt this loud (or this silky) since Junior High School in the 70’s.
UPDATE: Thank-you everyone for the generous comments and advice!! I am overwhelmed by the positivity!

Old Mauser/New Scope = Adjustments

My old buddy who’s escaped the wretched BayAryans and moved-in up The Hill, came down Friday morning with a set of 1″ Warne scope mounts. Interference

The problem being that, with the original low-low Weaver mounts on the Interarms Mark-X, the new (and bigger objective) Cabela’s .243 caliber-specific 3-12×40 scope had an interference problem (see right): the bolt handle would not rise and clear the much larger ocular ring.

Low-Weaver Mounts

So we set-to swapping the old low rings for taller ones with all the new gimmicks like torx head screws – and used a nifty $100 inch-pound German torque-driver of Pete’s that he uses on his air-rifle scopes, etc.   It measured 26lbs for the new torx-head screws to prevent tube-crushing.

After that and a bit of work with my vise on his AR flash-hider/muzzle-brake, we went to the Range.

Problem Repeated: Now I really  want to replace all my odd-sized and non-matching scope-screws with identical-sized torx head ones for uniformity. It doesn’t make any damn sense that so many AR fittings and scope-parts ALL have DIFFERENT size allen-head screws.

The Q/A asks, “Cabelas’ name is on the box but who is the manufacturer?” and the Standard Marketing Genius CabelasExpert064 Non_Answer goes: “Blah-blah…item number IK-714190, is made by a private label vendor exclusively for Cabela’s.” Yeh right, whatever. Another un-refuted but also un-verified answer from: State: Georgia, Age: 56-65, Gender: Male goes: “Meopta.” Looking on-line, another report suggests they are made by Burris. The box says “Made in China” – so maybe it is Burris.

After getting settled-in at the benches, during a cease-fire we set-up a target out at 100-yards and I proceeded to waste a bunch of shots trying to get on paper.
High-left, high-left, still high left. I ran the elevation click-arrows down until it stopped after just a few. WTF? The scope had run out of adjustment. Ok…let’s find the actual, physical center of this rig.
I undid the caps and we ran the Elevation erector click-click-click UP to the stopping point, counting all the clicks – fortunately it was easy because there was a nice witness mark on the tube and the clicks were indexed in five-click major increment hash marks. Then we ran it DOWN to the bottom and divided by half. Ostensibly that should be the vertical center. What happened is/was that the up-down/left-right arrows didn’t seem to correspond to the actual direction of reticle movement, at first.
So Then we went RIGHT with the lefty-righty rack-and-pinion projector (or whatever the hell you call it) to the stopping point counting all the clicks – and ran it back again to the LEFT and divided that number in half to approximate center. We went back and forth and up and down – and still were off.
Finally a wiser old head suggested we bore-sight it, so I pulled the bolt to have a look. With an easily identified target on the 50-yd line (lotta orange dots), glancing above at the scope we could clearly see that the scope’s sight-center was way-off, low and to the right. By now we had a helper in this effort and a few other commentators willing to add insight.
With the rifle held bore-on, we began moving the reticle to center – then after getting on-center the clicky-arrows magically began to operate in the correct arrow-indicating directions…
Hmm… First shot was nice (visible at least and close), but high and left, then the next was nice and on-center but still left, then move it over a bit to the right and X-marks the spot! After (FINALLY!) verifying zero at 50, I leaned over to shoot at the 100-yard target and couldn’t see my first shot. I could see my next shot because it split the 100-yard X. Time to put up a fresh target because things were getting confusing.
IMGP2379x1000When I went up to slap-on a shoot-n-see target, I noticed that my first shot had split the “10” – which had made it hard to see. After that it was just fun banging away, and varying the magnification didn’t seem to move the shot that much.
It’s maybe a 2-minute rifle at worst, but I seemed to get good three-shot groups with two touching, so I think it’s a one-minute gun – but either way that’s plenty for deer and it shoots nice.
Initially I was excited to think the scope was a re-branded Meopta, or Burris – but the weirdness with the turrets and backwards adjustments makes the “Made in China” lable on the box more prominent in my mind. At any rate it it bright and clear and sharp and fog-proof and things that won’t f*k up a hunt or mess-up the shot on a deer, except by me myself.
Incidentally I’ve been shooting Wally-World Winchester Super-X 100-grain Power-Point ammo, nothing special – should I change it? It seems to go to the target well enough.

Hunter Edu. II

Another night of class, more with respect to Archery, and then the situations and conditions faced by hunters accompanied by anecdotes by Mac who has hunted all-over: like is it a cow or a buck or a yearling, is that duck flying by a male or female? But mainly, PPPPPP – Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. Like having the paperwork for your California horses’ significant markings and gum-tattoos – or whatever they use to identify them – can enable you to continue to your hunting destination when stopped by Colorado Game Officers concerned with horse-thieves. And having somebody in camp with a Bear Tag when you’re forced to shoot one in self-defense or defense of the camp. Old Mac had a whole slew of stories and experiences to share with us, both as a hunter taking game from California to Alaska to Idaho to Colorado – and sa a 30-year Highway Patrol veteran.
Because it is Regulations that set the Standards and Procedures, and those drive the outcomes and determine the results and effects of interactions with Fish & Game Officers – and as usual, ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law… So you have to know the critter. Know is it male or female, what its age is, what makes it eligible to take as game, what the area you are in allows, and what time of year you can take game.
If you thought the Gunsteroonie Ninja-SWAT Shoot-House with shoot-no-shoot targets was tough, wait till you sneak up on an underage deer with pointy little antlers that smells you coming and is moving around to avoid you, one that blends in perfectly with its surroundings. In other words, it’s no walk in the park cow-shooting, you have to know a lot about the game you’re hunting, and how to identify it correctly AS game. Or risk a hefty fine or even imprisonment.
And then you have to gut, clean, and dismember the carcass before the meat spoils.

Hunter Education – thoughts

Hunter Ed. class Tuesday night, Gun-club picnic tomorrow and we’re bringing a salad (cloweslaw), and the raffle tickets for a S&W Shield 9mm. Which got me to thinking about the poly-stock black scoped hunting rifles the guys in the lane next-over from me were shooting.
Q: Is a scope necessary for ethical hunting and shot-placement?
My only scope is a Nikon .223 point-blank reticle on the Ninja-AR. I won a scope-mount section of rail for a SMLE at the last Gunblogger Rendezvous – it’s a Enfield No.1 low-mount picatinny scope base from GBR repeat-attendee Richard at Special Interest Arms, but I am seriously lothe to drill-and-tap either of my Ishapore rifles.
I can hit pretty well at 100-yards with the .308 NATO, and the Krag, and probably the .303 too – but is it well-and-proper enough for hunting, where a miss that is not a kill allows the wounded animal to flee and die in pain?
I know there are makers of good but inexpensive hunting rifles, which also come scope-equipped. The Savage Club-rifles we had for the Junior Shooters had great accuracy and a very nice triggers. Mossberg also makes a combo-kit hunting rifle as does Ruger and Howa. Maybe I should get something specific for the hunt? September is a ways off and there are also many used rifles in the gun-cases at local shops looking for a good home. Hmmm…
I think I’ll got for a ride on the Gentleman’s Express and check it out…

More funky weather

Overcast and high temps mean humid – which is new for me but I’m a newbie. Our lovely bartender friend at Wally’s related a weekend trip to the high country (Lake Alpine on Hwy-4, around 7,300 feet) with her little kids that was first inundated with rain, then struck by first small dime-sized hail, then bigger, then golf-ball sized – and so damaged their pop-up (hard-roof) trailer it leaked rain, and had the scared kids in tears.
Summertime in the Sierra, really anything can happen.
And we’re on for Hunter Education.
And maybe the ’42 .303 Ishapore SMLE is a better choice as far as softpoints go. So I need to get to the range with that and see where its 100-yard zero is at.

Strange Weather, Twists and Turns

Overcast and cool – only 80 when it should be about 99-degrees out. Got out early and chopped down some wannabe oaks, a small circle of stalks about three-inches in diameter that were rubbing up and bothering the aspens. Also more bramble and some overgrown crap-plant. And dug-out the wisteria vine that was going to pull down the porch railing.
Talking about goign to the range tomorrow, shoot the AR and perhaps the .30-40Krag – and maybe the NATO Ishapore…because suddenly I was invited go deer hunting on my new best-friend’s property: 160 private acres up on Pilot Hill! WTF? Hunting? Archery season begins in two weeks, rifle in September.
Where do I begin? Seriously there’s bucks with pointy-pointy racks up there – and a bear. Not going after the bear. So… Sighting in the Krag might be in order. That would make it challenging and not just deer-shooting, I guess. How much does a deer-hunt cost? What about tags? Do I need to buy a big old skinning knife or can/should I use the Krag’s Bayonet? Many questions, and the whole thing comes as a surprise.

UPDATE: May have to consider hunting with the .303 Brit because I have softpoints for that, but I don’t have any 7.62 NATO that isn’t FMJ spitzer and that’s not really a “deer round” AFAIK. I think mastering archery in just two weeks might be pushing my envelope a bit, even if the deer are only 50-feet away.