Saturday, December 31, 2011

Review - Federal .40 S&W Ammo from Part 1

A few weeks ago I was contacted by . They wanted to know if I would like to review some ammo and their new web site. I gladly accepted. Who would turn down free ammo? They sent me a 50 round box of Federal .40 S&W ammo.

This is going to be a two part review. The first part is going to review's website. Part 2 will be a review of the ammo itself. is a currently a small ammo distributor. They carry all of the most popular calibers, but not much in the way of oddball rounds. They carry .357, .38 SP, .380 ACP. .40 S&W, .45 ACP, and 9mm pistol ammo. They also carry .22 LR, .223, .308. 5.56X45, 7.62X49, and 12 GA. You can see from this offering that their target demographic is the home defense user, not hunters. That said, they do offer some great products for hunters.

For instance, in .308 they carry both Barns Vortex and Federal Fusion. These are excellent hunting rounds. If you hunt with buckshot, this is the place to come. They even carry the very hard to find #1 Buck in 12 GA. They also carry other hard to find shotgun loads like #9 game loads (my favorite for doves) along with easy to find, but expensive, Federal Black Cloud.

While they do not carry a great selection of calibers, they do offer a wide variety of choices within the calibers they carry. For instance, they currently offer 80 types of 9mm ammo and 17 types of .308 ammo.  This is better than any of the local gun shops I frequent and better than the Bass Pro Shops website.

When shopping with smaller distributors you may have a smaller selection of ammo, but you get much better service. They respond to emails quickly and with a personal touch.

I absolutely love that they list exactly how many boxes of ammo they have in stock. Nothing is more infuriating than making a purchase and then finding out that it is back ordered.

I was told that they recently revamped their web site. It is possibly the easiest to navigate of any ammo seller I have shopped at. The design is intuitive and simply works. I am the webmaster for several commercial web sites. As such, I must tip my hat to's good design.

The prices on are comparable with other online retailers and much better than local gun shops. What offers that most other places do not is SALES! Their special prices are very good, especially if you buy in bulk. Right now they have 1000 rounds of  Federal .40 S&W for $280.00! I don't know how long this sale will last, but that is a great deal!

Anyone who buys ammo online knows that shipping is expensive. is no exception. It is expensive enough that buying one box of ammo at a time is not a viable option. However, if you plan on buying several boxes, the shipping is very reasonable. The shipping cost does not go up very much when you add additional items. The shipping for one box of .40 S&W was $12, but the shipping for 8 boxes of the same ammo was only $14. This is very reasonable.

The ammo I received was packaged very well.
The thing I like most about their shipping is that they are located in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond is only two hours from my house, so my package arrived very fast. There are not many online ammo sellers in this area. If you live in the DC, Richmond, Tidewater area and you want your ammo fast, this is the place to go.

Even if you do not live close to Richmond, shipping is fast. They got my stuff out same day. This is one of the benefits of shopping with a small seller, your order does not get stuck processing for a few days.

If you are looking to buy in bulk and if they carry the type of ammo you need, is worth checking out. I know next time I need to make a big order, I will be checking them first!

I was not paid to do this review. It is my honest opinion. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How To Clean a Bolt Action Rifle

Gun season is over. So, it is time to clean my .308. I generally only clean my rifle at the end of the season. Before the season begins I sight it in, just to make sure the scope did not get bumped. I like to hunt with it dirty. Sometimes the first shot through my rifle with a clean barrel is a little off. It simply shoots better with a dirty barrel. After I sight it in I don't touch it again until it is time to hunt. I'm afraid that I will bump something and change its point of impact. At the end of the season I give my .308 a good cleaning and don't touch it again until next season. I've had this rifle for most of my life. Since I only shoot it five or six time a year, I plan on using it for the rest of my life.

Every hunter has their own process for cleaning a gun. It becomes a ritual, almost sacred. Cleaning your rifle is easy and pleasurable. The smells and motions involved invariably brings back memories of seasons past.

This is how I clean my bolt action rifle:

You will need a cleaning kit that contains:

  • a cleaning rod
  • a wire bore brush that matches the caliber of your gun
  • a bore plunger - used to push cleaning patches down the barrel
  • a dozen or so cleaning patches
  • a bottle of nitro solvent
  • a bottle of gun oil
  • a couple paper towels
Before you begin UNLOAD YOUR GUN! A friend of mine in college was killed while cleaning his gun. He forgot to unload it.

Lay down the paper towels. This will catch any dirt and oil drops.

The first step is to remove the bolt. With most rifles this is very easy to do. Check your guns manual for instructions. With my gun you simply have to pull the trigger while pulling back on the bolt and it will fall out. Set the bolt aside.

Soak the brush in nitro solvent, screw it onto the cleaning rod, and run it up and down the barrel a few times. It will take some effort.

Wrap a cleaning patch soaked in nitro solvent around a bore plunger. Pass it through the barrel. The cleaning patch will be very dirty.

Follow this up with clean, dry patches until they come out clean.

Repeat the process with the brush, wet patch, and dry patches until everything comes out clean.

Finish by pushing a patch soaked with oil down your barrel.

Wipe down all of the metal parts on the outside of the gun with a rag soaked with oil. You just want a very thin layer of oil on it.

Look how dirty it is around the firing pin.

The last step is to clean the bolt. Take a cleaning patch soaked with nitro solvent and wipe it down. Pay extra attention to the area around the firing pin. You may need to use a wire brush to get all the grime out.

When it is clean, wipe the bolt down with a light coat of oil.

That is all I do. It usually takes less than half an hour and is time well spent. A well cleaned gun will outlast its owner.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Guest Post - Grouse Hunting With The Family

Rory is a lifetime hunter, he was on his fathers back as a baby while he hunted. His daughter is on his back when he hunts. He lives in north central Washington State where mule deer populations are high and bird hunting is great. He is a bird hunter at heart, but trys to fit in some deer hunting each year. When all hunting seasons are closed he fishes. He Fly Fishes, Flip weights, Trolls behind his boat and electric motor. What ever he does he trys to always have his family with him. He blogs at R-Dub Outdoors because he has a story to tell, the story of his family in the outdoors where he believes they belong. He also tests and reviews gear he is sent or buys when he has some free time.

So in my family September is Grouse hunting. We look forward to it for all 8 months once duck hunting is finished in late January. Grouse hunting is also my wife's favorite hunting season. She loves spending time with me, our daughter Maddy and the dogs. We love the mountain top hikes and the views while looking for blue grouse, as well as chasing the ruffed grouse in the creek bottoms where is the flush you are lucky to get a clear shot. The good days are when we get to do both.

First two grouse of year
This year my wife was the lucky one who shot the first two grouse, and the first day ended slow my wife shot 2 and I shot one grouse and one rabbit.

We decided to check out some roads we have never walked before this year. They did produce some grouse so we will add them into our routine or closed roads to hunt.

But the best day came one evening when my wife, Maddy and I decided to go for a hunt after work. we left the house at about 4pm. We first went to the 300 rd and I saw a quick glimpse of what I believed to be a grouse run from the road to the bushes. So the breaks come on and we jump out of my old jeep. It always a great feeling when your standing in the bushes and can hear the grouse running on all the dry leaves around you, but you cant see them.

Maddy getting ready to go hunting
Finally the group of grouse erupts into the thick creek bottom. I can see one perched in a tree and as I am about to shoot it my wife yells I see one. Of course I think it is the same one I see, but being the good husband I am I tell her to shoot it. Bang, she shoots and says she got it, and lucky me my grouse is still in my tree so I shoot it. My wife gets into the creek bottom with the dogs to retrieve the grouse. While she was down there I saw a bee's nest in the tree that looks like a grouse. Of course right at that time my wife says she sees another one. I warn her of the nest and she is confident that what she sees is a grouse. When she shoots her grouse another one takes off right next to my head and flies up the hill behind me.

So I walk up to the top of the hill and it flushes. Just as it is about to drop over the next hill I dump it. After i find it I walk back down to the road and I end up shooting one more out of a fir tree. So we got a total of 5 ruffed grouse out of this group. In Washington State a daily limit of grouse is 4 per person of ruffed or blue grouse only.

Next we decided to drive over to the next canyon over and hunt the ridge between the that canyon and the one we were in currently. We drive to the top of the road and walk up to the top of the ridge. My wife goes towards the top of the ridge and I walk low around the shaded backside of the ridge with our dogs Remi and Lily our German Wire Haired Point Griffons.

All of a sudden Remi gets birdy. Of course every dog is different but Remi gets low to the ground and her nose works back and forth quickly and stedily low to the ground making a heavy sniffing sound and her tail stays very parallel to the ground and wags back and forth. She continues to work through the tall grass and I have to walk at a fast pace to keep up with her. Then Lily come over and gets birdy as well. We work the hillside for about 60 yards, then both dogs stop and go on hard point. I look up and about 15 yards in front of them there is a big blue grouse sitting on a rock above the grass. As I shoot the grouse 3 or 4 more take off from the grass below it.

My wife come running over to see if she can get into the action but of course everything is gone by the time she gets there.

So we walk to the top of the ridge with my wife a little disapointed. But lucky her the dogs get birdy again. They work for about 20 yards and with out warning blue grouse after blue grouse start getting up out of the sun dried grass. It was amazing so see them flush like this. It was very hard for me not to start shooting but my limit was done. My wife saw where some landed in a tree down the steep rocky hill. Like the determined hunter she is we hike our butts down the hill. She shot two of the grouse, and as usual when hunting steep terrain when the grouse fell they had to roll a few yards down the hill. Luckily we have our amazing dogs who happily go down an bring them back up to us. We hiked back up over the top and back down to where the jeep was parked and took some pictures right as we were losing the light of the sun.

We drove home that night with the feeling of MAN THAT WAS AN AWSOME HUNT!!! And a story we will tell for ever.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pepper Crusted Venison Backstrap

Some flavors mix perfectly with venison. Black pepper is one of them. Black pepper is my ultimate favorite spice. I know it is common and boring, but I can't get enough of it. I have dozens and dozens of spices in my pantry. Black pepper is the only one I buy by the pound.

This recipe is very, very peppery. If you do not care for black pepper then you probably should try another recipe. If you do like black pepper then don't pass this one up!

You will need:

  • 2 tsp. black pepper (less if you're not a pepper lover)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary (optional - dried will work, but it will screw up the texture of the rub)
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 pound venison backstrap
  • olive oil
  • butcher string

Cut the backstrap in half and tie the two pieces together with butcher string. Tie it up every two inches.

Mix the pepper, salt, rosemary, and garlic together in a small bowl.

Rub the rub on all sides of the backstrap. Let it marinade in the fridge for a couple hours. I recommend covering with plastic wrap so the meat does not dry out.

Preheat oven to 400.

Coat the bottom of a dutch oven with olive oil. On the stovetop, brown all sides of the backstap.

Place the dutch oven in the oven for 20 minutes. The backstrap should be cooked medium rare. You can cook it to medium if you want, but it will taste much better at medium rare. If you cook it any more than medium it will be dry and rubbery.

While the backstrap is cooking, give this side a try. It goes great with the peppered backstrap!

Sugar-Glazed Carrots

  • 1/2 pound fresh carrots
  • 1 Tbs. butter
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar

Cut the carrots into pieces the size of your little finger.

In a small pot boil the carrots in salt water for 10 minutes. Drain and remove from pot.

In the same pot add the sugar and butter. Cook over medium heat until combined. Add carrots and cook for about 2 minutes. Season with black pepper.

I added mashed potatoes and collared greens to the meal. It ended up very, very enjoyable!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Yuck! I've Been Sick.

I haven't been blogging as faithfully lately. The reason is because I've been sick. Nothing terrible, just a bad cold. When am sick I don't feel like doing anything that is not absolutely necessary. That means no blogging or hunting.

I have learned the hard way hat there is no point hunting when I am not feeling well. The whole point of hunting is to have fun. If I'm not having fun, why am I doing it? Who wants to walk for miles in the cold while they are sick? Not me! Not to mention, with a cough I'm not going to sneak up on anything.

Anyway, I just wanted to check in with my readers to let you know that have not given up on the blog. I have some great reviews, wild game recipes, and hunting stories in the works. I work at a school, so I'll have some free time over Christmas break.

Monday, December 19, 2011

My Deer Hunting Pack

Check out this site to find the best backpack for hunting!

Every hunter prepares his pack differently. He adjusts his gear to match his hunting style and personal needs. I find that preparing and organizing my gear is one of the most enjoyable things about hunting. I love the challenge of be prepared, but not burdened down. Every time I go out a tweak me gear, finding that I don't need some things, but really need others.

I had the opportunity to spend and entire day in the field recently. When I say entire, I mean entire. I was in the stand from sun up to sun down. Obviously, this requires more gear that a quick couple of hours in the stand. I normally pack much less.

Here is the gear I packed:

Obviously, this does not include my clothing and weapon. This is just the gear I keep in my backpack and pockets.

Lets look closer.

Backpack - Just a cheap $20 backpack. It only has one large compartment. I have cut off all the extra straps and handles to reduce weight. Believe it or not, I removed over a pound of unnecessary stuff from this pack. All outdoorsmen know, every ounce counts.

Safety Harness - Don't climb a stand without it. Mine was inexpensive, and is quite heavy at over 5 pounds. It does have a deer drag built into it, which saves a couple ounces.

Pouch - I like to keep all of my smaller items in a pouch. This just helps me keep organized.

Apple Pies - Over 400 calories each. Yummy and quiet to eat. This is my favorite hunting food. Two will keep me satisfied all day.

Headlamp - I don't care for my current headlamp, but it is better than nothing. A headlamp is indispensable when you are gutting a deer at night or carrying 50 pounds of gear to and from your hunting area.
Water bottle - I prefer bota bags or these plastic water bags. They are less noisy and don't take up as much space.

Butt-out Tool - I used this on my last hunt. Now I will not go deer hunting without one.

Ziploc bags - Used to put dirty or bloody gear in and for the heart, if there is anything left of it.

Binoculars - I love these small Nikons. They are crystal clear and lightweight.

Rangefinder -  Next to my weapon and knife, this is my most important piece of gear.

Hand warmers - Two for my feet, two for my hands, and one for the small of my back.

5 rounds - Only 5? I've never needed more than three. I keep an entire box in the truck.

Camera - Don't go hunting without it.

Small camera tripod - Weighs almost nothing and makes your pictures much nicer. You can actually wrap this one around a branch or something.

Old Timer 69OT - The gut hook and saw make this knife a life saver. This is my main hunting knife.

Buck 110 - The best skinning knife I have ever used. I take this on every deer hunt.

Gutting gloves - I hate touching blood and raw meat. I know.... a big problem for a hunter. I always carry lots of latex gloves.

Paracord - About 1000 uses. I don't ever go outdoors without it.

IPhone - Communication, GPS, weather, topo maps, clock, sunrise/sunset times..... the list goes on forever. This is never more then 10 feet from me, 24/7/365.

Not shown:

Toilet Paper - Every had diarrhea in a swamp? I have.

Matches - In case I get stuck in the woods over night.

Often when I am just out for a few hours I will just take what will fit in my pockets. I hate using a backpack, but when I am out all day it is necessary.

What do you take to a long stand?

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Disappointing End To Deer Season

My deer season is over. Yes, I know there are still quite a few days of open season left, but I will not be hunting deer any more this year. I'm looking forward to small game a predator hunting. I'm also looking forward to being successful!

My last deer hunt was a little (lot) disappointing. I went on a guided doe management hunt. I paid for the opportunity. Although the hunt was not expensive, the cost did add up once you add hotel and traveling expenses. Let just say this one hunt was about 30% of my total hunting budget for the year.

The hunt was supposed to be a low-challenge, fun hunt. I, and all of the other hunters, were promised to see lots of deer. I was told that the normal success rate was quote "near 100%". I was also told that last year the success rate was 110%. We were all excited, mostly with the anticipation of seeing a lot of deer. The hunt was on a deer management area and we were told that we would probably see some giant bucks, although we would not be able to shoot them unless we were prepared to pay a hefty trophy fee.

The weather was perfect, and although my day started off rocky (I locked my keys in my truck), things were really looking good.  By noon I was getting concerned. I had not seen a deer. Out of the five hunters on the hunt, only one had seen a deer.

At the end of the day only two hunters saw deer, one was killed. Three of us, including myself, did not see a thing. We all tried to stay positive, but everyone was disappointed and frankly felt a little misled. The guide was also visibly upset. At times he even seemed angry, this was apparently one of the worst hunting days he had experienced on the land.

I know that hunting is hunting. No matter how good of an area you are in there is always the chance you will not see anything. It was deflating though. I had been looking forward to this hunt for months.

I debated mentioning the name of the guide, but I am going to save it for later. I plan on trying him one more time. He is close to where I live and has a good reputation among local hunters. I certainly don't want to give him a bad review over one day of hunting. Bloggers have a lot of power in this regard, I don't want to hurt his business without just cause. He did seem to try to get us on deer and his accommodations were nice. He did a couple things I didn't appreciate, but I'll save those for a real review.

Anyway,  I killed one doe this year. I am pleased to have some great meat in the freezer. I had fun deer hunting this year, but deer hunting has never been my favorite. Now I'm going to focus on hunting the things I enjoy most; small game.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More Bad Press For Hunters

It happened again. A hunting accident made national news. This time it is only a suspected hunting accident, but that doesn't matter. People will see the headline and judge all hunting over this one incident. Some news outlets (like this one and this one) even twist the facts, lie even, to make it more damning.

Two kids were shot while playing basket ball outside at their school in Edinburg, Texas. One is in critical condition. The school is within 600 yards of farmland that is leased to deer hunters. The police have a "working theory" that the kids were hit by stray bullets from hunters.

Three area hunters were brought in for questioning, but none were arrested. These hunters were spotted from a police helicopter. One of the hunters was carrying a .223 semi-auto, the other two were carrying .30 caliber weapons.

The police have not reported whether or not these weapons had been fired and have not recovered any shell casings. A bullet is lodged in one of the students. If it is removed they should be able to match it against the hunters guns. There have been gang problems at the school, but this shooting is not believed to be gang related. (see Edit below for more recent news)

While none of the news articles mentioned why the police think hunters are involved, I would wager that they could tell from the wounds that the bullets were fired from rifles, not handguns. Since hunters have access to the land around the school, that would make hunters reasonable suspects. Gang members (thankfully) do not tote around 300 Winchester Magnums.

If it is true that hunters were involved, then someone really dropped the ball. Why was gun hunting being done so close to the school? Did the land owner not tell the hunters of the schools close proximity?  Perhaps the hunters were not safely checking behind their target. It could have even been an amazingly reckless "hunter" firing randomly. While rare, it unforgivably does happen.

Of course, it would not surprise me if it ended up not being hunters. It could have been a reckless person target practicing or a crazy person actually trying to hurt someone. As far as I can tell by reading news articles, there is no evidence linking hunters to the crime/accident.

Unfortunately, the news headline has the words "hunters", "shooting", and "school" in it. That is all most people will remember. Hunting, more so than any other sport, has to be above reproach. It is because the accidents are sensational. One mishap and the non-hunting public turns against us. They do not look at the statistics showing that hunting is one of the safest outdoor activities possible. I wrote a post on this recently.

The fact is that there are a small minority of hunters that are idiots. They don't obey game laws, they are unsafe, and they have no discretion when in public. We have all met them. They cause accidents, they bring bad press, they hurt our cause, and jeopardize our freedoms. One of these "bad" hunters can undo the good works of a hundred "good" hunters.

I know we don't like to talk about it, but the question is, "What do we do about these "bad" hunters?" I don't know.


After I wrote this post more information came out. The "hunter" that was carrying the .223 AR-15 was an illegal alien trespassing on the property. He was not hunting, he was poaching. This man was between 400 and 600 yards from the school. He is in custody and is the prime suspect. He faces a long list of federal and state charges already, so he should be getting some jail time regardless (unless our justice system craps out on us again.)

The other two "hunters" were not hunting. They were target practicing over 800 yards away. How many news outlets do you think will print a retraction?

A bullet has been recovered, so they should be able to identify the weapon soon. Actualy, they should already know if it was a .223 or .30 cal bullet, eleminating one of the groups.

I also found out that there are no laws in that area preventing people from hunting near a public building. So, even if they were hunting, they were not breaking any laws. The school has proposed building a wall around the complex to keep the students safe from hunters bullets. I think this is premature, as they do not even know if it was a hunter who fired the shots which hit the boys. Considering the twists this story has already taken, we don't even know if it was an accident.

Edit #2:

Finally someone picked up on the truth here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Guest Post - What is the Sunday Hunting Ban Really About?.. Part II

Kirk Mantay is a wetland ecologist who spends his free time hunting and fishing in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. Since 2007, he has run River Mud, a blog focusing on Chesapeake Bay outdoor sports and conservation

Sunday hunting. To some, it conjures up memories of days afield with kids who have a once-a-week reprieve from school and sports. To others, it is yet another signal that America is moving away from being a society that encourages us to spend time at church and at home on Sunday. 

From a purely logical standpoint, the Sunday hunting ban no longer holds much merit because other activities involving willful animal harvest – including commercial and recreational fishing, crabbing, lobstering, clamming, and shrimping…to say nothing of commercial slaughtering ….are permitted on Sunday in every state, and indeed, opponents of Sunday hunting participate in these activities. To say that hunting is any different is simply juvenile.  So let's move on.

In Part I of this series, we took a basic look at the historical (and hysterical) premise of the Sunday hunting ban, as well as a basic look at the groups of people most aligned with continuing this ban in the 11 states where it exists, and the types of groups most actively trying to have the ban repealed, thus, allowing Sunday hunting where it is currently not allowed.  In this post, we'll take a very detailed look at the groups most prominently opposed to Sunday hunting.  Buckle your seatbelts. 

1.  Group: Animal Rights Activists and Anti-Hunters

Organizations: HSUS, other local groups

Why they oppose Sunday hunting:  Any increase in hunting opportunities is a setback for the cause of anti-hunters and animal rights activists, because the potential for animals to be killed is inherently increased.  The long-term goal of most of these organizations is to abolish all animal hunting, all fishing, and all slaughtering of livestock.   Their publicly stated reasoning is composed of two main topics: 1) Hunting is on the decline, while wildlife watching is increasing in popularity; and 2) Sunday hunting means that non-hunters will get killed while walking their dog. 

What merit does that reasoning have? I have to say that out of all of these groups, this is one that is based on a genuine ideology.   While I totally disagree with it, I'm compelled to respect it.  They hate hunting.  Repealing the Sunday hunting ban would increase hunting, at least slightly.   Unfortunately, the honesty ends there.   These organizations routinely make claims like "36% of Americans participate in wildlife viewing but only 10% are hunters," so therefore hunting on Sundays should never occur.

 First of all, I'd guarantee that the 36% of wildlife viewers includes the 10% of hunters.  Even if we ignore that, the assumption that 100 million Americans are actively, truly engaged in watching wildlife other than from their porch or kitchen window is sadly.......just laughable.  In fact, extensive USFWS data indicates that 2/3 of Americans identifying themselves as "wildlife watchers" do not ever leave their house to watch wildlife.   So the number is really: "wildlife watchers away from home, including hunters: 12%; hunters: 10%."   Wow, that's not nearly as compelling as that 36% vs. 10% figure.  But it's true.

The USFWS data also indicates another critical trend that the anti-hunters don't want you to know about - while everyone knows that participation in hunting is on the decline, USFWS data also shows a parallel 20-year decline in Americans' participation in wildlife watching away from home, aka "non-consumptive wildlife tourism."   So that group of wildlife watchers that anti-hunters are soooo worried about?  They are disappearing as fast as hunters.  Their numbers are, in fact, NOT increasing. Or even staying stable. 

On the second topic (safety), I actually crunched the numbers on how Sunday hunting might impact hunting accident statistics.   The answer: None or not much.   It's safe to go outside during hunting season! Bottom line.  And with most states having 6 or 7 days of hunting all season long, with millions of non-hunters afield all season long, it's unusual for a state to report more than 1 non-hunter fatality.  Of course, the anti-hunters like to bring up bizarre "what-if's" like, "What if I get lost in the forest, and I'm wearing all brown fur clothes, and there's a poacher in a tree, and he's drunk and doesn't have his bifocals on, and actually I'm trespassing on someone else's property........"  Come on now.  My last post on this topic at the Unlucky Hunter was met with a similar response, "Well, sometimes my dogs trespass on other peoples' farms as a matter of habit.  I'll worry about them getting shot if the areas where they are trespassing are being hunted on Sundays!" and "dogs don't pay attention to property lines!"  Okay, how about you keep an eye on your dogs?  Then they will be safe. 

As always, the anti-hunters and animal rights activists have compelling emotion and compassion on their side.  But as usual, they are more than willing to misrepresent facts or boldly lie just to convince people to support them.  That's a shame, because it prevents us all from having any type of adult conversation about conservation topics that really matter. 

2.  Group: Religious conservatives

Organizations:  Mostly just "concerned individuals"

Why they oppose Sunday hunting:  Since about the 1880s, Sunday has been observed as a day of rest and/or worship in popular American culture.    These individuals are concerned that the advent of Sunday hunting would impact our nation's spirituality as a whole, and is symbolic of our culture's downward spiral away from traditional Christian values. 

What merit does that reasoning have? Well, basically, none whatsoever.  According to a long list of studies including one by Gallupall have some form of Sunday hunting.  Meanwhile, five of the six  states reporting the lowest church attendance all have a total Sunday hunting ban in place.   If I were a reporter on Fox News or MSNBC, I'd be compelled to report to you that "Gallup Poll shows that Sunday hunting is Good for Church Attendance," but of course, it's not that simple.  Suffice to say that there is absolutely no statistical relationship between Sunday hunting and church attendance.

Now let's step away from "church" and talk "spirituality," since we can all likely agree that the two are not the same.   These same Christians believe that it is just distasteful or disrespectful to God to be out in the woods, looking to kill a deer or a duck on a Sunday evening.  That's their belief and I respect it.  However, how many of these ideologues take their kids or grandkids fishing on Sunday afternoon, after church?  Answer: a whole lot of them.  Spiritually and logically, this just doesn't line up, unless you have some kind of crazy spirituality that stipulates that killing a duck at 4:45pm on Sunday is not the moral equivalent of killing a catfish or trout at 5pm on Sunday.   I have yet to find a religion stipulating such values, so I feel comfortable in dismissing the spiritual argument.  Killing animals is killing animals.  Whether by hook or by bullet.   

And one critical thought - why is Sunday fishing so important to these conservative families (and my family as well)? Because it's hard to get the kids out on the water any other day of the week........oh wait - this happens to be one of the strongest arguments for lifting the Sunday hunting ban. 

3. Group: The Farm Bureau

Organizations:  Virginia Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, others

Why they oppose Sunday hunting:  Not at all clear, but the bottom line is that the individual county farm bureaus within individual state farm bureaus continue to vote to continue to support the Sunday hunting ban - meaning that at least a significant group of  farm bureau members (ostensibly, farmers or farm owners) continue to oppose Sunday hunting.  

What merit does that reasoning have?  It's hard to tell, without knowing what Farm Bureau reps are telling their member farmers about Sunday hunting and its possible risks and benefits.   While claims have been made that the Bureau has provided misleading information about Sunday hunting issues, I certainly can't verify those reports first-hand, so I won't even link to them.  

Nonetheless, the bottom line of "we listen to our members" remains pretty damn valid......or rather it did, until  the Virginia Farm Bureau recently released this bizarre and quite ill-advised policy statement that gives some amazing insight about how they frame their discussion on Sunday hunting.  It's a piece of work, if you enjoy watching trainwreck style debating.

The policy statement includes claims that Sunday hunting is really a waste of time because most hunters, "have the means to take time off of work."   Wow!  I do?! Another statement goes down the rabbithole by stating that Sunday hunting would be fruitless for hunters anyway,  because "wildlife learn habits of hunters and avoid them."     While that statement has some element of truth to it, the millions of animals harvested on Sundays during last year's hunting season would disagree (if they could be asked)  that they had the proper ability to "avoid hunters."  In fact, nearly EVERY animal harvested by humans over the last 12,000 years would argue that human hunting and fishing pressure across the globe did not, in fact,  adequately educate them about humans, and thus save them from human harvest.  

If I had to bet, I'd wager that the Farm Bureau state offices in the 39 states with Sunday hunting would argue that they support Sunday hunting in their own state, if only because they support landowner rights.  How the VAFB and PAFB don't back that philosophy, I don't know, but their members continue to oppose Sunday hunting in democratic and at least semi-public votes.  So there you have it.  It may or may not be philosophically honest, but it's been repeatedly put to an honest vote by groups of honest men and women.   

Still, there's hope for change on this front.  The Ohio Farm Bureau recently (2002) voted to endorse Sunday hunting after the state promised to strengthen poaching and trespassing laws.  This will be an important model for Pennsylvania to look at, as many landowners and farmers are highly concerned about any impact that Sunday hunting may have on the already ridiculous problem of private land poaching by trespassers.  As the former vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau said, "I believe farmers feared change more than the issue itself."  

4. Group: Deer-Dog hunters

Organizations:  Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance, among others.

Why they oppose Sunday hunting?  VHDA's position paper on the topic says that the first and foremost reason is that God wants us to keep Sunday holy.  Second, these groups have lately been admitting more openly that hunting - especially hunting with dogs (I've only heard one representative of one group publicly state that part) - may be more likely to come under scrutiny from anti-hunters if Sunday hunting is allowed.   They theorize that hunting, especially with dogs, could be severely curtailed or banned as a result. 

What merit does that reasoning have?

Okay.  On the first reason - that God wants us to keep Sunday holy.  Let's be serious.  Am I supposed to think that a majority of these deer-dog guys do NOT  go fishing or spend all day Sunday drinking and watching football or NASCAR.   Holy activities, all of them.   Even if they go to church and then go fishing or drinking or watching football, which I'd virtually guarantee that a majority of their members do, then it's a flagrant violation of this reasoning.  If Sunday's holy, it's holy, right?  It's not only holy for deer.  It's not only holy for Sunday morning until you get out of church.  If the sabbath is holy, it's holy.  No loopholes.   I think we can easily discard this argument, because it openly mocks Christian faith, while hiding behind it.  

On the second reason - not fueling the anti-hunting fire (towards hunting in general) -  I won't say they have a point, but I understand what they fear.  But like the anti-hunters and Farm Bureau supporters, I believe that their fear is not based in fact.   Many "Yankee" states have Sunday hunting.  And those states have not moved to ban any stretch of the imagination.   As I've documented above, non-hunters have not been pushed out of public properties, hunting accidents have not increased, I mean, it certainly seems like nothing changes when Sunday hunting is approved, except perhaps the length of the hunting season. 

There's another part of this, though - and that's the "hunting with dogs" part.   These guys are more openly admitting that they fear the loss of their own quality hunting, and possibly their heritage, if Sunday hunting becomes legal.  First, deer hounds are typically run on Saturdays, and rested on Sundays.  This means that even if Sunday hunting were legal, most quality hounds would be taking a day off.  Let me rephrase that.  It means that other people would be hunting deer on days that they are not hunting deer.  The thought of still hunters pushing around deer on big farms or forests is absolutely not palatable to these folks.  It's just not - they strongly think of the resource as "their deer."  And nobody's gonna go out there on Sundays and kill their deer. 

Finally, the heritage of deer hounds.   Having grown up in Tidewater, Virginia, and having had "enough" hunts ruined by packs of dogs running miles ahead of their owners (and across dozens of property lines), I think I can speak on this topic.  The deer hound culture, in 2011, strongly looks like this:

Amazingly, these guys are finally realizing that "maybe" this presents an image problem, in a world full of the internet, animal rights freaks, and a general public that is occasionally scared of hunters of any kind.  As a result, they are becoming highly sensitive to public opposition to deer hound antics and I believe are starting to do a slightly better job of policing their own culture.   For instance, here's the picture featured on their main web page:

I commend them for their marketing effort - sincerely.  While it's true that fox chasing is LEGAL on Sundays (ironic!), that clean, regal imagery certainly appeals to the general public more than this more typical imagery of chase dog ownership:


Ultimately, the deer hound folks are going to have to fully realize that the future of their hunting tradition will not swing on the approval of Sunday hunting, but the general public's negative perception of guys who sit on the tailgate of a pickup truck waiting for the dogs to chase a deer out of the woods so they can shoot it (yes, I've seen it).

Overall, Sunday hunting doesn't really appear to be the menace that any of these groups fear that it might be.  Sunday hunting means a shorter hunting season.  And that the spiritually inclined will still go to church and get to choose whether he or she hunts on Sunday evening.  And that landowners will still have the same protections - and problems - that they already do regarding public access, trespassing, and poaching. And that the general public is still safe in the woods, even during hunting season.  And that anti-hunters are no closer to, but perhaps no further from their goal of stopping recreational hunting in the United States.

But if everything stays the same, what does that mean for the proponents of Sunday hunting, who predict increases in license sales, a boom in the number of new and youth hunters, and a huge economic swing in tourism income for states like Virginia and Pennsylvania?  Well, the folks who loved this write-up and going to hate that one......and it's coming next.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Blood Trail - A Short Story

Authors note - Sometimes I daydream a story and then write it down. Usually these stories are action packed and implausible. I rarely show them to anyone. I have no aspirations of being an author, even if I did I do not have the talent to become one. My latest story was about hunting, so I though some of you might get a kick out of it. Please be nice.

Thick, black smoke hung low in the still air. Its wispy tendrils wrapped around low hanging branches and clung to brush. The sulfur stench it emanated stood in stark contrast to the clean natural smell of pine and snow. An unnatural quietness enveloped the woods. It was as if nature itself was holding its breath. A distant roar could be heard, an echo of death announcing itself. Everything alive within a mile stood stone still, contemplating the danger.

The hunter also stood still, waiting for his ears to stop ringing and the smoke to clear. Unlike the wildlife around him, he had to force himself to stand still. His excitement screamed for him to run and see if his aim was true. The mule deer was not huge like those he read about in the various hunting magazines, but it was large bodied and well earned.

He slowly counted to one thousand and then carefully approached the area where the deer was standing. There was little doubt that the deer was hit, 75 yards with a modern muzzleloader is not an issue. There is always the question of how well it was hit. Just a few inches can mean the difference between an instant death and a long blood trail.

The impact sight revealed mixed sign. Impact and exit wound splatter was clearly seen. The blood trail was easily discernible on the snow, but there was not much. It looked like a single lung shot. The buck was quartering towards, so the bullet must have impacted a little too far back. Not that it mattered; the hunter could track this deer in the snow all day. He pulled out his GPS and marked the impact sight, and then he checked his cell phone. No bars here. When he got to the top of the next ridge he would text his wife back at camp.

After reloading his gun and checking his gear he waited another half hour before starting to track. There was no way of knowing when the deer would bleed out. It probably died within minutes, but there was no point in rushing things.  Sundown was in an hour. Finding the deer before nightfall would be nice, but with the fresh blanket of snow tracking after dark would not be difficult.

The deer ran downhill a couple hundred yards into a shallow gully. From a distance its tracks could be seen entering a thick stand of pine saplings.  The hunter carefully made his way to the saplings, stooping low to make it into their midst. He knew that his quarry probably fell in this enclosed space. In the center of the sapling thicket was a small stand of larger pines. It was more open under these pines and it was here that the buck lay.

The hunter cautiously approached. He took a branch and touched the deer’s eye. No movement. Dead.

As the hunter admired his trophy he noticed something weird. Snow had not made it past the branches of the pines in this area, but it appeared that the deer had been dragged a few yards. With a start the hunter realized the danger and shouldered his rifle, trying to look in all directions at once.

There are only three animals in this area with the desire and ability to drag a deer of this size; a bear, cougar, or wolf. Each posed a real danger to the hunter, especially in this now claustrophobic stand of pines. The predator must have found the down deer shortly before or after it expired. Thinking it had found a free fresh meal it began to drag the deer away, until the hunter disrupted it.

Even at noon it would have been dark under the thick canopy of pines, now that the sun was setting there were many shadows and black holes that something could hide in. It was from one of these shadows that an evil sounding growl emanated. Although he had never heard such a growl in the wild, it was unmistakable.  A cougar was somewhere close. Not only was it close, it seemed willing to defend its meal.

As the fierce animal slowly materialized out of the shadows the hunter’s mind raced. The cougar appeared gaunt, as if near starvation. It was not uncommon to see lions in the town nearby. Some pets had even disappeared. They seemed to be less and less afraid of humans every year. Few people hunted them anymore and the land could not support their numbers.

It is in moments like this that a truly good hunter is distinguished from the average outdoorsman. A hunter has to make complex decisions in a fraction of a second. Many questions have to be answered very quickly. Is the animal in season? Yes. Do I have a tag? Yes. Is it safe to take a shot? Yes. Do I have a clean shot? Yes. These and other questions have to be answered in a blink of an eye, or his opportunity is missed.

The hunter’s new quarry was close, the distance would be measured in feet, not yards. His scope was no good closer than ten yards and he only had one shot. What would happen if he missed? Would the lion run, or be angered? He did not aim his rifle; he pointed it much like he would a shotgun. The explosion of sound, sparks, and smoke was followed by a scream.

The cougar bolted through the thicket with a crash, hitting every sapling it came across. Then silence.

It was dark now. He took out his headlamp and turned it on. His GPS put him a quarter mile from his ATV. The ATV was two miles from his truck. His truck was 11 miles from camp. No matter what he chose, it was going to be a long night. He checked his cell again. No bars.

The hunter had always dreamed of killing a cougar. He did not own dogs and could not afford a guided hunt, so he simple purchased a cougar tag each year, hoping to stumble upon one. This was his opportunity. Possibly the only opportunity he would ever have. This is why he decided to track the lion first. It was simply too valuable of a trophy to loose.

He marked the deer on his GPS and exited the thicket, following the cougar’s path. While he was under the brush it had started to snow. This was not good. A light snow would cover the blood. Not a big deal, as the tracks were still visible. However, the snow would also seriously limit how far the hunter could see. The beam from his headlamp bounced off each flake, making the maximum visibility about fifteen yards and disorienting him. He would have to rely on his GPS. Also, in the quietness of the woods falling snow is quite loud. It covers the sound of footsteps and movement. Falling snow effectively muffles a hunter’s two greatest senses, sight and hearing.

It was getting cold and a wind was beginning to blow. The trail led down the ravine a short distance and then cut across towards a steep embankment. The tracking was painfully slow. Without the benefit of bright red blood on the white snow, the hunter had to rely on basic tracking. He did find the occasional blood speck, telling him he was on the right track.

When mountain lions are wounded they usually run up. That is exactly what this one did. Straight up the steep embankment. The hunter foolishly tried to follow, only to lose his footing and slide down to the base. He would have to go around.

The adrenalin was beginning to wear off and exhaustion was beginning to find cracks in the hunters mind. Was this really worth it? When he first encountered the lion he did not have time to be afraid, he only had time to act. Now that he had time to think of the danger, fear was taking hold. He imagined footsteps behind and around him. He even imagined seeing eyes flash in the distance, just outside the beam of his lamp.  Just the falling snow. A grouse took off from a tree above him, rudely roused from sleep. This made the hunter cry out, startled.

He sat down and rested for a moment, eating his last energy bar and drinking some water.  Then, he pressed on. He had made his decision to follow this cougar; there would be no turning back.

Revitalized, the hunter found the cougar’s trail again at the top of the embankment. The lion exhausted itself in the climb and was now dragging one of its front legs. It was close. He took out his phone. There should be a signal here. Yes, there was. Not strong enough for a call, but a text would probably get through. He sent his wife his GPS location and told her he would be very late, might even have to spend the night in the woods. He had done it before.

Now that he was getting close, paranoia was setting in. He kept thinking he heard something behind, then in front, then behind him again. What if the lion was still alive? Was it behind that tree waiting?  He knew he had the gun and the advantage, but this was dangerous. What was he thinking?

His light fell upon a brown clump, lightly dusted with snow.

Cautious, very cautious. The hunter slowly edged up to the clump. He pulled back the hammer of his rifle and kept it shouldered. After he closed to within five yards he took off his pack and tossed it at the pile of fir. The pack hit it square. No movement. Slow, even steps. He nudged it with the barrel of his gun. No movement. Finally, he stooped down and grabbed the lion’s tail, dragging it out into the open. It appeared that the cougar had climbed a tree, died, and fell to the ground.

The rush of relief was overwhelming. The cat was beautiful, a true trophy. The successful hunter admired his kill for several moments. It stopped snowing. The woods fell silent. Eerie after the soft noise of falling snow.

A soft patter approached the hunter. Jolting out of his euphoria, the hunter looked up. He hadn’t been imagining the noises! A lone black wolf walked into the beam of his headlamp. The hunter quickly shouldered his rifle and pulled the trigger. Nothing. In the excitement of shooting the lion he had forgotten to reload! The wolf raised its lips and let out a low growl. The hunter grabbed a speed loader and poured powder down the barrel of his muzzleloader while screaming at the wolf.

 Another appeared to the right of the large black wolf and then another at its left. Powder, then bullet. The hunter rammed it down with all of his might. Yelling and cursing at the predators, his fear was out of control. He pulled out the ramrod and dropped it to the ground. The three ultra-predators approached.

As the hunter fumbled for a primer he heard a piercing howl behind him. He looked over his shoulder. “Aww, crap!”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Perfect Crockpot Onion Venison Roast

Now that my freezer has a healthy amount of venison in it I have been trying lots of new recipes. I love to cook and am the main cook at my house. We have been eating venison a couple times a week and everyone, except my two year old, loves it!

I ran into a great venison roast recipe that I tweaked and made a little better.  It is a two stage process, but results in two meals, a light lunch and a hearty dinner!

The base for this roast is french onion soup. I know....boring! At least it is boring if you use a can or soup packet to make the french onion soup. We are going to raise the bar a little by making homemade french onion soup. There will be plenty for lunch and dinner!

You can make the soup the day before if you like.

French Onion Soup

2 Tablespoons butter
2 medium yellow onions thinly sliced
4 cups beef broth
2 Tablespoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

In a medium sized pot, melt the butter and then add the onions. Cook the onions until they are tender. You will be able to tell they are tender by their color. When they start to turn translucent, they are done.

Add the beef broth (you can use bullion cubes if you must), sherry, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer, uncovered for about ten minutes. The longer you cook it the better it will be, but you do not want the broth to boil down as this will make it too strong.

Pour yourself a bowl and eat it with some french bread while it is hot. You will want to eat it all, but be sure you save at least two cups for the roast!

On to the main course!

Crock-pot Onion Venison Roast

3 pound venison roast
6 small potatoes quartered
6 small onions halved
2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Healthy dash of black pepper
2 cups French Onion Soup

Using a slatted spoon dish out most of the onions from the french onion soup and lay them in the bottom of the crock-pot. Place your venison roast on top of the onions and cover with the soup broth. Add the Tabasco, pepper, garlic, and bay leaves to the broth. Stuff the potatoes and onions around the roast. You want the broth to completely cover the roast, so stuff those potatoes and onions down deep.

Cook for 6 to 8 hours on low. Do not over cook! Over cooking venison will make it so dry you will want to barf. It is OK, good even, if it is slightly pink in the center.

Serve with bread or over rice, reserving the broth for dipping. My wife said it needed carrots. Carrots would be good, but it would change the dynamic of the meal, taking the focus off the onions. Add carrots if you must. It will still taste good.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nite-Ize ClipLit - Gear Idea

I was in Lowes a couple days ago getting some keys made. On the counter next to the key chains was a bowl of Nite-Ize ClipLits. Even though their name is spelled very annoyingly, I think they could be very useful for a hunter. They cost less than $3, so I bought a handful.

Basically, they are a very low powered LED light attached to a small clip. Their packaging claims that they will burn for 24 hours. They turn on with a simple twist and stay lit until you twist them again. These small lights weigh almost nothing, much less than an ounce I would guess. They come in red or white. I chose white, although in retrospect red may have been a better choice for hunting.

I can think of two uses for these.

My first thought was to use them as a means to locate my gear at night. Who hasn't lost or misplaced gear at night? A few weeks ago I left my stand at dusk to track a deer I shot. By the time I found and took care of the deer night had fallen. Finding my stand in the dark was a real bugger. Had I clipped one of these lights to my stand, I would have found it quickly. You could clip them to just about anything you need to leave behind. A knife lanyard, jacket, backpack, or even a truck or ATV, the list is endless. They are cheap enough that you can carry and use several without breaking the bank.

After playing with them I discovered that they are also perfect for very close lighting in pitch darkness. These do not cast very much light, but when you are setting up a stand you do not want much light. No hunter wants to broadcast his position everywhere. These are bright enough to get the job done, but not so bright to bring attention. Don't get me wrong, they are not bright enough to navigate with. You cannot see more than a few feet with them. But they are perfect for checking the time, loading a gun, or finding something you dropped.

I'm not sure if every Lowes carries them, but you can purchase them from Amazon from the links below. They would make a great stocking stuffer. I can't wait to try them on my hunt this weekend!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Laser Broadheads - Dumbest Piece of Hunting Gear?

I was flipping through the Sportsman's Guide catalog a couple days ago. I like the Sportsman's Guide. They offer a weird selection of amazingly low priced, quality hunting gear and crazy, useless junk. Those of you who shop there probably remember the tree stand rear view mirror. I have purchased a lot of my gear through them with mostly positive results. I enjoy looking at their catalogs, not only for serious shopping, but for the entertainment value of their weird stuff.

Their last catalog had a couple gems, including the CVA Electra, a muzzleloader that uses a battery to ignite the powder instead of a primer.  I'm tempted to buy one of these just to see how well it works, although the idea of basically pressing a button to fire a gun is not appealing.

One item beat them all. The moment I saw it I thought Do people actually buy this crap? It was a broadhead with a laser pointer attached. No, I am not making this up. The idea is that you can use them like a laser sight on your pistol. Problems with this idea pop into my head instantly.

First, and most obvious, lasers go in a perfectly straight line. Arrows fly in a very noticeable arc. At the very best this would be like having one pin on your sight. I know several archers who only hunt with one pin, and they are very successful. But these are marketed to make bow hunting easier, not harder. To overcome this disability they offer different colored rings that you can attach to your arrow. This way you can sight in each arrow to a different distance. Of course, this means that you cannot have an arrow ready until the deer stops and you know which arrow to nock.

Second, the laser rests inside a hollow point tip. I could be wrong, I'm not a broadhead expert, but I've always thought that having a sharp tip was very important to penetration. The hollow point design works great in bullets because we want the bullet to expand and disburse it's energy. On impact hollow points slow down considerably by nature. Broadheads work the opposite way. We want them to retain their energy so they achieve as much penetration as possible. I would not trust this hollow point design to achieve the penetration necessary for a clean kill.

Third, in most states hunting with a laser sight is not legal. You can use them in Virginia for furbearers, but the regs were unclear to me about using them for other game. I wouldn't risk trying without calling my game warden.

I can kind of see how these could be useful for night hunting predators over bait. In this scenario you have a known range and penetration is not as much of an issue. But there is a fourth issue, they cost $50 each! $50 broadhead + $10 shaft +$10 lumenock = $70 arrow! There is no way I am going to shoot a $70 arrow out of my bow. I have trouble with my current setup that is $30 an arrow!

Am I wrong? Is this an awesome idea and I am missing something? Have you found any amazingly terrible pieces of hunting gear? If so, please share!

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