A blog about living, hunting, and whatever else I want.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

#3 Son gets his deer for the year

Mule deer season opened last weekend and we went out to see what we could find. We got to the blind about 1:30 Sunday and settled in.

Right away I saw a mule deer about 150 yards away in some fairly heavy brush. There are lots of elm trees in the area with limbs all the way to the ground and even if the trees are scattered 5 to 10 yards apart the lower limbs make a screen that is difficult to see through at a distance. I couldn't tell for sure if it was a spike buck or a doe because of the limbs in front of and behind the deer.

We watched turkey and squirrels play. Deer-X hung around, bedded down, got up, browsed, bedded down again, and generally had a lazy afternoon.

#3 sat still and quiet. My dad and I are both jealous of his ability to sit quietly. Youth has extra energy but it also has the ability to sit without getting cramps or pains.

About 4:00pm he finally started to get tired of waiting. He asked "When are we going back to Grandma's house?"

I told him that it was just getting to the time that the deer would really be moving and in any case we should stay until the end of legal shooting time. I also told him that if he didn't want to get a deer then I would use his rifle and take one if it showed up. He decided to stick it out.

A bunch of turkeys showed up and wondered all over the place making all kinds of noise. We somehow managed to convince #3 to not shoot one of them and to wait for a deer.

Reward time for #3 came about 4:30pm. A mule deer doe came up through a cut in the trees that a neighbor made with his bulldozer. About 20 yards behind the doe came a buck. He had a 1x2 rack but was fair sized. I got #3's rifle up and told him that they were close enough and he could shoot the buck when he had a shot that he liked. Mule deer season here is buck only unless you have a special managed land permit from the state, so taking does is not an option for us.

There was a little bit of a slope there and the doe kept getting in the way. The deer were also walking towards us while randomly changing directions to take a sample of this tree and that weed so the shot kept changing.

I was watching through binoculars so of course they seemed much closer than they were and with electronic ears on I could hear them tear leaves off the trees. I willed the buck to stand still and the doe to get out of the way.

Finally they both cooperated.


At the shot the buck's front end collapsed. His back end tried to turn and run and then followed the front end to the ground.

The doe stood and looked at us trying to figure out what the noise was all about. She must have wondered about the sonic boom of the bullet going by her as well. I was beside the little shooter so my viewing angle wasn't exactly the same as his but the bullet must have gone right over her back to reach him.

Meanwhile the turkeys were looking at us, too. They would have stood there and let him shoot one if the senior members of our party didn't start clapping and yelling and slapping the youngest member on the back. By the time I realized what we had done it was too late. The birds realized that they might just be next and departed. They weren't in full panic mode but they were walking fairly fast and the nearest were 30+ yards away so we decided that shooting at them would be a waste of ammo.

The laser rangefinder showed the shot was 104 yards. Not bad.

Here is the view from the blind.

Here is a pic of the young hunter.

Here he is with the meat. He is holding a turkey feather he picked up on the walk to the deer.

You can see the classic mule deer monobrow in this pic.

Here he is with his deer and the tool of his trade.

This is his third deer so he is an old hand at this sort of thing.

The rifle was a Marlin 336 with an Simmons ProHunter 2x pistol scope mounted on an XS Scout Mount using Leupold QRW quick release rings. The rifle also has XS ghost ring sights. A cheek rest from Fulton Armory raises the comb high enough for him to see through the scope properly. The wide eye relief range of the scope means the stock doesn't have to be chopped off for him to use it and the only adjustment I have to make to use the same rifle setup is to push the cheekrest off to the side a little so I can get my face down far enough that my eye lines up with the scope. Butler Creek flipup scope covers keep the lenses clean when the rifle is being transported

The ammo was Remington Managed Recoil .30-30. It has a 125gr. CoreLokt bullet at a nominal 2175fps. Over the years I've read many times in hunting magazines about a bullet breaking both shoulders and being recovered from under the skin on the far side of some animal but I had never actually seen that in person until this hunt. A part of the core was just under the skin under the far side.

Here he is showing the point of impact.

I had a little trouble with my scale and didn't get to weigh the buck on the hoof. I got the scale working later and the buck weighed 108 pounds field dressed.

On the way back to the truck I ran into the first mule deer we'd seen. He stuck his head out of the brush about 10 yards from me as I was walking by. Turns out it was a spike.

Here is a little wider shot. You can see the truck off to the right.

Not a bad days work. On the way out we stopped and chatted with a neighbor for about 30 minutes. As we were driving up the road towards the house I saw something on top of a rise on our place between the house and the road. Sure enough it was four big mule deer bucks. I checked the time and it was 8 minutes after the end of legal shooting. We should have quit talking with the neighbor after 10 minutes and I might have had a shot.

There is always next week.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Quote of the Day

There are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous men.

The most recent source I can find is Robert Heinlein's book Starship Troopers (don't bother with the silly hollywood movie, get the book), although I believe it is much older than that.

Of course in today's politically correct, equal opportunity, "non-gender-specific" world it would have to be changed to something like:

There are no dangerous men or women of any orientation or transgender status that can be imagined, including but not limited to those who prefer children, animals, or space aliens, as well as an infinite number that cannot be imagined and quite a few that it is best not to try and imagine, but there are an infinite number of dangerous objects that may cause someone somewhere to wet their pants in panic and could easily cause an otherwise innocent person to be misunderstood and to commit crimes and therefore their possession must be banned.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Things You See

I was at the farm again last weekend. Still looking for that particular buck, or at least a nice one. With three little hunters filling the freezer I can afford to be choosy and if I don't get one at all then maybe one of the little ones I pass on will be bigger next year.

At any rate I was sitting and looking around with binos on Sunday morning. It was almost 9:00am and I was getting ready to pack it in in the next few minutes so I could get home. I hadn't looked around behind me in a few minutes so I glanced over my shoulder and was surprised to see this little one.

I've never seen one so little out so late. What were Mom and Dad thinking!?

This tyke was all alone. I wondered where Momma was. I took these pics over about a 5 minute period.

I'm not sure what the attraction was for the trailer hitch but the fawn kept going back and licking it. There was still a heavy frost on everything that hadn't been in the sun. If he'd been a few minutes earlier I might have gotten a pick of him with his tongue stuck.

Finally it went around the trailer to the water pan where Momma was getting a drink or something all that time.

Off they went.

I decided to just sit for a little while longer and see what else I could get a pic of. First up, another mule deer doe. She came by and put on a nice show for me.

Mule deer aren't the brightest creatures in the world. The bucks are not quite as trusting but aren't any brighter that I can tell. The biggest factor in getting a decent mule deer buck on smaller farms is having the buck wander across your place when you are there. Mule deer cover a lot more ground than whitetails and will hit any quarter section of land within their normal range maybe once every few weeks. If they cross your place during hunting season then great, if not, you're out of luck unless you are the kind of person that shoots them on someone else's property without permission. Even if you are that kind of person it is a felony so some people don't do it for that reason alone.

Before the doe had gotten very far I noticed some quail in the area. There has been a shortage of quail for the last few years. We saw one covey of about 10 or 12 on Saturday, then a group of 6. Could have been part of the same bunch. This bunch numbered 10 or 12 total but they wouldn't sit still long enough to count. You can see one on the dead limb at the base of the tree and 3 more spread out to the left. More of them had already started heading out.

Here is one I got a pic of as it walked under the blind.

I have videos of these as well and if I have time I'll try to upload them.

You can click the pics to see them full size.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank You

If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go.

Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own.

And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.

Major Michael Davis O'Donnell
KIA March 24, 1970 - Dak To, Viet Nam

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tales from the hunt, Part 2.

I went to the old elevated blind Sunday morning. I was there extra early and once again it was dark with no moon so I was taking a short nap. The thump of a hoof on the ground woke me up. I couldn't see anything in any direction so I waited. What else could I do?

About twenty-five minutes before legal time I could see deer about 100 yards away but I couldn't identify them. I could see the bodies and the occasional flicker of white from an ear or a tail. Finally it got light enough to see that there were three whitetail does and one fawn hanging around. Then a mule deer doe and fawn arrived. Then another mule deer doe and fawn. The place was getting a little crowded.

The four whitetails came close by me again. While they were working their way towards me more mule deer does and fawns showed up. About 7 or 8 total. From the other direction a whitetail spike showed up following a mule deer spike for a little while, then he went off on his own.

No sooner had the four whitetail does left then seven more came out of the trees about 75 yards away and walked through the middle of the mule deer.

One lone whitetail fawn came walking by through an open place between two heavily treed places. A bunch of turkeys were walking right by the trees on one side. I guess the fawn's mother was inside that bunch of trees because he suddenly charged the turkeys and scattered them as he ran into the trees.

We have plenty of whitetail does but I've only seen one decent buck. Usually we see several of them before and during the season. There haven't been any bucks more than 1.5 years old on the game camera, either.

We usually take about an equal number of does and bucks each year. Last year for example we took two decent bucks, two does, and one nubbin buck that we though was a doe when #3 dropped him. This year we may only get the one buck we have and finish filling the freezer with does. There are plenty of them and some are pretty big. The one #1 shot this year was over 100 pounds on the hoof.

I guess we'll find out.

In any case I'd rather be out there hunting and watching than in here. The problem is that there isn't really any money to be made out there in the woods, at least not at my skill level.

Tales from the hunt, Part 1.

I went out Friday to set up because Saturday was opening day for me. Put ladders up for the blinds, put chairs in the blinds, etc. I went to set up the popup blind in another spot near where I'd seen the buck last week. The spot I picked was in the very edge of a plum thicket on ground high enough to see over the grass out to the big plum thicket. There were some weeds and a number of little plum bushes, maybe 12"-18" high, in the area. (Note: It's not really a big plum thicket any more. It was the original plum thicket on the farm. It's about 50 yards across and used to be very dense and almost impossible to get through unless you brought a bulldozer. Then, somehow a few elm trees started growing in it. Now they have just about shaded out the plums, but we still call it the big plum thicket.) I forgot my hoe and big shovel, LOL, you always forget something. I always keep a small shovel in the truck so I started to work on the plums with it, which is slow going.

After getting a couple of plums bushes out I stopped when I heard a strange sound. Sort of like "shiiiiishhhhhhh . . . thumpthump . . . whiiiishhhhhhh . . . thumpthump" repeated several times. I looked around for the source of the sound.

You guessed it. Mr. Buck was jumping over the grass on some business of his own. The grass is 5 to 6 feet high through there and he was jumping high enough to clear the grass so he could see where he was going. The swish sound was his legs and hooves brushing through the top of the grass and the thumpthump was his hooves hitting the ground when he landed.

He went by about 30 yards away from me, going towards the northwest until he hit the road we made to and around the big thicket. Road is a generous term. It is really two beaten down paths made by years of driving over it with pickups. When he hit the road he turned and followed it right to the thicket and went inside. He wasn't alarmed or in a particular hurry. He never raised his flag. He saw me and the truck but never changed course until he hit the road. If that had been Saturday instead of Sunday I could have easily cut his journey short.

He was a fat buck. That healthy but toned fat where the muscles are all defined but they sort of jiggle. He was beautiful.

I decided that I should quit messing around and go let him get his beauty rest.


I went back to the house and checked the zero on my rifle. Always do that. With all the time I spent getting the kids ready I hadn't had time to check the zero before. I know, I'm bad - that's two demerits. Sue me. It's not like I was out of practice with a rifle. In this case checking it paid off as the screws on the mount had come loose.

I cannot explain why I didn't Loctite them in the first place. That's two more demerits.

Another thing to always bring along is a set of basic tools to keep your firearms working. Just a couple of minutes and I was back in the game and ready for the next morning.

Another thing I typically bring is a backup in case my primary goes down. I've seen one scope go down while hunting. The hunter didn't have backup irons and he didn't have a backup rifle. He was left begging and borrowing. Not a situation you want to be in.


Fifteen minutes before legal shooting time I was scanning around with the binos. There was no moon but the sky was clear. It was dark, but not quite as dark as The Wookie's Heart so to speak. I saw a deer about 50 yards out looking at me. I could see the outline and while I couldn't see antlers I could see ears moving. Then it turned and jumped over a yukka. It took two steps and jumped again for no reason I could see. I couldn't see it clearly but I'm convinced it was the big buck. He slowly worked his way up a small rise and after about five minutes he was out of sight.

Just like a guy - always showing up early for a date.

In this case he was smart enough not to come back later, but I still had plenty to look at.


Three whitetail does, one with a fawn in tow, showed up a little while later. I was hoping that the buck was somewhere watching and when nothing happened to the does he might make an appearance. So much for that thought, but back to the does. They walked right by the blind. I forgot to check for prints but I think one of them walked under the blind. I could hear them nibbling plants and occasionally pawing (hoofing?) the ground. They finally wandered off.

Then a mule deer doe and her fawn came by to visit. Then 18 turkey hens came by to say hello. While they were wandering around a little 2x2 whitetail buck came by. This one wasn't as big as the one #2 shot last week. This guy might have been 100 pounds on the hoof but he made up for his size in attitude.

He walked right through the middle of the hens and then decided he needed a little practice with his antlers. I wish I'd had my video camera because he put on quite a show. The hens didn't seem much impressed. I guess they'd seen this sort of thing before and just wanted to get out of the way without being trampled.

The little buck first selected a tree with a trunk about 5 or 6 inches in diameter. He faced it, charged it head on, lowered his head and butted it like a goat. I clearly heard the "whack" on impact. Of course the tree didn't budge. The little buck looked at it, decided this wasn't going to work out for him, and decided to pick on something smaller.

His next victim was a sappling maybe 8 or 10 feet high and about an inch in diameter. He worked it over good. Up one side and down the other. He would whip it back and forth with his antlers and then go at it straight ahead running his antlers up the trunk trying to bend the tree over and doing a pretty good job of it.

He beat on that tree for about five minutes while the hens went around him on either side.

I took a walk around the same time I'd seen the buck on Friday and went to the spot where I'd been planning on setting up the popup. I didn't see the buck but there were big deer tracks in the tire tracks where I'd turned my truck around.

Next week I may go back out there on Friday, lean my rifle against the truck, then take a shovel and whack it against some plum bushes a few times and see what happens.


I'll post about Sunday a little later.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Make sure your gas block is pinned

The front sight base on an AR is normally pinned to the barrel. The standard method is to drill the FSB and barrel together and then drive a solid tapered pin into place so the FSB doesn't move. For very high accuracy applications (Krieger barreled uppers intended for use in Service Rifle, or for knocking the eyes out of gnats at 300 yards with a varmint rifle) the base and barrel is sometimes drilled and a hollow roll pin or pins are used instead of the tapered pin. According to Clint McKee at Fulton Armory this is because the solid tapered pin actually displaces metal and can at least theoretically affect the accuracy. Not a problem with a chrome lined barrel but with a Krieger barrel I can see the concern. I have used a NM upper with a hollow roll pin and it never came loose, so that seems to work ok, at least for match use.

The problem is that sometimes people get the great idea that they can use a set screw and skip the pin entirely. Don't do it.

I know a guy with a DPMS LR308 AP4. It came with a quad rail from the factory and it had a standard FSB. He wanted a folding front sight so he let the shop he bought it from send it to their "gunsmith". The guy installed a railed block with two set screws and no pin.

At first everything seemed fine. He put 50 or maybe 100 rounds through it without trouble. Then it started to short stroke once in a while. Then it started not ejecting. He asked me about it and we took it apart and looked it over. The gas rings were present and it good shape. Heck, the bolt was actually tight in the carrier. The gas key was tight and the screws were properly staked. We ran a soft aluminum wire into the gas key and up the gas tube. Nothing was stuck in there. I did notice a slight gap between the back of the gas block and the front of the barrel shoulder but I've seen that before due to tolerances in gas blocks and barrels. The gap really wasn't that much so I just filed that thought away.

We oiled it and decided to try again. The first shot barely moved the carrier at all and on the second shot the carrier didn't move. I looked at the gas block again and noticed that the gap between it and the barrel shoulder was noticeably bigger than it was two shots ago.

The block wasn't pinned. Issue found.

Having the gas block drilled and pinned might cost $20 or $30 bucks but it is well worth it. If you are having one swapped out or you are custom ordering an upper be sure to have this done. If you are on a tight budget then wait another week or find somewhere else to shave $30 off the upper. You will be glad you did.

BTW this gas block was one that slips over the barrel from the front and has two set screws in the bottom to "secure" it. It must be drilled and pinned. Some gas blocks are of a split design that slides over the barrel and two or more screws clamp the block to the barrel. Some are two pieces that clamp around the barrel like a scope ring. The clamping types are better than the set screw type and if everything is degreased and roughed up they will probably work ok, but I would still prefer a pinned one. Then you don't have to worry about it coming loose at the wrong time.

Meat on the table - Warning, some blood in the pics

Last weekend was youth gun preseason for whitetail and turkey. Of course we had to go out for that. No question about it.

Something you might not think about is who gets to shoot first when you have more than one little one in a blind with you. I was going to be with #1 in the blind he helped build. My dad was going to be in the old one with #2 and #3. We decided that #3 would get first shot at a deer and #2 would get first shot at a turkey. If anyone shot and missed then it was the other ones turn. Fair enough all around.

I got my dad and #2 and #3 sons in their blind in plenty of time. When I turned in towards the new blind where #1 and I were going to wait the headlights flashed across the ladder of the blind and a large deer jumped through the light and was gone. I couldn't see if it was a buck or doe and I couldn't see for sure if it was a whitetail or mule deer. The jump said "whitetail" but you can't tell for sure from that kind of jump. If it had pogo's off I would have said mule deer because I've never seen a whitetail pogo, but i guess even that isn't a sure thing.

Light was just starting to show in the east by the time I got #1 in the blind, parked the truck, and made it back to him. We had a little while to settle in before it really started to get light. We were probably there 30 minutes before legal time. I like to have a little time to relax and correct anything that isn't right or is uncomfortable.

I was scanning with the binos and at about 7:45am I saw a buck a good distance off. I couldn't tell at first if it were a mule deer or whitetail but soon it was apparent that it was a whitetail. He was watching us and obviously heard us. He was in an open spot between a plum thicket that had grown up around a few huge old elm trees and another loan elm tree. Then he walked over behind the plum thicket and out of sight. Several times he poked his head out to look at us and listen some more, then went behind or into the thicket and stayed. I measured the distance to the near side of the thicket as being 322 yards and the distance to the lone elm tree as 425 yards. Between the high grass and grass burs I wasn't going to try and drag #1 out there and didn't think we would have much luck at that in any case. Early in the morning when the deer are moving I find it is better to sit still and wait.

Shortly after that two very red colored whitetail does showed up just kind of walking around browsing a few leaves. Their heads came up and they were looking toward the heavy brush they had come out of. I was hoping it was the buck coming to join them but it was a grey colored whitetail doe and her fawn. I mention their color because whitetails are typically kind of reddish colored while mule deer are grey. Some whitetails around here are grey like mule deer. There has been a lot a speculation about mule deer and whitetail breeding and I've heard that mule deer are the result of whitetail and blacktail deer breeding. I don't know about that but the two pairs standing next to each other made the difference in color very apparent.

#1 asked why they were different colors. I thought about it and told him I really didn't know but I thought deer might be sort of like people in that some have red hair, some have blond hair, some have black hair, some have light colored skin, some have dark colored skin, and for the most part little ones will tend to look like their parents and grandparents. He seemed satisfied with that answer.

#1 couldn't decide if he wanted to shoot a doe or wait for the big buck. I told him that on opening day I would probably wait if I wanted a buck and that there was plenty of time left in the season. He decided to wait. One red doe wandered off to the south while the other red doe, the grey doe and her fawn wandered back off to the north.

Then I heard a shot from where my dad was sitting with the other boys. Shortly after that I heard another shot. #1 said "I'll bet they shot that buck." I guessed that with two shots close together like that they probably were thinning out the turkey, or maybe they wounded one with the first shot and had to finish it.

My dad came on the radio and said that #3 had shot at a little buck and missed, then #2 connected on his turn. Everyone felt bad for #3, except for #2 that is. The little guy had been looking almost directly into the rising sun and couldn't see well through the scope. He had wanted that deer and decided to shoot instead of waiting for a better opportunity. That is understandable in an inexperienced hunter. We explained to him later that he had to decide if he could make the shot and if he wasn't sure he should have waited a little while. Who knows, the game may move, the sun by go behind a cloud or the shadow from a tree limb may come and make the shot easy.

In any case #2 ended up with the first deer of the day. It's his third deer, so he is getting to be an old hand at this.

I wanted to try out the deer scale I got for Christmas last year so we hung it up.

When we first hung it up it read 122.8. This is the reading after it drained for a few minutes. Not a huge whitetail buck by local standards but respectable.

#2 shot him with a 6.8x43mm SPC using 110gr. SSA Sierra ProHunter factory loads. Here is the exit wound.

Pretty impressive performance for the little round. I think it is because it uses heavily constructed light for caliber bullets at fairly high velocity.

After #1 heard that his little brother had taken a deer he decided he would shoot a doe if one came along. Sure enough, within one minute of saying that the lone red doe that had gone south decided to come back by us. Big boy put a round through her and planted her at about 35 yards. She was moving when he shot and he hit her in the spine above the shoulder. I thought she would bleed out quickly but five minutes later she was still breathing so I told him to shoot her again in either the neck or brain, whichever he could see better with her down in the weeds and brush. She was laying with her belly facing us. He put the round in just below her lower jaw and it took out the top of her head. Very conclusive. He has a great ability to visualize where the vital organ is and place the bullet so it goes through that organ. It didn't matter that he couldn't see her brain directly, he placed the bullet so it went to the right spot.

The boys helped with cleaning this time. #2 showed that you can use a gut hook and still split open the guts. I told him that he proved that gut hooks were not foolproof. He took it pretty well.

After cleaning and eating lunch we had to have a plinking session.

Here they are going to set the cans up again.

#3 didn't get his deer or pig this weekend. He'll have plenty of chances this season. He took two last year so I don't feel too bad for him.


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