JULY 19, 2021
 
 
 

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Every new edition of The Hunting Wire means one thing – we’re two weeks closer to hunting season! Here in Virginia, there have been quite a few changes to hunting rules and regulations. Be sure to check your local state’s latest updates so you’re ready. In this latest issue we kick off Ken Perrotte’s African Safari series. Our Voice of Leadership Panel article focuses on African trophy import bans as well. We also hear from Montana’s own, Dan Larsson as he hunts with some friends for mule deer and pronghorn. Our longest series, Hunting Wire Radio, gives listeners an earful about late summer prep work. We’re excited about this upcoming season. As always, thank you for your support and feedback about The Hunting Wire, Jay Pinsky jay@theoutdoorwire.com

By Cyrus Baird – Manager of Government Relations | Safari Club International

“I’m never going to hunt in Africa – why should I care that some state I don’t live in is trying to prevent hunters from bringing back trophies of some animal I might never see outside of a zoo…?”

Honestly – it is a logical question. Research shows that most people care about the issues which directly impact them. This is why people choose certain areas to live, work, and send their kids to school. It is also why you’re more likely to hear outrage and concern from hunters in the United States over an attempt to shut down access to deer hunting vs. a threat to lion or leopard hunting thousands of miles away.

But if you are a hunter, you should care about both. Here’s why.

The big push to ban the import, possession, and transfer of African species in places like the United States and Europe started after the fallout of Cecil the Lion – the lion hunted by a Minnesota dentist back in 2015. The story made international news and supercharged the debate about international hunting where it had not previously been discussed, such as in state capitols and the offices of airline CEOs.

Typically, you will see anti-hunting advocates and uninformed lawmakers focus on a handful of African species in their attacks – the “Big Five” – which consists of elephant, Cape buffalo, African lion, white and black rhinoceros, and African leopard. Proponents of bans target these species because they generally exist in lower numbers (with the exception of buffalo) and are at higher risk from poaching.

But, contrary to what anti-hunting advocates claim, banning the import and possession of these species would be bad news for their long-term survival. These species typically generate the most funding for wildlife authorities and rural communities in the African range countries where they are found. The revenue generated by legal, regulated hunting in these countries are often the single most important source of funding for conservation and anti-poaching efforts.

Absent in the discussion from groups pushing for these bans is the science showing that the countries that incorporate hunting into their wildlife management strategies have higher, more sustainable populations of these species than other countries who have banned hunting.

It is documented fact that the world’s largest populations of African elephant, leopard, lion, black and white rhino, and giraffe inhabit Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe– the countries with regulated hunting programs which generate income and other incentives for conservation and habitat preservation, and which result in more secure habitat and lower rates of poaching. In addition, these countries have developed successful conservation programs to encourage the rural communities who live side-by-side with wildlife to invest in and protect these species.

Sadly, when presented with evidence directly from rural Africans or wildlife experts from range countries that runs contrary to their emotional based argument, lawmakers not only overlook it, but they also flat out ignore it.

In 2020, Director of the Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management Support Organizations (NACSO), Maxi Louis, testified against legislation to ban the import and possession of the “Big Five” in California. She told legislators, including the bill sponsor, Senator Henry Stern, that Namibia’s wildlife management relies on hunting, saying in part, “Namibian communities rely on sustainable hunting as part of a larger conservation effort that protects healthy populations of diverse species and wildlife habitat, while also supporting local jobs and livelihoods.”

Speaking to the same piece of legislation, the second-highest official in Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mr. Munesushe Munodawafa, gave powerful testimony on the potential negative impact of the bill, calling it “a suicidal prescription that will not work for the African species and the African people… Zimbabwe does not subscribe to neo-colonialist ideologies and laws that are enacted to dictate how our wildlife resources should be governed in Africa.”

Mr. Munodawafa emphasized that Zimbabwe has healthy and increasing populations of elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, and other species that would be severely impacted by the bill, in direct contradiction to the bill’s misrepresentation that these species are declining across Africa.

But California legislators didn’t listen. They tuned out the collective voice of community leaders and wildlife professionals in Africa who will probably forget more about these species and ecosystems than any legislator in the United States could ever hope to learn. The bill passed both the California and Assembly. Luckily, it was killed on the last day of California’s legislative session in 2020 and wasn’t re-introduced in 2021.

Similarly, the Connecticut legislature recently passed a bill banning the import, possession, ad trade in lawful African species – despite letters in opposition from African range countries and an op-ed, published in the Hartford press, about the damage that the bill could cause. Why are we enacting laws centered around conservation and species biodiversity that completely disregard science? In what other scenario would that be appropriate?

Setting aside the conservation impacts ideas like these would have on the actual species in Africa, there are also glaring legal issues associated with these pieces of legislation under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Lawmakers in New Jersey passed legislation in 2016 which prohibited the possession, import, and export of African elephants, leopards, lions, and black and white rhinos. The State was immediately sued under the Endangered Species Act, and New Jersey was forced to concede that the law was preempted by federal law.

When California Governor Brown vetoed similar legislation in 2018, he wrote in his veto message to state legislators that this legislation “would have imposed a state civil penalty for activities expressly authorized by the U.S. Endangered Species Act.”

In virtually no other situation, in the United States or otherwise, do we make wildlife management decisions based purely off emotion while discrediting actual science by on-the-ground biologists and wildlife professionals closest to those species.

Let me frame it this way – if the government of Botswana passed legislation preventing their citizens from coming to the United States to hunt and bring back any part of that animal because they thought hunting in the United States contributed to the overall decline of the species and those animals would end up extinct… there would be a lot of angry hunters in the wondering why a country and its politicians thousands of miles away purported to know more about wildlife management and biology than their local or state biologist. Yet when legislators in Connecticut, California and elsewhere do it – the bulk of the hunting community remains quiet.

You might never take a trip to Africa to hunt plains game animals like Kudu and Gemsbok, let alone a trip to hunt some of the most dangerous game animals on the planet. But if you’re a believer that science should be guiding our wildlife management decisions around the globe, and that those communities and individuals closest to the resource should have a say in how their wildlife is managed in a sustainable way, then you should be red hot the next time one of these import bills gets introduced.


2020-2021 The Hunting Wire Voice of Leadership Panel

The Voice of Leadership Panel is an appointed group of outdoor industry leaders who have volunteered to contribute their voices on key hunting and outdoor recreation issues to inform, inspire, and educate participants within our community.

  • Jim Curcuruto, Hunting and Firearms Industry Consultant
  • Mandy Harling, National Director of Hunting Heritage Programs, National Wild Turkey Federation
  • Jenifer Wisniewski, Chief, Outreach and Communication, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
  • Joel Brice, Chief Conservation Officer, Delta Waterfowl
  • Cyrus Baird, Manager of Government Relations, Safari Club International

Facilitators:

  • James “Jay” Pinsky, Editor, The Hunting Wire
  • Peter Churchbourne, Director, NRA Hunter Leadership Forum

FEATURED CONSERVATION PARTNER

To protect, maintain, and improve the fish, game, and aquatic plant resources of the state, and manage their use and development in the best interest of the economy and the well-being of the people of the state, consistent with the sustained yield principle.

RECRUITMENT, RETENTION AND REACTIVATION (R3): Alaska’s hunter education programs are some of the very best and most thorough in the nation. Learn more here.

CONSERVATION: Alaska’s conservation programs are as vast as America’s largest state. Learn more here.

Post-COVID-19 Travel Hurdles, Gear Choices, Practice & Perspectives

By Ken Perrotte

The author’s replica painting

Prologue: My grandfather was an artist. A large barn converted into his workshop always smelled of oil paint and turpentine. The ample back bay might have a tanker truck in it, something he was lettering or to which he was adding a hand-painted logo – that’s how things got done back then. The front of the shop was where paintings in various stages of completion resided, everything from landscapes with deer or bear, portraits and, sometimes, large oils on Masonite of scantily clad or nude, usually voluptuous women. It was a fun place to visit.

Reference works were always laying around – especially pages from magazines or calendars. It was in the early 1970s when a 16-year-old me picked up leftover pages from an old Remington Arms calendar laying on a dusty workbench. One painting seized my attention. I didn’t know its name, who the artist was or anything about it, just that I had to try to create my own version.

My grandfather’s artistic skills flowed down through his daughter, my mother, and some of it even made its way into my veins. I enjoyed drawing and painting as a child. Some people say I wasn’t half bad. I even considered a career as a graphic artist at one time. I decided to try to replicate that calendar painting in my high school art class, except I would use a palette knife for the entire piece, no brushes, making it “my own.”

As I worked on the painting, I increasingly wondered if I might ever get a chance to experience any part of Africa, maybe hunting something as incredible, formidable as a cape buffalo. The seed was planted. It grew roots and sprouted over the nearly 50 years that the painting hung in my home. A previous African trip in 2015 was for plains game only, something I later regretted. This year, finally, I am going to try to live out my buffalo dream.

I later learned the original painting was by famed artist Bob Kuhn. It is titled “Turning the Tables.”

Pandemic Pause

The original plan was to make a summer trip in 2020 to South Africa’s Limpopo region to hunt with Phillip Bronkhorst Safaris (Social Media) and the same outfitter I used in 2015 when I took a superb southern greater kudu, a blue wildebeest and an impala.

Bronkhorst’s operations base near Lephalale is in the northern portion of Limpopo, a region thick with big game opportunities. Hunters and guests stay in luxurious, by bush standards, tents situated on raised platforms. The gear and equipment are top quality, the food delicious and the professional hunter and tracking teams outstanding.

The 2020 plan was to use a Mossberg Patriot rifle chambered in .375 Ruger. Mossberg debuted the rifle shortly before the global COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, that 2020 trip was squashed, but hope remained that the global situation would improve by 2021 and a new trip could be planned. By early 2021, with the emergence of the vaccines and steady return to international air travel, we locked in the safari dates.

The Mossberg ready to rock with some Hornady ammo

Losing, essentially, an entire safari season in 2020 has been devastating for many African outfitters, with continued uncertainty in 2021 waving a Sword of Damocles over many businesses.

Bronkhorst said one of his biggest challenges over the last year is getting clients to again commit to international travel. Things such as flight uncertainty, regular cancellations or postponements of flights, rerouted clients, sparse communication from airlines and more caused clients to perceive too much risk in booking something. Fold in questions related to vaccination requirements and such and potential customers were holding tight.

Bronkhorst said he has worked to reassure clients about safari safety, both in transit and in the camp.

“I advise clients to travel with a trusted airline,” Bronkhorst said. “We advise most clients to travel on QATAR Airlines. They do have all the checks and balances in place.

“Clients are picked-up in a sanitized vehicle and transported to camp. Each client gets handed a complimentary bottle of sanitizer which he or she can refill when and if needed. Masks are worn by all staff and all cleaning staff carries sanitizer. Wherever they work or touch get sanitized. Temperatures are taken of all guests and if a guest feel sick it gets handled immediately accordingly.”

Bronkhorst said clients in 2021 are tending to forego the masks in camp. He said, “Life in camp is very normal, like years before.”

We researched myriad airlines. Clearly routes had changed since our last trip to South Africa. Fortunately, United Airlines signaled in early 2021 that it would begin nonstop service from Newark, New Jersey, to Johannesburg and they made good on those plans, beginning the flights in June.

Set It Up!

The Mossberg Patriot is an inexpensive rifle, carrying an MSRP of just over $500. It has a detachable, magazine that holds three cartridges. The 1:12 twist barrel is 22 inches long. With a fluted bolt and synthetic stock, this push-feed rifle weighs just 6.5 pounds – not a lot of heft for a heavy magnum shooter.

The Mossberg Patriot is chambered in 375 Ruger.

The rifle comes with adjustable field sights, but we removed those and crowned the gun with a GPO (German Precision Optics) 30mm Passion 1-6x24i scope [https://gp-optics.com/product/passion-6x-1-6x24i/]. The “i” means the reticle can be illuminated with a center red dot, adjustable according to lighting conditions. GPO has since reconfigured its rifle scope lineup and now offers this scope in its array of Spectra models. As GPO owner Mike Jensen explained, “To do this we changed the turret a little making it easier to swap out for the ballistic guys. It’s a new easy lock cap, no tools required to remove it, and we set up a deal with Kenton industries for custom turrets.”

The scope is now a more affordable, price-competitive $799.

Rifle and scope set up day - proper torque is essential.

Mike Norman, firearms manager at Green Top Sporting Goods in Glen Allen, Virginia, professionally mounted the optic, ensuring perfect alignment, and using a collimator sighting tool to get the rifle/scope combo as close to zero as possible on the workbench. Due to the caliber and the heavier recoil, Norman recommended using steel bases and rings versus the aluminum found in many products today.

Mike Norman gets things perfectly level and aligned at Green Top Sporting Goods

He did a great job – the rifle was zeroed at 100 yards with just two shots.

Not a bad benchrest group for the Hornady 300-grain DGS loads at 100 yards.

Bronkhorst recommends optics that give the shooter a wider field of view when hunting dangerous game.

“The main concern on scopes for big game is that you must be able to use it when following up on a wounded animal,” Bronkhorst said. “That applies also on any game I would say when you hunt areas with thick vegetation.

“Imagine the following,” he continued. “Look into thick vegetation normally. You have a wide angle of view. Look at that same spot through a toilet roll. Your vision is now very limited to the sides of the circle.”

Shooting at lower magnification affords a wider field of view, something needed when quick action is needed. Bronkhorst said he has experienced situations in thick brush where a client was told to shoot at a specific animal and he shot the wrong one because he could only see so much though the high magnification.

Bronkhorst has also used scopes that could be removed using quick release mounts, allowing him to quickly use the field sights when needed.

The GPO optic’s field of view at 100 meters ranges from 113 feet at a magnification level of 1 to 19 feet at full 6-power magnification. The nearly 4 inches of eye relief is also welcome when dealing with heavier magnums. The scope weighs 18.7 ounces.

Knowing that the gun offers exceptional power downrange with manageable, but still stout, recoil on the backend, I took the precaution of adding a Kick-EEZ Sorbothane pad to the comb on the stock. I have had tooth crowns break free and teeth crack from extensive practicing with some of the heavier magnum rifle and shotgun loads over the years. I also bought a medium-weight PAST pad for my shoulder, which helps disperse the felt recoil. Practice is essential with any hunting rifle and, for me anyway, using available tools to minimize recoil effects made eminent sense.

Protect yourself - against insects and recoil.

https://gpo-usa.com/product/spectra6x-1-6x24i/

The Right Ammo

Hornady 300-grain DGX - preferred for cape buffalo

While the Mossberg Patriot has offered a .375 Ruger chambering for just a couple years, the cartridge has been around since 2007. It is a proven option for dangerous game, seriously rivaling the esteemed .375 H&H, its most comparable competitor.

The beauty of the .375 Ruger is that it can be used in standard-action rifles versus the .375 H&H which requires a longer stroke. Longer, however, does not equate to more firepower. The .375 Ruger design lets it be loaded to capacities that deliver higher velocities than the .375 H&H.

As Hornady’s Seth Swerczek noted, “It’s basically a compact package, designed for a standard action and short barrel with no loss of performance.

“There is definitely no shortage of energy with the 375 Ruger, regardless of bullet weight,” he added. “The .375 Ruger exceeds the velocity of the venerable .375 H&H across all bullet weights.”

Hornady was instrumental in assisting with ammunition for safari and we were able to obtain four different loads for consideration.

Swerczek said much of Hornady’s large caliber ammo is manufactured seasonally.

“We have seen an increase in demand on virtually all ammo SKU’s to include the traditional dangerous game cartridges,” Swerczek said. “The fact that the large caliber ammo is ran seasonally and that there is an increase in demand for it, those two things compound each other, and availability has become a bit more difficult. With that said, the availability of the more popular dangerous game calibers is typically better than that of the more traditional rifle and pistol cartridges.”

The first of our four loads, the 250-grain GMX, is the one I am considering for any antelope and smaller species I may hunt in addition to cape buffalo. The rifle liked that load. Fired from a solid benchrest at 100 yards, it grouped just a little more than 1.25 inches.

The preferred load for the buffalo will be the 300-grain DGX cartridge, with a copper-clad steel jacket bonded to a lead core. The bullets expand to 1½ to 2 times their original diameter. They have a rated velocity of 2,344 feet per second at 100 yards with a potent 3,660 pounds of energy at that same range. Energy at the muzzle is a whopping 4,713 pounds.

The other option is the 300-grain DGS cartridge, a solid, flat-nosed round with a copper-clad steel jacket and high antimony lead core. It is designed to hit hard and resist bullet deformation and deflection.

Both 300-grain options grouped at about 2 inches. Honestly, I think some of the extra spacing in the groups is totally on me, the shooter, and not the rifle or ammo.

Confounding the decision, though, is the performance of the 270-grain SP-RP Super Performance cartridge, a spire point round considered a dangerous game bullet. This bullet grouped ever-so-slightly bigger than the 250-grain’s number. What is so impressive is that this bullet carries 4,052 pounds of energy at 100 yards and 4,835 at the muzzle. The SP-RP stands for "spire point - recoil proof," and the design of this bullet eliminates the problem of tip deformation during recoil.

Not a bad group at 65 yards off the sticks with Hornady 250-grain GMX

Swerczek said if he was looking at taking an old "dagga boy," he would go with the heavier bullet.

“We would really recommend using the 300-grain DGS or DGX-Bonded for cape buffalo. These are tough, aggressive animals with a notoriously strong will to live,” Swerczek said. “While our other bullet options could be used, the DGS and DGX-Bonded offer the hunter the best penetration for such a robust animal.”

Bronkhorst has heard good reports regarding hunters using the .375 Ruger in Africa.

“I think it will work; it has to. Hornady makes great ammunition. A lot is dependable on the operator (a wry challenge to practice, I think),” he said.

The author practicing off shooting sticks.

Parting Shots

Cape buffalo are related to cows in that they are bovines; but if you think a farm bull is ornery as it chases you out of the field, they have nothing on cape buffalo, a species that has never been domesticated.

“Do not think there is a textbook on hunting buffalo,” Bronkhorst warns. “It is very seldom the same. Be prepared that anything can change. Get mentally fit to make decisions quick and get your brain reaction gears in high speed.”

Bronkhorst recommends hunters, especially when hunting dangerous game, study the position of the target animal’s vital organs; be able to shoot offhand and off shooting sticks; and to practice reloading and chambering another round quickly and efficiently.

In selecting a dangerous game cartridge, Swerczek advises choosing a cartridge adequate to kill the intended game but not so aggressively large that you cannot stand the recoil. Having a gun that fits the shooter helps greatly. “A well-placed shot is of chief importance and a cartridge and rifle that are easy to shoot and fast for follow up shots can be a game changer,” Swerczek said. “They also help to reduce bad habits developing when you’re shooting before the trip.”

Finally, he recommends selecting the right bullet for the job. “There are a lot of bullet options out there. Do some research on the animal you’re after and the bullet options available. This will ensure you get the best results, which is a fast and ethical kill,” Swerczek said.

It may reflect the current situation in terms of ammunition availability, but Swerczek said regardless of what caliber a hunter chooses ammo availability at both home and destination country needs to be considered.

“It’s important to practice and be familiar with your firearm and how it reacts from various shooting positions, so being able to source ammo before the hunt in quantities that allow you to practice is important,” Swerczek said. “Likewise, in an event where your ammunition doesn’t arrive with your firearm, being able to secure some in the country you’re traveling to may be a good consideration.”

Many African dangerous game hunters don’t want to go afield unless they have the most potent firepower, guns like a .416 Rigby or .404 Jeffrey. Still, I return to an admonition heard from a Wyoming biologist 30 years ago about elk hunting, namely, “A .270 through the ribs beats a .338 in the ass any day of the week.”

“The bigger dangerous game rounds certainly have their place, no doubt,” Swerczek said. “Shootability is an incredibly important thing, and the slight reduction in energy and bullet diameter gives the shooter a much lighter recoiling and easier to shoot cartridge. Bigger is most certainly not better - better is better. The .375 Ruger with a 300-grain DGS or DGX-Bonded is plenty to confidently take a cape buffalo.”

Trip planning and logistics

There are myriad personal, logistical and regulatory requirements to consider when planning an African hunting trip. The following are a few examples.

  • First, COVID-19 is still an issue for travelers. Many countries, including South Africa, require a negative PCR (not the rapid) test within 72 hours of departing on your flight. Make sure you anticipate this need and have a testing site located and available. The United States’ CDC also requires incoming travelers, including U.S. citizens to be tested. Make sure your outfitter can handle this requirement. United Airlines was offering an advance purchase of a mobile testing kit that you could buy in advance and complete as required, recording the results in an app. As of early June, the CDC still listed South Africa as a high-risk destination for COVID. [https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/south-africa]
  • There are things beyond COVID that can get you. Some parts of South Africa are considered prone to malaria. The specific hunting area we visited was not a malaria-designated area, although some potential side trips, such Kruger National Park, are malaria zones. Preventive medications can be taken to reduce chances of contracting malaria. The CDC web page referenced above lists a multitude of possible ailments and the precautions that should be taken. My doctor made sure my tetanus immunizations were current and gave me a hepatitis vaccination. Typhoid is another possibility. Ensure your outfitter has purified bottled water. Use the bottled water to brush your teeth and beware drinking any water when showering. Beware eating uncooked fruits or vegetables. At a minimum, bring a bottle of broad-spectrum prescription antibiotics, some powerful anti-diarrheal and anti-nausea medicines, aspirins, antibiotic eye ointments or drops and something small to clean and dress any wounds. While most outfitters will have a first-aid kit handy, responsibility for your own health and safety first resides with you.
  • Malaria is spread via mosquitoes. Mosquitoes and ticks, common in many hunting areas, must be considered. I like to ensure that my clothing, especially my field clothing, is fully treated to deter these biting insects. I obtained a couple pairs of treated pants, shirts and socks from Insect Shield [ https://www.insectshield.com/]. I even got a treated neckerchief since some rides in safari vehicles can be dusty. Their garments are sufficiently treated to hold up through dozens of washings. I also used a bottle of their aerosol permethrin spray to treat some new socks from Minus 33, [https://www.minus33.com/collections/wool-socks] a New England company making comfortable, all-day hiking and hunting merino wool socks that are excellent “bush wear.”
  • Hearing well is essential in a field setting, especially when it involves hearing and detecting dangerous game and the ability to clearly understand communications with your professional hunter. My hearing bad – so bad on the left side that a recent test by audiologist Bill Dickinson of Tetra Hearing couldn’t even register a couple of frequencies. I began getting comfortable with Tetra’s Multi-Pursuit Alpha Shields protection and amplification devices, which were custom programmed for my specific hearing loss. These innovative tools have subtle adjustments to offer best hearing across a variety of hunting scenarios, but that’s a story for later…
  • Most outfitters have a recommended packing list. They also do laundry, typically, every couple days in camp. Pack light, but pack enough. Check advance weather forecasts just before traveling and adjust as necessary. If your equipment (camera, hairdryer, laptop, etc.) requires 110-volt service, bring a step-down power convertor that will reduce 220v to 110v.
  • Get your paperwork in order: Passports; outfitter’s letter of invitation to the safari; a completed, but unsigned SAPS (South African Police Service) form 520 which will be your temporary gun permit during your stay; a signed U.S. Customs Form 4457, which proves you are the owner of the rifle being imported and serves as the document needed to get your gun back into the USA – make sure the expiration date on that form is after the safari dates. Getting this form requires a trip well before your departure to the local servicing office of U.S. Customs, often located at an international airport; and, a copy of your itinerary, showing return flight tickets to your country of origin.
  • Ensure your banks and credit card companies know that you are traveling and may incur some significant charges. You don’t want to have to deal with a fraud alert or freeze on the card. Notify your smartphone carrier of the travel and sign up for any international phone and data plans, if desired.
  • Ensure your gun is packed in a crash-resistant plastic or metal case that locks to TSA standards. Verify your airlines policies for traveling with firearms and ammo before departing for the airport.
  • Email your outfitter or PH and ask if there is anything they desire from the states. Sometimes, little conveniences or even necessities can be hard to find in remote areas. A little consideration never hurts.

By Dan Larsson

As the snow blew up my pant leg, I should have been wondering what on earth I was doing laying on the ground in a 30-40 mph snowstorm. Instead, I jumped up and sprinted towards the antelope herd every time the wind would gust, and snow would obscure them from sight. The logic was simple if I can't see them, they can't see me. I'd belly down on the ground when I started to see their outlines again. I had no idea that I would end up 70 yards from the whole unsuspecting herd …

He hit the ground so hard, I had to pull his horn out of the dirt

We started the 3-day hunt looking for muleys. Spotting a nice buck on block management land, we looked through the spotting scope at him. He had a nice 4x4 frame with eye guards. We quickly became excited at seeing such a great buck! About to go over a bluff onto some state land, we decided we'd better put a wiggle in it and head straight for him. We headed across the wheat stubble towards a hill between us and the buck. Staying in a line with each other, we looked more cow-like than three hunters walking side by side, in theory. We lost sight of him about a half-mile out and bellied up on the hill when we came to it. The buck was standing there looking at a herd of does he had been staking out from a distance. Codey made a great shot that dropped him. We were off to a great start!

What a great public land buck!

The next day we gained permission to hunt a private farm. My rule, never approach a landowner's house with camo or hunter's orange on. I think all the gear, colors, and gadgets sometimes turn people off to hunters and hunting, but you'd be surprised how often one can get permission to hunt private land. This privilege is dependent on hunters being responsible and leaving the landowner with a good experience every time. We have also met landowners who chewed us out because of irresponsible hunters who came before us. We are our own best friend or worst enemy. Please act accordingly. We ended up spotting some antelope on a piece of state ground across the road and making a stalk. Codey made another excellent shot with his Tikka .270 WSM and put some excellent antelope doe meat on the ground.

Spotting muleys on the rancher's bluff, the only good option was to put a slow open ground stalk on them. Nic and I stood looking anywhere but at the deer that were roughly 450 yards away. They eventually got a little nervous and headed over the bluff. We followed as quickly as possible. Approaching the far edge, Nic spotted some muleys in the flat below. We were crawling low to the ground, and he was leading so he could shoot when in position. As we approached the edge of a finger ravine, I happened to look right. There were 30 muleys below us that we hadn't yet seen and Nic was crawling along with his eyes fixed on the forward group. Seeing the spread of the antlers below us, I knew we had a new and better buck than we watched run over the bluff earlier. I reached out to get Nic's attention and boy did I. I goosed him on the rear. Mind you, it wasn't on purpose and now might be a good time to tell you that he is also my church's minister. Oops. We're still laughing about it. He turned and made a 275-yard shot on a 27-inch-wide muley with heavy antlers. Way to go Nic!

27 inches wide! Nic, the minister, makes the buck and I both look smaller than we are as he is 6 foot 8 inches tall.

Antelope were coming our way, so I left Nic to find his buck in the Eastern Montana coulees and headed off to intercept the herd. They came across a prairie dog town and filtered into the rancher's hay stubble. They settled down and I made a stalk up to a little bump of a hill. I laid there in the grass and waited for a shot. Unfortunately, antelope hunting conditions conspired against me and it took more than one shot to finish off my antelope doe. I would like to say that every kill is a one-shot deal, but nothing is always perfect. I went back and found Nic. His buck had gotten lost in all the little coulee fingers and disappeared. We hiked up onto the hill above and were able to spot it below. What a brute! His brow tine was even cross-shaped due to a kicker in each direction. We boned the buck out and Nic and Codey packed him back to the car. I went back to my doe and hauled her to the truck.

The next day the wind picked up and the snow was shooting across the prairie and breaks like a scalded coyote. It was miserable and visibility was minimal. We drove out to the land we could hunt, and the weather let up some just before noon. I decided I needed to get out of the warm safe truck. So, I hiked back to that field over the hill. The wind was still crazy, but the snow receded to what was blowing along the ground. Hiking over the bluff, I bumped the Muleys off the finger ridges again. No bucks big enough that day. I headed toward the field and the antelope were under the center pivot irrigation system in the same field as yesterday. Then, the wind picked up some more and you find me running and diving to the ground. I may have even skidded a few times. Keep in mind, I don't keep a round in the chamber during potentially dangerous activity. This approach was different from the normal crawling and using every possible hill, ravine, or sagebrush to keep out of sight. Antelope usually see EVERYTHING! Therefore, so many of them are shot at long range. I've rarely ever shot one under 300 yards and at times almost twice as far. Not to puff out my own chest, but I think a good hunter is fluid in their tactics for whatever will work.

With most rifles, I wouldn't have taken on this kind of maneuver. A mark of a good all-weather gun is a good synthetic style stock and a solid scope mounted professionally to the gun. This Nosler Carbon Long-Range rifle is a great all-weather gun. The day before I had a lapse in judgment and dripped antelope doe blood all over it. Blood was in the action, on the scope, and down in around the bolt release. I'm somewhat ashamed to say that a couple of weeks later, I still hadn't cleaned it adequately. The good news is that the Cerakote is amazing, and I'm not worried about anything but the scope rings and the bipod rusting during a hunt. Chambered in the new 27 Nosler, they built it right. The old style of rifling was to shoot lighter bullets and so a slower twist rifling was used. Today, we shoot longer ranges more consistently and you need bigger/longer bullets to shoot more reliably. So, Nosler increased the twist to 1 revolution in every 8.5 inches. Think of it like a football, the longer the bullet the faster it must spin to stabilize so it doesn't tumble end over end. They even designed their own, heavier weight, 165-grain Accubond bullet as the .277 caliber has had almost no cartridge designed around it for such performance.

The blood splattered 27 Nosler Carbon Long Range

So now I've crawled up to the irrigation pivot and am sitting with my back resting on the steel supports, my bipod is out and I'm watching the two bucks in the herd at much less than 100 yards. The problem was that they were all laying together looking away from the wind and away from me. Antelope are so unbelievably beautiful! I wiped the ice and snow off my eyeglasses every couple of minutes and surprisingly my SWFA 3-9x HD scope stayed super clear. I am a high-impact hunter and I trust these modestly priced scopes above many of the mainstream favorites. Looking through the scope, I could see every hair and was evaluating the two bucks. One was tall but thin horned while the other was short in length but looked like an old bruiser with mass to spare. I was debating on which one I wanted but they chose for me when the moment came.

Occasionally, the antelope does would get up and shake the moisture off. Snow would fly into the wind with a beauty that I can't describe. You'll have to close your eyes and imagine the herd with an inch of snow plastered to them, shaking like a dog after swimming, and laying back down. I was cold. I kept pulling my fingers into my gloves and warming them up. I eventually figured I had better make something happen soon. This may be because my wool pants had frozen to the ground while I sat there. No rear-end jokes here, you can make up your own. I started making antelope noises at them. One doe looked and then went back to napping. So, I yelled at them. Nothing. Let's try howling, coyotes are one of the antelope's worst nemeses. That didn't ruffle them a bit. So, I started barking. Some response, but nothing else. They didn't care about my scent blowing right to them and didn't care so much about noise. I started waving my hands at the antelope does that would glance my way. Eventually, a few of them noticed. They do care about what they see and weren't going to stay around after they saw the movement. I hoped they would jump up and look around. I was wrong.

They jumped up and were headed away at what I would guess was 30 mph (not top speed). I tried a whistle, but it didn't stop them for a look. They ran out to 200 yards, stopping all bunched up. There wasn't a clean shot to be had. I was scrambling, dialing my scope to dead on-hold status, and was trying to swing the scope back and forth on the two larger bucks in case an opening presented itself. Suddenly they started to run. I lost track of one buck and caught a glimpse as he took off over the hill. To quote the duck hunting Robinsons, "he gone." I stayed on the heavier buck and watched for a chance to shoot. The does around him split for a condensed second. As soon as I saw air on both sides of him, I tripped the trigger. What a great trigger at that! You think it and the bullet is gone! The buck hit the ground so hard that his nose and leading horn stuck in the field dirt! The 27 speaks and meat hits the ground... Did I mention that antelope meat is our favorite? It is amazingly good.

27 Nosler at 200 Yards. Too cold to take my face mask off.

My hands froze as I gutted him. Nic came to help me, and I cut between the ribs, across the belly, and through the spine. We packed out our half, hair on and bones in, our backpacks full as we walked the mile back to the truck. What a cold, miserable, and memorable hunt. The picture is worth 1,000 words!

My advice: Don't get stuck in a hunting mode. Break out of the box and change your tactics for what is going to work in the situation!

Sidenote: Block management areas (BMA's) are private lands the state of Montana utilizes hunter's dollars to rent for public hunting through the Pittman-Robertson Act and other sources. The Act originated in 1937 and is essentially a 10-11% tax on all firearms, ammunition, and some other outdoor/hunting equipment. It raises approximately 86 million dollars annually for the purposes of wildlife conservation, hunter safety classes, public shooting ranges, and hunter access.

Turkey season is over and while some hunters may focus on fishing, honey-do lists, or other non-hunting activities, that elk, deer, bear, or pronghorn you want to tag next season isn’t taking the summer off from getting bigger, stronger, or smarter. So, over the next few months The Hunting Wire has partnered with Mossberg to bring you a series of pre-hunt stories to help you get motivated, stay focused, and ultimately be ready for your next big game hunt.

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Welcome to Wild Flavors! Presented by Brenda Weatherby, the cooking show dedicated to bringing you the most delicious ways to prepare wild game.

Welcome to Wild Flavors! Presented by Brenda Weatherby, the cooking show dedicated to bringing you the most delicious ways to prepare wild game. In this episode Brenda prepares her famous antelope curry. This dish is simple and easily mass produced so it's great when you have to feed a crowd. Brenda has prepared this for a number of employee occasions and there are never any leftovers! Connect with Weatherby! Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/weatherbyinc/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Weatherbyinc/

By Jeff Fleming
Deputy Regional Director, Southwest Region, USFWS

A target shooter at Ben Avery Shooting Facility the range was built and is maintained by excise taxes paid by manufacturers.

Several weeks ago, I watched a massive bull elk in the White Mountains of Arizona move ghostlike through the forest where the pinon-juniper woods transcend to ponderosas. Its shadowy form slipped through thickets in a silence that stuns, given its large mass. He sprouted velvety antlers in thick beams that speak to what will come when they reach full bloom in the fall. Fulfilling what is coded in the coiled double helix of his DNA, he will vie for the right to carry on the next generation, sparring furiously with other bulls similarly intent.

I startled the bull and watched it canter off in an air of assured confidence. In a brief moment, it melded into the woods out of sight.

The encounter set my mind a reeling. I contemplated what future autumns hold for me, and my desires to venture afield with my .30-06, along with family and friends.

A new experience afforded me a fresh angle of vision. My staff and I recently visited two firearms manufacturers in Arizona, Ruger and Patriot Ordnance Factory, as well as Ben Avery Shooting Facility operated by the Arizona Game and Fish Department as part of an endeavor called Partner with a Payer. Our express intent is to better acquaint us all with the source of conservation funding and to see how it is used on the ground. I have been acutely aware of who pays for conservation my entire career. But I see it a little differently now; I have seen it at its source.

Beneath the roofs of Ruger and Patriot Ordnance Factory, I watched machines under the supervision of skilled engineers take metal ingots and make receivers and slides and handle frames. What starts as rolled steel comes through several steps in the manufacturing line, the final product a fine appliance. I watched billets turn into gun barrels, each possessing a precision-hewn rifling inside the barrel that ensures accuracy at a shooting range or on an autumn hunt. That coiled rifling is in a sense a firearm’s DNA—as is the lacquer over a checkered walnut stock, the blued steel, or the vent rib on a shotgun. Firearms have coded in them the first building block of conservation: an excise tax.

Commerce funds conservation. Firearms, ammunition, and archery manufacturers pay a 10- to 11-percent federal excise tax on their products, a tax that dates back to the passing of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 (Pittman-Robertson). It would dim your spirit to dwell for too long on the conditions of wildlife leading up to the 1930s, but suffice it to say wildlife has improved enormously since then, and much to do with the Act and the tax.

The amount of money derived from excise taxes for conservation is immense. Last year firearms, ammunition, and archery manufacturers paid $600 million to fund conservation and connect people with nature. The running total over the last 84 years tops out at $13 billion, but much of that landed in the coffers over the last decade. The excise tax pays to restore, research, manage wildlife, and fund the construction and operation of public shooting ranges, open to all.

Ben Avery Shooting Facility near Phoenix is an impressive place. Its size and the number of dedicated lanes for pistol, rifle, air gun, and archery captivated me. Its Frank L. DeSomma Memorial Range honors the late founder of Patriot Ordnance Factory who was an ardent supporter of shooting sports and conservation. Ben Avery is but one of 776 public firearm and archery ranges found across the country built, renovated, operated or maintained via funds from the Wildlife Restoration Act. Public ranges are often where new hunters complete formal hunter education classes—nearly 1.3 million students each year—where they learn safe handling of firearms at home, in the field, and at the range.

An Arizona Game and Fish Dept wildlife biologist learns about the intricacies of turn billets into a firearm from a Ruger rep.

The Wildlife Restoration Act enabled state fish and wildlife agencies to acquire publicly accessible wildlife management areas—important habitats for all manner of wildlife, and for hunters. Taken together, state agencies manage a combined 46 million acres of wildlife habitat across the country. That is nearly equal to the size of South Dakota.

I may never see that velvety bull elk again, and I may never own any of the models coming off the line at Ruger or Patriot. But I take a certain satisfaction in knowing the profound intrinsic and transcendent value of firearms to conservation. That bull elk is the animated flesh of the 84-year-old partnership between the tax-paying manufacturers, state wildlife agencies, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program.

Jeff Fleming is the Deputy Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region. To learn more about the partnership and joint accomplishments, visit Partner with a Payer.

Episode 29 – Deer Management

By Larry Weishuhn and Luke Clayton

Luke Clayton and Larry Weishuhn

Radio File: Hunting Wire Radio - Episode 29

A collection of bowhunting training videos and written content on how to help you become a better bowhunter.

https://youtu.be/q7nNCm9F8q0

http://www.eastonhunting.com Brandon Adams with Buckventures goes through food plots, and learning your property.

By Bow Spider

Follow along with the Bow Spider crew as they chase down the elusive Dall Sheep. Deep in the Brooks Range of Alaska David Merrill of Bow Spider and his dad Dave hike through treacherous conditions to find the sheep of a lifetime. Filmed by Joe Bartlett of Blue Creek Outdoors.

For those times when the prone position is not an option, former Army Ranger sniper team leader Ryan Cleckner discusses alternate shooting positions to make sure you are as stable as possible. Looking for more long-range shooting instruction? Ryan Cleckner’s book, Long Range Shooting Handbook, is the complete beginner's guide to long range shooting written in simple every-day language so that it's easy to follow. Included are personal tips and best advice from his years of special operations sniper schooling and experience, and as a sniper instructor. If you are an experienced shooter, this guide will be a resource covering the principles and theory of long-range shooting.

HUNTING NEWS & INFORMATION

Safariland®, a brand of The Safariland Group, a leading global provider of safety products designed for the public safety, military, professional and outdoor markets, today announced that their 6304RDS and 6354RDS holsters and Liberator HP 2.0 hearing protection line will be available for a limited time in Multicam Black.

Remi Warren just doesn’t talk about being an outdoorsman, he lives the lifestyle to its maximum! His adventurous spirit at a young age motivated him to learn about hunting and conservation. He has propelled that passion into a career of outfitting and guiding, media production, and as an evangelist for the outdoor lifestyle.

Galco's Miami Classic™ is quite possibly the most imitated shoulder holster system in the world! A direct descendant of the original shoulder systems first introduced by Galco (then the Famous Jackass Leather Company) in the early 1970s, the Miami Classic has since become the favorite of professionals worldwide.

SilencerCo is excited to launch “American Gun,” a series of videos featuring vastly different kinds of gun owners around America that will illustrate the commonality of firearms among people from all walks of life. The first video, “American Gun: The Realtor,” will be released, July 14th, 2021, with a series of videos to follow on a monthly basis.

The new Browning Realtree EXCAPE Camo Eclipse Hunting Blind is designed to meet the specific needs of ground hunters across a broad range of environments and hunting styles.

GPO USA- sponsored archery competitor, Sharon Wallace captured the winning title at the final leg of the International Bowhunting Organization’s(IBO) of the Triple Crown held this past weekend in Nelsonville, Ohio. Wallace put on quite a show the entire weekend, showcasing her skills and truly defining accuracy in her performance.

Owners of this newest Smith & Wesson M&P Shield pistol can quickly and easily replace the factory sights with XS night sights to get on target faster in any light – day or night. Options include the DXT2, R3D, F8, and DXW2 night sights.

HeadHunters NW, the premier executive recruiting firm focused exclusively and deliberately on talent acquisition for the shooting, hunting, and outdoor industry, announced three new staff additions, a newly expanded corporate headquarters, and the launch of a freshly redesigned website.

Blaser is pleased to now offer its iconic R8 modular rifle in a 6.5 PRC chambering. Known for its accuracy and long-range performance, the 6.5 Precision Rifle Cartridge is essentially a magnum version of the 6.5 Creedmoor with a flatter trajectory and higher impact velocity making it a favorite of long-range hunters.

Umarex USA, Inc., an innovator in air powered pistols and rifles, optics, and lights for the outdoorsman and sport shooting enthusiasts announced today that the Company’s Board of Directors has appointed current company president Richard Turner, as its President and Chief Executive Officer.

Growing up in Wyoming, Recreational Archery Development LLC (RAD LLC) founder David Merrill had a deep love and appreciation of all things outdoors instilled in him by his father, who had the same love instilled in him by his own father. “A Day in the Brooks,” a Bow Spider film, is a 44-minute film that chronicles the pair’s 2021 Alaskan Dall sheep hunting adventure. And what an adventure it is.

Convergent Hunting Solutions offers predator hunters the ultimate package in the Bullet HP Kit. Featuring a Bluetooth electronic game call, Picatinny phone mount, full sound library, and camo carry bag. The new system is sure to help predator hunters call in more critters.

Look for the green line—the all-new Delta McKenzie Greenline block-style target is built to last. In head-to-head shooting tests, results show new Greenline will last up to two times longer, which greatly extends target life on the archery range. The foundation of Greenline’s durability is its exclusive heavy-duty Mo’Foam™ layers.

Easton introduces a new addition to the FMJ flagship line—the 4MM FMJ. The 2021 4MM Full Metal Jacket has been updated with a new spine configuration, an all-new 8-32 point half-out system, and redesigned graphics.

Dryshod, the new benchmark in performance waterproof footwear for outdoor recreation and occupational use, announces their newest waterproof camo boot just in time for the upcoming hunting season. The new NoSho Gusset delivers all the features serious hunters demand in a go-anywhere, go-anytime performance hunting boot.

Bushnell®, an industry leader in performance optics, announces the release of its new Outdoorsman Bluetooth speaker, a rugged sound solution that was designed for outdoor adventures. From the woods to the backyard, the boat to the beach, and from the UTV to the tailgate party, this speaker is specifically designed to handle all things outside.

Wildlife Research Center®, the leader in Scent and Scent Elimination, has now released Buck-Fire® Raging Estrus™. Latest in our line of High-Performance, super premium Micro Brew® Craft Scents. A tribute to our founders and family story. Each one is a uniquely crafted blend of Super High-Quality ingredients to help enhance and bring your hunt to a Whole New Level™.

ThermaSeat has been the leading name in quality cushions for hunting and fishing for over 30 years. Made in the USA, every ThermaSeat is built to last and stand up to the demands of the great outdoors – including long camping trips with unpredictable conditions. This summer as you load up your friends and family, ditch the big, bulky camp chairs and pick the perfect ThermaSeat for your next adventure.

We are pleased to announce the Convergent Hunting App Predator Pro (Version 1.6) has been released on iOS and Android. The update includes new coyote, bobcat and raccoon sounds available for purchase. Also, we have updated the Terms and Conditions for all five Convergent Hunting apps found on the Apple and Google Play stores. Specifically, the updated Terms and Conditions reiterates that the sounds are designed to be played strictly with Convergent Hunting game calls to ensure maximum sound quality.

Nearly 200 shooters competed in the 2021 Hornady® Precision Rifle Challenge, July 9-10, 2021 in Evanston, Wyoming.Shooters from numerous states tested their talent in the match that featured 18 challenging stages. Course of fire consisted of 200 rounds with “off trail” walking between stages.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®), in partnership with mental health experts from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and George Washington University, today released a recorded webinar video to help parents of teens recognize signs that their children may be facing mental health challenges—and share resources on how to talk to kids about mental health, make homes safer for those who may be at risk and help reduce the risk of suicide among teens.

The premium online airgun retailer is excited to name RubLine its agency of record for branding and marketing services. Pyramyd Air is dedicated to matching each shooter with the right airgun for their individual needs, with an extensive inventory from the industry’s leading manufacturers. The new partnership with RubLine Marketing will help Pyramyd Air expand their reach and better serve their loyal customers.

Stryk Pay has announced a credit card processing partnership with Polymer80, Inc., the Dayton, NV-based company that designs and develops innovative firearms and after-market accessories that enable its customers to participate in the firearms build process. The partnership is effective immediately.

 
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