Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dragging Wood

Trigger Control

You might think that dragging wood has something to do with bringing wood into elk hunting camp.

It may, but in today's context it concerns a type of poor trigger control.

If you ever have a target that looks like the one below you may be "dragging wood." Dragging wood, does not necessarily mean your trigger finger is really dragging. It may mean that the flex of your trigger finger is exerting pressure on the stock or pistol grip just enough to push the rifle to the left, or to the right for a left handed shooter.

Dragging wood doesn't have to happen on EVERY SHOT. It may happen only a few times. Check your targets for good groups in the center, with only one or two shots out to the left. Additionally, the errant shot(s) are not always directly at 9 o'clock. They could be anywhere from 7 to 10 o'clock.

Typical target for shooter "dragging wood." (author drawing)

Having a coach or buddy watch your finger closely will help identify the problem.

Simply adjust your grip on the pistol grip. Most sporting and hunting rifles have long enough pistol grips to allow individual adjustments. Remember, dragging wood doesn't always mean "dragging." It may be caused by big or fleshy hands, especially on the first joint above the palm. If you look carefully, dryfiring will help you spot the solution without expending lots of ammo.

The target below shows a slightly different trigger control problem. It has two main causes. One is a consistent or inconsistent jerk. (More on that later) The other is caused by a hand that is too large for the pistol grip of the stock. This is seen with many M-16 or AR-15 shooters. With a small pistol grip, the finger doesn't need to reach for the trigger. (reaching is normally a good thing) Instead, the trigger finger is bent and doesn't pull the trigger straight back. Similar to the above group, the bad shots don't always go directly to 3 o'clock. They may drift from 2 to 5, depending on how much torque is applied, in addition to the outward pull.

This grouping illustrates poor trigger control from jerking, or having too large of hands for the pistol grip. Commonly seen on M-16 and AR-15s.

Solutions to this problem mean orienting the hand to cause the trigger finger to stretch to the trigger. If you shoot in Service Rifle competition, you will need to wear a glove or learn a slightly different grip. If you shoot for fun, varmints and such, there are several grip accessories available. Alternatively, you can do like I did on my space gun and use epoxy steel to build a custom grip.

Built up pistol grip on my space gun. It is important to NOT BUILD up too much were the web of the hand fits--that may transmit different movement to the rifle. Build up more were the palm fits. This pistol grip has also been cut off so it is shorter. This allows a lower prone position. In U.S. highpower shooting there are no rules on how low your position can be. International shooting rules address the permissible angle of the forearm.

Go shoot and have a blast!


Did Your Shoulder Move?

Anticipating Recoil

Hopefully, by now, you have cut-up your benchrest for firewood.

If you had, you may notice that you no longer have those cute little key holes in your targets.  The "one-holer" may have turned into a scatter gun pattern.  That is common.  Even competitive shooters have the problem.  To requote SFC Tulua, NCOIC of the 6th Army MTU, "Good shot group, Specialist (anyone).  You could cover it with a dime.  Just throw ten pennies at the target."

If your target looks like the one below, it should concern you.  Removing the "training wheels" of the benchrest forces a shooter to improve him/herself, instead of improving the arrangement of sandbags and props.

Scattergun target.  Time for some concern and attention.  (author's drawing).

The problem with a scattergun target is that there is no consistency or pattern.  ALL SHOOTING PRINCIPLES MUST BE ADDRESSED.  There are many resources designed to improve the individual shooter and elk hunter.  The National Rifle Association is the preeminent source.  The NRA has a great book for introducing new shooters to rifle shooting, as well as helping established shooters rethink and relearn their own shooting maladies--The Basics of Rifle Shooting.  Another place, that doesn't get the recognition it deserves is the Civilian Marksmanship Program (formerly Directorate of Civilian Marksmanship, DCM).  The direct link to their Coaching Resources is here.  

If you have a consistent shot group  AND NO BAD HABITS, you can analyze that shot group and address your specific needs.  I refer to bad habits as those things that are done so consistently that they form a pattern.  There are mid-level pistol shooters who have a bad trigger jerk, but it is so consistent that they simply adjust their sights and shoot, but the jerk--no matter how consistent--will keep them from reaching the top level.

Last fall one of my friends showed consistency in a bad habit.  Actually, it was somewhat sporadic, but did cause him problems.  A week before rifle season started, he brought me a target.  There were several shot groups.  He thought his scope was defective and wanted my opinion.  He had already sent the scope the manufacturer for repair.

Representation of my friends "damaged scope target."  (author's drawing)

He said that he had shot the first two shots at spot marked "1."  Then he adjusted his scope and shot the group labeled, "2."  Then he shot two more shots to confirm the zero and ended up with a group marked "3."  He then adjusted his scope and shot the group marked "4."

My friend didn't have a flinch mentioned here.  He was shooting a 7mm-300 Weatherby and had developed a problem referred to as anticipating recoil.  Anticipating recoil is similar to a flinch, but not as severe.  It may not even be noticed by you or your coach, unless you dryfire some.  To be off target, you don't need a full-blown "flinch."  Notice how little the sights need to be moved to change the point of impact from one side of a target to the other.  Anticipating recoil usually forms strung-out group to 10 o'clock or to 7 o'clock.  The reason is normally the shoulder tensing or pushing just before recoil.

My friend had shot groups one and two (and four) without the anticipation.  He didn't shrug before, or during the shot.  On shot group three he tensed and forced the shots out of the black at about 7:30.  

His scope wasn't malfunctioning.  

How to address this?

My prescription is shooting a lot of .22 rimfire.  Who is afraid of recoil from a .22?

To my friend, I said, "Take your .22 and about 100 rounds to the range.  Set up two targets; one for the .22, and one for the elk rifle.  Shoot 10, 15, 20 shots from the .22.  Then, SHOOT ONE SHOT from your elk rifle.  Return to your .22 for another batch of shots.  Then, again, SHOOT ONE SHOT from your elk rifle."

This brings up a great point for elk hunters, or any hunters.  For hunting checks, SHOOT ONE SHOT GROUPS.  Your most important shot while hunting will be the first one (or should be) out of a cold barrel.  By shooting one shot groups and practicing with a .22 while the barrel returns to normal temperature, you will be testing where your "cold barrel group" is, and reinforce good shooting techniques with the low-recoil, low-report .22.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Got Hosed?

Ma First Revu: Gray and Gray Premium Garden Hose, 40 foot variety

Not only am I new to this blogging thing, I’m also a lil’ bit slow on the uptake. Lookin’ at my stats, I noticed my readership has declined. Must have said something that upset an applecart or two. I rightly can’t apologize. Ya know bein’ from the Montana Wilderness, I tend to bypass ma brain and talk straight from the heart, if ya know what I mean.

Sos I gots to thinkin’, some a those guys been at this bloggin’ this are doin’ reevus of products and such. And, they must spend countless hours researchin’ good products to reevu, cause ya ain’t never saw no negative reevus. Everything that is reevued is grand, and nice, and bright, shiny, and better than the last, and never wears out. (I’m of course exceptin’ the Butt Out tool. It wasn’t really reevued, but it did get negative comments.)

So I wondered what could I reevu that was grand, or nice, or bright, and I recalled a fella named Peter Lynch. He ran some kinda mutual of omaha fund named “Magellan.” Not only did Magellan discover the world, he also was one of the best mutual of omaha funds. Lynch said he only invested in things that he knew about. So, I went a lookin’ for things that I knew about.

I went to the feed store and lo and behold there it was—Gray and Gray Bros. Premium Garden Hose. Most hoses come in 25, 50, 75, and 100 foot lengths. Gray and Gray Bros. hoses are all 40 feet. They have hand crimped fittin’s and seem like they would last a coons age.

I took one of them hoses to Gene at the feed counter. Gene knows a lot; he’s been at the feed store for over 35 years. Started the day after he got kicked out a 3rd grade. The tag for Gray and Gray Bros Premium Garden Hose had no address or contactenem information. Gene said that Gray and Gray were under some federal indictment for owning a few ‘shine stills and kept their address secret. I explained what I was a doin’ and Gene slid me the phone number. He whispered somethin’ like I should order a few mason jars while I reevued the Premium Garden Hose. Sounded like a good idear.

I called Gray, but he was out. Luckily, Gray was in, so I told him I wanted a couple of his mason jars and learn the history of the Premium Garden Hose Company. Gray (not the other Gray) told me that for fifteen dollars he would send some photos of his operation and a few jars; when I received them I could ask questions.

Time slipped by. I opened the package and just had to taste the contents of the jars. I tasted two quarts and woke up with a mouth that tasted like wall-to-wall carpet and a head the size of Wyomin. I used my fancy new scanner on the pictures, but Im not sure I should show them on the intranet. Maybe the photographer tasted some of the shine, or something, but the photos weren’t much about the Gray and Gray Bros. Premium Garden Hose. From the looks of the pics, that garden hose company is one close, family operation.

Anyway, I called Gray back and got the other Gray, but both Grays got on phones and we had us a comference call. I told him I got the jars and the photos and wanted to know the history of the Premium Hose Company.

He said it all started in the summer of 2004. He and Gray (the other Gray) been laid off from the pulp mill in 1999. But, in the summer of 2004, he and Gray (again the other Gray) were sitting in the 1973 Ford Pinto suckin’ suds and watchin’ the sprinkler when Gray (the other Gray) said, “Ya know that 12-year old hose is getting’ a bit wore out.” Gray replied, “Ain’t that the way it is? Ya just get somethin’ broke in and it goes to heck.” (It should be pointed out that we talked a long time about the 1973 Ford Pinto. Gray (and the other Gray) both are fair complected and tend to burn easily. They like to lay in the yard and watch the sprinkler, but tend to pass out and get a mighty nasty belly burn. Gray (not the other Gray) said that the belly burn is the most uncomfortable thing there is, and that to solve the problem, them moved the 1973 Ford Pinto into the yard and put it on blocks. They removed the doors and applied some J.C.Whitney tintin’ material to the windshield. Gray (the other Gray) said now they can sit in the 1973 Ford Pinto, watch the sprinkler and drink beers all day and never get a belly burn.)

So Gray, (not the other Gray) said they come up with a plan to buy bulk garden hose on 500 foot reels, bulk male and female hose ends, and build their own Premium-line of garden hose. Gray (the other Gray) confirmed it and said now, they have a reel of hose on one side of the 1973 Ford Pinto, a box of male hose ends on one side of the 1973 Ford Pinto and a box of female hose ends on the other side of the 1973 Ford Pinto. Gray and Gray can sit in the Pinto and make hose all day without any belly burn.
I asked about the photos and Gray (the other Gray) said, “We’re a family operation. My ma and sis work outside the 1973 Ford Pinto wrapping up the hose and preparing it for shipment. He said havin’ his ma and sis photographed with the Premium Garden Hose operation wearin’ only panties helped sell more garden hose. He took credit for his top-notch marketin’ idea, sayin’ sales went from 120 feet in three years to 160 feet in only three months after the “ma and sis marketing campaign.”

Gray (not the other Gray) asked me if I had tried out the Premium Garden Hose. I said that it was winter were I lived an I wouldn’t be able to use it for a while. Then, he asked if it were a problem to write a reevu of somethin’ I’d never used. I replied, “It don’t make no never mind. Many of the experts do the same thin’. Some even say they will report later, but never do.”

Then Gray (the other Gray) told me that if’n I was to do this hear reevu that they would send me a four-foot custom made Gray and Gray Premium Garden Hose and half a six-pack of Schmidt beer as a thank you.

Ah . . . . Man, Could I use a half a six-pack of Schmidt beer. My tongue went dry. I said thank you and hung up. So, I’ve jumped all the turtles and dotted all the ‘t’s and its time to reap my rewards for my first reevu.

I just hollered out of the coat/computer closet (we ain’t got no den nor office) to the little woman and told her about the four-foot custom made Gray and Gray Premium Garden Hose and the half six-pack of Schmidt, and she let out a whoop-tee-do and said, “A four-foot custom made Gray and Gray Premium Garden Hose and a half six-pack of Schmidt is three times what you made from that blog this YEAR!”

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Got Flinch?

Let’s delve into that thorny abyss of caliber selection, and at the same time do some training.

Many have named the “perfect” elk hunting rifle.

Many have mocked the small rifle.

Some have even named the all-around rifle.

My grandfather used to say that the 30-30 had probably killed more elk and deer than any other caliber. Since then the 30-06 has most likely replaced it.

After magnums made the scene in the 1960s there has been a tendency to go bigger and better.
Yet, in my experience, elk hunters who shot a 30-06/.270 type rifle killed more game than those that brought magnums. How can rifles designed to shoot flatter and kill better miss and wound more game than weapons “less well designed?”

Shouldn’t those large caliber and faster bullets shoot flatter and kill better?

Maybe, but the larger, faster better killing magnums have developed a dichotomy.

While they may kill better (they may not), it has been proven that the 30-06 is the largest rifle that most people can shoot well. So the better killing ability of the magnums is more than offset by lack of shooting with the magnum.

Here is a test you can do at home.

Take the rifle YOU believe to be your best elk weapon, 22 rounds of hunting (not plinker loads) ammo, a target with a nine-inch circle marked (the killing area), your best shooting buddy, and a watch or timer to a 100-yard range.

Here is the test:

  1. Put the target up at 100 yards
  2. Note the time or set your timer for 10 minutes
  3. Shoot 10 shots offhand (standing) in that 10 minutes
  4. For each of the last 12 shots, have your buddy load your rifle. He should load it so that you don't know if there is a live round in the chamber or not. Some shots will go "boom," some will go click with a wild swing of the muzzle.
  5. Have fun and see what happens.

This test may educate in a couple ways: How well you shoot offhand at 100 yards, and how bad your flinch is.

Even competitive shooters shooting low-recoiling rifles will have a mental cramp that flinches a shot. Add some noise, some recoil, possibly some wind or a larger level of competition and anyone can flinch “out of the black.”


More links for Caliber Selection for The Elk Hunter’s Rifle:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Changes in Montana Hunting Rules

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks institutes new changes to archery regulations.

Some of those changes are on FWP's webpage (here).

This page is updated regularly, so this link will not track as updates are made.

Some reason for the changes can be found here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bulls Fight on Montana's Rocky Mountain Front

Just a couple of bull elk sparing on the Front.

It Really Happened, Really

Heart of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area--White River Pass, October 1975.  Flathead Alps can be seen in the background.

This post was inspired by Gary Sorensen (link). Here, he wrote a post (here) about how “clueless” non-hunters are to hunting, what hunting is, and what hunting encompasses. I live in a rather small, closed world and don’t know any non-hunters, or at least I don’t know any people who are clueless to what hunting is. Although, as an outfitter, guide and mule packer I have been surprised at how clueless hunters can be. Gary's article brought this story to mind, so I will share it with you and him.

I grew up in a wilderness camp at the forks of White River and the South Fork of White River. The easiest route into White River was from the trailhead at Benchmark, 30 miles west of Augusta. From there it is 27 miles (at least seven hours) on horseback over the Continental Divide at White River Pass.

Main White River Camp below.  Near river is White River.  Far one is the South Fork of White River.

During hunting season we ran the main camp with 10-12 guided hunters and two drop camps of six hunters each. One drop camp was in the Flathead Alps. The other was near the forks of White River and Cliff Creek. Although each camp was in different directions, they were each about six miles from the main camp.

Drop camp hunters were without horses. When they got game, one of their party needed to hike to the main camp for mules and a packer. Depending on what was going on it may take from two-to-four days to make the trip and get game out.

We provided everything in the camp except food and hunters personal gear. Any food that was left over at the end of the hunt became ours. This eliminated those people who didn’t make a menu, packed three mule loads of food in and two mule loads of food out.

In 1978, I took leave and came home from the Panama Canal Zone to pack and guide for two 10-day hunts. During one of the hunts, Cliff Creek campers stopped in camp and said they had at least two 5x5 bull elk down and probably another and possibly a mule deer. We told the hunter we’d be up in the morning.

It normally takes two mules per elk and one mule per deer. Because of the distance I took eight mules and one riding horse. The horse was for the hunter to ride while he showed me the game.
Starting out in dark, 10 head of stock only clip-clopped on frozen mud trail. It was light when I got to Cliff Creek campsite—and cold. They invited me in for coffee. On the first cup, I reached thick grounds less than half way into the cup. I casually went to the tent flap and flipped the grounds out the door and refilled my cup. Again, I was straining grounds through my teeth—lots of grounds.

I asked and one of the hunters replied, “Yeah, we brought a three pound can of coffee for the trip. For the first five days we just emptied half the coffee into the pot and kept adding water. Now, we’re into the second five days. We emptied the rest of the coffee in the pot and will just keep adding water ‘til we leave.”

While I finished a third half-cup of coffee, I was given some news. They hadn’t got the other elk and deer. I only had to get two elk that were at the head of Cliff Creek near the Chinese Wall (not the Great Wall of China). The Chinese Wall is a overthrust cliff 1000 feet high and about 15 miles long. The cliff faces east. The west side is a steep, rocky hillside (mountainside?). The Chinese Wall also marks the Continental Divide for much of its length.

Map of area in story.

The lower half of Cliff Creek is a tangle of lodgepole thicket. As the altitude increases, the upper end of Cliff Creek is relatively open. Whenever I went halfway up Cliff Creek, I made a loop up to the Chinese Wall and came down by Needle Falls, instead of weasling my way back down.
I tied the heads up on three mules and turned them loose at the Cliff Creek camp. Common practice. They would drift back to the main camp where someone would catch and feed them.
My “guide” took me on a tour of lower Cliff Creek. We found a trail of orange engineer ribbon, and followed it until it ended in a gut pile with ravens. There was no game.

I asked, “Where are the elk?”

My “guide” said, “Well, the birds found them, so the guys moved them.”

I asked, “Where did they take them?”

He replied, “I don’t know. I didn’t come up here.”

Then, I asked, “Did they mark it with tape?”

“No. They didn’t want the birds to find them.”

(This conversation actually happened, verbatim.)

I tied the mules up, and started a search. The elk had been moved several hundred yards up the canyon. The problem was—THEY WERE NOT ELK!!!

I told my “guide” that they had put their elk tags on a couple of small mule deer bucks. He was embarrassed. I was something else.

The hunters had been nice, they had quartered the deer. Since they had been quartered, it was easy to manty (pack in tarps and ropes for a good mule load) and make one mule load. If the deer had been whole, I would have had to pack each on a separate mule.

The hunter went back to Cliff Creek camp, and I went up to the top of the world. The map shows my route for the day. The spot marked “P” is where I took the photo of my overly large pack string. The view is looking north at the very head of Cliff Creek.

Several days later I returned to Cliff Creek camp to pack them out. Because of the distances involved, I always went to the camp the night before they were scheduled to pack out. While I was enjoying their final evening meal of noodles and meat, I noticed strange bones in the noodles. I remarked that I had never seen bones like that before. They all laughed and said, “Then you’ve never had snowshoe rabbit. We ran out of meat a couple days ago, so we been killin’ rabbits.”

There is an old saying that the only difference between a fairy tale and a war story is the fairy tale starts out, “Once upon a time . . ,” and the war story begins, “No shit, this really happened.” This really happened.

Photo taken the day of this story.  Taken from spot marked "P" on map, looking north at the head of Cliff Creek.  Cliff Mountain on the Chinese Wall is in the background.  Note that there is only one load from my two "elk."

Bridge Link to Training to Use The Elk Hunter's Rifle

This is the link from beginnings of The Elk Hunter's Rifle to training (and some fun).

  1. Benchrest Firewood for Sale: Cheap!!
  2. Mini-Sniper
  3. Got Flinch?
  4. Anticipating Recoil
  5. Dragging Wood
  6. Cross Training With Prairie Dogs
  7. My Initial Response (to shooting with a scope)
  8. To Clean or Not To Clean?

Benchrest Firewood For Sale: Cheap!!

Training the Elk Hunter to use The Elk Hunter's Rifle.

Onward and upward.

Shooting. TV makes it look simple. Point a gun, pull the trigger and they all fall down. Done poorly it is simple.

But when done well, shooting is one of the more complex actions a person can perform, and yet, anyone who can flex a finger and pull a four-pound trigger can do it. Then why do the majority of elk hunters have difficulty? Complex actions need to be done subconsciously. When they are done consciously, the nervous system is overwhelmed.

Think of how difficult it was to learn to drive, play the piano, or ride a bike. The initial learning phase has to be done consciously to train the subconscious.

Outside of just shooting, most elk hunters find themselves in an environment very different than what they experience at home. Mountains, elevation, and cold name a few of those. Additionally, many first-time elk hunters remark how “HUGE” the elk are. All those strange elements add to excitement and increase a person’s fight or flight response. That response disrupts the nervous system much like doing things in a conscious mode. If the hunter has not developed his shooting to a subconscious level, he is wasting at least some of the money he spent for the hunt.

As an outfitter, I used to send all the hunters a book with tips on improving their shooting and ultimately improving their odds of taking an elk home. Most didn’t follow the tips. The ones that did were more successful than those that didn't.

My first tip is given in a rather joking manner. It consists of four steps:

  1. Build a good solid benchrest
  2. Sight in your rifle
  3. Work-up your handloads
  4. Take a chain saw and cut up the bench into firewood and sell it

Benchrests are good for BENCHREST SHOOTERS, and to perform actions two and three above, but they have one aspect that does not improve an ELK HUNTER'S PERFORMANCE.

  • Use of a benchrest trains the eye and brain to only recognize and accept a perfectly still sight picture.

This is HUGE. Obviously the brain learns from what it can see (or touch, taste, feel, hear). If it learns to see only a perfectly still sight picture then that is what it will accept when shooting. The only position that has a perfect sight picture is benchrest. Unless one of your gun bearers also carries a portable benchrest, you will rarely see a perfect sight picture on an elk hunt.
In all other positions there is at least some movement in the sights—even for Olympic athletes. Add in some adrenaline, being winded by hiking Montana mountains, or Colorado’s altitude, and a big bull elk blowing snot, and there is even more movement.

An elk hunter who trains his brain to see a perfect sight picture will never recognize an acceptable HOLD.

Instead, the untrained shooter, who is shooting his shot consciously, sees the sights (or crosshairs) swing across the target. When the sights touch on the desired shot placement, he pulls the trigger. It is already too late. Signal from the eye goes to the brain. Signal from the brain goes to the trigger (and other muscles!). Trigger releases the sear. Sear releases the firing pin. Firing pin strikes the primer. Powder ignites, and the bullet leaves the barrel. By that time, the barrel is pointed somewhere less than optimum.

Chopping up your benchrest is a bit of hyperbole, but a hunter who leaves the benchrest behind, and trains his eyes and brain to accept a good HOLD and shoot a subconscious shot will make the difficult shots easily. Additionally, if that hunter has the opportunity to take a rest on a tree, log, stump or rock he will gain again.

Finally, I am not an expert on marketing benchrest firewood. It may not be saleable in your area.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Late Evening Elk

Sorry for the grainy quality. This was shot late one evening, and I was a quarter mile away. Lots of elk!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Don't Shoot Your Mouth Off

Back to “The Elk Hunter’s Rifle

If the trigger is the “heart of The Elk Hunter’s Rifle,” then what body part exemplifies the barrel?

Unless you have a tendency to shoot your mouth off there probably isn’t a good metaphor.
No matter. As stated before (link) The Elk Hunter’s Rifle is simply a tool, and the barrel is an extension of that tool.

The quality of rifle barrels is such that for hunting purposes few rules need to be followed. My only rule would be to keep it short. Too many elk hunters bring rifles that are too much—cannon-like—or have barrels that are too long. Those two-to-four inches of extra length will only increase velocity a bit, but you have to lug that extra-long smoke pole around the hills and timber for many days. Heavy rifles, heavy barrels, long barrels, and heavy long barrels should stay on the target range where they are only carried from the trunk to the bench. Keep Your Elk Rifle Simple.

I do have a couple of “don’t” for The Elk Hunter’s Rifle:

  • Don't attach any of today's wonderful assortment of consumer-ready muzzle brakes
  • If you have a factory barrel, don't free-float the barrel

Muzzle brakes and bore evacuators belong on Patton’s Tanks and field artillery. If you think your rifle is artillery and needs a bunch of holes on the end, you probably have a rifle that is too large for elk. (more of this on caliber selection) A rifle that is too large for elk is a rifle that isn’t shot enough. It’s just no fun to shoot something that repeatedly kicks and kicks and kicks. I’ve had lots of mules in my life, and if I had one that kicked a lot, I sold it. They’re just no fun to be around.

Muzzle brakes and their kin make the barrel too long, which goes against my only rule for barrels. They also have holes that can let water, dirt, pine needles, and in some cases, “stuff” found in the end of a rifle scabbard. You may say that a rifle barrel already has one hole in the end. Yes, it does. But, before I go hunting, I shoot a couple rounds through it and then apply a piece of tape over the end. No dirt, no water, no problem.

Muzzles brakes also cause problems for outfitters and guides. (Most will not complain to their hunters about it._ About the time muzzle brakes became all the rage, scope manufacturers started to “improve” scope designs with large, larger, and largest objective bells. The combination of long barrels with muzzle brakes and large diameter scopes creates a rifle that won’t fit in a normal scabbard. Not to mention that it is an unwieldy piece of crap. For an example, you would not have found a sniper (I’m dating myself here) carrying an AN/PVS 2 night-vision scope on his XM-21 ALL DAY LONG! Are you crazy? It’s not handy.

Enough for trashing muzzle brakes. (I wish everyone would trash them)

It may seem blasphemous to tell people to not free-float their barrels, but it is good advice for two reasons:

  • It isn't desirable for factory rifles
  • Free-floating a hunting rifle is more exacting than most hunters think--it needs to be done correctly

Barrel on most factory rifles have not been stress relieved. On the first shot it won’t make any difference, but when they heat up they will make a move. That movement may not be in a consistent direction—meaning it may have a corkscrew motion. I will not use brand names, but some makers built their stocks to put positive pressure on the barrel, so that when they heat up they make a consistent movement in one direction. Free floating a custom barrel may make sense, but only if it is done correctly.

Barrels on AR-15 "space guns" (and David Tubb's 2000) are about the only rifles that are designed with free-floating barrrels from the ground up. Except for the gas tube, nothing touches a space gun's barrel except the barrel nut.

Done correctly for a hunting rifle is different than for a competition rifle. The Elk Hunter’s Rifle lives in extreme conditions. Competition rifles live very easy lives. Many competition rifles will have barrels so “free” that there may be an inch or more between the stock and the barrel. An inch or more would probably by great for a hunting rifle—it would allow dirt, water (and ice), pine needles, etc to not fill the gap. The old adage for free-floating a hunting rifle was to let a piece of notebook paper pass easily between the barrel and the barrel channel. Any more and stuff gets in and defeats the concepts behind free-floating.

Free-floating done incorrectly, may not only defeat the maker’s positive pressure, or leave a gap to be filled by stuff, but will also affect the resale value of the arm. Rounded edges and large gaps in the stock’s barrel channel indicate “junk-yard gunsmithing.” That will cause a direct reduction in the arm’s value. It also brings the question, “What else has been “smithed?”

Well, that’s about all I have to shoot my mouth off for today.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Montana Whitetail Buck

This is a test to see if I can post video to my blog.

Hey! I'm an outfitter, wires and gigabytes and stuff are complex.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Returned and Tired

It’s another beautiful week in Montana.

View looking south near the Dearborn River.

The mercury climbed to near 60 on Monday. Crawling through grass and mud watching elk in the foothills south of Augusta brought a lobster-like color to my face and neck and a natural camo-color to my unnaturally camouflaged clothing. But, it was worth it.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks had finished their survey of elk in area 422. Seems there are more elk there than have been there in recent history—about 1800. Data shows about 1,015 elk were counted in 422 in 2007. While that is fewer than found on the Sun River Game Range, and the area is larger, it is easier to get close and actually watch them.

Rules for the Game Range keep people on the road, and the road only goes into the edge of the Game Range.

Area 422 is more difficult in one respect. Most of the land were elk are found in winter is private.

I got permission to go on a ranch on the Skunk Creek drainage. This area has been in the news recently-not by name-because over the last couple years several heifers have been killed by wolves there.

Area 422 is rather large. The south boundary is US Highway 200 and Rogers Pass. Western boundary is the Continental Divide. North boundary is the headwaters of the South Fork of the Sun River. The eastern boundary is Montana route 434, on the edge of the plains.

Since I hadn’t been to Skunk Creek for a while, I had no idea where to go, but immediately found several hundred elk moving from the foothills into the timber of the mountains. They were on land owned by a different rancher. As I watched them file away, I noticed about 35 bedded on a rocky outcrop a mile from the mountains proper. They were also on someone else’s land, but only 50 yards away from the border fence.

I made a stalk that ended in belly-crawling through several hundred yards of grass and mud. The sun in March is starting to have some power. While ground several inches down was still frozen, the top two inches were a muddy swamp-like ooze—hence the natural camo-color.

I watched the 35 elk for a couple hours. Something spooked them. As elk poured out of adjoining coulees, the 35 quickly became over 140. They jumped the fence, left the neighbor’s no-man’s-land and trotted to a section of land I watched until sun down. The beautiful day was also lucky. Most of the heard bedded back down on a snow bank less than 100 yards from the rocky point where I laid.

I hadn’t planned to stay ‘til the sun set, but I had left my pack in plain sight of the elk. I had hoped that as the sun went down, they would graze off and allow me to get the pack without disturbing them.

A hundred-and-forty elk are wonderful to watch, but laying in the sun for eight hours (without sun screen—who needs sunscreen in March?) was difficult. Monotony was broken several times as a few spikes pushed and spared playfully. Just before I decided to leave—and spook the herd, I glasses around one more time. What a sight. The small herd to my front was dwarfed by a herd of over 300 that were pilled up along a fence a half-mile away, waiting for the first to jump in and start the night’s grazing. Quite a sight.

Tuesday I changed areas. I went up into the rocks and trees and looked for some bachelor groups. Found a few. Most still have their horns. Another month and that will change. Two or three more months and the herd will grow as calves hit the ground.

I didn’t take any still pictures, and my FireWire cable isn’t compatible with my computer. As soon as I rectify that situation, I will determine if the videos are YouTube friendly. They look good on a large screen TV, but who knows what they look like on a tiny screen.

View looking north near the Dearborn River.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday’s warm weather changed on Thursday. Mercury plunged to below zero Thursday night. A winter storm brought a storm advisory and about five inches of snow.

Another change. Friday we woke to subzero temps and a glowing heat tab rising from the eastern plains.

The varieties of weather, mountains, plains and wildlife along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front create a mélange that can’t be beat.


Monday, March 2, 2009

To The Mountains

I won't be posting for a couple days or so.

Going to the mountains to see some elk and possibly some wolves.

Will post on Wednesday or Thursday.

Everyone have a great week!!