Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hunter Shoots Grizzly, Bullet Kills His Partner

From the Missoulian Newspaper:

DNA findings: Bullet Passed Through Grizzly Bear Before Hitting and Killing Hunter

Gives a whole new meaning to "be sure of what's behind your target."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A PRE-Review

Slightly Embarrassed

Last June I received an email from Georgia Pelligrini.  The email simply said: 

Hi Dennis,  I have a book coming out this fall called Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time , which chronicles my experiences going over field and stream in search of the main course. Can I send you a copy of my book when it comes out later this year? If so let me know your address! 
Hope all is well.

I had never heard of her before and passed it off as some sort of spam.  In my experience, bloggers are always being spammed for free/cheap advertising for some unnamed, unknown, possibly unpalatable product.  Two days ago, I learned that at least one recipe in Pellgrini's book is far from unpalatable.

Then, a week ago, fellow blogger, Deer Passion, posted links to Pelligrini's book.  Well, faux pax on me!  I dug back through emails, found Pelligrini's and asked for a copy of the book so I could join the feast.  We received it yesterday.  When my wife and I have read it a review will be posted here.

In the meantime, Lindsey Triebel, one of the staff promoting Pelligrini's work, sent me some links and a recipe for Moroccan Elk Stew that comes from Pelligrini's book, Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing The Way We Eat, One Hunt At A Time.

Here it is:

Moroccan Elk Stew
Serves 8

Also try: beef, lamb, bison, venison and other antlered game

4 pounds elk shoulder or haunch, cut into cubes 
3/4 cup all-purpose flour 
4 tablespoons grape seed oil or butter 
1 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder 
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
2 medium-size onions, roughly chopped 
4 carrots, peeled and chopped 
2 medium-size turnips, peeled and chopped 
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped 
2/3 cup dried apricots 
2/3 cup prunes, pitted 
3 to 4 cups beef or antlered game stock 
1. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot with oil. In a bowl, toss the elk cubes in the flour. Shake the cubes well and place them in the pot in batches, being sure not to crowd them. Brown them on all sides and transfer to a plate or rack.
2. Put all of the browned meat back in the pan and sprinkle it with the salt, cinnamon, ginger and pepper. Then add the vegetables, garlic, and dried fruit. Pour in enough stock for the meat to be three-quarters covered, and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat so the bubbles percolate. Cover and simmer gently for 2 hours, until tender.

From the book, Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time  by Georgia Pelligrini.  Excerpt by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group.  Copyright © 2011.

Of course, I couldn't post something that I hadn't tried, so I immediately made Pelligrini's Moroccan Elk Stew with only two changes to her recipe.  (Are there elk in Morocco?)  One change was planned; the other an "oooops."  During winter in the Carroll household we don't cook on the stove top; instead we cook our stews, pot roasts, chilis, spaghetti sauces, etc in our Tulikivi.  

Our Tulikivi with Pelligrini's Moroccan Elk Stew (before I covered the Dutch Oven)


A Tulikivi is a Finnish fireplace.  It heats the entire house with one-two hour fire per day--even here on the Montana's Rocky Mountain Front.  (Yes, the wind is howling today, bringing tonight's snow!)  The fire heats 5000 pounds of Finnish soapstone during that two hour period and then radiates it throughout day and night.  With all the leftover heat, we simply insert a stainless steel rack in the firebox-after the fire is out--and place a dutch oven with the day's delectables on the rack.  Add a little water throughout the day and presto; meal fit for a royalty and no added expense for cooking--or hassle, for that matter.
The "ooops," came from my idea on "beef or antlered game stock."  I just made it like I normally would, but when I got Pelligrini's book, her recipe for stock was radically different, and possibly tastier than mine.  OK, it would be better than mine.

Regardless, or irregardless as some say, Pelligrini's Moroccan Elk Stew was the best stew I have made.  Even the smell was delicious.  The mixture of cinnamon, ginger, onions, and garlic caused a Pavlovian response before, during and after it was cooked.  Do I have to wait all day to taste this?

A stew for two.

If Pelligrini's book, Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time, is written as well as her Moroccan Elk Stew tastes, she will have a best seller.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Congratulations Eric Uptagrafft

USA Shooting names 2011 Athletes of the Year

USA Shooting of Colorado Springs, Colorado has named Kim Rhode and Eric Uptagrafft as their 2011 Athletes of the Year.

Kim Rhode (USA Shooting photo)
KIm Rhode is a Women's Skeet athlete.

Eric Uptagrafft (USA Shooting photo)

Eric Uptagrafft is a Sergeant First Class assigned to the US Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Georgia.  

Uptagrafft has always been a first class marksman.  When he was a full-time shooter at the 5th Army Marksmanship Training Unit, in 1987, I was a temporary shooter at the 6th Army Marksmanship Unit.  Uptagrafft has demonstrated what not only talent, but determination and perseverance produces.

Congratulations to both.

USA Shooting is a non-profit corporation that organizes and manages shooting programs nationwide to prepare shooting athletes for Olympic competition.  I believe USA Shooting is one of the "unsung heros" that supports shooting competitions.

USA Shooting relies on donations for its operation.  You can contribute here.  If that link doesn't work just go to USA Shooting and click on the "Donate Now" button.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Idaho to use helicopter gunners against wolves

It seems that wolves have been eating too many elk in Idaho.  Elk numbers in the Lochsa and North Fork Clearwater drainages have dropped from about 16,000 in the 1980s to about 2,000 today.  Idaho wildlife managers hoped that hunters would have taken about 60 wolves in the area this season, but as this story was written, only 6 had been taken.

Story from the Missoulian here.

Stay tuned.

Friday, November 18, 2011

NRA Celebrates 140th Birthday

NRA Celebrates 140th Birthday

I missed this date yesterday, but it is an important day for all Americans; pro-gun or anti-gun.

Regardless of your stance on guns, they have helped keep us free for over 200 years and is only less important
than the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment.

Happy Birthday, NRA and American!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Elk Hunter's Responsibility

Unit 390 to Close for Wolf Hunting

The quota of 18 wolves has been reached in Wolf Management Unit 390.  It should close on the evening of 16 November.  The closure will eliminate about a third of the state of Montana from wolf hunting.

The quota for all of Montana was set at 220, and so far, 76 have been taken.

Previously, on 10-6-11, Subunit 313/316 was closed.

If you are an elk hunter, it is your duty to engage this hunt.  Elk hunters that have bought elk licenses over the years, or even bought guns, ammunition, or archery equipment have "equity" in the elk herds that are being thinned by wolves that most elk hunters didn't want to pay for.  Do YOUR duty!

He looks so much better with the crosshairs.

Stats of the wolf hunt can be found at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Wolf Guide.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Shoot, I Can Still Shoot!

Walking and Chewing Gum

I believe I can walk and chew gum at the same time, but when it is spring/summer/fall/winter in Montana I have a tough time being outside doing outdoor pursuits AND parking my butt in this chair sharing what Montana and the United States has to offer.  So . . . not much blogging lately.

When spring rolled around I had visions of getting back to Highpower Rifle competition and attended Montana's Spring Warm-Up Match in Butte (see here).  But, all of the snowpack and rain caused a bit of flooding in the Treasure State.  My house didn't flood.  However, ground water rose to a new high in our well house.  Working on that and not wanting to travel three or four hours to a Highpower Match just to watch it rain kept me at home--more than I wanted.  Those delays made my second highpower match in 12 years the 2011 Montana State Highpower Championships at the Deep Creek Range outside of Missoula.  (Note to self: "Don't do that!)  That was followed by matches in Anaconda and Butte, Montana.

Surprisingly, I hadn't lost much skill in those 12 years and I'm back shooting as well, or better than I did when I was a competition junky.  With the exception of working the bolt for the rapid fire events, I am at the top of the pack; at least state-wise (not nationally).

For those unfamiliar with highpower, the normal Across The Course match consists of four (or five) individual matches and from one to three aggregate matches.  The individual matches consist of: 22 shots offhand from 200 yards (two sighting shots and 20 record shots slowfire), 22 rapid fire shots from the sitting position at 200 yards (two sighting shots--slowfire, and two ten shot strings done in a time limit of 60 seconds), 22 rapid fire shots from the prone position at 300 yards (two sighting shots and two ten shots strings done in 70 seconds), and 22 slowfire shots prone from 600 yards (two sighting shots and 20 shots for record.)  In slowfire, the target is pulled and marked after each shot.  In rapid fire, the target is put up for the 60 or 70 second time limit and then pulled into the pits.  Besides shooting, competitors need to score other competitors and take their turn in the target pits.

Securing targets in the pits.

Here is a recap of the last three matches.

Montana Highpower Championship at the Deep Creek Range.

The afternoon of Friday, June 24 was the M1A Montana State Championship.  Competitors had to fire an M1A or M14.  All firing was done at 300 yards and consisted of 20 shots slowfire prone, 10 shots rapid fire prone, 10 shots rapid fire sitting and 10 shots slowfire offhand.   A perfect score would have been 500.  Jamey Williams of Conrad, Montana won with a 472-9X.  Second place went to James Patterson with a 461-8X, and third place went to John Strandberg with a 449-6X.  George Waldorf won the optics category with a 432-1X.  (I don't own an M1A any more)

M1A Shooters and their rifles at the Deep Creek Range, west of Missoula, Montana.
(Don Strom opted for a dog.)

Saturday was the Across the course match, which was conducted as described above, except that an extra slowfire prone was shot at 600 yards.  The match winner was Steven Powell of Utah, who shot a grand aggregate of 978-42X.  A perfect score would be 1000-100X.  The resident champion was Scott Lindley with a 962-16X.

My bolt manipulation skills weren't up to the task and I ate a round at 200 (didn't get it off in 60 seconds), and shot one in the dirt at 300 yards (trying to beat the target into the pits . . . lol)  But with those two exceptions I was pretty happy.  I was match winner on the first slowfire prone match at 600 yards, with a 197-10X, second place overall and first in the master class on the second slowfire prone match at 600 yards, with a 198-7X, first master in the slowfire aggregate (combination of 200 yard offhand and the two 600 yard matches) and first in the master class with a 947-27X in the grand aggregate.  High Master Don Strom beat me out on the second 600 yard match with a 199-9X.  To decipher Don's score:  He shot 9Xs.  The X-ring on the 600 yard target is 6 inches in diameter.  He shot 10-10s.  The ten ring is 12 inches in diameter.  And, he shot 1-9.  The 9-ring is 18 inches.

High Masters Don Strom and Scott Lindley (l to r) shooting offhand at 200-yards.
Lindley is this year's Montana State Resident Champion.

Sunday was the Long Range Match (1000 yards)

The match consisted of two individual 1000 yard matches, each unlimited sighting shots and 20 shots for record in a time limit of 25 minutes.

Steven Powell of Utah beat me out of the aggregate and one of the 1000 yard matches.  He shot 194-7X, 193-7X, and a grand aggregate of 387-14X, while I shot a 197-7X, 188-5X and a combined total of 385-12X.  To decipher my 197-7X: The 1000 yard target has an x-ring of 10 inches--I shot 7 of them; it has a 10-ring of 20 inches--I shot 10 of them; and the 9-ring is 30 inches--I shot three of them.

Shooting at 1000-yards at Deep Creek Range.

The Deep Creek Range has been called "The biggest Indoor-Outdoor Range in the World."  It is clear cut out of timber on one side and the other side is a near-vertical mountain.  Wind played a big factor on the 600 and 1000 yard matches this year, but normally, wind is almost non-existent.  It is also a beautiful place to spend the weekend, shoot, have a beer and see old friends for a weekend.

Target Pits at the Deep Creek Range.

Anaconda, Montana Match 9 July 2011

Anaconda got its name from the Anaconda Copper Company--the same one that dug the Berkely open-pit copper mine that was eating the city of Butte, Montana until it was closed and turned into the largest Super Fund site in the United States.

The highpower range west of Anaconda is only 200 yards long, so the 300 yard and 600 yard phases are shot on reduced sized targets.  200 yard matches are fun, because you don't have to move your gear from yard-line to yard-line.

One of the women competitors shooting offhand at the Anaconda Range.
The biggest challenge at Anaconda was the wind.  Almost everyone had a miss during the offhand match.  It is probable that the only reason I won the offhand match with a dismal 181-3X was that I didn't shot a miss!  My rapid fire skills were improving and I shot a 192-2x for second place at 200 yards sitting and a 194-8X for third place at 300 yard rapid-fire prone.  I was happiest with a 200-7X during the 600-yard reduced target and was match winner there.  (The only 200 score shot in that brisk Anaconda breeze.)  The 200 yard reduction of the 600 yard target has an X-ring of 1.79 inches and a 10-ring of 3.79 inches.  Being "in the money" across the board also earned me match winner of the grand aggregate with a 767-20X.  

Butte, Montana Match 10 July 2011

The Butte Gun Club range is on the side of a huge open mountain with few trees.  (It's in Montana, so the wind can be troubling--especially offhand and 600-800 yards.  Scott Lindley, who was the resident Montana state champion at the Missoula match earned first High Master in the grand aggregate with a 760-16X.  The Match Winner was Jamey Williams, who won the M1A match in Missoula, with a 773-19X.  Personally, I didn't do well in the offhand phase.  I can recall several times over a decade ago that shooting in the wind in Anaconda gave me a jerk that I couldn't overcome the next day at Butte.  The same thing happened the weekend of 9-10 July.  Awwwwww.  But my rapid fire is picking up.  Won first master class with a 197-7X at the 200 yard sitting--Lindley beat me with a 198-7X.  Won first master class at the 300 yard prone with a 199-6X--Matt Waite won it overall with a 199-9X.  Williams won the 600 yard match with a 192-6X, besting my 191-7X.  And, I was first master and second in the grand aggregate with a 770-24X.

Sitting rapid fire at 200-yards.

That afternoon we had an 800-yard match.  Unlimited sighters and 15 shots for record in a time limit of 22 minutes.  A perfect score would be 150-15X.  Jim Panagopoulos and I both shot 150s, with me edging out Jim Pan (as he is called) by one X.  Jim's 150-7X vs. my 150-8X.

A good couple of weekends!

I'm still not sure if I can walk and chew gum at the same time, since I don't chew gum, but when I focus on one thing I can do it fairly well.  When I considered returning to competition, the thought entered my head, "Can I still shoot?"  I can.  Additionally, being outside with like minded people, shooting guns, having a beer and a story or two afterwards, and camping in Montana . . .  well, what can I say?  I can still do that, too.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rifle For The American Bison

A few years ago I started sharing my elk hunting experiences with folks.  Originally I wasn’t going to suggest caliber, but people asked and I relented.  Bad move.
While some readers appreciate my 40 plus years of elk guiding and outfitting experience, some readers have criticized me for my words.  (Everyone has a favorite caliber and no one should touch it without glowing words.)  Some have gone so far as to run back to their virtual “hunting forums,” and spread their opinions of me.  I have been called an idiot, a bull shit artist, a moron, and a few words that surely violate the forums policies.  So, I quit sharing my info.

But, a week or so ago, a prospective bison hunter asked me the following:

Hey, nice blog ... I have a bit off topic question- what gun to use for Buffalo hunting. I drew a buffalo tag in WY this year (I live in Pinedale). I have had friends hunt them in the past successfully with a 30.06. I myself am strongly considering using my Browning BLR PG 30.06. That said, others have told me to use a BLR .450 or Marlin 45.70. What do you think? Thanks for the comments.

Well, except for moving and herding bison, the American bufffalo, I don’t have any personal experience shooting them.  I have always marveled at how effortlessly they can move with very little effort.  That slow lope can put distance between the best horse and rider, leaving said horse and rider in their dust.   And that is without exciting the buffalo.
I’ve seen quite a few hunters shoot bison, but until now I’ve never really thought about shooting one.
To research this post, I googled the net and interviewed a few of my friends that have killed bison, and coupled that with my experience hunting elk, deer, sheep and bears.  On the internet you will find vast numbers of “experts” claiming that large-bore rifles are needed.  338s and 375 seem pretty popular.

Friends suggested whatever was in the closet or in the gun safe seemed appropriate.
One of my friends, who I calved for this winter/spring, took his twin sons Thane and Luke, and his nephew, Johnny, on a bison hunt.  All three youngsters shot their bison behind the ear, at 75 yards with 30-30s.  The twins used a Model 94; the nephew used Marlin.  None of the first shots “killed” each bison, but they were put down and only needed a follow-up shot to finish the job.
The bison is the largest land animal in North America.  (To get a larger mammal one needs to look at whale.)  Although they are larger than their elk, musk ox, deer, caribou, etc., their kill zone doesn’t increase in size.  So, to put it in perspective, a bad shot with a large-bore rifle isn’t any more effective than a poor shot with a small-bore rifle.  The heart doesn’t get any bigger, and actually because the leg bone that covers the heart is so much heavier than elk/caribou, the kill zone is smaller.  If one is taking a heart shot they should try either a quartering toward/away, or wait until the bison takes a step forward with the near leg before delivering the shot.
To answer the comment/question, I would use the 30-06 in the closet, but remember to practice hitting a heart sized target at 200 yards.  Not just at 200, but throughout the arc of the bullet.
Alternatively, I would order a fancy Shiloh Sharps rifle in either 50-90 or 45-110 caliber.  I like guns and to have a old-style buffalo rifle in a obsolete cartridge hanging on the wall alongside the tanned hide would complement my rifle collection and my living room.

After writing this I hope that none of those wonderful "forum goers" has any heartburn over my choice of calibers.  That would just break my heart--ya' know, to have my real life experience conflict with some computer hack sitting on his duff, handing out what he/she thinks is real.  So much for my rant!


Monday, May 30, 2011

Satisfying Beef

Montana Beef: A New Perspective

My cabin below Ear Mountain, Montana.

Calving season ended for me about a month ago.  As it came to a close I reflected on the season.  It was probably the coldest and toughest calving season I have experienced.  Temps were as low as -38 on one night and many nights were below -20.  Most of my work was done at night all alone.  Well, I had the company of a fine black cow pony.  Although he doesn’t talk he’s probably smarter than Mr. Ed.  When I got lazy he kept me focused--most of the time.
Anyway, as I reflected I got to thinkin’ . . . calving cows is a strange job.  The goal is to save as many calves as possible.  Simply keep them from dying.  I hadn’t calved any cows for about 10 years, but I kept my reputation by losing only one calf all season.  That one drowned when the first calve heifer backed up to the creek and dumped her pride and joy in Montana’s winter springwater.
That isn’t the strange part.  The strangeness enters when I think that every calf that I save becomes a wonderful meal for someone in a year or so.  If my calves live, you get a savory prime rib for New Years, or a juicy hamburger on Memorial Day, or an all-beef frank at the ball game.  It brings back the ubiquitous evening TV mantra by the television cowboy Sam Elliot, but in the heat (or frigidness) of the moments of calving I don’t hear that voice--only much later.
Sometime in March I had an experience that cemented my relationship with the cows, calves and my wonderful black horse.
I normally have a 12-hour shift, and when it is frigid the cows need to be checked every 15 minutes.  There isn’t enough room in the shed for all of the cows that are calving.  And, when a cow is calving outside and is brought inside, she usually stops calving--I guess it upsets her rhythm.  So, I let them calve outside and then take the calf to the shed on a sled.  Once in a while the cow follows; most of the time she doesn’t and I make an extra trip back to bring the cow in.

The black cow pony.

I normally have a 12-hour shift, and when it is frigid the cows need to be checked every 15 minutes.  There isn’t enough room in the shed for all of the cows that are calving.  And, when a cow is calving outside and is brought inside, she usually stops calving--I guess it upsets her rhythm.  So, I let them calve outside and then take the calf to the shed on a sled.  Once in a while the cow follows; most of the time she doesn’t and I make an extra trip back to bring the cow in.
My black horse likes to chase cows to the shed, but near the end of a shift he’s ready for the saddle to go and the grain to come.  In his defense I get tired too, and that sometimes causes problems.
We had brought 12 or 15 or 20 calves in that night.  We only had a few minutes left on our shift and one final calf to bring in.  As I had done countless times that night and the previous month’s nights, I drug the sled alongside the slimy calf, leaving the sled’s rope around the saddle horn and dropped my reins to tell the black horse to stay.  It should be noted that I was dressed for the weather--two pairs of long johns (top and bottom), insulated Carhartt bibs, double insulated Schnee boots, a double layed wool hat, an extra-long poly neck gaiter (that combo allows me to cover my head, neck, and face leaving only a slit to see from), a heavy parka and my cowboy chopper mitts.  For the uninformed, cowboy chopper mitts are simple leather mitten shells with double insulated wool liners.  They are the ultimate in warmth, but in the words of the late outfitter Art Weikum, “You can’t do anything but look like a monkey having sex with a football!”  (In my words there is little manual dexterity.)
Decked out in this Michelin-man suit, I grabbed the calf by two legs.  As you grab a new-born calf his slime squishes out of his fur and runs all over the chopper mitts.  As I turned to put the calf on the steel-reinforced sled, I noticed that the sled wasn’t were I had originally left it.  It seems the black horse was ready for oats about ten minutes before I was ready to give them to him.  He was secretly looking back past the saddle and ever so slowly plodding to the shed.  No problem.  I just hastened my step to catch up.  The black horse took this as his cue to speed up as well.   I know he thought, “Heck, if my rider is moving faster toward the shed, I should oblige him and move faster too.”  I gripped mr slimy calf a little harder and sped up.

She is neither a Persian nor a Greek, but she is as tough as any 300--GET AWAY FROM MY CALF!

The additional force caused my greasy package to let out a beller.  Most people only hear something like, “Baaaaaaa,” but mother cows hear, “I’m surrounded by wolves and one of them has me by the testicles!!!,” which causes the mother to blindly attack the wolf (or person) who must have her baby by the testes.
I must add that although my black horse likes to chase cows, he had a bad experience with some bulls a while back and when a bull or cow runs toward him, he runs the other way.  So, now the horse isn’t in a hurry for oats, he’s in a hurry to keep from being rammed by a mad mother cow that knows something is attacking her baby.
The cow is moving faster.  The horse is moving faster.  The sled is moving faster, and I am moving faster, but in six inches of snow with my winter bundle on I’m having a tough time keeping up with all the activity, which includes staying ahead of mama cow.
I dropped baby calf on the sled and made a faux pax.  In an effort to gain some balance and propel myself ahead of mother cow’s anti-wolf attack, I placed my chopper mitt that had recently been covered with several gallons of calf slime ON THE STEEL-REINFORCED SLED.  Now, my mitten had become one with the steel-reinforced sled.  I as well.  As I tried to trot alonside the sled and ahead of the cow, and being tired at the end of my shift it was difficult to decide (instantaneously) if I should remain with the warm dry comfort of my wool lined chopper mitt, or should I escape the confining sled (and snot-blowing cow) and plunge my hand into the Arctic blast.  I truly enjoy my comfort, but self-preservation forced me to removed my hand from the mitten and gathered up my black horse.
It’s surprising how many words, sentences and paragraphs it takes to explain a 15 second blast of activity.
I bedded the cow/calf pair in the shed, jerked the saddle off, turned the horse out, gave him several gallons of grain and dragged myself to the pickup.  The engine barely turned over, but finally caught and after 15 minutes I could see through a 4-inch diameter porthole.  The porthole never grew, and with blowing snow the four-mile trip to the cabin took over half-an-hour, and when I arrived I was greeted by another snowdrift to climb over.

Once in the cabin, I shucked the winter wear, and as I dropped an inch-and-a-quarter rib steak in the pan and threw a spud in the microwave, a warmth began in my stomach.  It spread throughout my body, and a slow smile gained my continence.  I gave a little chuckle because I had an entirely different perspective on Sam Elliot’s television mantra, 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Springtime in Montana 2011

Highpower Season 2011 starts in Montana!!

200-yard slowfire phase (offhand)
 Springtime in Montana!  Calving season is winding down and (hopefully) the snow will stop so we can move on to more enjoyable pursuits.

Checking sighting shots prior to 200-yard rapid fire phase (sitting).
 Last weekend was Montana Rifle and Pistol Club’s Spring Warm-up Match—the first highpower match of 2011.  While the weather forecast warned of possible snow, the white stuff never showed.  Thank God!  We have had several years worth of snow—even had another blizzard yesterday.

Montana’s Spring Warm-up Match is the first opportunity for shooters to blow the cobwebs from their barrels, burn some powder, and check last year’s zeros and this year’s skill.  Additionally, the MRPA issues AR-15 Service Rifles to a few members, usually junior shooter.

600-yard slowfire at 300 yards on reduced size targets (prone)
 For me it was a long awaited return to a sport that I love and have been fortunate enough to do well at.  (When I had the outfitting business there wasn’t enough time to practice, and without practice there was no “perfect.”  Personally, I’m not the type to just simply shoot without improving.  However, as I get older and my eyes lose their acuity, I may have to settle for less.)

Besides the exacting business of shooting, it is and was a time to rub shoulders with friends, tell old, sad jokes, and enjoy fellowship with like-minded people.  We all asked, “Has it really been ten years?”  Yep.  It has, and that is sad, sad, sad.  lol

600-yard slowfire (prone).
 Although there was no snow, we received a fish-tailing wind that wreaked havoc during the 600 yard slow-fire phase, which was conducted at 300 yards with reduced size targets since the road from 300 to 600 yards was too soft from snow melt to drive on.

This year I have a new match rifle shooting a new cartridge.  I will keep folks informed on the progress.  As for this match, I had expected to be rough in offhand (standing) and was, but I won the master class in the 600-yard (300 reduced) phase.


Monday, March 21, 2011

A Calf Is Born!

Over the years I have tried to take a series of pictures of a cow giving birth to a calf.  Most of the time the lighting is bad, or the weather is bad, or the cow is uncooperative.

However, last week I got a pretty good series.  Hope you enjoy it.  I have added some information for those new to cows calving.

This photo was taken about 30 to 45 minutes after #785 started to calve.  The front feet are both visible and the nose is showing, meaning all is well.

Another 10 to 15 minutes and all of the calf is out except the hips.  If the calf is small enough a cow can just push the calf out in this position.  In this case the calf is too large to be simply pushed out.  It's called a "hip lock," but it is usually more than just the hips.  A large calf's leg bones, near the stifle, and its tail form sort of a three pronged plug.  The leg bones press against the inside, bottom of the pelvis and the tail and backbone press on the top of the pelvis.

At this point the cow stands up.

Standing up serves two purposes.  One, it lets the fluid drain from the calf's throat, lungs, mouth and nostrils, and two,  the calf's leg bones--pressing against the bottom of the cows pelvis--create a fulcrum, and the calf's weight pivots the tail and backbone through the pelvis ahead of the legs.  In this photo you can see the fluid drain from the calf, as well as the calf's backbone and tail pressing through the skin below her tail.

One final push!

And her baby is on the ground.

Licking the calf off doesn't just remove the slime, it also invigorates the calf, like a massage, and get him breathing and moving.

Less than two minutes later he's trying out his new legs.

"Although I'm not very old, I already know how to get out of a tight spot."


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Well, I Calve Cows

As I mentioned in a previous post, Elk, Deer and Leaping Ants on the Front, I've taken a break from other pursuits and returned to cowboyin' along Montana's Rocky Mountain Front; specifically, calving cows.  While it may seem a simple question, a few folks have asked, "What do you do when you calve cows?"

The simple answer (although seemingly flippant) is, "Well, ya' calve cows."  The more detailed answer is, well, longer.

It ranges from the regular cowboy stuff like moving cows from A to B to more complex stuff like knowing when to call a veterinarian.

Moving "heavies" to the calving facility.  Heavies are the cows that appear to be within two or three weeks of calving.
For the most part, the cows are going to calve whether you are there or not.  It's a natural act that cows, elk, deer, etc have been doing long before man came along.  But, man has meddled in that natural act and caused problems.

In nature elk and deer still have their calves and fawns in late spring and early summer.  Humans want the largest calves they can sell in the fall, so they adjust their breeding dates to have calves earlier.  Some years that is not a problem.  This year is an exception.  So far we have had several three to five day periods where the day time high temperature hasn't gotten out of the single digits and night time lows have dipped to minus thirty--not counting wind chill effects.  If elk and deer (and cows) decided to have their offspring drop in this weather, unaided by man, they would eventually go the way of the Mastodon.  (I am not sure what time of year Mastodons gave birth.)  Anyway, in this case every cow that calves must be brought to the calving shed so the calves can dry off, get some colostrum and get their legs working.  Very few calves last more than 30 minutes at minus 20.

Angus Bull waiting for the next snow storm.

 There are other problems that can be either man-made or natural.  Big calves are one of those.  Big calves make bigger calves when it come time to sell, but the trade off is too big means C-sections, which are costly, and if not performed quickly can result in a dead calf.  No one wants to pay for a C-section on a dead calf!

Besides just big, calves can be upside-down, backwards, a foot back, or breech.  Not recognizing these early enough translates into another dead calf.  In most of these cases you can reach in manually and manipulate the calf, although a backwards or breech calf can't be manipulated into a normal presentation--head and front feet first.  Cows can also have twins, which can come naturally or be a tangle of legs that needs to be manually manipulated to get one calf out at a time.  I don't know sometimes; maybe they both want out at once.

"Heavies" arrive at the calving facility.
 And, of course, there is the "fun" stuff.  Ranchers want to know which calf belongs to which cow, so most put ear tags in--much like piercing ears in people, but probably more gawdy than a steel ring in your lip.  The "fun" comes 'cause most cows don't want other animals, including people, touching their newfound pride and joy.  If you think rodeo bulls are dangerous, put a tag in a calf's ear, listen to him beller', and run for your life!

So far it's been a tough year.  About 280 of the 850 cows have calved; we've only had two C-sections, two uterine prolapses, and a couple of frozen feet.  A uterine prolapse is caused when a cow continues to strain after the calf is pushed out, and she pushes her uterus out on the ground.  Takes an experienced hand or a vet to put it back in and get a live cow out of the deal.

My wife says a person needs to love animals to do this.  I'm not sure.  Working with animals that aren't breed for intelligence and occasionally want to stomp ya' in the dirt wouldn't be my first job choice--well, maybe it would be; I get a measure of satisfaction when I see a two-day old calf running and jumping in the snow--all because I had been there to help.

First twins of the season, back in January.