This had started out as a fun 3-day weekend at the farm. It turned into a hard slog. However, I did get deer camp mowed and I did get to shoot some of the rifles I treated with Dyna Bore Coat. I am impressed. The point of the exercise was to get the new coating baked in by running a several rounds through the rifles. All of these rifles, most of them had new scopes on them as well, so we were not quite sure where they were going to shoot. Of the 4, the one I had the greatest interest was my new Ruger Hawkeye in 30-06.
For the baking-in, I had some leftover 150 Hornady FMJBT’s. These are certainly not going to be my choice in deer load. The point was more to provide heat and pressure rather than to check accuracy. The first shot left me with a clean target. On the second shot, we realized the rounds were going into the target to the left of the one I had intended. As far as I could tell after sending 6 rounds downrange was that three or four went through the same ragged hole. Without trying, I managed to shoot the best 100 yard group of my life. It left me quite impressed with the rifle, the Bushnell Elite 3200 scope, and the new bore coating. I am sorry I have no pictures to show of it. The camera was acting up for Angus. He only got one of me.
The Savage 110
KYHillChick’s Hand of God in 30-06 shot a predictable 1 inch group with the hunting loads I had cooked for Angus a couple of years ago. What made it special was that this was the best group I had ever seen out of Angus. Something special was going on.
The Mauser 25-06
Since last hunting season, I had changed out the scope. It has a new Bushnell Trophy 4-12X40 on it. We were shooting rather rapidly, so the barrels could heat up. As a result I noticed vertical stringing that I had not previously seemed. However, it was all in a perfect straight line. I do not plan any modifications at present– it is a hunting rifle and will seldom be shot with a hot barrel.
The Winchester 670 30-06
This was the first time Angus had an opportunity to fire his new deer rifle I gifted him on Father’s Day. Hunter and rifle bonded immediately. It fits him like a glove. I put a Bushnell Banner 3-9X40 on it. He asked to keep the Weaver Pivot Mounts. He pulled a nice group from the bench and then tried a little off-hand work at water-filled bottles and such. I did not feel it as much when we were together at the gunsmithing bench, but I sure felt it out on the porch as he was firing. I passed on 30 years of my life in that stroke. It may have been a cheap rifle when it was new, and it was dirty mess when I got it, but to me it was gold.
A buddy of mine was a Jungian psychologist. They deal with archetypes and such. She always said that I was a Promethean type– a true hero mentality. I dunno about all that, but she did leave me some good Joseph Campbell tapes when she moved out.
The setup for all this is based on my recent purchase of the Ruger Hawkeye. As part of the deal, I decided to try Dyna Bore Coat. It was a new rifle, so I figured getting it down to the bare metal to apply the coating would not be all that hard. You can do several rifles with one bottle, so I wanted get a bunch of them ready. Besides the Hawkeye, I cleaned the Winchester 670 that I am giving to Angus as well as O.T.’s 25/06. SuperCore sold me an 8mm Mauser last year that I have been re-habbing. I figured that one would make 5 rifles– enough to get started.
The pre-clean for the Dyna Bore Coat is pretty involving. John Barsness wrote the instructions. I frequently find myself corresponding with him on 24HourCampfire.com. He and a lot of others on that forum think this is great stuff. John’s instructions call for JB Bore Compound. I did not have any of that, but John told me Flitz would work as well. 150 trips up and down the bore later, 5 rifles were completed.
The next phase of the pre-clean is the copper removal. I chose to use Industrial Strength Ammonia. The other 4 rifles came clean instantly. The 8mm Mauser was horribly fouled. I plugged the chamber with a rubber stopper and poured ammonia down and let it sit for 4 hours. It came back looking like Windex. I knew I had quite a job ahead of me, but I also figured this might be the reason the accuracy of the Mauser was less than expected.
I was contemplating 7 days of bore scrubbing and I ran across this tip from Mauser Central:
Electric bore cleaner – All you need is an electrode, a power supply and some wires and alligator clips. The electrode can be a coat hanger (make sure it is free of any varnish) or a store-bought thin wire rod. Use some heat-shrink tubing at the bottom of the rod and along its length in various places to prevent the rod from contacting the gun at any point in the barrel. (A short Circuit) The power supply consists of 2 `C’ cell batteries simply duct-taped together. There is no need for any fancy battery holders. Use only the 2 `C’ cells! There is no need for more power than this! The Positive power supply lead is attached to a good contact point of the rifle such as the rear sight. The Negative lead goes to the top of the electrode. Stand the gun upright and lock it into this position. Plug the chamber end of the gun…This can be done by using a fired shell wrapped with some Teflon tape or an automotive tire Valve stem trimmed to fit snugly. Tie a rag around the muzzle end of the barrel to prevent spills!..you can also wrap a layer of duct-tape around the muzzle so you can overfill the bore slightly without it leaking. The barrel is filled with “Household Ammonia”…You will find this at the grocery store or wherever your wife buys household cleaners…The strength is usually around 10 – 20%, you do not any stronger than that. Don’t dilute it, add any other agents to it or substitute anything else for it. Once the bore is filled with ammonia, connect the wires and let the device do its job for ONE HOUR. Keep a close eye on it as the ammonia will foam quite a bit making top-ups needed quite often. After the hour, the gun will need to be thoroughly cleaned with standard bore cleaners and oiled to prevent rust. So what does this thing do and when do you use it? This device is using the actions as a chrome plating shop does but in reverse. The ammonia lifts copper and the electrode attracts it like a magnet. You will see the electrode is quite a mess at the end of an hours use. Just wipe off the deposits though and its ready to use again. This thing is not meant to be used as a regular cleaning tool…There is no need for it after a days shooting inmost cases. It is meant to be used on guns that have not had a proper cleaning in many years…The ones that you can run a patch up and down all day and they still come out dirty! Follow the design and instructions exactly, Use it for what it is and it will save you hours of cleaning time. Try and overpower it, forget that you left it on, or misuse it it any way and you might end up with damage…I have yet to hear of any damage from this when used as I state here.
Now it just so happened that I had to leave work early that day to take care of some business for my Mom. On the way home, I stopped at the hardware store, and picked up a 3/16″ steel rod and some cheap D batteries.
The battery holder was a paint stick, a couple of wood blocks and the aluminum foil from our last carryout meal. I used electrical tape as a stand-offs every six inches or so. I had a rubber plug that fit the chamber.
It took less than 1 oz of 10% Ammonia to fill the gap between the rod and the barrel. I hooked it all up to the batteries and was rewarded with a generous brown foam.
Brown? I unhooked it and consulted the website again. AH! I had the positive and the negative reversed. I went back down and put the negative lead on the steel rod and the positive on the receiver. Now I got whitish foam. In a bit, I was getting bluish-white foam– about like Windex. That continued for 15 minutes. By then the barrel had emptied.
I poured out what was left. The rod had gone from shiny to black– looked like lamp black. I used steel wool and then brake cleaner and a rag and got it shined back up. I set everything back up and restarted this mad-scientist rig. 15 minutes later, I had to repeat the clean-out and re-fit. I did this a total of three times over the next hour.
The last time I hooked up the battery, all I got was white foam. There was no blue.
Clean-up? I tossed all the gunk in the sink and then treated the Mauser like one of my muzzleloaders. It got rinsed with cold and then the outside got rinsed with hot. Once the barrel was good and warm, I dried it with a towel and then took it back to the bench. There, everything got a shot of breake cleaner and then a going-over with Ed’s Red.
I did not have a chance to touch the Mauser again until the next weekend. After a week’s stewing in the Ed’s, the remaining gunk released. My first patch was cruddy, but within 3 the patch came back clean. I tried Ammonia again, and the patch was white. I then shot brake cleaner down the pipe and then denatured alcohol and the Mauser joined the other rifles ready for the application of the Dyna Bore Coat.
The general consensus among those I have confessed this to so far is that what I did was risky. However, the old Mauser was shooting a 3 foot group at 100 yards when I started. I figure I had nothing to lose and if I mucked it up, it was going to be re-barreled or re-bored anyways. This was a last resort. I will let y’all know how it turns out.
As to the Dyna Bore Coat, the final application went smoothly. I had all 5 rifles done in an hour and then put them back in the rack, barrel down, and then left them overnight. Conceivably I could have shot them in 4 hours, but it will be a week or so before I can get down to the farm. Each rifle will need about 8 rounds sent down the barrel to bake in the nano-ceramic finish. The payoff should be 5 rifles with increased accuracy, no jacket fouling and faster clean-up. I will report back.
The End of Season I was putting away all the deer guns yesterday. They have been sitting out for nearly a month. You can blame it on procrastination, but...
The other day I was down at camp. There was not a whole lot to do. It was hot. I went in and sat in the recliner next to the air conditioner and tried to take a nap. I looked up and saw the mount of “The Monarch” and started reminiscing. As a coincidence the website stats put the story of that buck’s taking at the top of the chart showing what has been read on the weblog in the past 20 days. I guess after 10 years it is time to go back and revisit that story.
I re-read “The Savage Spoke . . .” and what hit me was how new and fresh that experience was. There have been a lot of deer under that stand since 2003. I can think a few larger bucks taken in that general area that surpass it. Two of them I’ve shot. A couple of seasons ago, I even passed on a shot at a larger 10 pointer during October Muzzleloader– I’m still scratching my head on that one. At the time, however, I just did not want to wreck the whole dynamic at camp with my buck tag burned before the Rifle Opener.
In 2003 it was a new stand, a new rifle, and a relatively new deer camp. I remember putting up the stand with Mooseboy, who was only 10 at the time. He drove out with me to the stand site, and at one point he got bored and asked me, “Dad, why did you bring me?”
“Well,” I said, pulling the straps out of the back of the truck, “You’re spotting me. That is, if anything happens, you can go get help.”
“But Dad,” said Mooseboy.”How can I run and get help? The truck’s here. It’d be a mile back to the road and I can’t drive. What could I do?” It was an astute observation.
“You’re right.” I said. I flipped him the keys. “You need to learn how to drive.” And so it was that my honorable #2 son came to be driving at age 10. He did all right. There is still an old rotted fencepost along the way that he took out on that trip. From then on, he began to heed my instruction about staying further over to the left.
Since then, I have spent every Rifle Opener perched in the stand at Campground. I have 4 Hunters View Buddy Stands. As far as I know Hunters View is no longer around. I purchased the last of them in 2006. In general, let me say that I have now spent hundreds of hours in tubular steel buddy-style ladder stands. Let me give you a quick brain dump on them.
They are roomy and generally comfortable, but they are cold– not quite as bad as aluminum. Carry a buttpad and use it to insulate your rump. Use another for your feet, or better yet, buy boot blankets. If you and your kid are normal sized, you will have a great time. I am a large man with large kids. After a given son turned 12 or so, the two of us were pushing the 500 lb weight rating and it was cramped.
As to the question of whether or not to take them down every year, I have left mine up. I found I did more damage to them taking them down and putting them up than just leaving them there. It’s okay. Some have been up for a decade. Replace the straps every couple of years. Spray paint them with good rust-proofing paint as needed. Use spray or paint-on Extend to deal with the rust. I’ve seen steel lawn furniture that has been out in the elements for a hundred years.
A fifteen foot ladder is all I have found I needed. This is from a reformed nosebleed cowboy. Extra height is not necessary. 15 feet is just fine.
A treestand skirt helps. I use 12 feet of camo nylap backed with black landscaping material. I pad the shooting rail with foam pipe insulation and use electrical ties to attach it to the rail. Additionally I have taken to cinching the bottom with clothesline. This sounds rather extravagant and complex, but I will explain.
Nylap: I have used die-cut leafy stuff, I have used burlap. The solid Nylap is the most durable. The burlap and the leaf-cut stuff are both toast in a couple of years. The straight Nylap can go 5 years or more. Put it up just before season and take it down right after. Otherwise it will be faded shreds in no time at all.
Landscape material: used as backing. It is there to keep the sun from shining through. It better hides your form. Burlap, with the sun at your back might as well not even be there.
Pipe Insulation: Padding on the rail does a bunch of things. It is warmer to the touch. It is quieter. It keeps you from marking up your rifle.
Electrical Ties: Cheap, quiet, secure.
The Clothesline: I figured out a few years ago that deer were getting wary of the stands not because of the occupants, but because the bottom of the skirts were blowing in the wind. I therefore run a bit of clothesline around the bottom and tie both end off to the back of the stand. When I go to get in, I undo one side and then pull it tight again once I’m in.
I use two ropes to get things in and out of the stand. One is a 25 length of 1/4″ cord that stays up all season. I use a carabiner at one end and clamp my duffel onto to that before I climb. The other is a 1/2 inch nylon web that winds up on a reel. It tie up the rifle and then clip the reel to me so the web pays out as I am climbing. After I am all settled-in, I bring up the rifle and put it on an old screw-in treestand step until the start of legal hunting. The hook keeps my hands free. I have also started using a large carabiner attached to the shooting rail to hold my rifle by the sling. That way I do not have to hold the rifle until it is time for a shot. My hands stay a lot warmer. Why both? Habit I guess. Sometimes I like the hook. Sometimes I use the ‘biner.
7) Get a treestand umbrella. Sportsman’s Guide has one for less than 30 bucks. Mine is big enough to hide two hunters in the buddy stand under in the worst downpours. It is well worth the investment.
2003 was the first time I had put a stand up at that location. Over the years, it has paid off with a lot of good deer. Here is the tip that cued me to to it: There was a lot of rotten wood nailed in the trees. A lot of guys had used the trees around this spot and built treestands. Once I had a stand up, I could see why. For one thing, I can see over a hundred yards in several directions through the woods. That is a rarity in these parts. For another it has lots of different things coming together. A narrow pasture ends. An old logging road passes by. A ridgeline comes to a point and begins dropping elevation into a creek bottom. There is a saddle on the main ridge near by. It is on the edge of a cedar thicket and an oak grove. This connects with this connects with this. . . you get the idea. I had originally picked this spot out on a topo map before my first season. I made the mistake of situating my stand down the hill and hunting it mostly in the afternoon, and never saw a blessed thing. It turns out the action was all taking place at the top of the hill in the morning.
I had never had buck fever prior to my meeting with The Monarch. The whole stand was shaking. I was frozen. I could not get the rifle up. I did, however, overcome it. Advice? Do whatever it takes. For me, it took talking to myself and calming myself down. It worked. I recovered enough to take the shot. It has never happened since. Go figure!
The rifle I took to the stand that morning was a new-to-me Savage 99. It was the first rifle that I bought sole on the advice of an online forum, namely the 24HourCampfire.com. I’d been thinking about getting something with a bit more “whump” than a 30-30. Everyone said I should get a Savage 99 in 300 Savage, but I was worried about the longevity of the cartridge. I opted for a 308 Winchester. Starting with “The Monarch” it has accounted for all my nice bucks. Since that 2003 Opener it has been my choice for Opening Day. It only shoots bucks and once it has been blooded for the year, it goes back in the case.
It is not a magic deer rifle. I built the rifle and load for what I saw as the conditions at the time. It is a handy rifle to have in the stand, shooting at extended archery distances. The load mimics a 300 Savage. In 2010, I took a nice buck from this stand at a distance of 150 yards ( See “The Shaman Bags and 8-Pointer”)The first shot caused no reaction whatsoever, even though it destroyed the heart and lungs. That does not make it a bad rifle, but it is not a 30-06.
For the first time since I got the rifle, I switched out the optics at the end of last season. I had an old 3-9X30 Simmons mounted on the Savage 99 on Weaver pivot mounts. I always liked the old pivots, and the rifle and the optics were contemporary to each other. It was also the first scope I ever bought, and it had been on three rifles over the years and taken a lot of deer. However, both the scope and the mounts had problems. In 2008, a boogered a shot on a buck at close range from Campground. I found out later the pivot mount had been knocked a kilter. A few years prior to this, I had a buck holding in the cedars just to the east of the Campground stand, and I could not make him out in the scope due to sun glare. This year I swapped out everything for a Bushnell Banner 3-9X40 and a Leupold one-piece mount. One thing I have learned is that a $90 scope is better than a $30, 30 year old scope. Another is that, though the pivot mount was cool, in 30 years of use on several rifles, I never found myself pivoting the scope off and using the irons.
Deer Camp has changed a lot in 11 years. Back in 2003, I was just beginning to take #2 son out. #3 Son, Angus, was still too young to get in the stand. In those days Mooseboy and I fit fairly well in a buddy stand together. Most of my hunting was still alone. I remember that year well. Mooseboy and I had hunted Yute season together. Just before the Rifle Opener, he announced that he was going to sleep in. He decided that it was time to let Dad have at least one day to hunt by himself. It has since become a tradition. Now, Mooseboy fills a buddy stand all by himself, as does Angus– they do live up to their nicknames after all. They each fill up their sides of the dinner table. Since 2009, SuperCore has been coming to camp as well. My granddaughter, Mooselette, is now only a year behind when Angus first started coming to Deer Camp,and I hope to have her mother, MooseMama as well. The dining table is filling rapidly. It changes all too fast. Enjoy your sons and daughters in the buddy stand while you can. Soon they will be hunting on their own.
The one big thing that has changed for me in 10 seasons is my attitude to deer camp. A decade ago, I still thought of myself as lone hunter, and my focus in November was the hunt. Gradually, being the patriarch of deer camp crept up on me, and I now think of it as my prime directive.
I went back and re-read that piece. It pre-dates the weblog. In fact, the reason I wrote it was that I found writing stories like that the best way to document things for myself. It was not until later that I realized folks like reading my stuff. So much of what I think about that stand and the surrounding turf has changed. Some things have gotten clearer, some have not. For instance, in those days I was certain that there were other hunters on the property. We do. However, in retrospect the word got around after the first year and we stopped having the sort of incursions I envisioned with the drunken hunter. I have also witnessed a couple other buck fights since. It really does sound like a drunk thrashing about in the leaves, heaving his guts out.
As to the idea of the Orange Army with their thundering ATV’s driving the deer onto my property, I still see signs of that on the weekends. Over time, I have seen the number and use of ATV’s ebb and flow. I have hunted mid-week a few times, and watched what happens when the deer are not being disturbed. My conclusion is that two things are at work. First, the deer really do respond to an increase in ATV traffic. The effect is fairly localized and temporary. That is to say that every acre you ride, the deer are perturbed. However the effect is fairly short lived. I can run my truck through a field and bounce deer. A day or two later, they are back. In fact I have taken a deer out by Campground in the morning and seen deer grazing there in the afternoon.
The more important thing I think I have been seeing this past decade is the effects of the rut. The Rifle Opener in Kentucky is usually nestled somewhere in the midst of the rut, and a lot of what I see is the effect of the Seeking and Chase phases. What happens is that, when all this comes together, you have a lot of deer up and moving in daylight hours. They come into contact with the ATV traffic and this forces them to alter their movement. My point in making this distinction is that I believe the effect of vehicles on deer seems to heighten in the rut. Earlier and later in the year, there are going to be fewer times when an ATV is going to seriously change a deer’s behavior. My advice is, when faced with this situation, to go where the ATV’s are not operating, and given the choice, walk.
After I shot the buck, I found him dead at the bottom of the ravine. It is about a 100 yard slog up the hill from there to the truck. At the time I shot this buck I still felt like I was disturbing the area too much if I gutted him right there, so I dragged the buck up the hill, and brought him back to the house. Nowadays, I am going to gut him right there. As long as I can get the truck to the animal, I still wait and gut at the house. It is just easier for me. However, since 2003, I have had to deal with enough deer in enough ravines that I now keep a kit for gutting in place. I have hunted with recent kills and recent gutpiles close by. Deer are unfazed.
I have shot a lot of deer since that morning in 2003. God willing, I will shoot a lot more before I put my rifle down. When I take a grandchild up into the stand for the first time, It will probably be at Campground. There will be many days hunting and many Openers. I only hope any one of them is as good as this one.
Well, the shaman’s last 30-06 arrived. They called from Hibberd’s in Cleves. The rifle was in. I went over to pick it up. John slid out the box, and then it hit hit me: Exactly when did I do this last?
It’s funny, but I could not figure out exactly when was the last time I went to a store and cracked open the box on a factory-new rifle. Was it 10 years ago? 15? I finally had to shove it out of my mind, because John was looking at me wondering why I wasn’t opening the box. I stuck that question away for later.
The Ruger Hawkeye was a bit darker than I had anticipated. That is a good thing. It comes off as a medium matte gray. It is all pretty well thought out. I liked the way the safety works. It comes around and visibly fits into a notch on the the bolt. Hence, you KNOW the rifle is locked. The trigger was as perfect a fit for my technique. It was crisp, and neither too light or heavy. I peeled off a bunch of dead presidents and off I went.
Let me just add here that I have really enjoyed doing business with Hibberd Armory. John, Dave, and Becky do a super job. This is the most money I have ever plunked down on a firearm, and I really appreciated their knowledge and service.
Dang? When was the last time I walked into a gun store and bought a new rifle? I’ve purchased a bunch of stuff over the years. However, for the largest part, I have always been attracted to the odd and the old. Most of my firearms have a story before they get to me. A lot have been owned by friends. Quite a few have been re-hab projects. That is one of my favorite parts of this hobby: taking something with a mucked up stock or a missing bolt and turning it back into something useful.
It also kind of fits the rest of my life. In the beginning, I was just getting started not just in hunting and shooting, but also in my day job as a bit jockey. It was always a challenge to add to my collection and still keep in budget. Then I got married Satan, then I got kids, then I went broke divorcing Satan, then I did it all over again with KYHillChick. A rifle that did not cost much to being with, but could be re-habbed and rebuilt over a year or two kept the burn-rate down and also gave me something to do.
I had a bunch of candidates to sift through. I DID buy an nice Savage ’06 for KYHillChick back in 2006, but that wasn’t for me. It was a birthday present. There was a new Henry .22, but that was for Mooseboy. There was a Mini-14 back in 2000, but that was a not-quite-new-in-the-box off GunBroker. I finally got all the way back to 1984 and the TC Hawken I bought for myself on my 25th birthday. It was at Cincinnati Sports Headquarters in Sharonville. I still remember Jay behind the counter. The place burned down a couple years later and is now a parking lot. I found Jay at a Swallens back in the 90′s, but lost track of him after that. Yikes! How time flies!
So I got it home and got it down to the bench and started taking the Hawkeye apart. The first thing that had to go was the plastic stock. Mind you, I liked the stock. I could have probably lived with the stock, but this has been a 30-year vision quest. Out came the wooden stock I’d procured a year ago for this moment. On it went. It took a while to get it all back together. This is not your grandpa’s Mauser. The Ruger engineers are fiendish with that angled action screw. At some point, I’ll take it all back apart and relieve some of the top of the box magazine, but for show and for now, it would do.
I stood back. Yes, that would do nicely. 30 years of waiting had come to an end.
I went to Harbor Freight and procured a torque wrench, an anti-fatigue mat and a shop apron. Something told me it was going to be long day at the bench. It was the annual Tent sale, so all the Mennonites were out looking for bargains. Wow! what an unfriendly bunch! I guess living under that black hat in the hot sun does something to you. It might be that or the fact they have their suspenders too tight. I wear suspenders, but not like that. It’d make me a sourpuss too. Hey Graber! Lighten up there and let me at those gloves.
When I got home, the scope had arrived. I had found a Bushnell Elite 3-9X40 for under @$240 on Amazon. Everyone says it is the best scope out there for the money. We’ll see. I was interested in the positive comments about the ability of the scope coatings to shed rain. It would be a bit daft to buy a stainless rifle that could not go out in the rain, right? The other thing that intrigued me was the claim of 95% light transmission. This rifle will probably do the bulk of its work at last light. If this scope buys me an extra 10 minutes of hunting, I will consider it a bargain.
I went down to the bench today, shortly after 0700. It was 1000 before I set crossed back over the moat, closed the door and told Ed, the guard, that I was coming up for a breather. In the meanwhile I had gotten a lot done.
For starters, I went to work on the magazine box. The Ruger site had this tip as an easy accuracy enhancer for M77′s:
Folks were saying a whole 1 mm, but I ground off .02″ or roughly half and tested.I took it out and blued the bottom edge, then started final assembly. It was sloppy and rattled when I first tightened the screws, but when I torqued the front screw to 92 in/ft the rattle stopped. I snugged the rear screw to 60 in/ft and . . . the magazine would not close. I backed everything out and stuck a bit of electrical tape over the catch, then repeated the process. Viola! (how did she get into this story).
So shaman, you wait 30 years to buy a rifle. Why is it a 30-06?
Oh, that’s an easy one. First off, think back to 1984 and imagine a young, impressionable 20-something. I had fallen in with a particularly hard-core cell of the vast right-wing conspiracy. I was the kid of the group by about 20 years. There were a bunch of other guys, but among the principles were:
Big Bob: A retired gun editor, good friends with Bill Ruger, Elmer Keith and the likes.
Jerry: A ex-marine armorer with his own gun store.
John: A veteran of The Bulge
Around them various lesser stars. In 1983 I went hunting with Jerry for the first time, and bought a used Remington 742 in ’06 from him for that purpose. At the time, I didn’t know squat about rifles or bullets or much of anything. All I knew was that I did not want to get eaten by a boar. Jerry helped me to load a bunch of shoulder-busting rounds, and when boar showed up, I managed to plug one and I found the results satisfyingly devastating. Within a year, I was a Life Member of the NRA and seriously digesting every piece of information I could about deer, deer hunting and deer rifles. Soon my head was spinning.
“So,” I said one night, “Is this rifle going to be right for deer?”
Jerry started in on the ballistics of the 30-06 in comparison to the 270 Winchester and the 308 Winchester. John infused a story of the terminal ballistics on a company of SS Troops they caught infiltrating their lines one night. The story was completely tangential and left John, with a 20-mile stare and shaking with PTSD-induced tremors. A lot of John’s stories ended that way. He excused himself and went to the can to pop a Valium.
Bob waited until the rest of the hoo-haw had damped out, and said “Let it be said that the 30-06, although a tad overpowering on the average whitetail deer, is a reasonable choice for any game on the North American continent, save perhaps the largest bears.”
“. . . and for that, ” added Jerry, “A 35 Whelen will probably do you.”
“Well,” I replied. “You mentioned a 270 Winchester.”
“- And you have a 30-06.” replied Bob. “Tell me what a 270 Winchester will buy you over a 30-06.”
I regurgitated some stuff I had picked up from a lifetime of reading Outdoor Life.
“Completely inconsequential inside 200 yards!” said Bob, “And if you do manage to see a deer, it probably WILL be inside of 100 yards, because that is about how far you can see in the woods just about anywhere east of the Mississippi. When you read all these guys in magazines, look at where they are hunting. Most of them are out West. There? I can see why someone might want to start out with a 270.”
“But what if I manage to see something further out?”
Jerry chimed back in, ” If you see something further out, pick yourself up and get closer, because unless you spend a lot more time practicing, you won’t be able to hit anything that far out. How far was that boar away from you when you shot him?”
“Maybe 20 yards.”
“. . . and you were probably shaking like a leaf.”
And so it went. For the next few years, I had my head stuffed with the shared wisdom of old farts like that. I learned many times over that before went and pounced on a new rifle, I should seriously compare it to what I had in my closet already. With a nice 30-06 there, it was hard to justify anything else. I learned that most of what was written about rifles was meant to get you to buy a new rifle. I learned that with whitetail deer, it was best to keep firing until they could no longer shoot back– or was that Germans? Oh well, with John the two somehow merged into a single menacing force. I found out that 30-06 was good. 270 WIN was bad, if for no other reason than it was not a 30-06. 308 WIN was bad, because it replaced the 30-06. 35 Whelen was good, because it was different from a 30-06, but in a good way– it was bigger and badder. I learned that I should endeavor to shoot deer at close range. I guess I got it right, because when I finally did shoot a deer, it was at 5 yards– with a 30-06.
Jerry was the first to die. Cancer got him in 1992. John assumed ambient temperature between the Sebring and Daytona races at a campground in Florida in 1997. Bob’s legs went about 20 years ago, and I can’t get him to come out hunting anymore. Eventually, I broke out of the mold, but not before owning a half-dozen rifles in 30-06. In 2003 I bought a used Savage 99 in 308 WIN, but not before conferring with Bob for absolution. Bob approved, saying that a 308 WIN was a better bet than a 300 Savage, because he did not know if the brass supply would hold out for the latter. I load my 308 WIN to 300 Savage levels, partly because it makes a nice light-recoiling load and partly out of memory to my friends.
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I do not usually spend years making up my mind about a deer rifle. However, it was 2007 when I first began to contemplate what I have come to call “My Last 30-06.” Just to set the stage for you, in 2007, I had just bagged the biggest buck of my career. I had two young sons, one had not yet taken his first deer. The other was approaching 16, and would no longer be hunting with me as a youth. Over the winter, I started planning my next decade. I figured I would pass on one of my rifles to Moose when he came of age and then procure a nice 30-06 bolt gun for myself.
I had a Winchester 670 in 30-06, that had been my oldest active deer rifle. I had bought it in the mid-80′s at a gun show–paid $120 for it. A fellow had tapped me on the back inside Cincinnati Gardens and said that if I wanted a deer rifle on the cheap he had one in his trunk. It had looked pretty gnarly when he pulled it out, but he swore it shot well despite the dinged-up stock. His brothers and he had been trading it around for years. I figured for $120 it would not be a huge risk. I spent the winter refinishing the stock, and come spring I took it out to the range. A fellow at the next bench offered me $400 for it, and at the time I thought hard about it as a new Remington 700 was $300 and. . . Naw. I’d grown fond of the rifle. I decided to keep it.
The Winchester 670
The Winchester 570
That was the rifle I figured I would present to #2 son, Moose. However, fate intervened and before Christmas that year I was offered a minty Winchester 750 in 30-06. It had been sitting in an old man’s closet for 20 years. I snatched it up, and this rifle became the great Moose Rifle. I kept the 670.
Then the dark clouds started to form in my life. I was laid off from my job of over a decade. I was still strapped with child support and a mortgage. Trying to start a business with a buddy failed. After the unemployment wore out I was coasting on savings and in November of 2010, I made my last mortage payment before going down to the basement to contemplate selling my guns. However, I got a phone call just before Rifle Season that led to the consulting job in Scumsuck, and although it was not much, it started my way to digging out of the hole.
The Winchester 670 in 2008
All the while, I was working it over in my head: what will be my next deer rifle? I know, that is sort of a goofy question to be asking at a time like that. However, that had been the last project I had contemplated before the bottom fell out of everything. It kind of stuck with me. Thinking about a rifle is free, even if the rifle is not.
Since my 20′s, I had always dreamed of a Remington 700. A BDL in 30-06 had always been my idea of cool. In fact that was what I had gone to that gun show back in the 80′s to get. The Winchester 670 had started out being sort of a consolation prize. However, I grew to like several things about the 670. For starters, even though the 670 was a field-grade, Blue-Light Special rifle, it had a nice trigger and an it was easily my most accurate rifle. For over decade I used it with Remington Accelerators on groundhog. I called it “The Vaporizer.” The other thing I liked about it was the safety. I like a 3-position safety. That center position lets you unload the rifle without fear of an accidental discharge. The 700 did not have that. The other thing that I grew to love about the Winchester was the finish. I had refinished it from the scarred remains of the factory finish. It was a birch stock, not walnut, but I had hand rubbed it with Danish Oil and unlike the Remington, a scratch or a ding was easy to fix. The hard Remington finish was great until it got damaged, and then it was there to stay. As I got to liking the Winchester more, I decided that when I finally got around to buying a fancy rifle, it would probably be a Winchester Featherweight over the Remington 700.
The last thing that got me out of thinking about Remington 700′s was the issue with the trigger. I know. If I kept the trigger mechanism immaculate, I did not have to worry about the darn thing firing as you close the bolt. For $50, I could buy a Timney Trigger and do away with the problem all together. However, I was not inclined in those days to spend money on a nice rifle only to turn it around to a gunsmith to have it repaired. I also did not see myself dropping the trigger group out every whipstitch. The Winchester 670 was last field stripped and out of its stock in 1988.
Then Winchester stopped making rifles.
For a while there, I was really in a quandary. Something like a simple bolt-action 30-06 should not be that hard to acquire. I thought about Savages. In fact, I bought a nice one for KYHillChick in 2006. However, I just could not see myself with the Savage. Don’t get me wrong. It may be the best shooting rifle for the money that is out there. I just could not quite wrap my arms around one.
Then the Ruger Hawkeye came out. It took me a while to catch on that this rifle did not have the tang safety like the Savages or the earlier Ruger MK II. It had the 3 position safety like the Winchesters. It had a fair trigger. It was undoubtedly Minute-of-Whitetail in accuracy. It was cheaper than the Remingtons, not much more than a Savage, and MUCH cheaper than the newly reconstituted Winchesters. What’s not to like?
Ooops. I forgot something. It’s more like I blocked it from my memory. It is a painful episode in my life. Back in Spring 2010 we had a 5 day rain. Luckily (?) I was unemployed and could stay home and take care of the problems. The basement flooded. I emptied the shamanic underground firearms repository and brought everything up to the ground floor, but it took until summer for the house to dry out. Three firearms fell victim to rust. One was the Winchester 670. By now, the search for the shamans dream ’06 had become a vision quest. As I removed the rust from the barrel of the 670, I swore my dream deer rifle would be stainless. When I circled back to the project again, I realized the Hawkeye only came in wood/blue or plastic/stainless. I am not a fan of synthetic stocks.
I was undeterred. When I finally dug myself out of the financial hole, it was Spring of 2013. I had been saving Speedway Points and I was about ready realize my dream of a deer rifle. By now, Angus, #3 son, was approaching 16, and I wanted to gift him the Winchester 670 and get myself a Hawkeye to replace it. To solve the problem of getting a wood/stainless Hawkeye, I scored a nice factory stock on the cheap. It all seemed like things were falling into place. Fate again intervened.
O.T. has been a buddy for over a decade. He ran the mower shop over on the next ridge at deer camp. As the lawn at camp ate my mowers, I would bring them to him to salvage. Over the years, I saw him go down hill. In 2013 he said he was giving up. He was in his mid 80′s. He was slowly suffocating from bad lungs, his eyes were shot. He gave up his hunting dog, and I offered to buy his deer rifle. It is an awesome rifle, a custom Mauser in 25-06. I knew O.T. needed the money, but that blew the budget for the Hawkeye.
O.T’s 25-06 is a perfect example of why a wood stock has a better vibe to it. For one thing, it tells you where its been. For over 30 years of deer hunting, he carried this rifle. You can see he preferred to steady it on the right side of cedar trees. You can see the marks of every one of them. My Dad’s Model 12 has a mark on it from the first time I went turkey hunting. That might sound like a lot glurge to a lot of you, but there is a practical side to it as well. When I’m out with a wood stock, I know my grand kids are going to see everything on the stock. I carry it accordingly, because I don’t want one of them pointing at some gouge or ding and I have to say, “Grandpa was being a dumbass.” On the other hand, a fiberglass stock that is completely mute will never let you know that, for instance, that last tumble you took might have been bad enough to knock the scope off kilter.
Now I come to how this 30-06 became “My Last 30-06.” Look, I’m 55 as I write this. I’ll be 56 by the time the Opener roles around. I am north of 300 lbs, so recoil is not a big problem for me. However, I watched O.T. go by inches and after a long bit of careful consideration, I realized 35 Whelen is probably going to be my high-water mark in the recoil department. Some time over the next 30 years, I will start wanting to shed myself of the higher recoil rifles. O.T.’s 25-06 is a dream to shoot, and O.T. spent 30 years with it, killing a lot of nice bucks in our end of the county. I could have just let it go at that, but I could not let this quest for my dream rifle go– not with the stock for it already on my rack.
It was therefore with a lot careful thought that I went into Hibberd’s Armory in Cleves last weekend and told John at the counter to acquire a Ruger Hawkeye All-Weather variant in 30-06. I have resolved that this will be my last 30-06, at least for now. I pray that the next 30-some years will see many happy days afield.
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Mooselette, daughter of Moose and MooseMama showed up at camp over the weekend. Grandpa shaman was quite pleased.
It was 3 years ago when MooseMama let it slip on our Memorial Day camping trip that there was going to be a new hunter at camp. Since then, we’ve been preparing for that eventuality. Mooselette is approaching 2.5 years of age. See : I’ve Been Busy . . .
We had a special hike out to the Campground, complete with stops at the Honey Hole for lessons in turkey calling and a stop at Midway, where the deer blind became a magic fairy princess castle for a time. Back at camp, there was a makeshift sandbox, a wading pool (complete with a live frog), and a firefly hunt. However, beating up her Uncle Angus with a wiffle ball bat seemed to be the preferred activity.