Muzzleloader 2017 After Action Report

The Kentucky Early Primitive Weapons Season 2017 is in the can. No deer were harmed in the making of this weekend.However, we all seemed to have a good time. I left straight from work and missed the traffic. Both Angus and SuperCore left a bit later on Friday night and got caught up on a major snarl. Angus swung out way west and came in by Falmouth. SuperCore plowed through. They both made it late. I had spent a pleasant evening alone, watching the deer. For us, Muzzleloader Weekend is always a shakedown for the real thing. Unless a real monster shows up, we usually hold our fire.

Saturday was one of the warmest Openers we have ever had. The temperatures began in the mid-50’s. I was at Campground. Angus was at his new blind at Lazy Boy. SuperCore drove out to the Jagendehutte. In the 8 O’clock hour, a couple of doe came plowing through the creek bottom below Campground. The lead doe slowed down enough for me to count coup on her twice with the new LHR Redemption. After 0900, the younger doe came roaring back out of the cedar thicket from which they had gone and ran up to my stand, in considerable excitement. I believe what I was witnessing was the aftermath of a cervid family tragedy. A shot over on the neighbor’s property had preceeded all this movement. I think one doe of their crew, perhaps the matriarch did not make the trip. There were two shots in rapid succession. Perhaps two of their number had not left that bottom. The young doe was very agitated and kept looking back to the east, expecting something to come. Action was light overall in the first hour I heard a shot less than every five minutes. After that, it tapered off.

SuperCore had only one doe show at extreme range in 4 hours of hunting. Angus had a doe come close to the stand, but chose not to shoot. This was probably the older of the two deer I had seen. She ran right up to the blind, obviously quite upset over something. She and Angus had a long meaningful look at each other before she realized she needed to be elsewhere.

The afternoon hunt was uneventful for SuperCore and Angus. However, I had 6 deer come by the east side of Hollywood at various times. The shots would have all been long ones. There is a buck with a rather misshapen rack that has been in that field all through the summer and fall. He is not worth taking as is, but he is young, and I would like to see what he grows into.

Sunday morning was a bit of a write-off. Not much showed. Angus got a good view of a major turkey kerfluffle involving 15 indivuals. This was my first morning sit at Hollywood. The sun went behind the trees shortly after rising and I was in shade the whole time. I heard 4 shots in 3 hours, and then a flurry of shots just after 10 when everyone around emptied there load and went in.

Hunting out of Hollywood is a grand experience, but it has its challenges. Much like Midway, it has two side with not much to worry about in the middle. That means to hunt one side thoroughly, you have to turn your back to the other. Much like Midway, I choose to stay in the middle and swivel my head from one side to the other cover a lot of ground. The west view is about 150 yards of pasture, the east side is well over 200. The frontal view covers maybe 80 yards of treeline, about 50 yards away. The camo blind covers me up to my chin. The deer see an orange hat and that is nearly it. The challenge is that the footpring of the blind is 5X7 feet, so that if I decide to take a shot, I have to get up and move my chair over to the rail. I practiced this several times with deer in view. The chair I picked for this has skids on the bottom. They glide easily over the decking. The blind is just high enough to block the view of my back. I built this blind with the idea that it would accomodate two hunters without feeling cramped. Moose or I can take a certain grandchild up for her first deer hunt and have plenty of room.

The LHR Redemption

This was the first time I had carried the LHR Redemption hunting.  It is light, much lighter than my old Hawken.  It carries well, loads easily, and after firing only one shot on Sunday, I brought it home and cleaned it. The Adapt breech system came loose with just a little hand pressure.  The plug gets gunked up even with only one round fired, but I put it to soak in Ed’s Red. It will be clean itself in 24 hours.  In the treestand, it was compact enough not to be a problem. With the Bushnell Banner scope at its lowest power, I was able to bring it up on a doe’s chest  right away.  This is where counting coup really comes in handy.  By doing everything required to make the shot except pulling the trigger, it puts the rifle and the hunter through all their paces.  With my old TC Hawken, I had the option of using with triggers while the hammer was at half cock. It made for a satisfying ‘click.’ This new Redeption cocks and uncocks with a button on the tang.  There is a decocker button as well

The Mauser From Hell– final word

I had the Mauser from Hell out one last time before season. It has a tendency to move its Point of Aim as the barrel heats mostly to the right and a little up. However, deer hunting is done with a cold barrel. It took a little longer to sight in, but I eventually shot a 2 inch group at 100 yards. It is ready to go.

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The Mauser from Hell

Strap in, guys. This is a long and bumpy ride down the bunny hole of rifle loony-ism.

It all started back in 2013. SuperCore was cleaning out his gun safes and I picked up his K98 Mauser in 8X57. He’d been having trouble getting it to shoot. He’d taken it to two local gunsmiths. The first had hosed it up and the second had gone to jail on charges he’d willingly sold guns to known felons before mucking it up further.

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Custom Mauser in 8X57 -- The Mauser from Hell

I picked up some 8X57 dies and some 8mm bullets, and went to work on a load, figuring I might have a new deer rifle by the time the season opened.  That was 2013.  I may be approaching that goal now.  I was optimistic.  Someone had placed it in a very nice stock with a decent bedding job, and the workmanship appeared to be exquisite.

Trouble reared its head at the first trip to the range. The rifle was shooting minute of bushel basket.  We’re talking a 30″ spread.  Something was definately wrong.  The original trigger was about as poor a hunting trigger as you could want. It had everything going wrong. I had Hibberds put a  new Timney trigger on it. That got me into the deal another $100.  I also mounted a new scope. The orginal was a cheap Tasco.  That didn’t help anything.  It finally dawned on me the backside of the scope mount, a Leupold STD 1-piece was loose.  When I got it home and got the scope off, it was obvious what was wrong.

SuperCore had sent the rifle out to the first ‘smith to get the scope mount fixed. The first ‘smith ovalled the rear scope mount hole.  The second ‘smith jammed a larger screw in and manage to catch a few threads.  My test firings had nocked it loose.

In taking off the Leupold scope mount, I found out someone had over-tightened the gross windage adjustment screw, the head of which sheared off as I went to loosen it.  There was no one locally that I knew would be able to fix all this, so I just waited with the Mauser From Hell in the safe, waiting for a gunsmith on a white horse.

Back in this spring, I got the idea it was time to start working on the project again.  I found a gunsmith in Pennsylvania on the 24hourcampfire.com that was retiring.  Mine was going to be his last project.  While I was out turkey hunting, the Mauser came back.  The smith said he had been unwilling to weld the screw hole shut, fearing the receiver would lose its tempering. Instead, he used a variety of gunsmith tricks, including liberal applications of epoxy to permanently affix the Leupold STD mount to the receiver.  He sent it back with a cheap scope already mounted and collimated. He’d beat on it every which way and the scope had not come off zero.

My first test firings were this fall, using the bullets I had acquired in 2013.  I used H4895 under some PRVI Partisan 170 grain bullets.  Overall, the load performed well, but it was a bit stiff for what I want, and most important,  one round in every 4 or so was flying off 2 feet high and 2 feet to either the right or left.

I contacted the rifle loonies at 24hourcampfire.com in the Ask the Gunwriters Section and asked them if they had seen this.

see: Strange Results from The Mauser from Hell

The consensus was there was something wrong with the scope or the mount.  I already had a new scope on order for another project that I could swap on to test the scope idea, but in looking everything over I noticed the bag that held the bullets read “.322” and not “.323″  Now when you think about things logically, there is no good way to explain a single round here and there going awry if the scope or the mount is what’s wrong.  How does the scope or the mount know how to get back to the original setting after it’s moved?  Rifle loonies left and right were telling me it could happen. However, the idea that bad bullets would be to blame sounded more plausible. Just about everything else was discussed– everything from a damaged crown to bad bedding in the tang.

I had some 170 grain Hornady Interlock Round Nosed bullets on hand. This had been my original intention in 2013, but there was a bullet shortage back then, and the PRVI’s were the only similar ones available.  I loaded up some of the Hornady’s and kept everything else the same took the rifle back to the farm.  Shazam!  I now had a very respectable 4” group instead of 4-inches with a 2-foot flyer every 4 rounds.

4-inch groups are about what I consider the minimum for a deer rifle. At 4 inches, you can hit a deer at 100 yards fairly reliably. However, a 4 MOA rifle is much harder to sight-in for an accurate shot beyond that.  You’re kind of guessing at 200 yards. At the Midway blind, a maximum range of 250 is required.  I have not yet had to take one of those shots, but it has to be considered. I shimmed the front screw and loaded 20 more rounds and knocked a grain or so off the previous helping of H4895.  I got what appears to be about a 2-inch group, although you need to interpolate a lot, because there was a 13 MPH crosswind when I was shooting.  All in all, it appears now the Mauser From Hell has been exorcised.

 

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Indiana DNR changes mind: Deer Rifles Nixed on Public Land

In a last minute turn-around the Indiana legislature has changed its mind on the use of centerfire rifle on public land:

Indiana deer and waterfowl hunters need to be aware of two important changes in the print version of the 2017-2018 Hunting & Trapping Guide.

Due to recent legislation passed this year by the Indiana General Assembly, hunters can no longer use rifles when hunting deer on public land. “Public land” includes both state and federal property. Before the change, the use of rifles on public land had been legal.

It remains legal to use a muzzleloader, shotgun or handgun when hunting deer on public land in accordance with deer hunting regulations.

See:  Important Corrections . . .

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Lily

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce the passing yesterday of Lily, our beloved beagle. She was 16. She had been suffering from a bladder tumor and she took a turn for the worse last week. We had to put her down.

Lily was a rescue. She was being neglected by the neighbor, and came to live on our front porch at the farm, living off the table scraps we fed her two days a week. In October 2004, she dropped a litter of puppies in the back yard, and it was then we decided to adopt her.

She was a devoted companion of Barney, the Wonder Dog, and with his passing in 2006 we got Jay. Jay and Lily were close friends. Lily and I were inseperable for most of her life.  She pasted herself next to me in bed every night.  We scouted deer and turkey together. She was always the queen of my back seat, whenever I went out driving.  Lily could track a wounded deer, and tree a squirrel.  She and Barney used to run rabbits together in the field. In her later years she enjoyed watching TV and gazing out the patio door for squirrels and rabbits.

I will never forget the first time I cooked up some superannuated venison and rice for the dogs.  I spent a morning in the winter thawing, cubing and boiling about 20 lbs of meat and then using the broth to cook rice.  Lily and Jay were enthralled. All afternoon we bagged individual servings in ziplocks and put them in the freezer.  Finally their dinnertime came and KYHillchick served them up their first full portion.  I had already gone to bed for the night, but I heard what was going on.  I heard the empty dog bowls being chased across the floor as they licked them clean.  Suddenly, there was a clatter of toenails coming across the living room floor, and then there was Lily, leaping onto the bed, showering me with love, thanking me for her venison.  She had remembered it was me that had prepared it, and wanted to let me know.

 

 

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Hollywood is Done!

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I spent Saturday morning putting the finishing touches on the tower blind at Hollywood.

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This is going to sound a little mincy, but I wanted to give you the particulars on how I “decorated” the stand.  There is a panorama shot in the slideshow showing all the way around the inside  of the blind. Some things worth noting, going left to right:

  • The green bag holds a spare folding chair for when two people are hunting out of the blind. At 5X7′ this is an ideal 2-person blind.  My granddaughter will love it.
  • The director’s chair came from SportmansGuide.com . It has a 500 lb capacity and it’s very roomy.  Even if you are not a walking landform like myself, it makes sense with  when you throw bulky late-season insulated bibs into the mix.
  • You cannot see it in the shot, but the ladder is directly behind the chair.  I added a length of dog chain across the  opening so the chair has no way of slipping off the edge.
  • The outside rail is covered in 2 lengths of 12’X54″ camo burlap. In order to hang it, I used paracord all the way around the blind at the top of the corner posts. That put the cord at 42″ above the floor, and a couple inches higher than the top rail.  I attached the burlap to the rail with small electrical ties with a 1″ foldover. The idea was to have the camo at the right height so I could sit up straight in my chair and scan with binos, or slouch down and be completely hidden.
  • The wind was blowing over 10 MPH as I was finishing up, so I had a good idea of how much flapping was going on.  To keep the skirt from fluttering, I added a second length of paracord all the way around just below the bottom rail.
  • Once I got down from the blind, it was obvious the burlap was just not going to cut it.  It was too transparent– almost as if nothing was there at all.  I went back to the house and got a roll of 36″ black landscape fabric and used it as backing to the burlap.  I had used this stuff on a couple of other blind projects, and it does a good job of keeping the hunter from being backlit.
  • On the center post, I hung an extra large carabiner on some nylon webbing.  I use this as a good way to hold my rifle when I need both hands free. I just clip the rifle’s sling into the ‘biner.  It is also a handy spot to stick gloves and such.
  • On the front and sides, I attached  1″ pipe insulation to the top rail to act as a rifle rest. This is the same stuff I use on treestands.  It keeps the rifle from being scratched and also allows you to rest your barrel  on the rail without making a sound. I used extra-long electrical ties at the ends and middle to hold the foam to the rail. The top of the foam is exactly 38″ off  the floor– ideal shooting height for me.  There is enough spring in the paracord that it bends down a little as I place the rifle on the foam to make my shot.  A deer at 100 yards is just going to see the top of my hat showing above the camo.

    Click on the image for a bigger version

 

 

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Burning the Burn Pile with Dragon’s Breath

We’ve been building burn pile for about the past 5 years or so. Really and truly, it all started back in 2006 when we burned there the last time. However, about 5 years ago we started hauling more debris in. Mostly it was cedar trees and  the stuff we have to keep cutting down around the barns to keep them open.  The pile was getting pretty large, and I wanted the space for a new blind.

On Saturday night, the wind died down right. It was cooler than usual and we had a moon out to give us a little extra light– perfect burn weather.    Moose, Angus and I  put a little Kerosene around the perimeter . Moose brought a round of Dragon’s Breath, a 12 GA flamethrower round. A good time was had by all.

Here’s a 5 minute Youtube. It was all pretty well contained at by midnight, but it was still smouldering the next morning.

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LazyBoy is Up!

This all started about 5 years ago.  I was looking for a place for #3 son, Angus to have his first solo deer hunt.  Angus did not want to bother with a treestand, and we had bumped into this spot while out squirrel hunting.  For the last few years, Angus has hunted from here using improvised ground blinds.  We the neighbors fence blew down over last winter, I asked for the pickets. Another neighbor ripped out a deck that had only been up for 5 years. We have been making stuff out of that salvaged lumber for several weeks now.  This was our latest creation.

LazyBoy overlooks a shallow ravine that forms Left Leg Creek.  We took 4 treated fence posts. 2 got cut off at 6 feet, the other two were left full height.  To this, I secured a 5X7′  roof of treated 2X6.  It’s all painted with mistinted deck stain I have been getting at Lowes and Home Depot.  Fence pickets form the front and back.  I used OSB for the roof sheathing.  We’ll top it with roofing felt and rolled mineral roof left over from the Jagende Hutte rennovation.

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First Looks at the LHR Redemption

I know. This is about 5 years too late. However, a good fellow at 24hourcampfire.com saw I was asking about the Thompson Center Strike and offered me a NIB LHR Redeption at a remarkable discount. It was too good of an offer to let it go by.

Just so you understand. Thompson Center bought out LHR a while back, specifically to get its hands on the LHR Redemption and sell it as The Strike. Ironically, they turned around and claimed they “revolutionized the world of muzzleloading.”  I don’t see how you do that by buying out your competitor, but I have to admit it is a cool rifle.

It’s a .50 cal inline muzzleloader with an innovative Adapt breech plug system. The plug itself is an unthreaded insert with an O-ring seal. The plug is held in place with a collar with external threads. This keeps the threads away from getting mucked up with crud. I’ve now shot it, and cleaned it, and I have to say it works.

What motivated me to buy the Redeption, if you really want to know was the looks. Most modern inlines have what I think are ugly plastic stocks, and they all seem to want to copy the H&R Topper. The Topper along with every other break-open single shot for the past  hundred years is the ugly girlfriend that you do not mind loaning out to other guys. The Redemption, on the other hand,  has a walnut stock and an overall design with strong European influences. To me, it looks like a Steyr-Mannlicher Duet only this one came in at under a tenth the cost.

Accuracy is the other great selling point of the Redeption/Strike. This was easily the easiest muzzleloader I have ever to get a group at 100 yards. Mind you, I don’t mean to come off as an expert on this. However, I’ve tried before, and ended up shooting at 50 yards.

I mounted a Bushnell Banner 3-9X40mm on the rifle.  I’ve been using this scope a lot, and I cannot say enough good things about it.  In my treestands in the morning, I’m getting a good 10 extra minutes of usable hunting light.   In the evenings I find that peering out into the pasture, I can see deer at 200 yards beyond legal hunting where before I was seeing nothing but mud. Visually, I have a hard time telling the difference between the Banner and the Elite. Banner Elite costs 6 times as much.

I set up at 100 yards with the Redemption and tried a bunch of different loads:

  • .50 cal 320 Lee R.E.A.L. cast from pure lead and tumble lubed with Alox and shot over a vegetable wad.
  • Lee TL430-240-SWC cast in pure lead in Harvester Crush-Rib Sabots
  • Hornady .44 Mag 300 grain XTP in Harvester Crush-Rib Sabots

Just to keep it simple, I used 80 grains of Hodgdon Triple-Seven and Winchester Triple-Seven 209 primers throughout.

All three look like they might have possibilities down the road.  The Lee pistol bullets did not group well.  The XTPs were hard to load. I was glad I had a range rod handy. I would not have wanted to do this with rifle’s ramrod. The old standby .50 Lee R.E.A.L. did the best for ease in loading and also produced a recognizeable group at 100 yards.

The  one detraction I can say with the Redeption/Strike is that the ramrod that is supplied with the firearm is short.  There is an extender that comes in the kit that you are supposed to screw on the barrel for cleaning, but what is really needed is a nice long range rod.  Luckily, I brought one along. With the sabots, there is really no chance of a quick reload in the field.  Even after a quick spit-patch cleaning, the Harvester sabots require considerable force to get them down the barrel and seated on the charge.  The R.E.A.L. bullets had a definte advantage in this regard.  I was able to press them in a good part of the way with my thumb.

Back home, I put the Adapt breech system to the test.  The collar unscrewed with just a wee bit of help from the multi-tool. I had used anti-seize on the threads.  The plug itself was pretty gunked up, but I wrapped it in a patch with Ed’s Red and it wiped off fine after a 12-hour soak.  Similarly, I found I could clean out the barrel running a wet patch through it and letting it sit overnight to loosen up the plastic residue. This is a trick I learned with cleaning wad fouling out of shotgun barrels and it translates well to modern inlines.

 

 

 

 

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More Work on the Stands

Supercore and I were back at it this weekend, working on upgrading his blind at S-10 and finishing off Hollywood. S-10 got some sides manufactured from the fence pickets we salvaged this spring.

Hollywood is all but done. I put the railing up Saturday afternoon and then nailed the floor down Sunday. All that’s left is adding some hardware and mounting a permanent ladder.

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The Tower at Hollywood

Over the past few weekends, we’ve been working on new stands. One of them, was far enough along that I trucked it out to its new position. Hollywood is a tower blind built with the Elevators bracket system. I’ve had these brackets for almost a decade. They were originally meant for the blind at Midway, but that was an ill-fated attempt to say the least– no fault of the brackets.

Just so you know, the problem with the Midway build was that I had built it as sturdy as I could without considering weight.  During the erection, one of the legs shattered  Moose surfed it all the way to the ground.  I fell off and ended up with the front wall and the ladder draped over me.  That was a close call. Midway now sits on stumpy legs about a foot off the ground.  I did a lot of research and decided this time out, I as going to go about as minimal as I could– a 5X7-foot deck with no walls, just a railing.

The new blind will overlook a long stretch of open pasture running between the head of Hootin’ Holler and Hammond North.

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