What’s the Best Factory Ammo?

Just a while back there was fellow asking me about ammunition for his deer rifle.

“What’s the best factory load?” he asked.

“For me,” I replied, “I’d say it was the 30-06 180 grain Musgrave round noses.”

“I’ve never heard of Musgrave!” he said.

“You probably wouldn’t.” I replied. “A boatload of the stuff came in from South Africa back in the 80’s. It was the one and only time I saw it.”

“What about now?”

“I haven’t bought ammo at the store since Clinton was in office.” I said.

You probably think this is going to be another shamanic paen to the benefits of reloading. If you do, then you probably know what I am going to say already and have not taken my previous recommendations. Either that, or you have already drunk the Kool-Aid and are patting your little green Rock Chucker and are confident you know what is coming next.

This is not that.

I think this fellow had a valid question and deserves a valid answer. What constitutes good factory ammo for deer?

Let me begin by analyzing why I answered with the 180 grain Musgraves. At the time I bought the stuff, I had only one deer rifle. It was a Remington 742 in 30-06. If you look back in my weblog, you will see many mentions of the rifle. I no longer shoot it. It is a long story. However, back then, like any beginning deer hunter, I thought my rifle was the best thing out there for deer.

The Musgrave stuff showed up at my local gun store about 1984. Jay, the manager, had it stocked up by the register. Prior to this, I had tried Remingtons and Winchesters in a variety of weights. What I noticed was that if I went out looking for ammo, I might find 150’s, 165’s, or 180’s in stock. They might be Remington Core-Lokts or Winchester Super-X, and I would pick up a couple of boxes and go shooting. I would expend the first box getting the rifle sighted-in and then get a season’s deer hunting out of the remainder. That was if I was lucky. Sometimes I would have to repeat this all a couple of times before I had enough ammo left to go hunting.

Part of this was availability and part of it was the vagueries of the ammo from lot to lot. Part of it was that I was not all that great a shot at this point in my career. I could have been holding inconsistently or not keeping a steady rest. The problem was I just did not know.

I bought a couple boxes of the Musgrave to try out. It worked like a charm in that old 742, so I went back to Jay and bought a case of the stuff. I think it was $3.99 a box or something like that. I took my first deer with it. I took a bunch of other deer with this stuff. I still have a few boxes left in the back of the cabinet.

A lot of folks hear reloading and they think it is all about shooting on the cheap. It is, but it isn’t. A lot of the “cheapness” is about reproducability. Once I have found a load that works in a deer rifle, I usually stick with it. In some cases, I have kept to the same load for 15 years or more. I have fewer rounds to crank off every year making sure the scope has kept its zero. Not worrying about lot-to-lot variations helps tremendously. I loaded out of the same 8# jug of H4895 for 10 years for most of my deer rifles and those of my sons. When something is off on a given day, it is more likely me.

Getting back to the original question: “What is the best factory ammo for deer?”

1) It is what shoots best in your firearm. Every rifle is different. Even rifles with consecutive serial numbers shoot the same ammo differently. The trick is to find what works best in your rifle.
2) It is the cheapest stuff that will get the job done. I never did shoot a $50 box of ammo. I think the most I ever paid was about $20. Deer are not that hard to kill. Anyone who claims differently is trying to sell you something. Forget all the fancy premium stuff. Deer will not know the difference.
3) It is the stuff that you can acquire easily and reliably. Most all of the manufacturered ammo is better at lot-to-lot consistency than it was in the mid-80’s, but there are still variations.
4) It is most likely the stuff that is in the middle of what’s commonly out there for that particular chambering.  Forget the stuff at the far ends of weight spectrum.

If I had to repeat what I did with the Musgrave ammo tomorrow here is what I would do. First I would hunt around for the cheapest load that shot well in my rifle. It might be Remington or Winchester or Federal. It could also be Sellior & Belloit or Prvi-Partisan. Either consult with your LGS or go online to a place like grafs.com and find that exact load and buy as much of it as you can afford. Get your deer rifle dialed in with that load and then hold onto that stuff as best you can. With the Musgrave stuff, I basically bought a 10 year supply at a 50% discount from what I was paying at Walmart for a big name brand.

There is another concept here that I will introduce at this point and that is the dedicated deer rifle. If all you have is one rifle, then there is the temptation to use it for target work and plinking at cans. You might loan it out to your buddy for the weekend. You might decide to let it rattle around in the truck all summer. If you are serious about finding the best ammo, then it is time to ask yourself if it is not time to dedicate one rifle to the purpose of deer hunting at the same time you are dedicating one load to the rifle.  Lastly: save your empties. Ten years from now you’ll be thinking about reloading them, and you’ll have a supply of 1-fired brass to last you for the rest of your life.



A Quick Update on the Press

First off, I want to let you know I have a growing admiration for the Hornady Lock-N-Load Auto Progressive press. The naysayers complaints just have not panned out. Based on others’ comparisons to the Dillon 650, about the worst thing I can say about it, in my experience, is that that it has a red paint-job instead of a blue one. That may change, but poised to do my first big run of 9mm, that is the size of it.

Click on the banner for details


Grafs.com had the press and a stool for $450 back in March, and the price has dropped since then. Hornady is also throwing in 500 free bullets until the end of the year.

I submitted my paperwork with a check for $14.95 and 500 Hornady SP 150 grain SP’s showed up yesterday morning. They say to wait 12-16 weeks for delivery,

but I got mine in two.  For me, that’s a near lifetime supply of deer bullets.

Here some hints I’ve found so far:

  1. Hornady keeps telling you to spray One-Shot on everything before doing anything else.  I didn’t have any One-Shot cleaner/lubricant, and the stuff costs $15/can. What I did use was a combination of kerosene and alcohol to do the initial cleaning followed by some PB Blaster dry lubricant. Spray on, wipe off as much as you can. That’s enough.
  2. I’ve got a well-lit room, but I really needed some additional lighting on the press.  The dedicated lighting offered by Hornady is kind of expensive, but for $10 bucks, I got this little gooseneck lamp.data:

This has a magnetic base that does locks onto any steel surface nearby. Remember: the press itself is cast aluminum.

This little thing is bright.  It’s all I need.

3.  A lot of people complain about the manual supplied by Hornady.  I watched several of Youtubes on the press before opening the box, and I did not have a problem understanding things. One thing I can say is the information is all there. It is not always immediately accessible, but it is there.  The parts about configuring PTX die are a little eccentric, but nothing is missing.  One fellow complained in an online forum that it was too touchy: that less than an eighth of a turn separated no expansion from splitting the brass.  I had plenty of room to get the expansion just right.  All I can say is this fellow was doing it wrong.

4. Hornady wants you to spend $50 or more to buy the tool rack for the various wrenches and such that are required.  I had a spare 1-tray tackle box, and everything for this press, including spare parts, tools and shellplates fit in it.  For immediate use, I just keep the handful of allen wrenches attached to the magnetic base of the lamp.  Go through the list of tools needed at the start and go fill any holes.

5. One of the big gotchas on this press is the bolt that holds the shellplate on.  If you’re not reading the instructions correctly, you might think it needs to be really cranked down.  DONT!  There is a big honking hex wrench included to tighten it, but tightening it just enough to get the detent to slip is enough.

6. Another gotcha is the circular spring that holds the shells into the shellholder. This is an ingenious system, but it takes a little familiarization. Follow the installation instructions very carefully. It does take a couple full revolutions of the shellplate to get the spring aligned.  When it is, the spring is bent down a little to let the finished shell eject.

7) The primer feed works like a charm, but it takes a little learning.  Also, picking up primers is dull tedium.  I sprang for this:

Frankford Arsenal Vibra-Prime

Frankford Arsenal Vibra-Prime

This works like magic on filling the tubes. I also bought extra tubes on Ebay, 4 for $18 bucks.

I had a devil of a time though, loading the primers into the press until I figured out I was using the LARGE primer tube instead of the one marked SMALL Duh. It’s the little things that get ya.

8. About the only real hassle I have had to date was having to align the alignment pawls.  These are two little dinguses (dingi?) on the bottom of the press that regulate how far the shellplate advances on the up and down cycles. Things were going great and I was just about ready to do a test run of 100 rounds when all hell broke loose on the press. Nothing fit. Brass was getting crushed.  It took me 2 hours to figure out it was a minor adjustment on these two pawls. Now that they are set, I am ready to rock.

9.  If you have been skating on eye protection with your reloading up until now, a progressive press makes it almost mandatory.  The reason is the way primers are handled– a hundred or more together in a stack.  This press has a stainless steal shield that keeps the blast contained, but my buddy SuperCore has had a chain-reaction blast from 100 primers go off on his Dillon 650.  The blast peppered his face with fragments.  If he’d not been wearing protection it might have been bad.  I sprang for a new set of goggles for this press:

They’re Dewalt. They’re under $10 and they work well with eyeglasses.  You must need to make a slit in the rubber for them to fit through.  These are the most comfortable eye protection I’ve ever owned.  They are awesome.  I can pull a 4 hour stretch without discomfort or fogging.



10. Oh! One last thing and that’s the stool.  Guys on the 24hourcampfire.com were making fun of the stool.  Is it worth

Hornady Stool

$150 list?  I don’t think so.  Was it worth  free?  You bet.  It is tall enough for me. I’m 6’4″.   It is sturdy enough to hold my 300 lbs.  It also lets me sit for hours without my butt complaining.  My previous perch was a bar stool I pulled out of the trash. This is heaven.






Going Progressive– A new Bench and Press

Just before Turkey Season, I was shooting 9mm with Angus and the thought occurred to me that 9mm was a lot of fun, and it was a shame it took so much effort to load up a measly 50 rounds with my single stage press. That triggered a line of thought that ended up with me ordering a new progressive loader and building a new bench. It is my intention to fill you in on the process and document my progress.

First off, let me take you through the reason for the new press. I have been loading a bunch of pistol and rifle chamberings using the RCBS Rock Chucker Deluxe Master Reloading Kit that KYHillChick bought me for Christmas in 2000. It has kept me happy and contented all this time. Normally I can do a couple dozen rifle rounds in an hour, or 50 pistol rounds in 2 hours. That is usually enough, and it makes for a nice trip down to the bench. However, I tried loading 200 rounds of 9mm for my outing with Angus, and it took up a whole weekend and left me with a sore arm on Monday morning. You have to figure, a pistol round takes sizing, priming, expanding, powder, bullet seating, and crimping. That is six pulls of the handle for each round. That times 200 rounds meant (let me take off my boot and socks so I can count) 1200 manual operations for 200 rounds. Yikes! No wonder my arm was sore.

The other thing is that the 22 shortage has meant that 22 LR has becom an expensive proposition. If I can load 9mm on the cheap, that competes with the price of 22, I’m going for it. Used brass, cast wheelweight bullets– probably I can get down around 5 cents a round if I work at it. However, that sore arm told me something had to be done to streamline the process.

Everyone told me to go with a Dillon press. However, I found the Hornady Lock n Load AP gave a lot more bang for the buck. Yes, the diehard folks all say “Go Blue.” However, I really found nothing bad about the Hornady offering. It was cheaper than a Dillon 550, and had the function of a Dillon 650. What’s more, there was a deal on at Grafs.com: A Hornady LNL, a $150 stool and 500 free bullets for $450 bucks. I jumped on it just before I went off to hunt turkeys and it was all waiting for me when I got home.

Before I could put up the new press, I needed a new bench. My reloading bench was built by the previous owner of my old house. He was a corporate lawyer. It was a workbench that looked like it had been built by a lawyer– not very solid and overly complicated. The problem was that I built my new reloading room around that bench and it had odd dimensions– 55X28″. I did some research, both in its construction and also dug around in my scrap bin. The design was pretty standard: 2X4 frame with a plywood top. I used 3-inch deck screws and Gorilla Glue throughout. I did not have any 3/4″ plywood, but I had scraps of various stuff, so my top surface was a 1/4 Ply with 3/4″ particle board and then another layer of 1/4″ plywood. Underneath I had 2 slabs of 1/2″ plywood glued on. This thing is a ROCK! For extra ballast, I plan on storing a 100 lb stash of pure lead on the bottom shelf.

I thought about all sorts of ideas for a finish. If this had been all brand new wood and such, I might have opted for wood stain and polyurethane. As it was, this whole thing was built of scraps. Most of it came from packing crates I took home from work when I was employed at the solder factory. As a result, I have decided to just paint it with latex and be done with it. I’ll use the same pain scheme as the old bench– Battleship Gray on top and Forest Green on the bottom. It held up through 15 years of reloading and if I scratch it up, all I have do is spackle the holes and repaint.

Now for the mounts. I wanted to still use my Rockchuker. The new Hornady LNL AP required a whole different set of mounting holes. I researched it a lot and asked folks on the 24HourCampfire.com what they were doing. What I found was a major mix of methods. A lot of guys just bolted their presses to a 2X6 and then clamped that to the table. I wanted something a little more sophisticated, but I did not want to spring for any of the fancy mounting systems. I figured on a scrap-made table stout and cheap would do fine. I ended up with cut-up chunks of old shelving in an ‘L’ afixed to mounting holes on the bench with 3/8 inch bolts run through the surface and secured with T-Nuts. On top, I sprung for some 3/8″ knurly knobs like what you have on your lawnmower. Shazzam! I set up the Hornady first and then built an identical mount for the RCBS Rockchucker and I have enough wood left from the old shelf for a third bracket. Additionally, I added holes and T-Nuts so I can mount the presses in 3 positions on the front of the bench. I figure I’ll also use these mounting holes for things like my case trimmer, case prepper, and a gun vise down the road.

I have also added a pull-out computer table to the new bench.  Having a laptop is handy.  I get most off my loads off the Hodgdon Reloading Data Center, and it is great not having to go to another room to look things up.



Turkey Season Post-Mortem 2017

When I look back at Turkey Camp 2017, there are two things that immediately come to mind and they’re both the weather. The weather was uncommonly warm this season.The harvest in our county was down, and I can only think the weather had something to do with it.

It was a record mild winter. That gave the turkeys a leg up. I am fairly sure we had more survive the winter than average. It also meant things were a little accelerated. However, rather than moving everything evenly forward a couple of weeks like it did the flowers, the warm weather made the turkey’s normal breeding pattern a rather slap-dash herky-jerky affair. I saw hens obviously nesting in March instead of mid-April. I never did see the big flocks build and break up. I seldom saw turkeys in their normal places. There was more breeding action in the afternoons than the mornings. It was all sort of on its head from the get-go.

Home » Turkey Season Post-Mortem 2017 » Turkey Hunt 2017

Near Misses:

Another thing: I don’t know if there was something wrong, but all the turkeys we took in had relatively empty crops and very little fat. I blame the weather.

I tagged out. SuperCore and Angus each got one and left one tag unfilled. Angus had a running battle with one gobbler that lasted over the last two days. We think it was the Virginia Rambler that I connected with in a pre-season scouting trip. You heard his grandfather on one of my Podcasts back in 2012:

Listen to “A walk through Virginia”

This fellow basically took over the role of boss gob from the bird I nailed on the Opener, and was pestering the same crew of hens throughout the season. I tracked the gob for Angus and put him onto him. Angus had the bird  coming to him two-days running, but in each instance, the bird went silent. Angus got up to re-position and came eye-to-eye with the turkey at close range. Patience is a virtue.



We had no major changes in gear this year, except I started carrying a new turkey purse. It is a Rothco Tactical bag. It did a great job. I’m going to retire the old bag. It was starting to show its age.

The other piece of gear I want to crow about is my knife, the fixed blade Buck #?. I went through two deer seasons and two turkey seasons and it only started to dull up after the first turkey this year. That’s 4 deer and 3 turkeys on one sharpening.


SuperCore got a bird this year. He is now using an ATV to get back and forth to his blind. He parks the quad next to the blind and puts a camo cover over it. His gobbler walked out of the treeline at 12 yards. Granted, he was on the side of the blind opposed to where the quad was parked, but he did walk within 20 yards of a parked ATV. If you are looking for examples of whether a parked quad scares turkeys, here is at least one data point.



Biscuits and Gravy in Browningsville

We were down at Mister Browning’s store in Browningsville. We heard there were good biscuits and gravy available on Saturday mornings.  O.D. was there. O.T. and O.P. showed up as well. One thing you have to remember is that it is important to have a fresh set of turkey hunting duds if you plan on going to Browningsville for breakfast in season.  I was tagged out, and Supercore did not want to hunt in the pouring rain.  He dressed. I stayed in my civvies and wished I hadn’t. Folks looked at me like I was some kind of heathen.  They take turkey hunting seriously in these parts.  It had been pouring rain, and everyone in the store beside us was in immaculately clean turkey duds with all the latest camo patterns and logo-wear. Nobody had mud on their boots, nobody had wet hair and no one was leaving puddles on the floor, so there was no way anyone could have come from the field.  No, this was Sunday biscuits and gravy in Browningsville, KY. It was like high tea, but it was just CostCutter biscuits and canned gravy but the coffee was good and you get free refills. Truth is, the biscuits and gravy are much better in Lennoxburg or at Donna’s in Brooksville, but you don’t drive out on a rainy Saturday morning for food. You go for the show.

As we were settling in, talk got to who’d gotten one and who had tagged out.  They asked Supercore. Supercore told them about his gobbler that had taken three shots to subdue.  Folks were approving. I mentioned I was tagged out. That got a sniff and a huff. I figured that was because I was not dressed properly for the occasion, only clean Carharts and a freshly dry cleaned barn coat and the only camo on me was my baseball cap.

“O.P.?” asked someone behind me. “How you doin’?”

“I got five.” replied O.P. He had noticed his partner was lighting up and borrowed a cigarette and the lighter and lit one up before putting the lighter in his pocket.

“Five?” asked someone in the back, “O.P., you’re only allowed two tags for the whole season. How did you get five birds?”

“I’m on the new Shoot and Release Program,” said O.P.

“Never heard of it.”

“It’s a new thing. I’m just trying it this year,” replied O.P. “I shoot ’em and if they ain’t up to my high conservational standards, I throw ’em back so they’ll grow up.”

Everyone laughed except for the two youngest hunters. They were taking serious mental notes. These were brothers, but I did not catch a name.  There were in to sit at the feet of the master turkey hunters.  Both were in barn boots, so you knew they had come after chores, but both had on camo shirts that were at least minimally acceptable for the unwritten dress code.

“So you say you got three?” asked the youngest?

“Actually four,” I replied. “My son got one as well, but he’s not here. ”

“Where you huntin’ at?”

I gave them a general description of where we were.

“We’ve been hunting over on. . .”  the youngest started jawing about all the gobblers they’d been into over near  Berlin, giving exact locations and such and suddenly everyone’s ears turned, and it was like one of those old E.F. Hutton commercials.  The older boy shut the other one up.

“Yeah, but they’s all played out.”  said the older brother, staring down the younger.  “We’s seen a bobcat.”

“Yeah, that’s right.” said the younger. “We caught him on our game cam.”

“There was one over by us,” I said. “He was living in a hollow by Bachelor’s Rest for a couple of years. I wonder if it is the same one.”

“Could be,” said O.D. “I heard that one out grouse hunting a few years ago. He’s moved on though.” He put his paper plate down for Babette, his poodle to finish.  Babette always gets the last bite off O.D.”

“I sure like to mount one.” said the older boy. “Sure would!” He was looking at me when he said it, so I figured he was asking for an approving response.

“No thanks,” I replied. “I’m happily married.” That elicited a chuckle from everyone in earshot.

“That’s a good one!” said his younger brother, blowing YooHoo cola through his nose. “Did you get that Oren?  Did you get it?” The older brother just shook his head and took a sip of his  Coke.

About this time the Saturday meeting began to break up. Folks got a refill on their coffee and started heading to the front of the store to sit in the collection of metal lawn chairs. SuperCore and I wished everyone good luck and left.


Shamanic Tag-Out: Scratch One More

It’s now a little after 0930, on the third Saturday of KY Spring Gobbler Season. I’ve been tagged out for a little more than 2 hours. I woke this morning with the expectation of not even hunting. The heavy storms started around midnight with high winds, driving rain, thunder, lightning and several bouts of hail. I was listening to thunder when the alarm went off at 0430. The skies lifted long enough at 0530 that I suited up and told Supercore I was making a dash for Midway. The way it was thundering, I was fairly sure I was going to get caught in it, but everything held off until I was in my chair with my rain suit off and my feet up. There were intermittent showers. In between dozing, I tried calling with a Toby Benoit Rebel Yell box call. It is a small, high-pitched high-volume call that has kept its sound in damp conditions. I awoke with a start just before 0700 with a sound coming from over by the county road that sounded like heavy furniture falling off the back of a truck. That elicited a gobble from down in left leg creek to my north and west. I did not think much of it, but I cranked the box a little just in case.
A bit later, I saw a hen feeding out about 50 yards from my blind. I threw some clucks and purrs at her and she acted highly unimpressed. I poured my first cup of coffee and settled back to check on the progress of the impending storm. Weather Underground has a very useful app for Android. It has one quirk that I find humorous. When I’m on the front porch at camp, it tells me I am in Brownings Corner. In the back of the house, it registers as Klibat. From the Honey Hole, it tells me I’m in Berry, Kentucky and 200 yards away at Midway it invariably tells me I’m in Milford. None of them are right, mind you. However, I find it funny how Weather Underground interprets the vagueries of the Greater Browningsville Metroplex. WU told me I could expect rain at any time. I took a sip of coffee and saw another hen was now in the field. I threw a call her way. She went into a strut.

Dang! That was no hen. The gobbler emerged from the unseasonably tall grass and put down his plumage. My guess is he was the source of the one lone gobble and been on way to me when he got sidetracked with the hen. The hen was now about 40 yards out. The gobbler was trying to split the difference and edged close to my corner of the field. I think he noticed the barrel coming out of the shadow just before I lit him up.
While he finished twitching, I finished my coffee and started packing up. After last year’s traumas, I kept a wary on the carcass. However, there was nothing to fear. He dropped and stayed down. He was a compact bird with 5/8ths spurs and a ten-inch beard. The hen walked over and took a look at him flopping about and then went back to feeding.
When I did make a break back to the house, it was lively. There were thunder and lightning all the way in, and the while I was dressing the bird. I slammed the lid on the freezer and came back out to the shooting bench and found 3 gobblers courting hens out in front of Fountain Square about 200 yards out from the porch. For a moment, they caught my movement and came to attention in profile, looking like the Three Stooges before going back to feeding.
I expect SuperCore will be in soon. Angus was tired from work and slept in. He’s driving out this afternoon for a PM hunt and then will go out tomorrow morning.


Supercore Scores!

After a long dry spell, Supercore scores on a nice 2-year-old at 0820 this AM. The gobbler came to his calls and trotted within 10 yards of the Jagendehutte. Supercore had to engage in some close-quarters combat with the gob, but eventually got it tied off to the ATV and brought it home.

It’s a 19 pounder with spurs going 11/16ths and a 10 inch beard.

This breaks a dry spell we had since the Opener last Saturday. The gobs have had a bad case of lockjaw. We all were out today. SuperCore was the only one to see one.


This is Earth. Scratch One Gobbler

I did not make a podcast this morning.  There was not all that much to hear.  On the other hand, this morning ended up being about as perfect a hunt as I am going to have in this life.  It all began yesterday. When I got here to open up Turkey Camp, there was a gobbler and hens out in the yard.  From noon until sundown they were out there.  I had to be careful coming out the door or walking around the side of the house.  I knew it was the same gobbler that kept showing up because he had a distinctive break in his tail feathers.

When happy hour started, they were still at it.  The gobbler had moved off about 400 yards and was in a pasture that was partially hidden by trees.  I heard him fly up not long after.  He gobbled on the roost several times before dark.  I knew where he was, about 300 yards or so from the Honey Hole.

That is where I went this morning.  It was as warm an Opener as I’ve seen here in Bracken County. I had moonlight guiding me this morning. I got out extra early because I knew I would have to walk past that gobbler on my way to my blind at Honey Hole.  I crawled in with about 15 minutes to go before legal hunting.

When I heard gobblers sounding off on nearby ridges, I tried some tree calling with the Shamanic MK I box call. Often times that is enough to get the closer gobblers to betray themselves.  Not this morning.  Dead air.  After the whipporwill folded tent, the area around Honey Hole was as quiet as I have ever heard.  Nothing.

After pretty much opening my kimono and letting loose with every call I had that morning, I went back to the box.  It’s a dark, raspy call.  It is very un-henlike. However, I have found gobblers seem to be particularly entranced with this homebrew Big Mama call.  I did a few excited yelps and got one lackadaisical response from the gobbler roosted in the Cedars to my north– the gobbler I’d put to bed last night.  He did not sound interested. I was losing interest now. It was shaping up into one of those days where the action was not going to start until late morning.

I was prepared already for that eventuality.  My scouting trips had been pretty much a zero every time out. However, long after I’d given up and turned off the digital audio recorder, I’d usually start to hear action. It has been an odd year in that way. I had brought my tablet, and was just beginning to read a memoir of the Marine Commander at Belleau Wood– had not made it a full page– when I heard what sounded like a helicopter in the distance behind my left shoulder.

It was a low subsonic drone.  At first, I did not think anything of it. However, it came again and this time it had a distinct “fffft” sound preceding it.  If I had never heard a gobbler spit and drum before, I would have missed it. As it was, I knew there was a strutting turkey approaching fast and close.

The gobbler appeared in the pasture just as I got the shotgun off the ground and began to swing it over the top of the burlap blind.  He was already past me as I got the scope up to my eye and began to swing his way.  He caught the movement and knew there was a problem.  He turned about and walked straight into my sight picture.  I leveled him at twenty yards with one shot. It was 0700, a couple of minutes before sunrise and less than a half-hour into season. I put down the shotgun and pulled out my walkie-talkie.

“This is Earth. Scratch one gobbler.”

I knew immediately that this was the gobbler hanging around the house yesterday.  He had a broken tail feather that made a break in his fan. He was a 22lb mature bird with spurs that went to 7/8th an inch and a 10-inch beard.

After making sure the bird was dead, I returned to the blind and began packing up.  I had not had any coffee, so I poured myself a cup, and took my time collecting my gear.  At 0730 another close shot came from over my left shoulder.  This was Angus taking his bird.

He had mixed it up with a big mature bird, who had flopped down from the roost and gone silent.  He stayed where he was at the big rock pile on Gobbler’s Knob and kept calling.  Three jakes showed up and began to pester his jake decoy, ignoring the hen decoys entirely.  Angus shot the jake with the largest beard and that convinced the others to leave.  We came out minutes apart.

SuperCore went to the Jagendehutte and saw three hens out in the field.  There are two birds in the freezer and it is not yet noon on The Opener.  This is turning into a good season.


Turkey Camp is Open!

As of Noon today, Turkey Camp is open!

I pulled into the drive today and there were a gobbler and there hens out in the side yard. I had to work quietly carrying stuff in through the back door, because I had turkeys watching the front door.

Where these scouts? Did they have the house staked out? Naw, that’s crazy. That’s paranoid delusion. Still. . .

As I write this the countdown timer is showing T-minus 18 hours Plus.

I expect the rest of the Shamanic Dream Team to start arriving before sundown. Meanwhile, I’ll listen to Rush, put out the Trump/Pence sign and dream the American Dream.

One bit of bad news: Lily, the Love Beagle, did not make the ride to camp. She’s been making the ride since 2004, but she needs to be inside and kept warm and safe.  I guess it happens to us all.  Angus will bring both Jay and Lily to camp next weekend.


Mooselette Goes Turkey Hunting

Well, sort of. Mooselette, my #1 granddaughter made it out to turkey camp with her daddy, Moose. We had a chance to go out to the Honey Hole and listen to the gobblers and hens at flydown. It was below freezing, so I brought along an arctic sleeping bag for her to crawl into.

Afterwards, we came back and patterned our turkey guns. Moose asked to have his mother’s 20 GA Remington 1100 brought out. He had not shot it since was about Mooselette’s age. Mooselette, all of 5 now, had a chance to try it out. Her reaction? Less recoil than she expected.

“So Grandpa,” she said out in the blind, “Tell me again about turkey hunting.”

“What part?” I replied.

“The part about how you can be a really bad turkey hunter and still have fun.”

“Oh,” I said. “That’s right. You can have as much fun having a bad day hunting turkeys as a good day. In fact, you can go all day and not see a turkey and still have fun.”

“But how is that?” she asked.

“Well, that’s because if you are really really successful,” I said, “Look what you’ve got in the end: a big dead bird. Now what?” She looked at me a little odd.

“See?” I said. “On the other hand, you can be out all day turkey hunting and fail miserably and still come home happy.”

I think she got it.