Indiana Rule Changes for 2015– Centerfire Rifle!

I just got a tip that Indiana has approved the use of Centerfire Rifle in a much broader range of cartridges by removing the maximum length rule. Basically anything from 243 WIN to 45-70 will be legal. Continue reading


On the Subject of Cheap Scopes

Up until recently, I considered myself a connoisseur of cheap scopes. Bushnell Banner was about as expensive as I’d go, and I’d shot probably most of my deer with $30 scopes.
bushnell banner 3-9X40 Dusk 'n Dawn
I’m reforming. I started after last season pulling off cheap scopes and putting on something better.

I bought a Bushnell Elite 3-9X40 for my new Hawkeye and couple new Bushnell Banner 3-9X40 and  a Bushnell Trophy 4-12X40. I have to report they were all worth it.

Bushnell Trophy XLT Multi-X Reticle Riflescope, 4-12x40

Bushnell Trophy XLT Multi-X Reticle Riflescope, 4-12×40

It’s because:
1) The clicks are not even. 1 click may be 1/4″, but 8 clicks might be more like 5 inches.
2) Reversing the clicks is not the same; I may go 5 clicks in one direction and then put it back 5 clicks later and the POA is way off. As a result, I sometimes have to go chasing my zero all afternoon. In the end, I decided the cost of the ammo I would save would justify a better scope.

3) Another thing I’ve noticed about these newer scopes has been the lack of glare. I have been looking right at a buck on Opening Day, thrown up my rifle and all I’ve seen is a yellow fog from  sun glare. I’ve tested all these new scopes– just can’t seem to repeat the problem with them.

Bushnell Elite 3-9X40 Rifle Scope

Bushnell Elite 3-9X40 Rifle Scope

The big thing is how clear the new scopes are to the old cheap ones. I had a 80’s vintage $100 Bushnell Banner 4-12X40 on my Win 70. It was my best scope for low light. I was still having to stop hunting a good 10 minutes before the end of legal hunting, because deer were disappearing into a foggy murk. My new 3-9X40 Bushnell Elite keeps it crisp. Amazingly, on my treestand gun, a Savage99, I replaced the $30 Simmons with a Bushnell Banner 3-9X40– less than $70 and I have had similar luck early in the morning. By swapping all these scopes, I’ve added 20 minutes of hunting time– and here I thought it was a middle-age thing with my eyes! Well, it probably is a middle age thing. Truth is my eyes are getting worse as I age, and I either had to step up to better optics or start contemplating giving up.  Cheap scopes are definitely a young man’s  thing.

Now that I have had these rifles out to the range a few times, I can give some practical thoughts.  If you look at the cost of these scopes and how they perform, there is a difference.  The Bushnell Elite 3-9X40 was the easiest to sight-in. I had it zeroed 2″ high at 100 yards and printing sub-MOA in no time.  Of course this is a new $800+ rifle with a $270 scope.  You have to figure I’d get some quality for that kind of coin. The reason I sprang for the expensive scope was the exceptional coatings.  This is on a stainless rifle and it will be out in the elements.

The Bushnel Trophy 4-12X40 ($120) was also quick slam dunk. Could I see a difference between it and the scope that cost $150 more?  I’ll give it a tentative yes. The Elite is supposed to have 95% light transmission. The Trophy has 91%.  The Bushnell Banner ($70) has no rating listed on light transmission, but it appears comparable to the Trophy.

The Banner only cost $70, but how did it stack up? Look, the last two rifles I was able to get sighted in had Banners on them.  My Savage 99 has always been finicky on loads. The Winchester 670 has been re-purposed for my 16 year old son.   They are the last two to get sighted in. However, I had one weekend where wind was a definite problem and well. . . this is the kids first year hunting as an adult.  We’ll give him and the scope some slack.  I think I made a good choice.  In the case of the Savage 99, the Banner will be more than adequate for treestand-type distances, even in the early morning gloom.  In the case of Angus’ 670, his young eyes were picking up bullet holes on the paper that I was hard-pressed to see with the 60X spotting scope.  As I said, cheap scopes are a young man’s thing.


Another Threshold Crossed

We were held up in town Friday night.  It was hot and muggy and looking like it was going to rain, so we decided to wait to go down to camp until morning.  That delayed things, but Angus made his debut as a solo hunter Saturday afternoon with a trip out for squirrels.  Nothing showed up, and he came back empty handed.  However, Sunday morning, I heard a shot off towards Left Leg Creek, and a short while later the walkie-talkie crackled.

“One squirrel KIA,” came the proud voice.  It sounded like he’d been doing it his whole life.  Well, he had.  He just had been doing it with me.

And with that, Angus, myself, pretty much our whole family crossed a threshold.  I won’t  be taking sons out hunting anymore.  Oh, we’ll go. We may even go together.    It just won’t be the same until the grandchildren come on line.  I took my shotgun down, but I really had no great urge to go out.  Instead, I sat up at the Thoughtful Spot and drank my coffee, and watched the sun come up and waited for the shot.

Congratulations son.


Goin’ Full-Auto

SuperCore was in a mood to go full auto last weekend, so he came out to the farm and we had a ball going through some +P+ 9mm.  That’s a suppressed UZI.

Many thanks, SuperCore.



A Visit to Dunhams

Big Bob called me up yesterday and said that Dunhams was having a big sale and he wanted to go out and look at pistols and such. I didn’t have much else to do, so I tagged along.  Dunhams is new to the Greater Cincinnati market. Where Field & Stream was big on decor– kind of a BassPro Lite– Dunhams looked more like a bare-bones version of Dicks.  It was funny too:  just like every Dicks I’ve been in, Dunhams had guns and hunting in the back left corner with fishing and camping up the left wall and boots across the back.  Somebody is trying to be very Dick-like.

If you remember, I wrote a brief review of my trip to Field & Stream last spring. My chief complaint at the time were prices. Maybe I have passed the point of being a respectable curmudgeon and have fallen off the cliff into crankdom. In F&S’s case, I have been back twice since my initial visit and walked out empty handed.  When you compare prices to what can be had online, it makes it not worth the gas.  Save a very few sale items, I found the prices at F&S were remarkably high.

The same goes for Dunhams.  A Bushnell scope I know well was stacked on the counter marked at roughly twice what I paid for it last winter.  .223 ammo was around twice the price I was expecting. I ended up buying a box of 12 GA #6 squirrel loads.  They were on sale for $7.

Unlike Field & Stream, Dunhams had a fairly decent assortment of oddball rifle ammo.  They had 35 Whelen and 45-70 and even 204 Ruger.  The prices however, were exactly equal to the every day price of my favorite family gun store, Hibberd’s in Cleves.    I know.  Bob and I went there immediately after leaving Dunhams in Harrison, and I felt I needed a reality check.

Credit where due:  The counter staff at Dunhams was more knowledgeable and evolved than the average counter monkey.  Bob and I both got serviced immediately, and they did not try to impress us with their knowledge.

One other thing, and this matches my impressions of F&S:  The place was packed, but  the check out counter staff were bored.  There were two clerks.  One did not have her register open and we still breezed through.


Ten Year Anniversary

It was August 2004. My job was stagnant. The solder factory was up for sale, and all my big projects had been put on indefinite hold. I did not have much to do, but the company still needed me and the pay was good. I just had to figure out how to stave off boredom. I went for long drives at lunch, and I thought about things. On the homefront, we had purchased the farm a few years earlier, and I had done a lot of rehab on the place. With two sons poised on the brink of being suburban mall rats, I offered them an alternative: deer camp as a lifestyle.


I had always wanted to be an outdoor writer, but I really could never fit the mold. My stories were not about gear. What I wanted to write was about the process of becoming a hunter and about founding a camp on my own. I had been adding pages to my website (, but the format was just not what I needed. Then I heard about blogging.

The story I tell is exactly how it happened. I’d been out driving at lunch, and had this epiphany about how Jesus must have figured out who he was and what he was supposed to do. It kind of fit where I was at that point in my life. I came back and looked around for clues as to what to do next. There were instructions for starting a blog on one of my screens and a post about Genesis 9:2-4 on the other. It did not fully make sense to me at the time, but I figured I would go for it and see what happened. Ten years down the road, I realize it still doesn’t make sense to everyone, but it has to me.

What have I learned in the past decade:

1) Deer and turkey hunting are activities that are grossly over-merchandised. Bass fishing and golf are more so, but so much of the cargo meant to lure hunters is so needless.
2) There are no invisible rays or unseen forces at work. Anyone who is trying to tell you different is trying to sell you something.
3) The only thing better than deer hunting and turkey hunting is doing it with your kids. Watching them take a deer or a turkey IS better than doing it yourself. Back in 2001, I was out with Mooseboy and told him that this might be true, and I was itching to find out. My last son stopped being a “Yute” this year and will hunt as an adult this fall. I am here to tell you it is true, and I cannot wait until my grand daughter can start going out with me.
4) You cannot hunt when you are cold or hot. Learn to make yourself comfortable. I used to have to will myself to stay on a stand 2 hours, and I was miserable after the first hour. Now I can sit for 4 hours and I am sorry to get down and attend to the matters of being the patriarch of deer camp.
5) If you want to hunt deer , find a place where deer  are and hunt them there. Do not try to hunt them where they are not. That sounds stupid, but a good number of the questions I field from  hunters are trying to lure them or somehow manipulate the deer’s behavior. This is a fool’s errand.
6) Anything you see on TV is fake. It bears no resemblance to real hunting.
7) Everyone wants to learn master techniques and expert lessons. Nobody really wants to spend time learning the stupid beginner lessons. Those tips from the master are there to sell you something. The stupid no-brainer things are what gets you a deer.
8) Bathe.
9) Big bucks need a lot of calories. They need to roam to find the food that gets them the calories. Doe are easier to please. Please your doe. Make them happy and then use them for bait. The big guys come.
10) I have hunted deer with just about everything out there, except a pistol. I meant to do a pistol, but I got side-tracked and put that project on the shelf a long time ago. Challenge? Risk? Who besides the poor deer really is at risk? You want a challenge? Try being patriarch of a deer camp. Just try to fill your tags with clean shots and leave the risk at home.

Back in the early 80’s at the dawn of my deer hunting career, I was talking to Jay Bond, proprietor of Bond’s Archery in Burlington, Kentucky. I was trying to gather secrets from a master bow hunter. In those days, there were a lot fewer deer, and it was hard for me to tell if there were any deer to hunt. I asked Jay how he knew. Jay said that he could tell if a deer had recently walked through freshly fallen leaves. I asked him how. Jay said that he just knew. I thought he was being obtuse.

I was out scouting recently, and I passed an opening in a cedar thicket, and commented to myself that a small herd of deer were using this spot to cross. I caught myself and thought of Jay Bond, and realized he was right: you really do just know. I cannot tell you exactly what got me looking at that patch of ground. If anything, it was just that the grass and forbs were not as high or as healthy as one I had seen a few yards before. It comes from 30-some years of hunting. You just know.

As I finish this off, I am looking through the shamanic magic mirror.  This month is yet another record month. Y’all read over a thousand more pages than any other month. Most of you are still finding me as part of web search, and a lot of you are coming by way of my usual haunts like 24HourCampfire, D&DH, and T&TH, but a growing number of you are showing up from places I have never been.  I guess that means the word is getting around, and I am gratified and honored to have you here.  You are also coming back more, you are  staying a good long time, and reading several pages every visit.  Thank you. I appreciate your appreciation.



The Status of Shamanic QDM

At our camp, we have no particular standards. This is the first year we will all be adults– my youngest turned 16. I think it is rather goofy to have kids passing on less than ideal deer unless they choose to do so.

I know there is a lot of stuff out there about QDM and such, and I am not saying it is complete hokum, but there needs to be some sense of proportion. It used to be that I really thought I was doing the right thing by trying to kill doe and eschewing smaller bucks. However, in the 13 seasons I have been on the plot, my ideas have changed. It may be heresy to y’all, but hear me out.

Remember as you read this that I have 200 acres. QDM catechism states you need 300 acres as a minimum. Additionally remember that there may be as many as 3000 hunters that hear my shot on the Opener– that’s about 1 hunter per 4 acres. We have no more than 4 hunters on 200 acres.

1) To me, the secret to big bucks on my size plot is making the doe happy. I do a lot of habitat improvement, and I try to give my resident doe a place to raise their fawns in peace. Then I turn around and use them for bait come fall.
2) The big buck I spy today may be in another county by next weekend. Big bucks roam on a range much larger than my 200 acres. My plot is really too small to successfully manage antlers without putting up a high fence.
3) Taking doe is fine, but taking the matriarch of a herd is detrimental. They are the ones that make the decisions on where to go and what to eat. I don’t want to exterminate them or honk them off. After I have hunted my 1 buck (all KY allows) I go hunting for 1-2 doe. I try my best to take the younger females. If I screw up and take a button I don’t worry too much. They still taste good.
4) I never think about thinning or culling or that sort of thing. We are in a zone that is very liberal; we can take as many antlerless deer as we want, but only 1 buck. There is going to be no more than 15 deer on the property at any given time. 1 may be mature buck. It matters not a whit what I choose to shoot this year. Next year, the deer will replace themselves from the surplus that surrounds me, and I have no control over what comes in.

My personal goal was always to hold out for a buck that is bigger than any I’ve previously shot. Then in 2007, I shot a real monarch, and realized it might be the biggest one I ever shoot. Since then I have had to revise my standards:
1) I still try to shoot one bigger than what I killed the previous year.
2) If I burn my buck tag on a wounded deer (2005) I count that as a reset. Ditto if I eat tag soup (2012) or only take doe (2010).

As to the rest of our camp,  [i]Der Bauernhof am Loch im Ende des Stumpfes[/i]:

Moose? He has never passed on a spike. He says he would like to take bigger, but somehow the gun goes off and . . .
Angus? Angus is the uber-sportsman. He shot his first doe in 2009 and then passed on numerous deer until he got a nice buck. He is willing to go the whole season, waiting for the right set of antlers.
SuperCore? The man is a machine. He will drop two in one outing, but age is creeping up on him and the memory of cleaning two deer in a day is making him think twice.

One last thing: I really had to scratch my head back in 2012. I let a nice 10 pointer pass on the Muzzleloader Opener in October, and then ended up with tag soup in rifle season. I realized in retrospect that the reason I passed was that I enjoy the whole Deer Camp scene in November and I did not want to screw it up burning my buck tag. I’ve passed on nice bucks before, but this was a wake-up.

As I commented later:
Still it was funny how passing on the one last year kind of forced my hand this year. The year before that, I had a buck-of-a-lifetime come through just at the edge of my range, and I had held fire, because I did not want to risk anything but a good shot on such a fine animal. You string enough of those passes on your belt, and you start getting into Buck Fever territory. That is another subtlety of the sport they don’t teach you. You can only be picky for so long before you and the rest of camp stop thinking of you as the ultimate sportsman and start thinking of you as Nervous Nelson.[/quote]

From: And So It Ends Again