Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It Was a Good Day

Some of you may have read earlier posts I've made on Gun Dog Forum about this dog - my wife is fighting cancer and she has been after me to find him another home, and despite a few "almosts" so far I have been unsuccessful.

My setter, Buddy, has not really been pointing, hardly ever. I've seen him do it, but a real point from this dog has been the exception rather than the rule. He's crazy about birds, but things had sort of fallen apart on the steadiness side of things late in the summer, and I let it happen. His point was not just awful and mostly non-existent; even worse be had started blinking birds. To try and build back the desire and drive I have been avoiding any and all correction around anything bird related. I was showing him pigeons, throwing them out and letting him chase. He's a young dog and a rescue, and this is his first hunting season. Like all rescues he has some issues and we've been (so far) successfully working through them, but I guess at the end of the day nobody wants a bird dog with no pedigree that doesn't point and had a tendency to bite when I first brought him home. He doesn't bite anymore and has grown past that problem, but it's apparent he's not going anywhere anytime soon.

My plan was (and is) to make the most of things and hunt him as much as possible. I want to get him as much exposure to wild and otherwise un-planted frisky birds to try and get his brain to connect the dots and get him pointing. We had a fantastic day in Maine on the grouse season opener, and a couple of good training experiences on grouse leading up to it. But other than that, my time has been spent caring for my wife and we haven't had much chance to get out and hunt.

Buddy in Maine - October 2011

Say what you want about NJ, but we have a top notch pheasant program and the state breeds and raises very high quality birds, so I've had high hopes our Jersey pheasants would help do the trick. I took Thanksgiving week off and went out with my two dogs early in the week. It was raining, the intensity varying from drizzle to light and steady showers, but thanks to the wet weather I had 4000 acres of freshly stocked state land mostly to myself. I only saw one other hunter all day and he was leaving when I arrived. Buddy bumped a bird right out of the gate, and then found a hen; a runner he tracked for 100 yards down a briar choked hedgerow which flushed and hooked back towards me, offering a clear but fast moving left to right shot. I missed with both barrels. He gave chase and I let him run, calling him off when he got to the end of the field. 15 minutes later he locked up on point; a genuine tail-straight-out-behind-and-foreleg-raised point on a woodcock which then flushed wild after holding only a few seconds. I heard it fly off on the other side of the hedgerow and I was pleased he was steady to the flush this time with no correction from me.

Sometime later, the two dogs were working about 200 yards ahead when I heard a beeper go off in the field. I expected the bird to get up out of range, because that's what they'd been doing and this was the 4th or 5th bird. I'd had no other shot opportunities from the wild flushes. I started moving faster, and in the minute or so I spent plowing through the brush and briars I came to the conclusion it must be my shorthair on point. She's steady and will hold a point as long as the bird stays put. Knowing that Buddy is not steady on birds, and seeing as the bird didn't get up and the beeper was still beeping, I assumed it had to be Marzy on point. When I was within 40 yards, I still couldn't see the dog whose collar was beeping away, but then the bell I had been hearing tinkling off to my right in the hedgerow materialized into my GSP as she burst through the brush and cut over the tractor path into the field. Each of the dogs has a bell that differs just a little bit in tone. Buddy's is pitched slightly lower, but I can't really tell them apart if I don't hear both at the same time.

Moving another 10 yards towards the sound of the beeper, I saw Buddy locked up on point at the same time Marzy did and she hit the brakes to back him. I realized I just had to get a picture of this, even if it cost me the shot. I cradled my Browning 16 gauge in my left arm while I dug the phone from my back pocket. I was able to snap one picture before a rooster exploded into the air and quartered away to my left. I dropped my iPhone in the grass and swung on the bird, missing the first shot but knocking a cloud of feathers loose with the second. The bird was tough and a strong flyer. It continued to climb for a few seconds, and then abruptly settled into a glide before folding into the hedgerow 300 yards away. "Buddy, Fetch!" I called, but both dogs were already gone. I didn't whoa my shorthair because I didn't want to confuse Buddy into thinking he'd done something wrong around a bird and so I just let them both go. I broke my gun open, pocketed the empties, found my phone, and hustled out to the tractor path and down the field to where the bird went down. Unfortunately Marzy stole the retrieve, but I threw the bird out again for Buddy which he delivered to hand.

I think the light bulb has switched on, the dots are starting to connect, and his pointing instinct is starting to blossom. We put up nine birds that day, of which seven finds belonged to Buddy. Although we only took the one bird, it was enough for me.

I am so proud of this poor setter I found just one year ago as a puppy. Some cruel human abused, mistreated, and neglected him, ruined him on birds, and then threw him away like a piece of garbage - intentionally abandoning him to starve. I have a fondness for this dog that I can't explain the reason for or express with words. He loves me and trusts me, and I suspect I was the first human being he had ever met who treated him with kindness and a gentle hand.

I know the image quality of this photo is not very good, but it captures a special moment - Buddy's first solid steady point that ended with a bird in the bag.

Buddy on Point while Marzy backs - November, 2011

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What really killed Google Wave

I love technology. I like gadgets, tools, robotics, automation, all kinds of neat stuff. I like things that make my job easier, and save me time.

That's why I loved Google Wave. But the folks at Google have decided to kill off Wave. What??? The next big thing dead after a 14 month preview. Not much time to preview a sea-change in communication.

What really killed Wave? The problem was simple, perhaps so simple the developers at Google missed it: Wave did not integrate with e-mail. OK, maybe a little, but only recently were wavers able to add an e-mail contact to a wave, and then the non-wavers sent a copy of the wave posts and an invite to join Wave. But it might take a while - maybe an hour. Huh? E-mail is nearly instantaneous, and Wave is real-time. What's up with that?

Wake up Google - do you want Wave to take over the world and change online communication as we know it? Make it work with e-mail too.

It's that simple - really.

Had developers and early adopters been able to use Wave as an e-mail client as well as for waving, and used the same address for e-mail and waves, things would have turned out different. I mostly stopped using wave because everyone else is still using e-mail. Oh, I tried to convert people, and those that tried Wave liked it - "but why won't Wave work as e-mail too?" they asked me.

"They say it's coming soon," I would reply. But it never came.

To train hunting dogs, there are a few rules to help ensure a successful training session:

1. Never set your dog up to fail
2. If you find yourself getting mad at the dog, stop training; but don't give up - just come back to it later when you've calmed down.
3. Always finish a training session on a positive note.

And as much as I am a fan of all things Google, I think they broke all three of these rules, especially the first one - by not prioritizing Wave integration with e-mail, they set it up to fail.

Hunting Season is Here!

September Goose

September 1st marks the official start of hunting season here in NJ with the opening of the early resident goose season. It's been more than a few long, hot months since the last time I was out goose hunting, which was a few days before the close of the extended season in February. The weather that day was a frosty 20 degrees, snowing, and not a bird was seen.
The 2010 season opener greeted us with 95 degree heat, and bright sunny skies, and not a goose was seen.

Generally, September goose
season is a struggle. Designed to control resident geese populations, September is a bad time for hunting. Birds are still in family groups, and content to stay in a small area, moving from feeding grounds to roost very little. In many cases, the feeding grounds and roosts are the same place - with no reason to leave the golf course or corporate park, why should the geese move?

Farmers have not harvested crops; beans and corn are still green and standing, or winter wheat is starting to go in and fields are freshly plowed. If you have water to hunt on, or a recently cut hay, wheat, or oat field you might be in luck if the birds are flying.

Almost done!

School is almost over for me - I will finish my last class toward a BS in business administration in December. Of course, I have time off scheduled for fishing in Maine in September, and then I'm back in Maine a week later for bird hunting. After that it's full speed ahead for my last two classes until I'm done. I expect I will be hunting a little less this year, but I will still try to make the most of it. My Shorthair turns nine in October this year, so that means next year I'll seriously need to think about getting a puppy. That is a topic for another day!

Safe hunting everyone!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My upland hunting season so far? Not bad!

The 2009 hunting season opened with our third annual trip to the western mountains of Maine in early October. The fall color was just off peak, and leaf drop was well on the way in the higher elevations. Attendance at our usual sporting camp was down significantly. This was the fourth year they were open through October for bird season, and the last two years marked the bottom of the grouse cycle. This year also proved to be slow.

We hunted coverts that had held bird before, and were rewarded with a few flushes. The Hill covert was so named because it is a steep hike up an old logging road that seems to go on forever (although it doesn’t). This covert yielded only one flush this year. My journal tells me we had nine flushes there three years ago. The Creek Covert also held one bird, where last year we flushed four. The Behind the Hill Covert was the winner with seven flushes. We spent a lot of time looking for new cover, and trying to find places that were out of the way and far off the main roads. These places were out of the range of the road hunters, and thus be more likely to hold birds.

Woodcock numbers were amazing. Due to an early cold snap the flight birds were in sooner than normal and sports were limiting on woodcock. One guide I spoke with said he was getting 30 or more flushes on woodcock every day. However, we chose to eschew the low and wet Timberdoodle covers in favor of pursuing Ruffs in the higher elevations. The drier and higher areas held only grouse, and as luck would have it we missed every one we fired upon.

October also marked my rediscovery of northern NJ as a place for woodcock, and I also flushed the first grouse I’ve seen in NJ for about 15 years. I will say it was north of Route 80, but that is all I’m going to share about that!

November marked the start of the regular small game season in NJ. I’ve been able to take off almost every stocking day so far, although it seems to have rained every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. My experiences hunting the stocked quail has not been shiny this year, as hunting stocked quail when it’s wet is like hunting a baked potato. You can just pick them up much of the time, and they won’t fly, so what the hunt turns into is a very bad situation that almost certainly will cause your hard dog training work to fail, and fail hard, especially with a dog that is not steady.

I also took a very fun and productive trip with some friends to Pennsylvania to hunt Ruffed Grouse for two days. There were a few birds, and there were a few flushes, but the three of us did manage to take three birds, miss a fair number of others, and watch a few more fly away without a shot. It was a good time indeed.

We have had good success with pheasants this year, once again going out in the late mornings and afternoons to pick up birds that everyone else missed. It can be tough, as the birds have been flushed and shot at a lot, and they are prone to run a long way before flushing out of range.
So now as we slide casually into December, the end of bird season looms ever closer. I have used up my vacation time, mostly. My time left to hunt birds is growing thin. I will make the most of it as I can, and as my dog allows. My Shorthair is doing well. I am resolved not to let her get by with bad behavior this season and to continually enforce the training we worked on all summer. I am being rewarded with a “mostly” well performing dog that has “mostly” been a joy to hunt with most of the time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Actually is getting to me...

It's been a long time since I've been able to add anything new here. My job, which I feel lucky to still have, takes up much of my time as does school. I'm finishing a bachelor's degree in Business Administration. After a long career as a student, I am now attending University of Phoenix. U of Phx is my fifth college; it could be stated that I've majored in transfer and registration, much like the character Howie from that show "Fall Guy" with Lee Majors playing a stunt man. I have been working hard at getting good grades, and have a 3.85 GPA, which I've come to terms with after completing my associates with a 3.95 GPA. So, my free time is in short supply.

"Well," you may say, "taking classes online is easy." Au contraire, mon ami! Let me firmly assert that taking classes over the Internet is more difficult, more work, and requires more effort than attending classes in a traditional university environment. The classes are shorter, the workload heavier, and class is open seven days a week. You get out what you put in, as the cliche goes. As I mentioned previously, I have experienced classes at five different colleges and universities, so trust me when I tell you my opinion is based on experience.

You may be asking at this point what this has to do with fish, dogs, or guns. The answer is nothing. I am just explaining the long pause between posts, but I have another reason: I am getting increasingly irritated with the spoken English language, and the overuse and misuse of certain words. I think this is because I spend so much time writing for school. I have to generate 3000 words or more of original content each week, and everything must be written well. No small task, to be sure.

Mark Twain had this advice: "Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."

Perhaps in his day, the word "very" was in popular misuse. I have come to the conclusion that one word in particular that should be deleted from the English language is "actually". If one were to follow Mark Twain's advice, but substitute "actually" for "very", it would have the same effect. Here's an example: If I were to say, "I actually spoke to him earlier today, and he said he actually didn't know," it is easy to see that the word "actually" is not necessary at all. I find myself cringing each time I hear it in casual conversation.

My father wrote a newspaper column for many years, and in the beginning of his writing career was given the tip that after he had finished his final draft, he should go through and delete every word that ended in "ly". If he did this, his writing would improve, be easier to read, and appear more intelligent.

Actually, I think this is really good advice, and is actually very good to follow. Fortunately, he got the advice early in his tenure as a columnist, so he actually got off to a really good start.

See what I mean?

The next post (I promise!) will be about Fish, Dogs, and Guns!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How to get better fuel economy

OK, I know - so this isn't about fishing, dogs, guns, or hunting. But hey, we all have to drive in order to enjoy these things, right? With fuel prices as high as they are, and no relief in sight, the added cost of fuel to our hunting and fishing trips might be enough to keep us home.


I drive a 2002 Chevy 2500 HD with the Duramax diesel, with the Allison five speed automatic transmission. I've been tracking my fuel costs and usage since January, and up until the end of April my cumulative average fuel economy was 15.3 mpg. I spent a fair amount of time on the internet researching ways to improve my fuel economy.

What did I find? If you want to spend money on CPU programmers, ECM reprogramming, turbo kits, exhaust systems, air filter kits, etc. etc. you can do it pretty easily. They all say you will see fuel economy gains. The reputable guys tell you they'll boost horsepower and performance, but make no guarantees about improving fuel economy. But I did notice a universal thread of advice, floating around the various truck and diesel forums.

I took this advice, made the recommended changes, and saw immediate results. My fuel economy has increased to an average of 18.3 mpg. That's an improvement of over 16%! How much did it cost me to make these modifications? Nothing! Free! Nada! Zip!

Want to know what I did? What these modifications are I'm talking about?

It's just two things:

1. Make sure your tires are fully inflated.

2. Change your driving habits.

The first one is easy, and anyone can do it. Just stop at the local gas station, and fill those tires to whatever pressure is indicated on the sidewall as the maximum pressure. What does this do? It reduces the rolling friction of the tire, so your engine doesn't have to work as hard to move your vehicle around.

The second one might not be so easy, depending on the kind of driver you are. But let's break part #2 down a little:

2.1. Easy does it: When the light turn green, go easy. It's not a race, so no point in drag racing the guy next to you. Is he gonna chip in for your fuel? Nope, so let him go.

2.2. While accelerating, try to keep the rpm's below 2000. Your shift point will vary depending on your vehicle, but with my '02 Duramax, 2000 is about right.

2.3. Slow down: Do the speed limit, and again, keep those rpm's below 2000. For my truck, this is about 70 mph. I used to go 80 mph everywhere I went on the big road, but now when cruising on the highway, I scale back a little to about 66-68 mph which puts me at about 1900 rpm.

2.4. Learn where your auto trans shifts, and if it means going a little over the speed limit to get those lower rpm's, do it. My truck shifts on the sevens - 27 mph, 37 mph, 47 mph, etc. So in a 35 mph zone, I ease up just past the speed limit until it shifts, and as long as I'm more or less on the level, I can ease back down to the speed limit and plug along at about 1200 rpm.

2.5. Coast where you can: When that light turns red up the road, let off the gas and coast. In my truck, as long as I'm doing under 45, it drops to idle. At higher speeds, it doesn't drop out as much. But just let 'er coast. You'll save wear on your brakes this way too.

What's the down side?

With your tires fully inflated, you reduce the contact patch where the rubber meets the road, and there may be some loss of traction, especially when the road is wet. We're talking pavement here, but the same goes for off road. If you want traction in mud, snow, dirt, or sand, you should be thinking about airing down those tires to keep from getting stuck. But when you hit the road again, you ought to fill those round rollin' rubber puppies back up.

Just to put it all in perspective:

What does a 16% increase in fuel economy mean? In my case, it means I'll save over $1000 per year in fuel costs. That means just by inflating my tires fully and changing my driving habits, I'll have saved enough money to pay for a long weekend of hunting grouse in Maine this fall.

And that means one more hunting trip I can leave marked on my calendar.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Thoughts on Preserve Hunting

I booked a morning hunt at a nearby game preserve about a week ago. It was cold, and snowing lightly when I arrived just after seven in the morning. Never having been there before, I was given a quick tour of the field I had booked via ATV, and then dropped off at the office while my birds were released - two chukar and three pheasants.

About 20 minutes later, I was given the go ahead to start my hunt. The birds were free released, not dizzied and planted like is done for training purposes. We hunted the upper hedgerow along a swath of millet that was planted for the birds all the way to the back of the field. Nothing! Not a single point.

There was about four inches of snow on the ground, capped with a thin layer of ice from recent freezing rain. We worked the back end of the field, and then back the way we came. Another 20 minutes, and my GSP locked up on point. She held her point perfectly while I went in to flush the bird, which exploded out of the switchgrass about 30 feet from my dog. Nothing wrong with that nose! One shot of #6's out of my Citori 16 gauge dropped it, and off she went to get the bird, which she retrieved. Eventually, anyway.

Hmmm... Do I work on getting her steady to wing and shot first, or just start the force fetch training now? Decisions, decisions...

Anyway, one chukar in the vest. I heel her away, then stop her with a "whoa". Waaaaait for it... Then a light tap on the head and "Hunt!" to release her and off she goes to look for another one.

A few minutes later, another point. I had let her run out a good ways, she way maybe 70 yards out. I took my time walking over, waiting to see if she broke point. Nope! Rock solid the whole time - and the bird (the other chukar) was walking away from her too. She didn't budge, so I went in and flushed the bird. This time, she waited until I shot to go after it. She actually retrieved it to hand too. Good dog!

Again she is released to hunt, I let her range out again. I just stand there, and watch her plow through the cover like a tank. She comes to s screeching, sliding halt while barreling down a hill and locked up in a picture-perfect point. Then she repositioned herself, and locked up again. I walked down the hill, and saw a hen pheasant hunkered down on the snow 20 feet into a patch of briars. Sigh... I plowed into the briars, and almost have to step on the bird to get it to flush. I miss, and have to blame the camera on this one - I was trying to get a shot of the bird flushing, and as a result didn't get the gun up in time.

A short time later I noticed a blood trail, and realize it's my dog - she's got an ear bleed from a rose bush, and it's a bad one. So I grab a handful of snow, put in on her ear, and squeeze. After a minute or two, the bleeding stops. I let her go off, and I notice blood on the snow in one of her hind foot prints - she's cut herself, maybe from some ice, maybe from some thorns. Time to pack it in, I think.

So I heel her in, and we head back down the tractor path through the woods to the office. I put her in the truck, she shakes her head, and starts her ear bleeding again. Rats! At least we're back at the truck, so I dig out the canine first aid kit, clean her ear, and apply some pressure with a gauze pad until it stops bleeding again. I check her feet, and find she's got some cut spots on her legs, about 2-3 inches up from her feet. Probably from the ice on top of the snow.

She gets a bowl of fresh water, and a handful of liver treats. Mmmmm! She loves those liver treats. I go inside to settle up, I've got plenty of time left, but my dog is ouchy and she's had enough. I know she'd be ready and willing to go it again if I let her, but I decide that the crust on the snow is no good for her, and I don't want that ear to start up again. So we pack it in.

This was no "gimmee" or canned hunt. The terrain and cover was tough. We hunted hard, and birds were there, but we only found three of five. The two roosters must have run or flown out of the field shortly after being released.

I've hunted on state land for stocked pheasants for years. I've hunted wild grouse in Maine. How does it compare? Well, the odd of finding birds is better, because there are more birds there to begin with. The rest is still up to you, your dog, and your ability to hit what you shoot at.

All for a fee, of course. But that is the way things are here in NJ. You can either join a club, pay for a Pheasant & Quail stamp to hunt state land, or hunt on a preserve. NO matter what, you have to pay somebody to hunt birds in NJ!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Film and Digital

I've got a bunch of cameras - both 35mm film and digital. I have a Nikon F body (no idea how old it is) and a Nikon FG (I got this one for my birthday about 25 years ago). I haven't touched them in years, and both are in need of a good cleaning and servicing. Recently, my dad gave me his Nikon N8008 camera, and I've been using it quite a bit.

So you may say, "Why bother with film? Digital is so much better!". Well, is it? I say both have their merits. But I do tend to agree that the advantages of digital photography outweigh the pro's of film. So, I've been considering buying a digital SLR.

The one I'm leaning towards the most is the Canon 40D DSLR. The kit (body + lens) for the 40D runs $1499 almost everywhere you look. So, I thought I'd figure out exactly how much film I'd have to shoot before I spent that much on film & processing with the Nikon N8008.

So here we go: I've been using one of the local pharmacies for my photo processing, and their prices are pretty competitive. I bought a 5 pack of Kodak ISO 400 film for $9.99 - it was on sale. Normally it runs $13.99, so we'll use that price. That means the film is $2.80 per roll. Film processing is $6.99 for 24 exposures, and I get the digitized on a CD as well for another $2.99.

So the total cost to get 24 pictures on my computer is $12.60, or $0.53 per picture. Not too bad so far, right? Well, that means that I'll break even on the cost of the 40D after I take 2,829 photographs. That's about 118 rolls of film.

Wow - I'll NEVER take that many photographs! Right? Well, on my Canon SD110 Digital Elph I'm up to 5,250 pictures. that means that if I had taken that many shots with 35mm film, then it would have cost me $2779 in processing. And I've got two other digital cameras!

Digital is even more attractive when you consider that even with careful planning, the most good shots I typically get per roll is about 10%. Now, I'm not saying that the other shots aren't clear, in focus, or otherwise correct. I'm saying "good" as in artistically exactly what I want - or close to it.

What's more, it is undeniable that Digital is a huge advantage when is comes to the instant feedback you get right after the shot - you know if it's worth saving, or whether you should take another.

So let's sum up: assuming that only 10% of my pictures are "good", and that a film picture costs $0.53 each, that means that in order to get 2,829 "good" shots, I'll have to take 28,290 photographs - and with a film camera that cost is $14, 994!

OK maybe that's a screwy way of looking at things - but it sure makes the cost of a new digital SLR seem a lot less painful, doesn't it?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Slow Days aren't so bad

I got into the woods at about 3:00 PM yesterday. The temperature had dropped to 22 degrees. There were still traces of snow, most of it frozen into tiny icy crystals. The soil under the thick bed of leaves had frost heaved as much as 3-4 inches, so with each step my boots sunk 6-8 inches into a crunchy sandwich of ice, leaves, and frosty dirt. With each step, the "karaack" sound echoed through the woods like a gunshot.

The woods were deathly still and quiet. There was no wind, and nothing to cover the sound of my passage to my stand. My favorite spot sits on a high rocky point that is about 15 feet above an old logging road. There is a wide, flat swale on the north side that is wooded with large timber, mostly white oaks and tulip poplars. It is about 90 yards across, and the longest clear shooting lane I have is towards the northeast at about 135 yards.

The swale curves around another rocky hump about 30 yards to the northwest, and then turns west to the bottom of the swamp. I have a clear view down to the edge of the swamp, which lies about 90 yards to the west.

Because there is no way to move quietly, I figure the best thing to do is hoof it down to my stand as quickly as possible. It wasn't until after 4:00 PM last week that the deer came across the swamp, so I'm hoping I can get to my stand without spooking anything.

I make the best time I can, try to be as quiet as I can, stepping from rock to rock, walking along downed trees to minimize the noise. It takes me 1/2 an hour to get to my stand, which is only about 400 yards from where I parked the truck.

I lean my Encore against a tree, pull my scarf up around my nose, and settle in to wait. If anything moves, I'll hear it - there's no stealth on the floor of the woods today for anything: neither man nor beast.

I said there was no wind, but there was. Not so much wind as it was a steady pressure like an icy knife pressing against my left temple. It wasn't so much wind as it was current, like standing up to your thighs in a slow moving river. Not a leaf twitched, but the air pushed on, slow and constant. It almost hurt where it collided with any exposed skin.

And the woods stayed silent, save for the occasional chirp of a finch in the thicket, and the tap tapping of a Downy Woodpecker mining into a tree. The staccato call of a Pileated Woodpecker broke the silence of the swamp, sounding like some exotic jungle bird. All went silent again, then the pounding of the Pileated's jackhammer blows carried over the swamp. Another of the giant woodpeckers flew into a tree nearby, where it studied the trunk, moved slightly, and gave a single thwack of its beak into the tree. It sounded like an axe blow in the stillness. The bird moved again, inspected the wood, and gave another thwack.

The woodpecker chopped away as it moved around the tree, likely testing for just the right spot to kick in the jackhammer. Chunks of dead wood occasionally fell off as it tested the tree for weakness. It would seem the tree did not meet the bird's requirements. It dropped off the side of the trunk in a free fall for a couple of feet before it opened its wings, turned sharply around the trunk, and flew off into the swamp. Beautiful...

As the sun set, the temperature dropped further. I had stood unmoving for almost two hours, but was relatively comfortable thanks to having the presence of mind to dress appropriately with everything I needed for deer hunting in the winter: thermal underwear, insulated boots, gloves, rain pants, and parka from Cabela's, all of which is Gore-Tex lined, which not only keeps the water out, but the wind as well. Good stuff, that Gore-Tex.

The woods went dark, and I headed back to the truck. I didn't see - or hear - a single deer. The season closes on the 31st, so this coming Thursday will be my last chance until next fall to shoot another deer. But it's not about killing: although that is the reason for being out there, it's not the only reason for being out there. Slow days aren't so bad...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Jersey Rifle

A few years ago, I put together a "Jersey Rifle". What's a Jersey Rifle? Well, here in New Jersey, it is illegal to hunt deer with a centerfire rifle. Traditional rifled shotgun slugs are not that accurate. So how do you get rifle-like performance out of a shotgun? Simple - you shoot a slug out of a rifled barrel.

OK, everyone knows that right? Well there are lots of ways to make this happen, and lots of companies that make shotguns with rifled barrels. Here's what I did:

I already had a Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag. I'd bought it a long time ago for goose hunting with steel shot. I bought the fully rifled barrel for it with the cantilever scope mount. I was shooting Lightfield Express sabots, and couldn't get the gun to group consistently. There were several reasons for this - one was that the stock was too long - the gun was not meant to be shot like a rifle. Another reason was the trigger - it has a super heavy pull, and is not really adjustable. The final deal killer was the recoil. WOW it kicked so hard it was almost unbearable. It was actually painful to shoot, which resulted in flinching and target panic.

So plan B: I went out and bought a used Remington 1100 12 gauge autoloader with a 2-3/4" chamber. I then bought a Hastings® 12 GA. Extended scope mount fully rifled barrel with the CSD muzzle brake. I topped the barrel with a Simmons Aetec 2.8-10x44mm scope. I chose the scope because it had a relatively long eye relief, but the LOP was still too long. at 14-1/2" the stock was just too long to handle the shotgun like a rifle.

Not only that, the poor fit and hard buttplate knocked the hell out of me with each trigger pull, and I just could not get the gun to shoot a group under 4-5 inches at 100 yards. So I took the gun to a gunsmith who cut the stock to a 13-1/4" LOP and installed a recoil pad.

I switched to Winchester Supreme Partition Gold sabot slugs too. My groups shrunk to around 2 inches at 100 yards. I have on occasion shot groups under 1" at 100 yards.

Now maybe you're thinking what I was thinking when I put this gun together: gas operated autoloader with a muzzle brake? This thing's gonna kick like a 20 gauge! WRONG! It kicks harder than my 30-06. So why don't I like to shoot or hunt with this gun?

First off, it's the money. A box of 5 of the Winchester's costs around $16.50. That means that every time i pull the trigger, I'm sending a Grande Latte down range at 1900 fps. I see guys at the range capping off 40, 50, or more rounds to "sight in" their gun. I do all right, but that's just crazy cash to be spending on a hole in a piece of paper. The next thing is the gun kicks hard. Really hard. Another professor to teach target panic to be sure. The 10 pound trigger pull just does not lend itself to accurate shooting, and I haven't gotten around to working on lightening it yet. But the real killer is the weight. The gun feels like it is about 9-10 pounds. I don't want to carry that kind of tonnage around the woods all day.

So, as I said before, I just use my Encore. I haven't needed more that one shot to kill a deer with it yet.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Deer season here in NJ is coming to a close. I shot a deer last weekend with my muzzleloader, a Thompson/Center Encore 209x50 Magnum. Now, I've got lots of guns, and I've got my favorites. But the Encore is awesome. I bought it from a local gun shop that is now out of business, and it is the Zander's Sporting Goods "special model"- Stainless steel with walnut stock & forend. I've got it topped with a Leupold 3x9 scope, and TC monoblock rings (which they don't seem to make any more.

This gun can shoot - I'm loading it with 150 grains of Hodgdon Triple 7 (three 50 grain pellets) and the TC 250 grain Shock Waves. I'm getting groups within an inch at 100 yards with it. It hits hard, but in the one case it didn't go through-and-through, the core separated from the jacket and fragmented, but not until after it went through the chest cavity and took out three ribs on the far side to lodge under the skin. Easily recovered when skinning.

I also use a Nosler .44 caliber (0.429") 300 grain hollowpoint with the TC sabot (and 150 grains of 777). I don't think they make these anymore, I bought a big box a few years ago and have plenty left. This round has never failed to shoot through a deer, and I've never had a deer do anything but drop in it's tracks when hit by this one. One bullet I recovered went through a deer at 80 yards and punched 1/2 way through a dead tree laying on the ground 20 yards behind it. I dug at it a little bit with my knife every year for five years before the tree rotted enough for me to dig it out. Even after taking out a shoulder blade on the deer and going 1/2 way through an 8" log, it held together and had great expansion.

I really like the 777 pellets - 777 has no sulphur, so it cleans up easily and causes a lot less corrosion. I still like the smell of good ol' black powder though...

Did I say I like this gun? I'd definitely give it a score of 11 out of 10, and the muzzleloader barrel is the only barrel I have for it. More on that later...

Next time, I'll tell you about the "Jersey rifle" I put together, and why I don't shoot it at all anymore, even during shotgun deer seasons.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

First Off...

OK well, there are three things that I think are pretty cool, and if you're here you already know what those things are: Fishing, Dogs, and Guns.

I love to fish, I love dogs (mostly my own), and I love to hunt & shoot...

I've also got many other interests, such as blacksmithing, photography, woodworking, etc.

So I imagine there will be a few posts here on these subjects coming along eventually. I'm pretty busy these days with work, I've also gone back to college, so time is tight. I try to make the best of it, so check in now & then & see what's going on.