Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gun Woes . . .

Nothing says MERRY CHRISTMAS to a true sportsman like a new firearm for the holidays. I was fortunate enough this season to receive a present from my Dad and Brother in that oh so familiar rectangular "gun shaped" package. Tearing through the wrapping paper like a rabid coyote and throwing aside the red bow I forcefully ripped back the top of the cardboard container! Inside was revealed that greatest of blue steeled beauties, a firearm built with care and precision, with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time (err sorry wait a minute wrong Christmas Story) I breathed in heavily and my nasal cavities were immediately filled with the luscious aroma of that delicious new gun smell.

I removed the plastic wrapping, opened the chamber release button (hmm that's funny no clicking sound) and lifted the agile and quick gun to my shoulder . . . it was love at first site. Now with my mind racing, I hoped against hope that the absence of the "click" in my new little single shot was not a defect but instead a new advancement in New England Firearms stealth technologies. Unfortunately I was wrong.

I placed an expended shell in the chamber and it is still stuck there . . . the gun now won't even close.

Well, considering this is a NEW firearm and purchased at the world famous Cabela's I have nothing to fear right? WRONG! Cabela's no longer accepts returns of any firearm. Instead they will mail it back to the company for you! For me this means two (one delivery and one pickup) 2 hour trips to the southern part of the state . . . and a level of customer frustration that will never again have me purchasing a firearm at Cabela's. BTW, I called L.L. Bean and they have a 100% satisfaction guarantee on new AND used firearms!

Heading down to Cabela's on Wednesday next week and BEG them to refund my money or provide me immediately with a replacement. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hawk and Mallards

I wanted to share this very cool shot taken by my brother with his new Cannon Rebel Digital Camera. Lacking a telephoto lens he was lucky enough to get to within 10 feet of the hawk and snap a few shots. Apparently all the duck hunters in Maine were enjoying the last day of the season!

Take Care Everyone & Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

North Woods Beauty

Wanted to send out a quick congratulations to my friend Paul who managed to take this beauty during the last couple days of the Maine rifle season. Paul had been hunting from a tree stand overlooking a small field in which he had placed several doe deer decoys. He had seen numerous does move in and out of the field all afternoon when suddenly with the fading light of the day his buck decided to stroll out and say hello. Nice deer buddy!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Don't Shoot I am a Man!

I had to post this humorous picture of a hunting vest I saw during deer season. The scary part the fellow wearing it said was . . . "when I walk out into a field how many hunters use their scope to look and see what is written on my back?" Makes you wonder doesn't it!

If anyone has seen these vests or knows where I can purchase one please drop a comment! I think they would make great Christmas presents for a couple of my in-laws I have been trying to get rid of for years! :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

New Addition to the Family (On the Range)

As old Jack Frost released his icy grip on the northeastern United States, I along with 220,000 other Mainers managed to get electrical power back to our homes. The winter storm left a quarter of Maine’s population scurrying to hotels and buying generators as the hours stretched into days without power or heat. My wife and I and our two toddlers were minutes away from heading across town to the Best Western when suddenly the power clicked back on and we were rescued from our stone age living arrangements.

After several hectic days I finally managed to find a few moments to make it back to the range and finalize sighting in my .243 Winchester H&R Handi-Rifle. There is something almost meditative about shooting and nothing better at getting your mind off your troubles than a couple of hours at the gun range. Over the power struggle, I had build a 4 x 5 shooting platform and tacked to it 4 bulls eyes and then waited silently in the dark until my chance to escape!

My previous visit to the range had me to shooting relatively close groups at 25 yards with my "thrifty" Tasco Pronghorn 3x9x40 but I had to leave before I felt things were “fine tuned”. In my test at 50 yards I made 9 shots and three adjustments to the scope reticule to compensate for shots that seemed consistently low and to the right. In my final testing at 100 yards I made 6 shots and one adjustment to the scope reticule to compensate for shots that continued to seem consistently low and to the right. On my final target I shot 1 shot 2 inches high, 1 shot two inches low and one shot dead in the bulls eye. (My final shot group at 100 is pictured to the left.)

The ballistic charts I examined online indicated that the ultra flat shooting .243 Win. when zeroed at 150 yards was capable of only being 0.5 inches high at 100 and 2 inches low at 200 yards . . . very cool! My next session to the range I am going to start increasing my yardage until I am hitting consistently at 200.

Sub MOA this gun is not however I could easily see how with some additional long range practice session how I could in excellent conditions be able to hit a coyote size animal out to a distance of around 200 yards.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Guest Blogger

Just a quick note to tell everyone that I am currently being featured as a guest blogger on:

1. The Black Bear Blog
2. Maine Hunting Today
3. Maine Outdoors Today

Featured is a story I wrote awhile back on chasing the Snowshoe Hare. Expect to see additional stories posted (for as long as they will have me) at the beginning of each month!

Also featured is a bio that had me write to introduce myself.

Stop by and say hi!

Monday, December 8, 2008

New Addition to the Family (The Purchase)

This blog article will be comprised of a three part series: first “The Purchase”, secondly “On The Range” and finally “Field Test”.

I have to admit that as I walked into the gun shop, I was not anticipating leaving with a new firearm but some deals are to good to pass up. I had been for two seasons looking for a small rifle in .222 or .223 that I could use for varmint hunting. My primary quarry would be coyotes so I was in the market for a long range light caliber. Researching more, I stumbled upon an article in The Maine Sportsman that described a relatively new rifle that was being marketed by Harrington and Richardson Rifles (formally New England Firearms). The small and lightweight single shot rifles were available in a huge selection of calibers and priced under $300. I figured that if I waited a little bit someone was bound to purchase one of these “new” rifles and later decide that they wanted to upgrade to something different so I waited and kept checking the used gun shops.

In the meantime, I continued to examine the available calibers and finally came to the conclusion that if I went with the larger .243 Winchester cartridge I could use it for shooting coyotes out to 200 yards and it would additionally make an excellent introductory deer rifle for my sons someday. For those of you unfamiliar with the 100 grain .243 (Ct.) cartridge note the picture to the left that compares the round against the wildly popular 170 grain .30-30 (Lt.) and 220 grain .30-06 (Rt.) Springfield rounds.

As I walked down the row of used firearms, my heart began to race as I noted a Handi-Rifle with black synthetic stock and fore-end in .243 caliber. Examining the rifle, it appeared to be in excellent shape and as I mounted it to my shoulder was pleased by its light weight and maneuverability. With a little bit of negotiation, I took it home for $175.

The only issue I have personally with the rifle is the sighting system. For my length of pull and the stock size I had difficulties lining the sight up properly. This issue was immediately solved, however, when once home I installed the correct Weaver base, Simmons scope rings and old Tasco “Pronghorn” 3x9x40. With the scope installed it mounted quick to my eye and (for the price of the optics $25) provides great visibility.

After downloading the owners manual off the website (www.hr1871.com) I noted that the rifle comes equipped with a very interesting safety system. The “Transfer Bar” type safety mechanism allows for the hammer to be in the un-cocked position and the trigger fully forward and still there is no contact between the hammer and the firing pin. This allows for added safety should the gun be bumped or dropped.

Ammo choices were next on my list and to date I have been able to find 80 and 100 grain loads. I purchased a box of each for $16.00 ea. With everything in order, I headed of to the range.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Easy Pickings

Hunters if you aren't yet out in the woods chasing after the bunnies go out NOW! White bunnies on the still very dark background of the Maine woods make the little guys stick out like sore thumbs. Took the dog for a walk after work last week and sitting about 10 yards off the trail I noticed the "varying hare" in the above picture sitting motionless under a small spruce tree. A load of #8s from my 12 gauge and he was Hasenfeffer. If anyone is interested in hunting bunnies this season don't feel as though you need to have a dog. I shoot several every season by just finding good cover (spruce thickets) and walking through very slowly. A ton more on hunting bunnies without a dog here. Get out there this weekend and good luck!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Frigid Fowling

Arriving at the landing, on a late season outing, I discovered ice had shutdown my primary hunting spot. In the ensuing pre-dawn panic attack, time began slipping away at an alarming rate. As legal shooting approached, flocks of migrating ducks cruised the horizon and I cursed my mistake at not having started out earlier. Quickly driving to another landing I was pleased to find partially open water on one of the larger lakes. Though certainly not as favorable as my more remote hunting haunt, I had decided that the situation could have been much worse.

Paddling across the lake surface a thin layer of ice creaked and crunched as the kayak slid through the water. The sanity of my actions came into question as I pondered just how effective a life jacket would be in water temperatures hovering just above freezing. I believe that life expectancy can’t be much more than 10-15 minutes so at that point a life jacket only serves as a body recovery device. I determine that I needed to make sure each paddle stroke was made with care.

Frantically searching, I finally managed to find a spot on the end of a small island that looked promising. Though I had to remove a large “For Sale” sign that was blocking the swing of my shotgun on my right hand side I still felt confident in my set-up. This positive outlook in the face of the impossible seems a trait of most hunters. Where it is better to try and fail then not to try at all.

I could feel the tension in my neck building, as I was now surrounded my half million dollar lake front homes. Despite this fact, I refused to believe that game wardens would find me all that interesting. As the morning wore on, however, I began playing various scenarios through my head inducing a level of paranoia that had the National Guard storming the island and taking me in as an international terrorist. Suffice to say the authorities never arrived.

Flights of 45-50 geese could be seen in the distance moving slowly south. I hold the goose call to my mouth and blow a couple honks knowing full well that my chances of having a flock turn and investigate are about a million to one. Still there is always that remote chance.

As my sixth shot echoed down the frigid lake, I began to ponder the mathematical complexities that had magically caused me to continue to shoot worse as the waterfowl season progressed. Shouldn’t the laws of statistics dictate that a hunter’s expenditure of rounds be directly proportional to an increase in hit percentage? Unfortunately, my multiple sessions a field throughout the last two months had somehow worked against me and I was firing worse now than on the season opener. Didn’t the old adage say something about practice making one perfect?

Pulling the mangled hen mallard from the icy waters, I noted a full shot of #2s had penetrated the duck directly in the right breast. The resulting bloody mess was reminiscent of what would occur by combining red meat, gun powder and an open flame. Paddling my predator kayak back to the island, I vowed that my next shot would be more “accurate”. To help me in this endeavor, I began to run the waterfowler mantra over and over through my head . . . “shoot where it eats not where it sheats”.

Another duck did not come to me this day and numb fingers and frozen toes finally indicated that it was time to return home.
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