Friday, October 25, 2013

Stalk Hunting and Muzzleloaders

Since my youth I’ve preferred stalk hunting. It is admittedly less productive than many hunting practices since the hunter is at a great disadvantage: You’re moving within the games’ natural surroundings. Wild critters generally have much keener hearing and sense of smell, and strong survival reflexes that were honed over thousands of generations. Even if they don’t hear or smell you, they often notice things out of place or something new to their domain (you), the same as you would if someone moved your sofa or put a new table into your living room. That puts them on alert almost as much as a twig snapping under your foot.

Silent stalking works best for small game, like squirrels and rabbits. And you never know what you may encounter, like turkey, hog, bobcat, fox or coyote. Since deer have extremely keen survival senses, it’s very difficult to sneak up on a “wild” deer. I say wild because I’m not referring to the deer in state parks or petting zoos or your yard. I mean those deer in the woods that stay alive by their own instinctive reflexes and are not accustomed to being around people.

While I’ve jumped deer numerous times, I can’t truthfully say that I’ve succeeded in stalking a deer while hunting. But I’ve been hunting with some who have done it many times. It’s their way of hunting and they’ve honed their stalking skills to the highest level. It takes practice and dedication and time. They are like pro-athletes. But there’s one thing I’ve noticed about the skilled deerstalkers I’ve known: They seem to have the most success when it’s drizzling rain because rain tends to cover both your sounds and smell.

I have encountered deer while stalking, but when that happens, they have moved into the space where I was at the time. But without a silent stalk, that would not happen. For me the stalk while deer hunting has now become my way to get to a deer hunting spot with minimum notice by the wood’s wild inhabitants. Then I wait.

Stalking With a Muzzleloader

I believe stalking with a muzzleloader is the best way to hone your stalking skills. You know you have just one shot and it has a very limited range. Those facts cause you to adopt a different attitude. You actually have to “be the hunter.” This attitude is akin to that you see in the film of a big African cat hunkering down as it stealthily closes on an antelope, often with ears laid back and with full attention on its prey. As the hunter, you must move slowly and smoothly, stay focused, and pay attention to everything around you and every little sound while making none – not alerting your prey. When you spot something, you hear a little voice inside your head saying, “Get closer.”

If you’ve never tried it, I guarantee that it is the most satisfying hunting you can do – especially when you pull it off. Daniel Boone could not be more proud. And even if you don’t bring home the bacon, you challenged yourself and your skills – and there will be a next time.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What Were Your Dream Guns?

When we were kids growing up we all had those guns that we just thought were cool, or loved the way they looked. Maybe we saw them in movies; maybe they were leaned in the back of Grandpaw's closet. We found ourselves daydreaming, and sometimes still do. Join us as we discuss some of our dream guns, past and present.


When I was a kid I always thought the M1911 Colt pistol was about the coolest looking handgun ever made. There was just something about those guns back in all the WWII & Vietnam War movies that always drew me in and made me drool. I still don't have one, but I get to shoot vicariously through my brother and uncle and both of their guns (that you might have seen us talking about in an episode of All For Gun TV).

Springfield on Loan for dove.
I always liked the six-guns the cowboys slang as well, but when it came down to my favorite cowboy gun it always went back to the double barreled coach-gun. Something about dropping both barrels on a villain and blowing them 10 feet through the air and through the saloon doors always excited me. I've considered getting the rabbit-eared Norinco 12 gauge for fun, but have never ponied up and bought it either. I did get to hunt some birds with a Springfield double barrel this past opening day, but not too successfully. Out of 50 shells I put through those beautiful barrels I hit one dove. The gun owner who let me borrow it said he couldn't hit anything with it either, so I only felt slightly embarrassed.

I don't know if I currently have a "dream gun" or not, but I have a couple that I am in the market for. Something I can hunt deer with in the .30-06 variety most likely, and something I can conceal carry better than my Ruger P95, possibly something of the .357/.38 variety.


It's difficult to narrow down my current list of "dream guns." If I think back to childhood and my early influences regarding which guns were cool, I had only a few points of reference at the time: my Dad's guns, and the A-Team, mostly. George Peppard gripping a Colt .45 1911 in his black gloved hand always seemed tough, and like Jason, I've always wanted one but haven't ponied up to get a version that I like. That one endures. Some others from A-Team influence have fallen away, however. B.A. wielding the belt-fed M60 like Rambo no longer seems desirable to me. Since having the chance a few years ago to handle a real full-auto Uzi like Face sometimes used, that ten-pound Italian brick has lost its appeal as well.

A beautiful example of the 1873 Winchester Short Rifle.
As my tastes have matured and changed over the years, I still love western movies, and I love the guns from that era even more. I do have a Stoeger/Uberti replica of a 1873 Colt. I would like to have a real Colt, but will likely instead get a New Vaquero from Ruger, which has the slimmer frame of the Colt and still utilizes Ruger's transfer-bar safety system. To accompany those six-guns, I would like a nice replica of the 1873 Winchester with color-cased frame and some good looking wood. Perhaps this version from Uberti with it's curious-cool half-octagonal barrel would fit the bill.

My list of dream guns runs too long to list here. Many spaces on the list are filled with guns that I had in hand at one point or other through the years and either couldn't afford, or more often, couldn't make myself get off my wallet to buy something that I just wanted and didn't really at the time need. Those would include things like the Smith & Wesson 629 Mountain Gun, a 4" barrel, round butt, stainless steel .44mag revolver. I regret not buying that one.  Some others that my wallet has refused to move for include a fancy Sharps 45-70,  a Springfield Armory M1A Scout, a Remington Model 7 Mountain Rifle, a Thompson M1 WWII style replica from Auto-Ordnance, and ... 


It is difficult to choose what I consider my dream gun. That is akin to trying to pick your dream car: A Fifties model Corvette, a Jaguar XKE ragtop, or something else? But in thinking about it, I decided that there must be an enduring desire for it in order to be called a “dream” item. For vehicles, for me it has to be the old WWII style Jeep. That desire springs from my childhood and remains.  For guns, my earliest desires were for a rifle like my granddad’s .22, and of course the cowboy pistols and lever guns seen in the Saturday morning “Westerns” at the local theatre (before television was widespread). But as we mature and our knowledge expands, our desires change.

My long enduring gun desires today include guns like the M1 Carbine. I own an M1 Carbine by Universal, a civilian version made during the 1970s. But I really want one of the real things, or at least a new one that meets the mil-specs of the real deal. That one likely goes back to the plethora of WWII movies that I watched as a kid, and to the fact that it’s just a very cool rifle.

I also have fond memories of the Browning Over/Under 20ga. shotgun that I used for one day back in the 1960s shooting clays. The weight, balance, and dimensions of that Belgium-made shotgun were perfect for me and I never missed with it – not even once.

And I really like the older Mountain Rifle style of bolt-action rifles, which were lightweight, compact, well balanced, and came with factory iron sights. When I first hefted one of these about 35-years ago, I knew I had found my kind of high-power rifle. I favored the Ruger 77 version over the Remington 7 version, but the years have dimmed my memory of why. Either would have been great choices. But sadly, I don’t seem to find a rifle made that way anymore.  The same could be said of the old army Jeep. These were all rugged and simple, and did the job they were intended to do. There is beauty in that – beauty that should be appreciated. Newer is not necessarily better.

 What were and are your dream guns?

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Thompson/Center “Seneca” .45 Light Hawken Muzzleloader

The Seneca's simple yet beautiful appointments are testament to
T/C's attention to quality and detail.
The Seneca is such a fine piece of work that I fell in love with it the first time I held one. Its fit and finish, fine wood with brass furniture, light weight and balance, the natural feel of its brass-frame pistol grip, and a set of sights that allows true aiming all combined to make it something I didn’t want to put down. But I did – only to come back about an hour later to buy it. It was to become my all-round hunting rifle for many years: legal for deer yet suitable for smaller game.

Aside from being a percussion cap rifle instead of the older style flintlock, the only modern feature of this rifle is its sights. It has pistol-style open sights, with a U-notch rear sight that is adjustable for elevation. Once that’s adjusted for the individual rifle, there is no need to change it. Right or left sight alignment is achieved with a small screw on the rear sight and/or by drifting (or moving) the front sight in its dovetail groove. Be sure to use a brass punch for this if available, to prevent tool marks. Again, you can set it and forget it.

Front sight and ram-rod.
The front sight seems perfectly sized to provide the right amount of light on either side of it to allow quick and accurate centering within the U-notch. With its flat-top blade that easily aligns to the top of the U-notch wings, there is no question that you have a perfect sight picture. In my opinion, the Seneca rifle can be fired as quickly and accurately as any modern rifle with open-iron sights, within its range.

The Seneca has two triggers. The one nearest the muzzle, or front, is the firing trigger. When the hammer is cocked, this front trigger provides a nice, crisp break that requires the force of “pull” that you normally expect when shooting any conventional rifle. (That trigger has an adjustment screw located between the triggers.) But when you have time to take very deliberate aim, you have a rear “set-trigger” available to enhance your accuracy. Once the “set” is made by pulling the back trigger, the front trigger only takes a slight touch to drop the hammer. Using that set-trigger makes for superb accuracy but care must be taken not to touch it until you’re ready to shoot. Also, I have found that if you are very near your game, the little metallic “click” sound it makes when it sets can spook the game, so it’s best to use that set-trigger only for longer shots or target shooting.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pawpaw’s Rifle: The Mossberg Model 51M

Mossberg 51M, ca. 1939-1946
The Mossberg 51M is not as pretty as most rifles made today but holds special meaning for me. When I was a little kid, I spent as much time as possible with my grandfather on his farm. It was a wonderful time in my memory. He always made me feel like a friend and an equal – except when it came to his rifle. That rifle was restricted to himself and his son, Tommy, who was only a teenager at the time. As I recall the rifle was always referred to simply as “the Mossberg.”

Not long ago I came across a photo of an old Mossberg .22 rifle with a Mannlicher stock. It brought back some of the memories of those times at the farm. Researching it, I found that Pawpaw’s rifle was most likely a Model 51M, made from 1939 to 1946.

I was enthralled with that gun. I had never seen anything so wonderful as it. And that hole in the stock that you just shoved the bullets into was fascinating to me. How does that work? Pawpaw could shoot and shoot, as fast as he could pull the trigger, without reloading. Of course he seldom shot it at all since bullets were expensive.

On one visit, Pawpaw and I were trying to catch a big, red rooster for my grandmother to cook. That rooster was really wild and would not let us near it. We could not seem to corral it. Finally Tommy came in from the field where he had been plowing. Pawpaw said something like, “Tommy. Get the Mossberg. We’re having Old Red for supper.” Now it was really getting exciting. A short time later I watched as Tommy put Old Red down from across the yard with one shot through the head. Now I was really impressed with that rifle – and my uncle Tommy’s shooting.

I could not wait to grow up so I could buy me a Mossberg .22, too. Thinking about it, I guess that’s the gun that started me on the path to as what might be called “a gun lover.” Thanks, Pawpaw.


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