January 22, 2020: The Season Begins With A Splash
Every year the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries holds an event they call "Christmas For The Fishes" at Claytor Lake State Park. It's a way to build up fish habitat by putting old Christmas trees on the lake bottom. The trees are tied to concrete blocks and ferried out to specific places, where they're dropped over the side. Each boat can carry 15 to 25 trees at a time. I'm a member of the DGIF's Complementary Work Force, so was asked to help out. There were at least 20 workers: CWF volunteers, members of the Friends of Claytor Lake (FOCL) group, a number of Park Rangers, and Conservation Police Officers. All told, we put about 400 trees into the water.
I don't know where the trees come from, but there were plenty of them piled up along the lake shore at the Park boat ramp. Some were scrawny "Charlie Brown" types, but there were a few that must have come from displays in large area hotels: one had a trunk at least 10 inches in diameter. We dragged them to the dock (above) the boats pulled up and loaded them on board, and then went out to dump them. Things go surprisingly fast: it took not quite 3 hours to get them all in place. The image above shows a few of the trees ready to load up.
This has been going on for some years, and so far as I know the trees are always put in the same locations. Claytor Lake is pretty old (it was built in the late 1930's) and whatever structure was there originally has long since disappeared or has been silted over, so the trees and blocks provide cover for bait-fish species: the baitfish attract larger ones like bass, so the idea is improve the fishing. I have no idea how long a submerged tree lasts, but over the years there have been thousands of them put in place, and the concrete blocks from years past are also still there.
So the season has begun. In a week and a half I'm to go for the annual Super Bowl Sunday Bird Shoot. So far, so good.
February 2, 2020: Groundhog Day Bird Shoot
Today being SUPER BOWL SUNDAY, which is the nearest thing the USA has for a national religious holiday, and also being Groundhog Day, my friend Phil and I (who are SUPER BOWL agnostics) set up a bird shoot at John Holland's Shooting Preserve in Glade Hill. With us came a third shooter, Arnold, a retired physician and a friend of Phil's. He's also a member of the same shooting sports club we are, and an avid shotgunner and bird hunter. So it was a congenial party all around. Three is about optimum for one of these put-and-take shoots. We've done it with more but it gets—ahem—crowded, which is not a good thing when shotguns are being waved around.
Phil likes to shoot quail; I'm more inclined to shoot pheasants because they're big enough that I can hit them now and then; to balance things off we added in a few chukar partridge (right) a bird midway in size between the two others. Incidentally, it's the national bird of Iran; the chukar is a middle-eastern and Asian species imported to the USA as a gamebird. They aren't established here locally but there are naturalized breeding populations in some western states and they're highly prized. We paid for 4 pheasants, 6 chukar, and 21 quail. John puts them out in his fields, we go out with the dog(s) to find them, and all we have to do is shoot them. Ha!
I brought my Stevens Model 311 12-gauge SxS, which gave me a bit of trouble (more on this below); Arnold was toting a lovely Browning Citori in 20 gauge, and Phil had his old reliable corn-shucker, a Browning Auto-5 in 12 gauge. I like 4's for pheasants, and 7-1/2's for the smaller birds. I've always had good luck with 4's on these big birds, and my guns seem to like 7-1/2's better than 8's.
My 311 has some personal history. In the Fall of 1980 I bought a cabin in Orange County, Virginia as a weekend place. My wife and I fixed it up, and I planned to hunt there. Since at the time I was living in Washington DC and the District had absolutely Draconian gun laws, I decided to buy a gun that even the Nazis in what passes for a DC government couldn't really gripe about: a double-barrelled shotgun. The 311 was the last US-made double of its day, and I wanted it to be as useful as possible, so I ordered a 12 gauge. It came into DC to the only store licensed to sell any guns at all, Herman's Sporting Goods on Wisconsin Avenue. They had to bring it in from their Virginia store, and before I could actually pick it up I had to go through DC's rigamarole of fingerprints, photos, what amounted to a security clearance, written police permission, registration, and all the other bullshit that only people who don't commit crimes ever obey. It took about two weeks for me to get permission to exercise my Second Amendment right to have this gun, and even then I was forbidden to have it in any condition except "unloaded and disassembled or bound with a trigger lock, except when in use for legitimate sporting purposes in the District of Columbia," of which there were precisely none; but bureaucracies don't worry about little details like that. I wanted to be able to legally transport it to and from my Virginia cabin and had to jump through the damned hoops to do so. Incidentally, it was also illegal for me to possess any ammunition of any kind except that for my shotgun. A single .22 Long Rifle cartridge in my car would have got me a stretch in the DC jail. So this gun was perhaps the last firearm legally purchased in DC until they were compelled by SCOTUS in the Heller decision to repeal their idiotic laws, which of course had never made a single dent in the crime rate.
I've owned it since 1981. I had it restocked, because the original stock was a made from a piece of construction-grade scrap 2x4 with a "walnut finish" that flaked off if you looked at it hard. I had a piece of walnut lying around that would serve so I took it to a local gunsmith and had him make a new stock and fore-end. I have short arms so it's been more or less fitted to me, and I had him add sling swivel bases. Every long gun of any kind should have a sling! It has a good recoil pad and a rubber buffer behind the trigger guard because it beats the hell out of my right middle finger in recoil, especially with heavy loads. I also had it fitted with choke tubes. It will accept 3" shells but those are pretty fearsome things to shoot out of it, as are heavy rifled slug loads. I've never taken a deer with it, but I've used it on various species of birds, including barn pigeons, not to mention other small game. It's a sturdy, plain-vanilla workaday utility gun that has served me well. If I were a "one gun man," which thank God I'm not, this one would be a good choice for anything with fur or feathers.
I mentioned dogs. Arnold has a dog, Zeke, the skinniest Labrador Retriever I have ever seen in my life. He takes Zeke with him when he hunts wild pheasants in North Dakota, and to give him his due, Zeke did seem to know what he was supposed to do when he encountered a bird. He's a "pointing Lab," a strain I've heard of but had never encountered before. John Holland's dogs are Brittanies, mainly, and they're very highly trained and experienced. Zeke, though trained, has nowhere near the level of experience, though his enthusiasm is high. He spent the first hour running as fast as he could and covering a lot of ground, but not turning up as many birds as we thought he would. He does point, but unfortunately he's not rock-steady and the scent of birdies in his nose often got the best of him. He would lunge and catch the bird himself rather than flushing it for us to shoot. No doubt this habit can be trained out of him eventually but of the four pheasants we took, I shot two (and both were excellent shooting, if I do say it myself) and Zeke got the other two. He also got some of the quail. Alas, he also has the opinion that every bird he brings back should be the subject of an ownership dispute and/or used as a tug-of-war toy, but Arnold is working on that.
I was pleased with my shooting and I made one spectacular crossing shot on a chukar as well as knocking those two pheasants down handily. By the end of the morning Zeke was exhausted so Arnold put him in the truck and John brought his two dogs, Lexie and Molly, to bat clean-up. In the end we brought home all the pheasants, all of the chukar (I think) and 19 of the quail. Not a bad day.
I did have some trouble with my gun that was a bit disturbing. Firing it at a quail, it actually knocked me down! This had never happened before and I was a bit concerned about it. I had trouble opening it up, but when I did get it open, the left barrel, as well as the right, had an empty shell in it! In other words, it had "doubled," fired both barrels at once. With two pretty heavy loads in it, it's not surprising I was literally knocked off my feet!
When I got home, I took the gun apart. I found that a tiny sliver of wood from the inside of the stock, a piece no bigger than a matchstick, had come off, lodging itself under the sear for the left barrel. When the right barrel went off the recoil must have shifted the piece of wood, tripping the left sear! It also was large enough to get into the space where the safety catch had to go when the gun is "broken" to reload. On the 311 the opening lever automatically puts the safety on. Since the safety catch was blocked from movement I couldn't get the gun open because there was nowhere for the safety to move into.
I removed the piece of wood, lubricated the moving parts, and reassembled everything. There was nothing else I could find, and there wasn't any noticeable grit or dirt in the action which might have caused trouble, so I'm assuming things are back to normal. I haven't fired it again but it seems to work OK now.
So the hunting season—if you can call put-and-take "hunting"—has begun. Squirrels are still open until the end of this month but I probably won't get out again, too many other commitments. The DGIF's "kill permit" system is in abeyance for the moment for a variety of reasons, but when it starts up again I hope to be out in the field writing permits again. We'll see. Things have started off well so far, I have no complaints!
February 3-9, 2020: A Busy Week
After the bird shoot I had some time on my hands. It was a good time to do some reloading to bulk up my ammunition supply in several calibers, so I cranked up my little munitions mill. First thing was to load some 8x57JR: I had a couple of boxes of Norma's wonderful jacketed round nose bullets in the proper 0.318" diameter, and brass, both fired and new. I used once-fired brass by Sellier & Bellot, very good stuff, saving my brand-new Norma brass for later. The 8x57JR is an old round, and S&B are the only company still making it, so I wanted to have enough ammunition on hand for any hunting I cared to do with my drilling. Hence I kitted up to reload for it; but honestly I doubt I'll ever run out of this caliber now: between the reloads and the factory stuff I have enough to last me a long, long time.
I had recently acquired a revolver in .45 Long Colt, which is pretty pricey stuff if you buy it on the open market, but it can be reloaded for a few pennies per shot, so that was the first handgun caliber on the "to do" list. I had on hand a big batch of the bullets Remington uses to load that caliber commercially, so used those.
Then it was time to do some .38 S&W and .38 Special. Somewhere I'd acquired a bunch of cast bullets, 158- and 165-grain ones, and decided to use those. I have no idea where they came from: I know I didn't cast them myself. The 165-grain bullets were OK, but the 158's were very badly cast, with lots of "flash" from an improperly closed mold or loose sprue plate. Flash on the bases sometimes prevented them from entering the 0.358" sizing die properly. I was able to get the heavier bullets sized but in the end I gave up on the 158's, and tossed them into the "scrap lead" bin, to be melted down or perhaps even sold as scrap.
All this fill-em-up and cork-the-hole activity occupied several days because I don't have a progressive press, I do everything on a single-station one; progressive equipment such as the Dillon works best if you have one caliber that you shoot a lot, but I don't shoot that much and for multiple calibers a single-station setup is much more flexible, though much slower.
We had house guests, too: an old friend from college came up from Nashville, and he and I went to the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a distance of 350 miles from my home. Harrisburg is also home to a colossal Bass Pro Shops store, so since after the long drive up we'd arrived late in the day we went to Bass Pro on Thursday evening. While my friend wandered the fishing aisles, I went upstairs to the gun department, as a matter of religious obligation. I almost didn't get there: I got stuck in the elevator behind the gigantic fish tank, and it took some time for someone to come and let me out.
Once free I waddled over to the gun racks: and a pretty pedestrian lot of stuff they had, too: the usual AR and Glock derivatives, no used guns at all, and a pitiful collection of in-line muzzle-loaders (FOUR of them), all amazingly overpriced. Who in his right mind would spend $600 on such a muzzle-loader? The used gun racks at L.L. Bean or Kittery Trading Post have a far better selection and much classier merchandise.
Having survived the Bass Pro ordeal, we went to our hotel and the next morning, bright and early, went to the GAOS. This is a massive exposition: this year there were 179,000 attendees over the ten days of its run. I'd been to it twice before, and to be candid, this third time will likely be the last time I go. It tends to be a bit repetitive and the emphasis is on many aspects of hunting in which I have little interest. Last time I was looking at the options for a moose hunt in Canada, but having settled the details of with whom and where I would go when or if I did, there wasn't much else that caught my eye. Pheasants in the midwest and perhaps waterfowl in the northeast, but I'm surfeited with whitetails here, and have taken all the species of African game I want. I can't justify the cost of another trip to Africa, even though I'd love to go, because I can't see killing more plains game just to kill more plains game; and much as I'd like another elephant, that's not in the cards.
My partner, however, is another story. He's a fanatical fisherman, a man to whom fishing is life. He has a strong interest in finding an outfitter who can guide him in the St Lawrence River's 1000 Islands, which apparently have become a hot spot for smallmouth bass. So we spent most of the day talking to fishing guides, though I did occasionally wander over to one of the African hunting booths to say hello and chit-chat with the exhibitors. Several of them knew the people I've hunted with, but that's not too surprising given that the African PH community isn't very large, especially Namibian PH's. We traipsed the aisles for 6 hours, ignoring the boats and the "outdoor lifestyle" and cooking halls. Hunting and fishing were enough for both of us.
One booth I did want to see was that from Taylor's Firearms. The .45 revolver I recently acquired is one of their products and I had some technical questions to ask them. Taylor's specializes in Cowboy Action Shooting stuff. They have some drop-dead-gorgeous replicas of classic guns, stuff Wyatt Earp or John Wayne would have been delighted to have.
It was a fun show but pretty exhausting. I think I've been three times now. A full day at the show, two days in the car and two nights in hotels pretty much took it out of me and I was glad to get back home!
February 13, 2020: Some More Reloading
"Put up" 150 rounds of .38 Long Colt yesterday and today. The .38 LC is dimensionally identical to the .38 Special except for a shorter case, so it can be fired in a .38 Special chamber.
Loading data for this very old round is hard to find, and what you do find is for 158-grain bullets, the standard for the .38 Special. Nothing wrong with those, but I had on hand a goodly supply of hollow-based round nose bullets weighing 165 grains. Since the actual groove diameter on a .36 caliber black powder revolver is somewhat larger than the nominal 0.358" of a ".38 caliber" round, hollow base bullets are preferred, the theory being that their "skirt" will expand and bump up to proper diameter. Whether this happens or not I can't say, but that's the perceived wisdom of the Internet.
I had fifty cases I'd made by shortening some .38 Special, and 100 brand new Starline cases headstamped ".38 Long Colt." The shortened brass got loaded with Trail Boss powder, a type more or less specifically intended to be used in "Cowboy Action" loads. TB is very bulky and light and something of a PITA to work with, but I needed to fill up a box of 50 rounds so I used that.
For the Starline brass, I opted to go to Holy Black: that is, GOEX FFFg, 15 grains of it. This is a moderately compressed load with the 165 grain bullets. One of black powder's virtues is that you really can't overcharge a case with it, it's also quite bulky. Of course it's a mess to clean up, but I can deal with that, I shoot a good bit of black powder in rifles. Soap and water does the trick.
The black powder ammunition will be used in a replica Colt 1851 Navy fitted with a conversion cylinder for fixed ammunition. The Navy Colt is an open-top design and not the strongest revolver ever made; I didn't want to push it too hard and was thinking that using smokeless (even Trail Boss) might do that. Wild Bill Hickock (1837-76) wore a pair of ivory-handled Navies when he was shot dead in Deadwood, SD; you can see them in the picture above right. If he could use black powder, so can I!
March 14, 2020: A Range Day
Went to the club range today to do some shooting. I noted above that I've recently acquired a single-action revolver in .45 Long Colt made by Uberti. I've been doing some reloading for it but between then and now I decided to buy a spare cylinder in .45 ACP caliber. The .45 Long Colt is two or three times the price of .45 ACP; three boxes of the .45 Long Colt cost as much as a spare .45 ACP cylinder, so it seemed a reasonable way to get the "most bang for the buck." At least that's how I rationalized it to myself.
I bought the cylinder from VTI Gun Parts, who specialize in stuff for Cowboy Action Shooters and owners of black powder revolvers. I like .45's and have a goodly number of conversion cylinders for my black powder guns. The conversion cylinders aren't cheap but VTI's product was half the price of the ones I've already got, none of which, of course, could be used in my "new" gun. Unlike the cylinders to convert black powder guns it wasn't a drop-in fit; I had to take it to a gunsmith to be fitted to my revolver. But he told me the timing was perfect and certainly the lockup is good and tight. It was time to shoot it and see how well it worked.
Short answer: it worked perfectly. The rimless .45 ACP headspaces on the mouth of the case. There's a visible "step" in the chamber to correctly position the case at the right depth. Every one of them went BANG! when expected.
And I learned something else. Somehow a live round of .40 S&W got mixed in with my .45 ACP ammunition, and guess what? A .40 S&W will fire in a .45 ACP chamber! I found this out when I tried to eject the fired case and it wouldn't come out despite a sharp push with the ejector rod. Plus, it looked to be too deep in the chamber. I dropped the cylinder and lo, when I pushed the case out, it was the wrong caliber! Like Groucho Marx who famously said, "I shot an elephant in my pajamas, but how he got into my pajamas I'll never know," I still am puzzled how that .40 Short & Wimpy got into the .45 ACP box. I don't own a gun in that caliber at all. Nevertheless I've included a picture to show what happens when you pull a boneheaded stunt like this: the .40 S&W case expanded beyond its limits and split. That's why it got stuck. There wasn't much danger from firing an undersized bullet but the expansion of the case could have been a problem had it become solidly lodged. The firing pin blow was hard enough to drive it into the chamber much deeper than it should have gone because a .40 S&W case is too small to catch the "step" in the chamber. Lesson learned, will never do that again....
The other thing I needed to do was to try to make my Stevens 311 "double" the way it did on the bird shoot a few weeks ago (see above for the February 2nd entry). I reasoned that if I used heavy loads I might be able to duplicate the phenomenon, but I'm glad to say that I did not duplicate it, despite using the heaviest loads I could find.
When I say "heavy" I mean it. I fired several rounds of 3" rifled slugs and six or seven 3" buckshot loads. I never want to do that again. I used to own an elephant rifle in .416 Remington, a caliber that kills at both ends. Well, so do 3" slugs and buckshot in a 12 gauge: the recoil was every bit as bad as that .416 and I have a bruised shoulder from the experience. But despite the pounding I took the gun didn't double, so I'm pretty sure that the sliver of wood that got into the action was the culprit.
As of this writing we are in the midst of
The hysteria and panic have reached proportions better suited to the Second Coming of the Black Death. Mrs Outdoorsman wasn't real happy about my going to the range, but I figure that if I need "social distancing," I can get it with a .45 and a 12 gauge whenever I want to. And I ain't dead yet.
March 23, 2020: Killing Time While Held Hostage
The hysterical over-reaction to the Covid-19 "pandemic" means that I'm confined to barracks for the duration, by order of The Governor and my wife, who is obsessing endlessly about this damned virus and spends every minute of the day watching CNN and CBS, who tell us, over and over, to wash our hands and never step outside the house lest we be slain by the virus (or perhaps the National Guard). So I decided to break out my 1963-vintage Lee Loader and prep some shotshells, just to see if I could remember how.
Mine is not the Lee Load-All press type: it's one of those very primitive hand kits that I bought when I was an early teenager and people didn't go to jail for letting their kids play with guns. I've had it more than 60 years. Factory shells are so cheap and reliable today that it's not worth reloading for shotgun shooting unless one is a dedicated trap or skeet shooter. Besides, my kit is good only for paper-hulled ammunition: it predates the large-scale introduction of plastic shells.
Because I'm a superannuated old mossback and prefer paper hulls to plastic, some years back I'd bought a bunch of pre-primed Cheddite paper hulls in 20 gauge thinking I might some day reload them. Because I shoot a black powder shotgun or two I had a couple of bags of #6 shot and a bunch of wads on hand. Some of the latter were of same vintage as the Lee Loader, but most of them were purchased in the past few years from Ballistic Products. I found out that the 20 gauge wads used in shotshells don't work in my "20 gauge" muzzle-loading shotgun, because it's actually a 19-gauge. So I was stuck with a bunch of cork and felt and fiber wads I couldn't use in it. But they would work in the paper hulls.
The hulls were new but luckily I had a "crimp starter" die (also from Lee). Based on information gained via the All-Knowing Internet I worked out that 18.0 grains of Alliant Unique and an ounce of shot would be suitable for tree rats come the Spring season, so okay, I was ready to go. In the end I managed to load 25 shells in the course of an entire afternoon but it was a pretty frustrating exercise.
The biggest issue was getting a decent crimp. This depends entirely on the height of the wad column. Unlike modern shotshells (read: "plastic") there's no one-piece wad/shotcup. The height of the wad column is infinitely variable. In the end I used a 0.35" over-powder card, a 1/2" fiber wad, and a 1/8" cork wad, which came as close to the "proper" column height as I could get.
The idea is that you need to have just enough space at the top to have the crimp fold properly. If there's too much space, you get a big hole in the front end, and the shot rolls out. If there isn't enough space the crimp won't fold, it opens, and the shot rolls out. If things are just so, the crimp will look like a factory shell (almost) and I did manage that once or twice, but it was an iffy thing to do. In the end I decided to seal the front end of each shell with a droplet of candle wax. This would prevent shot leakage and/or help keep the crimp tight. I'd like to try a roll crimp, but I'd need to buy one of those crank gadgets to do it with. The ones I've seen for sale on E-Bay are pretty cheap, so I might do that. Most of the ones advertised there are brand new, and made in Russia, of all places.
I've also found to my frustration that the volumetric measurements on which Lee's tools depend are highly unreliable. The little shot scoop above is marked "1" or "1-1/2" etc., but if you get even close to the amount of shot you think you're measuring you're lucky. A volumetric powder measure (let alone the scoop Lee provided) is just as bad. In the end I decided to use weight, not volume; I have two digital scales and used one for powder and one for the shot. At least that much was consistent.
But I did it. I hope I never have to do it again, but given the way things are going I might. Various Fascist Pigs in some states have banned sales of firearms and ammunition (Gosh, I wonder why? Are they worried or something?) and given the tendencies of our beloved Governor here in Virginia, I expect the same to be done here as soon as he figures a way to "justify" it. So being able to reload anything is an advantage. At the moment I have enough factory shells of all gauges to keep me in hunting ammunition for the foreseeable future, but if, God forbid, I run out somehow, I can manage.
I'll take these reloads out in the woods in the Spring squirrel season, but beyond that I'll stick to factory ammunition. If I did a lot of shooting I'd think about a real reloading press, but I've had a couple of them and ultimately gave them away because they sat in my cabinet and never got used. factory ammunition with lead shot is cheap enough to not bother reloading, and though my nostalgia gene protests, I have to admit that modern plastic shells are superior in every way to the old paper ones.
March 24, 2020: More Quarantine Reloading
Since Our Beloved And Exalted Governor (He Who Must be Obeyed, Or Else) hasn't seen fit to lift his so-called "order" to stay home, wash your hands, and stop touching your face (or else), I am still under house arrest. In order to stave off total boredom I decided to continue with my project of clearing out the reloading closet.
Somewhere in my checkered past I acquired a box of paper-hulled 12 gauge shells, of dubious lineage and past history. Still, the mice haven't been at them, and while they had clearly been around the block at least once, they perhaps could be reloaded. Not that I need any 12-gauge shells: I'm surfeited with them in factory loads and don't use many in a year, but what the hell, why not?
God alone knows how old they are. Most of them were Federal "Champions" and some were simply marked "Field Load," but one or two were marked "Western Field," an old trademark of Montgomery Ward. Now, M-W hasn't sold guns or ammunition for well over 40 years, and I believe those particular hulls were much older than that. Sixty years wouldn't surprise me a bit. On almost all these cases the mouths were pretty ragged, but they originally had star crimps, so I figured I could re-do them for at least one more go-round before casting them into the trash pile.
I had #209 primers left over from the days when I, in a misguided moment, bought an in-line muzzle-loader that used them; I had a suitable powder (Red Dot) and I had not one, but two 12-gauge Lee Loader kits. Both of these were newer than my 1963-vintage 20-gauge kit but other than that they were the same thing. At least one of them included a charge table that suggested 22 grains of Red Dot and an ounce of shot would be the bee's knees.
The issue I encountered was wads. I had a box of 12 gauge fiber wads from around the same time as the 20-gauge Lee Loader but no card wads and no "fillers" to make up the proper height of wad column. But, I also had a bag full of Federal one-piece plastic wad/shot cup combinations, that asserted they were good for 7/8 and 1-ounce loads.
The 12 gauge Lee Loader was new enough that it included a statement that "When using plastic wads, reduce loads by 10%," which neatly worked out to 20 grains of Red Dot. I found that if I used this load (which, yes, I know, isn't exactly 10% lower than 22 grains, I can do some math, though not much) the plastic one-piece jobbies would sit at exactly the right height to give me a good crimp.
In addition to the #6 birdshot I had a bunch of 7/8 ounce "Foster" type slugs. So an Executive Decision was made: 20 grains of Red Dot, a one-piece wad, and either a 7/8 ounce slug or 7/8 ounce of shot. So be it. So was it. I wanted to try using buckshot (I have some #1 buck that I use in a .31 caliber black powder revolver) but I could only get 6 of those in: not worth the effort.
I'm pleased to say that even though the mouths of those cases were pretty beaten up, nearly all of them gave me a good crimp, and some of them really did look like factory loads, at least factory loads that had been left in a cabinet in a garage for the 33 years I've lived in this house.
These loads—both shot and slugs—will be dedicated for use in my elderly Stevens Model 58 bolt-action shotgun. I bought this old corn-shucker in 1971 and killed my first two deer with it. I've used it exactly once in Virginia, shortly after moving here in 1987; its turn in the barrel (ha, ha) has come around again. I'll use it in the early June Squirrel season, assuming of course that our Saintly, All-Wise, All-Knowing, All-Seeing Governor-Who-Looks-Like-Mr-Rogers-And-Acts-Like-Benito-Mussolini has lifted his illegal edict and I can go outside again without being shot by the Jackbooted Thugs of the Virginia National Guard. Watch this space for a field report, or perhaps a death notice. You never know which it will be.
March 25, 2020: The Non-Emergency "Emergency" Continues
Well, as I am still confined to quarters by order of El Jefe, Generalissimo Northam, a/k/a Governor Mussolini, I decided to continue my preparations for the inevitable day when hordes of crazed people come screaming down Interstate 81 in search of toilet paper. That is to say, I did some more reloading.
Some years ago I owned a replica Richards-Mason Conversion revolver in .44 Colt. The .44 Colt is a pretty obscure round dating from 1871. The Colt company was well aware that Rollin White's patent on cylinders bored through from the rear to use fixed ammunition would expire in 1872, and at that time Smith & Wesson would no longer have a monopoly on this technology.
The R-M Conversion was basically a percussion Model 1860 Army altered to use the new fixed ammunition. Not incidentally it was a good way for Colt to use up spare 1860 Army parts until they brought out the solid-frame "Peacemaker" in 1873. So the open-topped R-M Conversion (above) was only made for a short time. The .44 Colt languished in obscurity until its commercial viability was revived by the Cowboy Action Shooting game and the beautiful replica guns made by Uberti.
I no longer have that revolver but with it I received a good deal of ammunition, and I kept that. Why? Because except for case length the dimensions of the .44 Colt are the same as those of the .44 Special and .44 Magnum. The ammunition I received was loaded into .44 Magnum cases shortened to the proper length. While I don't have a .44 Magnum I do own a Charter Arms revolver in .44 Special, so I could shoot that .44 Colt ammo in it. I've mentioned this little Charter Arms before (see the Log for 2018-2019); since ditching the R-M Conversion, I'd burned up a lot of the ammunition that came with it in my Bulldog. Thus I had quite a few fired cases on hand and it was time to fill them up.
I had a bunch of bullets suitable for the caliber: Hornady's swaged lead semi-wadcutters, weighing 240 grains. These bullets have a very long bearing surface but no lubricating grooves. I dusted them with powdered mica to (I hope) reduce leading in the barrel and went to work.
The final load was the Hornady bullet over 6.0 grains of Alliant Unique, touched off by a Winchester-Western large pistol primer. I haven't had a chance to shoot these yet because El Jefe's edict barring free movement of honest citizens is still in force, but they look mighty good, mighty good. Whenever (if ever) sanity is restored, I'll take them to the range and see how they shoot.
March 27, 2020: The Siege Continues
Governor Mussolini has not seen fit to lift his edict, so I'm still at home and plotting my escape. The ravening hordes of toilet paper pirates have not yet arrived, so I continue my preparations.
Two days ago I made .44 reloads: yesterday and today were spent making bullets in .38 and .32 caliber. Over the years I've accumulated a staggering number of empty cases in both calibers that needed to be filled up; but—unlike the .44 caliber size—I had no bullets. Luckily I have casting gear and can roll my own.
My Lee casting furnace hasn't been used in quite a long time and I had some issues with free flow of the molten lead out the bottom spout. Over the years it's been used it's acquired quite a bit of "slag" (the junk that gets burned off the wheelweights, range scrap, odds and ends of lead, etc.) most of which floats to the top but not all of it. In the end I had to dismantle the pot and remove the long rod that closes off the spigot, burnish it with a wire wheel, and clean out the interior part of the spigot proper to restore flow. But in the end it was done and all was well.
I still remember how to cast and have plenty of molds. I used two (so far) one for the .38 and one for .32 caliber bullets. The "generic" .38 caliber bullet is a round nose weighing about 158 grains, suitable for .38 Special and .38 Super (it works beautifully in the latter, especially). I have a very old Lyman single-cavity mold for that one. For the .32 I use another round nosed bullet weighing in at about 100 grains. That's cast in a 2-cavity Lee mold.
Lyman molds are cast iron; Lee's are aluminum. On the whole I prefer aluminum molds. They're lighter and less fatiguing to use, as well as being much cheaper. Lee makes decent ones, and if they don't last as long as the cast iron Lyman ones might, they're so inexpensive that when (if) I wear one out—something that isn't likely to happen in my lifetime—I can buy a new one for half the price of a cast iron mold.
Cast bullets have a lot of advantages, including the fact that they cost almost nothing if you make them yourself. I'm old and lazy so I have over the years bought a lot of "tailor made" cast bullets, but when I have time on my hands it's one way to fill up the empty hours. Actually, Mrs Outdoorsman says that she's surprised at how quickly these days of "voluntary quarantine" and "social distancing" go by; she's right. Three or four hours of the day pass astonishingly quickly once the rhythm of a casting session is established. Moreover it's simply amazing how many bullets accumulate in a session. It's almost impossible to keep count while doing it but at the end of today I realized I've made enough .32 bullets to fill up all the cases I have (I think). Still have some .38's to go: I had far more brass than I thought I did.
Sometimes bullets come out of the mold slightly oversized. Once they've been cast they have to be sized and lubricated, which is done on a special machine that fills the grease grooves with lubricant as well as making all of them a uniform diameter. In the next couple of days the weather is supposed to be good so I'll get some more .38's made. If I really get ambitious I can break out the molds for shotgun slugs (both 12 and 20) and make some of those.
Then let the hordes come, I'll be ready!
March 28, 2020: America Still Held Hostage
Governor Mussolini still insists I stay home and has activated his Storm Troopers of the Virginia National Guard to enforce things. So be it. Today I sized and lubricated those .32 bullets I made yesterday and the day before. What a job...I didn't count them but there are well over 300. Then I needed to size and deprime and flare the .32 S&W Long cases to load them in. It took me more or less all afternoon to do this, and I still have another 100 cases to go, but that's tomorrow's project.
The Lubrisizer gadget (right) is pretty handy for this work, though there are options. After running all those bullets through the machine they came out sized 0.312" and weighing 101 grains. Tomorrow I hope to stuff them into the cases, once I work out a proper weight of powder charge.
March 29, 2020: More Preparation For The Apocalypse
When she isn't reading prophecies of Doom on her phone Mrs Outdoorsman has been doing jigsaw puzzles to pass the time. She's done at least three so far and today decided to risk her life by driving to Barnes & Noble to get a new one. I spent the morning "putting by" 250+ rounds of .32 S&W Long using those bullets I made and all the brass I've accumulated over the years.
In truth what I've been doing is basically catching up with all the reloading I've been putting off for years thanks to work, travel, Honey-Do projects, and other things. Quite a bit of it, in fact. Now the next stage is the .38's. I have roughly forty gazillion cases and nowhere near enough bullets. Time to get started: this will be a week-long effort, I suspect. Well, when the excrement hits the ventilator I'll be right there to catch it and shoot it down.
Now we have a President who is quacking about imposing a "quarantine" on several northeastern states to prevent people from crossing state lines. I imagine that even if he doesn't understand that he has no authority to issue such an order his advisors do, so it likely will degenerate into an "advisory" statement. Even Andrew (The Bambino) Cuomo, who is about as odious a slug as has ever defiled the New York Governor's Mansion, knows that an interstate "quarantine" is not only unenforceable, it's wholly illegal. It isn't often I find myself in agreement with a man I wouldn't use for fertilizer, but extraordinary times make for strange bed-fellows.
March 30, 2020: Still Fighting The Good Fight
Governor Mussolini has issued an "order" to all Virginians to stay home, or else. We are graciously permitted to shop for "essentials," which he deems to be such things as food and perhaps toilet paper; and to go outside for "exercise," so long as we don't enjoy ourselves. Anyone caught enjoying himself will be shot by the goon squads.
At least the President has backed off from his ludicrous proposal to impose some form of federal order, for which there is neither precedent nor any sort of legal authority. Nevertheless I stayed indoors like a good Virginian and distanced myself socially by loading 265 rounds of .38 Super Auto. Took me all day, more or less. A single-station press is slow, but sure. Still have a lot of brass left, and LOTS of .45 ACP to do.
April 3, 2020: The Idiocy Continues
We are still under "orders" to stay home (as if anyone has the authority to order such a thing) and the latest rumor is that Governor Blackface will "order" everyone to wear a mask in public. NO ONE has ever proven that mask-wearing has the slightest advantage in "flattening the curve" (pardon the jargon, but it's all you hear these days) but that wouldn't stop someone from issuing such a stupid edict. The hysterical reaction to the virus isn't based on science, it's based on superstition. Wearing a mask will have exactly the same effect as wearing an orange sock on your left foot at night, but just you wait, such an "order" no doubt will be issued by some believe in magic somewhere, soon.
So I'm still catching up on the reloading I haven't done for years. The past couple of days have been dedicated to .45 ACP. I finished up 135 rounds today and have hundreds more cases to fill. Somewhere in my dim past I acquired a third of a box of Hornady 230-grain lead round nose bullets and used those. But now I've used those, I've got to cast some of my own. I'm running out of storage space, but what the hell, there's nothing else to do. The stuff I've prepared will be used in the Uberti single-action revolver now that a) I have a spare cylinder in .45 ACP; and b) if and when I can ever get to the range again.
And needless to say, the enemies of gun owners never let a crisis go to waste: all over the country left-wing jurisdictions (like those in the Peoples' Republics of New York and Connecticut, to name just two) have been ordering gun shops closed; this as they're simultaneously releasing inmates from jails to "help flatten the curve." This is what passes for logic among the Left: increase the level of danger to the public from violent offenders, while depriving that same public of the tools for self defense. Well, at least I'm ready.
April 5, 2020: Onward, Coronavirus Soldiers!
We are still "quarantined," at least by the definition used by the Harry Hairsprays on the Clintonista "News" Network (who are obviously salivating at the prospect that this "pandemic" and the wreckage of the economy will cost Trump his job in November...but I digress..) so I'm back at the casting table.
I used up all those .45 bullets I had on hand and had to make some more, so today's project was to cast some Lyman #452374 round nose bullets for the .45 ACP. I managed to get 129 good ones before switching over to making 12 gauge shotgun slugs. I have a nice Pedersoli 12 gauge muzzle-loading shotgun that I've used on small game, and wanted to see how it will shoot slugs. One nice thing about a double is that you can have different loads in each barrel, of course. I've killed deer with shotgun slugs and they work like a bolt of lightning if you put one anywhere forward of the diaphragm, so if one barrel shoots them well (each barrel is a law unto itself) I'll put one in it and load #6's in the other for small stuff. I could use them in shotshells but I have plenty of "tailor made" slug ammunition already.
My mold is by Lee, and the slugs it makes have an odd feature. You can see it in the image: each slug has a sort of reinforcement across the cavity. A slot in the mold core pin forms this reinforcement, which Lee calls a "key." I call it a pain in the ass. A lot of the slugs came out of the mold with the "key" damaged. I figured out why: when lead is still hot but not completely cooled, it's fairly fragile. If I tried to dump the slug before the "key" set up, a piece would come out of it, and so back into the pot it went.
I weighed most of these 12 gauge slugs and was astonished at how uniform they were: every one I weighed was exactly 1.00 ounces, as the box said they would be.
April 6, 2020: Twenty-Gauge Follies
After my success with casting 12 gauge slugs I thought I'd try my hand at some 20 gauge ones. For these I have a Lyman mold, which is somewhat different from the Lee product. For one thing, it's made of cast iron, not aluminum; and for another the "core pin," the part that sticks into the mold cavity and forms the hollow part of the slug, is a separate piece. In the Lee mold, it's permanently attached to the bottom of the mold.
This Lyman design seems like a good one at first glance, but it gave me quite a bit of trouble. Mainly because until the mold is up to proper casting temperature, the pin sticks and won't come out of the mold easily. This was exacerbated because Lyman, in its infinite wisdom, chose to anchor the wooden handle to the core pin with a teeny brad, not—as any mechanical engineer would have done—with a solid cross pin or at least a setscrew of some kind.
The core pin being stuck, I naively tried to turn it forcefully, but the "anchor" brad simply didn't hold because it was a nail, not any kind of a screw; and it didn't go into the base of the core pin, it simply rested on it. Using too much turning force, I ended up with the wooden knob in my hand and the core pin firmly sticking in the just-cast slug.
I had to employ a couple of pairs of Vice-Grips to get the slug free, being careful NOT to score the core pin where it was to insert into the mold cavity. I locked one pair of the Vice-Grips onto the lower part of the core pin to replace the wooden knob. By the way, the knob looks scorched for good reason: it fell into the molten lead in the pot! I was able to get it out (again using Vise-Grips) before it caught fire. I think lead melts at a bit over 600° and that's well above the ignition temperature of whatever wood was used to make the knob. I have at least half a dozen pairs of Vice Grips in different sizes and types: they the most versatile tool there is and I couldn't live without them!
After I'd been using the mold for a while the core pin got up to proper temperature and became cooperative; I was able to remove it from the mold body easily. The trick, I found, was to remove the pin first, before knocking the sprue plate. The sprue holds the just-molded slug in place against the turning force of the core pin. If I knocked off the sprue first I could see the slug rotating as I turned the core pin.
The slugs I ended up with looked pretty good. Their weight was very consistent at 0.855 ounces, which isn't 7/8, I found out: it's 171/200 of an ounce!
I didn't want to have to use Vice-Grips every time I used this mold, so I put the core pin in a padded vise and drilled a 1/16" hole right through it. It seems to be pretty soft iron and I used the little dimple left by the original brad as a starting point. Once I was through I put the knob back in place, with a new brad all the way through the pin. It should be okay now, though I doubt I'll be using this mold much in the future.
Back in my Salad Days in New York State, I had to hunt deer with shotgun slugs because rifles weren't permitted in Dutchess County. I killed a couple of them with 12 gauge slugs but I've never shot anything with a 20 gauge slug. So why am I bothering to make these? One reason is simply that it's something to do while we wait out the so-called "quarantine" period; another is that I want to be independent of commercial ammunition supplies if I have to be. There is no question that the anti-gun and anti-hunting Forces Of Darkness are using this "emergency" as a tool to advance their agenda. Having had minimal success in banning guns, they're after ammunition (in whatever twisted logic system they use, they think this is somehow an end run around the Heller decision) and most especially lead projectiles of any kind. Twenty-five years ago they forced a ban on lead shot for waterfowl hunting; in some states lead shot for upland game is forbidden. The time is coming when the sale of any sort of lead bullet or slug ammunition will be banned: this has already happened in the People's Republic of California. Being able to "roll your own" is a valuable skill to have.
I'll add that the last few days of casting have confirmed my opinion that aluminum molds are superior to cast iron ones for the home bullet maker. They are much lighter, they heat up much more quickly, and turn out bullets every bit as good as anything a cast iron mold will throw.
April 7, 2020: The Boredom Increases
Still confined to quarters, so today I decided to try a new reloading "experiment" using those 20 gauge slugs I cast yesterday. The slugs weighed less than an ounce, so I decided it would be safe to use the same 18.0 grains of Alliant Unique that I put under an ounce of #6's. I adjusted the height of the wad column so that I could roll crimp the shells. I have one of those little roll crimper widgets that fits on the end of an electric drill; using a padded set of small Vice Grips I'd hold the base of the shell and neatly turn over the top to make the crimp. It takes a bit of practice, but doing it this way I don't have to buy a drill press! These cartridges will probably be used in my little 20-gauge single-shot Stevens 94, whenever I am granted parole.
April 9, 2020: My Right Arm Is Getting A Workout
I have a single-station Lee reloading press. I like it a lot; but using it isn't a high-volume operation. Yesterday and today I loaded 150 rounds of .44 Special. Every case gets run on the press FOUR times. Once to size and deprime (with straight-walled cases like the .44 I can do these two steps simultaneously; with a bottlenecked case the depriming is a separate operation); then again to flare the case to take the bullet; after a few hours's cleaning in the case tumbler, each case has to be primed (I use one of those little gadgets with a primer reservoir, but every case has to go onto it separately) and then each case gets a powder charge. Then the bullet gets seated—another pass on the press—and finally each case gets a crimp, yet another pass. So for those 150 rounds, each case was actually handled five times, including the priming step (but not including case cleaning). That's 600 up-and-down runs for the press ram and 150 for the priming widget. This isn't all bad: every case gets "inspected" when it's handled, for things like splits, upside-down primers, and so forth. But it means 750 individual case-handling events just for those 150 rounds.
Revolver shooters have an advantage in that an autoloading pistol flings brass out so that inevitably you lose some of it in the grass or leaf litter. Revolvers retain the brass until you manually remove it. When you consider how much time and effort goes into a single round, a revolver makes a lot of sense. People are often told they'll "save money" by reloading; it's true, each individual round costs less money (especially if you use cast bullets) but you make up the difference in time spent prepping the cases and loading them up. But what the hell, I'm retired, so what with the "quarantine" leaving me with time on my hands, what else do I have to do?
The next caliber to get loaded will be .380 ACP. My everyday-carry pistol is the little Kel-Tec P3AT above. Of course I have factory ammunition in it to deal with what might be called "Close Encounters Of The Anti-Social Kind," but for practice I use reloads. Somewhere in my misspent past I acquired a few hundred 95-grain lead round nose bullets specifically for the .380. Over the years I've picked up a good bit of brass at my club's range, left behind by kind people who didn't bother to save it. Not many people reload small calibers like .380, but me, I'm crazy: I even have dies for .25 Auto and a mold to make the tiny bullets it uses.
The .380 brass got deprimed and sized today. Much of it was dirty; since autoloaders can be finicky about dirty cases (another point in favor of revolvers) it's in the case tumbler now. Tomorrow it will get flared and primed, then loaded.
And oh, Lord, there are 135 more .44 cases to load, plus umpty-squintillion .45 ACP (for which I have to make more bullets, I ran out) and God alone knows how much .38 Super. I had no idea I'd accumulated so much "stuff."
April 10, 2020: .380 Friday
Loaded 140+ rounds of .380 ACP today. Almost more trouble than it was worth. But I had the brass, the bullets, and the time, so it was done. I am probably the only person in southwestern Virginia crazy enough to spent hours reloading for this mouse-gun caliber.
April 12, 2020: A .44-Caliber Easter
One hundred eleven .44 Special rounds today: 100 brand new cases, the rest once fired. Used up the last of those Hornady 240-grain bullets. I'm waiting for the Easter Bunny; if he doesn't bring me an Easter Basket, he's going to regret it.
April 19, 2020: A .45 ACP Sunday
We are still under house arrest, and Governor Blackface shows no sign of lifting his illegal "order" that this continue. I'm encouraged that people are beginning to push back and that thousands are demonstrating in various states, including Virginia. He won't listen—he is a Democrat and hence pays no attention to anyone who disagrees with him—but we'll see what happens. He can't put millions of people in jail for not wearing the entirely-useless masks. (And a couple of weeks ago we were being told that only "N95" masks were suitable, that any "improvised" face covering was not going to "flatten the curve," yada-yada-yada....now if you have a piece of gauze you're "safe.")
So back to the reloading bench. I had a bunch of .45 ACP cases to size, deprime, and flare; and a whole lot of bullets to size and lubricate. My .45 ACP brass is a mixed lot, and I found that some of it uses small pistol primers, not the large size I expected. I sorted out this brass—all of it headstamped by Federal—and ended up with 18 such oddball cases. As it happened I also had on hand some cast bullets that came out of a Lee "Tumble Lube" mold. Now, I know I didn't cast these, because I don't have such a mold. I have no idea where I got them, but they were suited to loading into the oddball cases, so I matched them up.
"Tumble Lube" bullets differ from garden-variety cast bullets, and they seem to be more or less a Lee product. A conventional cast bullet has one or two grooves into which lubricant is forced under pressure using a lubrisizer (see above). The Tumble Lube design has numerous smaller grooves and it's lubricated by drizzling a small quantity of liquid lubricant over the bullets, and swishing them around to coat them. I've cast Tumble Lube bullets for the .44 caliber but never for the .45. The Tumble Lube design has the advantage that the bullets don't have to be sized and lubed individually: I did about 250 today and that took some time. By contrast the TL bullets got lubed in a minute and after drying were ready to load. They weigh in at 227 grains, and I charged the cases with 5 grains of Alliant "Unique," the most versatile powder there is. I plan to use them in a revolver chambered for .45 ACP.
April 20, 2020: More .45 ACP
Another 132 rounds today, and there's plenty of brass left to do, but first I have to make more bullets. Today's batch has 220-grain lead RN bullets over 5.0 grains of Unique. And...I ordered 200 .45 Long Colt cases, out of a sense of masochism, I suppose.
This has all been very laborious, but I get the .45 ACP cases free as range pickups (the .45 LC I ordered cost me 20 cents per case). Even if I have to pay for brass it gets reloaded several times to amortize the cost. My loads aren't really hot: I have some .44 Special cases that have been reloaded eight times and are still in good shape. They owe me nothing at all. The primer is the most expensive item, about 4 cents; the powder charge, at $27 per pound and 1400 charges per pound, comes to all of 2 cents per charge. Lead is free from my club's backstop.
A box of .45 ACP in the stores costs about $15; my reloads cost me six cents each, about $3.00 per 50. In .45 LC factory loads are very pricey: nearly $40 a box. Even paying for the cases, I'm not spending more than $0.26 for each loaded round, so it's $13 a box for the first batch of 50, and less every time thereafter as the cases get re-used. A lot of shooting for not much money, IF I can get out of the house without being shot by Governor Northam's Stürmabteilung.
April 22, 2020: Earth Day?
The Talking Heads on the "news" have been quacking about this being "Earth Day," and perhaps it is. If so I plan to spend the afternoon fishing at Stoneroller Creek. I may get arrested but it will be worth it.
Yesterday was spent casting bullets and working up some more .45 ACP, and I encountered something fairly odd in both activities. First, casting: my Lee electric melting pot seems to have developed some corrosion pinholes in the side of the spout, so that when I open the valve lead spurts out not just where I want it to, but in thin streams to one side. This is not good and I likely will have to get a new electric pot; but in the meantime I can still go back to the old method with a small pot on a gasoline stove and a dipper. That actually may make better bullets, and I did it that way for years until I spoiled myself with the electric pot. We'll see. The Lee pot doesn't owe me any money, it's saved me a small fortune over what I'd have paid for factory made bullets.
I also had trouble with one mold. This has never happened before, but one mold simply wouldn't close properly. The results were bullets with "flash" and incomplete separation of sprues. One of the mold handles cracked when I squeezed it too hard, too. I later tightened the central pivot bolt and that seemed to have fixed the issue with the blocks not aligning properly; and crimping the handle's metal retaining rings may prevent them from coming loose or cracking again. I haven't used it since I "fixed" it, so I'll have to see what happens next time, if there is a next time. I did manage to get 25 decent 200-grain .45 wadcutter Tumble Lube bullets out of it. Those went into some cases I had on hand, which brings me to the second oddity of the day.
At some point in the past Federal ammunition decided to make .45 ACP cases with small primers, not the large ones normally found in that caliber. I have no idea why. Perhaps they had a surfeit of small primers on hand, or perhaps this stuff was for some specific purpose. I've heard that target shooters like small primers as less likely to cause variation in ballistics than large ones, but that makes little sense.
I had about 50 such cases. Only one wasn't Federal: it was headstamped "Blazer," a CCI line. Even odder was the fact that the head on the Federal cases appeared to be slightly "dished," something I've never encountered in a cartridge designed for autoloaders. The Blazer case wasn't. Half these small-primer cases were nickeled. Since they were a "separate population" I didn't load them with the normal round nosed bullets I make for the .45 ACP. Instead they got the two variations of TL bullets, and I've designated them for use in revolvers; I have my doubts about them feeding reliably in an autoloader.
April 22, 2020: Case Cleaning And Preparation
My captivity continues but there is a plus side: I'm finally getting to the bottom of the .45 ACP pile. Spent the day depriming, flaring, and cleaning a couple of hundred remaining cases. Once I've accumulated enough bullets they'll get loaded and that's it for the .45 ACP. I'm wearing out my press!
I hunt with a couple of rifles in 8mm: a Husqvarna in 8x57S and a Burgsmüller drilling in 8x57JR. Consequently I've accumulated a bunch of fired cases in both calibers. I have on hand some bullets suitable for the 8x57S (i.e., in 0.323" diameter) so I sized, deprimed, and cleaned some cases for that. I haven't bothered to reload for rifles in years, but I'm using up old stocks of stuff and they might as well be done alongside the handgun calibers. I may hunt with the rifle rounds but the handgun ammunition will just get burned up punching paper.
April 25, 2020: The Follies Continue
I have spent the last couple of days dealing with the 200 .45 Long Colt cases I bought: it's a laborious process to do that many on a single-station press! They were sized, sonic-cleaned, and deprimed when I got them which saved some time, but they needed to be flared, primed, and of course charged. But I've caught up with the backlog and don't have any more of that caliber to load.
Also filled up some .38 Super cases I had on hand that were already processed and ready to go. Plenty more where they came from, but I've got to make some bullets. And wouldn't you know it, my casting pot gave up the ghost three days ago. The pinhole corrosion hole in the side of the spout made me leery of using it, so I ordered a replacement from Midway; it won't be here for a week or so. Until it comes my casting has to be on hold.
I'm going to try cast bullets in a rifle: a friend sent me an RCBS cast bullet manual that has some interesting data in it for the .30-06. As it happens, I have on hand a supply of cast bullets for this caliber as well. Not ones I made: I haven't a clue where they came from. They're 200 grains and based on the formulae in the RCBS manual I can probably drive them at 1800-1900 FPS. That will do it for any deer in southwestern Virginia when the season opens, assuming that a) I haven't died from COVID-19 by then (I won't, despite what my wife thinks) and b) our Revered, Beloved, Serene and Wonderful, Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Praised El Jefe in Richmond grants his permission to go outside again. Maybe the deer I shoot will be wearing a mask!
The ennui is getting thick. Mrs Outdoorsman has been doing jigsaw puzzles. She got a new shipment in yesterday, including one that's round. She says it's a very contemplative process and helps her pass the time. That's the way the reloading works for me. It's not terribly demanding in an intellectual sense, and it helps the long days go by while I wait for His Exalted Grand Poo-Bah to grant me parole.
We also have been watching operas on DVD. We're both opera fans (though neither of us know much about it) and two nights ago watched a production of Puccini's Turandot. Opera on the radio isn't of much interest. I don't speak the languages of most of them —in fact I dislike opera sung in English precisely because I can understand the words. It detracts from the music. But opera on stage, or even on a DVD, is another matter. It has everything: drama, visually stunning images, and great music. We discovered we liked opera some years ago when a touring company came to Radford, and whenever we can we attend live performances. The touring company doesn't come any more but Opera Roanoke, a semi-professional company, does one or two a year. They're not, of course, the full-blown over-the-top productions put on by The Met or La Scala, but for a community out here in the boonies they do things well. DVD's are acceptable substitutes, and I was surprised to find that Netflix has several in their collection. We have two more on hand: I Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana. We saw an Opera Roanoke production of the former some months back. We're looking forward to the DVD.
April 27, 2020: Cast Bullets A Bust
Tried reloading .30-06 with cast bullets, and ran into unexpected problems. The rounds wouldn't chamber! I have to try marking them with soot to see if I can figure out where they're hanging up. Factory ammo chambers beautifully, so do some older reloads using jacketed bullets; but not the cast bullet loads nor even some jacketed-bullet reloads with the same brass. Brass "flows" when fired and it's possible that the brass I have has somehow acquired thickening of the necks, which would cause this. We'll see. I still can't get out of the house, anyway.
We watched Cavalleria Rusticana last evening. A story of love, betrayal, jealousy, revenge, and murder: in other words, a typical opera. This one is set in Sicily in 1890, which perhaps means there is a bit more of all that stuff than there might have been had it been set in, say Egypt, but maybe not. Opera is opera. Might do I Pagliacci tonight. A story of love, betrayal, jealousy, revenge, and murder: except in a circus, not in a Sicilian village. Other than that, though...a typical opera.
April 30, 2020: Still Under House Arrest
The "Stay Home If You Know What's Good For You" order issued by our Beloved and Serene Leader, Governor Looks-Like-Mr-Rogers-And-Acts-Like-Mussolini is still in force. I defied him, at my peril, to go to the grocery store today, but that's the first time I've been out of the house in nearly a week. And while I was out, I did not wear a $#!$#$##$!!!^&&%$! mask. There is no mask in the world that will filter out particles the size of a virus and wearing one is based on superstition, not science.
So while cooped up I'm rapidly running out of stuff to reload, but I did manage to fill up 50-odd .38 Super cases and to prep and prime 200+ more. They're ready for loading but I'm out of bullets and can't make more until my new casting furnace arrives. Midway says it's been shipped.
Yesterday was a gorgeous day, and I should have been out on the river fishing. Not much fishing in my future, I'm afraid. I've put my little boat up for sale and had a young couple who live very close to the New River come and look at it. I've owned a boat for 30+ years but I'm getting to an age where the discomfort of a cramped canoe makes less and less appeal; I gave up trying to put it in or on top of the truck some time ago and bought a trailer for it. But while selling it is a bit like finding a favorite dog a new home, the time has come. If those people buy it I hope they get a lot of use out of it for a long time to come. I'll be fishing from the banks of the Little River from then on.
May 2, 2020: The Compleat Mousegun Reloader
My new Lee casting pot arrived yesterday so I fired it up and made a bunch of bullets. Three calibers: for .32, .38, and...for the .25 ACP.
You know you're nuts—and bored to tears—when you start doing crazy stuff "just because, " so today I loaded 10 rounds of .25 ACP. Like the dog who licked his balls because he could, I loaded this because I could.
Somewhere in my checkered past I acquired a set of Lee dies for this caliber, AND a Lyman #252345 2-cavity mold that throws a 51-grain round-nosed bullet for it. God knows what I was thinking, I certainly don't. I have no memory of buying either and they've been hanging around in my closet for years.
As it happens, I have a cute little FN Model 1906 "Vest Pocket" .25 I acquired from my late godfather many years ago. I actually carried this popgun for years when I lived in the People's Republik of Noo Yawk. And by the way, it's not a "Baby" Browning. The "Baby" is a post-WW 2 design in .25 that's somewhat similar, but mine is a pre-WW 1 gun, one of Browning's most successful products. FN's records have long since been lost after a couple of World Wars and the loving attention of the Wehrmacht, but based on discussions with Browning/FN collectors, I believe it to have been made about 1912. My Uncle Joe told me his father had brought it to the USA when he immigrated here, sometime well before 1920. Try that now and see what happens!
It's identical to the Colt Model 1908 .25, which was actually a licensed copy. Browning cut a deal whereby Colt got to retail the M1908 in the western hemisphere and FN did Europe and Asia. The Colts are fairly common in gun shops (it was a cash cow for them for many years) but the FN guns are pretty thin on the ground in the USA as a result of the sales agreement.
The factory .25 round uses a 50-grain FMJ bullet; my mold's round nose bullet has an identical profile. Lee lists 1.6 grains of Unique as the proper load. I had 10 cases, all range pickups. (Yeah, I know: someone did in fact shoot a .25 ACP on my club's range, and it wasn't me but some other guy.) I had the mold, the powder, the cases, the primers, and the dies. I also had the time to fool around.
I doubt I'll ever bother again to load it. The cases are so tiny that handling them is a genuine PITA. They fit into my powder funnel, but just barely. The charge is so small I didn't bother with setting up the measure, I just turned on the scale and set the powder trickler over it; a few turns of the screw was all it took to dispense 1.6 grains. This is not a caliber where there's a whole lot of room for error: if you're off by 0.1 grain, that's a 6% over or under-charge. Even as tiny as the charge is, there was only just enough for the base of the bullet. I don't think a 6% overcharge would fit in the case!
Just for reference, my little Kel-Tec .380 is exactly the same size as that M1906, and I carry it in a pocket holster designed for...the M1906. The Kel-Tec's horsepower-to-weight ratio is a lot better than the .25's is!
May 3, 2020: Bullet Lube And More .38's
As noted above, I cast a bunch of .38-caliber bullets, so most of today was devoted to sizing them and loading more .38 Super. I'm really working that Lubrisizer...245 or so bullets got run through it. Then it was on to the reloading process. I managed to fill up about half of the cases I had on hand. They'd already been sized, deprimed, flared, cleaned, and re-primed so all I had to do was weigh charges and stuff the bullet in. There were 207 in all, and I'll finish the rest tomorrow. Man may work from Sun to Sun, but the handloader's work is never done.
I'm going through bullet lubricant like nobody's business. As it happened I had about a quarter-pound of home-brewed lubricant, a mixture of Crisco and beeswax. I'd made this up for black powder shooting, but I had a bright idea. I took one bottle of that Lee liquid Alox stuff, melted my home-made lube cake on a hot plate, and mixed the Alox in. This softened the cake quite a bit and I think it will now work very well in the Lubrisizer, though I'll have to figure out how to get it in. Melting it and pouring it in to harden might work. It's no longer really suited to use in black powder guns because BP will react with petroleum based lubes (Alox is one) to create very nasty fouling. But I use T/C's "Bore Butter" exclusively in my BP guns anyway.
Watched another opera yesterday, too: Pagliacci, "Clowns." In this one the protagonist (who is, of course, a clown, played by Placido Domingo) has a wife who's fooling around, and he finds out about it from the villain who's got the hots for the wife and whose advances she refuses. You can guess the rest...jealousy, strife, intramarital discord, name-calling, and—inevitably—a switchblade in the wife's gut and her boyfriend's. An operatic divorce, Italian style.
May 4, 2020: Casting About For Sanity
Finished up the .38 Super; no more cases left to fill in that caliber! Don't know how many rounds of .38 Super I've loaded in all recently, but easily 500+. Then I needed more bullets for the .45 ACP because I had 216 cases that had been prepped. I still need to prime those, and fill them, but I have enough bullets now to finish off that pile.
I had some trouble with my .45 mold: a disinclination on its part to align the blocks properly and/or to close completely, sometimes resulting in significant "flash" and a lot of bullets going back into the casting pot. In addition, on the first runs the sprue cutter did not want to do its job; I really had to whack it with my little club to get it to open. Later, once I figured out what was wrong, the alignment problem was fixed and for inexplicable reasons the sprue cutter decided to cooperate as well. I cast about 120 bullets, then lubed them all. A long day! Tomorrow's agenda will include priming the brass (a job I hate) and loading the cases.
My 50+ year old Redding powder measure is now set to throw just under 5.0 grains of Unique; the adjustment is so close it takes only one or two twiddles of the trickler screw to hit "5.0" on the nose, and about a third of the time the measure drops 5.0 exactly. Can't ask for more than that. Volumetric measures can be somewhat inconsistent in the actual weight of the charge, and when you're working with small amounts it's best to weigh each one lest there be a significant overload. A double charge is unlikely in a case like the .38 Super, but it can happen with roomier ones like the .45 Long Colt, and that would certainly spoil an afternoon's fun at the range.
We've had beautiful weather, so I was able to give my Border Collie Lucy two Frisbee sessions. The dog lives for the Frisbee. She's a little over 10 years old but still enthusiastic; I have to avoid working her too hard lest she go lame, which has happened from time to time, especially if she jumps in the air and comes down hard. The picture above was taken almost exactly a year ago, on May 9, 2019. Border Collies are more or less the animal model for obsessive-compulsive disorder. She has to chase the Frisbee and would do so until she dropped from exhaustion if I let her.
What truly drives her crazy is a laser pointer. She'll pounce on the red dot as soon as she sees it, and of course it disappears when she does so, which leads to some frustrated barking. Who said they can't don't use logic and reasoning? She may not be able to figure out where the dot goes, but she is smart enough to have realized that the light comes from my key ring. If she sees the key ring in my hand she poises herself for a determined effort to kill that red dot and sometimes will try to snatch the key ring from my hand. One clever dog!
May 5, 2020: Not Much Doin' Today
Spent most of the morning and early afternoon priming a couple of hundred .45 ACP cases, that mercifully I had prepped a few days ago. I hate the business of priming, it's easily the most boring and fiddliest step in the loading process. I have one of those Lee "Auto Prime" gadgets with a primer tray, and a lever to seat the primers. Its theoretical advantage is that you don't actually have to touch the primers individually. This is, according to the Received Wisdom of Handloading, bad ju-ju because finger oils may contaminate the priming mix. Sounds good and it's intuitive, but as with most things that are intuitive (such as "brush busting" bullets and "energy transfer" and "hydraulic shock") it's almost certainly wrong.
My first loading press, a C-H #204 like the one at the right (the image was shamelessly swiped from E-Bay) had a little swinging arm into which you inserted a primer (manually) and then pushed it into position to prime the case as the ram came down. I never, not once in all the years I used that press, had a misfire or other issue doing it that way. When I bought the Auto Prime widget it worked reasonably well and I got used to it. But I've found that as I age, my left hand (which works the lever) is bothered by the force needed to seat the primer over and over and over. With small primers it's OK, but large primers require a fair bit of force.
Some years ago I was loading for a Snider carbine in .557 caliber, for which I had a shell holder but of course there were no adapters for the Auto Prime for weird stuff like that. I bought another Lee product, the "Ram Prime," which works more or less like my old press priming arm did. The Ram Prime requires that every primer be handled individually, of course. But it works and is much easier to use for large primers than the Auto Prime is. Using it, priming 240-odd cases takes a while, but it's easier on my hand.
And I discovered something while doing this chore. I was using mixed brass, and 42 of those cases were made by Aguila. Those cases, and none of the others, always left the primer a teensy-weensy bit "proud" of the base of the case. Not much: maybe a thousandth of an inch or so. You can't see it but you can feel it when you run your hand over the base of the primed case. "Proud" primers present a potential hazard in autoloading guns. When the slide comes into battery there's the possibility that it may set the primer off: a "slam fire." I don't want that to happen! So while all the rest of my .45 ACP will get used in an autoloader, I sequestered those cases for use in revolvers. I have spare cylinders for .45 ACP for the Ruger Old Army and the Uberti Cattleman, those will be that ammunition's new home. Revolvers are pretty insensitive to headspace issues, and of course nothing slams forward to hit a "proud" primer.
Our Beloved Governor, Ralph Northam (Praise Be Unto Him) has announced that He MAY begin the process of de-strangulating Virginia's economy through a "phased" relaxation of the restrictions He so wisely and beneficently imposed on us to "flatten the curve." It is so wonderful of Him (Praise Be Unto Him) that I can hardly refrain with wetting myself from the excitement that, perhaps, in a month or so, I may be able to go get a hamburger. We of the Commonwealth are so blessed to have a Governor (Praise Be Unto Him) who understands that Virginia is going to vote Democrat in November anyway thanks to the colossal disparity between southwestern Virginia's rural counties and the suburban counties around DC that are the homes of people dependent on the federal government. Whatever He does isn't going to affect what happens to our electoral votes; but Who also realizes that He (Praise be Unto Him) has to assert His authority, otherwise we Peons and Deplorables might forget Who's really in charge.
May 7, 2020: Finished!
I've finished filling up all the .45 ACP brass, at last. Between the ones with "proud" primers and this last batch, 216 rounds. Now, if I can sneak out to the range, I might be able to shoot some of it...and get to do it all over again.
Anyway, it's done. I have a few odds and ends to finish but as Mark Twain might have put it, "They don't signify none." As nearly as I can figure I've loaded 1750 +/- rounds of various pistol calibers, 11 rounds of 8x57JR, and 25 each 12- and 20-gauge shotgun shells. That includes the 10 .25 ACP's I did "just because," but not the remaining 10 .32 S&W Long cases I have to fill.
Reloading may save money, but it sure costs in time. When you add up the amount of time it takes to cast the bullets, prime and fill the cases (weighing each charge) it's more than I want to think about. At 5 minutes per round, when I add up all the stuff I've done it comes to well over 100 hours, not including prep time and setup, plus breakdown and cleaning. In terms of the "work schedule" which mercifully I don't have to think about any more, that's 2-1/2+ 40-hour weeks at the office. When I was being paid a salary that would have cost the Commonwealth a pretty penny!
Our Beloved and Revered
Emperor Governor, He Who Cannot be Sufficiently Honored By Us Miserable Peasants, has decreed that our term of solitude shall continue for at least two more weeks; and possibly more if He Wills It. This particular Deplorable feels humbly honored to be ordered around willy-nilly by someone so stellar, so blindingly wonderful, as His Magnificence, El Jefe. So there!
May 14, 2020: The End Is Near, More Or Less
In His infinite wisdom, El Jefe (Praise Be Unto Him) has decreed that as of tomorrow, we peasants and lowly Deplorables will be permitted to leave our homes and actually wallow in the fleshpots of stores (provided they limit the number of customers inside) and restaurants (provided they have curbside pickup and outside seating in which the proper "social distancing" is observed) and, perhaps, barber shops (provided everyone wears a mask). How I am supposed to get a haircut while wearing a mask, I have no idea, but it's what He (Praise Be Unto Him) says I have to do, and who am I to argue with His Munificence (Praise Be Unto Him)?
So as of tomorrow, some of the manacles will be loosened, though I think we still will have to wear leg irons. Well, that makes as much sense as wearing a mask that won't stop anything as small as a viral particle, so I guess I'll have to live with it lest I incur His wrath (Praise Be Unto Him).
Naturally I am turning my thoughts to what I will do next. It's a toss-up between fishing at Stoneroller Creek and fooling around with guns. If the latter prevails my next project is to dual-scope my little Husqvarna Mauser.
This rifle has served me well. I took it to Namibia a few years ago and shot a good deal of plains game with it, and in the USA it's accounted for a few deer and a nice pig. It's in 8x57S, a caliber that's much under-appreciated here, but is as effective and efficient as it can be.
The Husky wears a nice Burris "Timberline" scope, a fixed-power 4x. I like fixed-power scopes, as they're simpler and lighter than the variables, and it's what I learned on back in the days before The Flood. The Timberline is attached with a Weaver side mount base and rings. In this design the rings are a separate unit, attached to the permanent base with two large coin-slotted screws. Thus it can be removed and replaced easily.
My drilling has a beautiful Leupold "Europlan" scope mounted, which has a "German #4 Reticle," not the common "Duplex" type that's pretty much the industry standard. The Burris Timberline scope has a Duplex reticle, but I much prefer the German #4. Since as a Hunter Education Instructor I can buy Leupold products at a very deep discount I went to their site to order a scope like the one on my drilling. The drilling's scope has a 30mm tube, but alas Leupold doesn't make it any more. However, they listed a nearly-identical scope with a 1" tube, and for a modest extra fee I could get that with the German #4 reticle fitted by their Custom Shop. Done deal! The new scope is a variable (1.5-5x) but I'll just leave the power setting alone and pretend it's a fixed 5x.
That bastion of American commerce, Amazon, sells the "1-H" mount to fit my base for a very modest sum. One is to be ordered today. My intent is to be able to swap the scopes out as desired. Why would I do this? Because the Timberline is sighted in to use Remington's 8x57, which is substantially less oomphy than Norma's product, and I have a lot of both brands. I can change the scopes rather than sighting in each time I decide to use one or the other brand of ammunition.
Another reason is because "just in case" something happens to one scope, the other will be available and ready to go. As a suspenders-and-belt man, this appeals to me, especially because the rifle retains its iron sights. If, God forbid, something were to happen to both scopes, I could fall back on those. I will digress here and ride one of my hobby horses: the mendacity of gun makers. These days centerfire rifles are sold without iron sights. Manufacturers have the colossal effrontery to call this glaring deficiency a "product feature," even though their real motivation in omitting the sights is to save money and thereby increase per-unit profit. They argue that shooters will scope their rifles anyway, but they're being dishonest and demonstrating that they regard shooters and hunters as sheep to be shorn. Yes, indeed, 99.9% of us will put a scope on; but if you drop the rifle and damage the scope, your hunt is over if you don't have a backup in the form of iron sights. A rifle without a set of iron sights is like a fish without fins.
So, as soon as His Imperial Governator (Praise Be Unto Him) gives His permission to go out, I will head for the range and get that new Leupold lined up. Whoop!
May 15-16, 2020: You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Chains!
Our Beloved And Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Lauded El Jefe (Praise be Unto Him) has most generously decreed that Virginia shall "re-open" in phases, and we here in the benighted hills of southwestern Virginia, the most scorned and despised part, get to do so first because, well, we don't have much of that gol-durned COVID shit around here. El Jefe (Praise Be Unto Him) has actually opened a can of worms (more about worms below) because once the peasants and Deplorables get a taste of freedom, they may rise up, waving torches and pitchforks, and march on Richmond. (Whoops, that has already happened, but they were waving AR-15's and Glocks, and there were 25,000 of them. But I digress...)
Mrs Outdoorsman had me engaged in brutal labor yesterday: going to Lowe's to buy mulch, and later rebuilding a wooden retaining wall in her garden. That's it above. Doesn't look like much, but it took me all afternoon in the hot sun to do the work. I first put it in maybe 28 years ago, and the weather and bugs had more or less destroyed the top layer of landscape timbers, so they had to be (painfully) removed, replaced, and the whole thing knitted together with 10" decking screws and 18" lengths of rebar to anchor it in place. But with God and good power tools, all things are possible. I maintain that no nation can achieve true greatness until its citizens have unrestricted access to 3/8" variable-speed, reversible cordless drills.
Mrs Outdoorsman is a fanatical gardener, who feels no compunction about dragooning me into her schemes, even though she won't help me skin a deer in return. I don't know anything about gardens, and don't want to. I only know two flowers: one is a rose and the other one isn't. But I am handy with tools. So my job was to go to Lowe's, buy garden timbers, rebar, mulch and cow manure, rebuild the retaining wall, and finally collapse in a flurry of ashes.
Mulch is the handiwork of Satan. That someone actually could be so perverted as to make a major industry out of shredded tree bark is beyond human intelligence. It had to come from Hades. Nor was I aware until today how many varieties of mulch exist. The image below is only one of many shelves at Lowe's stacked with mulch: red mulch, black mulch, yellow mulch, plain-vanilla mulch, pine bark mulch, hardwood mulch, "super shredded" mulch, treated mulch containing (take your pick) fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, and/or a combination of all three, mix and match. There may be flavored mulch. There certainly is rubber mulch, which comes in two different forms: shredded and compressed into discs, though what the latter is for I have no idea. The shredded rubber is touted as "ideal for playgrounds," assuming you want your kids to roll around on old automobile tires, because plain old pine bark isn't good enough. Children who have to play on pine bark mulch stand little chance of getting into Harvard Medical School and becoming brain surgeons. Responsible parents demand rubber mulch for their children.
The worst thing about mulch is that it vanishes. Every year, we literally put at least a ton and a half of the damned stuff on our yard, and three months later, it's gone. Where it goes I can't imagine, but it simply goes away so that we have to buy more mulch. Perhaps in the night Satan sends his minions out to pick it up and convey it back to Lowe's?
She is also into dogs. In addition to the mulch, some cow manure, and a few other odds and ends, we bought a concrete dog statue for the front yard. That makes four. We have more concrete dogs than we have live ones.
Today I was sent back to Lowe's to buy not mulch or dogs, but more cow manure and "garden soil," which, I was informed, had to be the type labeled for "in ground use." It's soil, damn it: where else would you use it? But no, I betrayed my ignorance because I found out that there are very nearly as many types of "garden soil" as there are types of mulch. There is "garden soil" for gardens, "garden soil" for pots, "garden soil" for flowers, "garden soil" for vegetables, and perhaps "garden soil" specially formulated for growing marijuana once the state legalizes it—which will happen in the next session of the General Assembly.
Anyway, I returned from Lowe's laden with this stuff. I will note here with a degree of irony that my grandfather left Sicily in 1912 so that his sons and grandchildren didn't have to grub in the dirt: but these days I'm buying the damned dirt I grub in, plus some cow shit to mix with it. But I digress....
I was let off the leash after that. I loaded up my fishing gear and headed for a place I call Stoneroller Creek. It's actually a stretch of the Little River, just upstream from a bridge that carries Blue Spring Road. The water there is roiled and aerated and the fishing isn't too bad. Not like the New but I can fish from the bank or wade.
I caught two fish: a 9" smallmouth bass and a small (very small) "redeye," the local name for a type of sunfish. Neither were worth keeping, so they went back in the water ASAP. Needless to say I was using worms. Nightcrawlers are God's gift to fishermen: though the makers of lures claim that worms are "just for kids," and that Serious Fishermen prefer artificial lures, every convenience store in Virginia sells as many packs of nightcrawlers as they can stock. Someone is buying these and it isn't all little kids.
Unusually there were other people who came there to fish: I've never before encountered other fishermen at that spot, but two guys rolled in about the same time. We exchanged pleasantries and went off to match wits with the fish. Furthermore, there's a sort of small park with a picnic shelter: and a bunch of people were whooping it up in that. So much for "social distancing."
However, before I left for Stoneroller Creek I had my first haircut in two months. The place I go to insisted I wear a mask, which is typical idiotic "magic thinking," because there is no mask that can keep out viral particles: they're small enough that they can't be seen with a microscope and anything that has pores will allow them through. Maybe if you put a plastic bag over your head it would work, but that would have other drawbacks, like dying of suffocation. Further proof of the imbecility of this policy is that they made me take it off when the Barberess (A woman, of course: there are no more male barbers) trimmed around my ears, and again when she took me in the back to give me a shampoo. What on earth is wrong with people? Doesn't anyone have any capacity for independent thought? Can't they see the inconsistencies? No, they can't: it's magic, that's all they know. "Sheeple."
Our Revered and Beloved El Jefe (Praise be Unto Him) may think He can enforce His silly rules, but He can't. Now that we have had a taste of freedom from bondage we'll never look back. Today was the beginning of the end of "social distancing," tomorrow the masks are to be flung onto the ash-heap of History; and men will once again breathe free.
May 17, 2020: Swapping
Not wives, scopes. I traded out that nice Burris "Timberline" on my Husqvarna for an even nicer Leupold 1.5-5x20 VX-3i equipped with a custom German #4 reticle. Now I have to get to the range and sight it in. Today is a beautiful day but it will have to happen next week for various reasons. I like heavy bullets in the 8x57S; I have a lot of milsurp ammunition with 196-grain FMJ's so I'll start with that for the initial sighting, and switch to Norma's "Alaska" or "Oryx" 196 grain stuff for the final shots. I checked my stock and have quite a bit of the "Alaska" ammunition and one box of "Oryx." I plan to use that rifle on deer in the Fall. Those two lines of ammunition felled a lot of plains game in Namibia including a 1900-pound eland; it should have no problems with our local deer at all. The milsurp stuff in the picture is dated December 1953! The stuff in the clip is Remington's Old Reliable, the "Core-Lokt" line.
May 20, 2020: A Soggy Sight-In
It was pouring rain last night and this morning—last time I looked at the rain gauge we'd had 3" and there was plenty more on the way—but Mrs Outdoorsman had a hen party this morning, via Zoom video-conferencing, in which I was to have no part. My friend Phil had called last night and asked if I wanted to go to the range, as another mutual friend, Paul, was to be in town today. I jumped at the chance. When we got to the range it was still coming down and continued to do so for the entire time, but the firing line is covered and we were all wearing waterproof gear. I've hunted in worse weather!
I'd swapped out scopes on my Husqvarna rifle and needed to sight it in, so I brought that. And the big Uberti single-action, equipped to shoot .45 ACP; as well as my little .25 ACP popgun, an FN M1906 "Vest Pocket" made in about 1912.
I started sighting in with some military surplus 8x57. I'm not sure where it was made but Phil says Croatia. I doubt that: it's dated 1953 and Croatia didn't exist as a country in 1953. Nor is it Czech. It might be Russian: the Russians made 8x57 for Egypt back when Nasser was in power. In any event I have a bunch of it so I started the initial sighting in with that. I set the target up at 50 yards and within 5 or 6 rounds I had the bullets going where I wanted them to. I then switched to Norma's "Alaska" factory ammunition, made a few tweaks, and it's now printing 2" (5cm) high at that range. My Norma trajectory table says that it will be dead on at 100 meters, and that's what I wanted. Job done.
I really like that Leupold scope. It's got metric clicks, not the standard "minute of angle" ones. One click is one cm of adjustment at 100 meters. And when Leupold tells you it's one cm, they mean it. Their scopes are reliable, rugged, and repeatable. I fired at our 100-yard steel gong and rang it, big time, with the Norma ammunition. Bambi is in big trouble this Fall.
Then it was time to test my .25 with the reloads I made (see above, May 2nd entry). It fired and fed beautifully, bang-bang-bang, and though the bullets leaded the barrel it's not a big deal. I fired a couple of rounds of factory ammo and was astonished to find the gun misfiring with that! This has never happened to me: I carried that gun for years and it's never misfired, not once, until today. I'm not sure what's wrong, but the primers seemed to have a very light imprint from the firing pin. Maybe the 108-year-old firing pin spring is weak? I'll get another and replace it, and see. It's more of a museum piece than anything else at this point in its existence. Certainly I'll never carry it as a defensive tool again.
I used the Uberti with .45 ACP, firing the stuff with the small primers (see above, April 22nd entry). It didn't like that ammunition at all. On occasion the cylinder would actually jam and have to be rotated into final position by hand! I suspect the primers may be backing out: this sometimes happens when the load is too light, and while 5 grains of Unique ought to be enough to prevent that, if I hit one of the steel poppers on the 25 yard line, half the time it didn't go down. The load isn't very hefty, but I'm fine with that.
That 1953-vintage 8x57 is almost certainly corrosive; at home I flushed out the barrel with hot water, following that step with a regular cleaning and oiling. I'll check it periodically the next couple of weeks to make sure there's no corrosion happening. Looking at the barrel the rifling seems a bit worn: since the gun is older than I am (vintage 1944) I haven't got a clue how much it was shot before I bought it some years ago, of course; but it was probably well used. I may have to have it re-barreled some day. A new barrel would likely cost me more than the gun is nominally worth, but I like that rifle a great deal and it's served me well. What it needs it will get.
May 23, 2020: A Mystery Shotgun
A friend has sent me a query about a shotgun he's inherited, and I'm asking my readers, especially those in Japan, for assistance. Please see the Guns page for details, and thanks for any help you may be able to provide. More details will be provided there, but here's the gun:
June 1, 2020: Enslavement
Our Most Wonderful And Exalted Hypocrite-In-Chief, Governor Northam (Praise be Unto Him) has ordered us to wear masks "..in all retail establishments.." though how He expects to enforce this idiotic decree is beyond my understanding: I can tell you from personal observation that hardly anyone was wearing a mask in any of the several "retail establishments" I visited yesterday, and as time passes fewer and fewer people will obey what is plainly a nonsensical edict whose only conceivable purpose is to assert His (Praise Be Unto Him) power over us Deplorables.
In our backyard we have an "inner fence," behind which is a row of very nice Giant Thuya trees. The "inner fence" keeps the dogs out of the space between it and the outer, boundary fence. Why? because Lucy once killed a possum under the thuyas and Mrs Outdoorsman demanded that that sort of thing be stopped. Lucy has, as of the date of this writing, a score of five squirrels, three groundhogs, two shared kills of rabbits (with Tehya, our Lab) and the possum.
Inevitably there grow up weeds and such stuff as privet in the space between the fences. Now, weeds are undisciplined things, and they have to be disciplined, period. There is absolutely no reason why they should be allowed to run amok in a space nobody uses, now is there? In past years we've cleared out the privet ourselves, but last year we had to get a landscaper/arborist to clear out the massive amounts of it that had grown up again (which cost us a massive amount of money). Privet being privet, it immediately started growing back. It's now a bit over head high in places, but worse than the privet...there was pokeweed, yes, pokeweed, growing there. That could not be tolerated either.
So despite my loathing any form of yard work I was informed on May 31st that as of the morning of June 1, Operation Weed-Whack was to commence. Bright and early, fortified by half a bagel and a tangerine, I was frog-marched down to the 'tween-fence and set to work.
We spent all morning at it, and in the end removed a measured quarter-ton of weeds and a substantial amount of privet, at the cost of only a mild risk of heatstroke and exhaustion. Once that was done I was told to put down "ground cloth," a/k/a "weed barrier," a sort of plastic sheet that doesn't prevent weeds from growing, but does provide a false sense of reassurance. I dragged all the stuff we'd pulled out up the steep hill of our yard to put it into my long-suffering F-150 to be taken to the landfill.
Excuse me, I mean of course to say the "Solid Waste Transfer Facility." From the SWTF trucks carry it away to the landfill. The SWTF used to be a landfill, but someone decided it would be far more efficient and far more expensive to build an entire building into which large trucks powered by fossil fuels could pick up the stuff we Deplorables take to the SWTF, and they would take it to the landfill. Thus The Ecology is saved by not allowing Deplorables to actually take the stuff to the landfill. And those poor struggling truck drivers get well-paid jobs. Everybody wins!
Not incidentally the SWTF also houses our "recycling" option. The "recycling" trucks (so marked) come and dump their loads at the SWTF and the trucks then take that to the same landfill where our trash is sent. Thus The Ecology is saved yet again. Best of all, we have Voluntary Curbside Recycling in Blacksburg: that means we each get a special green wheelie bin. It's voluntary, which means we don't actually have to use the service, we do have to pay for it.
But I digress.
After taking that quarter-ton of yard waste to the SWTF (they weigh everything there, so I know how much there was) I was tasked to run some other errands at our local dog store, hardware store, and the Feed & Seed. These I did and in the doing I never saw even one person wearing a mask, despite the orders of Governor Hypocrite (Praise Be Unto Him) that makes mask-wearing mandatory, no matter how ineffective a mask may be. But I have the satisfaction of knowing that I won't have to pull up any more weeds in the 'tween-fence for maybe as much as six months; and that I too, a Deplorable, have helped to save The Ecology. It's a wonderful feeling.
June 8, 2020: Of Cats And What I Get For Being A Good Samaritan
What a day...started out by being compelled to do more !%$!%$@#$^!! yard work, which I survived. Then I needed to box up some knives to send off to be professionally sharpened by Stephen A. Birgells in Locust Grove, Virginia, who's done work for me before.
So I had to drive to the Post Orifice once I got the knives ready. I was driving down the street and saw something flopping in the road ahead. I thought at first it was a squirrel: no, wrong color. Could it be a skunk? It's black and white...no, it's a kitten! I stopped and got out, and there was this poor thing, no more than a few weeks old, bleeding from the nose, but still very feisty. I scooped it up, but the kitten wasn't having any of that. It was clearly terrified. It scratched the hell out of my right arm as I was putting it in the car under the driver's seat. I don't blame the cat, I'd have done the same. It also left a goodly splotch of cat blood on my arm. No matter, with the cat under my seat I drove off to the vet clinic I've used for the past 33 years to see what could be done. I called them to let them know I was coming in with an injured animal. I'm not a Cat Person but I wasn't about to leave that poor thing in the road to die, nor was I going to kill it myself.
When I arrived at the clinic a vet tech rushed out to get the cat. She asked, "Do you have a towel?" which I didn't, I don't keep one in the car. "Okay," she said, "I can get one." As she started to go back in I asked if there were some place I could wash off the blood and tend to the scratches, because I'm violently allergic to cats and needed to get the stuff off me ASAP. "OK," she said, " and I'll bring you a mask."
The mask, of course, was required pursuant to the "regulations" or "guidelines" issued by our Revered and Beloved, Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Lauded El Jefe, who understands as well as I do that a mask is no protection to anyone, but He (Praise Be Unto Him) probably feels He (Praise Be Unto Him) has to be seen doing something, so we'd all better cooperate with His superstitions or else.
She brought me a mask, all right: the sort of flimsy paper mask you wear when you're sanding wood! This was about as effective in stopping a virus as putting a paper bag over my head would have been—well, probably less so—but His Rules Are His Rules (Praise Be Unto Him) and I put the damned thing on. Then and only then was it safe for me to be brought into the clinic and to the Inner Sanctum of the employee toilet (the public one being occupied: and by God I hope the occupant was wearing a mask) where I could wash off the blood and tend to the scratches. Back at the car I took an "anti-cat pill," i.e., an antihistamine. I don't have towels in the car but I always have those because we have friends who have a cat and when I go to their house I need it.
OK, so then I went to the Post Orifice, mailed my package, and came home, where I was in for more slaps and punches by the system. I received two e-mails informing me that a gun sales site had billed my debit card twice for services I didn't use. I called the card issuer and discovered the card with a local bank has been compromised. Half an hour on the phone ended up with the card being cancelled and a new one being issued.
While I was doing that the land line rang: it was the local county animal shelter, wanting my name, address, etc., about the kitten and where I'd found it. I suppose the clinic had notified them, though I can't imagine what use they would have for that information. But as a good citizen, one who always follows the rules except when the rules are stupid and I can avoid doing so—I'm talking about wearing a mask, here—I told them what they wanted to know.
As I said, what a day! And it isn't over yet. Probably more hoo-hah awaits me tonight.
June 9, 2020: Cat Update
At last report the cat is still alive: the phone at the clinic where I left it was answered by a girl who knew nothing and was reluctant to ask the doctors; so I called the county animal shelter to find out what they knew and whether it had been transferred to them.
As of 1:45 PM today it hadn't been sent to the shelter, which may mean one of two things: 1) it was euthanized at the clinic and tossed in the incinerator barrel; or 2) it is still recovering and will be transferred as soon as it's well enough. The shelter will let me know when they know what's going on. I don't know how bad its injuries were: it was bleeding from the nose but didn't appear to have been run over: I didn't detect any broken bones and God knows the kitten didn't want to be picked up. It was fighting me all the way, so maybe it wasn't too badly hurt.
If it lives and goes to the shelter, an old friend has told me he will adopt it. So I told the shelter and they've put a note into its files. Speaking of files, the shelter is part of the county bureaucracy, and of course all bureaucracies have rules. One rule is that they have to give each animal a name (don't ask me why). They have decided this cat's name is "Slinky." Since I picked him/her/it up on Glade Road I'd have chosen "Glade," but nobody asked me.
Well, if it lives and is adopted I can tell myself I've done a good deed.
June 11, 2020: A Cat Update
The kitten is still at the local vet clinic and I was told today it was "...doing well, though it was touch and go for a while." When he/she/it is well enough it will go to the Montgomery County Animal shelter. I've asked them to notify me when it arrives. God knows who's going to pay this cat's medical bill: not me. I suppose the county picks up the tab and in return gets a stray cat. How's that for a great deal?
I'm glad I was able to help the little beast; I'm violently allergic to cats but I like them, so I hope this all works out. The clinic is calling it "H.R. Puff-n-Stuff," but the shelter calls it "Slinky." Since the potential adopter is a retired naval officer perhaps "Tailhook" or "Destroyer" would be good names. The cat won't care: cats don't give a damn what you call them because they're...cats. Dogs have owners, but cats have employees.
Our Revered And Beloved, Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Lauded Governor Who Looks Like Mr Rogers And Acts Like Mussolini (Praise Be Unto Him) still has us more or less under house arrest. Furthermore I'm seeing far too many mindless idiots wearing !!@#$@%$!@@!$%$!!! masks on the streets. I saw one ninny today wearing TWO masks AND a face shield. You have to wonder where these peoples' capacity for independent and rational thought may be. Wait...they're products of the American educational system, so of course they don't have any such ability.
This too, shall pass: but it's taking a plaguey long time to do so.
June 17-19, 2020: Still Under House Arrest, And Put To Work
It's been raining for several days: raining quite hard, in fact. We had 4-1/2" over the course of a couple of days; this has been the rainiest Spring in Blacksburg's records, if what I hear on the Tube can be believed. (Much of it can't, but they seem to have no reason to lie about the weather, at least, except to blame it on GLOBAL WARMING and Trump.)
All the rain has encouraged plant growth, needless to say: and that includes the weeds that grow in the carpet of mulch that Mrs Outdoorsman insists has to be put down in front of the garage—twice every year because the damned stuff disappears in a couple of months. I keep telling her she's just encouraging them but nobody listens to me.
To make matters even more complicated, we have a couple of bird feeders right over the mulch. This year a number of plants popped up that I don't recognize (that doesn't mean much, I studiously avoid anything that smacks of botany) and since they weren't supposed to be there, they were, perforce, weeds to be removed. I suspect some of these newcomers were birdseed plants.
At least the mulch and underlying dirt were softened by the rain, so that yanking the damned things up wasn't too hard. And yank them we did: three trash barrels full, not including the grass that grows in the mulch, which had to be done with the "weed eater" thingie, another of Satan's inventions. Take heed, readers: there is no such thing as a "labor-saving device." All such things do is to create more labor to be done. The "easier" it is to deal with over grown grass, for example, the more grass is found that has to be dealt with, the more time has to be spent dealing with it, and thus there is no saving of labor.
In any event, we're still under house arrest at the order of El Jefe (Praise Be Unto Him) so we couldn't go anywhere. This nonsense is really getting wearying. People are beginning to push back against Him (Praise Be Unto Him) and it's about damned time. "Phase Three" (whatever the hell that means) was supposed to start today, but He (Praise Be Unto Him) has decreed that it will not.
Thank God for the provision of the Virginia Constitution that prohibits Governors from succeeding themselves. We will be rid of Him (Praise Be Unto Him) in 2021, although alas that isn't soon enough. He (Praise Be Unto Him) isn't finished destroying what's left of the state's economy and social fabric and that gives Him (Praise Be Unto Him) plenty of time to do more damage.
June 23, 2020: Long Live The Cat!
I had a call today from my old friend who expressed interest in adopting the kitten I rescued on June 8th. He had been in touch with our local shelter: the cat is alive and doing well, but is still too small to spay (or neuter, I still don't know if it's a male or a female) so he has to wait. It's got to be at least two pounds for that to happen. But Bob's put dibs on it. He told me they said it had "something funny" with its jaw, but since it was bleeding from its mouth when I picked it up, I'm not surprised to hear that. It must have been just grazed by a car, and obviously wasn't run over or it would have died on the spot. Bob lives a long way from here, 250 +/- miles, but he wants it anyway, sight unseen.
We are still under house arrest (I refuse to call it a quarantine, sick people get quarantined, healthy ones get locked in) and slowly going stir crazy. A couple of days ago one of Mrs Outdoorsman's friends, also going nuts from isolation (she lives way the hell out in the country) came over for a couple of hours so she could actually see and talk with a real human. While she was here she used our "powder room," so after she left, Mrs Outdoorsman, yielding to the fear and panic induced in everyone by the breathless We're-All-Gonna-Die! stories on the "news," disinfected the entire room and prohibited its use for two days.
In the next life, I hope Our Beloved And All-Knowing And Omnipotent El Jefe (Praise Be Upon Him) gets what's coming to him.
Today is Election day for the primaries. For the last two months we've been bombarded with endless ads on the Boob Tube for the three contenders for Congress in the Democratic race for the 5th District. One is an ex-Marine woman who claims to be "retired," though her website says she joined the Marines at age 23; and as she can't be a day over age 40, I don't see how that's possible. Another is a physician who claims to have been "..an advisor to president Obama..." although according to his website, he was a White House Fellow. Not surprising, but a White House Fellow is in no sense an"advisor"; he's basically an intern and a go-fer. If this doctor actually laid eyes on Obama in person more than once a month I'd be very surprised. The third is another ex-Marine, seemingly a nice guy, whose wife does his commercials about what a great family man he is and how this means he'll be great in Congress. Well, maybe. But he's a middle-class white male and his odds of winning the nomination are slim.
I went to vote in the Republican primary this morning: it's for the Senate, to run as a Forlorn Hope against Mark Warner, one of our current trendy-lefty incumbents. The challenger will have a steep uphill climb in that one.
Well, anyway, the cat lives, long live the cat!
June 24, 2020: Oy, Vey, What A Day!
It started off well enough. I am a member of the DGIF's "Complementary Work Force," a cadre of volunteers who take on chores that would otherwise be done by Conservation Police Officers (CPOs) who have better things to do, like catching Bad Guys. One of the specific duties I have is writing kill permits for wildlife damage to crops or ornamental plants. I went through the training for this a few years ago, when the program was just begun. We have so many deer in Virginia they've reached nuisance levels in many parts of the state: in fact, in Northern Virginia they're beyond that, they're positively a danger, especially on night-time roads. Car-deer collisions are a daily event (I've had two myself). So the Commonwealth wants these critters thinned out and the fastest way to do that is to allow people with any sort of reasonable excuse to do so to kill them. I get to write the Death Warrants, based on directions from the Marion Office for Region III.
For the last year and a half the Volunteer Coordinator's position has been vacant after the Coordinator retired. He's the guy who issues the edicts and sends the commands to the schleppers in ranks of the CWF's permit writers. With him gone we hadn't issued any for well over a year but the office was filled and the new Coordinator had to be brought up to speed on the regulations. Then it was decided to increase the number of permit writers so a training session was instituted. That happened today.
Because of the COVID 19 PANDEMIC, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! of course it had to be done "virtually," not in person, lest anyone die before getting to write a permit. Having already been trained I didn't need to do the course again, but I figured a refresher wouldn't hurt, so I signed on. It was done using Go To Meeting software and I'll say that after a few technical glitches were worked out, things went pretty well. I normally don't use the web cam nor the microphone function on my computer so I had to figure out how to turn those on, but once I did it went okay. That software has distinct advantages and will be much more widely used in the future: I wish I'd bought stock in the company.
As seems to be mandatory these days, of course the presentation was done using Power Point slides, which I could see on the screen of my computer. Now, here I'm going to ride one of my hobby horses: the excruciating misuse of a program that is a work of sheer genius. Power Point is designed to show images. But how do 99.99% of presenters use Power Point? THEY PROJECT WORDS, WORDS, WORDS, on the screen and then, to add insult to injury, THEY READ THE SLIDES TO YOU, VERBATIM, as if you were illiterate and couldn't do it yourself.
I spent 40 years in the trenches of Academia teaching an extremely visual discipline, and believe me, I know how to get the best out of Power Point; but I had to sit there squirming (at least it was at my home desk so nobody could see me squirm) while the presenter droned on telling us what was on the slide. AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHH!!!
But I digress.
That exercise took up two hours, but I did learn a few new things, stuff that had changed a bit since I started writing permits, so it wasn't entirely wasted.
The next item on the agenda was to replace the ramp by which I winch dead deer into my truck. You can see it here. Just a light frame and a piece of plywood, but it saves me immense labor. I used to be able to pick the deer up and put it in the truck myself but no more. Now I just drag the beast to the base of the ramp, hitch it up, hit the switch, and up it comes.
Well, my old ramp had died the death from a few years' exposure to the elements, so it was time for a new one. A friend offered me some scrap lumber. I tossed the old ramp on my last trip to the town dump (excuse me, the Transfer Station, whence fossil fuel burning trucks take it to the dump..but again, I digress) and had to make a new one.
My late father in law bequeathed to me a really frightening piece of equipment: a 10" radial arm saw. It scares the shit out of me but it's absolutely the bee's knees for any kind of rough carpentry. I used it to rip a 2"x6" into two six-foot long halves to form the sides of the ramp. But this was not done without issues: a very well seasoned piece of treated lumber is a heavy load even for that saw, and the motor overheated in the process. Well, never mind, I thought, I can go to Lowe's and buy a couple of 2"x2" strips and be done with it.
Uh-uh. No, I couldn't. Why? Because somehow, some way, the battery in my truck had gone belly up. I have no idea why. No obvious current drain, no lights left on, nothing. (On one or two occasions in the past I'd forgotten to unplug the GPS from the lighter socket and that will drain the battery, but that's not what happened this time.) I have no idea where the current drain was. I just hope the battery isn't dying completely. In any event I'll have to replace it before the deer season and permit writing seasons begin. I put the battery charger on it, so by tomorrow I'll know if the charge "took" but if it hasn't...off to Advance Auto Parts for a new battery.
So that killed the entire day, more or less. Of course, we are still under house arrest, though El Jefe (All Praise Be Unto Him) has decided, in His Magnificence and Omnipotence (All Praise Be Unto Him) to condescend to allow us to enter "Phase 3" on 1 July. Isn't that wonderful? No, it doesn't mean we Deplorables are exempt from the "mandatory" mask order, the one that no one observes. Who knows? Perhaps in the future (after the Presidential Election, of course, He's got to do all He can to get Sleepy Joe elected) some of this idiocy may cease. But I wouldn't bet on it.
June 25, 2020: Some Minor Accomplishments
Most of today was spent running errands. The first place I went was Advance Auto parts, because yes, the @##!#%!!!^^! battery was totally dead. God knows what happened to it, because even after all night on the charger it was stone dead: nada, zip, nil charge. So $115 +/- later I was the proud possessor of a new battery, and off I went.
I had to go to Lowe's to buy some plywood for my replacement deer ramp (see below) and oh, while I was there, would I please get some bags of stone? In Woman-Speak, "Would you please" is not a polite request. It's a direct order, to be disobeyed at my peril. The same is true for "What would you think of..." and "How would you like to..." and similar phrases.
Then I foolishly called home before checking out at Lowe's and asked if there was anything else She would like? Why yes, as a matter of fact, five more bags of mulch. I've said my say on mulch; I've long since lost count of how many bags of the stuff we've bought this year alone. All of it will be gone in a few months and I'll have to do it all over again.
The truck laden with plywood, well over half a ton of rocks, and five more bags of The Devil's Handiwork, I had to get to my bank. This is in the Kroger store at the south end of town and I have been avoiding Kroger because they have these signs sternly warning that I must wear a "face covering" to enter. I did not. No one challenged me, although most of the people inside were the sort of mind-numbed sheeple who think—because some talking head on the so-called "news" said so—that a mask "helps," although they'd be better "protected" if they wore a pillowcase over their heads or an orange sock on their left foot. Mask-wearing is pure superstition.
Then off to Tractor Supply to buy birdseed: if there's one thing we buy more of than mulch it's birdseed. No joke: we have the fattest birds in the Commonwealth. Every year we go through roughly 100 pounds of the stuff each month. Now a lot of this goes into making new squirrels, but I have no problem with that: I like squirrels and they have to eat, too.
Then on to the Kroger near me; that store has the same signs and the same laissez-faire attitude. Nobody seems to give a damn whether I wear a mask or not, though I imagine some of the mind-numbed sheeple were muttering curses under their (stifled) breath. I take some satisfaction in this minor victory over ignorance. Not wearing a mask isn't a political statement, it's an proclamation that I can recognize stupidity run rampant when I see it. And yes, I'm in the "high risk group" myself so I guess I put my money where my (uncovered) mouth is.
Back home at last I was able to get to work on the ramp, and a fine job I made of it, if I do say so myself. This one will last as long as I'm likely to be killing deer. With God, good tools, and a bunch of lumber, all things are possible.
And I have on order a peep sight insert for my .54 New Englander that promises to help me see the front sight clearly, something that's increasingly difficult as I age. With that, and the new ramp, Bambi better watch his step this fall.
June 26, 2020: Onward, Through The Fog
The deer ramp having been mostly constructed yesterday I added a few finishing touches, mainly a set of "guides" at the upper end to prevent a deer that's being hauled up from slipping off. I found this happened a lot without the guides on the older ramp. I needed to locate a suitable piece of scrap wood to make these, a matter of minutes to cut and install them.
Then I turned to the matter of re-habbing the tool box in which I keep stuff like axes, a folding saw, a shovel, some brush loppers, a tow cable, and a few other odds and ends. The ants are very bad this year and upon opening it a few weeks ago, there were twenty gazillion of the little bastards in it who were calling it Home. A dusting with Sevin fixed that! So I needed to clean out the box, clean up the tools (some of which had acquired a fine patina of—ahem—rust) and restore everything to its proper place. A wire wheel, a power drill, and generous amounts of WD-40 fixed the lot.
I had a sizable first-aid kit in it too, to which the ants hadn't done too much damage, so I cleaned it up, too. The numerous adhesive bandages in various sizes have to be replaced because their wrappings were broken, but that's something I can do the next time I get to a pharmacy.
The imbecility of the CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! continues. Now the Talking Heads on the "news" tell us that the number of "cases" is "skyrocketing" and MY GOD, WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE! The trouble is that they never tell us what a "case" means: is it people who are actually sick and have tested positive? Is it someone who has tested positive but has no illness? Is it someone who didn't test positive, has no symptoms, isn't sick, but who might have the virus? Who the hell knows?
I know how many "cases" there will be in the end: 320 million, roughly the population of the entire country. Why? Because this is a new virus that eventually everyone will be exposed to. Just as we are all exposed to other contagious viruses, such as the common cold virus (another coronavirus, by the way) and the influenza virus. There is no treatment, no cure, nothing but palliative care for the minuscule fraction of those exposed who will become ill. In time it will be of no more significance in our daily lives than the common cold or influenza, whether we wear masks, practice "social distancing," wash our hands thirty times a day, never, ever, touch our faces, or any of the other silly recommendations we get every day from the Talking Heads at the behest of their Masters.
The Talking Heads are in the main ignoramuses who simply are there to read the words their Masters in the Democratic Party tell them to read; the days of independent thought and rational analysis by real journalists are long gone. Those ethical and honest reporters of yesteryear have been replaced by Barbie Look-A-Likes and Harry Hairsprays whose sole concern is getting high ratings so their immense salaries will continue.
I don't fault the networks for hiring beautiful women and handsome men, but it wouldn't hurt if they required a few brains inside their heads as well. Instead they're hired for their looks and for Politically Reliable Left-wing attitudes. There's one woman—who will remain nameless—who, were she not so achingly gorgeous, would be totally insufferable. She smirks when she reads the "news." When she reports the political poll numbers you can tell she's just wetting her panties at the thought of Sleepy Joe winning in November.
July 7, 2020: A New Garden Toy For Mrs Outdoorsman
She spotted one of these heron spinners and had to have it.
July 13, 2020: Damn The Post Office
Everybody hates the Post Office, and with good reason. Today I experienced yet another display of their stunning incompetence, one that had me gnashing my teeth and yearning to write my Congressman to suggest that instead of de-funding the police, we de-fund the Postal Dis-Service, and hand its functions over to private industry. FEDEX and even UPS do the same job with half the workers, provide better service at the same prices, and make money into the bargain. The Postal Service is terrified that this might happen and they fight it tooth and nail with all the ardor of unionized labor who can't be made to work and who can't be fired. They claim a monopoly on mail, and in the past have actually tried to impose regulations that would make it illegal to use a private courier service.
I have PO box, that I've had for many years. Saturday, two days ago, I checked the box: in it were two notices from the Postmaster that my lease on it had expired, would I please pay the yearly fee? OK, no problem. I went to the automated kiosk in the lobby (the "service" window was of course closed) to do this, and after wending my way through their incredibly clumsy and kludge-ridden user interface, was told "That box is closed." Well, no, it wasn't: I had unlocked it only 10 minutes before and it was most certainly NOT closed.
Today, Monday, I went to the PO bright and early and told them I needed to pay my box bill. That's when the excrement hit the ventilator. The clerk I asked to do this took twenty minutes trying to do it; she decided her computer terminal was "locked up," and called in a supervisor. HE couldn't get it to work, so he called in ANOTHER supervisor, and he couldn't get it to work either. All three of them decided it was the terminal. Try another terminal, suggested supervisor #2. No go. That one, too locked up. Then a third supervisor—a woman who is phenomenally rude and even more incompetent than most of them but is senior enough that she got promoted despite her lack of ability—tried her luck. No joy. The terminal was stuck, the system is down, we're having trouble with PO boxes, nothing we can do, sir.
I was supposed to be charged a "late fee" (read: "fine") but they all agreed they would waive the fee, if and when they could get the computer system to understand that that was what they wanted to do. However, since the system wasn't working, I was told, "Please come back tomorrow, maybe it will be working again. We'll waive the late fee and we won't lock the box." This all took nearly 40 minutes and by the time I left I was no further along the road than before.
I am willing to bet that tomorrow morning, one of two situations (perhaps both) will obtain: 1) the system still won't be working; and 2) the box will be locked. Long and bitter experience with these people has taught me that none of them have a clue what they're doing, nor how to do it.
The Constitution requires the government to have a postal service. There is nothing in there that mandates that employees actually be hired based on their ability or willingness to work. So while we have to have one, it doesn't really have to do what Benjamin Franklin—the first Postmaster General, back when the Postal Service was an actual cabinet position—intended it to do: deliver the mail and provide actual service.
Watch this space. More to come.
July 15, 2020: The Postal Dénouement
Yesterday, Bastille Day, as I had been advised, I went to the Post Orifice again, to get the refund of the "late fee" on the payment for the PO box. I got there about a hour after they opened the "service" window. As I predicted there were further hitches.
It transpired that only one person—the exceptionally rude woman with whom I've had run-ins before—was able to process the refund. However...she wasn't there. She was out at a "medical appointment." When would she return? I was told "11:30." I left.
I returned at 12:30. Guess what? Mrs Rude was "at lunch." No surprise there. I left again.
Giving her plenty of time, I came back again about 1:45, and lo and behold, Mrs Rude was actually present. I had on the first day of the odyssey filled out some sort of paperwork to get the refund, so she had to go into the back of the building to find it. She did this. She said, "The Postmaster has approved this," which I thought was the reason for the immense red stamp on the paperwork. Then she made some magical passes over her computer terminal, muttering Postal Service incantations, but I could see none of what she did, since the terminal was turned away from me.
At that point she left again and returned with the papers, added another stamp and finally, after 10 minutes of this nonsense, counted out the refund, in cash. Apparently, though I had used a credit card to pay for the box (and the about-to-be-refunded late fee) I couldn't simply get a refund credit on the card. Oh, no, it had to be in cash. Well, the fine print says that bills are "...legal tender for all debts, public and private.." so I took the money, my copy of the paperwork, and left.
Three days, three supervisors, one Postmaster, and four trips to the building, and God alone knows how long waiting in line for the molasses-thick Postal bureaucracy to do its duty. There has to be a better way.
And in the meantime, if I don't like it I suppose can use some other Postal Service.
July 15, 2020: The Cat Lives, Long Live The Cat
Well, a bit of good news today: the local animal shelter called to tell me that the little cat I rescued on June 8th is completely recovered and has reached an age where he (it turned out to be a male) is ready for The Big Snip: he went under the knife today and will be put up for adoption tomorrow as of 11:00 AM.
I gave them the phone number of my friend who's interested in the cat and they spoke. The upshot is that little beast is guaranteed a home if he isn't adopted locally; but the shelter is of the opinion that he'll quickly be taken by someone from this area. My friend lives a long way away, a very long drive; but one way or another the poor thing will live and be adopted. No doubt he will have a long life and a career of killing small birds and mammals, but that's the nature of predatory animals.
Meanwhile, speaking of predators, our Revered and Beloved El Jefe (Praise Be Unto Him) has sworn he will enforce the order to wear masks, by God, if he has to use the State Police to do it. I hear a lot of bullshit about how people who refuse to wear masks are making a "political statement." Well, yes, of course they are. But when we are ordered to wear masks under threat of fines and possible imprisonment for not doing so, well, that is a political statement too. A statement that by God we had better follow orders if we know what's good for us, and a statement about what happens when we make the mistake of electing totalitarian pigs.
Welcome to "1984." I've decided to add a sign to the Zodiac you see on placemats in Chinese restaurants: 2020 is "The Year Of The Sheep."
July 18, 2020: The Last Cat Post
I spoke with the Animal Shelter today. I had noticed that the picture of the kitten that they had put up in their "Animals For Adoption" was on the site for only one day; I assumed he had been adopted locally. I was right. According to the woman I spoke with, someone had taken one look and "...fallen in love with him..." and off he went to his "Forever Home."
The vet clinic where I'd taken him initially had dubbed him "HRPuffnStuff" the "HR" for "Hit-and-Run." Very fitting. The Shelter for reasons of its own had tagged him as "Slinky," though why was never explained.
It seems that the hit had fractured his lower jaw; this explains the fact that he was bleeding profusely from the front of his face when I picked him up. The clinic fixed him up and I'm told he has a "crooked smile," but as you can see from the very cute picture the Shelter took of him, it hasn't hurt his looks any. This is the picture the Shelter posted. When I called I asked them to send me a copy, and they very kindly did so. He's a handsome little devil and if I weren't violently allergic to cats and didn't have two dogs that would make a meal of him, I'd have brought him home myself.
El Jefe (Praise Be Unto Him) has once again issued stern orders that we WILL wear masks in public, or else. He did this at a press conference in which he was NOT wearing a mask. Nothing like leading by example, huh?
July 21, 2020: A Nocturnal Visitor
A few days ago Mrs Outdoorsman asserted that something, probably a deer, had been eating her new (and expensive) day lilies. Ever at the ready I set up the game camera. Sure enough, at 5:36 AM on Sunday July 19, I captured an image of a big doe calmly striding towards the day lilly bed. I had also set up one of those motion-activated sprinklers as a way to deter her depredations, but it seems not to have fazed her in the least: she was walking right into its "zone of splash" when she was caught on camera. We believe we've seen this particular doe, in fact: one evening while out for a walk she crossed our paths about 50 yards ahead.
She then wandered down to our boundary fence, hopped it, and chowed down on the burgeoning sunflowers in the yard. A 4-foot chain link fence presents no obstacle to a deer. Any deer can leap such a fence with hardly any effort. We've had them in the yard before, scarfing windfall apples, and I expect we haven't seen the last of this doe, nor of the spike buck we saw wandering up the hill on the other side of the property a week or two ago.
We have a lot of deer in Blacksburg and it's not unusual to see them on our street. From time to time we find a place in our yard where a doe has parked her fawn while she goes off to ravage gardens. They've no doubt found Blacksburg to be Bambi's Paradise: no dogs, no wolves, and an unlimited food supply.
July 21, 2020: She's Baaaaackkk!
Bambi's Mom returned last night, hopped the fence, and gnawed some more of the soon-to-be-dead sunflower. Half of the "surviving" leaves from the first assault have been eaten. She may have decided to go deeper into the yard to get at those enticing windfall apples, though.
I didn't get her on camera this time. Mrs Outdoorsman said that when she went to water the flowers where the deer had been nibbling the day lilies, the ground was wet; we think therefore that the doe must have tripped the motion sensor on the sprayer. Perhaps she will have learned a lesson, but deer aren't the smartest animals God ever made, so maybe not. I relocated the camera to see if I could catch her as she leaps the fence, if she comes back. We'll see.
Not much to be done beyond some sort of "scare deer" device. No way would I get a kill permit in town. If I can get a sense of when she comes through and if I can drag my aging carcass from my bed at the right time, I'll try to pop her with a BB gun. Maybe that will be enough "negative reinforcement" to keep her away. But of course there are other deer in the neighborhood to pick up the slack.
July 22, 2020: A Successful Function Firing
I put the game camera up again last night: the only image it captured was mine as I walked away from it. No deer came through, it seems. I'd actually risen (groaning) at 5:00 AM to see whether Bambi's Mom was in the yard, and at that point I realized that even had she been, it was so damned dark I'd not be able to see her, let alone hit her in the ass with a BB.
I'll leave the camera up one more night. We think that perhaps the motion-activated sprinkler has indeed deterred her, because none of the flowers she's been raiding seem to have been disturbed. One can only hope.
Later I went out to my club's range for a function check on my little Browning (FN) Model 1906 Vest Pocket .25. The Vest Pocket was designed by Saint John M. Browning in a day when men wore waistcoats and routinely carried guns as defense against "footpads." Not only in Europe was this a common practice: in the USA Colt made the same gun under license as its Model 1908.
Last May I actually reloaded some cartridges for this popgun (see the entry for May 2nd). I'd then taken it to the range then and found that it was misfiring with factory ammunition. Reasoning that a 108-year-old firing pin spring was probably weaker than it should be, I ordered a new one from Numrich Gun Parts Corporation, an amazing company that sells parts for anything you can think of. In the fullness of time they sent me the spring and I put it in the gun. Today was the first time I'd had a chance to get to the range.
When I got there several of the members were engaged in a "long range" session. These guys were popping at targets 450 and 550 yards away with 6.5mm Whatch-A-Ma-Callits, undoubtedly wonderful rounds if you want to make holes in paper a quarter mile off. Not my thing, but I asked one of them what group size he expected at that range. his answer was, "I can usually keep it to about an inch and a half." An inch and a half! I have enough trouble doing that with my .308 at 100 yards!
These guys were intrigued by my little .25; one of them remarked that he'd "...never seen a .25 ACP round before." Given that at one time the .25 ACP was perhaps the third best selling handgun round in the USA, and that it still commands an ardent following in some other countries, I found this hard to credit, but there it is. He'd never seen one.
In the event my diagnosis was confirmed: a replacement firing pin spring was what the gun needed. Some of the ammunition had lead bullets and it wasn't to the M1906's liking, jamming on the feed ramp (autoloaders can be very finicky about such things) but with factory ammunition using FMJ bullets, it ran like a Swiss watch (or perhaps I should say a Belgian watch?) BANG!-BANG!-BANG! without hesitation. This was very gratifying, and I was able to get minute-of-cow-pat accuracy at a range of perhaps 15 feet. Not bad considering it has no sights and is potentially useful only inside a parking garage elevator. I'll probably never shoot it again, but I'm glad that this pre-World War One relic—it was made the year Titanic hit the iceberg—still works and does what needs to be done when asked.
July 23, 2020: Reloading Again
The Chief Hypocrite in Richmond (Praise Be Unto Him) still has us under house arrest, allegedly for our own good, since All Must Share The Burden, don't you know; so this Deplorable decided to do a little more reloading.
I had 40-odd .45 ACP cases of the group that uses small primers instead of the large ones, for reasons known only to the Federal Cartridge Company. I'd run them through the resizer and deprimer, then the case cleaner, so they were prepped and ready to fill.
Not having cast any more of the Lyman #452374 bullets I'd made, I turned to a bullet I use for the .45 Long Colt. These bullets are the ones Remington uses in its factory loads in that caliber and somewhere in my dim past I acquired a bunch of them. They're round-nosed, flat-pointed, with a shallow hollow base; nominal diameter is 0.455" which was perfect for what I had in mind. The nominal grove diameter of the Mark VI is 0.455"; with cast bullets it's best to have the bullet a thousandth or so oversized, but in theory the hollow base of the bullets should expand to grip the rifling when fired.
Those odd cases didn't work too well in the Uberti single action, but I thought they might be suited to the Webley Mark VI. Like most Mark VI's in the USA, mine has been faced off to use .45 ACP rather than the original chambering, the .455 Webley. Various Internet forums argue that the standard .45 ACP factory stuff is too hot for the Webley. I've not found that to be the case, having owned several .455's and shot factory .45 ACP in them without trouble; but the gun is 105 years old and there's no point in taking chances.
The various reloading manuals list a 265-grain bullet with a modest load of 4.0 to 6.0 grains of Unique. I split the difference, falling back on my Old Standard, 5.0 grains of that powder; and the .45 bullets weigh less: only 250 grains. I felt that would be a safe load and ought to approximate the factory ammunition. So I set up the press and filled those cases. I need to get to the range and see how they shoot. "Shaved" Webleys use half-moon or full-moon clips with .45 ACP and I have plenty of those. With the 6-inch barrel I ought to get about 700-800 FPS out of this recipe.
August 4, 2020: Tehya Goes To The Vet; We Go To Dinner
We took our Labrador Retriever Tehya to the vet today to have a look-see. She is 10+ years old and getting creaky; the past few weeks she's been pretty lethargic and has been having trouble getting up on the bed and her couch in the basement, so we thought it would be a good idea to have our vet of 30+ years see what he could find.
The good news is that he didn't find anything unexpected on physical examination. He took a blood sample and we'll have the results tomorrow, but he seemed to feel there was no cause for alarm. We have her on a pain medication once a day now, because maybe it's just arthritis due to old age, and that should help.
But it's only a matter of time. If the blood work comes back wonky I'll really get concerned, but even if it's perfect I know that inevitably blood work and other signs will be bad, even if they aren't now. Our last Lab, Tessa, had "...mildly elevated liver enzymes..." a year before she died from what we think was either liver or pancreatic cancer. Tessa lived to be just shy of 14, but there are no guarantees that Tehya will do the same.
Losing a dog is always hard. Dogs come with the promise of joy but they also come with the knowledge that one day that joy will end forever. I've lost seven dogs to date and will in the fullness of time lose the two we have now. After that, no more: I've repeatedly told my wife I will not have another dog. Every dog becomes part of you and when the dog dies, that part of you dies as well. I grieve every day for every dog I've lost, including the ones from my childhood and youth and most especially for Toby, who died suddenly twenty-four years ago. I've never really recovered from that shock: at least with all the others there was some warning. I know I have to endure two more deaths but I can't—and refuse—to do it any more after those.
On a happier note, two days ago was Mrs Outdoorsman's birthday, so we are going to dinner tonight at our favorite restaurant in Salem, The Blue Apron. Of course, the Chief Hypocrite in Richmond (Praise Be Unto Him) has decreed that we will wear the useless "cloth face coverings" when we enter the place, but He (Praise Be Unto Him) has issued a dispensation that we don't have to wear them while we're eating. (I'm sure there are idiots who take the mask off for every bite and replace it between bites, though.) Oh, and yes, we must wear it when we get up to go to the rest room. I wish someone would explain the "logic" behind this idiotic rule—not just the idiocy of the mask rule itself, which is based solely on superstition, no matter what CNN and the saintly Dr Fauci say—but the specific idiocy behind the rule that I can have it off at the table but have to put it back on to walk 20 feet to the Men's Room, lest I contaminate people. Of course the real reason for the mask rule at all is to assert Governor Hypocrite's power (Praise Be Unto Him) and not to "...prevent the spread of the disease..." because even He (Praise Be Unto Him) as a physician, understands that a "cloth face covering" of any kind has pores so large that it can't and won't stop a virus so small it can't be seen without an electron microscope.
Day after tomorrow I get a reprieve from house arrest for a few hours. I'm going to the club range to try out some of the ammunition I loaded early in the lockdown. You never know: I may need it someday and need to be sure it works.
August 5, 2020: Of Dog Health, Grocery Shopping, And Reloading
The vet called today: my Lab's blood work is completely normal, nothing at all unusual. The medication he prescribed (Deramaxx) is seemingly effective, she was frisking around in this morning's Frisbee session with the Border Collie. BIG relief!
Mrs Outdoorsman sent me on errands, one to buy some birdseed (we have the fattest birds in Montgomery County: I spend $$$$ on birdseed every year) and also to the local Kroger supermarket. The Feed & Seed was no issue, but I had to wear a !#$@$@#%!!!! mask at Kroger's. This pisses me off no end, but I rationalize it to myself by saying that I wear the !@$#!@#!$@#!!! thing not because Our Beloved And Revered Hypocrite-In-Chief (Praise Be Unto Him) "ordered" me to, but because Kroger has adopted it as a company policy and a condition for doing business with them. While El Jefe (Praise Be Unto Him) does not, in my view, have the authority to command me to wear the #@!#$!%$%^^%!!!! thing, Kroger can set its policies as they like and if I don't agree I can go to Food Lion. This is, of course, a minor sop to my conscience, because I know damn good and well (as does Saint Anthony Fauci—Praise Be Unto Him, Too, if you know what's good for you) that a mask protects no one and that wearing one is simply superstition. But I digress.
To my great surprise the paper products aisle was full: not only paper towels and napkins, but toilet paper in abundance! I suppose it's because Virginia Tech's students are returning and Kroger realizes they have to wipe their youthful bums, so they put out ample stocks of the stuff. Mrs Outdoorsman told me yesterday that the local Wal-Mart paper product aisles had been stripped bare, so Kroger will reap the benefit. Personally I never have worried about toilet paper shortages. We get the local newspaper, The Roanoke Times, and that would work. In fact it's more or less the only thing the Times is really good for.
I own an M-1 Garand, the iconic US military rifle of World War II and the Korean War. Mine is the genuine article: I bought it from my Uncle Sam through what was then known as the Office of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship, and today is known as the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). My Garand was made in November of 1944, too late for D-Day, but just in time to have been used at The Bulge or Remagen. I have no idea where it was in fact used but it might have seen real action.
After the wars the adoption of the M-14 and later the M-16 caused the Garands—more than 5 million of them—to be relegated to the surplus depots. They were called in, refurbished, and stored away. Since they were government property purchased with tax money, they legally belonged to the people of the United States, and they have been available for sale to civilians for many, many years. Mine was sent to me in late 1988 from the Anniston Army Depot.
So today I fired up the loading bench equipment again and assembled some .30-06 ammunition for it. A 147-grain full metal jacket (FMJ) boat-tailed bullet over 47.0 grains of IMR 4895 powder. These specs are those of the ammunition loaded for it by the government these many years ago. That bullet will come out at about 2700 Feet Per Second.
Why is it necessary for civilians to have the rifle that George S. Patton described as "The finest battle implement ever devised"? Because historically the USA has always been "A Nation of Riflemen" and the intent of the sales program is to make sure that stays true. In law, all able-bodied citizens are members of the "Unorganized Militia," and militiamen need to be properly equipped. The Swiss and the Israelis understand this. The Swiss haven't fought a war since 1815, but every home in the country has a machine gun in it and someone who is trained to use it. Israel fights a war now and then, but the fact that virtually every male in the country is a soldier and that they have access to their weapons when called up means that they usually win.
And while the Garand—designed in 1936—may be technically obsolete, by golly, it's a real rifle and in times of need could still be used as its designer intended. Besides all that, it's one hoot to shoot. If you can see it, you can hit it with a Garand.
August 6, 2020: A Range Day
I went to the club range today to idle away a couple of hours, and to shoot one or two guns I hadn't used in a while. In my March 25th entry I mentioned loading some paper hulled shotshells I'd acquired somewhere or other; and some of them were loaded with slugs. I wanted to see how these reloads would work. The hulls were at least 50 years old and most of them had somewhat ragged mouths but they loaded well enough using my ancient Lee Loader kit. The slugs weighed 7/8 ounce and I used Red Dot powder.
I fired them from my Stevens 58 bolt action shotgun. I acquired this gun in 1972 out of an ad in the base newspaper at Andrews Air Force base; that long ago nobody got arrested or interrogated by the USAF or the FBI for advertising a shotgun in a publication on an Air Force base. Actually what I bought was the metal parts. There was no stock. The owner's brother in law had backed a truck over the gun, the stock was broken, and they decided to sell the remains. They sold them for...$10. I am not an idiot and I've never passed up a $10 shotgun in my life, even without a stock. I bought the parts, sent off to Stevens for a new stock, and presto, I had a fully functional shotgun for all of $25, half the list price in those easy-going days.
I killed my first two deer with that shotgun, in New York State. The first hunting season after moving to Blacksburg in 1987 I used it to kill a squirrel in the Jefferson National Forest; but since then it's been a safe queen, never fired again until today. It seemed an opportune time to take that old corn-shucker out again and fire off some of my home-rolled slug loads.
The slugs hit about 6"-8" to the right and high at 50 yards, which is as far as I would ever try a shot with this gun, and consistent with my experience with it many years ago. I think most shotguns will shoot slugs high thanks to the minuscule front bead and the more-or-less nonexistent rear sight.
I had brought along my chronograph as well: those reloads were reasonably peppy: 1146 to 1225 feet per second. That was also the case with a 7/8 ounce load of #6 birdshot. I got the same results with a Peters slug but a Remington slug clocked in at 2609 FPS, which is hard to believe and must have been a chronograph error. A 7/8 ounce slug weighs 438 grains, and at 1200 FPS has muzzle energy of 1408 Foot-Pounds. Ample for Bambi and pretty much the same as a black powder rifle.
Then I needed to shoot three revolvers. They're in the image above: at top a S&W "Lemon Squeezer" .38 (i.e., a New Departure Safety Revolver, vintage 1903); at bottom a Webley Mark VI, made in 1915; and a Pietta replica of the Colt 1851 Navy .36, which was fitted with a conversion cylinder to shoot .38 Long Colt fixed ammunition.
The Webley has been "shaved" to use .45 ACP in half-moon clips, and the usual caution is not to push it too hard by shooting factory .45 ACP in it. I had loaded some with a 250-grain bullet and my Old Standard 5.0 grains of Alliant Unique powder. Average velocity of this load was 615 FPS, for 211 F-P of energy. A very sedate and gentlemanly load, one that wouldn't stress this this 105-year old gun too much. The standard .455 Webley round, firing a 265-grain bullet at 700 FPS generates 289 F-P, but I doubt if anyone shot with either load could tell the difference. The Webley revolver is designed for 13,000 PSI pressures, and this load certainly doesn't exceed that limit.
The Squeezer .38 also was shot with reloads: 2.5 grains of IMR Trail Boss under a 165-grain hollow base wadcutter. This load averaged 633 FPS, for 148 F-P. Not too shabby! The Squeezer was designed for personal protection in a day when many people carried guns and nobody shit his pants over their doing so. It is slick, with no projecting bits, will slip in and out of a banker's coat pocket with ease, and is authoritative enough to discourage any would-be robber. A target gun it isn't: it has virtually no sights and of course is double-action only, with a deliberately heavy trigger. S&W used to advertise that it was "impossible" for a child to fire it. Maybe not, but a really little kid would have had trouble.
The nickname "Lemon Squeezer" comes from the projecting grip safety. The gun has to be firmly grasped and given a very firm trigger pull to go off. Needless to say this situation isn't conducive to pinpoint accuracy, but guns like this are sometimes called "belly guns" because you're supposed to push it against your antagonist's belly, then fire it. The Squeezer was designed and intended to be used at the sort of distance you'd find in a parking garage elevator and for that it worked admirably. S&W sold hundreds of thousands of them, until 1941; and an updated version in .38 Special is still made. It's a sound and workable design.
The highlight of the day was the 1851 Navy Colt. I had decided—again out of a desire not to stress the inherently weak open-top design—to load the ammunition with black powder. I used 14 grains of GOEX FFFg, under a hollow-based flat-point round nose bullet. This load, out of the 7" barrel of the Navy Colt, gave me an average of 785 FPS, and 227 F-P. Very respectable. People who've been brought up to think in terms of magnum rounds seem to think that such ballistics are laughable, yet Wild Bill Hickock killed any number of men with his Navies (using loose powder and ball, of course) and that level of power is not to be sniffed at even today. It's actually a shade better than the .380 ACP, another caliber nobody wants to be shot with.
Just for grins I hauled out the single-shot Crosman 2240 pellet gun I carry in my fishing kit. This is powered by CO2 and advertised as moving a 14-grain pellet at 450 FPS. So it does: ten shots averaged exactly 450 FPS, with a whopping 6.3 F-P of muzzle energy. Good enough to pop off a snake trying to climb into the boat!
For a few hours I was able to forget all about THE CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE! and the imbecility of our Revered And Beloved Governor Blackface (Praise Be Unto Him...or else!) and do something enjoyable. A brief respite from mass hysteria and over-reaction, much welcomed.
August 7, 2020: A Dedicated Slug Gun?
Boredom often leads people to do strange things, and I'm no exception. Last night I pondered the question of how I might make that old Stevens 58 bolt action shotgun easier to shoot accurately with slugs; well, as accurately as a smoothbored gun with Foster slugs can be, which is to say, not very accurate. But if I could keep all my shots in the diameter of a tea saucer at 50 yards I'd be satisfied.
As it happens, many years ago I'd had a smith put a set of rifle sights on it. Those came off sometime in the past years, and in any event my eyes aren't up to open sights any more. Nevertheless, there were tapped holes that could perhaps be used to mount something else.
I had on hand a scope mount base, with miscellaneous holes for mounting. Those holes didn't line up correctly with the holes on the shotgun, but the base is made of aluminum and I have an electric drill! So I made a spare hole in the right place, and sure enough, it could be mounted in place.
What to use? The base is for Weaver-style mounts, and in my collection of "spares" I have a BSA multi-reticle red dot sight. That got mounted on the base. I added a cheek pad to elevate the comb of the stock so I could actually see the dot, and that's all that was needed. No gunsmithing, and if this doesn't work it can be dismounted and things restored to what was before. I admit the gun now looks like something a Star Wars Trooper might have been issued, but what the heck, if it works, who cares?
I have absolutely no reason to do this. In New York I had to use a shotgun, but here I can use a rifle, and I have since I arrived. But it was something to do while confined to quarters by our Beloved, Revered, Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Praised-If-You-Know-What's-Good-For-You El Jefe (Praise Be Unto him, Or Else). It will go out with me this season and who knows? I killed my first deer with that shotgun and I may well kill my last one with it, too.
August 9, 2020: Slugging Away
Beautiful day today but despite my intention to do something outdoors (besides yard work!) I didn't. Instead I decided to make use of the 12 gauge shotgun slugs I cast on April 5th. I still have bunches of the old paper shotshell hulls (and I mean old : probably 50+ years) so I felt it would be a good idea to load some of them with the slugs. My intent is to use them to sight in the Star Wars Shotgun (above) and see if I can kill a deer with them.
Used 19 grains of Red Dot and a Federal one-piece wad/shot cup. This puts the top of the slug more or less where it needs to be for proper crimping; and most of the 25 shells I loaded had very nice-looking crimps, despite the somewhat tattered nature of the case mouths. This will be the last time those particular cases get reloaded, I think. They'd been around the block before I got them, I'm sure; my reloading them would be at least the second time they'd been used. Paper hulls have a limited life span and three reloads is doing very well.
Also decided to re-fill the .38 Long Colt cases I shot up in chronograph testing my Colt Navy three days ago. Same load: 15 grains FFFg and a 165-166 grain lead flat point hollow base round nose bullet. The Navy is cased, so I put those rounds in the case with it, in the very neat little 12-round wooden block that came with the case.
We are still imprisoned and there seems to be no end in sight for this nonsense. Mrs Outdoorsman believes every negative story she hears on the news (what other kind of stories are there on the news?) and is prone to sending me stories from her phone's news feeds to convince me that MY GOD! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE! not long after we become paupers thanks to COVID-19. I wish I'd invested in a mask making company, everyone and his dog is walking around with a $@#@#@#@%^!!! mask on these days.
Speaking of investments, I wish I'd bought stock in Sturm, Ruger last February or March. With the current panic buying of firearms their stock has tripled since then. I actually predicted this but wasn't smart enough to buy in. If (God forbid) Biden wins the election, it will double or triple again. Anti-gun Democrats are the best boost to firearm stocks: Obama was the "Salesman Of The Year" for the length of his two terms. Hitlary would have been worse, but Biden will be bad enough.
August 10, 2020: The Sunflower Is Doing Well
After the assault by the deer on July 21, we put Mrs Outdoorsman's big sunflower on life support. It is now out of the ICU and recovering nicely. Let's hope it doesn't contract COVID-19.
August 17, 2020: An Anniversary, And Some Puzzles
Et ego in Arcadia vixi. Yesterday, August 16th, was the 50th anniversary of my arrival in Vietnam for my year's tour. It hardly seems possible: I was not quite 23 and—as is true of all 23-year-olds—therefore immortal. These days my aging frame and not-quite-up-to-scratch innards remind me that I most certainly am not immortal. Half a century. Some day I may write about my wartime experiences, but not today. I will just note here that the current unrest in the country has its roots in the anti-war movement of the 1960's and 1970's. The same sort of treasonous vermin who were "demonstrating" then did it again after the Twin Towers attack, and they're doing it now. And just as they have always done, they're claiming the moral high ground, even though they're looting shoe stores and burning down Wendy's restaurants. We are supposed to think they do these criminal acts because they're hungry, not because they're cowards who hide behind masks and take no personal risks.
But I digress.
Speaking of hypocrites, since we have been confined to quarters by the Chief Hypocrite In Richmond (May His Name Be Ever Praised, Or Else) Mrs Outdoorsman has taken to doing jigsaw puzzles. LOTS of jigsaw puzzles. The image below shows only a few of them.
August 31, 2020: Two Experiments, One Successful, One Not; And More !$!!!#$%%%!!! Mulch
Yesterday (the 30th) was a gorgeous day, not to be wasted sitting at home in Governor Blackface's (May He Ever Be Praised, Or Else) "lockdown" so I arranged to meet a friend at the club range. I had two objectives in mind: sighting in my "Buck Rogers-style shotgun" (see above the August 7th entry) and to try out a 9mm "conversion" of my Colt Super .38 pistol.
First, the shotgun. I'd loaded up some slugs in paper cases. Back on April 5th I'd made some 1-ounce 12-gauge slugs with a Lee mold. Lee slugs have an odd internal cross baffle that Lee calls a "key drive" but what its function may be I don't know. But slugs is slugs, they were loaded, and it was time to shoot them.
That shotgun has never been friendly to slugs of any kind, but no shotgun except one actually designed for them (and hence useless for any other shotgun purpose) ever is; but I had hopes that by fitting a red dot sight to it I could at least get it to shoot minute-of-pie-plate at 50 yards. That would have satisfied me. Without sights, just the tiny bead on the barrel and the "hump" on the bolt, it shoots well off to the right and low except when it shoots high and left. Flinging a slug off into the blue with no idea where it will land isn't very efficient. If I wanted to kill a deer with that shotgun using slugs about the only way to do it would be to poke the deer in the chest and fire.
At one time it had been fitted with open sights, which allowed me to actually kill a couple of deer with it back in my salad days in New York. Red dot sights are very handy and easy to use so
I'd jury-rigged a mount base and put one on it in hopes that it would improve things. Alas, it was not to be: the impact point (when I could actually find it) was so high there wasn't enough adjustment in the sight to get it down far enough. I simply ran out of the mechanical travel needed. Luckily my jury rig was reversible and had required no gunsmithing, so I just took everything off. Oh, well, I can still use it on small game, and squirrel season starts on September 5th.
I had much better luck with my Colt. A couple of weeks ago, a friend offered me a swap for some 9mm ammunition. These days 9mm is just about impossible to find because everyone is preparing for a Biden administration and the chaos it will ignite, but this friend had need of some .25 ACP. We agreed one a one-to-one trade. We met at a Roanoke restaurant to do the deal: two boxes of Winchester hardball ammo for two boxes of .25 ACP.
The stuff he gave me had STEEL cases. It was made by Winchester and plainly marked "Made in USA." Now, steel cased 9mm isn't unusual, but in my experience, it indicates foreign, usually Eastern Bloc, production. I was so curious about this stuff I'd sent a post to the Ammunition Collectors' Association to find out what I had. I felt that steel cases and US production don't "go together," but I was wrong. It was indeed Winchester, made in the USA. After firing some I looked and sure enough it was Boxer primed, like all US made ammo. It seems Winchester has a special plant to make this stuff, though what the logic may be behind spending the tooling costs to do it I have no idea. There's a faint idea in my mind that Winchester may be eyeballing a military contract: steel cased ammunition is often used in machine guns (it resists the battering of the action better than brass) so perhaps they're thinking in terms of selling it to the Army in time.
In any event, I now had some 9mm ammunition. Long ago I sold all of my pistols specifically chambered for 9mm but there are reasons to want to be able to shoot it out of something. I own a wonderful Colt Super .38, vintage 1947, that I bought more than 50 years ago, and that would serve. The 1911 isn't often seen in 9mm but Colt did make them, and because the .38 Super and 9mm cases are very close in dimensions, the extractor and ejector on a 1911 are the same for both calibers. So I bought a spare barrel, barrel bushing, and two magazines in 9mm. Changing calibers from .38 Super to 9mm is a field-strip-and-reassembly process, taking two minutes.
The switch worked perfectly. I'd been concerned about the recoil spring tension being inappropriate for the different caliber but it was fine. I fired a whole box and experienced only one malfunction, a "stovepipe jam" failure to eject that was traceable to an issue with the link pin on the barrel. It's fixed and the gun can be used with either caliber at will. I have a lot of .38 Super on hand, and one box of 9mm left. I'll use it as a .38, but who knows, maybe some day I'll be able to get 9mm again. Perhaps during a Biden administration: I like the idea of being able to use "captured" ammunition.
The highlight of the day, though, was something a friend of my friend had brought along. She had a revolver with her, and I almost fell over when she unwrapped it. It was a near-mint, all original, Colt New Service in .45 Long Colt. It was, like my New Service, made in 1916. But unlike mine, it was NOT one of the British Contract guns; it was a commercial model. Her father had bought it in 1940 when he was a member of the New York Home Guard.
This beautiful gun MAY have originally been used by the NY State Police. The NYSP were formed in 1917, and they issued those revolvers in that caliber. The dates are right, and the location is right. I urged her to get a Letter of Authenticity from Colt's Archives; if the NYSP originally purchased it the letter would say so. It's worth well over $1000 in the current market, and with a letter, considerably more. If Catherine Zeta-Jones were a revolver, she'd be that New Service. It was drool-inducing; I couldn't believe the condition.
Now, this woman has Irish Wolfhounds (six of them!) and she said, "We use it to euthanize deer when the dogs bring one home."
When I got home from the range I found Mrs Outdoorsman busily slaving away in her front garden.
Last week we'd hired a yard work company to come and do a lot of heavy trimming and mulching in the back yard, stuff we're no longer capable of doing ourselves. When he finished he left behind enough #!@$!@@$!!! mulch to do the job all over again. Twelve cubic yards of the stuff is technically known as "a shitload," and at least half of it was still sitting in the driveway. Needless to say I was immediately dragooned into shoveling more $@!#$!$#!%#@@!!! mulch so she could continue to make her flower beds look nice.
The extra mulch was to be placed around the front flower beds, and she'd been beavering away steadily on her own. But she needed "just a little more" so for the next three hours I was shoveling the damned stuff into her garden cart and spreading more of it on the place where I park my truck because there was nowhere else for it to go.
A word of advice for those of my readers who aren't married. When you're courting some lass, or rolling around in the hay with someone you hooked up with on Tinder, be sure to ask her how she feels about mulch. If she say she likes it, run. Run fast and hard and far.
And remember Rule #15:
No woman shall tolerate for even a SINGLE SECOND the sight of a man enjoying himself. Any woman who observes a man enjoying himself, or about to do so, shall IMMEDIATELY find house work or yard work for him to do.
August 31, 2020: Stung
Yesterday at the range I got stung, I think by a wasp. It can't have been a bee: there was no stinger left in it, and I could hardly see the spot he struck. Just a very tiny mark.
I never saw the little bastard: he nailed me on my left hand, the base of the thumb, as I grabbed a wooden railing on the range steps. Felt like I'd grabbed a rose thorn. It may have been a little love-tap to warn me off, in a way. Well, he warned me off all right. Today my left thumb is swollen and edematous, and my hand is stiff and it itches like the very Devil, too. I'm glad I'm not severely allergic: I know one or two people who'd have died of anaphylaxis with a sting like this. I'll bet my eosinophil count is off the charts today.
I haven't been stung by a wasp since I was 15 or so. Not a pleasant memory, and this experience isn't very nice either. Damn and blast all stinging insects.
September 5, 2020: Opening Day
It went as Opening Days usually do, i.e., I didn't get anything.
But the first day of squirrel season is a High Holy Day of Obligation in my calendar, so I prepared my stuff last night and this morning headed to The Valley Of A Thousand Rodents.
I decided to start the seasons the old-fashioned way, using my 12 gauge Pedersoli muzzle-loader. It's a very nice gun, but it's a bit of a PITA to load, so I charged it last night and left the capping of the nipples (gosh, that sounds kinky...) to after I'd arrived in the VOATR. The load was 75 grains of GOEX FFg, which is 2-3/4 drams, and an ounce of #6 shot. I used a wool over powder wad (I didn't have any hard card wads) and a thick lubricated fiber cushion wad; topped it off with a stiff thin over-shot wad.
It was a beautiful day, the nicest we've had in months: temperature in the low 70's, very low humidity, and no real breeze, just a few gentle zephyrs now and then. In the early part of the season when leaves are still on the trees, squirrels give themselves away by making branches move; when it's windy it's hard to tell what moved a branch and the rodents tend to sit tight. Conditions today couldn't have been better. There was only one thing lacking: squirrels. They may have been up there but I never spotted any from my stand; I did see a couple of flitting shadows that might have been squirrels but when I tried to stalk them they vanished into the Void.
I did see game: as I walked in, I bumped two does in a clearing called "The Riding Ring." My hostess had daughters and she kept a horse; that's where they rode the nag, hence the name. The horse is now long gone, but the name remains.
The trail up to the VOATR entails climbing a steep hill, with the Riding Ring at the top, then down the opposite slope. My sciatica has been kicking up in the past few weeks, so I have to move pretty slowly. As I approached the upper end of the slope and the entry to the Riding Ring, there was a doe standing at the far end. She didn't see me; she was facing away and un-alarmed. She stood there a good minute or so before she caught on, hopped a fence and vanished, taking with her a second deer who might have been her fawn and who was on the other side of the Riding Ring fence. I didn't see that second one until it moved, but #1 was out in the open; if it had been deer season and I'd had a rifle she'd have been easy meat.
I went down the back slope and parked myself at the base of The Beech Tree, a big one that I always use for this sort of thing, and come to think of it, where I always begin each hunting season. I set up my invaluable little stool, and sat and watched for 3 hours. I also was reading on my Kindle a book a friend had told me about at Project Gutenberg. Amid The High Hills was written in 1923 by one Hugh Fraser. Having recently (2019) been to Scotland I could easily visualize the places he describes; and the methods of "stalking" red deer are so completely different from what I do hunting whitetails that I found it immensely interesting.
In any event, no squirrels chose to die today, so after three hours I packed up and hobbled out. Got home, de-charged the gun, and that was Opening Day, all done.
In the end it was not a bad one. I was out in the woods, all alone, thus practicing "social distancing" though not, perhaps, the way the PC Nazis and most especially Governor Blackface (Praise Be Unto Him, if you know what's good for you) would have liked. I wore a camouflage head net, so I was in compliance with His order to wear a "cloth face covering," because Deplorable though I may be, it's safer to be perceived as a Good Virginian Subject of his Almighty Hypocrisy (And Praise Be Unto Him, or else). I could hear nothing but the sounds of the woods and the occasional drone of a small airplane. That last was the only indication that other humans existed. I did see some game, the weather was perfect, and I asked for nothing more. Good way to celebrate a High Holy Day, I think.
September 6, 2020: Casting About
Today was a beautiful day, like unto yesterday; so naturally I didn't get into the woods. Two days in a row would be tempting Fate. Instead I spent most of the morning casting bullets.
Specifically, .54 caliber Minié projectiles and 12 gauge slugs. I want to try the Miniés this fall on deer. I've always used round balls and they work well, but I had the mold, I had the lead, what the hell. I made 50 of them, enough to sight in the New Englander and the Renegade flintlock, and to have some left over for the deer. The proof of the casting is in the killing, so we'll see how these Miniés work on deer. They weigh 435 grains and mike at 0.535" so they ought to load fairly easily. I filled the bases with SPG lube.
Then I made 25 12 gauge slugs. I want to try those in my BP shotgun, though I don't expect much in the way of accuracy. Still, how they will shoot is something worth knowing.
For reasons known only to God and Richard Lee, the slugs from their molds have a cross baffle inside, what Lee calls a "Drive Key." I call it a PITA. If your lead hasn't quite set up, a bit of it sticks in the slot for the "drive key" and the slug has to be returned to the pot. If it has set up, the issue is getting the damned slug out of the mold. With the Miniés no problem: although there's a core pin, they dropped handily. But that "drive key" consistently prevented this from happening with the slugs. I had to whang on the mold with my club to get it out and sometimes that didn't work well. In the end the blocks would no longer align properly and I got slugs with "flash" a lot. I managed to get 25 that looked good, and then I quit. Disgusted, I tossed the mold in the trash.
In general I like Lee's products but their slug molds aren't well thought out. I have a 20 gauge Lyman mold that works well (though it has its own issues with the core pin) and if I get a new 12 gauge mold it won't be by Lee.
Shooting report as soon as I can get to the range.
September 14, 2020: Kill Permit
I am a member of the Volunteer Work Force for the Department of Wildlife Resources (formerly Department of Game & Inland Fisheries) and one of the things I do is write "kill permits" for off-season take of deer (and other animals) that are causing damage to crops, ornamental plantings, etc. In previous years I've written as many as 20, but this season I hadn't written any at all, until last Friday (the 11th). Not sure why this is true, but it is. It might be due to the "pandemic" we're supposedly enduring, and the intransigent stupidity of Governor Blackface (Praise Be Unto Him, or else) but I don't think so. Another possibility is that the changeover from paper forms to an electronic one at DWR has affected things. There's a new Coordinator for volunteers and he needed to get up to speed. A few weeks ago I did a refresher course on permitting procedures, and this change was mentioned but no details were provided on the mechanics.
In any event, I went out Friday armed with my little DWR bag and paperwork, inspected the damage, and wrote a permit for the landowner, the first and likely the last one I'll write this year: these permits aren't good once the hunting season begins, and bow season opens on October 3rd, so I was constrained to write a cut-off date of September 30th.
Then there was the problem of a "CAD" number. In the old system I was sent this number—which identifies the case—and would write it on the permit. Not this time. I was told by the Coordinator to "..scan the permit and send it to me, I'll take care of it." By "scan" I think he may have meant to use a Smart Phone to take a picture of the paper permit. But I'm an adamant non-user of Smart Phones because they are obviously the handiwork of Satan and a device to destroy civilization. I have a flintlock, muzzle-loading Dumb-Shit Flip Phone. So I took the paper permit home and scanned it on a flatbed scanner, then e-mailed the image to the Coordinator.
On Sunday the landowner called me, said he didn't have the permit yet, and that the processors wouldn't take the deer without a CAD number. I immediately fired up the e-mail and contacted the Coordinator, who then sent the number to him via, I suppose, a text. I don't do texts, either: they make no sense to me and I refuse to text anyone; I also resolutely ignore any sent to me. However, the landowner got his CAD number, so he can start whacking and stacking antlerless deer.
I asked for clarification on the new procedures but as of yet it hasn't been forthcoming. Since I likely have at least a few more months until I start writing permits again, I will seek further guidance from the higher echelons of the DWR. The old system worked fine, I don't know why it was changed, but it's so far been only a minor PITA. I hope it won't grow into a major one.
September 19, 2020: Selling A Gun Is Getting Harder and It's Not An Accident!
I had this little revolver that was "surplus to need," and decided to sell it. I have long dealt with an auction site specializing in firearms, GunAuction.com with good results. Such sites reach potential buyers nationwide and are far superior in this respect to selling locally.
The way this is done legally is in theory very simple. I have to ship the gun to a licensed dealer, i.e., a holder of a "-01" Federal Firearms License (FFL). He enters the gun into his book, logging it in as coming from me; and when the buyer comes to his shop, logs it out to him. Easy, right?
Well, it would be if everyone played by the rules. Unfortunately in recent years a lot of FFL's are refusing to follow established procedures that have been law for more than 50 years. Why? Because they have been intimidated and deliberately confused by the Jackbooted Thugs of the BATF so that they're not sure exactly what the rules really are; they play it safe and don't do anything they think will get them in trouble.
The whole purpose of holding an FFL is to allow the holder to accept firearms from anyone in interstate commerce. But too many FFL holders these days will not accept a firearm from anyone but another licensee. They won't take it from a private party, even though the law clearly and explicitly allows this. Some dealers have actually been told by the local BATF inspector that they "...can't accept a gun from anyone but another licensee", which is a flat-out deliberate lie and the agent has to know that it is.
The buyer of my gun lives in Arkansas. He tried to get two FFL's to act as transfer agents and was told by both that the only way they would accept the gun was if it were sent to them by a licensee; or if I came to their shop in person ! He finally found an FFL holder who was willing to follow the law as written, but there was another hitch: to cover my ass in case the Jackbooted Thugs decided to kick in my door and shoot my dog, I needed some sort of proof that I was in fact sending the gun to an FFL holder. Normally what's done is the FFL sends me a copy of his license. This guy refused to do so. Again, I'm seeing this reluctance more and more: they're afraid that someone will forge a license and they'll get in trouble with the JBT's as accessories to some sort of crime. I suspect they've been told they can't send copies of a license by their local JBT, which is another lie.
The seller isn't actually required to have a physical copy of the license though it's a good idea to get one. Fortunately the BATF maintains a web site, the FFL E-Z Check where you can put in a license number and validate it. The transfer agent was reluctant, but eventually he did give me his license number so that I was able to verify that he was legitimate. The gun could be shipped to him in compliance with the law.
Now, all of this hoo-hah and timid behavior by FFLs is getting worse. I've been using the auction sites for years and the increased reluctance of FFL holders to do what the law permits them to do has been obvious. It's traceable to the ongoing war against gun ownership waged by the BATF. Ever since its creation under the never-sufficiently-to-be-cursed Gun Control Act of 1968, it has been their mission to totally eliminate private ownership of firearms; it's clearly agency policy to obfuscate, confuse, and intimidate anyone involved in the process of sale and transfer. They will never admit this but anyone looking at their record can see it's the case.
FFL holders are terrified of losing their license and livelihood and the JBT's know this. Agents have the power to do unannounced inspections and warrantless searches of a dealer's premises, and they do them. They deliberately lie to dealers, they make up "rules" that don't have any basis in law, and make demands beyond what the law requires. I once had a dealer insist on an FFL transfer for a rifle made in 1884 because his local JBT had told him he had to! They routinely issue not-so-subtle threats during inspections; God help the dealer whose books aren't absolutely perfect because a single typographical error in entering a serial number can cost a man his business, his home, and perhaps his freedom if the JBT's choose to really lean on him.
The BATF is a rogue agency run by rogues and it always has been. Instead of genuinely working to make sure the gun business is run smoothly and properly, they have made it their mission to destroy it.
September 21, 2020: An Encouraging Scout
I defied the explicit orders of Our Revered and Beloved, Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Lauded (if you know what's good for you) Governor Blackface (Praise Be Unto Him) to do a short scouting trip into the woods at Sunrise Farm yesterday. It was a beautiful day, perfect weather, and I've been cooped up too long. So I broke my shackles, took my little 20-gauge single-shot, fired up the truck, and headed for the forest.
Ostensibly I was squirrel hunting, but the real purpose was to touch base with the landowner and also to look over the results of a year's "repair" of the damage his loggers did. There was enough change that I felt I needed to re-learn the ground. The muzzle-loading season begins October 31st.
I met the landowner, said hello, and inquired about the property. he said, "We have plenty of deer; there were five behind the house yesterday," and told me that he's received his Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) tags for the year: 10 extra animals over and above the license tags. This is a slight reduction from the usual 15 tags he's been getting. DMAP tags allow taking antlerless deer beyond the normal daily limit, and they don't count against the license. Up here in the mountains west of the Blue Ridge we get to take two deer per day and five per year on the regular license: of these three must be antlerless. (East of the Ridge the season limit is six.) but since DMAP tags are "extras" in effect there isn't any bag limit so long as they're does and button buck fawns.
I went into the woods to have a look. There's still quite a bit of "slash" from the logging operation lying on the ground of the Ravine Of Death: if I dropped one in there getting it out would be a brutal undertaking. The ROD runs east-west between two ridges; the eastern end isn't too bad, and getting a deer out at that end wouldn't be too difficult, since the loggers seem to have left a relatively open area for their equipment and I can get the truck in far enough that a drag might not be heart-attack-inducing. Ideally, I want BANG!-FLOP! in the relatively clear places, but there's no guarantee that will always happen so I'll have to pick my shots carefully.
Alas, one of my favorite old spots, the place I call "Three Trees," (above) is completely unusable now, covered up with slash and with very limited views; I regret that I won't be able to use it any more.
Then I started moving around. The loggers made a road (above) into the deeper parts of the property, to areas where heavy brush impeded access before this year. This fine track is easily navigable by my F-150. Best of all, along the sides are clumps of pokeweed that have been heavily browsed; and there's a small grove of hickories and white oaks I didn't know was there until I was able to get in that far. Plenty of squirrel cuttings under those hickories, too. According to the Received Wisdom of hunting sites on The Internet deer don't eat hickory nuts, but squirrels sure do: I found lots of cuttings on the ground, though I didn't see any squirrels. I found a few tracks but I'm more encouraged by the level of browsing I saw. I think the deer population is up to snuff this year. And I did see deer: five of them running along the ridge on the north side of the ROD, moving east to west. I'd marked out a possible place to sit at the eastern end where it's fairly open; had I been sitting there with a rifle I could easily have popped one.
Time will tell!
September 22, 2020: A Vaccine Rant
Mrs Outdoorsman has been nagging me to get an (entirely pointless) flu shot. I have assiduously avoided these in the past and never had flu; and in any case even the proponents of this stuff admit that—at best—the shot is 40% effective, maybe 60% on a good day. I've never had flu in my life and have never had a flu shot, either. But Mrs Outdoorsman was adamant, so what the hell, for the sake of domestic peace I agreed to get the damned shot. It turns out there are two different types: one for those under 65 and one for those over 65. As a Certified Geezer I fall into the latter category. I use the Veteran's Administration hospital in Salem for 99% of my medical care so I called them to make an appointment.
This morning I got a call from them: no need for an appointment, the VA Hospital (45 miles away) has a drive-through-and-get-your-shot setup, but they also told me I could go to CVS or Walgreen's and have it done there for "free" on presentation of my VA card.
Today I called in succession three local drug stores: our two local CVS's and the Walgreen's 10 miles away in Christiansburg. NONE of them had the Geezer-Strength vaccine. Nor did any of them have any idea when they would get more. This shortage is thanks to the incessant and hysterical media hype over COVID, which has driven people to get a vaccine, any vaccine, no matter what. The Nazis are also pushing people to get a flu shot early, because you never know, you never know, you could die from flu and then we wouldn't be able to list you as a COVID death, now could we? Well, yes, they could and no doubt would. There's a certified case of a man killed in an auto accident who was listed as a COVID death; and if someone goes berserk from the isolation and jumps out of a window, well, he's a COVID death too, now isn't he?
I called the VA hospital, who assured me they had the vaccine, in both Whippersnapper-Strength and Geezer-Strength varieties. Off I went to Salem. I hit the drive-through clinic, all right, but..it was out of the Geezer-Strength vaccine. "You'll have to go inside the clinic to get it, they have it there." OK, at least the VA provides no-fee-no-tipping valet parking, so off to the clinic I went.
I waited 20 minutes or so, which is unusual at the VA, where I never have to wait if I have an appointment. But I didn't have one, so I waited. A very cheerful nurse came out eventually and summoned me. I went in and had the shot. She was surprised to hear that the local clinics in Blacksburg couldn't provide it. "I can't think why they wouldn't have it," she said, "It's a new vaccine, they should have plenty of it on hand." Well, they didn't, that's why I made a 90-mile round trip, but I didn't say that to her. I got the shot, and now I am immune to flu, so they say.
Now, the flu vaccine (either flavor) has been around for a long time. Every year they have to make a new one for the new strain, but it's established technology and the manufacturers have the techniques down pat. The distribution system and administrative parameters are well established. So...if the various clinics can't provide me with one dose of Geezer-Strength flu vaccine, HOW IN THE HELL DO THEY EXPECT TO PROVIDE "COVID-19" VACCINE FOR 325 MILLION PEOPLE? Moreover, the COVID vaccine is NOT YET in production, and won't be for months; and it's being rushed into production willy-nilly, essentially by bypassing all quality and clinical trials. Moreover it's being made using entirely new and untried methodology.
There is NO WAY I will get a @#$@#@@!!! COVID shot until it's been out for AT LEAST a year so that any unforeseen problems have been discovered, unless the Nazis rope and hog-tie me. I am not afraid of the damned COVID virus, but I am afraid of a completely untried and novel vaccine, of its unknown and so-far-unknowable long term effects, and most especially the incompetence of the authorities ramming it into production at any cost and without proper oversight or controls.
September 25, 2020: It Couldn't Have Happened To A Nicer Guy
It has just been announced by the Communist News Network, NN, that our Revered, Beloved, Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Praised-And-Honored El Jefe, He Who Looks Like Mr. Rogers And Acts Like Mussolini, Governatore Ralph Northam (Praise Be Unto Him, if you know what's good for you) has tested positive for COVID-19. NNalso says he is "...not suffering any symptoms.." from the "infection." The odds are that like 99.9% of all other "infected" people he will recover.
September 30, 2020: How Does Amazon Make Any Money?
Amazon seems to sell everything, as we all know. I needed a roll-crimping gadget for occasional use on 12 gauge shotshells; so I ordered one from them. It is made by a firm called "Forest Camping," which is apparently in Russia. I knew the widget was made in Russia and I knew that Amazon often sells stuff they don't actually have in their inventory, in effect letting outside companies use their web site to sell things.
What I didn't expect was that this thing would come directly from Russia. Yesterday I received a notice in my mailbox that I had a Registered Mail package; since I wasn't home when the carrier stopped I had to go to the Post Office to get it.
The crimper is shown above, along with the envelope in which it came. Now, Amazon doesn't let Forest Camping use their site for free: they get a cut of every sale. The crimper sells on the Amazon site for all of $14. Some part of that goes to Amazon; some part of it goes to the Russian and US Postal authorities; and some part of it represents manufacturing and shipping costs to Forest Camping. Whatever little bit is left over is their profit.
Since our last order was over the minimum amount Amazon demands to offer "free shipping" (which of course isn't free, it's built into the purchase price) they couldn't have made more than a few cents on this transaction. A generous estimate of what's in it for Amazon might be as much as a dollar. They must sell a heck of a lot of 12 gauge roll crimpers to make it worth their while.
October 1-2, 2020: A Fishing Weekend
My old friend Dave has a house in Cape Cod where he spends his summers. When he and his wife drive back to their home in Nashville they stop with us for a couple of days. Dave is a fanatical fisherman, so naturally we go fishing while he's here.
They arrived Thursday evening, and Friday we went to "Stoneroller Creek," which is actually a short stretch of the Little River (a tributary of the New). We fished from the banks. I did OK, though there was nothing worth taking home. I caught 5 stonerollers (a local chub often called a "hornyhead"), a redeye (a rock bass) and a little smallmouth bass.
From there we shifted to another part of the Little River, just below its hydroelectric dam, to fish the tail race. We stopped at a local bait shop called "The Sportsman," had lunch, and bought some minnows there: it's one of only two stores that sell minnows in this area.
That spot has a lot of water, very fast and roiled, well oxygenated. Getting to it is tricky and somewhat risky: the shore is very rough: layers of sedimentary rock turned up and broken on a very steep slope down to the water. About the best place imaginable to break an ankle, or to tumble into the tailrace. In retrospect perhaps not the ideal location for a couple of geezers to fish. It would have been safer to come up from the mouth where it joins the New by boat; but we didn't have the boat that day.
Nor did we catch fish, though fish there were. I know this because a mink came up out of the water with about an 8" fish in his mouth and scampered past us as if we weren't there. I don't know what minks do with fishes when they aren't eating them, but this fellow stashed it somewhere and came back around several times, to check on on how we were doing. We were killing minnows, but not catching anything at all.
Saturday we hauled up my little boat (an Old Town Discovery Sport square-stern) and schlepped it off to the New River. We went to Whitethorne, which has always been a very productive place for us. But not that day: we saw no fish, let alone caught any.
We did see a deer wandering the banks of the Radford Army Ammunition Plant; and some jackass with an incredibly over-engined jonboat who zipped past us going down river and then again up river on his return. I've never understood the logic of putting an 45 or 50 HP outboard on a flat-bottomed 14-foot jonboat, but this is more or less the Official Redneck Fishing Boat of Montgomery County. The New is very shallow and has a very rocky bottom, and racing over it at 40 MPH makes no sense to me, but a lot of people do it.
There were very few other people out, despite it being Saturday and the weather being absolutely perfect: bright and clear and cool but not cold. Tech was playing a football game against Duke and most people seem to have stayed home to watch, as did a few hundred cardboard cut-outs in the stands, the latest manifestation of COVID-iocy.
I was also pleased that my outboard motor (a 2.5 HP Yamaha four stroke) despite not having been fired up for a couple of years started on the very first pull of the cord and ran perfectly the whole time. It's simply a stellar motor despite not having a reverse gear. The boat is wonderful for getting in and out of small coves and runs nicely in open water, but it's a bit cramped. Not having used it for a long time I'd forgotten how cramped it is with two people and gear in it. My flexibility and tolerance for odd sitting positions has been seriously eroded in recent years: I love having a boat but I need something with a bit more comfort. And it's a lot heavier than it was when I bought it! I used to be able to get it on top of the cap on my F-250: now it takes two of us to get it into the truck bed. It seems that 109 pounds now is a lot more than 109 pounds used to be.
Eventually we gave up trying to convince the fish that worms were what they really needed and headed home. On the way we saw another deer: the one that ran out in front of my truck and that I narrowly avoided hitting. I've killed one deer with that F-150, but have no desire to kill another one that way.
October 8-10, 2020: A Close Encounter Of The Mephitic Kind
It had to happen sooner or later.
We have a fenced yard, so that the dogs can safely be allowed to wander in and out of the basement as they please. At bedtime I will let them out for a "hurry-up" and wait at my desk for them to return, which they normally do within ten minutes or so.
Typically Lucy, the Border Collie, comes in first; then Tehya the Lab lumbers in, looking bewildered, but that's nothing new: she is always bewildered. The night of the 7th, unusually, Tehya came in first. And Lucy started barking, barking, barking. Lucy is a pretty aggressive dog who'll chase anything the size of a squirrel and up (she ignores chipmunks, for some canine reason beyond my comprehension); when she started barking I figured she'd popped up a rabbit and was chasing it.
But the persistent barking was coming from one corner of the fence, a place with very heavy brush coverage. OK, well, rabbits will go to ground in heavy cover. I went out to find her and bring her back inside. She was invisible, though: well inside the brush herself. When I walked up she continued to bark, and some rabbit-sized animal was rustling the shrubbery as well.
Now, this isn't what I expected. Rabbits will run if they get a chance but whatever it was was standing its ground, not giving an inch, and it dawned on me that this was not a rabbit; I thought (hoped) it was a groundhog, but at 10:00 PM, that seemed unlikely. Then I caught a whiff. A skunk was maneuvering for a shot at Lucy's face.
I managed to get her out from the bush before she was too heavily sprayed. I think perhaps the shrubbery prevented the skunk from lifting its tail completely, but sprayed Lucy was nevertheless. I never saw the skunk. It must have wandered off after I forced Lucy into the garage, reeking of skunk spray, but what mattered right then was to get her cleaned up.
I have a formula for dealing with skunk spray that works pretty well. I quickly made up a batch of it and dunked Lucy in the tub we use to wash dogs, a process to which she vigorously objects. I filled the tub partially with a bucket and using a scoop I washed her with the "skunk-off" then shampoo. Luckily the spray wasn't too heavy and it worked well enough to get her through the night. She (and Tehya) spent the night in the basement. Mrs Outdoorsman, two floors above, was complaining about the stink and it would have been impolitic to bring them upstairs!
When you do an emergency dog bath at about 10:30 PM it tends to be a hasty affair, so the next day Lucy got another dose of "skunk-off" and a second, proper bath. Tehya got a bath too. Then they were caged for a couple of hours to dry off. OK, all well, right?
After more or less drying them off they were turned out into the yard. They dried nicely in the sun and I needed to brush them, so I let them come in; at which point, for some wholly inexplicable Border Collie reason, Lucy started a fight.
Tehya always comes out second in fights, although she outweighs Lucy by 20-30 pounds. She hasn't got the fighting spirit and Lucy is very much the Alpha. Tehya reminds me of the dog Satchel in the "Get Fuzzy" comic strip: sweet-natured, amiable, food-obsessed, and timid. Lucy is a bully by nature, but Border Collies are that way.
This was not an epic canine gladiatorial contest but it was bad enough that I had to spray them with the hose to stop the battle. Tehya got her left ear chewed badly enough that it wouldn't stop bleeding for a couple of hours. In the end I daubed it heavily with styptic powder and that seems to have worked. But I knew that if I'd brought her upstairs and she'd started dripping blood again Mrs Outdoorsman would not be best pleased. When a Lab with a bleeding ear shakes her head, in five seconds the room looks like Jeffrey Dahmer's kitchen. Blood on the walls, on the furniture, on drapes, everything. Therefore the dogs spent a second night in the basement. I'd got quite a bit of blood on my clothes trying to deal with Tehya's ear, so into the washer they went and I went up to bed stark nekkid.
Fifteen or so years ago we had a similar incident. We were actually away at the beach when the dogsitter called. The dogs we had then (Tycho, Meg, and Tessa, may they all rest in peace) had seriously tangled with a skunk and brought their saturated fur into the basement, rubbing on the furniture and the rug, thoroughly stenching the place up for the entire week we were away. That incident led to me ripping up the carpet (a process that took three days, it being glued to the concrete slab), washing all the furniture and slipcovers three times, and the dogs three times with "skunk-off." Even so, for a year afterwards if you got Tycho wet you could still smell that damned skunk.
Today (the 10th) Tehya's ear has dried up, and perhaps we can risk having them come up tonight. Lucy is swaggering around telling everyone she meets how she defeated Pepe Le Pew in mortal combat, but at least she doesn't stink. That's all I ask. Plus the death of all skunks.
October 14, 2020: Semi-Satisfactory Sight In
I defied the orders of His Most Hypocritical Majesty El Jefe (Praise Be Unto Him, if you know what's good for you) Governor Blackface, who was on The Boob Tube today sternly ordering me to wear a mask, or else; but He wasn't wearing one, not even one around his neck, which is where He usually wears it.
Muzzle-loading deer season opens on October 31st; since we have other projects in hand including—ugh—a floor refinishing scheduled in a couple of days that's going to be a major PITA, I went to the range to check sights on my T/C .54 New Englander muzzle-loader. I had installed a little lens device that definitely made the front sight post much clearer; and I wanted to see how the Minié projectiles I made a few weeks ago would load and shoot.
For those not familiar with Minié bullets, they're conicals with a deep hollow cavity and a "skirt" that's intended to expand on firing. They're also supposed to be smaller than groove diameter so that they load easily and don't require a cloth patch. During the Civil War both sides used Minié bullets and did fearful execution with them. Having once or twice had to reload quickly I reasoned they'd be useful in deer hunting.
Well, to make a long story short, they were a complete disappointment. Even with a clean cold barrel loading one took some strenuous effort: so much for being easy to load! I felt that it was so difficult there was a real danger than if I tried to reload the barrel after firing a shot I'd get the bullet stuck; so I swabbed between shots, not something I could easily do in the field.
Nor did they shoot well. The recommended load from T/C was 100 grains of FFg powder, quite a bit more than the usual 83 grains I use with round balls. The first shot at 50 yards went spang into the middle of the bullseye; I should have stopped there but I'm glad I didn't. The second shot went about 10" high; the third was on the right level but 12" or so to the right. Those useless bullets will eventually go back into my casting pot to be melted down and used as something else.
Back to patched round balls. I used some Remington "Golden" balls. I'd bought two boxes of 100 a while back and they're very fine bullets now, alas, no longer available. They were shooting high, but properly set for windage, so I fiddled the rear sight peep down (how did frontiersmen live without adjustable sights?) and eventually managed to get all my shots into minute-of-pie-plate. I wasn't happy with this grouping but the center was in "about" the right place; any one of those shots would have killed a deer, so I left it at that. I did make one change from the procedure I've used in the past: I used to put a wool wad under the ball and patch. I've had problems with that in other rifles. In my .54 flintlock (also by T/C) and my .72 Pedersoli occasionally the wad didn't come out with the load, blocking the flash hole and causing misfires. I went without this time as a way to eliminate a variable.
Even patched balls were more difficult to load than they have been in the past, I don't know why. The bore is free of pitting, but perhaps even with the swabbing some residue was left behind, enough to make loading harder. And I had several instances of caps that didn't go off. I decided that this might be due to a nipple that's been battered too much in probably 10 years of use; it was replaced with one that seems to be satisfactory in that it doesn't misfire, but the cone is a wee bit smaller and the caps fall off if they aren't pinched. This sort of thing is par for the course with muzzle-loaders, I'm afraid. Each one is an individual, has it's own "likes" and "dislikes" and you have to be patient, learning the quirks of a given rifle until you can make it do what you want.
I really like that New Englander; I've killed at least 16 deer with it, as well as a big warthog in Namibia. It's distressing that it isn't performing as it has in the past on the range, but I will take the blame and put it on old eyes. It may also be due to eliminating the wool wad, because muzzle-loaders can be finicky about how they're loaded, far more so than centerfire rifles usually are. If time allows I may go back and try again with the wads to see if that helps shrink the groups.
Brought the rifle home, cleaned it, and put it up until Halloween. With any luck (mine) Bambi will regret going trick-or-treating, and I'm not talking about his chance of contracting COVID-19. If I can do anything about it he'll die of acute lead insertion.
October 16, 2020: Of Nipples, Stuck Wads, And Getting Ready
Last night I chucked the offending nipple from my T/C New Englander (Lord, doesn't that sound kinky?) into a drill and with some 320 grit paper polished it to brightness. Now a #11 cap will seat properly with finger pressure; so far as I can tell everything is all trued up, with the hammer face apparently hitting squarely on the nipple cone. I hope this solves the problem of caps that don’t go off. If a cap does go off, the rifle goes BANG! every single time.
It’s been suggested to me that Remington caps are problematic, and have a tendency to lose their priming material. I've not had that happen. I have a lot of Remington caps but I use them only on my Old Army .45, which dislikes any other brand. For rifles and shotguns I always use RWS or CCI caps. After polishing the nipple I emptied my capper of "old" RWS caps and replaced them with a new batch fresh from the package. The proof of the rifle is in the firing, I suppose. I have to get it out and bang away with it.
Furthermore I’m going to return to my previous practice of putting a wool wad under the ball. I always did that until one day a wad got lodged inside the barrel of the .54 flintlock and blocked the flash channel on the right side of the breech. I was unaware of what had happened and why the rifle wouldn't fire until I got home and started to clean it. After I removed the flash channel liner—a normal step in the cleaning process—I could see the wad.
De-breeching the gun wasn't an option: that job requires skills and tools beyond my capabilities or equipment. An ordinary wad puller couldn't get a purchase on it because it was cocked sideways. I eventually managed to extract the wad—which was literally folded in half—by fashioning a small hook in a piece of coat hanger wire, a makeshift tool that I was able to wiggle behind the stuck wad so as to pull it out. It took me an hour and a half but it worked. That experience (and a similar one with a double-barrelled 12 gauge) made me wary of under-bullet wads, which I’d used for years.
The issue of stuck wads may be partially related to bore size. The .72 and the 12 gauge have bores large enough that a wad could easily get cocked sideways when being rammed down. If that happens it's easy to envision it being folded in half by the ramrod tip. The .54's are smaller so perhaps less likely to have that happen, but…the flintlock is also a .54 and it happened with that rifle, so this explanation may be suspect.
Nevertheless I can't help but think that lack of the wad is somehow related to the experience of poor shooting I had two days ago. The New Englander has always been shot with under-bullet wads but I've never had one get stuck, so I'm going to go back to using one.
The wool wad is impregnated with lubricant (as is the cloth patch) to soften any fouling and to lubricate the barrel as the ball is rammed home. Lacking it may have contributed to the difficulty I experienced in loading, so if for no other reason, the wad will return.
So I'm pretty much ready for Opening Day of muzzle-loading season, October 31st. It is a Holy Day Of Obligation, of course; so I'll be out there before dawn not the least bit worried about COVID-iocy. I don't need no steenkin' ventilator. As for "social distancing," well, a .54 caliber rifle is very good at making that happen if need be. Whatever: if I have to go into the woods on a gurney I'll be there.
October 19, 2020: Comment Not Needed
October 19, 2020: A Successful Nipple "Repair"
I took my rifle and the "repaired" nipple into the garage and successfully popped a dozen or so caps without a flub. That 320-grit sandpaper did the trick.
October 22, 2020: A Mini-Scout
A year and a half has gone by since Sunrise Farm was logged, and the wreckage in the form of slash on the ground is considerable, so I've got to re-learn the property and the movements of the deer post-logging. Underbrush and browse are not bad things to have, especially if you're a deer: but can considerably complicate the process of getting a carcass out. On the 20th I went out there for my second scouting mission.
Squirrel season is open: I decided to take my little .32 muzzle-loader (a Traditions "Crockett") and sit in a spot that looked "deery." If a squirrel came by, thought I, it would be a bonus.
In fact four squirrels came by (it's possible that one of them was a squirrel that came by twice) but I never got off a shot, they moved too fast! But on the way out of the woods I did see some fresh doe tracks, so the deer are out there.
I fired the rifle as I left, because that's the easiest way to unload it; and at home I re-learned how much of a PITA it is to clean a small-bore muzzle-loader. It's not like a larger caliber rifle: everything is in miniature, so it requires smaller tips, jags, patches, etc. Too large a patch won't go down the barrel. Too small a patch will come off the jag or slotted tip and be left behind. In fact a few patches did come off so had to blow them out with the CO2 discharger. In a bigger caliber I would have used a patch worm, a sort of helical steel coil that screws onto the end of the ramrod; but the bore of this rifle is too small for the one I have. Thank goodness the patches came out, or I'd have been in real trouble.
I have figured out a couple of spots to sit; one of which holds the risk that a shot deer may get into the slash on the ground and present me with a significant extraction challenge. The other place will be easy, I can drive right up to it, assuming it doesn't get into the brush on either side of the "road" the loggers left.
October 31st is Opening Day. I'm ready, willing, and I hope able. Bring 'em on!
October 26, 2020: The Daredevil
We have squirrels in our back yard, as does everyone else. Most of the time squirrels are timid beasties that run as soon as they see something they perceive as dangerous, such as a vigilant Border Collie like my Lucy. Lucy and squirrels have a Mutual Hatred Pact: each regards the other as The Enemy. Lucy is an Ace, with five confirmed kills.
While it would be a remarkable thing for a squirrel to kill a 52-pound dog, they aren't entirely defenseless. Squirrels are amazingly fast on their feet, unbelievable acrobats, can jump 8 feet, and can climb any sort of surface short of a pane of glass. The mere sight of a dog will set one fleeing for all he's worth, and he's worth quite a bit in that context. When Lucy goes after one, far more often than not the squirrel gets away. Once he's up a tree he's safe: the issue is reaching the tree soon enough. But not all squirrels are flighty cowards. Some, especially a specific one we have in our yard, are pretty brave, and actually seem to be contemptuous of dogs.
The Daredevil, as I've dubbed him, will come to the bird feeder several times a day, even when Lucy has chased him off every time. He'll hit the ground running for a tree, and it isn't always the nearest tree: sometimes he goes to one very far down in the yard, and if Lucy sees him try that she's after him like a shot. But she's nearly 11 and nowhere near so fast as she used to be. So far she hasn't caught The Daredevil though heaven knows she tries.
He gets more brazen every day. Not content to just return to the feeder 15 minutes after being shooed away, yesterday he was actually sitting outside the patio sliding door, looking in. I don't know whether he was checking to see if Lucy was on guard duty, or whether he felt there might be some birdseed worth stealing, but there he was. Lucy looked up and he was not three feet from her fangs. Lucky for him the door was closed. Both The Daredevil and Lucy were momentarily taken aback and I could hear both of them thinking "Holy Shit!" as the situation became clear. (I had that happen to me once, with a big whitetail buck, but that's a tale for another time.)
Of course I opened the door and out she streaked, but The Daredevil had a half-second head start and that was enough. This time he did head for the nearest tree, a crepe myrtle about 30 feet away, and up he went.
Lucy, as protocol dictates, then proceeded to dance around the base of the tree, giving out with her special bark that means "I have a squirrel up the tree! Come, come, help me kill it!" I went and looked, and sure enough he wasn't even bothering to try The Vanishing Squirrel Trick, the one where he imitates a bump on a branch so well he can't be seen. I could spot him easily and so could the dog, who was frantic with bloodlust. Furthermore, he stayed up there chattering and squeaking, taunting her.
The thing is, that was the third time that day she'd treed this critter. Twice he went up into the old crabapple. He did the same Nyah-nyah-nyah-can't-catch-me thing, too: chattering and stamping his little paws. Eventually I called Lucy off and she reluctantly came back into the house to resume her watch over the bird feeder.
I could have killed that squirrel for her with my air rifle: but I figure if she wants him she's going to have to earn him. Maybe some day she will but I think The Daredevil's a real survivor, and moreover one whose regard for dogs—especially elderly Border Collies—is pretty low.
October 27, 2020: Return Of The Daredevil
Today Lucy started giving her "treed" bark again, this time at the base of our pear tree, which is adjacent to the crepe myrtle. I went out to look. I saw no squirrel, but she was insistent that he was there. I got closer, and sure enough PLOP! he jumped out, from at least 12-15 feet off the ground, landed unharmed, and took off down the fence line on my neighbor's side, Lucy in hot pursuit on my side, of course to no avail.
Later she started barking again. Once again she was absolutely certain he was in the tree, but nary a hair of him did I see even with binoculars. Eventually I called her off, because it was dinner time. Maybe he was there after all, thumbing his nose at her because she couldn't catch him; and at me because I couldn't see him, binoculars or no binoculars. Tomorrow is another day: Lucy is full of hope for another kill, and if she's a little faster on her feet, maybe she'll do it. But I think The Daredevil has her number, so probably not.
October 31, 2020: Deer 10, NRVO 0, Or Perhaps 0.5
Today was Opening Day of the early black powder season, and as seems to be typical of my Opening Days, pretty much a bust. Even more so than usual.
I heaved my aging carcass out of bed at 4:00 AM: it's a 40-minute drive to Sunrise Farm, and I needed to be on stand by 6:30, legal shooting time beginning at 7:14. I made the schedule, walking in to a spot I'd picked out (the one I thought I'd picked out) in daylight the previous week. This spot is along the south side of the Ravine Of Death. The ROD proper is choked with debris and timber slash from last year's logging, but the loggers had cut a nice clean road of sorts along the ridge on that side, bordering a pasture. I'd scouted it and picked out a place that looked good. As it happens in the dark I walked well past where I wanted to go, and discovered someone else had decided it looked good, too. There was a brand new #!@#$!@$!@!!! ladder stand set up. Oh, well, not for me to tell the landowner who he can and can't allow to hunt there. I sat down and waited for the light to come up.
The landowner has a large flock of goats and he has two enormous dogs who live with them and guard them against coyotes. I'd heard coyotes yipping when I drove in, somewhere off in the distance. As I walked along to get to my chosen spot though, the dogs, well aware of my presence, set up a tremendous noise, barking their heads off and hoping, no doubt, to tear me into small pieces. Which they could easily have done, being roughly the size of St Bernards, gifted with the disposition of pit bulls. Luckily the pasture has a fence, or I'd not be writing this.
About 8:30 five does came by, behind a screen of brush below me, between the brush and the fence. There was no chance of a shot, but it was encouraging to see them. I watched to see where they came out, if they did. I walked in a little further; almost at the property line, along the logger road, I found a sort of depression which the trail passed through. Damned if those deer didn't come right out at that spot, crossing the bowl and heading up the ridge towards the center of the ROD. Half an hour later a smallish buck (I think a four-point) came out, tracking the does, but he never stopped for even half a second. No shot there, either.
I sat tight, and about 10:00 four more deer followed the same path: a very big doe leading a pack of smaller deer (perhaps her early Spring triplets). The doe spotted me but wasn't sure what I was. That's quite common in the early season, and I was sitting on the ground: a sitting man isn't instantly identified or perceived as a threat. She stood there and looked at me, standing quite broadside, and pretty much in the clear. I took the shot...and MISSED. At about 45 yards.
It's a poor workman who blames his tools, I know, but I can excuse part of that miss by blaming the little peep sight insert I bought a few months ago to improve my image of the front sight. It has a 0.5 diopter lens with a rim around it to hold the lens in place. The rim restricts the field of view considerably. To be fair, the maker had warned me of this, but I had hoped it would improve my execrable marksmanship. It does in fact make the front sight much more clear, though the target is not also in focus. That shot would have been a "gimme" with a scoped centerfire, but I blew it because I couldn't see exactly where on the side of the deer I was aiming. I also probably rushed the shot, thinking the doe would finally wise up and run.
By then I was cold, hungry, pissed off, and pretty badly in need of a toilet. I upped stakes and hoofed it back to the truck. I went to "The Sportsman," a little cafe-cum-bait shop on the banks of the New River just below Claytor Lake Dam, where I knew I could get a burger and use the john. On the way up I saw deer #10: the one I hit with my truck. A 4-pointer ran right out in front of me on Route 600 as I was heading for the Interstate highway. I slammed on the brakes as I saw him leap into the road from my left, but the timing was bad: he got clipped by the front left bumper and slid along the left side of the truck, bonking my driver's side wing mirror pretty badly and leaving a bit of hair wedged into the chrome trim strip on that side. I stopped and got out to look for him: I figured that if I'd killed him I could check him in and go home. I give myself a half-point on this one.
This was not to be. A man driving his car coming the other way who witnessed the hit told me the deer had run off into an adjacent field on my left. I walked in but there was no sign of him at all. No blood, nothing. I was certainly not going to go traipsing around on private property with a rifle; based on the eyewitness account the deer was high-tailing it for cover, not much injured if at all. So I continued on to a) have lunch; and b) get rid of breakfast, and shortly thereafter returned to the ROD for the PM sit.
This time I sat at one end of the ROD proper. That end is fairly open and with a judicious choice of shots I wouldn't have had a recovery problem. I never got to test this theory because no deer showed up. I did, however, see two very, very fresh rubs on small trees, possibly made by the buck I'd seen earlier that morning. They were so new the wood under the bark was still wet. I sat in this spot until 4:00 PM, then returned to what I'm going to call "Nine Deer Dip" until 6:30. Nothing to show for that sit either.
So back to the truck, with a loaded rifle, since I'd reloaded after missing that big doe. Now, the easiest way to unload a muzzle-loader is to fire it. I had to clean it anyway; two shots would be no more of a mess to clean than one. It's a good thing another deer DIDN'T come by. When I pulled the trigger with the gun pointed at the ground, it MISFIRED! Got a "CLONK " because the cap didn't go off! A second hit on the cap set it off, the gun fired with an enormous BANG ! and made a nice smoking hole in the ground.
I'm beginning to think I need to quit hunting with a muzzle-loader. My eyes are probably no longer up to any kind of iron sights, even peep sights . I flat-out refuse to scope that New Englander sidelock, nor am I willing to buy a new in-line. I may just bypass the BP seasons next year. I haven't killed a deer with a muzzle-loader since 2018.
I've also found that while getting down onto my little stool isn't too hard, getting up requires some "assistance" in the form of a walking stick or a handy tree. It gets harder every year. I'm not ready to quit just yet but the time is surely coming. I'll keep my New Englander but may sell the other muzzle-loaders.
Anyone interested in a beautiful Pedersoli double rifle? A .72 muzzle-loader, and I have molds for round balls and slugs for it. Let me know and I'll give you a smoking deal on it. I had planned to use it in Namibia for eland but never got the chance.
November 3, 2020: Return Of The Daredevil
That brazen rodent keeps coming back to raid the bird feeder. Lucy has been vigilantly watching for him; when he shows up she "alerts" and demands to be let out. I open the door and out she goes, but the squirrel gives her a contemptuous glance and runs, not to the dogwood tree adjacent to the feeder, not to the pear tree 30 feet away, but the the apple tree in the bottom of the yard, a good 80 feet from the feeder. She's treed him several times in the past couple of days. When she does she dances around barking to let me know. I went out just now and sure enough, there he was on a branch near the top. He could easily have run off along the power line that runs through the tree but he doesn't bother any more. That's the third time today she's put him up the tree, but he'll be back in the feeder soon, I have no doubt.
It's been very cold the past couple of days so I imagine the poor little guy needs "fuel" to stay warm, and the bird feeder is a handy source. Lucy is immensely frustrated. She wants me to kill him—actually what she wants is for me to knock him out of the tree so she can kill him—but she's on her own in that respect. He's a brave little soul—and a very hungry one—and I want no part of murdering him.
Curiously enough, we have lots of chipmunks that also routinely hit the bird feeder. Those she ignores completely. I haven't ever seen her so much as glance at a chipmunk. Maybe there's a certain minimum size criterion for her to decide if an animal is "chase-worthy" or not? She's a dog and has her own standards, to which I am not privy.
November 3, 2020: Lucy Meets Pogo Possum
Came down a few minutes ago to let the dogs out for a final pre-bedtime pee; a few seconds later Lucy the Border Collie started barking frantically. I went out and there on top of the bird feeder was a young possum. She couldn't quite reach it but she was giving it the Old Collie Try. The possum was quite calm, almost catatonic, but he wasn't "playing possum" at all; he was aware that she couldn't reach him and was content to sit tight.
I managed to shoo Lucy back into the house, and then turned to deal with Pogo. I have a nice walking staff a good friend made for me; it's about six feet long with a piece of antler for a tip. I prodded him to get off the feeder, but he wasn't having any of that, either. He simply sat there looking at me with his beady, red eyes.
I took advantage of the fact that possums have prehensile tails: when I slipped one end of the staff under his tail, he latched on as if it were a tree branch. So I carried him, head down, like a sack on the end of the stick, and tossed him over the fence whence he promptly ran off.
We have a lot of possums. Many years ago my old dogs Toby and Tucker cornered one, who did play dead; Lucy killed one a couple of years back. I've caught them in a box trap. They're pretty harmless critters, I wouldn't kill one if I didn't have to. Not only are they mild-mannered scavengers, they eat ticks. Anything that eats ticks—creatures God has no reasonable excuse to have created—is my friend.
I'm glad I was able to assist Pogo on his way. He'll probably come back when he realizes the dogs are gone. Tehya the Lab sat and watched the whole thing, uninterested because she knew couldn't eat the possum and if she can't eat something or jump up on it to take a nap she doesn't care about it.
November 6, 2020: Humiliation And Rage, Weeping, Wailing, And Gnashing Of Teeth
I went out again yesterday (Thursday) back to Sunrise Farm. There are deer out there all right: as I rolled in three deer were in the driveway. No shot, it was before opening time.
I went to Nine Deer Dip. I sat in exactly the same place as I had on Opening Day last Saturday. At 9:02, out came three deer. I had cleverly removed the little lens from my peep sight, so I had a very good view of the doe in the lead. I fired AND MISSED HER AGAIN!!!! This may well have been the very same doe I missed on Opening Day last Saturday! If so, she's certainly "educated" now. Off they went up the hill.
I was so furious I left and drove 35 miles to my club's range to check my sights. Shot #1 went a good 18" high and 10" to the right. Shot #2 was better with respect to elevation but still to the right. I fiddled with the windage adjustment on my sight and shots #3 and #4 were centered properly and about 1-1/2" high at 50 yards. I left it at that. Reasoning that my first shot is always fired from a clean cold barrel, I'd swabbed between shots and let the barrel cool. This, as it turned out, was a mistake, though not a costly one.
I experienced several failures to pop the cap, despite having replaced the old nipple with a new one. Then I swapped cap brands, changing over to CCI caps. These seemed to work better than the RWS ones, something I don't understand. I've used RWS caps for years and never had a problem with them but that was with the old nipple.
So, back to Sunrise Farm, another 35 miles, and back to the Dip. No deer came by to get shot. I left my stand at 5:20, end of legal time. Hoofed back to the driveway and fired a shot to empty the gun. Well, I tried to fire a shot. This time the cap popped satisfactorily, but the gun didn't go off. I tried again, same thing: cap pops, no gun discharge.
Out came the nipple pick, off came the nipple. I cleaned the nipple and then, using a flintlock pan charger, I put a few grains of FFFFg powder into the breech, then replaced the nipple. THAT worked. The gun went off with a satisfying roar. No more in-the-field-swabbing for me. I got in the truck and went home. It was a good thing no deer came by in the afternoon: it's disgraceful to have missed two shots in exactly the same place and the same condition, probably at the same deer. I'm still angry with myself, and just glad that another deer didn't come by that afternoon, or I'd have broken the gun over a rock in frustration. No doubt swabbing the barrel left some residue in the breech that plugged things up. Yes, yes, I dried the barrel as thoroughly as I could after each swab, but it wasn't good enough, obviously.
At home I cleaned the rifle and replaced the nipple with a third one. I had two spare "Kap Kover" nipples so I used one of those. Now I have to pop caps to see how well they work: if it pops 10 in a row I'll be satisfied.
I'm going out again on Saturday, taking my flintlock. That New Englander .54 has served me well for years and has killed 18 deer plus a warthog, but it's driving me nuts, so the Renegade gets a turn in the woods. It has its own issues but I believe it will shoot where I point it.
Rifle season starts on the 14th. My Kimber .308 will go first. I have a lot of tags to fill. Damn and blast!
November 6, 2020: The Death Of The Apple And Mulberry Trees
I've written about some trees that have been significant in my life, including the apple tree in my back yard. Today it, and the "volunteer" mulberry the birds planted 12-15 years ago, died.
That apple tree was at least 50 years old. We've been in this house for 33+ years and it was fully grown and mature when we arrived. The house was built in 1963 and it seems likely the tree was planted by the first family to live here. If so it would have been about 24 years old when we arrived.
Our arborist, Adam Salzberg of Highland Tree Care is a real artist and does a superb job. He's done several major removal projects for us, and we've always been pleased with his skill and professionalism. The fact is that now there is precisely one tree left in the yard that was here when we came: an elderly crabapple that will probably go next year.
My dogs will miss that apple tree. Every dog we've had since we lived here has feasted on dropped apples all summer long. Tycho, my late beloved Husky, actually used to jump up to try to snatch apples off low-hanging branches. Tessa and Tehya, the first and second Labs, would lie under it eating windfalls all afternoon long. Toby, Meg and Tucker all loved apples too, and a fresh windfall apple is one of the few things that can distract Lucy from fetching a Frisbee.
Once some of my vet students asked if they could pick some of the apples, and of course we said yes. They made us some applesauce from them that was quite good, though the apples it produced were pretty bland in themselves. I made a pie with those apples once or twice.
The mulberry had its fans, among them the squirrels who feasted on its fruit in the Spring. The squirrels also liked the apple tree as a place to eat and to get away from Lucy's fangs. One year my neighbor's daughters asked if it would be all right if they could pick mulberries from the branches that over hung the fence onto his side, which we were happy for them to do.
I'll miss those trees too. The yard looks empty without them. Trees, like humans, have defined life spans and our apple tree had certainly reached its end. The mulberry was cut down in its prime, but after the damage the electric lines did, it was more euthanasia than anything else.
November 7, 2020: More Failure
I went into the woods again today, back to Nine Deer Dip. Arrived at 6:00 AM, and held out till noon. Nobody showed up: no deer, anyway. Plenty of grey and fox squirrels and innumerable chipmunks. At one point a bunch of vultures were circling overhead and a vulture started a raucous clatter and croaking in the woods to my right. It almost made me wonder if I'd hit that doe two days ago after all, and they were picking her carcass. But it soon stopped and I didn't go over to look.
At noon I walked back to the truck, kicking out a deer as I did so. It went up 80-100 yards away and I didn't see whether it was a buck or a doe. Doesn't matter. I sat down in another spot, near where I'd spotted those rubs, and waited another hour. But it was growing very warm, I was tired from another 4:00 AM rise, and I left. Of course, on the way out I spotted a young doe on the side of the road.
I did kill one thing today: a hard drive. I'd dismantled some computer equipment, and this drive was dead, but you never know. I had no idea what was on it because it was several years old, but there are people who can recover data from defunct drives, so I decided to really kill it. One shot from my .54 Renegade flintlock did the trick.
November 14-15, 2020: More Opening Day Blues
Conforming to the explicit orders of our Revered, Beloved, Never-Sufficiently-To-Be-Praised El Jefe (Praise be Unto Him if you know what's good for you) I did a bit of Armed Social Distancing on Saturday the 14th, Opening Day of Rifle Season, the Highest of the High Holy Days.
I went to the Valley Of A Thousand Rodents after rising groaning from my bed at 4:00 AM again. I reached my stand at 5:30, well before legal time. I have killed many deer from this spot; enough so that I've forgotten how many, but it was the same place where Norman and I shot that spike buck last season. As early as I was someone got an even earlier start. I heard a shot at 5:48. He must have been using night vision equipment.
I started hearing legal shots about 7:30, not many and mostly far off. But then at 8:00 a very loud shot, not more than 100 yards away, on the next property. It was followed by a second from the same place. "OK," I thought, that's a kill." But then there was a THIRD shot. Five minutes afterwards I heard two guys arguing, though I couldn't hear what they were arguing about. I think these were the same two clowns who tried to shoo me off my stand a couple of years ago, claiming it was the property of their employer, which it was most decidedly not. In any event I didn't see them. Half an hour after that some buzzards started circling, so I assume the clowns had made a kill (perhaps two?) and the birds were after the gut pile(s).
Nothing happened after that. I went to lunch at noon, and came back an hour later, sat in the same spot, where I saw zilch, which isn't surprising because that's a "morning" spot. At 4:00 I went to another place, one where last year I shot two deer in three days. It's a field above my hostess's barn, whence begins the trail to the VOATR. Those two deer I shot last year fell in spots not so much as 50 feet apart. Deer come out reliably at dusk, and it proved the case that day. At 5:30, ten minutes before shooting time ended, I looked up and saw a deer running across the pasture 50 yards away. It had obviously seen me and wasn't going to give me a shot. But then a minute later it came back, running the other way, stopped briefly. I fired and MISSED AGAIN. I was using my tack-driving Kimber .308, and believe me, I was really pissed. That's the first time in 10 years I've missed a deer with that rifle.
So today (the 15th) I went out to look for blood. I was unable to find any indication of a hit at the time, plus the deer took off on afterburners jumping the boundary fence to the neighbor's property. I felt certain it was a clean miss but I had to check.
This morning I was there about 8:00, and sure enough it was indeed a clean miss. I actually found the bullet track in the ground, underneath where she was standing. No blood, no hair, nothing. I can't think how I did that except perhaps recoil anticipation.
Upon return I got dragooned into more yard work, putting up a light fence around the mud hole where my apple tree used to be, to keep the dogs out of the mud. I fertilized and seeded the area, maybe that will help.
Right now the wind is kicking up, the temperature is dropping, and it's supposed to start raining in an hour. Good day to stay home. I think henceforth I will only go out to "evening" spots, this 4:00 AM stuff is really getting old.
November 16, 2020: More Honey-Do Projects, One Entirely Unexpected
This morning I was a Very Virtuous Husband and put up the fencing around the second mud hole, the one where the mulberry tree had been. That done, feeling the warm glow of Responsible Husband-Hood it was my intention to go back out to the evening spot where I missed that deer on Saturday for what I hoped would be redemption on my part and a serious Attitude Adjustment on hers.
Ha! Just about lunch time I managed to put my foot through a rotten board on our deck. This deck was put on in 2009 and is showing its wear and tear. I had to repair it once, in more or less the same area, about a year and a half ago. Mrs Outdoorsman had mentioned the rotten spot but until today it wasn't a hazard to life or limb.
Now, this deck has a screened-in area at one end. Luckily the bad section was at the other end; but unluckily when it was built the contractor used 16-foot decking boards, many of which run underneath the walls of the screen house. This is a major PITA, since I can't dismantle the screen house. Luckily none of the rotten boards actually did go under the wall but it's a matter of time.
In the end I had to replace one 12-foot board, which actually was the easiest part; then I needed to cut the existing boards across in un-rotted places over a joist, then cut replacement "patches" to fit into those spaces. Took me all afternoon, plus a trip to Lowe's to buy the wood. Ever try carrying a 16-foot 5/4x6 board in a truck with a 6-1/2 foot bed? Not fun and I imagine the drivers behind me on the bypass got a little nervous.
Well, once again my little cabin in Burr Hill and the skills I learned working on it have saved me money.
The deck is repaired and I got a bit of good news as well. Three or four days ago as part of a research project I got a test for COVID-19 and I am pleased to report that I am neither infected nor infectious. This despite an adamant refusal to wear a mask whenever I can avoid doing so. Mrs Outdoorsman believes everything the Saintly Doctor Fauci says on NN and obeys the commands of El Jefe (Praise be Unto Him, if you know what's good for you); but I recognize that Fauci hasn't been a bench scientist in decades, he's an administrator and bureaucrat. He knows as well as I do that nothing can stop the spread of a virus to which no one has innate pre-infection immunity. There are any number of examples of this principle at work: the devastating effects of common European diseases on native American populations immediately after Columbus landed is the best known. There were perhaps 25,000,000 inhabitants of North America but Columbus brought with him measles, smallpox, and half a dozen other diseases to which Europeans were immune but the North Americans weren't. The latter died en masse to the point that 75-90% of them were wiped out in a matter of less than a century. Jared Diamond points this out in his opus, Guns, Germs, and Steel. Between gunpowder and diseases to which they had no defenses the natives never had a chance; diseases wrought most of the damage, not gunpowder.
While it's theoretically possible that the spread of a highly infectious agent may be slowed down—i.e., "flattening the curve" to use the idiotic expression coined early in the "crisis"—nothing can prevent the eventual infection of everyone in the country if not the world. In time—as has happened with any number of viruses such as influenza (which was brand new in 1918), the common cold, measles (for which there was no vaccine when I was young: don't think measles was "conquered" by a vaccine, it wasn't) and several others. In time those who can fight COVID off will, and those who can't won't. Then we'll reach a plateau (as we have with flu) and it won't be any more of a societal problem than flu or measles.
The hysterical joy about the development of two vaccines is I think premature. One maker is claiming 90% effectiveness; a rival is claiming 94%. I doubt both. Even with fairly large clinical trials the odds of something being that effective right out of the box—especially when it was rushed into production because the "winner" in the COVID Vaccine Sweepstakes stands to make trillions—are slim. Very slim. Not to mention the logistical issues with delivering a minimum of 750,000,000 doses of the stuff when the "government" can't even efficiently deliver flu vaccine to the bulk of the US population!
Simply put, Dr Fauci is blowing smoke, and he has to know it. What his reasons may be, I can only guess but I suspect he is happy to see himself elevated to someone whom the Talking Heads on the networks reverently call "The Nation's Foremost Infectious Disease Expert." He may have been once but I'll bet there are people working in labs today who know a good bit more than he does from actual, first-hand work. Twenty years behind a desk leaves you...behind a desk.
So: all this bullshit about "Stay Safe, Wear A Mask" is just that. Bullshit. I don't wear one, I'm not infected, so clearly no mask protected me. Furthermore, I'm not infectious so that my refusal to wear a mask isn't a threat to anyone at all.
November 17, 2020: The Deer Are Still Winning
Went out this afternoon to the evening stand below the VOATR. It was colder than Hillary Clinton's heart and windier than her gasbag of a husband. Arrived at 2:45, stayed to 5:30. Zilch, nada, nuttin' in the way of shootable ungulates.
November 19, 2020: The V-2 Doe
I went to the Ravine Of Death yesterday, the 18th. I've sworn off 4:00 AM risings for the rest of the season, so I left at a civilized hour. It's a 40-minute drive: at 1:30, as Mrs Outdoorsman was starting her Book Club meeting (Via ZOOM) I took my beautiful Kimber .308 and fired up the truck. Last time I was out I'd seen a deer in a spot where I've killed them before, along the southern ridge that forms one side of the ROD, so I thought that would prove to be a good choice. I set up a stand along the logging road about 2:15. The weather was perfect: a gentle breeze in my face, temperature in the 40's, ideal rutting weather.
I didn't expect much to happen for a while. I like to read to pass the boring hours on a deer stand, so I'd brought my Kindle. I'd downloaded a terrific new novel by the great Robert Harris: "V-2," centered around the German rocket bomb offensive of late 1944. Periodically I moved a bit from time to time because the sun was getting in my eyes, but kept checking the direction from which I expected the deer to come. I thought they'd use the logging road, which would certainly be the easiest walking, so I ended up sitting where I could look down the road easily for about 50-60 yards.
At 4:30 I put the Kindle away because that's when I thought things would get interesting. Sure enough 20 minutes later I spotted movement 60-70 yards off in the woods on the south side of the logging road but not on the road itself. A group of at least 7, possibly as many as 9 deer, all does so far as I could tell, were drifting slowly towards me. It's always amazing how quiet they are: a number of large animals were moving through dry leaves and they didn't make a sound. I rarely hear deer coming unless the leaves are dense and tinder-dry. Ninety-nine percent of the time I see them long before I hear them.
They kept coming, so I waited a bit. When a big one stepped into a clear space I shot her in the right shoulder, at about 45-50 yards. It was exactly 4:57, just at official sunset with half an hour of legal shooting time left. She fell down, so I knew I'd made a hit; but then she got up and ran off with the rest, into the slash on the opposite side of the logging road.
I had feared that would happen, that they would get into the tangle of logs and branches and debris the loggers left behind, some of which—by no means the worst of it—is shown above. I hoped she wouldn't get too far in because getting her out of the depths of the ROD if she did so would have required a chainsaw, perhaps a bulldozer, and two days' work.
But thank goodness she didn't get more than about 30 yards in. I knew she'd been mortally hit and recognized that she wouldn't go far. In truth I'm amazed she got as far as she did. I'm not much of a tracker but I almost never have to track a deer I've shot. I reasoned that if I were a deer fleeing from danger I'd choose the easiest and most open path to safety. I'd seen where the group ran into the slash, the wounded one with them, so I followed that, and lo, there she was. I heaved a big sigh of relief.
The bullet hit her in the right shoulder and exited via the left; but there was zero blood trail. I mean nothing: had it been dark I wouldn't have found her at all but I spotted her lying on the ground. The bullet took her in the upper lungs and the great vessels but missed the spine. Had I hit her in the spine she'd have dropped on the spot, of course. I used Remington's very reliable 150-grain "Core-Lokt" factory load.
What mattered was that she was dead and found. I marked her by putting a blaze orange cap on her —if I hadn't done that I'd never have found her again. I hoofed it out to my truck, which I'd parked a couple of hundred yards away and drove back in to the point of the road next to where she was. She wasn't on the road, but on a sloping part of the slash. When you're dragging a dead deer, even a small slope can be a challenge; it's worse when there are brambles, branches, and some logs in the way, so I knew it was going to be a real effort getting her out to the edge of the road where I could get her into the truck.
I unzipped her, and saved the liver for a friend who'd asked me for it. I was happy to do it because I don't eat liver: I know entirely too much about liver to do that. I also saved the omentum, the fat-rich membrane that covers the paunch, what in Arabic is called "tarb." Wrap that around some meatballs and cook them on the grill, you'll never find anything better!
Even that short 30 yards was a pretty daunting drag: up hill and over fallen branches and cut limbs, a real sweat. I'm not so young as I like to think I am, and I'm certainly not so strong as I was 20 years ago. I put my drag rope around her neck and started pulling a foot or so at a time, stopping every now and then to lift her over a log or to clear some junk out of the way. I'd picked a route that was comparatively free from obstacles but there were plenty left to keep me busy. It took me almost an hour to get her to the edge of the road where the truck was. I have a clever winch and ramp system to get deer into the bed (20 years ago I'd have lifted her up, but not any more) but then there was another problem: the winch didn't want to cooperate. I think exposure to the elements had resulted in some corrosion around the spindle but in time I got it unstuck. Once I'd managed that I could reel out the cable to wrap around her neck. Then the damned thing refused to run at all, a problem traced to flimsy connections and power clips that kept falling off the battery terminals. But in the end it was done. She came up into the truck bed, not willingly, and while doing so pulled up the corner of the bed liner and dislocated the ramp. But she came up. She was pretty big for a doe. I think she might actually have been the Big Mama deer I saw on Opening Day of BP season and missed. I estimated her dressed weight at around 100 pounds, a very respectable deer for this area.
The ROD is a"Deer Management Assistance Program" property. DMAP is a Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) operation run more or less along the lines of "Quality Deer Management" principles, in which the taking of antlerless deer is encouraged. (DWR is what used to be the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries until for some bureaucratic reason they decided on a totally unneeded name change. But I digress...) Bucks can be taken during the entire season: the DMAP tags are good for antlerless deer over and above the daily bag limit (2 per day where I live). So either sex is legal on a DMAP property, and that's one big reason I hunt Sunrise Farm: I'm too old to waste my time freezing my ass off in any location where I can't kill the first deer that comes along. Naturally, since it's a bureaucracy, the DWR wants data from DMAP kills. Every year Harry, the landowner, gets a set of special reporting forms along with 10 to 15 "DMAP" tags specifically for such kills. Besides filling out the forms I had to take one of the lower jawbones to send to DWR for aging. Harry opined that she was at least 3 years old. I think he was right: I'm no expert on aging deer, but this lady's mandibular symphysis was rock hard and completely fused. In younger deer separating the mandibles is easy but this time I needed Harry's jaw cutters to do it.
At that point I had to call her in to the DWR's phone check system. This system is convenient but they've changed some things since the name change and it's kludgy to use. By the time all the paperwork was done it was 7:15. Mrs Outdoorsman had insisted I take the deer to a processor, not cut it myself. I might have argued, because I like to do one deer a year just to keep my hand in, but I was so tired I didn't make any objections. I drove to the place I like to use which is about 15 miles away from Sunrise Farm. When I got there they'd put up a 4'x8' sheet of plywood over their gate that bore the words "SORRY, WE ARE FULL!"
That was a PITA, but I drove to another place, one about 20 miles farther away. They were able to take her because it's easily the biggest processor in this part of Virginia. They tagged her as #1003. More than a thousand deer so far, with half the rifle season left! Then there's the late black powder season and the late archery season to go, too. We damned sure have a lot of deer this year. As I drove out, well after dark, three more ran across Harry's driveway, and I almost hit one on my way to the Interstate. That truck is a deer magnet, it seems.
Part of the reason we have so many deer is that we had a mild winter last year; another is that there's a very large acorn crop so that fawn survival has been very good. the deer are waxing fat and happy (until they get shot). I got home about 9:00 PM. A long day, but it's over and in time I will have 35-40 pounds of hamburger out of my "V-2 Doe."
November 21, 2020: Nothing Doing At Sunrise Farm
Went back out to Sunrise Farm and to the Nine Deer Dip, hoping to redeem myself for the lousy shooting in the black powder season. The Dip is a little ways past where I shot the V-2 Doe. I sat in the same spot where I'd missed those deer a couple of weeks ago. I brought along my drilling this time: a three-barrel gun with paired 16-gauge shotgun tubes (side-by-side, as God intended shotguns to be) and an under slung rifle barrel in 8x57JR, a rimmed version of the 8mm Mauser. This gun has served me well: two deer, a big pig, and an ostrich. The rifle barrel is amazingly accurate. Sellier & Bellot make the ammunition; a 196-grain jacketed soft point bullet is the only choice but it's a good one.
I arrived at about 2:15 and sat tight. At 3:00 I heard some noises on the slope above me and slowly turned around. Not deer, but a flock of 7 or 8 wild turkeys scratching in the leaf litter for acorns. I've seen turkeys before at Sunrise Farm but never killed one. In truth I have no desire to do so, I don't care all that much for turkey meat. I watched them for a good 20 minutes, and they never had a clue I was there. I'd slipped a mesh head net over my blaze orange cap, which probably helped; but the fact is that when I am doing my invisible act, sometimes I can't even see myself. Yes, I'm that good at it.
I did see one deer. It was a doe on the crest of the hill to my right, a good 250 yards away and likely not on Harry's property, so there was no chance of a shot. Mindful of my long struggle to extract the last deer from the area I quit at 5:25, about 15 minutes before legal shooting time ended. I didn't want to go through that again.
I'd brought the drilling because a friend who is no longer able to hunt loves squirrel meat and I promised him that if any came within shooting distance I'd kill some for him. Alas, though I saw several squirrels, none of them crossed the Line Of Death so they remain for another day.
November 24, 2020: Close But No...Deer
I went to the farm where the VOATR is located, but after several hours there with nothing in sight I shifted stands about 4:00. On this place deer come out regularly into a field above the barn. I've seen them there many times and killed several. It's as reliable a spot as I know; furthermore I can sit in the end of the barn under an overhang, out of the wind and with no worries about my scent being carried up the slope.
Typically they come out just at dusk, and today was no exception. Something like 8 or 9, couldn't really get a count, came out on schedule. Unfortunately they were up at the far end about 250 or so yards away, at about 4:45.
There's a fence around the field; they like to walk along it, working their way down. I sat and watched them for about half an hour. Most of them seemed to have hopped the fence into the adjoining woods, behind a dip in the ground that blocked my view, but at least three didn't and they continued to feed, working their way down towards me.
Those three got within 60-70 yards, and then one alerted. She spotted me in the barn overhang, I suppose; I know they couldn't have scented me. Up went the flags and off went the deer before I could shoot. I think she must have seen my face against the dark background. Next time I'll wear a face veil!
November 27, 2020: "Black" Friday
I hate that stupid phrase. Of all the idiotic rituals of an idiotic season in an unspeakably idiotic year, using the term "Black Friday" takes the cake. On the so-called "news" programs all they're talking about is the effect of COVID on "Black Friday." Well, COVID certainly hasn't hurt the sales of inflatable lawn decorations, whatever else it may have done; the Talking Heads keep yammering about how "...people need to have their spirits lifted in These Unprecedented Times..." Do they think a 9-foot-tall Santa and an equally large Frosty The Snowman will lift them out of the Slough Of Despond? No, of course: the Talking Heads don't think at all, they just read the "news" their Masters tell them to read. They were, after all, hired for their looks, not their brains.
Today I went back to the Field Above The Barn. I arrived at 2:15, waited until dark; nothing at all showed up. Maybe the word is out among the local deer that an assassin lurks. Or perhaps they all went to The Mall for "Black Friday" Christmas shopping. I packed up at 5:40 and went home.
Tomorrow is the last day of the rifle season. I'll likely go to the Ravine Of Death in the afternoon. The days when I'm willing to get up at 4:00 AM when I have a deer in the freezer are coming to an end. If I don't get a second deer tomorrow, I have the late black powder season two weeks later but that's a very tough time and I may not bother.
November 28, 2020: The Last Hurrah Of The Rifle Season
Went out today, as it was the last day of the rifle season. I went to the Nine Deer Dip at the Ravine Of Death but saw nothing at all. Nobody showed up.
Someone did get a deer, just not me: I heard a couple of shots around 3:40 PM. And there was some sort of squirrel camp meeting going on: about 4:00 half a dozen of them started barking and squealing, kept it up for half an hour at least. I have no idea what they were so het up about, maybe it was a rodent revival meeting? Whatever it was they were whooping and screaming about, it wasn't me. They were scattered all over the end of the property, not just in one area. Obviously they were communicating some sort of Sciuricidal "intelligence briefing" but my Sciuricidian wasn't good enough to follow the thread.
I didn't get any shots but I did see five deer: the ones who ran in front of my truck as I drove home in the dark. My F-150 is a deer magnet: I've hit two with it (so far) and they seem to like to run in front of it, to see how close they can get. I should have just flattened one and tagged it...my "comprehensive" insurance would have covered any repairs. A deer hit isn't a "collision" according to State Farm!
So the season is over, and life is even more bleak and meaningless than usual. No doubt tomorrow Mrs Outdoorsman will alleviate my suffering by having me do yard work.
December 4, 2020: The Yield
Yesterday I got a call from the processor, would I please come and pick up my deer meat? So I did: all of 30 pounds of it, as deerburger, a bit of stew meat, and the two rather large tenderloins. Using standard tables of yield, 30 pounds of meat is approximately 50% of the carcass weight (i.e., skinned, feet removed, and of course eviscerated). So the carcass would have been 60 pounds hanging. That argues the doe was 120-130 pounds on the hoof: the viscera represent about 35% of live weight, and the skin about 16%. That's a respectable doe. Not the biggest I've heard of, but sizable, appropriate for this area. It's in the freezer waiting to be eaten. A lot of time and effort, but as the cartoon above points out (see entry for October 19th) you can't order venison from Amazon.
Fascist Pig of a Governor Revered And Beloved Masterful Leader (All Praise Be Unto Him if you know what's good for you) is still barking about arresting and fining people for violating His (All Praise Be Unto Him) orders; but nobody seems to be paying attention, not even Him (All Praise Be Unto Him) because when He (All Praise Be Unto Him) gives a press conference, He (All Praise Be Unto Him) doesn't wear the mask we helots have been ordered to wear. There's a word for that sort of behavior: the word is "hypocrisy," I believe.
December 5, 2020: You Go, Bear!
An animal who has the true Christmas Spirit:
This is in a close-in suburb of Washington DC. What's even more important, the bear was NOT wearing a mask! Our
Fascist Pig of a Governor Revered And Beloved Masterful Leader (All Praise Be Unto Him if you know what's good for you) is NOT happy about that.
December 12, 2020: My Labrador Retriever Is Dying
On the morning of December 3rd, my Lab Tehya turned her nose up at breakfast. When a Lab won't eat something is seriously wrong so we took her to the vet that day. I was worried about an obstruction or bloat so the vet did some x-rays. It was far worse.
The x-rays showed what is called a "snow globe lung," in which multiple small nodules are seen like flakes in a snow globe, hence the name. The "flakes" are in fact metastases, i.e. advanced spreading cancer. By the time these show up it's too late to do anything but provide supportive and palliative care until the inevitable end. I asked how long she had and the prognosis was...a month.
If she makes it to January 13th, which is unlikely, she will be 11 years old. Our first Lab, Tessa, made it to a month shy of her 14th birthday, and she too died of a cancer though we don't know for sure where it was.
Tehya has hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the lining of the blood vessels and heart. It usually originates in the spleen or liver. We think her primary tumor is in the spleen but it would require an ultrasound to be sure, and there is no real point in subjecting her to that merely to satisfy curiosity. Hemangiosarcoma is, it seems, pretty common in retrievers, especially Labs and Goldens. If it had been caught early enough—far earlier than it was—a splenectomy might have helped but it wouldn't cure; there is no cure for hemangiosarcoma.
Besides her inappetance, apparently due to nausea, other signs include fatigue and exercise intolerance. Her blood work showed she was anemic, because hemangiosarcoma causes blood loss; we're puzzled about where the blood is going, though: she shows no signs of it leaking into her abdomen, the usual site. The first couple of nights we did see some frank blood on the bed and thought it might have come from her rectum, as bleeding into the GI tract is also common.
She isn't in pain, so far as we can tell; and what I've read indicates that hemangiosarcoma is painless. We're very grateful for that much.
Although there are no real treatments we've had her put on a couple of medicines. She is taking prednisone, a steroid that has anti-inflammatory and appetite stimulating functions. And she's on an herbal remedy the vet recommended: yoonan baio which is apparently able to reduce the bleeding. She gets an anti-nausea pill in the morning.
She's eating well and moving well; although not up to her pre-diagnosis level of activity she can still run a bit, she still can jump up onto the bed or her favorite couch; she can still negotiate stairs, and her cognition is good. The word "Frisbee" still catches her interest and she plays with Lucy in the yard. One of the ways cancer kills is to suck all the metabolic reserves into the tumor, denying them to the rest of the body. Hence we have her on a high-calorie diet and have moved her to three meals per day instead of two. In the past she would jump up and down at the prospect of a meal but she doesn't do that now. However, she eats readily and seems to be getting enough calories, so far as we can judge. She is "eating for two," herself and the damned cancer.
We have hopes that she will live a while longer, and I have promised her that she will be kept as comfortable as possible and that when the time comes she will die at home, not in a clinic. That's all I can do. The pictures here were taken on December 7th. Tehya's death will be the capstone to a horrible year: Merry Christmas.
Aside from grief my principal feeling is a profound anger at a Fate that can condemn a wholly innocent and loving creature to death while allowing human vermin like the Clintons to live. It's just more proof to me that there is no such thing as a beneficent God in charge of the universe, because no "Merciful Supreme Being" would allow such things to happen.
December 17, 2020: Tehya Is Gone
Tehya was put to sleep today, and we are devastated. It has been exactly two weeks—two weeks!—since her initial diagnosis gobsmacked us. She'd been up and down, but last night she was having a rough time, so we took her off the bed and put her in our bathroom, where she seemed to sleep more easily. She couldn't stand or walk without assistance and we knew it wouldn't be long before we had to do the inevitable.
At 4:30 or so Lucy the Border Collie wanted to go out. Mrs Outdoorsman let her out and helped Tehya go down the stairs from our bedroom floor to the front hall, then followed Lucy down to the basement to let her out.
Then Tehya, without assistance, followed my wife downstairs, because she wanted to go out too. My wife called me, and Tehya actually went into the yard, walked down to the bottom of the field, did her business, and walked back up again. We were amazed at this: she could barely stand or move but she managed not only to do that but to come back up two flights of stairs.
Although this was encouraging we weren't fooled into thinking it would mean much, and we were right. This morning she more or less had to be carried down to the kitchen; she ate pretty well but then collapsed again. We knew it was time: we called a local house-call veterinary practice, who initially planned to come at 3:30, but shortly thereafter moved the appointment up to 12:30 PM today. They came exactly on time. The image at right is the last one made when she was alive.
Tehya was clearly in respiratory distress by that point: labored, shallow, rapid breathing that wasn't giving her adequate oxygen. The vet administered a tranquilizer shot and then after a few minutes she inserted the needle and administered the lethal injection. Tehya barely noticed anything at all: and she drifted away quietly, peacefully, and without pain. It was as good a death as one could wish for a dog who had earned it by a blameless and loving life.
I had promised her she would not die in a cold, soul-less clinic: and she didn't. She died here at home, with us in attendance, under our Christmas tree. The vet transported her body to the clinic we have used for 33 years for all our dogs; she'll be cremated and we'll receive her ashes in time. Of the seven dogs we've had five have died from some form of cancer.
I'm glad we were able to keep our promise but at this point my principal emotion in addition to acute grief is a profound, incandescent anger at the situation. I have to deal with this situation one more time, when Lucy's turn comes; but after that, no more. I am at an age when any dog I might get would likely outlive me, and after Lucy passes, I am NOT going to do this any more.
I look up and expect to see her in her usual spots and she isn't there. Lucy is looking for her, too. But she's gone, leaving behind a hole in all our lives that will never be filled.
December 26, 2020: Tehya Comes Home
Companion Animal Clinic called this afternoon to tell us that Tehya's ashes had been delivered from the crematory and were ready for pickup. We had had 3" of snow on Christmas Eve and the cars were encrusted with it and a goodly amount of ice, but we scraped it all off and went to bring her back to us.
The crematory returned her ashes in a beautiful box that looks like cedar, along with a lock of her fur and a paw print in clay. And a sympathy card signed by her attending vet and the senior vet who's been our pets' primary caregiver for 33 years. Very nice gestures, all of them.
Christmas was very quiet, thanks to our grief. Tehya died on the 17th and today it is 9 days later. We have had a few cards from friends and relatives, and many e-mails, all of which we deeply appreciate. But the fact is that in truth nobody but us really gives a damn about Tehya or will mourn her all-too-short life. That is the way it has always been and always will be.
Before I die I have some things I have to do, and one of them is to see that the ashes of my dogs are properly interred in a place where they will never be disturbed. I know that never is a long, long time and that I can't be certain that in some distant future the cemetery where they'll rest won't be gone, plowed under for some other purpose; but I can only do what I can do, and that's all I can do. So it will be done. Some people would bury them in the back yard or scatter them, but I am unable to do such things. All my dogs deserve proper respect. A decent interment in a local cemetery is what they will get and in time my remains will join them there.
This will be my last blog entry for this cursed year 2020. I really can't take much more of it. I thank all my readers, and hope you will enjoy the rest of the site and return to NRVO after the New Year.