January 5, 2022: Here We Go Again
The start of a new year...and hunting seasons are over, it's too effing cold to fish (15-20 F° this morning, worse to come). Well, at least in 10 days Governor Blackface will be G-O-N-E and Governor Youngkin will get to strut his stuff. That's something to be thankful for. Plus, our new Assembly is firing up with a new Republican majority who have already started to introduce bills to nullify Governor Blackface's "initiatives," including a repeal of the authority for local and county governments to regulate guns, and returning all responsibility for that to the Commonwealth.
Furthermore, there's a bill to repeal the ban on Sunday hunting on public land. Until a few years ago you couldn't hunt on Sunday at all, but now you can, on private property. This makes no sense, and in Ohio—a Bible Belt state if ever there was one—it was done the other way around. First the Sunday ban was repealed on public land, then the next year on private land. If Ohio can do it so can Virginia. Sunday hunting bans are the last of the bad old Blue Laws, along with forcible closing of stores on The Sabbath. For decades the various church ministers kept the ban in place but it may well go away for good this year. One can always hope.
Things could be worse. Mrs Outdoorsman and I, along with our elderly Border Collie Lucy (age 12), visited friends in Nashville over New Years' weekend. We arrived on the 30th and left on the 2nd. Lucy was a perfect visitor the whole time. For years we had more than one dog, which more or less dictated we get a dog sitter or use a kennel (something I will never do again); but with only the one it's much easier to travel. Lucy has traveled more than any of our previous dogs ever did. She seems to like it, too.
January 7, 2022: Coldest Day Of The Year, So Far
At the moment it's something like 15° F and there's an inch of snow—yes, SNOW! SNOW !—on the ground, which is cause for gibbering panic because WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE FROM THE SNOW if the Talking Heads on TV can be believed. For God's sake, it's January, and while Virginia is The South, it isn't that far South. Nevertheless, if the word SNOW is spoken any time between October 1st and May 30th we're assured that the entire world is about to end; moreover, that it's due to—are you ready?—"climate change."
Funny how that works: if we have an exceptionally hot Summer, that's proof of "global warming," but if we have an exceptionally cold Winter, that isn't proof that "global warming" isn't happening. No, no, it's more proof of "global warming" when automobile batteries freeze solid and birds drop dead in the air.
One consequence of this bad weather is that the new TV we were supposed to get today isn't coming. Best Buy begged off the delivery because "...the driveway for the truck is a sheet of ice..." and they promise to deliver it tomorrow. We'll see. I say "TV" but the damned thing is really a junior-league Jumbotron, a 55" monster that will take up one end of our sitting room. Top-of-the-line, too, at least until the next Electronics Show brings out something even snazzier and more expensive. If it were up to me—it isn't—not only would I not have it, I'd make television illegal. It is the cause and the exacerbation of every single social ill from which the world suffers.
The very first TV set I can remember—indeed, one of the very first TV sets available—is the 1949 vintage RCA 256 shown here. My father bought it when I was still in diapers. In today's dollars, the $235.31 he paid then is equivalent to $2747.25!
It had a 6-inch screen (black and white, of course) with two knobs: one for "horizontal hold" and one for "vertical hold" to keep the picture from skipping and wiggling; plus an on/off knob and a manual channel selector. No remote controls here! It weighed nearly 100 pounds and of course was powered by vacuum tubes that had to be "warmed up" before anything happened. What we're getting is A super-duper Samsung "QLED Neo 90A" that sings, tap dances, reads minds, and does my taxes. It will make our lives perfect, after it takes our lives over.
Thank You, President Buffoon
Yesterday I went to take my truck in for its annual oil change. In the past this has cost about $30. I was told by "Jiffy Lube" that the price is now...$62!! Took it to my local mechanic shop, who have done my work for 35 years, and they wanted $70!!!
So thanks to Biden-inflation I can foresee annual increases until I die; I have visions of paying $800,000 for a loaf of bread. Can we please stop pumping dollars with nothing behind them into the economy? Does anyone remember Weimar Germany? As a kid I had a stamp collection that included postage stamps from that period, overprinted from a few cents to TWO MILLION MARKS to mail a letter! Bend over, here it comes. He hasn't even got his "Build Back Better" bullshit passed yet; God help the USA if he does. It really should be called "Build Back Broke"
January 9, 2022: The Junior Jumbotron
Well, it's here. Two guys from Best Buy's "Geek Squad" arrived yesterday afternoon and spent a couple of hours setting up our brand-new, hot-shit, super-duper Samsung QLED Neo N90 55" TV set. It's nearly the size of those things they hang over hockey arenas. It dominates the end of our sitting room, and needless to say it will dominate our lives for the years to come. It is the latest technology, at least until next year's Electronics Show introduces something that will make the Junior Jumbotron hopelessly obsolete.
We visited my cousin over Thanksgiving and Mrs Outdoorsman was seized with TV Lust when she saw his set (an earlier model, nowhere near so advanced as ours, ha, ha, ha!). Upon our return we ordered this thing. It does handstands, it sings, it dances, it does my taxes and for all I know it can tie my shoes. Now our lives are perfect. I think. How could we have lived without it for so long?
January 13, 2022: Nocturnal Visitors
Last Monday (the 10th) I had let Lucy out for her "final" pee of the night before going to bed. She went into our yard, did what needed to be done, and returned up the hill to the end of our deck. On arrival she "alerted" and stared up at the deck from below; then ran up the stairs to the bird feeder, where she encountered three—count 'em—three raccoons inside the bird feeder.
Lucy had never seen raccoons before and didn't know what they were, but she knew damned well they were not supposed to be in our bird feeder. She started to bark at them, and hesitatingly lunged. The 'coons weren't having any of that. They snarled and snapped their teeth at her as she in turn snarled and snapped her teeth at them.
Raccoons are tough guys. If they were humans they'd be biker thugs. Luckily these were young ones, and I suppose they in turn had never encountered a dog before, certainly not an elderly, crabby, pissed-off Border Collie. But they stood their ground. I wasn't keen on a fight and a possible trip to the Doggie Emergency Room to get her sewed up, so I shouted to make her stop; simultaneously Mrs Outdoorsman opened the deck door and called her in. Reluctantly she obeyed, a great relief.
Two of the raccoons had decided they should leave for healthier climes, but one fellow stayed behind, lured by the birdseed and suet cake. I went down to the basement and got a low-powered BB pistol, bouncing a few of the BB's off the feeder to scare him away. No dice, he wasn't the least bit bothered. So I retrieved a 6-foot alpenstock and poked him with it. This elicited more snarls, but he decided it was time to leave, climbing down the yew tree next to the deck and vanishing into the darkness.
Virginia law would have allowed me to kill those raccoons with my .22 caliber air rifle; but I'm not in the raccoon-killing business. They were, after all, only doing what they needed to do on a very cold night to survive. They left and haven't been back, so far.
January16, 2021: A Snowy Sunday
Mrs Outdoorsman is off on a trip with her sister to Pensacola Beach, Florida, and I am happily "batching it" with Lucy for the next few days. It started snowing this morning about 7:30 and so far we've had about 3 inches. No big deal. I have nowhere to go, plenty of bachelor food, nothing to do but work on this blog, and am quite content.
While today's weather is cold yesterday was a great day: the end of the Northam administration and the swearing in of our new Governor, Glenn Youngkin. In my nearly three-quarters of a century on this planet I've come to distrust all politicians, but even so I have hopes that Youngkin will effect real and much needed change by ending the madness that Northam and his blighted crew foisted on us. For one thing, he isn't a politician in the traditional mold. He is a venture capitalist and a businessman who'd become rich outside the political system; maybe he'll be immune to the corrupting influence of "free money" siphoned off from the taxpayers. We'll see.
Another reason is that he brought in with him a complete sweep of the three state-level offices: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General. And a slim but real majority in the House of Delegates. Not the Senate: that election isn't until 2023, but there is reason to hope that in that year it too will turn over from a Democrat majority to a Republican one. Plus, Lieutenant Governor Sears has the deciding vote in case of a tie, so perhaps the worst excesses of the Leftist zanies can be staved off.
It's worth pointing out that though the Left is fond of screaming "RACISM!" when anyone disagrees with their policies, even they can't accuse Youngkin of being a racist. Lieutenant Governor Sears is a black woman, born in Jamaica; she came to the USA as an immigrant at age six, and served in the US Marines. She's the second woman and the first black one to hold the office of Lieutenant Governor. Attorney General Miyares is a first-generation American, born here of Cuban parents; he is the first "Hispanic American" (if you have to hyphenate him) to hold that office.
Northam is gone, and good riddance to him. Now the Assembly should start dismantling his agenda.
January 22, 2022: Batching It With The Dog
It's bitterly cold today and has been for the past week. The temperature outside was 11°F at 7:30 AM; it's warmed up a bit but not much. We had seven inches of snow a few days ago, but it has yet to melt off, thanks to the bone-freezing weather. I don't know how animals survive in this, but obviously they do. Thirty or forty years ago this weather wouldn't have bothered me: in my 30's I could sit on a rock in the woods at 11°F all day waiting for a deer to come by, but no more.
Mrs Outdoorsman is in sunny (or at least relatively warm) Florida. Her sister and brother-in-law took a notion to go to Pensacola Beach. I don't know why they chose Pensacola but I suspect it was because they found an "Air B&B" place there. In any event she's been gone for a bit over a week, will return home tomorrow.
I'm batching it at home with Lucy. Fine with me. I have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and plenty of Bachelor Food in the house, so all is well. Lucy's a bit confused but she's been getting her daily walks around the block so she's satisfied.
The cold and the snow did put the kibosh on a range session I'd planned. I need to check sights on a little combination gun and to shoot some black powder. But there's time for that when things warm up now that the hunting season is finished.
January 28, 2022: A New Piece Of Hunting Gear
Mrs Outdoorsman got back from her sojourn to Florida last Sunday and we're back to the routine. While she was away we had 7" of snow—a quantity that wouldn't cause anyone to blink in the Northeast, but is regarded as THE END OF THE WORLD here in Blacksburg—and I barely left the house at all. Not because I couldn't have done, but because I had no reason to. Now we're "threatened" as the so-called "news" has it, with another snowfall, maybe 3" worth; and predictably the hysteria has set in again.
I hunt a DMAP (Deer Management Assistance Program) property. DMAP is a program of the Department of Wildlife Resources that is supposed to be managed along "QDM" principles. On DMAP properties the landowner gets extra tags for antlerless deer; deer taken on a DMAP tag don't count against the basic license. My landowner gets 10-15 such tags every year and he's happy to have me shoot as many does as I see, which so far I've been pretty good at doing.
Since DWR is a government agency they're mad for statistics. When I fill out the DMAP forms I have to list the "live weight" and "dressed weight" for the deer I've killed. Well, this is easier said than done: estimating the weight by eye when the deer is on the ground is—ahem—imprecise at best.
For a long time I've wanted to be able to weigh the deer in the field, but until recently have not been able to figure out how to do so. I've tried to think of a design for a sort of crane for the back of my truck, to which I could attach a scale (I have the scale) and the deer, so as to get a reasonably accurate figure. Such a design isn't easy to come up with lacking any way to make it from steel, but lo, Cabela's has come to my rescue.
Three days ago I ordered a "Hitch Hoist," shown at right. It has one arm that inserts into the hitch receiver of the truck, and an "L" shaped arm with a pulley and gambrel to attach to the deer. There's a winch to haul the beast up. It also has a foot to rest on the ground to take the weight. It's supposedly suited for up to 500 pounds. It's pretty much exactly what I was looking for.
Best part is I had a bunch of accumulated "points" on my Cabela's Card account so that it cost me less than half the nominal price directly out of pocket; plus the shipping was free.
Now I have to set it up to see how it works; then I have to shoot a deer. That latter won't come for a while unless I get put on a kill permit (unlikely) but Fall will be here soon enough!
February 2, 2022: The Festival Of The Marmot
Today is, of course, Groundhog Day, a Holy Day Of Obligation. It is incumbent upon all of us to honor The Marmot on this day. There will be songs and feasting and eating of grass.
Punxatawney Phil, the Official Marmot, has decreed that we will have six more weeks of winter. That's all well and good, but let's not have any more damned snow. A little of that "global warming" the Left keeps talking about wouldn't come amiss.
Incidentally, I always called these Holy Rodents "woodchucks" back in New York. I never heard the term "groundhog" until I went to college in Ohio.
February 6, 2022: A Freezing Range Session
My friend Phil called two days ago: a mutual friend was in town, and wanted to go do some shooting at the club range, would I like to go? Well, since we had planned a range session that was called off because I didn't fancy going up a steep hill on a dirt road in 8" of snow, 4-wheel drive notwithstanding, I said yes.
When I left the house it was perhaps 21°F; but the range, 10 miles away, is up on a hill and is always a lot colder than here at home. Nevertheless, we all met there at 10:00 AM. I'd brought three guns and had several objectives in mind. First, I needed to make sure that my Stevens 311 double shotgun (the one that Sportsman's Warehouse didn't fix) was actually fixed after its trip to the gunsmith in Rocky Mount (to whom I should have taken it in the first place). It was. I couldn't make it "double" even with very heavy loads. There aren't many shotgun shells more fearsome than 3" 12 gauge rifled slugs, and a 5-round box of those did not, I'm happy to say, reproduce the problem. Of course, they beat the living snot out of my shoulder—it was like going a round or two with Mike Tyson—but the gun is now working properly. I actually do have some shells that are worse: a box of TWO OUNCE turkey loads that are so bad I'm afraid to shoot them. My old .416 Remington elephant rifle kicked less than those do.
The second objective was to sight in the rifle barrel on "The Lightning Death," a little Savage 24-S combination gun. This is .22 Long Rifle over 20 gauge, about as perfect a squirrel gun as could be imagined. Years ago I had the barrel set shortened and the shotgun barrel tubed. It normally has an XTRA-FULL choke tube installed, which enables me to reach w-a-a-a-y up in trees where the rodents think they're safe but they really aren't.
In any event, I wanted to make sure the rifle barrel was sighted in. Unfortunately the Powers That Be at the club have installed a variety of very nice steel targets on the 25-yard line, which have completely covered the holes into which target frames have to be inserted. There was no way I could get the frame to stand up. I tried leaning the frame against one of the massive steel targets, but the wind—there's always a wind on that range—kept blowing it down. That put paid to the attempt at any kind of a precise sight-in, but I did manage to hit a 1" rock on the backstop. So the sight-in will have to wait. Unfortunately that 24-S has just about the worst trigger I have ever had to contend with; even though it's inherently very accurate the trigger is an issue. I'm not sure what to do about it. I don't want to take the gun apart to try to polish the sear engagement; plus if I took it to the guy in Rocky Mount, who could certainly do it, I'm sure he'd laugh at me. "First a clunky Stevens, now this?"
Some time ago I'd bought a short screw-in rifled tube for the shotgun barrel. I'd never actually used it for its intended purpose, i.e., shooting slugs. I removed the XTRA-FULL tube and put that in. Lo, I could hit a 6" gong at 25 yards with ease. These 20 gauge slugs are nowhere near so horrible as the 12-gauge ones are, but they're not target loads either. I was even able to hit those gongs using my own reloads with home-cast slugs. Now I would not pay a nickel for the life of any deer within range of that little gun, with the rifled tube in place.
My third goal was to shoot some "punkin balls" and buckshot from a 12-gauge muzzle-loading shotgun. This was not done. It was so bloody cold out there we all agreed two hours into the session that enough was enough: it was time to pack up and leave. I wouldn't have been able to load the shotgun, my hands were freezing.
So home we went. Mrs Outdoorsman had taken delivery of a very expensive swivel chair from a high-end furniture store in Roanoke, to go with our outrageously over-priced Junior Jumbotron TV set (see the entry for January 9th). Now we have a pair of these chairs, one for each of our aging backsides to warm as we vegetate in front of the Big Screen, boiling what remains of our brains in British sitcoms on Roku. Old Age...ain't it wonderful? You have more money to spend and less time to spend it in than ever before in your life.
On return I spent a happy hour or so sorting though my shotgun shells. Phil had given me a few boxes of 12 gauge "XTRA-LITE" target loads that wouldn't cycle his old corn-sheller of a long-recoil Browning, but would work admirably in my double. I sorted everything by gauge and shot size, a job that has long needed to be done. I have far more 7-1/2 and 8 shot than I'll ever use unless I stop shooting pheasants and squirrels and start pursuing quail and doves. I might get to those doves this Fall, actually.
Nowhere Is Safe These Days
There was a shooting in a local Blacksburg "hookah lounge" on Friday night. A "hookah lounge" is a bar where you can smoke—normally not allowed in bars in Virginia any more—and get sloshed at the same time. Some thug (who no doubt will be described by his taxpayer-funded defense attorney as "...a disturbed individual in need of counseling, not punishment, Your Honor") killed a high school student and wounded four other people. It remains unexplained what an under-age high school student (from Roanoke, by the way) was doing in a Blacksburg bar in the first place, but never mind that.
President Biden has a solution to the "gun violence epidemic" of course: if he takes away my guns no gang-bangers will ever be able to kill each other over drugs or women again. Simple, yes?
Assembling The Hoist
OK, Mrs Outdoorsman is off visiting a friend today so I took the opportunity to assemble my new game hoist (see above, January 28) which fits on my truck's trailer hitch. Thanks to nearly incomprehensible directions it took me a lot longer than I thought it would, but I got it done.
It's heavy. Very heavy. The box says "47 pounds" and I don't doubt that for a second. It's tall. Tall enough that I couldn't stand it upright underneath my deck without taking the risk of making a hole in the overhead.
It has a hand winch that attaches to the side—something I might in time dispense with, because I have an electric one mounted in the truck, but for now it stays—and a steel cable, rated for a 400 pound load. The winch was a PITA to install, the toughest part of the job. It has to go on the right way, but the directions don't tell you what the right way is. Luckily I'm fairly mechanically-minded and I have good tools. In time I figured it out. Goes to show you the truth of the saying that "With God and the right tools, all things are possible."
Another issue is that the winch cable has to be put on just so: there are dire warnings of "...serious injury or death..." if you don't do it right, just so you know and their liability insurance premiums don't go up. Of all the nearly-incomprehensible parts of the nearly-incomprehensible directions, the diagram for the right way to wind the cable onto the winch hub was the worst. Took me half an hour to figure that one out and I'm still not sure I did it right, actually.
It is, of course, made in China, like everything else we buy these days. Mrs Outdoorsman is convinced the Chinese are trying to drive us mad—and perhaps start a war—by sending us junk products. She may be right. This thing isn't junk, I will admit. It's very heavy gauge steel, very solid; there's no doubt in my mind it will do what I want. It's cleverly engineered, with a swiveling arm that will at least theoretically allow me to hoist a deer up over the closed tailgate, and lower it into the truck bed. If so then I can dispense with my deer ramp. But not just yet.
As the old saying goes, "The proof of the deer hoist is in the hoisting," so I won't be able to report on its functionality until the Fall. If I'm still alive then, of course.
February 14, 2022: A "Super Bowl Sunday" Bird Shoot
Yesterday was SUPER BOWL SUNDAY, the closest thing we have in the USA to a national religious holiday. Since I'm pretty much irreligious, I don't observe the festivities; Phil and I for the past few years have arranged a shoot at Holland's Hunting Preserve in Glade Hill Virginia on SUPER BOWL SUNDAY as our own version of celebration.
It snowed, sort of: the Saturday night before light snow began falling. It didn't amount to much but in this part of the world if you even say the word "snow" between October 1st and May 31st, everyone goes into a gibbering panic. The county starts putting brine on the roads and the snowplows are parked, engines idling, on the shoulders. The prediction was for "...a trace to perhaps an inch..." but if you're a county road agency you can't be too careful, now can you? Snowplows, for God's sake! In any event the roads were completely clear and there wasn't much more than a dusting of snow anywhere, not even an inch. We had originally planned to start shooting at 9:00 AM but put it back to 1:00 PM when it was going to be decidedly warmer. Phil picked me up at 11:00 AM and off we went, and hour and a half drive to Glade Hill.
Even though there was hardly any snow, the grounds were wet; Phil prefers quail but those little guys can't fly when they get their feathers wet, so he decided to buy chukars. I always shoot pheasants: they're big enough that I can hit them. We paid for 4 pheasants (and got 3) and 8 chukar (of which 7, or perhaps I should say 6-1/2) were recovered.
I brought my Stevens 311 double, the one that had given me issues last year. I'd sent it to Sportsman's Warehouse's so-called "gunsmithing service" in Utah. They kept it for SIX MONTHS, charged me an arm and a leg, and when I finally got it back, it still wasn't fixed, so I got most of my money back. I then took it to a skilled smith in Rocky Mount who charged me a very modest fee and did fix it. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, I brought along a backup: my Stevens 58 bolt action 12 gauge. But the 311 worked like a champ, no more "doubling" and everything went well. What was wrong that Sportsman's Warehouse couldn't fix? A loose firing pin screw! When the gun recoiled inertia would slam the cartridge against the firing pin and the left barrel would go off. Six months and they couldn't fix it...never use SW's "gunsmithing" service!
I shot pretty well, for me. I made one spectacular hit, a crossing shot on a cock pheasant that tumbled him head over heels and bonk! into the ground. I nailed one bird with a shot from the hip: it went up between my feet, like a grouse would have done; startled me so much I didn't even have time to get the gun to my shoulder, but I got the bird. And then there was the chukar...I'm prone to firing very fast, and I know I should let the bird get a little way down range before shooting, but always forget this. So on one shot I literally ripped a chukar into pieces, hitting him with the entire charge not more than 5 yards from the muzzle. I recall seeing the two pieces separate in midair, and actually thought there had been two birds, but no, it was two half chukars. Well, actually there were three major pieces: I found a leg on the ground as well. I calculated that at the stated velocity of 1330 FPS, that shot charge took 0.0006 seconds (six microseconds) to go the 0.83 feet the length of the bird (about 10 inches) represented. That bird still doesn't know he's dead, it happened so fast. That accounts for the "6-1/2" chukars: six whole ones and one blown apart. Phil took that one home for his cats, who get all the seriously mangled game, and that was one seriously mangled birdie.
I was shooting Remington's high-brass "Express Long Range" loads, 2-3/4" and 1-1/4 ounces of #5's. Heavy metal for chukar but not bad for pheasant. I prefer #4's for pheasants but had a bunch of the 5's and they worked well.
John had three dogs that day: Molly, a very experienced girl, and two of her puppies, Dolly and Bullet. They'd come along as a "training opportunity," but in the end they decided it was far more fun to chase a deer. They did that and disappeared into the woods, not coming back by the time we left at 4:00 PM. I hope John has recovered them by now. Molly was a champ and made some seriously long retrieves, sometimes hundreds of yards when the bird flew far after being hit.
And once she did a "retrieve" before the bird was shot. Up it went and up she went, hanging onto the bird's leg. I've never seen a pheasant lift a dog before. Needless to say I did not fire at that bird/dog combination!
February 19, 2022: A "New" Old Gun
Virginia has some interesting regulations on hunting with black powder/muzzle-loading firearms. These include the definition of what is a "muzzle-loading" firearm that can legally be used:
Note that muzzle-loading handguns are legal, if .45 caliber or larger. Last season I had a situation in which a deer I shot didn't die right away. Oh, she'd have been dead in less than a minute but I always want to end things right away. The easiest and fastest way to do this is with a pistol. It takes a long time to reload a muzzle-loading rifle; if a legal pistol is handy that's the best option.
So I bought one. On an auction site I found one of those "Philadelphia Derringer" kit guns in decent shape, at a very reasonable price. The ad said it "...didn't fully cock..." but I was pretty sure I could fix that situation once I had it in hand. I sent off a check, and in due time the gun arrived.
Whoever assembled it initially did a pretty piss-poor job. Aside from the non-cocking problem he hadn't figured out how to anchor the barrel properly. In these little guns there's a tenon on the bottom of the barrel. A cross-pin or wedge is supposed to hold the front of the barrel down during firing. Although the tang screw is pretty stout I wasn't keen on shooting a fairly heavy load without the barrel being properly held down. Perhaps the original owner had decided to use it just for a display because he had put in place the little brass escutcheons on either side; these have holes for the cross pin, but there was no cross pin. Nor was there a hole in the tenon.
With God and the right tools, all things are possible. First order of business was to fix that no-cocking issue. As I had suspected the sear bar was binding to the off side of the stock; it couldn't move up and down as a result, hence the hammer couldn't be pulled all the way back. Two minutes with a 1/4" drill bit fixed that. There was nothing wrong with the lockwork at all.
On to the matter of the cross pin. This required that I drill holes in the stock, and one in the tenon; also to make a pin.
I'm afraid I wasn't all that good at getting the stock holes in exactly the right place, but in time I did manage to get them lined up with the tenon; drilling the hole in the tenon wasn't hard, either. The steel is fairly soft, so that my handy-dandy cordless drill drove a 1/8" hole through it easily. Once all the holes were in place and lined up I needed a cross pin. That was made from a length of 1/8" nail, with the ends filed to facilitate passage of the pin through the holes. The barrel is now anchored fore and aft and won't come out on firing.
Into the garage for a test: I wanted to pop a cap or two to make sure everything was copacetic. The lock worked as advertised, but I had one odd experience. Percussion caps often fragment when fired, even with no powder charge in the barrel. One of these did. I thought nothing of it, it's a common thing: but 20 minutes later my nose was itching. So I blew it, and...out came a fragment of the cap!
Next step is to get to the range and shoot it. I have no real idea what the proper charge is, but as short as the barrel is (3") it can't be much. Besides I only need it for a coup de grace so a small charge—say, 20 grains of FFFg—ought to be about right.
February 25, 2022: The Day Of Liberation Is At Hand
The Keystone Kops of American Medicine, i.e., the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, has announced a "substantial modification" of their idiotic edicts on wearing the totally useless masks that they have imposed on rational people in the past two years. Needless to say they've qualified this statement by reserving judgment (or what passes for it at the CDC) on whether or not we will all be compelled to wear Fauci Faces again, should there be "...another wave..." of the Dreaded COVID-idiocy. No doubt a substantial proportion of the population, after two years of brainwashing, will continue to self-righteously suck snot and excoriate those who don't.
So things are returning to something approaching normal, much to the chagrin of the Left. But President Buffoon and his puppet masters are scared shitless of what's going to happen to them in November, and rightly so. They used the "pandemic" to get rid of Trump, and now they are about to be hoist with their own petard. Good.
March 2, 2022: The State Of The Union
Well, President Buffoon has delivered his first State Of The Union address, in his inimitable tounge-tied and flub-laden style. Let me start by saying that I support anything The Buffoon does in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, short of sending American troops in to fight: I served in one war that was in the end a wasted effort. Ukraine deserves support in the form of financial and logistic aid, but there is nothing there to warrant the expenditure of American blood. "Treasure" in the form of anti-tank missiles (and for that matter, tanks) and Stinger SAMs is fine; cutting the Russians off from financial services and wrecking their economy is also fine with me (though in the end it may lead to an even wider aggression by Putin) but not one American soldier, sailor, or airman should fight.
All that said, the rest of the speech was the usual Left-wing drivel, delivered in an exhortatory manner that makes it plain that he spent many hours in front of a mirror at the White House, practicing his delivery, shouting nonsense at the top of his lungs, and flashing his trademark Cheshire Cat grin. But of substance there was none. It's quite clear that he hasn't had an original thought in his life. He was merely mouthing the platitudes dictated to him by the hard Left. Biden is a weary old political hack, who has spent fifty years playing it safe in Congress with nothing significant to his credit. The more rational members of his party, who were terrified by the prospect of a Bernie Sanders candidacy in 2020, were so desperate for anyone else that he got the nomination more or less by default. Reliable Old Joe, senile as he is, had "paid his dues" and was the only alternative to Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. His proposals would worsen inflation, and in the end bankrupt the country, but of course that's exactly what the Left wants to happen. Now we're stuck with him for the next three years. He's incompetent, incoherent, and...alas...in charge.
The State of the Union? Parlous.
March 3, 2022: Shooting The Derringer
Yesterday I was able to get to the club range and shoot that little derringer. As the image above suggests, a black powder pistol requires a fair amount of kit to make it go BANG! Not just the bullets, but patches, caps, lube, a starter/rammer, a powder flask...cleaning it also demands the use of special tools but I saved that for my return home. The blue-and-yellow string is attached to a fired 9mm Parabellum case, serving as a safety cap. The half-cock on this pistol is unreliable, and leaving the hammer fully down on a cap is very dangerous; if I'm going to have this in my day bag I want to make sure it doesn't get bonked and go off.
The first problem I had was misfires. I'm still working on that: it may be a weak hammer spring (unlikely) or a matter of lock geometry. Whatever causes it, it takes two blows to set off a cap most times; but there are some brands of caps that it simply won't set off, even with repeated strikes. I've added a spacer between the base of the nipple and the barrel, which seems to help a bit. More experimentation will follow when I can get to the range again.
It's nominally a .45, so I need to use a .440" ball, with a patch. The patches shown above are too thick: can't ram the bullet home with those. I ended up using a very thin patch, really a square of a torn bedsheet, that was suitable.
It's no target pistol, that's for sure. As you can see, the point of aim and the point of impact weren't even close; and this at—literally—powder-burn distance. The spattering on the target is powder burn. I may reduce the powder charge: I used whatever the spout on that flask throws—probably about 20-25 grains of FFFg—which may have been too much. It's rifled, for what that's worth, but given that with the charge and bullet in place there might be as much as one inch of rifling...it isn't worth much.
Abraham Lincoln was shot with one of these things—it's in the museum at Ford's Theater in Washington—but if the original Deringer (Note the spelling! "Derringer" with two "r's" was used on the copies) was as inaccurate as this reproduction, Lincoln must have been very unlucky indeed; or John Wilkes Booth pressed it to his head before firing. I'll never know.
The gun is make by Jukar, a company in Spain. In the main I'm not impressed with Spanish firearms. I've owned several by different makers, though this is the first black powder one I've ever had. My little pseudo-"Churchill" shotgun by Zabala Hermanos is fine, but in the past I've had guns by Astra and Llama. Only the Astras have been worth a damn. As for Llamas, I've had two of those; the next Llama I own will be the kind that eats grass.
The other goal was to sight in the rifle barrel on my little combination gun, The Lightning Death (see above entry for February 6th). Hadn't been able to do this last time, thanks to the wind and the inability to keep a target frame up. I did get this done, using Remington's ""Golden Bullet" brand of hollow points. It is now 90% certain I can hit a squirrel in the head at 25 yards.
March 9, 2022: FINALLY!
On March 7th the Virginia General Assembly passed Senate Bill 8, which repeals the decades-old prohibition on Sunday hunting. In 2014 there was a partial repeal of this idiotic remnant of the bad old "Blue Laws," one that allowed Sunday hunting on private property, but left closed off to hunting all National Forests, State Forests, and Wildlife Management Areas: millions of acres. But assuming that Governor Youngkin signs the bill, which I'm virtually certain he will, as of 1 July, this stupid ban will be gone. Those people who have in the past had only one day a week to hunt because they have no access to private land will be able to get out.
Blue Laws are an anachronism, a legacy of the religious past; when I first moved to Virginia in 1980 there were actually laws in place that forced shopping malls to close on Sundays. It was argued in their defense that "...families needed time together..." and "...opening the malls wouldn't increase sales tax revenues because people would buy less on Saturdays..." and similar absurdities. At least one courageous mall operator—the owner of Spotsylvania Mall—openly defied the law, and paid the fines. Shortly thereafter other malls followed suit, so the Commonwealth caved in. Today you can shop on Sunday to your heart's content, sales tax revenues went up, not down, and everyone was a winner except the cadre of anti-fun types and bluenoses who were outraged by the violation of "The Lord's Day." The ban was in effect an unconstitutional "establishment of religion."
Another lunatic argument against Sunday hunting was "...hikers and bike riders and birdwatchers need a day when they don't have to worry about being shot..." despite the fact that hunting is by far the safest sport in which people engage (compare deaths per capita to, say, swimming) and that incidents of hikers being shot by mistake by "...blood-lust fueled crazy hunters..." are nil.
The real reasons for the ban were of course in part religious: Jesus wants you in church, damn it! Another driver (not openly admitted, of course) was the anti-gun and anti-firearms sentiment of certain parts of Virginia. Pair up hyper-religious ministers and zealous gun-banners, and they have for a long, long time been able to stymie any reforms. But it's over now, or will be soon. Not a moment too soon. I wrote to my state Senator 35 years ago and asked for a repeal to be introduced: it never had chance of passage. Over the past ten years there have been numerous attempts, but not until March 7, 2022, did it happen.
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition for my deer rifle.
March 10, 2022: Truck Woes
Two days ago my elderly 1999 Ford F-150 pickup failed its annual inspection. I get these inspections done "free" at the dealership where I bought it (very well used) about 8 years ago. I don't drive it much, just in the hunting seasons and to take stuff to our local dump when Mrs Outdoorsman has been trimming shrubbery.
It was failed for having a "rusted driver's side bump stop." It seems a bump stop is an excrescence on the dorsal side of the frame, with a rubber donut on top that, well, stops bumps. The dealership recommended I take to a place that did body work to be fixed; it was outside their capabilities. It was also gigged for having a "loose upper left ball joint."
OK, time to start looking for body shops. There are several such places in and around Blacksburg; one I've used before, to get some cosmetics done on my Toyota Corolla, plus there's a place that has a sign out front that says it's a "body shop." But when asked, they said they couldn't do the welding required, moreover they didn't have a mechanic, thanks to the so-called "labor shortage" with which the US is currently afflicted. On to another place. Nope, we can't do that. On to a third place. And a fourth. Eventually I was steered (ha, ha) to a place in Price's Fork, about 5 miles away. When I drove in things looked promising: lots of cars parked around, and a guy wearing a welding helmet affirmed that yes, indeed, this was the place I was trying to find.
I went into the office to tell them about the rejection, and to arrange for a repair. The welding-helmet guy went out and looked at it, remarking, "I don't see anything wrong with it, I don't know why they'd reject you for that." Nevertheless, I was rejected for "that" so it had to be done. After discussion with his boss they agreed to work up an estimate on the spot. Back to the office.
The office was a small room with old calendars, ads for auto parts dealers, and pithy signs on the wall ("You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps"); plus half an inch of grime and brake lining dust which was also visible on the five or six people who work there. One of them was playing with a water pistol. There was a remarkably cheery and chubby young woman who did the paperwork; she had a ring in her nose, a small version of the sort of thing you use on an obstreperous bull. God knows why, but maybe her boyfriend has a use for it. The Boss was a big guy with a ball cap and the air of a man frustrated with life, work, and the tax season. Welding-Helmet Guy gave the girl some data and in due course I was presented with the estimate: $430 +/- and if I wanted to they could arrange for an inspection. I could in theory have taken it back to the dealership but I suspect they'd have found something else to use as a cause for rejection, so I agreed. Another $20. Oh, well. Even with all the money I've put into that truck I couldn't replace it without spending much more given the price on used trucks these days.
The truck is now in their care and I'll be notified in due course when it emerges from the Automobile ICU. One remarkable thing did happen, which I regard as a good omen. As I and Welding-Helmet Guy were going out to look at the bump stop, a pheasant ran across a neighboring field! Heaven knows where he came from: this area isn't pheasant country in any way; nor are there any pheasantries or put-and-take operations near Blacksburg. So I have to regard that pheasant as some sort of sign that in the near future my beater F-150 will return to the field.
March 15, 2022: The Return Of The Truck
Got a call yesterday as I was dropping off my tax paperwork at the accountant's office: the truck is ready, please come and get it. I dutifully did so. In return for $499.43 I received a new driver's-side upper control arm, a re-welded "bump stop" (and I had better not feel any bumps, damn it) a new shock absorber that was a shock, because it hadn't been included in the estimate, and so on and so forth. Also a new inspection, for which I paid, rather than take it back to the dealer's shop, who would undoubtedly have found something else to reject me for. So much for the "free" inspections I get because I bought it there: they always find something to spend money on. The second inspection cost me less than the new set of wiper blades, another item on which they "failed" me.
So it runs and is good for another year. It has a fresh charge of oil, the gas tank is filled, it's in the driveway, God's in His Heaven and all's right with the world. Ha!
March 18, 2022: A Good Way To Use Your Venison "Harvest"
I hate that term, actually: I don't "harvest" a deer, I kill it. That said, I do enjoy eating my "harvest" and made this recipe a few nights ago. Even Mrs Outdoorsman, who's not big on venison, likes it.
My policy on processing deer is that if I get two, I cut one myself; the second goes to a processor to be made into deerburger because I am not about to push an entire deer through my utterly inadequate grinder. If I get a third (as has happened once or twice) the last one gets donated to Hunters For The Hungry. So, anyway, this year I got lazy. I shot two, a doe and a spike buck (see last year's entries) but I took both to be processed. I ended up with 60+ pounds of deerburger, a fair amount.
I've posted a recipe for "Venison Stuffed Peppers" in the Recipes section. It makes more than enough for two people; I guarantee that anyone you serve it to, even those who "don't like game meat" will enjoy it. They won't even know it's venison unless you tell them. Mrs Outdoorsman isn't too keen on game meat but even she likes this enough that she's asked me to make it again.
The bill to end the idiotic ban on Sunday hunting has passed another milestone. It's been signed by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. Now it goes to Governor Youngkin for his signature. It's the last step needed to rid us of this stupid ban. The vote rosters from each chamber can be found here. If you're a Virginia resident, take note of who voted "Yea" and who voted "Nay" on this bill (SB8). When November rolls around, vote accordingly.
April 5, 2022: HOORAY!
Governor Youngkin signed SB8, the bill to abolish the Sunday hunting ban on public lands, today. Hooray! This is a BIG win. It's been a l-o-o-o-o-o-n-n-n-n-g-g-g time coming: I bought a cabin in Orange County in 1980, and that's how long I've been waiting to see it happen. Back then even shopping malls were legally forced to close on Sundays, but in the past 40+ years there has been steady chipping away at the idiotic "Blue Laws." This repeal put the capstone on it: the Sunday ban is (WAS!) the last remaining Blue Law on the books. Here's the entry at the Legislative Information Service site.
It will no longer be a crime—yes, an actual crime—to shoot a squirrel in the National Forest on Sunday, as of July 1st.
April 16, 2022: More COVID-iocy
Well, President Buffoon has decreed that we shall all have "booster" shots against COVID, and that they would be "free," which of course they aren't. The pharmaceutical companies are raking in billions of tax dollars, needless to say, and are happy to have me get as many "booster shots" as President Buffoon wants me to. Nevertheless, Mrs Outdoorsman and I, like good little sheep, dutifully went to our nearby pharmacy to get our "boosters." Now, this is the second "booster," because we had the first one back in, I think, March.
One of the many lies we've been told for the past two years by our beloved and deeply respected Saint Anthony Fauci is that if we are "fully vaccinated" we're safe. Saint Anthony Fauci, as we are constantly reminded by the Beautiful Talking Heads on what passes for "news" these days is "America's Foremost Infectious Disease Expert," when in fact he's an arrogant, over-the-hill blowhard who—not incidentally— happens also to be the highest paid employee of the US Government. But Mrs Outdoorsman was not to be defied, so when she made the appointments I hadn't much choice but to go along with it. After all, Saint Anthony Fauci had told us to get them so by God, we were going to do so.
When we got our instructions for the appointment we were told we had to wear a mask. A mask! After three inoculations that Saint Anthony Fauci said were guaranteed to render me immune, I have to wear a mask for shot #4? I don't have COVID, I can't get it, and I can't give it to anyone else. So why do I have to wear a mask? Because Saint Anthony Fauci told me to!
Although Mrs Outdoorsman wore her mask for the time she was in the room getting her shot, when it was my turn, I did not. Nor did the girl administering the shot demand that I do so. So...did my refusal to wear a totally unnecessary mask affect the efficacy of the shot? Hmmm? Who knows?
What I do know is that this morning when I awoke I was experiencing a significant reaction to the shot. Weakness, joint aches, a bit of dizziness, all stuff I'd been warned about. I was also running a 101.5° fever. It wasn't so bad as it had been after the second shot in the first go-round (see the March 18-19, 2021 entry) but it was bad enough.
But now I have moved into the broad, sunny, uplands of Those Who Are Fully Vaccinated And Boosted, so henceforth I will absolutely, positively, refuse to wear a mask, period. Anywhere, at any time. Not gonna happen. Locally we no longer have a "mask mandate," but needless to say, the "new highly infectious BA.2 Subvariant," is "rampaging" through the nation, and inevitably some jurisdictions—invariably controlled by Democrats—are re-imposing "mask mandates," to the great glee of the snot-sucking, self-righteous, virtue signalers. I wish them the joy of their masks: I won't be among their number, no matter what Saint Anthony Fauci says.
April 22, 2021: Come Fly With Me...Unmasked
Two days ago a Federal court judge—invariably described in what passes for "news" as "a Trump appointee"—struck down the imbecilic "mandate" by the Keystone Kops of American Medicine, the Center For Disease Control, that we must wear masks on airplanes, trains, buses, etc., i.e. any form of public transportation. The judge quite correctly ruled that the CDC has precisely zero authority to issue such a rule, and that therefore it was and is null and void.
People immediately began stripping off their Fauci Faces in airports and on AMTRAK, but needless to say the screeches of horror and outrage by the Left rose up into the Heavens at maximum volume. No one, absolutely no one, has ever, under any circumstances, clearly shown that COVID has been transmitted in a bus, and airplane, or in an Uber driver's car. That didn't stop the idiots at CDC two years ago. As an editorial in the Roanoke Times—a paper so far left it makes Pravda sound like Fox News—pointed out, the State of the Union address by President Buffoon did not require masks, so why should airplanes?
Airline companies joyfully shed their mask "requirements" even while the Keystone Kops insisted that masks were "necessary to prevent the spread of COVID" and The Buffoon's "Justice Department" planned to appeal the ruling. But the judge's ruling was sound and even if this meaningless appeal does go forward, she will be upheld.
Of course, mask mandates have nothing whatever to do with "disease prevention," or "public safety." They are purely and simply an attempt to exercise raw power and maintain control over the sheeple. But the sheep are fighting back. The Buffoon and his hard Left cadre are quite rightfully scared shitless of what's going to happen in November in the mid-term elections. Even a man as dim as he is understands that people have had enough and that they are going to throw the bastards out of office. About time.
April 24, 2022: Upcoming 2022-23 Deer Season
It's beginning to look like we are going to get an extended antlerless deer season here in Montgomery County and the rest of "DMA3," the designated CWD control area in which I hunt. A proposal under review at the Board of the Department of Wildlife Resources would add a late season from January through March. Here is the language of the proposal:
In Disease Management Area 3, the proposal is to (i) extend the firearms deer season from two to four weeks on private lands in Carroll County, (ii) establish a January through March late antlerless only deer season on private lands in Carroll, Floyd, Montgomery, and Pulaski counties, and (iii) create opportunity for an early September antlerless only deer season and a late (January through March) antlerless only deer season in designated disease focus zone(s) in Carroll County.
We already have a four week rifle season in Montgomery County: this proposal would cover from the Sunday following the first Saturday in January (January 8) through the last Sunday in March (the 26th). It is likely to be approved as a CWD reduction measure.
No word yet on mandatory testing for CWD. Last year it was required on the first day of the rifle season, but so far no announcement has been made regarding the 2022-23 season.
April 28, 2022: Fight The Buffoon's Gun Registration Scheme
It is currently illegal for the Federal government to establish a national gun registry: this illegality hasn't stopped President Buffoon and the Jackbooted Thugs in the BATF from trying to do it openly (they have certainly done it secretly already). The BATF has written a new "rule" that would in time register every firearm in the country and essentially ban making guns at home for private use, which is now perfectly legal. In essence the BATF is re-writing the law, something it has no authority to do. Congress writes laws, not Executive Branch agencies run by rogues. The only conceivable reason for gun registration is to facilitate confiscation: in every case when a registry has been established (New York, California, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and many other places) inevitably confiscation has followed.
You can send a message to your Senators to compel Congress to vote on a "Congressional Review Act" which would force every Senator to openly take a stand for or against this illegal measure. Click here to send this message.
I have been in this fight for better than half a century. The anti-gunners never give up, and they never go away. Their ultimate goal is the abolition of private ownership of firearms, and the Second Amendment and Heller vs DC be damned. They're closer than ever to getting what they want but they can't do it without a national gun registry. Help stop them. Click here.
May 3, 2022: A Rare And Long-Awaited Visitor
On the last day of April, our bird feeder had a most unusual visitor: a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. This is a bird of the Northern states, and we here in the mountains are more or less right on the fringe of its Summer range. It's only the second one I've ever seen: I saw one on a telephone wire in Stanfordville, NY well over 50 years ago, and have wanted to see another ever since. I believe they migrate through here: a bird-watching neighbor says he's seen them, and Mrs Outdoorsman claims to have seen one in 2007, but until a few days ago that one in New York was the only one I'd ever laid eyes on.
If I were an ancient Roman I might regard the appearance of this beautiful and scarce species as a good omen. God knows we can use some of those.
May 10, 2022: Pop Goes The Coal Grate
The house in which I grew up was built in the 1880's. It had several fireplaces—none of them working—but the woman who sold it to my father had at some time, probably around the time of World War One, installed a fake "coal grate" in the main sitting room. This had originally been fitted with light bulbs and a top made of colored glass. The glass was embossed with false "coal" so that when the bulbs were lit it simulated a fire.
When my parents sold the house in the early 1980's, their children "scavenged" stuff, and I got this thing, minus the light bulbs, the exceptionally hazardous early-20th-Century cloth-covered electrical cord, and the false "coal" overlay. We lugged it around and finally brought it with us to Virginia when we moved here in 1987. We have a real fireplace, but the grate wasn't suited to burning anything: so since then it's been sitting in our garden, used as a planter.
Mrs Outdoorsman looked at it one day and wondered about whether we should paint it: she wanted more color in the garden and she said that she wanted it to "pop" visually. I suggested we look into powder coating instead of paint because that would be far more durable when exposed to the weather. I took it to a place in Pearisburg, about 25 miles from here. We selected a brilliant, garish purple—the picture doesn't really do it justice—and the result is as you see. Very bright, and it "pops" just as intended. "Pops"....it virtually screams! But she is happy with it, and the price was minimal, all of $60, to have it re-imagined and rehabilitated. At left, in situ: the flowers in it will bloom in...what else?...purple!
May 13, 2022: A Grinding Chore
Some years ago I bought a free-standing meat bandsaw, to allow me to process a deer on my own. Over the years this thing, despite being a cheap piece of Chinese shit, has saved me a great deal of money, far more than it cost. Nowadays with processors charging $95 to do a deer—well, that was last year, we'll see what it will be this year—I expect to do at least one deer myself, perhaps more. Despite its shortcomings it does allow me to make cuts that look like they came from a supermarket.
There's a learning curve for cheapie gear like this. First of all you have to put it together, using instructions that seem to have been written in "Engrish" by someone with a decent vocabulary but minimal understanding of English idiom and usage. But in the end I got it done; then had to figure out what the proper level of tension on the band had to be, and so forth. I broke a couple of bands and dulled the rest on bones, but Ferrari & Sons can supply any sort of band needed at minimal cost. Cleaning the saw pretty much requires partial disassembly. But the one item on it that frustrated me most was the built-in meat grinder. This is driven by the same motor that powers the band.
I couldn't get the damned thing to work for the longest time. It would clog almost instantly and the hopper was none too securely attached. It would work—briefly—and then the hopper would fall off. I more or less gave up on it until I figured that with a little thought I could make it do what it was supposed to.
The biggest problem was the original grinder plate. This has very small holes, more or less guaranteed to clog instantly. I located a company (the One Stop Jerky Shop) that sells replacement grinder plates for every make and model of meat grinder on the planet; I ordered—with some hesitation because it wasn't returnable—a plate with large (3/8") holes. It fit, and today I decided it was time to give it a try.
Our local Kroger's meat department is very accommodating, and was happy to sell me a few pounds of beef suet. I don't think they're supposed to do this, but it seems that so long as the trimmings haven't actually been put in their "burn barrel" they'll set some aside. Time was this stuff was free, but now I have to pay a nominal amount for it; it came to $3.25 for a large Styrofoam tray of it.
I set up the grinder and got to work. Lo, everything went smoothly! The grindings came out of the plate and fell into a stainless steel bowl, very nicely. I took the bowl to the kitchen (Mrs Outdoorsman was working in her garden and didn't see this part of the operation) where I packaged the stuff into quarter-pound units for the freezer.
Why do this? Last season I ended up with about 45-50 pounds of ground venison. "Free range veal" is very lean stuff: fat is needed to hold a burger together and keep it from becoming dried out on the grill. Mixing in ground suet accomplishes this nicely.
Why It Pays To Be A Virginia Deer Hunter
In the 2021-22 deer season Virginia hunters killed (or, if you prefer DWR's euphemism, "harvested") 190,582 deer. That's down 8% from the previous season (208,131) and a bit more off the peak from 2009 of more than a quarter-million, but it's still a LOT of deer. The number doesn't include deer taken legally in the "urban archery" or special late "antlerless only" seasons; nor does it include deer taken on "kill permits" nor road kills.
DWR has kept county-by-county statistics since 1947. A look at the numbers for the past 70+ years are revealing of the enormous success that the restoration of the whitetail population has been. In 1980, in Orange County, where I owned a cabin, all of 449 deer were killed; this past season the number was 1841. Here in Montgomery County 1980 saw a total "harvest" of 242 deer; this past season it was 2508.
What's really telling is the difference between 1947 and the present day. The chart below tells the tale:
Matt Knox, the Deer Coordinator for the DWR, told me that Virginia has an overall hunter success rate of 60%, a really astonishing number. When I started hunting deer in the late 1960's and early 1970's in New York, you counted yourself lucky if you even saw a deer during the season. I hunted there for more than a decade before finally killing one in 1979. Today we here in Virginia have deer wandering through suburban neighborhoods; this doe was caught on my game camera as she wandered in to eat Mrs Outdoorsman's sunflowers: a few years ago my camera caught a 12-point buck and three does who'd hopped our fence to eat windfall apples. In places like Fairfax County and other DC suburbs they've reached nuisance levels and are a positive danger on the roads. At the beginning of each season there are a probably million or more deer in Virginia.
Another really interesting figure Matt provided was how many hunters get more than one deer in a season. For successful hunters, 25% get 2 deer; 19% get three, and 12% get 4. The average number of deer killed per successful hunter is 1.97 (I don't know what 0.97 of a deer might be, but you get the idea). The figures for all hunters (including those who are unsuccessful) are 15% getting 2, and an average of 1.18 deer per hunter. So the odds in the Virginia hunter's favor are very good. You walk into the woods with your weapon in hand, you're more likely than not to score a kill. Better than Las Vegas!
If you read old sporting magazines you hear a lot about "The Good Old Days," but when it comes to deer hunting in Virginia, these are the "Good Old Days," thanks to wise game management and the infusion of money from license sales, Pittman-Robertson funds, and other source. None of the money that supports DWR and its activities comes from the Commonwealth's general funds. Hunters, fishermen, and boaters pay for everything.
May 16, 2022: A Celebration Of Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Anniversary
Mrs Outdoorsman and I subscribe to a couple of streaming services dedicated to British television shows. I'm not enough of an Anglophile to sit through "Prime Minister's Question Time" or "Coronation Street," but we do watch a fair number of British sitcoms and mystery shows. Once we watched the Edinburgh Tattoo (which was nothing like what I'd expected it would be) because we'd been to Edinburgh Castle. Yesterday "Britbox," one of the services we get, ran a live feed of Queen Elizabeth's II's "Platinum Jubilee" celebrations held at Windsor Castle.
The event was a mixture of some pretty impressive pageantry―the British do this better than anyone else―interlarded with fair amounts of kitsch and pop culture. The kitsch included, among other things, Scottish Maidens who danced in garish kilts of red, blue, and green plaid. They were marched onto the field by a bagpipe band, from which they separated, to do their Fling Thing, and then with whom they were re-united to be marched out again. There were several singers, including an American rapper (?). There was a terribly shrill soprano with huge teeth like oblong porcelain slabs, whose eyebrows appeared to have been put on with a house-painter's brush; she grinned her way through "Rule Britannia," to the delight of the crowd. There one or two others whom I have forgotten.
Then there were the horses: gazillions of horses, because The Queen is really "into" horses. The narrator made the point―several times―that The Queen is an equestrienne extraordinaire; that if she were not Queen she'd have become a horse breeder and trainer; but nevertheless she does in fact have a horse stud at Sandringham where she has bred "numerous winners" of "all the important races in Britain" etc., etc., etc. Horses, horses, horses. There were squadrons of Household Cavalry, there was a really interesting performance by the Royal Horse Artillery in which they fired some World War One field pieces―using blank charges, of course, or the event would have been even more thrilling―plus a couple of foreign horse troupes. From France and―of all places―Azerbaijan.
There was a lot of military pageantry, much more than at the Tattoo. The Coldstream Guards in their colossal bearskin headgear, Navy and RAF personnel, and more, all marching perfectly. There were drums, very much in evidence throughout nearly all the performances. The Royal Marines had a "drum-off" with the "Top Secret Drum Corps," a Swiss troupe. The Trinidad and Tobago Defense Forces Steel Drum Band (I am not making this up)―who did not have horses―had drums of a different, somewhat more melodious, kind.
There were participants from many other countries, some from the Commonwealth, some not. There were the Azerbaijanis who screamed around the arena hanging off their horses doing acrobatic maneuvers; a Norwegian military drill team (who performed using Garand rifles of all things) and a few Royal Canadian Mounted Police who acted as a ceremonial guard when The Queen came into the arena and when she left. There was a large contingent of Bollywood dancers from India. But there were no Australians or New Zealanders at all. I found that interesting and somewhat inexplicable. I mean, if there are any Commonwealth countries that ought to have been represented, it would be those two. Perhaps COVID regulations kept them away?
The Master of Ceremonies was a beefy comedian dressed up as a Royal Herald. He was reasonably funny as he introduced the acts―yes, there were acts, skits, "re-enactments" of things like the victory over the Spanish
Flu Armada, and other major historical events. Actors in costumes performed in these skits; for the one about the Armada miniature ships with cannon rolled around the arena firing at each other. To celebrate Scott's attempt to reach the South Pole, a team of Huskies drew a wheeled dog sled over the sands. There were, alas, no attempts to recreate the Battle of Britain, which would certainly have made things really exciting when bits of fake Spitfires and Dornier bombers fell on the audience. But you can't have everything. Not even if you're The Queen.
Needless to say, innumerable celebrities served as presenters and interviewees. Most of them were British but despite being a committed Anglo-TV watcher, I didn't have a clue who many of them were. Of all of these the most prominent one (except for Dame Helen Mirren, heavily made up to channel Queen Elizabeth (The First) who opened and closed the events, was...Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise? Tom Cruise? Last I heard Tom Cruise is an American citizen; while I know he made several movies in the UK (none of which I've ever seen) his presence―and prominence―in this celebration was puzzling, at best. I imagine he's a "big draw" and the sponsors wanted to get as many of his fans to watch as possible. Personally I've never understood the American fascination with the Royal Family. After all, we did fight a war to get rid of them, plus another one less than 30 years later to prevent them from press-ganging American sailors. To give Tom Cruise credit where credit is due, at the very end when the crowd was singing "God Save The Queen," he opted out. Stood respectfully, as well he should have done, but his lips didn't move.
About every fifteen minutes our TV screen would display a message to "Go put on the tea kettle" or to "Have a cuppa," which I took to mean that in the UK commercial messages were being broadcast that would have had little effect on or interest for American viewers. I spotted one banner for Hermés so there were certainly some sponsors. I can't imagine what this event must have cost. We wondered who was footing the bill, because it must have been substantial. With nearly a thousand performers, many of whom came from far away and would have required accommodation―not to mention the horses―it sure wasn't cheap. Presumably the advertisements we Yanks didn't get to see wouldn't have been as expensive as the ones for the Super Bowl are, but maybe I'm wrong about that: it's not every day you get a Queen who sits on the throne for seven decades.
May 19, 2022: Just When You Thought Guns Couldn't Get Any Uglier...
....along comes the Chiappa "Little Badger" .22 rifle.
And the Mossberg 464 lever action rifle:
But wait! There's more! The "Tactical" version:
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!
Heritage Firearms "Rough Rider Tactical" .22 revolver. What would Teddy Roosevelt think?
And Not To Be Outdone In The Ugly Gun Sweepstakes:
Taurus has introduced the "Spectrum," certainly the ugliest pocket pistol ever made:
May 25, 2022: Getting "Antsy"
In late Spring a man's thoughts begin to turn towards the upcoming deer season. Yeah, I know, it's a ways away, but I'm already plotting "strategy" and what gun(s) I'll use. I can't help it. Mrs Outdoorsman says I'm "obsessed," but I'm not, I'm not, I'm not. I'm just...well, planning ahead.
This year things are looking good. One of the outcomes of the arrival of CWD in this part of Virginia that makes it tolerable is the fact that the DWR is getting really aggressive about "thinning the herd" in an attempt to minimize deer-to-deer contact. To facilitate this they've approved a Spring season for antlerless deer in my county. This will run from early January to late March. It's on top of the early and late muzzle-loading seasons and the regular firearms season. I don't bowhunt but someone who did could hunt deer from early October to late March. Even leaving aside the bow seasons, the opportunities available make me think that if I don't get a deer this season there's something wrong with me. (I always start a season thinking I won't get one, but I almost always do.)
Now, of course shooting does in the early part of the year and in early Spring means that a lot of them will be pregnant; and in March many of them will begin dropping fawns. A lot of fawns are going to die, some in utero but some not. That's a hard concept to accept, but it's part and parcel of the DWR's decision. Despite espousing my philosophy of shooting the first legal deer I see, I think I'd have an issue popping a spotted fawn in March.
But I digress: I've also been thinking about what I'll hunt with this year. As far as muzzle-loading seasons are concerned, there is only the one choice. Last year I went over to the Dark Side, eschewing my old pal the T/C New Englander that has served me well for years. My eyes no longer being very good for iron sights (even peep sights) I opted for another T/C, a well used but serviceable Firehawk, also in .54; I took a nice doe with it last season. I could use a black powder shotgun—even a double-barreled one is legal—but I need to work on accuracy a bit before I try that. So the Firehawk it will be.
Once the rifle season has started in mid-November I have more choice. I think this year I'll start off using the little Husqvarna I took to Africa in 2010. I've killed three deer with it, but not recently. It's turn has come. I also might take my drilling. If I make a kill early enough my beautiful Kimber .308 will go out, and certainly if I hunt the Spring season that will be the gun of choice.
A serious issue this year is the ammunition shortage and the price gouging that's occurring as a result. I used to get .308 and .30-06 for about $12-15 a box, but I just paid three times that for some plain-vanilla Remington Core-Lokt .308; and some places are asking EIGHTY FIVE DOLLARS for a box of 8x57. This is nothing short of robbery. I'm in good shape, but it pisses me off that this sort of thing is happening at all.
When I lived in New York I had to hunt deer with a shotgun using slugs. The old "Foster" slugs—the only kind there were at the time—aren't very accurate, but I managed to kill two deer using them. Great strides have been made in the past 50+ years: the "Brenneke" slugs long used in Europe are now available here and have a reputation for good accuracy. Some years ago Federal introduced the "Tru-Ball" line, also alleged to be very accurate indeed.
I have a little .22/20 gauge over/under combination gun, a Savage 24S I bought in the early 1960's. For years it's been my "go-to" gun for squirrels, since long ago I had the shotgun barrel fitted with removable tubes. It wears an XTRA FULL tube normally. But last week I ordered both a MOD and IC tube for it: and some Tru-Ball slugs. Federal advised me not to shoot those out of anything tighter than MOD. I hope it shoots the Tru-Ball slugs well enough that I can try taking a deer with the little gun. My best spot is all of 35 yards from a crossing point at the "Nine Deer Dip" so if I can reliably put a slug into a 3" circle at, say, 40-50 yards, I'll try it, probably in the Spring. A 20 gauge slug will do the job if it's in the right place.
May 30, 2022: No Comment Needed
June 11, 2022: A Disappointing Range Session
Two days ago I took my little Stevens 24S-C combination gun to the range: I had bought some Federal "Tru-Ball" and some Brenneke rifled slugs; I wanted to see how they shot. My idea was to take it out for the firearms deer season. Nobody around here uses a shotgun on deer because rifles are legal; but I used a shotgun in New York to kill my first two deer, so I was OK with that provided I could get some idea of where the slugs would hit. I'd use the .22 barrel for any incautious squirrels that wandered by and the shotgun barrel for deer. The maximum range would be 35 yards at The Nine Deer Dip, so I wanted to sight it in for 50 yards, tops.
Federal had said not to use the Tru-Ball slugs in anything tighter than modified. That gun normally has an XTRA-FULL tube in place for squirrels so I bought a MOD and an IC tube from Carlson's. I planned to try everything with both IC and MOD to see which worked best. Unfortunately the gun refused to cooperate. All of the various slugs I tried (some home-cast, plus the two commercial ones) shot so high they didn't even touch the target backing, let alone the target. I never managed a hit at all, let alone a group.
Then the gun started misfiring. I have no idea why but it would develop a light primer strike. I thought maybe it was just accumulated dirt in the action. Sometimes the normally rebounding hammer would stick in the full-forward position rather than popping back as it should. The firing pin did protrude normally, I don't think it was broken. Reasoning that dirt was the issue today I hosed the action out with WD-40 and things seemed to be back to normal; the hammer rebounded as it was supposed to. I slipped a couple of empty primed cases in, and lo...still misfiring.
I called the gunsmith who fixed my Stevens 311 double after Sportsman's Warehouse didn't. He works on a lot of high-dollar stuff and sniffs with disdain at my collection of motley utility guns, but he's good. I've owned that little gun since 1965 and have put far more into it than it's worth, but I'm willing to do what needs to be done to get it back into shooting condition. Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.
After the range debacle I decided to do a little fishing, so I stopped at the Super-Value convenience store on the corner of Route 42 and US 460, bought some worms, and headed for Stoneroller Creek, i.e., the Little River where Blue Spring Road crosses. This is about a mile from Sunrise Farm. True to its nickname, the river gave up...stonerollers. Four of them. These little guys are locally called "hornyheads" from the tubercules they develop on their heads in the breeding season. The cover of the massive monograph Freshwater Fishes of Virginia shows one in the foreground. The tubercules are easily visible in this charming portrait as whitish dots. They do indeed roll stones to get food, though they aren't averse to the odd earthworm now and then!
June 14, 2022: Fixing A Misfire
I found the cause of the sudden misfires on my 24S combination gun. The hammer has one of those extensions that make it easier to cock it. It needs one because with the scope in place there's no room to get my thumb under it and on the hammer spur. I've had it on there for many years but I think perhaps the firing of heavy slug loads must have changed the relative positions of the scope and the hammer. I found the hammer extension was contacting the scope optical bell, preventing the hammer from hitting the firing pin with the requisite amount of force. I could see small nicks in the scope where it did this!
If I took the hammer extension off the gun would fire (with primed empties, since I was doing it in the house!). The solution—I think it's the solution—was to relieve the top of the hammer extension enough so that there was no more contact. This was more difficult than you might think, because the extension is made of steel, and pretty hard steel at that. I ended up using a Dremel tool, not just a file. I managed to take enough off that I could slip a piece of cardboard the thickness of a playing card between the scope and the extension. It will now fire a primed case—so far, so good. The ultimate test will come at the range or in the woods. At the very least I can take the extension off if I have to.
The extension looks like shit now, but it works: and this gun was never fated to win any beauty contests, anyway. It functions as a specialized squirrel-killing machine, which is all that I ask it to be. If I can find my bottle of cold blue solution—I think I have one somewhere in the clutter on my bench—I can touch it up. Lipstick on a pig, perhaps, but even a pig likes to look a little bit better now and then.
June 16, 2022: Poetic Justice
It has been reported in the "news" media that Saint Anthony Fauci, "America's Foremost Infectious Disease Expert," as he is always referred to in breathless tones by the Beautiful Talking Heads, is "positive" for COVID.
Now, this guy has been hectoring and badgering us for over two years, insisting that we wear masks and stay at least six feet from each other, even during sex. Now he has been "...suffering mild symptoms..." we are assured. I guess at some point he forgot to wear his $@#@$%#%!!! mask, though as you can see in the image above, he always wears one, very ostentatiously, when there's a camera pointing at him. We are reassured to be told that he is "self isolating" and "not in contact with President
Buffoon Biden," for which we're supposed to be grateful, I guess.
In any event, now that AFIDE has become infected, we can all heave a (masked) sigh of relief. It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
June 24, 2022: A One-Two Punch For The Hard Left
It has been a hell of a week for the Left. The Bruen decision announced yesterday sent them into their usual paroxysms about "Dodge City In The Streets!" and "Gutters Running With Blood!" and so forth, despite the fact that there has never been an instance in which liberalization of firearms laws caused any such thing.
In 1989 Florida was the first state to adopt a "must issue" statute; the dire predictions were sent high unto the heavens. Nothing happened: no bloodshed ensued. Then other states, including Virginia, adopted the same policy over the course of the next couple of decades, again with no awful pile-up of wantonly-slain innocents, despite hysterical predictions that there would be such. Today half the states have "Constitutional Carry" in which no form of permit is required to carry, openly or concealed, and again, every single time a state goes that route, boom, out come the doom-predictors to be proven wrong yet again. No one ever notices that New York, with its rigid laws, has a vastly higher crime rate than adjoining Vermont, a Constitutional Carry state, with no gun laws.
The Bruen decision is one in which I have personal interest: I obtained a New York carry permit in 1966. It was valid anywhere in the state except New York City, and when I asked to have it endorsed for carry there...no dice. "We don't issue permits for personal protection," I was told by a Lieutenant Pasternak of the Pistol Permit Bureau. "We have 8,000,000 people in New York City; we'd have to issue 8,000,000 permits." So much for equal treatment under the law.
The best and most important aspect of the Bruen decision is that it was not decided on the basis of the Second Amendment, despite the distortions of it in the media. It was decided on the 14th Amendment's "equal protection" and "privileges and immunities" clauses. The Court recognized that the Heller decision was governing law: and that New York's "may issue" statute violated that case's precedents. Therefore, the 14th Amendment's guarantees of equal treatment had to apply. Here's the wording:
Held: New York’s proper-cause requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment by preventing law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms in public for self-defense.
No matter what The Beautiful Talking Heads tell you, this was not a Second Amendment case. New York will drag its feet, as did DC and Chicago, but in the end they will be forced to comply and to become a "must issue" jurisdiction too. It will take years, as it did in DC and Chicago, but it will happen.
It's a major win, no question. While The Forces Of Darkness are now assembling to try to repeal the Second Amendment (not going to happen, and they know it, but they'll try anyway) they can hardly try to repeal the 14th. This decision is a major, major setback to their campaign to completely ban the ownership of firearms by private individuals.
Today's announcement of the overturning of Roe vs Wade sparked even greater screeches of outrage than the leak of the draft decision did a few weeks ago. Watch for someone to take a shot at one or more of the Justices who voted to overturn: violence by the Left is always covered up and rationalized by the "news" while violence by the Right is played up as The End Of The World. Someone has already tried for Justice Kavanaugh, and there are more wing-nuts out there waiting for an opportunity. But from their point of view the damage is done, and it will take another 50 years to reverse it back.
Needless to say, neither of these decisions would have happened had we been so stupid as to have elected Hitlary Clinton in 2016. Trump is a bombastic jackass and a colossal, narcissistic ego-freak, but his picks for the SCOTUS were the reason he was elected. His work here is done, now he can fade away. If Justice Breyer dies or retires, whoever The Buffoon nominates will be just as bad but the overall balance of the SCOTUS will remain the same. And if the Democrats get shellacked in November, if they lose the Senate...anyone the Buffoon nominates isn't going to be confirmed. Yes, as ex-President Obama said, "Elections have consequences."