THE 2023-2024 SEASON LOG

January 3, 2023: A Trip, An Anniversary, And Some More Stupidities

Well, I have returned, more or less still alive, from a Christmas trip to visit Mrs Outdoorsman's Nephew and his extended family at their McMansion in Vienna, Virginia. There were moments when I wasn't sure I would. Of course, I had no real input into the decision to take this trip: we were invited, and I was told we were going.

Because of the massive hysteria engendered by the so-called "news" on TV about THE COMING END OF THE WORLD, AND WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE THANKS TO DANGEROUS COLD AND WIND CHILL TEMPERATURES THAT WILL CAUSE A FLASH FREEZE we left early.  I’ll note here that every year the Beautiful Talking Heads on the Boob Tube come up with a new term in their on-going campaign to raise ratings by trying to scare the wits out of us: this year's phrase was "Flash Freeze." Last year's was "Black Ice"; and let us not forget “Bomb Cyclone,” a genuinely stupid term resurrected—like a zombie—from last year.

And then there is rain...the Phrase Of The Year for rain is (drum roll, please) "Atmospheric River." That's what's happening in California. An "Atmospheric River" has hit them. Maybe now they will have enough water in Lake Mead that people in San Diego can go back to watering their lawns and filling their swimming pools. Oh, wait, no, according to The Washington Bleep! that isn't going to happen. Well, of course it isn't: otherwise they wouldn't have any disaster to report. Needless to say, CLIMATE CHANGE is the source of all California's troubles. The life of a Beautiful Talking Head isn't easy.

Because of this sort of nonsense, our original plan, which had been to leave on the 23rd, was altered: fearing the Imminent Death from a Flash Freeze, a death that we would certainly suffer if we drove on Thursday the 23rd, we left on Tuesday the 21st instead.  Unfortunately so did everyone else. The traffic on northbound I-81 was five times what it normally would have been thanks to panic-stricken idiots scurrying to escape death from the Flash Freeze. What normally would have been a four hour drive took five and half.  We got lucky at that: it could have been much longer, had the Beautiful Talking Heads really set their empty, gorgeous minds to it.

Now, you can't show up as house guests two days early and expect to be welcomed.  So we stayed in a hotel. We had our 13-year-old Border Collie Lucy with us. Not every hotel will allow a dog to stay but there is a Marriott Residence Inn in Falls Church that's “dog friendly”—to the tune of $160 over and above the room charge.  This for a “pet cleaning fee” which I believe means nothing at all.  If there's any additional cleaning done I saw no evidence of it.  In addition to all of our own luggage we brought Lucy's stuff.

Traveling with a dog is like traveling with a baby: there's an endless list of things you have to have. Water and food bowls, dog food (dry and canned), dog biscuits, dog towels, the dog's bed, the folding dog cage for the van, and the all-important dog-shit bags for when the pooch has to poop. At home Lucy has her own sleeping space in our bedroom. A very nice wire crate with a plush pad in it. Mrs Outdoorsman had the very smart idea to bring along her bed pad; in the van she rides in a crate but bringing it into the hotel would have been a real PITA. However, Mrs Outdoorsman had a another bright idea: she put two chairs back to back and draped a sheet over them. This created a sort of "tent," under which we placed Lucy's pad. This worked like a charm. Lucy laid down on it right away and was content. It's something we'll remember if we take her anywhere again.

Lucy is a poop factory: I have never seen a dog who generated as much as she does. It's not like she eats that much, either. She poops so much I sometimes wonder if there may be another dog or two sneaking into our yard to crap, there's so much to clean up. When traveling you have to pick the stuff up, so I save those nice plastic bags that Kroger's uses for vegetables. As emergency backup I have plenty of those little bags-on-a-roll, the ones stored in a container that dangles from the leash. These are not so good as the vegetable bags, but they'll do. When you have a dog that poops five or six times per day, you need a lot of bags.

By the time we finally got to the hotel and checked in, it had started to rain. Not just “rain,” it was a veritable Noachian deluge.   It never stopped raining for three days. I, as the Designated Dog Walker and Poop Collector, had to take Lucy out into it at least four times a day. We both returned from these excretory excursions soaked, but at least she was (temporarily) emptied out when we came back in. There's not much to do in a dog-friendly hotel when it's coming down in sheets outside, so at least the poop expeditions broke the monotony.

Two and a half days after arrival at the hotel we set out for Nephew's house.  In the interim we'd had to run some errands which necessitated driving in the (driving) rain. I used to live in the DC area, but every time I go back the suburbs have metastasized another 30 miles out.  The incredible traffic, which used to begin around Manassas, now begins near Front Royal along I-66. It gets worse as you get nearer to DC.  The traffic was simply phenomenal: how people can stand to drive in it for daily errands, let alone commute to and from work in it, is beyond me. Furthermore the roads keep changing. There are innumerable new exits along the highways, there's road construction where there aren't new exits (possibly to make new exits) and the signage is confusing, especially when they try to entice you into “Express lanes” which cost the earth and demand an electronic “E-Z Pass” to use.  

Inevitably you end up playing Dodge-'Em Cars with other drivers when you suddenly realize you need to do a lane change.  NOVA drivers are very aggressive, easily offended by someone having the effrontery to want to change lanes, are determined that You Shall Not Pass Me, are willing to tailgate on dangerously slick pavement, and all in all, seem to have learned to drive in North Carolina, which has the worst drivers in the USA, bar none.  (They're worse than Texans, and that's saying something.)

My GPS seemingly can't keep up with the changes.  It kept yammering in my ear about which exit I needed, blithely assuming that a) the exit still existed, b) that I could find it among the welter of signs, and c) that I'd be able to change lanes without side-swiping an angry suburbanite in a Mercedes or Audi.  (Those are two of The Official Vehicles of Northern Virginia. We drive a Kia, so it's surprising we didn't get spat upon as Ignorant Hicks. Well, maybe we did but with the rain we wouldn’t have noticed.)  The rain and the headlight glare made it impossible to see the road markings; driving mostly at night didn't help things much.

At one point we had to go to the “Crate & Barrel” store to buy a bowl to replace one I’d broken, where I learned that what I'd been taught in Catholic school was wrong: the real definition of “Hell” is Tyson’s Corner Mall at Christmas time.  Crate & Barrel was full of well-dressed NOVA residents of any number of genders, mostly blank-faced women wandering to and fro strewing money around.  I was there to buy only one item, but they were seemingly there to find out what they needed to buy to make their lives complete. 

We also had to go to a Wal-Mart (yes, there’s a plebeian Wal-Mart at Tyson’s Corner, otherwise the Home Of The Upscale Store) which required me to drive up a very steep and slick ramp into a multi-story parking garage. The line of cars up that ramp snaked down three stories into the street.  Mercifully we were able to get into the garage and thus out of the rain.  But if the Tyson’s Corner Mall proper is Hell, the Tyson’s Corner Wal-Mart is surely Purgatory.  Forty-five years of small town life have spoiled me.

But I digress....We did eventually manage to get to Nephew's house in daylight on the 23rd which helped with the drive, though the GPS didn’t. There we met Nephew, Niece-in-Law, his Indian-born wife; her two parents, and Nephew and Niece-In-Law's two boys, aged 10 and 8.

There's an old Victorian era maxim that "Children should be seen and not heard," which seems never to have taken hold in Nephew's house. These two kids do everything at top volume. They seem to be incapable of moving from one place to another except at a run.  The “pitter-patter of little feet” is transmuted into the "thunderous pounding of little feet" on the floors of the house.  Nor do they have a normal bed-time. At that age I wasn't allowed to stay up until 8 to watch "I Love Lucy" but these kids stayed up until at least midnight watching "Glass Onion."

Niece-In-Law doesn’t like dogs.  This is perhaps understandable, she having grown up in a country where strays wander everywhere and 30,000 cases of human rabies per year is the norm. But for Dog People it’s an attitude that’s not just incomprehensible, it's a significant pain in the ass to deal with.  Lucy, we were told, was not allowed in the house. It has bare wood floors and “...her nails might scratch the wood...” so she was confined to quarters in the basement guest room, where there is a rug. For her it amounted to a very cushy kennel.

Nor, for that matter, were WE allowed to wear shoes in the house. Having been subjected to this no-shoes nonsense on previous visits I'd had the presence of mind to bring along some slippers—my mother used to scold me for walking around the house in only my socks, and I damned sure wasn't going to walk around barefoot, though everyone else did, including the boys—lest my toenails scratch the wood floors. Or that I'd get some loathsome foot disease they'd brought in and was lurking on those bare floors.

When I had to take Lucy out (four or five times a day, usually in freezing rain, but after that finally stopped, in sub-zero cold) we had to use the basement entry with its concrete steps because she wasn’t allowed to come up even to exit through the garage.  She’s at an age where she isn’t too active, but she hates to be left alone: she barks to make me feel guilty if I do that.  But social niceties demanded that I spend at least some time with the family, so the dog—as always—had to like it or lump it.   After two days in the hotel, where at least we were with her all the time, she was faced with another three days of incarceration.  Well, it was more comfortable than a real kennel would have been;  she had her bed, she had her food, and she got as much time as I was allowed to spend with her.  That’s all I could do.

She did, however, give us a real scare.  On Christmas Eve she managed to get into the bedroom closet, where she found some chocolate to eat.  All dogs love chocolate, but it’s poisonous to them because it contains theobromine, an alkaloid they can’t process metabolically.  We didn't know how much she’d managed to eat—as little as an ounce of baking chocolate can kill a medium-sized dog—but it wasn’t baking chocolate, thank God; it was those little squares of Ghirardelli “Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almond.”  Mrs Outdoorsman said there were only about four of them.  Nevertheless I wasn’t willing to take chances.  Luckily there’s a 24-hour emergency clinic within a mile of Nephew’s McMansion, so we rushed her there. 

On arrival I was required to call the Animal Poison Control Center to develop a “case number,” which cost me $95 for 5 minutes on the phone, answering questions that—once we had a case number—the clinic asked me a second time.  Then we were able to hand her over to the vet tech, who took her to the back, telling us they’d call us “in a few hours.”  This didn’t make me any happier.  I was reassured that she seemed to be in safe hands, though no doubt she was totally bewildered.  The essence of being a dog is that things are done to you: you have no control whatever.  Here was the poor thing, four days into a trip to a place she didn’t know and didn’t want to be, having been snatched willy-nilly from her home, dumped into our car for hours and hours on the road, then into Nephew’s basement, then suddenly snatched up again, thrown into the car, and handed off to strangers who would poke and prod her and give her drugs.  In the end she was induced to vomit, upon which event she brought up not only her dinner, but the remains of a loaf of fruit bread she’d eaten along with the chocolate and two still-wrapped Ghirardelli squares, in their foil packets.  That was a good thing: they might easily have led to an intestinal impaction. Then I was summoned, went back to the clinic, paid $648 in fees, was given discharge paperwork, and drove back to Nephew’s house.  Between the hotel and  the vet bill, the trip cost me well over $1000, not including gasoline at Biden-era prices.  Lucy is not a cheap date.

The rest of the time went uneventfully, except for the shrieking insistence of the boys that we play with them.  Mrs Outdoorsman was willing to do this, I wasn’t.  They demanded—and I do mean demanded, not requested—that she play board games, do puzzles, play “Pokemon Monopoly," watch idiotic animé cartoons, on and on and on, endlessly.  I retreated to the basement guest room to be with Lucy as much as I could.

The entire house is wired.  Everything—the lights, the numerous TV sets, the thermostat, the garage door, the oven, the microwave, the door locks—you name it, it’s tied into an “app” on someone’s Smart Phone. The lights in the closets come on when you open the door.  Of course there is the hateful  “Alexa” system in place.  Alexa listens to every word said and I’d bet that somewhere, someone is recording it just in case it’s needed by the FBI or the NSA.  I don’t believe anyone who says you can turn Alexa off.  Alexa is as potentially useful to tyrants as the Chinese facial recognition system and very much—entirely too much—like what Winston Smith had to deal with in "1984."  Big Sister Alexa Is Watching, or at least Listening.

One especially annoying aspect of Alexa is the “intercom” function by which someone can announce anything to everyone in the house, because—needless to say—Alexa is in every room of the house. One night the boys used the intercom feature to wish us a “Good night” long after we were already asleep in the guest room. Then a few seconds later they came back on to wish Lucy—whom they had hardly even seen—a good night.  I’ll admit that I found Alexa useful for one thing: when I had to leave Lucy alone I’d tell Alexa to play music, which seems to have helped her to tolerate her confinement.

Speaking of music, every year I forget how much I hate “Christmas” music.  It’s the same 40 or so songs, every one of them a God-damned ear-worm, over and over, and over. Thank God somehow I escaped hearing “The Little Drummer Boy,” which is certainly the stupidest song ever written. Avoiding that was a Christmas Gift in itself.  Even the emergency vet clinic was playing Christmas music, as people waited to find out if their pets were going to live.

On the 24th I got out of the house for a couple of hours to visit a cousin who lives in Fairfax, and whose brother from California had come in for the Yuletide.  We also managed to meet up with my younger sister to have lunch in an Egyptian restaurant, Fava Pot in Falls Church.  It was a very good one, too: with very authentic food.  It was worth swimming through the rain to get there, in fact.

Mrs Outdoorsman's Niece, a restaurateur from Ohio, came a day after we did.  On Christmas Day another couple, related to Niece-In-Law, came for dinner.  These are very well-to-do people. The wife complained that thanks to having a private elevator that opens directly into their condo’s vestibule, “…we don’t know any of our neighbors…” and her husband, a CEO of several companies, was driving an $80,000+ Alfa Romeo Giulia Q4.  Nice work if you can get it.  We had a very nice dinner with a ham and a leg of lamb they'd brought.  It was all delicious, and accompanied by wine, wine, and wine.

We got home on the evening of the 26th, after a normal-length drive, again with heavy traffic southbound on I-81.  We found out afterwards that there’d been an accident on the highway that caused a 3-to-5 mile backup: mercifully we had passed that point by the time it happened.

Next year, they can come here.  I’ll not subject Lucy to that again.

More Stupid Stuff

There's no place better for stupid stuff than one of these up-scale grocery stores that puts on airs about "sustainability" and "eco-friendliness," and similar bullshit. I keep my eyes open for opportunities to document such things. While in Vienna I went to a Whole Foods store to buy some wine, and found this little gem: gourmet ice cubes. Made from pure—and undoubtedly organic, gluten free, sustainably harvested, etc.—Spring Water. You wouldn't want to risk your life, or worse, the lives of your guests and children, by using ice cubes made from tap water, which is filled with all kinds of poisons put there by Big Aqua to kill us all. No Siree, only the Best will do for Whole Foods' customers.

Needless to say, Stupidity isn't limited to the sort of people who shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's (another fountain of Rectitude and Righteousness in the grocery industry). We hillbillies and rednecks have our share. I place in evidence the following item: flavored cigars. Yes, cigars. One would think that a cigar has its own distinct, unique flavor, but one has to take into account the current wussification of all segments of society, even Rednecks: sweetenings and sugar in everything, now including cigars.

A friend and I stopped in at a bait shop in Radford, and found these things on the shelf. A White Owl cigar is bad enough on its own terms, but a peach-flavored or strawberry-flavored White Owl, let alone a "Strawberry/Sangria," "Dark Chocolate," "Strawberry/Lemon," and "Tropical Twist" White Owl is of a level of vileness hardly to be contemplated. Not to be outdone, on the shelf below the White Owls are numerous "Swisher Sweets" in various flavors. This in a bait shop, a place where you can get minnows and night crawlers, cigarettes, fishing lures, and really, really bad hamburgers. There's no hope for a country that has sold its machismo to the marketeers.

We'd gone to the bait shop to buy...bait. An old friend who's a fanatical fisherman was here for a couple of days over the New Year's holiday. I took him to a place I'd fished before with some success (and no, I won't tell you where it is). He hit the jackpot: an 18" Rainbow Trout. Rainbows are raised in hatcheries and widely stocked in Virginia, but they're a western species, not native to the Old Dominion. I've gone out on some stocking runs, but these fish aren't stocked in the stream we were fishing. I had caught a smallish Rainbow there some time ago and asked about that, but I was told that stream is not and never has been on the DWR's "to be stocked" list.

However, some years ago there was one of these put-and-take fishing places not too far away, and we speculated that the fish I'd caught might somehow be an escapee from that. But that place closed many years ago, and no fish that had escaped from it (or been set free) would have lived that long. Nor are Rainbow Trout supposed to be able to survive Virginia summers: they're a cold-water fish.

Well, I am here to testify that Rainbow Trout do, in fact, survive Virginia summers. The fish my friend caught was a beautiful specimen. Took him on one of those bait-shop nightcrawlers. And no, again, I won't say where it was. My lips are sealed. I want to go back and catch that fish again.

An Anniversary

Today, January 3rd, marks 40 years to the day that I got my first puppy, my beloved, wonderful Toby. He came to us as a bewildered 5-week-old orphan, at a time when we really desperately needed him. We had moved to Texas a couple of weeks before, knew no one, had no money, and things were very bleak for us emotionally. Toby gave us something to love and much, much more. He gave me a reason to live, he gave me faith that the future might be brighter. I did everything wrong with him, made errors I have since not repeated with any of his successors, but he loved and he forgave because that is the nature of dogs.

Toby crossed the Rainbow Bridge suddenly, unexpectedly, in September of 1996, just a couple of months shy of his 14th birthday. His death from a gut torsion was excruciatingly painful and has haunted me for decades. There was nothing I could have done, but I've never really forgiven myself for his dying the way he did. I grieve for him every day, and sometimes, after more than 26 years, I still see him in dreams. All my subsequent dogs owe him a debt, but I owe him more than I can ever repay. Some day I will create a monument worthy of him so that his name will be known and heard for as long as I can make it so.

January 6, 2023: Practicing For Tomorrow's Bird Shoot...

...and I can't hit squat. Took my drilling out to burn up some antique 16-gauge ammo I'd been given. It all went off, despite certainly being at least 80 years old. Paper cases, of course. Most of them split on firing, but they all went off.

Not that it did much good. I hit the first target and missed nearly all the rest. I may well be the world's worst wingshot. I do better on live birds than clay ones, but those pheasants will have to be very unlucky tomorrow for me to hit them.

I'm taking my clunky old Stevens 311 double and a "backup" bolt action 12 gauge because that Stevens has given me some trouble in the past. The drilling has scope mount blocks for a detachable scope so I'm using that as an excuse for my lousy shooting.

January 8, 2023: The Bird Shoot

Yesterday I went to Holland's Hunting Preserve for my annual bird shoot with Phil. He always chooses quail, I do pheasants because they're big enough that I can hit them now and then. That said, I got all four of the pheasants I paid for and a couple of quail. Six kills for 14 shots: better than my usual average. Phil got 9 quail of the 12 he'd bought.

I had planned to bring my drilling but I shot so badly with it in "practice" I opted for my old, reliable, Stevens 311 12-gauge double instead. I've had trouble with this gun in the past so I brought a "backup" in the form of a 12-gauge bolt action. I didn't need it, the Stevens performed like a champ. I shot Remington "Express" high-brass #5's with #4's in reserve. I like fairly large shot for pheasants, though those #5's worked very well on the two quail I shot without messing them up.

Normally John Holland is the guide with his exceptionally well-trained dogs, especially Molly. He uses Brittanies. But this time he had a very large group to guide on another part of the property so we were guided by "Mike," who had Gypsy, one of Molly's pups. Gypsy is a year and a half old, coming on very well, and while she needs to work on her retrieve-to-hand a bit, she found every bird. No complaints!

At right, Mike is holding the first pheasant I shot. That one was a deader in the air, a very satisfying hit, thought not, of course, for the bird.

The weather was overcast but not too cold. The weather people had been predicting a "wintry mix" (why they can't just say "sleet" I don't know) but it turned out to be a very nice day in the end. Well, not for the birds, they had a lousy time.

After I'd shot my birds my hip was bothering me so I hoofed it back to the truck and let Phil finish up. Walking on uneven ground is bothering me more as I age. Gosh, I wonder why?

John told me about a documentary show in which he and his operation were featured. It was broadcast on, of all stations, PBS ! The show is titled "The French Magnolia," and you can watch it here:

Very nicely done. I have noticed in recent years a tendency to, if not approve, at least condone "gentlemanly" types of hunting, though I must confess I never expected to see anything like this video on PBS. They even showed birds being hit in mid-air, something you never see on TV except on the ghastly "outdoors" shows, and even then they sometimes jump-cut away from the kill. The trend seems not to be extended to deer hunting yet. That is still portrayed as Bubbas crazed by blood lust. This new tendency is enhanced by (perhaps motivated by) glossy magazines like "Garden & Gun" and seems to be more or less specifically oriented to the South.

We have little in the way of wing-shooting around here except put-and-take birds. At Holland's the birds are taken out and cunningly placed in the fields, well hidden. Then the dog(s) go out and find them and Phil and I go miss them. It's not the real thing but it's close enough. I'm told wild pheasants are much different to hunt than these pen-raised birds; but I have seen perhaps three wild pheasants in my life, while driving out West, so I don't know.

More Stupidity

This gem came from our local Kroger store, where an understanding of the definition of "oxymoron" seems not to have taken hold. "Fresh for Everyone," even when it's frozen.

January 11, 2023: It's Always Something

Two days ago our clothes washing machine more or less gave up the ghost. Now, since we do laundry nearly every day, this was a catastrophe: especially since it would mean we'd have to to a—gasp, shudder—laundromat. This was entirely unacceptable. So Mrs Outdoorsman decreed we would buy a new washer ASAP. Off to Lowe's we went.

After half an hour the decision had been made: a brand new Maytag no-agitator washer, to the tune of $900+ after having to buy new hoses (which we didn't need but were required if we wanted delivery and installation), taxes, and a $40 disposal fee for our old, useless, worn-out-after-11-years previous Maytag. Oh, and let us not forget the expensive "protection plan" we forked out for, too. Can't be too careful! You never know, someday we might need it. Since "major appliances" these days have a shorter life span than they used to "insurance" is always urged on the consumer. After all, what's a consumer for but to consume?

It was delivered today. Two burly guys who spoke little English (one of them spoke none at all beyond "Thank you, sir" which was after all sufficient) carried the new washer through our yard using straps, hooked it up (complete with the new hoses we didn't need) and carried the old one away. Unfortunately the drain hose on the new washer wouldn't quite reach the place where it had to drain, necessitating that the dryer be moved to where the old, useless, worn-out-after-11-years previous Maytag had been, with the spanking new Maytag installed in the place where the dryer had been. The new washer is on the left; the ratty old dryer is still in service. Give it time....

Then I had to put in a new dryer vent hose. Our nearest hardware store had only the execrable aluminum ones. Having ruined two of these in the past trying to install them (because they're very fragile and easily damaged going around bends) I then drove to another hardware store and bought a vinyl hose. Perhaps I should have bought two of them. I'm certain the Town Code Nazis will in time mandate that only aluminum hoses be used. They will do this for two reasons: 1) because they can; 2) to make my life more difficult. Next time I visit the superior hardware store I'll buy another vinyl hose or two. Sooner or later the Dryer Hose Police will find out and they'll probably arrest me for "...creating a fire hazard..." or something equally silly but it will be worth it.

The new, super-efficient, never-to-be-equaled Maytag uses very little water, which I'm told is a good thing. It's good for the planet and don't you ever forget it! It gets around this by taking an ungodly amount of time to run a wash cycle. I timed the "normal" cycle at 56 minutes. So it uses more electricity, which presumably is not good for the planet, unless of course it comes from wind and solar, which we haven't yet got and probably won't get in my lifetime. Maytag giveth and Maytag taketh away.

Heaven alone knows how long the "heavy soil " cycle will take.

January 12, 2023: Bluebirds, Come Home

We have bluebirds around here, and I've been seeing them in the neighborhood lately. Bluebirds are marvelously beautiful, unmistakable for any other species, especially the males. I grew up in New York; the bluebird is the official New York state bird, but I never laid eyes on one there. We have had them nesting in our yard now and then and I want them back.

So today I bought a new bluebird house. I had to go out to buy birdseed at Tractor Supply (we go through a LOT of birdseed and I believe we have the fattest birds in Montgomery County) so I picked up a house for them. Bluebirds are picky about where they like to live. Has to be over an open area because they eat insects; they don't want close neighbors. For two seasons we had them in our yard, then they decided they preferred some other accommodations. But this new house I bought is specifically designed for them; I hope they like it. The males come first to scout out nest cavities. They're earlier than usual this year so I didn't wait to put up a box.

It has to be about 5 to 6 feet off the ground, so I attached the house to a pole, which is in turn lashed to my fence with zip-ties. Bluebird houses can't have too large an opening lest sparrows and riff-raff like starlings get in. Nor should it have a perch because that's an invitation to snakes and other predators to come and dine on the nestlings.

January 15, 2023: Zilch At The Dip

Went to the Nine-Deer Dip this afternoon. I wanted to try to get a deer with my little Savage 24-S combination gun. I'd got it sighted in with Brenneke 20-gaug e slugs (see the entry for October 16, 2022). I've had that gun for decades and it's always been my go-to squirrel gun, but a 20 gauge slug will do a deer handily. We're now in the extended antlerless season in Montgomery County and with two deer already "harvested" (how I hate that euphemism) I thought I'd give it a turn in the barrel (ha, ha). It shoots reasonably well with the rifled choke tube in place and I'd have limited the range to no more than 54 yards.

But nobody showed up. Nada, nuttin', zip. Of course, as is always the case, on the way out a big fat doe ran across the road right in front of me. Happens every time. The extended antlerless season runs to March 26th: I'll get out again.

I have some issues with shooting does in the Spring when many (most) of them are probably going to have fawns in utero, but the idea is to thin out the numbers and that will certainly do it.  I once shot a doe (in late June on a kill permit) that had nearly-full-term triplets inside.  One shot, four deer, and all their descendants gone from the herd. 

Some of the anti-hunting zanies in places like New York want to use birth control injections on does and/or surgical sterilization of bucks; God alone knows what that would cost per deer, but surely NY has better uses for the money.  Such people cannot understand (or perhaps cannot accept) the truth: the best deer "contraceptive" is a bullet.

January 17, 2023: And Here I Thought Guns Couldn't Get Any Uglier

The obscene object at left is the "Tombstone" lever action rifle produced by some company called "POF," whatever the hell that means. even uglier than the Mossberg "tactical" lever action, taking "ugly" to a new level. But it's probably supposed to be ugly: the visual elements affirm Marshall McLuhan's dictum that "The medium is the message." Ugly=Badass, no?

Not only is it profoundly offensive to the eye, it's quite clear that this company feels that auto-loading rifles are going to be banned, so they'd better get into the market with a lever action—a lever action, for God's sake—that might, just might, placate the anti-gun fanatics while retaining the "tacti-cool" features that everyone whose sensibilities have been deadened have come to believe are good things. They are wrong, of course: nothing can placate the enemies of gun ownership. Just ask the Australians or New Zealanders, New Yorkers, Californians, or people in Illinois or New Jersey. This monstrosity may hold them off for a little while but it isn't going to stop them from going after "assault lever actions" sooner or later.

Rifles in pistol calibers are nothing new: the .32-20, .38-40, and .44-40 all came in revolvers and rifles, usually short handy carbines. What caliber was chosen for this thing? The 9mm Parabellum, that's what. A fine, traditional "cowboy" caliber. NOT. I would also like to hear some sort of logical explanation for the presence of a muzzle brake on a 7+ pound rifle chambered for that round. Well, it's...tacti-cool, yes?

Here is the most incredible thing about it: MSRP is...are you ready?...$1900 to $2100. Anyone willing to spend that kind of money on it needs psychiatric attention.

February 2, 2023: The Festival Of The Meteorological Rodent

Well, Punxatawney Phil came out of his burrow, saw his shadow, and bingo, six more weeks of winter. We started off here in Blacksburg with our first measurable snow: a whole inch when I woke up. Gone by noon of course. But it's a harbinger of things to come. Tomorrow is going to be fiendishly cold, so I plan to wait another day to go do my duty to the Commonwealth by killing Bambi's Mom or little sister. Saturday is supposed to be bearably warm. We'll see.

February 7, 2023: A Bust At The Dip, Again

I've been out to the Dip to take advantage of the extra-long deer season. Have gone at least twice since the last entry on this subject. Nothing doing either time. Except that, as ever, I see deer when I'm driving out. Yesterday I went out from 10:30 AM to 5:30 PM (and was my butt sore from sitting all that time...but I digress) and saw exactly one squirrel, far off in a tree. On the way home two deer, a big doe and her yearling fawn, ran in front of my truck, stopped on the side of the road, stuck out their tongues and gave me the raspberry. I'm scheduled to go out again on Thursday if it doesn't rain, since Mrs Outdoorsman is having her Mah Jong group here. I expect it will rain and I'll be confined to the basement with the dog.

February 8, 2023: The State Of The Union

Well, President Buffoon went on TV last night to deliver his opinion on the situation of the country. You will not be surprised to hear that in his opinion—the one he was told is his opinion by his handlers—everything is peachy-keen, hunky-dory, except for that pesky Second Amendment. And it's all due to him.

The man is way beyond incompetent. He is senile, not very intelligent, just a superannuated party hack who's hopelessly out of his depth, even more so than Jimmy Carter was. The Democratic Party is scared shitless of his running again: all he has to do is make a formal announcement, and they'll be forced to either support him or ditch him under the 25th Amendment. That would of course mean Kamala Harris as President, which scares them even more. He can probably be "managed" until he completely loses what marbles he has left, but likely she won't play ball with them.

February 10, 2023: More Nothing Doing

Went back to the Dip yesterday. I got there at 1:10 and sat until 5:00, then came home because it was obvious no one was going to show up. Too warm and very, very windy.

I set up a game camera and will check it in a few more days. I'm beginning to think that most of the deer on that property are either dead or have decided it's an unsafe place to be. Phooey. I've made five kills from that spot since October 18, 2020, but there have to be some left.

February 12, 2023: What Goes Around Comes Around

I have from time to time weighed in about the firearms industry gulling hunters and shooters to buy stuff they don't need, and a couple of more shining examples have recently come to my attention.

Winchester recently announced with great fanfare a "new" caliber: the ".400 Legend," which is in essence the resurrection of the .401 Winchester Self-Loader of...are you ready?...1910.

This "new" caliber fires a 215-grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2230 FPS. The old, useless, no-longer-capable-of-killing-deer .401 S-L shot a 200-grain at 2141 FPS for 2037 F-P.  It also came with a 250 grain bullet. I submit that these differences are insignificant.  Both "hit like Thor's Hammer," as the old ad says. As for Federal's "new" .360 Buckhammer, how it differs, if at all, from the .375 Winchester is not apparent. The "Buckhammer" round has a muzzle velocity of 2400 FPS, and energy of 2300 F-P with a 200-grain bullet. This is essentially the same as the .375's 2223 FPS/2200 F-P. If there is a nickel's worth of difference between these two rounds, I'd be very surprised.

It's worth pointing out that the brand-new, never-to-be-matched .360 Buckhammer is based on...the .30-30 case necked up. The .30-30 is vintage 1895. It's also noteworthy that by not necking the basic case down to accept a .30-caliber bullet the manufacturers save a couple of steps in making the "new" round; not incidentally saving them money and increasing their profit. Oh, and by the way, the performance of the .360 Buckhammer is identical to that of the 1906-vintage .35 Remington. I admit that there is of course considerable brilliance in the name "Buckhammer" as a marketing ploy.

It's quite plain that there is nothing new about these products. They exist solely to sell new guns and to capture market share from people who already have perfectly adequate rifles but who can easily be convinced that they don't. This is understandable in the sense that the companies have to keep shilling this stuff to stay in business, but it is nonetheless reprehensible behavior. Nothing new about that, either. What goes around comes around.

February 13, 2023: Obscene Prices At The Grocery Store; Thank You, President Buffoon!

I think these pictures speak for themselves. Biden's inflation is killing us, but perhaps that's the whole idea.

February 18, 2023: A Misunderstanding Corrected

If you have been following this blog you will know that I've been trying to take advantage of the DWR's special antlerless season, which runs until March 26 in DMA3; that includes the location of the Dip in Montgomery County. The purpose is to reduce deer-to-deer contact that spreads CWD.

I was out last Wednesday (the 16th) and as in previous outings saw nothing. Just as well: the landowners saw my truck and left me a note to ask why I was still hunting. I had thought they would have been alerted to the extended season, but apparently they weren't. She was pretty upset, actually. "This year nobody checked in with us!" then saying that she didn't care about the extended season or CWD, and "We walk back there!"

I apologized and left, leaving behind my game camera and my shooting sticks because it was getting dark. I called last night to ask if I could come out today to retrieve them; she very cordially agreed, and also said that they were "pleased" at my being willing to do things their way. (Well, of course I would: I want to keep hunting there!) I think it helped that I went up to the house to announce my presence before going into the woods. She said, "You called last night, you didn't need to," but I think they were pleased I did. So things were smoothed over.

So today I went out and retrieved the camera. It provided evidence that indeed, there are still deer out there at the Dip. The one above was very curious about the camera! I'd thought it was probably a doe—note what seems to be a fawn in the background—but after showing a second picture, one that shows an abscission layer on the deer's head, to some hunting friends, the consensus is that it's a young buck who's shed his antlers. In the image at right the beast is staring straight into the camera from perhaps 10 inches. I've indicated the spot where an antler came off on the right side.

Either way, this deer would have been legal as "antlerless," but in the event it's a good thing I didn't shoot it. The landowner would have been even more upset. Of course, I couldn't have, because I wasn't there when it came by!

So there are deer left, but hunting them at the Dip is over until the Fall, when the cycle begins again. I will be 76 then, and I'm wondering how many more seasons I have left in me, but I'll find out in October.

February 19, 2023: The Deer Are Winning

When I brought home the game camera yesterday I set it up in the back yard, thinking I'd test its capacity to a) spot my dog when she wakes me up to go out and poop at night (several times between 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM); and b) to see how good it is at recording time stamps on the images. This is a Wildgame Innovations camera, a Model Terra-X, which I don't recommend to anyone. It's a PITA to set the time on it. My old camera had a setting whereby I could just get pictures at night, this one doesn't. I bought this one because it was cheap, and it more or less serves my needs, but next time I'll get a better one.

Last night it did what needed to be done. To my surprise it captured two deer in the yard just after midnight. We have had deer in the yard many times—the fence doesn't deter them at all—but usually they come to eat fallen pears or apples. I can't think what these were looking for, but there they were: a doe and a fawn. In theory they would have been legal game, since this is Montgomery County, but the Blacksburg Police take a dim view of people popping off high-powered rifles in suburban environments. I can't imagine why!

March 3, 2023: Make Sure The Water Isn't Too Hot....

...or your beer will get warm while you're in the shower.

This gem is on sale at a local hardware store. For the hard-core alcoholic. And it grips to shiny surfaces so that your beer won't fall on the floor of the shower and be lost.

March 9, 2023: Lucy Is Ill

Two days ago my Border Collie Lucy, who is now 13+ years old, fell down in the hallway. She has been lethargic and listless for a while, which I attribute to her age, but this was something entirely new.

Wednesday morning, first thing, I took her to the veterinarians we have used for nearly 37 years. The diagnosis was "acute idiopathic vestibular disease," i.e., a discombobulation of the inner ear's balance mechanism. No one knows what causes this ("idiopathic" is medical-speak for "we are clueless") but it's not uncommon, especially in older dogs. The literature I've been reading says it comes on suddenly and passes off in 48-72 hours. I hope so.

In essence it means she is dizzy and wobbly: she has trouble standing and falls down when she walks. She has a head tilt. The treatment, such as it is, is a drug called Cirenia, with additional Dramamine.

So far it seems to have helped. She can now, nearly two days later, walk fairly well (though she still stumbles) and she's more or less okay on level surfaces with decent traction, such as rugs. I have been able to take her on short walks. She isn't much interested in eating, but will accept some dog biscuits and raw lamb; we hide her pills in the latter. Today she has been able to get up and follow me around, a very encouraging sign. I have hopes that in a day or two more she'll be back to as close to normal as a 13+ year old dog can be.

But this has been a reminder that her days are numbered, and that inevitably I will lose her. I can hardly bear the thought. I don't know how I will live without her.

March 10, 2023: Some Improvement

It has been a little over 48 hours since Lucy was hit with vertigo, and she is making progress. We can get her to eat a bit of food, and she will readily take her meds in raw ground meat. She's still stumbling a bit but is much steadier on her feet than she was two days ago. She can walk reasonably well on level ground with good traction, such as asphalt, so I can take her down the street for short walks. On grass she has trouble with uneven ground but she manages. I can bring her to and from our basement by going around the house, because she's not yet ready for stairs. She's spent the last two nights in the basement, but maybe tomorrow we can get her up to the bedroom with us again.

March 13, 2023: More Progress But Not Enough

Lucy is coming around, but she has developed a fear of stairs. She adamantly refuses to go up or down. This is something of an issue because it means she will sleep in the basement, and I would far rather she slept in our bedroom. I think she would prefer that, too. But we are taking it one day at a time.

More Incredible Stupidity

There are times when I want to say, "Now I've seen everything," but inevitably someone comes up with something I haven't seen and perhaps don't want to. Exhibit A: Glow-In-The-Dark toilets.

Here, verbatim, is the ad copy for this marvel of ingenuity. It says it all, and more.

Does this sound familiar? You shuffle your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night and you hit that light switch. BAM! Suddenly it’s like you’re staring at the sun. Good luck getting back to sleep... You could try going with the bathroom light off, but that’s a disaster waiting to happen...GlowBowl   transforms your toilet into a soothing night light and completely redeems your night time bathroom experience. It’s a funky concept, but really quite brilliant! Trust me — once you try it you’ll never go back to the “dark ages!” Who knew going to the bathroom could be so much fun?!

March 14, 2023: But Wait! There's More!

I checked the site: in addition to light-up toilets you can get your shower head and sink faucets fitted so that they too can...ahem...illuminate your life. Not just for your bathroom, but for the kitchen as well.

Isn't technology wonderful? I wonder if they have one for bidets?

March 15, 2023: Monumental Bureaucratic Stupidity

Yesterday I received a bill from our biggest local medical chain, Carilion Health Care (in this part of the world, health care amounts to "Carilion and the Seven Dwarfs"). It was for the "balance owing" for some past treatment because Medicare didn't pay all of it. The bill was for...are you ready?...THIRTY EIGHT CENTS.

I immediately called Carilion's "Billing Customer Service" and asked what the hell they were thinking. The reply was that...are you still ready?..."Medicare has changed its regulations; we are now required to bill no matter how small the amount. We used to write off anything below $6.50, but we can't do that any more."

Now, I always pay my bills. So after affirming that I could a) pay in cash; and b) pay at a local Carilion facility rather than driving to Roanoke, I went today to the nearest Carilion office. I paid the THIRTY EIGHT CENTS in....pennies. I made the woman count it and demanded a receipt. She wanted to mail the receipt to me: "We have a lot of people waiting to check in!" as if I cared. I pointed out that it would cost Carilion $0.63 to mail me the receipt for THIRTY EIGHT CENTS, so that mailing me a receipt was 60% more than the bill I'd paid. That would of course have been on top of the $0.63 they paid to mail me the bill in the first place. That's $1.26 spent to collect a bill for THIRTY EIGHT CENTS. She recognized the stupidity of the situation, and printed out a receipt, something that took her all of maybe 38 seconds. I left, went home, and called my Congressman. No doubt, if I had ignored this insane demand I'd have ended up being dunned by a bill collector, who would have spent a lot more than THIRTY EIGHT CENTS to harass me.

God knows what sort of nincompoop in the Medicare bureaucracy came up with this lunatic rule. Having served a term as a cookie-pushing Federal employee at one time in my misspent past, I imagine whoever dreamed up this nonsense was trying hard to justify his salary.

March 26, 2023: Almost Back To Normal

It has been nearly three weeks since Lucy got hit suddenly by "idiopathic vestibular disease," and she has been making steady progress. She eats normally and is willing to climb stairs, albeit reluctantly. She'll come up to our bedroom on her own now; the basement stairs (less well-carpeted) still give her some hesitation, but with encouragement (using the Flashlight Trick) she'll do them. Going down seems to be less of a scary thing for her. I am always careful to be there to catch her if she slips, but she simply hates being touched in certain ways, especially on her back end. Growls and snarls if I try that, but I'd rather get nipped than see her fall and hurt herself.

She walks normally now, though with a bit of a head tilt (the literature says this may be a persistent effect of the condition) but she stumbles far, far less and on a level surface with good traction she does well. We placed a rug on the tiled floor at the base of the bedroom stairs: a couple of days ago she slipped, fell, and spread-eagled on the tile. Slick surfaces are a real danger, but rugs fix that issue, so far. She can walk all the way around the block (0.7 miles), something she really likes to do. Between a daily "long" walk and a couple of shorter ones she gets plenty of exercise. At her age she sleeps a great deal, which isn't surprising.

She's decided she doesn't like the arthritis medicine she takes in the morning (Galliprant) and will spit it out if she detects it in her food. Sometimes I can hide it in a bolus of raw hamburger but not always. In cream cheese she finds it every time; I have to figure out a way to get her to take the stuff. I might crush it up and put it on her food. There are other meds she absolutely won't take if I don't use trickery to get them past her taste buds.

So she's getting her mojo back, it seems. But again, she is over 13 years old and her final decline has begun. During the day she stays in the basement with me, and seems content with that. In the evenings I bring her up by going around through the yard gate and into the garage. At the moment she is lying in the sun on our patio, warming her old bones.

I have no idea how I will live without her.

April 16, 2023: Those Days When Nothing Goes Right

Everyone has such days, and yesterday and today it was my turn.

Yesterday Mrs Outdoorsman and I went to Staunton, a pretty town in Augusta County, to meet some old friends for lunch. Staunton is a small place but very savvy about tourism: there was a farmer's market going on next door to our lunch venue (the Byers Street Bistro, a very nice place); parking was not available close to the restaurant, so we went to one of the municipal parking garages a short walk away.

On the way into the garage Mrs Outdoorsman popped the right rear wheel of her van over a 6-inch high curb; the back end of the van came down with a BANG! but we thought nothing of it. She has done this before: the van is longer than most cars so on a sharp turn, it sometimes straddles a curb. No big deal, we thought, I got out and looked, there was no panel damage and the van was driving normally as she backed into a parking space.

We had a very nice lunch and catch-up, then we went to go home. As we drove out I heard WHOP-WHOP-WHOP coming from the right rear. Got out and looked...and the tire was dead flat. Deader than Disco.

Of course we had a spare, unfortunately one of those damned "donut" types, hung under the van on a little winch. We had a AAA card, so Mrs Outdoorsman called them. While we were waiting an off-duty police officer came by (the police HQ is in the same building) and asked if she could help. She summoned two colleagues. AAA sent someone in very short order (less than 20 minutes), whom the two policemen guided to our vehicle. The young man easily and cheerfully lowered the spare, put it on, and told us where to get a replacement tire because obviously we weren't going to drive 150+ miles on a donut. Especially not as the donut was low on air, too, but he had a compressor on his truck and was able to fill it so we could get to the tire store. My dog Lucy was waiting for us to come home and feed her. Off to the tire shop we went, and there forked over $204.33 for a new tire. Well, we had to get back, we'd only lost an hour and a half on our schedule, and what's a bit of money?

So today I decided to check the pressure on the spare tire for my F-150. It, too, has a winch that holds the spare underneath. This winch had worked well the last time it was used, when I had a blow-out on I-81. It is worked by a long crank that passes through a tunnel behind the rear license plate.

All went well until I got the tire half-way down. It refused to go any further. Now that truck is 25 years old; the position of the tire allows it to be covered in mud, dirt, road grime, you name it. The winch is mounted on the frame, inaccessible from the top (I had hoped it could be accessed from the truck bed, but it can't be). I tried squirting lubricant into the tunnel and on the part of the winch I could see from underneath. No dice. Worse, the damned thing wouldn't go UP, either. I then had a spare dangling halfway down. (This contraption must have been designed by the same genius who put the slave cylinder for an F-250 manual 5-speed inside the bell housing so that you have to remove the entire transfer case to get at it, but I digress...)

So I tried cutting the cable. Uh-uh, the cable is hardened steel, nothing in my toolbox would work. So I called my neighbor Rick, and asked if he had a bolt cutter. He did. He brought it over and in one snip, he saved me $400: it cut that cable like a piece of string. A new replacement winch is $160+ and the labor to remove the old one and install a new one would be at least that much, likely enough more. No way was I going to spend that kind of money: the truck is 25 years old and while it isn't quite a Beater it is certainly Beater-oid.

We hoisted the spare into the truck bed, and I will use my Redneck Engineering savvy to fit up a way to hold it in place. If I knew who designed that damned system of suspended spares, I'd hoist HIM up under my truck for a few thousand miles.


Oh, yes, I forgot to mention my neighbor's dog. The guy who lives behind me has three, one of them a smallish black-and-brown mutt who's a real Houdini. I see this dog on the street now and then: he gets out of the fenced yard and roams. Someday he'll get killed by a car, but two days ago I came down to find a pile of poop on my lower patio than I knew wasn't Lucy's (after years of picking up after her I can tell). Then I spotted Houdini running loose in my yard.

Lucy doesn't like other dogs. I didn't want a potentially bloody dog-dog contretemps so I put her inside and tried to capture Houdini to put him back over the fence. He wasn't having any of that! Tried to bite me if I grabbed his collar, and screamed bloody murder if I tried to pick him up. I put Lucy up in the main part of the house, and let Houdini, encouraged by treats, come into my basement. There he quite docilely allowed me to clip a leash on his collar. Dogs behave differently on a leash than they do when they're free to run. I was able to walk him back down the yard to the rear fence, but he still wasn't going to let me pick him up, no way, José! I found the hole he'd dug to get into the yard so I could shove him through it, detaching the leash as I did so. Problem (temporarily) solved.

Today I went down and plugged the hole with a piece of hardware cloth and a 3-foot length of 6x6. While I was doing that, out came Houdini to declaim his disapproval of this. He then ran over to another part of the fence, and jumped over it. This little monster might weigh 20 pounds, soaking wet but he cleared that 4-foot fence like an Olympic high-jumper. No wonder they can't keep him in the yard!

Well, as I said, some day he'll get killed on the road. When it happens it will be his owner's fault.

May 7, 2023: More Stupidity, Part 1: Beard Wash

If you have stayed in a mid-range hotel in the past few years you will have encountered the phenomenon whereby you no longer get soap in the bathroom. Instead you find a bottle of something called "body wash," with a little pump to dispense it into your hand so you can...wash your body. This practice saves the hotels money: when they actually put cakes of soap in the room, the "guests" (read: paying customers) sometimes took the soap with them when they checked out. Well, why not? the "guests" paid for the soap, no matter where it was used.

But "body wash" in a bottle (usually firmly fixed to the wall of the shower so you can't "steal" it) remains behind for the next "guest" to use. Thereby increasing the hotel's profit margin on that room charge.

None of this is wrong per se: the hotels certainly have the right to assess charges as they see fit, and to maximize profit. But what's wrong is this business of labeling what is after nothing more than liquid soap (most of which is water) "body wash," and asserting that nothing else will do to wash your body. This is marketing nonsense, but it works.

As stupid as "body wash" may be, a few days ago in a local hardware store (yes, a hardware store) I encountered an even more egregious example of the blatant idiocy of marketeers: "beard wash."

I have a beard but I wash it, at home and on the road, with...soap. Plain-vanilla, Mark I, bog-standard soap. That gets my beard clean, which always has seemed to me to be the purpose of washing it in the first place. I don't have and don't need and don't want "beard wash" for this job. Maybe some people are gullible enough to fall for this nonsense (What am I saying? OF COURSE there are people gullible enough!) but I'm not.

Oh, and don't forget to buy a bottle of the stuff next to it: Bourbon-flavored "Beard Oil." So you won't squeak when you open your mouth.

More Stupidity, Part 2: Highly Exceptional Paper

I suppose that the gullibility quotient in some places is higher than it is in others. Probably highest in tourist towns, especially ones like Staunton, Virginia. Staunton is a very pretty place with a lot of "amenities" in their downtown, though those amenities don't include things like supermarkets or even old-fashioned grocery stores, let alone drug stores.

We were there a week or so ago, wandering the "quaint streets of the charming downtown" (as Viking Cruises might put it) and I came across a store selling paper. Not just any old paper, of course. No sir, this was Highly Exceptional paper, Paper For The Gods, I should think.

Paper that is "sustainably sourced" from some sort of bush that presumably grows in Nepal (so the ad copy says) and is "handmade" for "scrapbooking, collage, framing, writing, and use with ink jet printers" (I'm not kidding, look at the picture.)

It comes in enormous sheets, not—as normal paper does—in reams cut to 8-1/2"x11" size. If you plan to use this stuff in your ink-jet printer you have to cut it yourself. I didn't look at the price but I suspect it's not nearly so economical as the stuff you get at Wal-Mart in 500-sheet packages. Of course, that paper comes from pulpwood, which is theoretically not "sustainable" since one must—gasp—cut down trees, actual trees, to make it; and trees, as we all know, are sacred beings, though nowhere near so suitable to "sustainable" activities as Nepalese Daphne Bushes are, even though pulpwood is grown by the thousands of acres in places a lot closer to downtown Staunton than Nepal.

May 15, 2023: The Stupidity Continues

1. X-Rated Food

Seen at a Wegman's Grocery Store in Pittsford, NY: shield your children's eyes!

2. Poltically Correct Pancake Mixes

From "Fresh Market" in Roanoke: note the hearty lumberjacks on the "Gluten Free" pancake mix. I bet they get to chopping trees faster and harder with it.

And no doubt when they're out there chopping down trees they don't even guess they were served scrumptious gluten free pancakes...

3. Idiots Who Failed The Parking Test At The DMV

This one speaks for itself. People who do this deserve to have their vehicles towed away. From the AAA parking lot in Roanoke, of all places.

May 22, 2023: Well, Where Are We Supposed To Put It?

In the men's room of a local Chinese restaurant:

This Isn't Illegal...But It Should Be

Seen at Sportsman's Warehouse in Roanoke. If you can't kill a deer without this stuff you have no business in the woods with a gun.

It's illegal to feed deer in Virginia after September 1st; it should be illegal all year.

May 27, 2023: A New River Float Trip

My old friend Dave is a fanatical fisherman: I really think he'd rather fish than eat. We've fished together since our college days, in both fresh and salt water, and it has long been an item on his "bucket list" to do a float trip on the New River. We've discussed this many times; neither of us is getting any younger, so it was now or never.

I contacted Tangent Outfitters in Pembroke, about 20 miles from my home, to set up a trip. Tangent has a good reputation locally, so I felt comfortable using their service. They provided us with the boat, a guide, and even a lunch halfway through the day. It was an all-day affair: we left the boat ramp at Pembroke by 8:00 AM, finally coming off the water 16.5 miles down-river, at 5:00 PM.

The boat wasn't really a boat. It was a "cataraft," which is essentially a plywood platform bolted to two inflatable pontoons. It had three seats: one at the bow, where I sat; one at the stern where Dave sat; and one in the middle where our guide, Eric, sat and rowed.

Yes, rowed. It would have killed me to have to row all that way but Eric was easily 25 years younger than either of us, clearly fit, and an expert in guiding the craft through the water. Furthermore a boat that's rowed doesn't have to be registered with the Department of Wildlife Resources, so it isn't subject to their paperwork—or the personal property tax the Commonwealth levies on power watercraft. The cataraft is very stable, you can stand up without trouble.

It draws very little water, a good thing because the New is in most places quite shallow. Four feet seemed to be pretty typical but there were many spots with less water than that. There were also deeper places where you couldn't see the bottom but for the most part you could see all the way down easily in the crystal-clear water. I've spent a lot of time on the New over the years I've lived here; this trip the water was absolutely perfect, as clear as I have ever seen it. There was a decent current running but nothing Eric couldn't handle with his expert oarsmanship. There are several rapids along the run we made, too: the shallow draft allowed the raft to get through these without trouble. I don't care for white water, not even the very mild Class II type we encountered, but after going through a couple I realized that there was no way that raft was going to get overturned.

There was one aspect of the trip that gave me pause: it was to be done using artificial lures. In my 60+ years of fishing I had never caught anything at all on any artificial lure; I am an Apostle of The Holy Doctrine of Live Bait. But I was assured that thanks to good coaching and instruction, even I could catch a fish on an artificial lure. We didn't use our own rods (at least I didn't). Eric brought along what must have been a dozen or more, so that when he wasn't rowing he was rigging them up with various forms of lure. I don't know the difference between a crankbait and a crankcase, let alone spinners, jigs, poppers, etc. But he did. Periodically he'd cast a lure. When one stopped producing strikes, he'd try something else. Then he'd hand me a rod with the replacement lure already rigged, tell me how to fish it, and go back to bending on more lures or rowing. Since I am utterly ignorant of lure fishing I followed his instructions to the letter.

We floated and drifted for a total of nine hours. I cast and cast and cast until my arm was tired and my right hand was cramped, but I kept on at it. The muskellunge is sometimes referred to as "The fish of a thousand casts," but I'd bet I threw a lure at least that many times, without a musky in sight.

We were after smallmouth bass, the premier game fish of this region. Smallmouth are legendary for their fighting after being hooked. I've caught many smallmouth bass on live bait, and can attest to their feistiness. Ounce for ounce nothing fights harder than a 10-inch smallmouth. The New also holds a good population of what are referred to locally as "redeyes," medium sized sunfish relatives with—what else?—red eyes. A redeye is described as a fish that "Hits like a bass and fights like a stick." True enough. The very first fish I caught on an artificial lure was a decent redeye who did exactly that. Somewhere along the way I also foul-hooked a smallish sunfish, what's locally called a "bluegill."

The day wore on, with a stop for lunch halfway. The weather couldn't have been better: perfect sky and water, low humidity, and water so clear you could often see fish as well as rocks. This turned out to be important, as I'll explain. I don't think we encountered any other boats at all: perhaps this was due to making the trip mid-week?

We were scheduled to take out at the Bluff City boat ramp at 5:00. Shortly before then we were coming around a big curve and I actually spotted a fish that was showing a lively interest in whatever lure I was throwing at the time: a "plug" I think. I remember it was mostly red: color seems to play a big part in whatever it is that entices a fish to hit a lure, and this fish was obviously interested in my mostly-red "plug." I saw him watching it, so I slowed down the retrieve; he edged closer, so I stopped it. That's when he hit the lure.

WHAM! He grabbed that lure in typical smallmouth fashion: a hard strike from the side, a sort of swiping movement. This maneuver means that the fish will almost always get hooked in the side of his mouth. Smallmouth bass are more or less apex predators, but that fish's hit got him not a meal, as he thought it would, but a nasty surprise: a treble hook in his jaw. I got him to the boat, we pulled him in, took a hasty picture and back he went into the river for someone else to catch someday. Given the limited intelligence of fish, I expect he'd forgotten all about it by the time he swam away.

A real beauty: we didn't measure or weigh him because we wanted to release him as soon as possible, but he was at least 19" long, probably more. It took me all of a very long day but in the end I did it: caught a very nice fish on an artificial lure, something I didn't think I could do. It was a satisfying conclusion to the trip.

All in all it was a great float, if a bit exhausting for a pair of Geezers. Dave is ready to go back. Tangent Outfitters did a great job of setting it up. I can recommend their services, if this trip is anything to go by. Eric really earned his money, and I'd gladly go out with him again.

If, however, I do go again....I will insist on using live bait. Nine hours is a mighty long time: While I had fun and finally caught a very nice fish, I'd have preferred a little more "action," which I think live bait would produce. I'm not complaining, the trip was worth the cost and it was something a long time in coming.


There is no God but Live Bait; and Nightcrawler is His Prophet

Aftermath: Sinking Creek

A whole day on the water didn't make a dent in Dave's enthusiasm, so the next day we headed for a local creek. Sinking Creek is called that because there are places where it dives underground, to emerge at another location. We went first to Newport Community Park, and threw nightcrawlers into the water. I nailed a 10-inch brown trout, and four, count 'em, four crayfish! There was a couple downstream from us who were collecting crayfish by turning over rocks.

Crayfish are excellent bait, and the man told me, "This creek's plumb full of them!" Likely enough that's true. They sort of reminded me of the crabs you encounter in salt water who grab onto bait and hold on: one difference is that when you lift a crab out of the water he lets go: the crayfish don't. When you go to pick them up to put them in a bait bucket, crayfish raise their claws and threaten you: small they are, but cowards they ain't. Each of those micro-lobsters was ready to take me with him.

My little trout was the only score of the day besides the crayfish. Dave caught nothing. We hit a couple of other spots along the creek where I've caught fish before, plus one or two where we were clearly trespassing on private property, but that trout was it. Dave got "skunked" but he'd done well on the float, so had no reason to complain.

Fishing is what I do when I can't go hunting. In the fullness of time I won't be up to the strenuous effort deer hunting requires; when that day comes, I suppose I'll just have to be a fisherman. Could be worse.

June 1, 2023: A Bear In My Front Yard

I have a trail camera—a Wildgame Innovations "Terra" model, which I don't recommend anyone buy—so from time to time when something seems to be eating Mrs Outdoorsman's flowers or digging in her garden, I set it up. I did so just before Memorial Day. On the night of the 29th, it picked up a big black bear on our front lawn. Lest anyone doubt that southwestern Virginia is Bear Country, here he is:

This appears to be a mature bear, not a young one searching for his own territory. We may well have had a bear or two in the past but if so, we never knew. One of my neighbors keeps bees; so far his hives are undisturbed but if this beast hangs around, a lot of bees are going to be homeless.

The camera I use was the cheapest one I could find, and I got what I paid for. Unlike my older camera I can't set it to be "on" only at night. But its biggest flaw is that setting the date and time are extremely difficult. So frustrating in fact that I will soon get a new one to replace this P.O.S. But to give credit where credit is due, it showed us something we hadn't seen before: a bear on the front lawn.

Bears aren't terribly unusual in Blacksburg: a friend in another part of town had one come through his neighborhood and knock over garbage bins. The Department of Wildlife Resources refuses to do anything about bears. Won't let you kill one (when I was writing kill permits I was specifically and emphatically told I was not to write one for a bear, under any circumstances) nor will they trap and relocate a bear. "That just moves the problem to someone else!" Well, yeah, duh...that's the whole idea. You'd think they could trap one and move it to the 2,000,000 acres of the Jefferson National Forest, but nope. They tell you to "..get bear proof trash bins.." and to "...bring in your barbecue grills.." and "...don't leave your bird feeders full..." but that's it. "Learn to live with bears," but what happens if the bear doesn't want to live with me?

I walk my dog in the dark sometimes: I normally carry a .380 pistol but I think henceforth at night I'm going to bring the .44.

June 7, 2023: An Electrocuted Crow

For reasons I don't understand Mrs Outdoorsman hates crows. We have plenty of them: they come to the bird feeder on the deck every day. When she spots one she claps her hands and shoos them away. Crows, I explained, are our friends: they clean up roadkill, if nothing else. It doesn't matter: she hates them.

So she was not displeased to learn that a crow somehow managed to electrocute himself on our power pole. I have no idea how this could happen: they sit on the pole and the wire routinely with out any problems. But somehow this unfortunate bird must have made contact with a ground wire, and POOF! that was that.

Most people don't realize it but power lines aren't usually insulated: insulation costs a lot and weighs a lot, so the power companies don't use it. In the past this has caused us some problems by setting fire to one of our trees when a branch contacted a bare wire running through it (See "Trees" in Miscellaneous Essays) so I was concerned lest this bird catch fire and set the pole itself alight; worse, that if that happened sparks might ignite our (very expensive) Giant Thuya trees on the fence line. So I called Appalachian Power and told them about the crow; would they please send someone out to deal with it? The woman I spoke with was clearly not located in Virginia, but hey, APCO is a multi-state business. I suppose one of these days they'll get around to it.

A New Trail Camera

A few days ago I ordered a new trail camera. The one I used to get the picture of the bear was extraordinarily difficult to set with respect to date and time, nor could I tell it to record only at night. With some hesitancy, on the recommendation of a friend I ordered a Covert brand MP-30 from Feradyne Outdoors; it's everything I wanted: it's easy to set date and time, but the big bonus is that I can give it a "window" when I want recording. In fact, up to four such windows, nor will it record when it's outside those times. It cost three times what my old camera did but it's worth every penny.

June 8, 2023: Ongoing COVID-iocy

There's a woman in my neighborhood whom I see driving her car, while I'm walking my dog. This woman, for reasons I will never understand, still wears a mask, while she is driving alone. Not just any old stupid cloth mask, but one of those super-duper, absolutely-100%-guaranteed-to-save-you-from-COVID "N95" masks. The ones that interfere with your breathing.

Despite the fact that the so-called "national emergency" (you know, the one that caused President Buffoon to wreck the economy with totally unnecessary restrictions on businesses, schools, and even churches...yeah, that "national emergency") ended a month ago; despite not even hospitals and clinics mandating masks any more, despite the billions of dollars spent to "flatten the curve" and similar bullshit, despite more or less forcible vaccination of the entire population of the USA, despite the now-exposed false "data"—some of them outright lies—about THE PANDEMIC, despite all that, this woman seems to be engaged in some sort of Magical Thinking. Does she think she's going to infect herself ? Does she "disinfect" her car after she rides in it and before she rides in it again?

I simply don't understand people like this. Perhaps she feels she's in the "extra-vulnerable" group, or maybe she just wants to signal her Enduring Virtue and her intention of voting for The Buffoon again. Whatever her reason(s) may be, she is demonstrably an idiot.

June 14, 2023: More Stupidity

The entry for May 7th shows one of modern society's idiocies: "Body Wash." But wait! There's more! A few days ago I was at the same hardware store and encountered a new, improved, "High Viscosity Body Wash." Could it get any better than that?

Well, maybe. In time I expect to see "ULTRA Viscosity Body Wash," which might be useful as a substitute for motor oil.

June 19, 2023: It Speaks For Itself

June 30, 2023: The Latest Supermarket Stupidity

"Grain Free Tortillas." Now, tortillas are made from either wheat flour—and wheat is a grain—or corn, which is also a grain. There are those who will argue that corn is a vegetable, but here's what the USDA has to say:

Corn can be considered either a grain or a vegetable, based on when it is harvested. The maturity level of corn at harvest affects both its use at meals and its nutritional value. Corn that is harvested when fully mature and dry is considered a grain.

And who would know more about that than the USDA? Martha Stewart, that's who. Here's her take:

We'll get straight to the point: Corn is a grain. The grain answer lies in those kernels, and in the corn plant itself.

Corn is really an oversized grass, and the seeds of all grasses that are cultivated as cereal crops are grains. (A brief aside: pseudo-grains like amaranth and quinoa are the seeds of herbaceous plants, not grasses.) Domesticated for millennia, corn is a pre-Columbian grain bred from a grass originally native to southern North America—present-day southern Mexico, with Oaxaca thought to be the nexus of corn-growing.

Zea mays  subsp.  mays (corn's botanical name) is a member of the  Poaceae (grass) family. Its closest wild relatives are grasses called  teosintes, sometimes referred to as mother-of-corn. While they are also subspecies of  Zea mays, they are unrecognizable as corn's close cousins because thousands of years of selection have supersized the corn: it has many rows of soft, fat kernels that are otherwise naked under their protective wrapping of husks. Teosinte seeds, in a single row, are enclosed in an exceptionally tough wrapper. It is thought that ancient, intuitive breeding practices selected plants that had undergone a natural genetic mutation, losing their tough seed wrapper over time, with  farmers choosing the best-looking and best-tasting plants and saving their seeds to sow again. Think of it as 6,000 to 9,000 years of genetic modification, slow-motion style.

So there you have it: "grain free" tortillas are an oxymoron. They don't exist. But this label surely sells stuff to the people who believe that Big Agro is deliberately poisoning us.

More Wholly Unnecessary "New" Calibers

I received this from the National Shooting Sports Foundation:

SHELTON, Conn — The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute®, Inc., (SAAMI®) has announced the acceptance of a new shotshell and rimfire cartridge for SAAMI standardization. SAAMI is the organization at the forefront of promoting firearm safety by creating standards that ensure safety, reliability, and interchangeability of firearms, ammunition, and components.

28-Gauge 3” – The 28-Gauge 3” was introduced by Olin Winchester with three loadings: 1⅛ oz. lead shot traveling at a velocity of 1,200 fps, ¾ oz. non-lead shot traveling at a velocity of 1,350 fps, and 1 oz. non-lead shot traveling at a velocity of 1,300 fps, all at a Maximum Average Pressure of 14,000 psi.

21 Sharp – The 21 Sharp rimfire cartridge was introduced by Olin Winchester with a 25-grain bullet traveling at a velocity of 1,725 fps and a Maximum Average Pressure of 24,000 psi.

There MIGHT—just might—be some justification for a 3" 28 gauge shell (what will it do that a 2-3/4" 20 won't?) but there can be none whatever for the ".21 Sharp." The latter caliber uses a .21" bullet, weighing all of 25 grains: lighter than a standard bullet in the .22 Short; but that alluring number of 1725 FPS is what will sell this wholly unnecessary round.
Here's the spec sheet if anyone wants to see it:

What will this round do that can't be done with, say, a .22 WMR? Nothing. What advantage does it have over the .22 Long Rifle? None, except for that magical-thinking number of 1725 FPS. The bullet has a SD of 0.08, inferior to the 36-grain bullet of the .22 LR. That latter bullet moving at 1344 FPS has an energy of 145 FP, the ".21 Sharp" generates all of 166 FP. The CCI Stinger's 32 grain bullet at 1512 FPS cranks up 163 FP of energy, essentially identical to the ".21 Sharp."

Note that based on the SAAMI official drawing the dimensions of the ".21 Sharp" case are identical to those of the .22 Long Rifle case. Same base diameter, same rim diameter, same rim thickness, same case length, same overall length. The only difference is the bullet, which is a heart-pounding 0.013" smaller. So: could this "new" round be fired in a run-of-the-mill, ho-hum, nothing-to-see-here-folks .22 Long Rifle chamber? Yep, it certainly could. It's nothing more than a hot-rodded version of the old .22 Long, which used a 29-grain bullet in the same case.

Here's the SAAMI drawing for the .22 Long Rifle:

It's obvious that the cases are identical. I suspect the manufacturer decided to do away with the "heeled" bullet used in the .22 LR (which requires crimping the case mouth) in favor of a smaller bullet that can simply be loaded into the case like a centerfire bullet is. That 0.013" bullet should slip right in, eliminating a step in manufacture, thus saving the manufacturer time and money.

No doubt this "new" caliber can be fired in a gun chambered for .22 Long Rifle but just what in the hell is the ".21 Sharp" for? As far as I can tell it's to re-define the term "gullible" as it applies to shooters, some of whom will fall for this nonsense—again—as they have so many times in the past for other "new" calibers.

For the past few years we have been experiencing shortages of .22 Long Rifle ammunition. You have to wonder how cynical and manipulative the ammunition makers must be to produce this round we don't need instead of MORE DAMNED .22 LONG RIFLE, which we do need. I predict—no, I hope—this round will be a flop. There are plenty of people who'll think it's the Bee's Knees, but there are also so many, many rifles and pistols in .22 Long Rifle that the ".21 Sharp" will have heavy going if there is any justice in this world. I look forward to its swift demise, which will happen if the vast majority of shooters will recognize its essential uselessness for any purpose sell new guns.

July 21, 2023: I Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

I loathe the press, all forms of it. From mid-1971 to early 1974, as a motion picture photographer stationed at Andrews AFB, I interacted with the local newspaper and TV "reporters" on an almost daily basis. I came to understand that they were—at best—amoral scoundrels who "reported" whatever their masters wanted. Who would tell any lie, without compunction, even when they knew it was a lie, which they usually did.

So when I came across this item, from a British source, I thought I'd include it here. The press corps of 50 years ago was bad enough: they are far worse today, having been co-opted as the propaganda arm of the Hard Left. Anyone with half a brain and simple powers of observation should realize that we have been—and are—being lied to on a daily basis. Our innate powers of rational, independent thinking are a threat to their hegemony, and don't think they don't know it.

Oh, and by the way, this year's Stupid Weather Phrase is "Heat Dome." Every night on what passes for the news, the Beautiful Talking Heads say "heat dome" at least three times.

July 26, 2023: Today's Stupidity

This speaks for itself. From the restroom at a Blacksburg restaurant.

July 27, 2023: Shooting An Old Friend

No, not like that...the old friend in this case is the first handgun I ever owned, a Hi-Standard Double Nine .22 revolver. I bought it in a pawnshop in Ohio in 1965, my freshman year in college.

It was made in 1960, according to the serial number tables in Hi-Standard Pistols & Revolvers, 1951-1984, by James Spacek, the standard reference book for these now long-gone and much lamented firearms. That year was one in which the craze for western TV shows was peaking; Hi-Standard decided to cash in on it. My gun is a Model W-101, the "W" standing for "Western Style." Hi-Standard made several later variants, including some that were convertible between .22 Long Rifle and .22 Magnum chambering. The W-101 was pretty early in the sequence, having been preceded by the short-lived "W-100," and subsequently followed by a series up to "W-106."

It's been pretty heavily used, though not lately. My friend Phil called last night and wanted to go shooting this morning, so the old Double Nine, which I hadn't fired in at least 30 years, got the nod. In my college years I shot it a lot; and when I was home in the summers, virtually every day. I have no idea how many rounds I've put through it but it's well up in the thousands. Nevertheless it remains in good shape and is tight and accurate.

We were shooting mainly at reactive targets, metal spinners and plates. A .22 hasn't got the whomp needed to knock over a heavy steel plate at 25 yards, but the bullets do make a sound when they hit, so I knew I was on target. Small spinners at 50 feet were set whirring. I didn't count how many shots I fired but it was at least 100 or more. It likes the Remington "Golden Bullet" stuff best.

I have other .22 handguns but this humble revolver is pretty special to me. It was good to shoot it again after so long. I cleaned it after getting home and returned it to its comfortable home in the gun safe. It will go out again, soon.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Last year Diamondback Firearms brought out what is virtually a direct copy of the Double Nine. You can't keep a good gun down!

August 11, 2023: Some Sad News

I learned yesterday that my old friend Betty Strauss, whose property in Riner I used to hunt, died in Richmond on the 9th of this month. Betty and I served together as Hunter Education Instructors and NRA Certified Firearms Instructors. She was a keen shot, much better than I will ever be. Her husband John, to whom she was boundlessly devoted, died about 10 years ago. Betty had asked me to give a eulogy at John's funeral; when I know what arrangements have been made for her I will certainly attend and say some words. She was exuberant and passionate about the things and people that mattered to her, never one to hesitate to express her opinion, outgoing, and completely honest. She was a very good friend, and the world is a lessened place without her in it.

Preliminary Scouting

I went out to Sunrise Farm today to get a permission slip signed and to set up a trail camera overlooking the Nine-Deer Dip. The Dip is one of the most reliable hunting spots I have. Seasons open September 2nd, and run to January 6th.

The trail into the Dip is very different in Summer than it is in the fall. Heavily overgrown, so much so that I had some difficulty finding my usual sitting spot. I'll definitely need clippers to clear away the plants this Fall! I saw lots of food, including many berry bushes the deer are going to love; and there seems to be a decent acorn crop this year. I also saw two deer: on on the road and one as I trekked out from the Dip. Big does, both of them.

August 18, 2023: A Funeral Service And A Sighting In Session

My friend Phil and I went to Betty Strauss's graveside service yesterday morning. Brief and to the point. The officiant read some stuff from the New Testament. All that's left of one of the most vibrant people I have ever known is a small cardboard box of ashes. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Following the service we went to the club range. I needed to sight in two guns: my reliable old Savage .30-06 (best $185 I ever spent on a rifle) and the rifle barrel on my drilling.

Some time ago I was give a sizable amount of Russian-made .30-06, produced by Barnaul. It has 165-grain soft-point bullets, and is labeled as hunting ammunition. It's lacquered, steel cased, Berdan primed, and non-reloadable; I didn't care about any of that. I had been warned not to shoot it in a Garand rifle (more on that below) but I felt that in a bolt action like the Savage it should be okay. I was wrong.

I managed to fire five rounds, and every single one jammed in the chamber. I had trouble getting the bolt open: I had to bang it on the edge of the bench to open the breech. On the last shot the case was so firmly stuck the extractor slipped off, despite this being steel cased ammunition, supposedly less prone to that (it's why steel cases are often used for ammunition to be shot in military weapons, especially machine guns). I didn't have a cleaning rod with me, so I had to put the gun up and go home. Dropping the rod down the barrel knocked the stuck case out.

Here's why this happened. The Barnaul .30-06 is made with an odd case. It has a grove near the head, supposedly to control pressure. On firing the groove flattens out.

It flattened out, all right. You can see the results on a the fired case below, the one that got stuck.

Nor did it shoot well. That stuff might achieve 14 MOA at best. The few bullets I fired were all over the target. Here are some comments from the Ammunition Collectors Association about this stuff:

We got a few cases of this surplus stuff at our shooting club last year. Talk about a bad investment, even if it was dead cheap.

Steel-Cased Barnaul ammo caused problems in just about every gun it was fired in… Way too hot and unreliable for use in older firearms. I advised against using it from day 1, but as it usually goes, things have to break first before people start taking notice…Amongst them: M1 Garands developing feeding issues and double shots with the 30-06.

I just remembered that this question was hashed out before on this Forum, about the Barnaul .30-06’s groove at the base of the case. The final consensus, taken from advice given by a Russian Lady at a Barnaul booth at a European trade show, and from comments from a Russian manual, is that the groove was done to strengthen the case in high pressure cartridges. Not a totally satisfactory answer, since other high pressure cases on Russian ammo don’t seem to have it. However, that’s what it says.

At another Barnaul booth at another European trade show, the staff claimed that the groove was to aid extraction by increasing the ability of the steel case to “spring back” after firing rather than gripping the chamber walls. Another “not a totally satisfactory answer” but given the length of the 30-06 case body this sounds more feasible than the suggestion that it is to strengthen the case due to high pressures.

A Russian book on construction of small arms and ammunition, as said, describes this feature as an aid to provide a bit of case length to prevent case head separation.

That last comment, about deliberately causing case length to increase, is interesting: it could well be the cause of the jamming. My rifle is in excellent condition, has no headspace issues, and if this extension does happen, that would explain it. Note the scuff mark on the case mouth in the image above.

I've had Barnaul in 7.62x39 and shot it without in an SKS without problems, but I'm done with the stuff. In a few days I'll go back to the range and check sights with my old reliable load, Remington's 150-grain Core-Lokt. I've killed a lot of deer with that. I had hoped to use the Savage on Opening Day (September 2nd for our initial early antlerless season) but until I can check the sights I'll opt for something else, either the drilling or my Kimber .308.

The drilling was another story. That uses 8x57JR (0.318" bullet) and I had no issues dialing it in. The strike is now 1" high at 100 yards, just where I wanted it to be. My favorite stand at Sunrise Farm has a maximum range of 100 yards +/- so it should work well.

And...a very odd thing happened that proved to me once again that whitetail deer are not the smartest animals on the planet. While Phil and I were shooting, a pair—a forkhorn buck in velvet and his girlfriend, a yearling doe—came tearing up the hill from behind us, and dove into a big clump of high grass approximately 35 yards from the 100-yard target butts. The doe watched us for a minute or so, then they both bedded down in the high grass. They stayed there while I continued to sight in the drilling!

When I went out to put pasters my target, she popped up her head and watched me; then settled back into her grass hidey-hole. When I was finished shooting I went back out to get the target; while I was there I chucked a rock into the grass. ZOOM! out they came. They ran a ways uphill, then turned around and went back into the grass clump! I suspect neither of those deer will make it through the season to pass along their dumb genes.

August 18, 2023: Followup On The Barnaul Ammunition

I got out my micrometer and measured the five fired cases and five unfired cases for length. The fired ones averaged 63.376 mm long; the unfired ones 63.08 mm. That difference of 0.296 mm probably isn't significant. The SAAMI standard for the .30-06 has a maximum case length of 63.35 mm. So what caused the stuff to stick is anyone's guess. Perhaps the lacquer on the cases? All I can say is that I'm not the only one who's had problems with this brand.

Something We All Need

I get a daily e-book list, and this showed up today:

Here's the blurb for it: "Learn how to experience controlled astral projection from the safety of your own home and infinitely expand your awareness of the cosmic realities."

Amazon adds: Teaches you how to differentiate between astral travel and conventional dreaming. You can learn to control your experiences. Complete instructions for astral dreaming, twilight zone astral travel, meditative-state-travel, travel in the spiritual realms, helping and healing with astral travel, and much more.

Now, of course, I am not really conversant with Astral Travel (though I have done a good deal of non-Astral Travel over the years) so perhaps I ought to start with this one:

About which Amazon has this to say:


What you've done thousands of times in your sleep can now become a totally conscious experience with the help of this handy guidebook. You'll soon learn to leave your body and explore the astral realm with confidence and safety.

Achieving your first astral travel experience is always the most difficult―and no single method will work for everyone. That's why the techniques in this book are carefully graded to step by step through an actual out-of-body experience. And with fifteen time-tested methods to choose from you're sure to be astral traveling in no time.

Once you learn to leave your body, the freedom you'll discover will transform your life. Explore new worlds… learn to travel with a partner… go back and forth through time… even find a lover… but, most importantly, lose your fear of death as you discover that you are a spiritual being independent of your physical body.

These are by no means the only books in Amazon's inventory on the subject which is listed in their section on the "Occult & Paranormal." It just goes to show you that anything can find a publisher and a market. And that Barnum was right about a sucker being born every minute.

August 20, 2023: Another Friend Lost

My across-the-street neighbor Dick died today about 1:15. He had been ill for some time with some sort of blood disorder. I had known him since we moved in 38 years ago: a very fine man, the epitome of the Yiddish word mensch. He was retired from VT's Dairy Science Department, a man whose students have gone into the world to do great things, inspired by his example. He was a world-renowned authority on reproduction in cattle, much sought after as a consultant by breeders after he left VT. His long-time research assistant and collaborator, one of my wife's best friends, also died not too long ago. Dick was two months short of his 92nd birthday.

Dick was one of those people who anchor a neighborhood. As Mrs Outdoorsman said, "It will be hard to imagine the neighborhood without him." True enough.

Dick was a "Dog Whisperer." He went through a succession of dogs, most of them Golden Retrievers he'd rescued. After a week with him they were perfectly trained; those dogs worshipped him, and vice versa. His current dog, Huck, kept vigil with Dick's family, and when Dick died, Huck knew it had happened, by that strange telepathy dogs have, especially dogs who are so strongly bonded with their humans.

That makes two old friends who have died in the past 11 days. A sobering reminder that even great men—and Dick was one—have to leave us.

August 23, 2023: Mr Marmot Is No More

We periodically have issues with woodchucks—excuse me, groundhogs, as they're known here—and Mrs Outdoorsman had decreed that the latest resident was to be eliminated.

I placed a trap, one of those Hav-A-Hart types, next to the burrow; no dice. I had seen the groundhog in our yard, though, so I moved the trap. Today we came back from a trip to Roanoke and Mrs O told me, "There's a critter in your trap!" and so there was. A nice sized groundhog had come to the bait, some of the yellow squash She grows, and which have been ravaged by various squash-eating animals.

So out came my old faithful Benjamin-Sheridan Model 392 pumper air rifle, and I put paid to Mr Marmot. I've lost count of how many groundhogs I've killed with it, half a dozen or so. Back in the Good Old days my late lamented Siberian Husky Tycho would have killed and eaten him, but he's gone and Lucy the Border Collie is well past her groundhog-killing days. So the air rifle it was. Didn't kill him with the first shot (at least not right away) but in the end I did him in.

Getting rid of dead groundhogs isn't too much of a problem. I double-bagged him and drove him to a dumpster not too far away. I hate doing this sort of thing, but when She Who Must Be Obeyed decrees a death, the groundhog dies.

I will say this for him: he was cool and collected in his last hours. He ate all of the bait. I feel better that he at least had a good last meal.

August 23, 2023: Signs At Rural King

Hang in there, it's almost that time again.

Please leave your rhinoceros in the car.

A Brief Range Session

Made it to the club range today, to deal with the sighting in of my Savage .30-06. After the fiasco with the Barnaul ammunition I went back to Remington Core-Lokt 150's. After some fiddling I got it to shoot 2-1/2" high and 1/2" to the left at 100 yards. Good enough.

As I've aged I have become less recoil-tolerant. That rifle beat the snot out of me and left a nasty bruise on my right shoulder. That's what I get for wearing light clothing. Henceforth I will wear a sissy-pad when I sight in.

August 31, 2023: Today's Nuttiness

No need to go outside to tend the barbecue, and miss some of the Big Game. Of course, you will need the app.

This one I can go for: and no doubt so would my dog.

September 3, 2023: The Usual Opening Day Blues

Our special early antlerless-only season started in Montgomery County yesterday, so I went to Sunrise Farm to see what if anything was happening. I'd left a camera out there about a month ago so I needed to retrieve that to spot any patterns of movement. I also intended to test the so-called "Solunar Theory," about animal movement and feeding. I can tell you the jury is still out on that one. I broke my new rule about early wake-ups, because an Opening Day is a Holy Day of Obligation: I needed to be on my stand early. As it happened, a 5:00 AM rise, a stop at Bojangles for coffee and a biscuit, plus a 45-minute trip, picking up the camera, clearing brush, all conspired to get me on my stand by 7:12. Early enough.

The camera did show some deer: not many, but there were two bucks captured. One was a decent 6-point, the other a massive 8-pointer. Not that it did me any good, they were inviolable in the antlerless-only season.

At 10:29 I spotted a deer not 35 yards away. But it was in the incredibly thick cover of Summer: I couldn't tell what it was, seeing only its back. It looked to be the size of a horse, so I suspect it was a buck, probably that 8-pointer. I wasn't about to shoot, given what little I could make out. After butt-shooting that doe last season I'm even less willing to take chancy shots. That was the only deer I saw on Saturday. The Solunar theory had predicted a "minor" session around that time, so maybe there's something to it.

He/she/it slipped into heavy cover where I suspect he/she/it bedded down. I also had my reservations about what might happen if it didn't drop on the spot. I didn't fancy having to trail one through that jungle of vegetation. Better, I think, to wait until the leaves have thinned out so I could see the ground if (God forbid) I had to trail one. So my Savage 110 in .30-06 goes another year without a kill.

The squirrels were out in force, playing grab-ass in the trees and foraging for acorns. All indications are that we'll have a good acorn crop this year. That bodes well for the main seasons. I'm going out again on Thursday afternoon because Mrs Outdoorsman has a Mah Jong game scheduled at our house and I'm under instructions to a) make myself scarce b) come home after 4:00 and c) not to bring home a dead deer. So if I do get one I'll take it to a processor. I plan to use the drilling.

But Is It Organic?

Sent by a friend. Pretty funny, actually.

September 8, 2023: A Mixed Half-Day At The Dip

I went out to the Nine-Deer Dip at Sunrise Farm yesterday because Mrs Outdoorsman was having her Mah Jong group over and I was to be out of the way. I left the house at 10:30—no crack-of-dawn wakeup this time—and was on my stand by 11:15.

On the way out, a bear ran across the road in front of my truck. I've always felt that seeing a deer when driving out was a predictor of bad hunting; never had to think about bears before, though. There are many more bears this year than there have been, in town and out in the country. A good thing.

At 1:35 a beautiful 8-point buck came trotting past me, not 15 feet away. It may have been the same one I captured on my camera, but that one was in velvet and this fellow wasn't. Definitely an 8-pointer. I gave a low whistle and he stopped, turned, and stared at me for about thirty seconds. I could have hit him with a rock, he was that close.

Then he trotted a few more yards, turned and stared again, finally deciding things weren't to his liking; snorted and off into the thick brush. I heard him snort a couple of more times, and that was that. I couldn't have legally shot him, it's an antlerless-only period, but he did have some nice antlers. Maybe later!

At 3:00 PM the weather abruptly changed, it started to rain, and I packed up and left. Plenty of season left.

September 17, 2023: An Eventful Weekend


We've been busy this week with a variety of things, including having some brush cleaned up in our yard, a trip to the Roanoke Greek Festival, and a day in the woods that turned out well for me but not for the deer.

For years a Greek Orthodox church in Roanoke has held a festival featuring Greek food, Greek music, an "agora" gift shop selling tschotskes (or whatever the equivalent word for knickknacks and ugly jewelry is in Greek). But we, as do most people, go for the food. The food is terrific, including moussaka, dolmades, and outstanding pastries like baklava. There are many other dishes, but those alone are worth the drive. We spent a couple of hours stuffing our faces and trying to hear each other speak over the VERY LOUD Greek music played by a talented band of musicians whose work was electronically enhanced to the point where they could probably be heard in Christiansburg. There was an accident (oops, a "crash," you aren't supposed to say "accident" any more, God knows why) on I-81 so we did the Scenic Route via US 460. An extra 35 minutes, but the miles-long backup would have taken more time, and at least we were moving.

Into The Woods, Heavily Armed

The yard work we had done delayed my latest foray into the field (as did a Wednesday trip to "Fresh Market" in Roanoke to buy stuff we can't get in Blacksburg); I had hoped to go out Wednesday but the landscaper came that day, and then we had to have him come back to finish the job properly, so that killed Thursday as well. I wasn't able to get out until Saturday morning.

I went to the Nine-Deer Dip at Sunrise Farm. This is one of the most reliable spots I know. Until October 6, here in Montgomery County we have an "early antlerless-only" deer season, so I was determined to thin the herd by assassinating Bambi's Mom or perhaps his sister Bambette. Last time I was out I saw a beautiful 8-point buck who was inviolable until the regular season opens. He'll have to wait his turn.

I brought my Bursgmüller drilling. The 16-gauge shotgun barrels were loaded with buckshot (or perhaps "doe-shot") but in truth I've never killed anything with that. Nevertheless, you never know and it was better than loads of #5 birdshot for a coup de grâce if one were needed. It wasn't.

I left the house about 8:00 AM (no more 4:00 AM wakeups for me!) On the way out I saw a dead bear on I-81 and five deer in a field about a mile from my hunting spot. That last is usually a bad sign, but I thought I'd give it a shot anyway (ha, ha). I was on my stand overlooking the Dip by 9:00. Settled in and started reading a dumb comic mystery, very light but perfect for taking up time on a deer stand.

I didn't have too long to wait. At 11:30 I looked up and saw a deer crossing the trail down into the Dip. A doe, for sure: a nice one, too. She was coming out of some very heavy brush to my left and obviously wanting to enter some even heavier brush on the other side of the trail. On she came, totally unaware of me (God, they can be SO dumb) not 40 yards away.  The wind was right, I was in a sheltered spot, I had my face veil down, and her fate was sealed if she stopped.

The rifle barrel on my drilling is chambered for 8x57JR. This is a rimmed version of the 8mm Mauser round. It's made by Sellier & Bellot, the last firm to load this increasingly obsolescent caliber. In terms of power it's somewhat less than the full-throated 8mm Mauser (as loaded in Europe); since it's more or less exclusively used in break-action guns like my drilling, it's downloaded a bit, though it still exceeds the power level of the 8mm Mauser as loaded in the USA. It's perfectly adequate for whitetails. S&B's factory load has a 196-grain soft point bullet that leaves the muzzle at 2329 FPS. To date the drilling in my hands has taken three whitetails, an ostrich, and five black-backed jackals in Namibia, and a huge feral hog in Tennessee.

The drilling has a scope, a Leupold "Europlan 30" that's variable between 1.5x and 4x. Since I cut my teeth on a fixed 4x scope as a teenager, I still prefer fixed power. Hence I leave it at 4x. I had Leupold fit it with a "German #4" reticle. Because sometimes this drilling is used as a shotgun, the scope is in a set of Leupold detachable mounts that allow me to remove and replace it without loss of zero. The scope is very clear and bright and the 30mm tube enhances that. Leupold makes fine products; in my opinion they're the best reasonably-priced optics you can buy.

Then she stopped about about 47 yards away (I later paced it off). The rifle barrel is sighted to hit 1" high at 100 yards, so in essence I had a point-blank shot. As she crossed the trail she paused at the entrance to the very, very heavy brush; that was her undoing. I put the crosshairs on her right shoulder, and when I fired she dropped. At the shot three or four more deer popped out of the brush adjacent to my stand and off they went: never had a crack at them because I was reloading (losing one of my precious 8x57JR cases in the process, damn it).

I walked up to her. I'd seen her fall, but I was worried she'd get into the brush and I'd have to trail her, something I hate to have to do. But she never went another step, she was stone dead on the spot. That 196-grain S&B soft point bullet is no speed demon but by golly, it kills like a lightning bolt, making an exit wound substantially larger than I see with the .308 Winchester 150-grain soft points. This was one of the cleanest and quickest kills I've ever made. I only had to drag her out about three feet onto the trail, so I could set about the grisly business of eviscerating her.

She was heavily infested with fleas, or perhaps they were lice, I'm not sure. That's something I've never seen before on a deer: ticks, yes, I expect ticks, but these were emphatically not ticks, they were some sort of deer flea or louse. In fact I didn't see a single tick.

The flies were beginning to land on her even before I got there: I had to keep flapping them away with my hat. When I started to unzip her, my @#@#^%%!!! Gerber "Wyoming Knife" gut hook was uncooperative. The blade kept slipping, a very dangerous thing to have happen, so I used my sheath knife for the process of opening her up. Once she was eviscerated I hoofed it back to the truck to do the recovery. Contrary to my former practice, I wore gloves.  I'd bought some nitrile exam gloves just for this purpose.  I don't know if it matters but we do have CWD in Montgomery County, so why not?

I'm a Good Citizen. The DWR wants me to stop leaving innards out for the scavengers, and has this to say about CWD:

What You Can Do to Help Fight CWD

• Keep hunting!
• Don’t feed deer and remove mineral licks
• Get deer harvested in a DMA tested for CWD
• Avoid long-distance movements of a whole
deer carcass
Don’t discard leftover deer carcass parts on
the landscape – dispose in a landfill or bury
• Stay informed about CWD

Because I am a Good Citizen I brought along a 39-gallon trash bag to recover the offal. That decision eventually led me to a good bit of frustration and gasoline usage, as I'll describe below.

I'm no longer able to lift a deer bodily into the truck bed, but I've rigged up a winch and a ramp to do that job. Getting her in was a piece of cake. Then it was off to a processor, with the deer and the bag of guts in the truck.

Mrs Outdoorsman had requested me to donate the deer to Hunters For The Hungry because our freezer is more or less full and she keeps buying chicken to fill up what space is left. When I got to the processor I found out that H4H no longer will accept deer from Montgomery County because we are a CWD zone. However, a local church had asked her for any donated deer. I don't know which church it is, but even if it's the Whoopin' And Screamin' Holy Church Of The Lord God In The Foothills, that was fine with me. I left the deer in the cooler, did the paperwork, and headed for the "Deer Carcass Only" dumpster DWR had put under the Route 114 bridge in Fairlawn.

Small problem: the dumpster was gone. I have no idea why, but tomorrow (Monday) I'll call DWR and find out what they plan to do. I still had a bag of deer guts to get rid of, so I headed to the Montgomery County recycle site on Price's Fork Road. No luck: they don't take garbage, only recycling stuff. the Geezer told me, "Take it to the Solid Waste Transfer Facility," a matter of perhaps 12 miles away. Oh, well, another gallon or two of gasoline burned in my F-150 wouldn't hurt anything, so off I went. When I got there the gates were closed, because it was a Saturday: the SWTF isn't open on Saturdays, which I'd totally forgotten.

I still had that bag of guts. My only options at that point were 1) put it in my trash bin for the Tuesday pickup (a decision Mrs Outdoorsman would have vetoed instantly had I proposed it) 2) take it out somewhere quiet and isolated and dump the guts (to avoid doing which I'd brought the bag) 3) find another place to put it in a private dumpster (quite illegally but I was pretty desperate by then). I cruised Blacksburg looking for a well-hidden dumpster, finally finding one in an older apartment complex. I trespassed, surreptitiously dropped the bag into the dumpster, and motored away, trying to look as innocent as I could in a blood-stained set of clothes driving a truck with red goo on the tailgate. So far the police haven't showed up, so I think I got away with it.

However—next time I will leave the guts on the ground.

September 20, 2023: Update On The Trash Bin Situation

Yesterday I went to the DWR's office here in Blacksburg. It was staffed by one woman, no CPO's in sight. I suppose they were all out catching game law violators. She very kindly gave me the name of the contractor that supplies the carcass disposal bin under the Route 114 bridge, as well as their phone number. Today I called and was assured that it would be out "Thursday," (i.e. tomorrow) or "Friday at the latest." That will greatly simplify my hunting life. We'll see. I won't be able to get out before Sunday anyway; moreover it's looking more like late next week, given the weather and the fact that I have two back-to-back funerals to attend this week plus a doctor's appointment on Monday.

September 26, 2023: A Horrible Two Weeks

Last couple of weeks have been pretty bad. My dog Lucy is not doing well: she had a relapse of the vertigo that she suffered in March, and she had been limping pretty badly as well. I took her to the vet's on the 12th; she was put on antibiotics and I was supposed to treat her foot with some foam anti-inflammatory stuff. She was supposed to wear a Cone Of Shame for ten days, but she adamantly refused that. In the end the foam helped, as did the antibiotics. She still limps a bit but is much better.

For the vertigo ("idiopathic vestibular disease") she received a prescription drug called Cerenia and "Dramamine Less Drowsy," generically sold as meclizine. They helped a lot but she still has some issues with a persistent head tilt (probably permanent) and sometimes she falls down while walking. She can no longer deal with stairs. She wants to but it's too dangerous. So she can't come up to our bedroom at night. I take her around to the basement via the front yard (on a leash, of course) and she's sleeping there now, though under protest. Mrs Outdoorsman is going to Lake Anna for the Columbus Day (whoops, "Indigenous Peoples Day") weekend with her sister et alia. Lucy went last year but she can no longer travel so I'll stay here. For those few days I'll unfold the sofa bed in the basement and sleep down there with her.

Then my brother sent me pictures of the house in which we grew up. It has been abandoned and is boarded up. In the fullness of time it will be demolished and replaced with something lacking any character or historic significance. These images shocked me to my core and sent me into a deep blue funk.

On top of that I had two funerals in two days, one for a long-time neighbor, one of the finest men I have ever known. He died in mid August, surrounded by his family, and he went peacefully; but it was a real loss to everyone who knew him. The second was for the son of a friend with whom I'd hunted in Africa. I didn't know the son, but wanted to pay my respects to his father, whom I haven't seen in several years. His is now well over 80, and when I got to the service he was in a wheelchair. That too was very upsetting.

I've reached an age when many of my friends are dying, and I can feel the breath of death on my own neck. Yesterday I went to see my doctor: I'm still in the Land of the Living, but in the foreseeable future I too will slide into the abyss. At least, I hope, I will get to see my dogs again, if there is any truth to the rumors of an afterlife. As Will Rogers said, "If dogs don't go to Heaven, I want to go where they went." Lucy is not going to live too much longer, and I don't know how I will deal with her death. Dylan Thomas was wrong when he started his poem with "April is the cruelest month..." I have lost three of my beloved dogs in September. Maybe I'll die in September, too.

We have workmen coming to fiddle with our heating/cooling system; and to spray for bugs. For reasons that escape me, Mrs Outdoorsman insists on scheduling this sort of thing for early in the mornings. Eight-thirty AM is too damned early: I am emphatically not a morning person.

All this has kept me out of the woods, but the day after tomorrow, I'm going. If I have to go out on a gurney, I'm going. I'll take the drilling again, I think.

September 30, 2023: Lucy Update, A Trip To The Dip, And A Retired Professional's Outrage

After a couple of harrowing days, I took Lucy to the vet yesterday. She had stopped eating, turning up her nose at stuff she'd always eaten readily. They examined her, did blood work, and X-rays. She has some elevated liver enzymes and an "enlarged liver" with "rounded margins" instead of the sharply defined profiles. Treatment, such as it is, was an injection of Cerenia, an anti-nausea drug; and some appetite stimulant pills they actually pushed down her throat. She'd have bitten me if I'd tried that but the vets managed it with their fingers remaining in place.

Today she is eating a bit: mostly dog biscuits, but some canned pumpkin and some wet dog food. Not so much as I'd have liked but we'll take what we can get. I did manage to get her to take some meclizine (another anti-nausea drug, sold as "Dramamine Less Drowsy") and she is much steadier on her feet. The inflamed foot that was causing her to limp is better. We're grateful for every day we get with her.

A Day At The Dip

Went out last Thursday, arriving on my stand at 9:19 AM. I had decided to leave at 4:00 PM but at 3:50 I spotted a doe moving around so I waited. She never gave me a shot. I left at 5:00. It was a beautiful day but it wasn't her day to die. But I recovered my lost 8x57JR case, so that was a plus.

A Professional Insult And An Outrage

I taught the discipline of histology (microscopic anatomy) at Virginia Tech's veterinary school for 29 years, and for 5 years before that at Texas A&M's veterinary school. Histology is an essential subject: it's basically physiology made visible. It's fundamental to understanding pathology and the disease process. But when I took Lucy to the vet, the young woman who treated her, a recent VT graduate, told me something I could hardly believe: it is no longer a required course, but an elective in the first year.

This is insane. No one can truly comprehend what physiology is really about unless they can "see it in action," but the ill-advised curricular revisions that VT's vet school undertook over the years clearly were driven by people who had no clue about what is and what isn't essential material. I went through four such revisions in my time, each of them worse than the last, and each of them increasingly cutting away the "core" of DVM education. This process of whittling away stuff students must understand is one reason why I quit when I did. I'm outraged by this latest insult but of course there is nothing to be done except to hope that in time the pendulum will swing back in the direction of sanity. By then I'll be dead.

October 3, 2023: A Day In The Emergency Room

Mrs Outdoorsman walks a lot: she does 3-1/2 to 4 miles around the neighborhood every day. This morning she tripped on a piece of concrete in front of a house that's being renovated, fell, and staggered home. She called me up from the basement and told me what had happened, so off we went to the ER in Radford's Carilion Clinic. I was worried about a cracked jawbone (she had fallen on her face) and a mangled TM joint.

To make the story as brief as possible: she had two cracked ribs, revealed by a full-body CT scan that also turned up a couple of other "incidental" findings of no real consequence. She was sent home with a) a prescription for painkillers; b) a spirometer; and c) a caution to " us if you have any problems." They had wanted to keep her overnight for "observation," but that was NOT going to happen. She is planning a trip to Lake Anna in a few days, so I hope all goes well.

This all sounds very simple, but it took six hours of waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting for perhaps 20 minutes' time with the nurses and doctors. I, a man whose father got Frequent Flyer miles from our local rescue squad and had his own suite in the ER, was smart enough to bring a fully-charged Kindle with me. By the time Mrs Outdoorsman was finally released the battery was down to less than 30%; and she'd managed to finish an entire memoir by Donna Leon.

On our return to Blacksburg, around 6:45, we stopped at the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions, then finally got home to feed our poor dog and take her for a walk, around 7:15. I had the foresight to leave the basement door open for her should she need to go out and pee. Lucy is dying and the six hours in the ER were a time of worry for me, but she was okay when we got home—as okay as a nearly-14-year-old dog with major health issues can be.

This has—so far—put the capstone on a horrible, awful few weeks. I'm sure there are worse ones coming, but this has been bad enough.

October 4, 2023: Aftermath

Today Mrs Outdoorsman is sporting a very badly bruised chin, black and blue; and has a hell of a hematoma in her mouth. People will surely think she's been beaten by her brutish husband. "Walking into a door" is the classic "explanation" of such things, but at least "I fell by tripping over a lump of concrete" has some semblance of originality.

Today I took a big hammer to that lump of concrete, lest someone else trip over it. It must have fallen, wet, from a batch being mixed at the house down the street where a patio is being built, hardening into a veritable death trap overnight. Maybe I should sue someone...

Mrs Outdoorsman is off to Lake Anna on Friday if she feels up to it. I'm batching it here with my dog, sleeping on the sofa bed in the basement because she can no longer do stairs.

November 5, 2023: The Whiskey River Doe

Yesterday, the 4th, was the Opening Day for the early black powder season. Having shot a deer in the early antlerless season (see above, entry for September 17th) I was of two minds about whether to go out at all, especially since we'd been having a terrific cold snap the week previous to Opening Day; I don't do cold weather as well as I used to.

But an Opening Day is a Holy Day of Obligation, so the night before I loaded up my .54 T/C Firehawk and made ready.  My dog Lucy needs to get out as early as possible now that she's well up in years; I'd planned to get up at 5:00 to let her out, so as to be on my stand at 7:00 AM at the 9-Deer Dip. But I slept later than I had planned, awakening at 6:38 instead. In the end it didn't matter. After feeding and walking Lucy I had a a 27-mile drive to Sunrise Farm but after a stop at Bojangles for coffee and a biscuit (or two) I got to my chosen spot at 9:00 and settled in.  It was a "bluebird day," perfectly clear and not too cold. There didn't seem to be too much activity, though I heard shots now and again, most of them some distance off. Actually pretty typical for a ML opener in my experience.

I was idly thinking about something or other not having to do with deer hunting, but at 10:45 I looked up and lo, there was a deer coming out of the brush. I couldn't at first tell what it was, though at Sunrise Farm both sexes are legal, so it didn't matter. It was a doe. The deer
was looking straight at me: I tried to put my face veil down but didn't have time.  I picked up the rifle, set the cross hairs in the center of the deer's chest, and fired.  I later paced off that shot: it was all of 30 yards.

She fell and started to kick her hind legs. This is usually indicative of a hit to the central nervous system, so I hoped, when I saw that, that she was dead right there. No such luck: after a couple of seconds of flailing around she actually got up and ran into the massive slash to one side of the logging road.
I've had to recover a deer from the post-logging slash before, and it is a major-caliber PITA. I hate having to track a deer, but luckily she left a decent blood trail so it wasn't too hard a job once I spotted the first bits of blood on the leaves.  

She'd run at least 50 yards into the thick stuff—and I do mean thick, the fallen logs, large branches, ands three season's worth of undergrowth between them constitute a major obstacle. I always worry about not finding a deer I know I've hit, but I did so reasonably quickly. Before I started up the hill after her I'd reloaded "just in case," and was glad I did. Once I found her she was still kicking, so a second shot into her neck finished things off.

ThenI had to get her out, something easier said than done in that cover. Fifty yards doesn't sound like much but it was a killer recovery, one of the worst I've had to do. I had to get her over some logs, under other logs, through the dense brushy stuff that had grown up in places, all the while stumbling over roots and branches on the ground.  Thank goodness she hadn't managed to get over the top of the ridge she went up, over into The Ravine Of Death on the other side. If she'd managed to do that I'd still be trying to get her out.  In the end it took me an hour to get her that 50 yards or so down to the logging road. At that point I could drive in, winch her into the truck, and get her out again.  In the process of turning the truck around on the narrow road I managed to partially run over my back pack, destroying my "Butt Out" tool and splitting a seam; moreover I found out (after I was home) that I'd left my folding saw behind. Finally, after an hour and a half or so she was in the truck so I could drive to the house, do the DMAP paperwork, then take her to a processor.

She was a yearling doe, too dumb to know I was dangerous. She'd watched me a fraction of a second too long. Though I'd fired at the center of her chest, the ball hit slightly to the left of her centerline, passing out just to one side of her spine. If you read gear catalogs and watch the dreadful "outdoors" shows on TV you'd get the impression that deer are covered in armor plate and require massive charges of powder and "magnum" bullets to kill. Not so: my standard load in my two muzzle-loaders is 80 grains of GOEX FFg and a .54 round ball. Yes, a round ball. Not "conicals" costing $2 apiece. Just a plain-vanilla lead round ball, like Lewis & Clark used all the way across the Louisiana Purchase and back. They kill well and almost always exit, leaving a good blood trail.
The impact of the first shot knocked her down (but her spine wasn't hit or she'd have dropped on the spot). Later I found the internal bullet track:  it had split open the top of her left lung (accounting for the excellent and easy-to-follow blood trail) and exited just past her shoulder blade.  So she was functionally dead on her feet but didn't know it.  I doubt she would have lived even a minute or two longer had I not shot her again.

The processor I used is 30 miles from Sunrise Farm. There is one closer but I wanted to get her checked for CWD and the closer one doesn't do that.  When I got there I was told that a CWD check was "voluntary" and the guy who took her in seemed annoyed that I insisted on having it done. One thing I didn't do was bury the guts nor haul them out: after that exhausting recovery I wasn't about to go back.  The scavengers will have a nice feast and CWD be damned. Amazingly, even though today was Opening Day, there were already at least 100 deer in the cooler, including one monster of a 12-pointer, easily twice the size of my deer.

That's the second deer I've killed from that spot this year.  I've taken 6 deer in 3 seasons from that location, I don't know of another anywhere near so reliable.  My cousin, who's an "adult onset" hunter, is coming for Opening Day of the rifle season. I'll park him there
so that he has a good chance of some "positive reinforcement" on his first deer hunting venture. I just hope he drops his on the logging road!

When I drove in to get her the radio was playing Willie Nelson's "Whiskey River," hence the title of this entry.

November 20, 2023: The 2023 Rifle Season Opener

The 18th was the rifle season Opening Day.  My cousin, a retired Army Colonel, had expressed a desire to add a deer hunt to his "bucket list." He lives in Fairfax County, where there are gazillions of deer but no place to hunt, so I arranged for him to come here. I took him to the two sites I hunt most often: one in Montgomery and one in Giles County.  Both my landowners were very cooperative and I had no issues getting permission to bring him out.

He came on Thursday the 16th; after dinner, which was accompanied by some adult beverages, we went to bed, getting up not too early on the 17th.  That day was intended for meet-and-greet and some range time.  I lent him my .30-06 Savage 110, using Remington's 150-grain Core-Lokt ammunition (NOT the "Tipped" variety, which is obscenely priced at $42+ per box of 20!) just the plain-vanilla Core-Lokt that's been around for 90+ years.  I've killed a bunch of deer using it in that rifle.

He also wanted to shoot my Garand, so he bought a box of Federal's "American Eagle" ammunition that is touted as especially made for use in a Garand.  There is some question about the use of conventional sporting rounds in the Garand, so he shelled out about $45 per box for the Federal stuff.  And he brought me a box of Privi Partizan .308 Winchester, which I was happy to get.

First we went to the Montgomery site, but nobody was home.  So I showed him the route into the stand where I wanted him to sit, a place where I have killed six deer in three seasons.  It's the best spot I know, the Nine-Deer Dip.  I marked the route in with reflector tacks, so he'd have no issues finding his way there.

I'd previously got permission to bring him out, so we planned to meet the landowner the next day when we took a breather for lunch.  Then we went out to the Giles County site and met the landowner there, a woman I've known for nearly 30 years, and whose land I've hunted nearly that long.

Then ho for the range.  We set out targets and started checking sights. Everything was dialed in.  I had some issues with the Garand, for some reason the en bloc clips didn't go in easily, but we figured that one out and he was able to shoot it and hear the PING! of the ejected clip, one of the Garand's signature noises.  Burned up a full box of his Federal stuff doing that. Cheaper than a day at Disneyworld and just as much fun.

While we were shooting, three deer wandered onto the range, pretty nearly in the "kill zone."  A 6-point buck and two does.  Whitetails aren't the smartest animals on the planet, but I suppose these deer were used to hearing shots, so they weren't bothered.  I had actually seen them before: at a previous range session, they came and bedded down not 50 feet from the 100-yard target butts!  That time, when I scared them out of long grass by chucking a rock, they popped out, then ran right back in.  As I say, not terribly intelligent.

One of the club officers showed up; I remarked that it was a good thing for those deer that rifle season hadn't opened yet, and was floored by his response.  "We couldn't hunt them anyway!"  I asked why not, and that's when I found out that the cancer of "lease hunting" is metastasizing into this area.  "The hunting rights are leased to a different group.  The Shawnee Club doesn't have hunting rights here." Thirty-six years I have been in that club—originally called the "Shawnee Hunting Club by the way—and never heard this.  I won't bore my readers with my usual diatribe on the subject of the leasing evil, but I will say that I'm glad that the horizon of my hunting life is drawing closer . I doubt it will ever happen that someone will demand I pay to hunt native game animals.  If it does, I'll hang up my gear and quit.  But I digress...

The guns were sighted in, so back home we went to prepare for some high-caliber Male Bonding the next day.  Up at Zero-Dark-Thirty to let my dog out to do What Needs To be Done, then suit up and load the truck. It's 27 miles and about 40 minutes to the hunt site: we left at about 5:35, intending to stop at Bojangles for a biscuit, only to find they weren't open until 6:00!  We had some health food—a donut each—at a Speedway gas station, then back on the road.

I had him on the stand at the Dip by 7:00 AM.  I sat down at the eastern end of The Ravine Of Death, about 300 yards away, and we commenced to wait.  And wait.  My cousin popped up a buck on his way in, but thanks to his Army training he hadn't loaded the rifle yet!  (The first thing I do is load when I get out of the truck, "just in case.")  He told me later he'd seen another deer, coming towards him from the opposite direction, but didn't want to shoot in that direction, which he could have safely done, actually.  I killed one in that exact situation two years ago.  Oh, well.

Meanwhile I'd seen a big buck come across the end of the ROD: he looked like an 8-pointer, but I never had a shot.  He walked behind some vegetation so I couldn't see him clearly, and that was that.  That buck came by fairly early so may have been the one my cousin saw.

We took a brief break for lunch, walked up to the house for introductions, then went back to our stands. He saw nothing the rest of the day: I saw another big buck.  That one came down the hill towards me: I think he saw me reach for my rifle because he stopped, stared, then put up his flag and fled, snorting to beat the band.  If I'd been more alert I'd probably have killed that fellow, but it was not to be.

We agreed to quit at 5:00 PM.  That was half an hour before legal time ended but I didn't want to have to track a deer in the dark should it be necessary.  I have two so far this year (an early-season doe and the Whiskey River doe; see the entry for September 17th, and the one above for November 5th) so the pressure was off. My cousin was happy to have had the experience and didn't care that he didn't get a deer—that's what he said, anyway—so at the agreed upon time we loaded up and went home.  As is always the case we saw deer on the road on the way out: at least 15 of them not counting 5-6 road kills.

All in all, though, it was a good day.  I got a chance to introduce a 66-year-old "adult onset" hunter to the game; and told him to come down again whenever he liked. I don't think he's ready for muzzle-loading, though that season runs through January 6th, 2024. I may try again then.  He had a blast shooting the Garand (ha, ha) and told me that if I ever go into assisted living he would be happy to take it off my hands.

Last night I spent an hour or so cleaning the rifles. It's been years—probably more than a decade—since I dismantled my Garand, so I had to look up the procedure again. That's a great rifle but it's a little squirrely inside. The hardest part was getting the mainspring onto the cartridge lifter, a process for which I once had the requisite hand strength, but this time it took me ten minutes to do it and consultation with the exploded diagram in the NRA book on "Small Arms Assembly" to get it done. But it was done, then on to cleaning the Savage, which was a piece of cake.

If I go out again in the rifle season—it runs to December 16th—I'll take the Savage. The Garand is basically a safe queen at this point. I've been spoiled by lightweight rifles, and the Garand is no lightweight at nearly 10 pounds empty.

November 21, 2023: The Yield

I got the meat back from the Whiskey River Doe today. She was bigger than I'd thought: I got 44 pounds of ground meat, when I'd expected maybe 30 pounds. Even with the increased processing cost over last year, it was $2 per pound cheaper than the price of hamburger at Kroger's. Last pack of that I bought—and that was in the "reduced price" section—was $4.19!

December 6, 2023: Remington Tells New York To Go Piss Up A Rope

After decades of persecution by the state of New York, Remington is getting out; and about time, too. Unfortunately all the people who worked there are now out of jobs, but NY and its anti-gun governor (in NY there is no other kind) are out the tax revenues, so that counterbalances things a bit.

I grew up in New York, I have had a NY pistol permit since 1966, and I'm intimately familiar with the hostility of the state to any form of gun ownership. While I feel sorry for the workers torpedoed by the state, I have to say I'd not have waited as long as Remington did to pull the plug.

December 7, 2023: Kill 'Em All, Let God Sort 'Em Out

I have recently subscribed to The Field, a very flossy, glossy, and high-end sporting publication in the UK. The stuff shown in The Field  is definitely out of my league financially, and, given my age (I turn 76 tomorrow) probably in terms of my life span as well; but I enjoy reading about huntin' shootin' and fishin' activities of the British upper classes anyway.

It seems that Scotland, like Virginia, has a surplus of deer. In their case it's red deer, i.e., the European form of what we Yanks call "elk." So this little blurb appeared in The Field 's last issue:

So, should I win the lottery some time before I die, I could go to Scotland and shoot stags to my heart's content. I do agree with the stalker quoted that the only really effective way to thin the herd is to shoot females ("hinds") but I'll bet that's not going to happen. (By the way, for "enigmatic" in this piece, read "emblematic.")

December 9, 2023: Rained Out

Went to the Dip today. A leisurely arrival, on stand about 9:00 AM. The lying swine of a weatherman on our TV "news" had said today was to be sunny. It started to rain as I drove out, and kept it up steadily. I quit in disgust at 11:00 AM, before I was totally soaked; besides, I was hungry. Stopped at a greasy spoon on the way home and had a fairly decent hamburger. By the time I got home the sun had come out. I can't win. Well, I didn't see anything anyway; had I connected I'd have had to donate the deer to Hunters for the Hungry because my freezer is full.

December 12, 2023: For The Child Who Has (Nearly) Everything: His Own Car

I was at Academy Sports two days ago, and spotted this little gem: a kid-sized Range Rover. When I was a small child my cousin had an electric-powered kiddie car. I wanted one but my mother said NO! and I was bereft.

This beauty seats two, and the best part is the price: only $300. I'd have expected it to be much higher. If I had a child I'd have bought it on the spot.

December 17, 2023: The End Of The Rifle Season

It was a bust.  Yesterday I went to the Dip, sat there for four hours, and saw no deer at all. There were, however, lots of birds, including a couple of Pileated Woodpeckers, one of whom came to hammer on a tree not 30 feet from me.  Also some Red-Bellied 'peckers and the usual collection of unidentifiable little brown birdies.  Most curious of all, though, was the presence of at least 25-30 Robins. That is not a bird you associate with the woods; they're very common on suburban lawns, but Robins in the woods?  I never saw that before. Maybe they were migrating through.

The 2023 Montgomery County Tree Chicken Marching And Chowder Society Convention was in full swing, too.  Had I been hunting squirrels I'd have had my limit of six without any trouble.

Needless to say, after I left I saw four deer as I was driving home, including a huge spike buck.  That sounds like a contradiction in terms but this fellow had perhaps 3" of antlers on a body that would have gone nearly 200 pounds on the hoof. If he makes it through a couple of more seasons he will become the next "Old Mossyhorns, The Monarch Of The Forest" for sure.

Black powder season opened yesterday, too.  I may get out again. Mrs Outdoorsman is off to visit her sister for a few days, during which I will be able to do Manly Things Involving Firearms and Innocent, Gentle Woodland Creatures Who Never Did Me Any Harm. We'll see.

December 31, 2023: The Last Hurrah

I had intended to go out this morning, because I'd set up a range session with my friend Phil for 1:00; thought I might get another deer at a spot 10 miles from the range. But it was about 23 degrees, I am old and weary, I've already killed two this year, and there is no room in my freezer. Neither Phil nor my friend Rick wanted another deer, so I punted the hunt. Got up at a gentlemanly hour, did things with my dog (who has a very, very nasty pressure sore on her leg that won't heal) and hit the range this afternoon. Phil didn't make it: car trouble.

My goal was to try out my Firehawk with Minié projectiles. I normally shoot round balls; in the past couple of seasons I've used them in the Firehawk with success (three kills so far) but that rifle has a 1:38" rifling twist, sub-optimal for round balls. I have some Miniés on hand (I have no idea where I got them) that weigh about 425 grains. Heavy metal for our fragile local whitetails, but nobody ever said they wouldn't work, provided they shot well.

Bottom line: they shot well. Very well, indeed. Eighty grains of GOEX FFg powder, lubricated with SPG, touched off by a musket cap, and five rounds produced the target shown here.

The first three shots, as you can see, formed a very nice, tight group. Three quarters of an inch, which works out to 1.5 MOA. Shot #4 was made after I'd raised the crosshairs a bit; #5 took them up a bit more and a hair to the left. Bingo, dead on at 50 yards. I have no doubt whatever that any one of these shots would have been fatal to a deer. This with a barrel that has some significant pits. Plus the Miniés don't require an under-bullet wad, they load very easily even when the barrel is fouled, so what's not to like?

I'm now over my skepticism about scoped in-lines. Traditional they may not be, but effective they certainly are. I've always liked Thompson Center guns; if they made the Firehawk with a removable breech plug I'd buy another one! There's a shorter barrel version, the "Thunderhawk," and I've been looking for one in .54.

Next season Bambi—and his female relatives—are in deep trouble. Technically deer season remains open here for another week, but I'm done. Forty pounds of deerburger in the freezer is more than enough.

Check back soon: Phil and I are setting up the annual bird shoot for early January. So I'm signing off for 2023, and wish all my readers a very Happy New Year for 2024!