All posts by coldboremiracle

Cougar Carnitas Adobado

Many people wouldn’t even consider eating a mountain lion, whether because its a cat, or because its a predator, or many other reasons. I was eager to try it, as I’d heard wonderful things about it. So I decided to go all out, and made a cougar ham slow cooked in an Adobo sauce (made from various chili peppers, onions, garlic, and some spices). It turned out spectacular, like a pulled pork.

A Dynasty in Deer Country

The year 2020 has left us with what seems like one tragedy after another, but we managed to pull one gem out of the darkness in October. A decent deer hunt that would make some great memories.
We hunt as a family, and those in our hunting party who aren’t family are close enough they may as well be. Mine is a family with a long cherished practice of hunting, farming, and raising our own food, and the primary origin for these handed down practices and skills comes from my Father, and his Father before him. I have fond childhood memories of helping butcher sheep at my Grandfathers humble little farmhouse, where my Father and three brothers were raised. Whether it was lambchops wrapped in thick paper with familiar handwriting on the top, or a massive head of cabbage grown carefully and pulled from a deep underground cold-storage, Grandpa always was sharing what he’d grown. As a child I watched the interactions between my Father, his Brothers, Grandpa and the whole rest of our family. There was always something to share, whether it was a bushel of corn, or a fresh loaf of home-made bread. It was a beautiful example to behold even as a young child, and it has stuck with me my whole life thankfully.

My Grandfather circa 1940

But the time that passes is no trifling thing, and every year there are fewer of the old familiar faces, and more new ones with whom to share. Memories are all I have now of my Grandparents, and I have resolved to make as many memories as I can with the generation before me, and the one after. Part of that plan involves taking my Father hunting every fall, it brings great joy to all of us, and I feel like it gives him the same exciting rush it always has since he was a boy. Dad has hunted these exact same hills and canyons since his Father first showed them to him, and Grandpa too grew up here in these same mountains to which I feel so bound.

Grandpa and his four boys 1970

This year, like every other, Dad came along with us on the opening day of the deer hunt. Despite being very cold, hardly any snow had touched our Wasatch Mountains. The wind that morning was out of hand, it was blowing hard up the steep canyons where we sat watching. The sun was just starting to peak from over the distant Uinta Mountain range, and the first bits of light had begun to illuminate the hills before us.

Dad was ready for action, he had been preparing as best he could for this hunt despite enduring some intense medical procedures only weeks prior. Dad has always been a strong and hard hunter, but life has taken its bites out of him, and he cant move the way he used to. So I knew we would have to find something that Dad could get to, and as the sun lit up the draw before us, just such an opportunity appeared.

With the wind howling at twenty or thirty miles an hour, we set off down a trail towards our quarry. Dad, my wife, and I all carefully made our way, trying to keep cover in the tall grass. We closed the distance until we had to crawl, and then we crawled carefully through the dry and yellow June grass. The one good thing about the wind was that we didn’t have to be quiet, nor did we have to worry about our scent. It blew from left to right, and uphill, giving us all the advantage . We finally found a spot that gave us a clear view of the hillside, and therein stood a lone young buck, feeding voraciously on the brush. It was still just after shooting light, and he must have missed the opening day memo because his guard was clearly down. But we decided to capitalize on his mistake, and we moved in for the kill.

My wife had come along to be a sort of backup-shooter, should another buck appear, or this one try and escape. But the terrain gave room for only one shooter to get in line, so Dad was up. He lay still as he could in the ice-cold and blustery wind, waiting for the best shot to present itself. We watched through our perspective optics, as the young buck continued to feed.
When the time was right, Dad pressed the trigger, lighting the fire of his 264 Winchester Magnum. This time it was loaded with something new, the Hornady 135 grain A-Tip which was there before you heard the shot break. It hit the buck with an impressive sound, knocking the wind right out of him, and sending him to the ground. There he struggled for a second, trying to get up, but instead he expired and rolled down the steep hill a few yards.

Dad rolled over and looked at us, a bit of a smile on his face. The wind made our eyes water, and it was even hard to breathe looking into it, but I could hear the satisfaction in Dad’s voice as he spoke. My Brother approached as we went over the details, and after a few minutes, he and I went after the buck.

We’ve savored the taste of that little buck, and several others since. It seems to be so much better when paired with the memories of the day, and warmed with retelling the events that got us there.
One of my earliest hunting memories was helping Dad and Grandpa drag a deer back to the truck, no more than a mile or so from where Dad dropped this little buck in the wind. I think back to that day, probably some thirty years ago, and I’m initially surprised that Dad would have shot that scrawny little buck. But looking back now, as both an adult, and a Father myself, I think I can see his reasoning.

It was the only time Dad shot a deer with my Brother and I, and my Grandfather. Might not have meant much to me then, but it certainly does now. It gives me a tie to where I’m from, and where I get my love of hunting. A familiar memory of events and people long gone. This little buck may not look like much, but twenty years from now, when we tell the story again, the size of his antlers wont matter any more than the buck we hauled out together with my Grandpa. And it gives me a great example of what to do for my kids, and the generations after me. With a future looking as grim as it can day to day, strong roots and firm foundations are just what we need to hold it together.

-CBM

2020 Doom and Gloom

The year Twenty-twenty has claimed plenty of fame both in good things and bad, the year prior having been less than plentiful when it came to deer hunting, I was cautiously optimistic about 2020. It was in that mindset that my Son and I headed up into the cold and cloudy Rocky Mountains well before sunrise. It was six or so days into a ten day deer hunt, and neither of us had fired a shot. We shared many things that morning, we both had a buck tag in our pocket, and we’d only brought one gun, the 257 Blackjack that I call Pitboss. But even the tainted doom of 2020 couldn’t keep us from sharing the adventure that awaited us at nine-thousand feet.

As the days of the deer hunt waned, I felt a familiar feeling that things were going to work out. Everything that morning had come together as though it was meant to be, so my optimism was at overdrive as the cold wind blew over our backs, and the first slivers of orange light began to peak over the horizon.

Junior and I were looking over a steep alpine valley high at the top of the Wasatch Mountains, its a place we are very familiar with, having spent countless hours hunting Marmots, squirrels and other varmints during the brief summer there. The last bits of snow from the previous winter had only just melted a month or two prior. We watched over this well known to us valley, looking for the faint signs of movement in the early pre-dawn light. The ice-cold wind was making my fingers stiff, and biting at my nose and ears while I peered furiously through my binoculars hoping to see motion. We had seen several deer in this valley in days prior to this, so I was working on a hunch that a good buck or two had moved in with them.

I wish I had the power to stop time, that magical ten to twenty minutes immediately following first light, seems to be the most productive time of day where we hunt. As I watched my son hunker over trying to keep warm, it reminded me of the other reason I wished I could control time. The time we spend together has never been enough for me, and as he has grown into a young man, that time seems even more fleeting and precious.


As we both resisted the wind, the sunlight advanced, and in just a few moments I had picked out a couple white rumps of a few mule deer does on a rise down in our little valley. I had my spotting scope setup, prepared to investigate any potential prey, so I switched over to it and began to pick them out one by one. In almost no time at all, I had found just what I was looking for, a handsome little buck casually feeding alongside a few does. I say little, but he was actually the best buck we had seen since the hunt began.


I pointed him out to my son, who quickly got into position behind the Blackjack. We waited as the buck calmly moved along, the sunlight brightening almost by the second it seemed. The range to the buck was just shy of five hundred yards, a chip-shot for the rifle, and Junior had been well trained for a shot like that. Everything was lining up just as I had felt it would that morning, Junior lay still behind the rifle, slowly following the buck as we waited for a perfect broadside shot. I had dialed the elevation into the US Optics Foundation 25X, and it was just a matter of time now.

As the buck noticed the orange light growing around him, I’d like to think that he too was admiring the beauty that lay all around us. He stood there motionless, looking into the sunlight with his stocky body in clear view. I told Junior to drop him, and in a sudden rush of excitement it was all over. It may have been the excitement, buck fever, or maybe his fingers were numb from the biting cold wind, but Junior just plain missed. And for an excruciating thirty-seconds, I had to sit there and watch this buck look around, wondering what had happened. Junior couldn’t get the buck back in the scope, and I watched as he casually trotted off into the forest below.

All my positive expectations and hope seemed to trot off into the trees as well. I was a bit distrustful of what had just happened, how could it all come together like that, and fall apart in a matter of seconds? All I had wanted was to pull off a bit of success with my son. We walked back out the way we had come in, all the deer had moved into the trees, spooked by our shot. I did my best to stay positive, and we moved on to another one of my hides. I’m sure that I was more upset about the miss than my son was, his excitement for hunting isn’t what it used to be. We stopped to look into another deep canyon, one we had also seen deer in the past.

I peered into the wind swept canyon, spotting a few does feeding away from us. I was determined that we weren’t leaving empty-handed. I looked harder and harder trying to make out either antlers or additional deer, and after a few minutes I spotted three more working uphill from below the others. As soon as I laid eyes on the very last deer, I knew that we were going home heavy. He wasn’t a big buck, but he was exactly what we needed that day, a chance to be successful. It was my turn to take a shot, so I scrambled into a good shooting position, and began my procedure. First I hit him with the rangefinder, to cross reference with my drop. The 257 Blackjack is extremely flat-shooting, and with the slight down angle of the slope, my corrected elevation was 2.1 MRAD for the 715 yard shot. The distant buck had no idea we were there, but he was still making his way towards the ridge-line that would allow him to slip away forever. Junior spotted for me through the spotting scope as I prepped for the shot, the deer made his way through the brush until he stopped hard, giving me a good broadside shot. The Blackjack had never let me down, and today wasn’t going to be that day.

As the buck stood there taking his last look, I watched through the scope having already broke the trigger. As the intensity of the moment seemed to slow time, I watched the 131 grain Ace fly downrange, boiling the air around it. The trace continued down the canyon, and disappeared into the left side of the deer, breaking through one of his ribs low in the brisket. The buck reared back, and turned back downhill the way he had come. After just a few strides he disappeared into the brush, as we both watched through our scopes. It was time to pack up. We left everything that we didn’t need, and started down the canyon into the prickly and noisy brush. At times it was shoulder deep.


Following his blood trail

My wind call wasn’t perfect, and I’d hit him a little further back than I would have liked to. But in the end it worked just fine, the buck left a vivid trail into some deep brush, leaving bits and pieces of himself along the way. I made it to the buck first, and Junior followed me. We sat down next to him, and appreciated the moment. My despair about the mornings events had been in vain, our doubt swallowed up by the excitement and satisfaction. As I laid hands on this beautiful little buck I was again as always overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation.


Above: Junior and I / Below: The 257 Blackjack

As luck would have it, a good friend and his sons were hunting that day as well, and after a quick call, they headed our way. Junior and I began working on the meat, the trophy we’d take home. We carefully broke him down, keeping the pieces clean, and hanging them in a nearby tree so it could cool in the icy mountain breeze. After a couple hours, with help from our friends, we strapped all the pieces of the buck to our packs and began making our way back up the canyon.

Meat cooling in the breeze, and Junior going full carnivore



I love whatever it is that drives me to this autumn challenge every year, is it the carnivore deep inside me? Is it instinct? The challenge that we embrace every time we go after these and other animals seems to be programmed into my soul, I often wonder if its possible to get enough. If it is, I hope I never get there, but if I do, I hope its not by myself.

-CBM


A Successful Plan Built in Brotherhood

One sign that you are getting better at hunting, is when your plans start ending successfully instead of watching deer run off. Twenty-something years ago, my little Brother Spence invited me to come along on a deer hunt with some friends. It was the beginning of a crazy addiction filled with challenges and adventure, and every year since, we do it again. Several things have changed quite a bit since that fateful first hunt together, we’re both a bit rounder in the middle, and we both have less hair, but we sure have gotten better at killing deer and elk. Todays story is about hunting plans, and how years of hunting and hard work can turn into valuable achievement and happy memories.


My Brothers and I
You may have gathered by now that I’m not much of a trophy hunter, of course I’d love to shoot a monster but I’m more about having a good time and involving loved ones and friends than anything else. To me, any animal that presents a challenge and a delicious reward that we can share is a trophy. The practice of hunting, year after year, shot after shot, and stalk after stalk, has sharpened all of us.

An adventure from long ago
Spence and I have shared adventures our whole lives, but today was an especially sweet one. It was the final day of the deer hunt here in our home state of Utah, and Spence still had an uncut tag, and had yet to point his gun at anything. Our plan was to take advantage of an active snow storm that had moved in overnight, the weather always brings out the deer. Experience told me we wouldn’t be able to see much of anything way up high, the thick and fluffy snow fall was building fast. So instead, we decided to hunt the foothills of the mountains.

The snow was still falling, as shooting light came and passed. We hadn’t seen more than a few tracks, but one set of tracks that we’d cut was clearly a buck and he was headed the right direction. We looked as hard as we could through binos, searching every crevasse and brush patch. The patience that comes with age and experience seems to let you know when to take your time, and when you need to hurry. We kept moving to avail ourselves of different angles of the mountain above us. I knew it was only a matter of time before we spotted something, and sure enough, after about 30 minutes of glassing, we finally picked two does out. They were working around in some very deep brush, the six-hundred yards between us made glassing them difficult through the thick snow falling all around us. I could tell there was another deer in the brush behind them, I told Spence that it had to be a buck. Spence is used to me aggressively proposing suggestions as facts, the poor kid has had to listen to me his whole life so I’m sure he has grown accustomed to just nodding in agreement as a response. But after putting my spotting scope on the third deer, I could clearly see antlers. I told Spence if he wanted a last day of the hunt deer, then this was it. The brush and snow obscured the buck from good viewing, but I could tell he had at least three points on his left side. My Brother is more of a trophy hunter than I, but I figured if he knew it wasn’t some fork from this past spring it would get him a little more excited.

He grabbed his rifle, and found a good spot to setup on the buck. But after several minutes of looking, he couldn’t find the buck in the deep snowy brush. We watched the does make their way to a thicket, and caught a glimpse of him as he followed them into what looked like a very small shelf on a very steep and rocky hillside. We continued to watch, hoping for them to come out into one of the few openings, but after twenty and then thirty minutes passed we could see one of the does bedded down. We watched patiently as the snow slowed its fall, watching fervently to see if they were going to move, or spend the day there.

It was probably near eight-o’clock by this point, and we were confident these deer were not planning on moving. So like many times before, we started to devise a plan. The terrain the deer had bedded in was extremely steep, and if it wasn’t shoulder deep thick brush, it was loose and slippery scree in long slides down the mountain. The steep slope ran north/south, and we were looking east up the precipitous grade. There was another high point about halfway to the deer on the north side of them, that would give a commanding view of the area were they lay bedded. The plan that we came up with, was for him to climb slowly and covertly to that high spot, after which I would make a wide loop far to their south. This would put the deer almost squarely between us, I could then slowly sneak close enough to them, and like every mule deer, they would smell or hear me and try to sneak away not knowing that Spence lay waiting for exactly that.
We split up, after going over the plan to ensure we both had it down. I waited til he was about halfway to his new hide, and then started my climb. There was a ridge spine that ran uphill, about a hundred yards south of the deer’s thicket, I decided to stay on the other side as long as possible in order to avoid detection.

The thick brush and rock was hard to keep quiet in as I climbed, every branch I grabbed to steady myself would drop snow down my neck. But I pushed on, my plan was to actually get above the deer, so that I would have a better view of them should they bust. Experience has also showed me that if you don’t put in the work, its almost as though you disrupt the balance of nature, and success is hard-won. There was about a fifteen-minute window where I couldn’t see the thicket, or my brother. But I finally hit the elevation I wanted, and made my way north over the ridge spine, and towards a rock outcropping that would give me the perfect view. I quietly snuck to the rock, testing every step. I wasn’t sure how close I was just yet, so barely breathing and with all four points of contact I climbed onto the wet rock, the snow having melted off, and just recently stopped falling from the grey sky.


I could now see my Brother, a mere 230 yards away. He had setup behind a rock, which gave him a solid shooting rest, as well as some obscurity should the deer look his way. I sat there stinking, as hard as I could, hoping they would catch my scent on the breeze. But the wind had changed direction, and was moving uphill fast enough that they’d never catch my drift. I had snuck into inside seventy-yards from where the three deer lay on the shelf, and the steep incline of the hill made them feel even closer. So I did what every deer hunter does when things get tough and not going your way, I started rolling rocks. Small rocks, that I pitched into the trees near the deer, hoping the repetitive noise would make them uncomfortable enough to get up.

By this time, Spence was freezing in his cold and wet hiding spot. Watching me toss rocks from high above. At one point one of the does stood up, which triggered an exciting rush as perhaps it was about to go down. But it would take a few more minutes of rock rolling before the two does would finally appear, and stepped out of the thicket. My perspective wouldn’t let me see them, but Spence watched quietly through his Vortex Razor as the does slowly moved a dozen yards into the open. After about ten minutes, the buck stood up. He had been laying right next to the does but hidden from sight, but he moved slowly, in the direction of the does. He finally cleared out of the thicket, and stood quartered away, just below the thicket of trees. It was his last move, Spence had been waiting patiently with a hot chamber, and now he pressed the trigger as crosshair met ribcage.

Several hundred yards away, I stood oblivious to all the happenings below. Standing on my rock trying to stink and be conspicuous. The clouds had just begun to burn off, and the sun was peaking through. The silence of a snowy mountain was soothing, but suddenly cut short. The report of Spence’s .260 Remington was unlike any shot Ive ever heard, the blast suppressed by his Thunderbeast suppressor. The sound I heard was amazing, it sounded like a ricocheting 22lr mixed with a rising whistle sound, and of course, at the end was the THWAP! Sounds like a baseball bat swung hard into a wet roll of carpet. Upon hearing the sound, I perked up, and saw the two does bounding off through the steep brush south of the thicket. Just as I got my glass up, I saw the buck bounce into view, and no sooner had I seen him, he keeled over and toppled down the hill, sliding nearly a hundred yards down the steep hillside directly below me. I may have heard a victory call from down the hill, as we both quickly headed for the downed buck.




As we arrived at the buck, I couldn’t get over how handsome he looked. He actually looked like a younger version of the buck I shot the year before, perhaps his offspring. Spence sat down next to his buck, and soaked it up. The sun was now full on shining, and we sat on the steep hill digging our heels in to keep from sliding down. It was a beautiful moment, and we couldn’t have been happier with how our plan worked out.


We had a little discussion about how things seem to have worked out, and how it would have been nice to have all this experience on that first hunt long ago. But isn’t that the beauty of hunting? So much of what we learn, is taught by sacrifice, and loss. The one that got away seems to be the toughest lesson of all. Until we eventually get to the point that we actually let one go by choice instead of him getting away unscathed because we weren’t good enough. The experiences that got us to where we stood, are in their own way a trophy, and one I love to share whether it be here in words or around a campfire waiting for the next hunt to start.

We drug the deer down the mountain towards the truck, where we took some more pictures, before heading to a champions breakfast. The only thing better than making good memories like these, is making them with loved ones. Sometimes the best planned hunt, is being with the right people. I’m thankful I got to be there, but even more thankful for that invite twenty years ago.

CBM

Sig Sauer Tango 6T 1-6

Low Power Variable Optics (LVPO’s) have been flooding through the firearm market for years now, likely due to the proliferation of medium-range carbines. It didn’t take long for shooters to realize the value of variable low power optics, but what makes an LVPO shine over another?

Sig Sauer has long been a big name in the firearms industry, I’ve been a big fan as long as I’ve been a gun owner. So it came as no surprise several years ago when Sig brought their own line of optics to market. What was a surprise, at least to me, was how invested I would get.

My first Sig optics was a Tango 6 5-30, a high powered riflescope with all of Sig Sauer’s bells and whistles. It has been a great scope for several years, and still enjoys its place on one of my favorite rifles.
What is the Tango 6T
Todays subject is about a newer generation Tango 6, the the Tango 6T which is a smaller Tango, a 1-6 Low Power Variable Optic. The 6T features Sig’s high quality and clear lenses for which they are well known. The 1-6 power 6T features a 30mm tube and a front focal plane 5.56 horseshoe ballistic reticle with illumination.
There are a couple different configurations for the 6T, the one I ordered came in FDE only. It also features a line lengthwise down the side of the tube, this eases the mounting of the scope by giving a reference point to evenly seat the scope in the rings. There also came a “cattail”, which is a clamp-on handle to give the user better purchase when trying to adjust the magnification setting.

I mounted the 6T in the Strike Industries ASM mount, an adjustable scope mount that can cantilever the optic out to several different positions. The ASM is a sexy looking companion for the Sig 6T.

After mounting the scope, it was time to zero it, an easy task using the finger adjustable turrets. When not in use the turrets are capped. I installed the CR2032 battery into the illumination turret and lit up the Horseshoe reticle. The 8 position rheostat has an off setting between each number, and also has a push-pull lock to avoid accidental adjustment.
On the Range
My first impression on the range was the image, my eyes were swept from their sockets by the crystal clear and bright image. I am more of a 1-8 fan than a 1-6, but this 1-6 is so beautiful I’d have a hard time turning it down for two more X’s. The 6T has parallax set to 150 meters, so shooting targets that are out there a little further is not a problem.
This was very convenient because I ran the 6T on two different rifles, both of which were very capable downrange performers. First it was mounted on the Armalite M-15 Comp Rifle, a match grade competition rifle built specifically for 3-gunning. I found the M-15 to be very accurate, and with the Tango 6T mounted on it, it was a near unstoppable setup. The low power setting of the Sig made up close targets easily and accurately engaged with both eyes open. And zooming in to 6X gave me enough magnification to pick out distant targets, and the Horseshoe reticle had very handy hold points for those distances.
I never expect ballistic reticles to match perfectly, its nearly impossible unless you are shooting the exact same ammunition in the exact same conditions as those who designed the reticle. The same goes for custom scope turrets, but the good news is that its pretty close. Modern flat shooting cartridges have a fairly similar trajectory so the drop points on the reticle are certainly close enough to be useful.

I also mounted the Sig 6T on my Desert Tech MDRX, which is a multi-caliber rifle. I shot it using both 223 and 6mm ARC barrels, both of which have been very accurate and have done well at various ranges. The 6T felt right at home on top of my MDRX, a much more compact rifle than the Armalite. Maneuvering around obstacles for shooting positions was much easier, and regardless of how close or far away the targets were, the Sig provided a beautiful sight picture with bright images. I keep bringing that up, but that may be the part I like the most about this scope, the optical clarity.

There is more to it than just optical clarity though, the engineers at Sig paid attention to so many little details. Little things like the texturing of control surfaces, high visibility green fiber optics markers around the magnification ring, and other little features that make you feel good about purchasing this scope.

The turrets of the 6T are .2 MRAD per click, which matches the MRAD reticle inside. The clicks are very clean and audible, and the grip surfaces inside the turrets are actually rubberized for easier grip whether using gloves or your bare fingers.

As far as the reticle itself, this might be one place where I wish they had put just a tiny bit more into it. Some people like a simple and clean reticle, while others like a reticle with many useful hold point to use. Being that I am a bit of a distance junkie, regardless of the rifle I’m using at the time, I find myself in the second camp. I like a reticle with plenty of hold-over positions to use and accompanying wind holds as well. While the reticle in the 6T is plenty useful, it wouldn’t have hurt my feelings to see a bit more detail to the reticle. That said, Sig also offers the 7.62 Extended Range reticle in this scope, which is better for that kind of shooting. I completely understand that most people might not need or care about this, and if you like just a few simple hold-over points, you will more than likely love this reticle.

Conclusion
In a market that is flush with many great options across nearly every price range, the Sig Sauer Tango 6T stands out as a spectacular LVPO. I think you would have to spend significantly more money to get a noticeably better scope with these same features. This while the 6T is significantly better looking than scopes that are only 10-20% less on the market. So at least in my opinion, it would be worth spending a little bit more to step up the Sig Sauer Tango 6T.

-CBM