Category Archives: hunting

WHAT GEAR DO I NEED FOR AN ELK HUNT?

Elk hunting is a dream hunt for many of us and I am lucky enough to have had the chance over and over throughout the years. If an elk hunt is on your list of must-do hunts, I have put together my thoughts on the gear you won’t want to be without when you go. Of course, a good gun and the right ammo are always the right start, but there’s other gear you’ll also want to have on hand.

The Rocky Mountains are a bountiful and impressive place to hunt, whether you are after monster mulies, elk, or one of the other beautiful species herein, it can be quite a job. Today we’ll speak specifically about the elk hunting side of it and the differences you should know between elk hunting and smaller animals like deer. Continue Reading here…

Impact Velocity, and its effects.

Don’t miss the video at the end of this article

With modern rifles and bullets, the distances we shoot at animals keeps creeping further and further out. But as bullets travel further away, they lose more and more velocity. How much they lose, and how fast they impact is a very important subject when it comes to cleanly killing an animal. We’ve killed many animals over the years, and its an interesting and important subject. And one particular instance is one I’d like to discuss today.

Last fall, a friend of mine shot a small deer at 900 yards with a 6.5 Creedmoor using a 143 ELDX. This was certainly towards the end of the envelope of energy and velocity for that combo, but it did the job as good as one could hope. The deer took a single shot quartering away, the impact hit just behind the rib cage and passed completely through the animal, exiting through the front of the chest. The heart was punctured, and the deer made it about forty yards before tumbling down the hillside. Everything looked textbook as far as killing it cleanly and quickly. The impact velocity was right around 1800 FPS which according to Hornady should have been enough to open the bullet.

After much hiking to get to the deer, we found a massive blood trail and a perfectly perforated buck. We retraced his steps, as well as the video we recorded looking to see all the details. I was absolutely amazed when as we stood there recounting the events, I looked down to see the bullet laying there in the dirt, not far from where the deer lay dead. The bright copper shown against the damp hillside. Even though the bullet had hit a rock after exiting the deer, it had come to rest nearby. Our immediate impression was “that doesn’t look right”. The bullet had barely opened at all, it had only lost its plastic tip, and bent the front of the bullet off to one side. On further inspection back at the house, the bullet weighed 142.3 grains. Probably just the weight of the lost plastic tip.

The recovered 143 ELDX weighed 142.3 grains

Despite the bullet not opening as best we could tell, it still did plenty of damage. But it seems the 1800 FPS in this instance wasn’t enough to cause sufficient deformation of the bullet. This is one of the reasons I like to use “softer” bullets when shooting long-range, they are much easier to rupture.

Note the hole through the heart of the deer mentioned

Impact velocity greatly effects the bullets ability to do damage. I have found several bullets in elk over the years, that obviously didn’t do the job. Whoever shot those bullets may still be scratching their head wondering what happened. Bullets can fail to perform just like anything else, which is one reason why I stress shot placement so often. This event is a perfect example why, even though the bullet did not rupture as designed, it still made a hole through the most vital of organs, causing a quick death for the animal in question.

Distance to the target, and the impact velocity of any given bullet is just one of the many things marksmen need to take into account when evaluating a firing solution. Another anecdote featuring the same bullet; a friend of mine shot a cow elk at approximately 600 yards, the bullet impacted broadside passing through both lungs and stopping in the offside shoulder. Again this one had lost its tip, and barely opened. The cow made it into the trees a few dozen yards, where it lay down and expired. In this case one would surely expect the bullet to have opened, as the impact was likely in the 2200 FPS range. And again, due to good shot placement, it worked despite the bullet not opening.

These are of course a couple of anecdotal examples, and surely not a full representation of this particular bullets performance. But it is certainly food for thought, and something to keep in mind. I have gone into much more detail on the subject in this article about shot placement, I’d invite you to read that one as well, and we can carry on the discussion.
I hope these discussions are helpful, the game we hunt deserve the best skillset we can prepare to avoid undue suffering.

-CBM

Elusive Rifles for More Elusive Prey

Many of those reading this story probably have some experience hunting, whether it be whitetail deer, black bear, or another one of the incredible game animals available to hunt in North America. But what you hunt every year, could be somebody else’s unicorn. I am lucky to hunt elk every year, spotting them, tracking them, eating them, watching them through a scope and so on. But if you’re a guy from Florida, the idea of seeing an elk or even hunting one may be just a pipe dream of the distant future. Today we’ll embrace the dream, and jump down the rabbit hole with both feet, how far we go depends only on your ambition.

A ghost in the clouds
My dream hunt might be different than yours, but I’ll bet it shares some of the same attributes. It begins at the very end of the world, up around the tree line where the air is thin and weather uncertain. High country strewn with dark wet clouds filled with sinister motives, and country so remote you may question the safety of every step. And yet so beautiful nothing can keep you from cresting the next hill to see what lies ahead. I dream of a Dall Sheep hunt up north, the romantic draw to such a wild place consumes the dreams I still have left. I’ve been lucky to experience some of the wildest country the lower forty-eight has, and just enough of Alaska to want everything it has to offer.Continue Reading Here…

The Arc of the Pronghorn

You probably read my last story about pronghorn antelope hunting, but if you didn’t I recommend you read Pronghorns and Prodigy Hunting after you finish this one. My wife had two doe pronghorn tags in her possession, and this is the story of one of those two. The day started out on the wrong foot, but who knew things would come back around our way.

It was September, and the cool air that covered the desert prairie was heavy with anticipation. The sun had just crested over the distant hills and as we had planned, we lay there looking over the sagebrush covered flats watching antelope roam. With her shivering hands cupping a warm drink, she smiled an eager smile. She is no stranger to the trigger, but just to make her feel extra confident, we took a few minutes to ensure she was comfortable shooting. The weapon of choice that day was the Desert Tech MDRX, ‘ol meat in the pot as its come to be known. Today the MDRX carried the newest conversion kit I had put together, with the help of ES Tactical I had fashioned a bolt and barrel in Hornady’s Six-millimeter ARC. You can read more about the caliber conversion kit here.
With the MDRX in her hands, and a magazine full of Hornady 105 BTHP ammunition, she lay down on the dusty ground. We had picked out a couple targets in the hillside opposite, where she now placed her aim. She fired a couple shots at three and four-hundred yards, all of which hit deadly close to her point of aim. With just the confidence she needed, we gathered up our gear, and set out to find a group of pronghorn we could hunt.

The MDRX with the 6mm ARC conversion kit

As the day would progress, we would face defeat after defeat. The wind never slowed down, and the jumpy antelope were ready to clear the county at the first sign of attention. But we pressed on, missing several opportunities for a kill. We made our way around the valley, trying to find a small secluded group that were tucked in somewhere. The wind would nearly peel open your eyelids on the open prairie, so we focused on the deep draws that offered some protection. We were doing great at finding antelope, but they were all nice bucks for which we didn’t have a tag. As the afternoon turned over to evening, clouds began to cover the landscape. The wind that had blown hard all day had brought us in a cold front, and with it was a bit of a calm. As rain drops began to lightly fall around us, we continued our search for a group of does.

We finally spotted a small group at the top of a steep draw, probably four or five does with a nice little buck. I had that feeling, you know the feeling when you just know its going to work out? We scrambled in the direction of a good shooting position, getting our gear out as we moved. While she got behind the rifle, I got my spotting scope up, and ranged the group. The distance was just under four-hundred and fifty yards if I remember right. While I watched the antelope feed on the hillside, she loaded the rifle and prepared for the shot. I could tell she was excited, her hands shook as she moved.
Once she was ready, we focused on the group, and picked the best target and waited for a good broadside shot. The excitement grew as the seconds passed and rainfall continued to escalate. The shot found its mark, hitting the doe and breaking the off-side shoulder. We watched as she stumbled across the hillside, startling the rest of the group who then followed her escape. She didn’t make it far, and we headed down, then up the draw to claim our prize. The Arc had done a fine job, as did the shooter, and we were going to make the best of it.

After dragging the doe to the truck, we cleaner her out and filled her with ice for the ride home. Where she would be skinned and washed before a long and cold rest until it was time to hit the butcher table.

We enjoyed every piece of that antelope, whether its steaks, roasts, or ground into burger. My wife has even taken to finding her own burger in the freezer to make into lovely dinner dishes for the family like meaty lasagna. It is truly a great way to live, sharing the experiences and the tasty prize with family. Thanks for coming along, we’ll see you on the next hunt.

-CBM

The Best Duck Hunting Shotguns

In my younger days, I spent a great deal of time in the duck marsh. Showing up late to my first class in high school was not unheard of, neither was disappearing from my last class. Where I come from, if the weather is right, nothing can stop a determined duck hunter from getting knee deep in cold, icy and muddy waters in hopes of a limit of birds. My swamp was on the shore of the inland sea that is Utah’s Great Salt Lake, the smelly mud-bowl surrounded by marshlands is a waterfowl’s dream come true. To this day when the wind blows out of the west, and that familiar pungent smell is carried in on a breeze, it takes me back to those early mornings and late evenings trying to ID ducks against the pale gray backdrop as the sun set. continue reading here.

Why Hunt with a Suppressor?

New and exciting technologies keep entering the hunting market, whether its electronics, optics, or some other new development, it can be hard to keep up with the times. But one of the fastest growing trends is hardly new, its actually very old technology.
People have been using suppressors for a very long time, perhaps the only reason they have recently seen a surge in popularity is perception. The laws surrounding suppressors are strict, and regulated at the federal level. Many people are still under the impression that they are illegal entirely, which was a popular but inaccurate concept propagated by years of ignorance.
In today’s discussion, we are going to talk about suppressors and how they can be a very useful tool when hunting.

CONTINUE READING HERE

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