Tag Archives: hunting

Sacrifice, Harvest, and Killing

Do you think we are the only predators on this planet that contemplate these actions? What separates you and I from other top predators?
I have given it much thought over the years, and today I thought I might write about a death we should be satisfied with.

I often hear people refer to hunting and killing an animal as a harvest. This nomenclature has never sat well with me, as it is typically used in referrence to an agricultural crop. The commercialized hunting market seemed hasty to adopt this word, and for perfectly understandable reasons. Hunting and hunters are unfortunately ever less popular in modern society, and Harvest sounds friendlier than Killing.
That said, I dont like the word. You dont harvest a deer, I dont walk out in the pasture and pull a bundle of deer out of furrows. Nor do I pick a flock of ducks from a bush.

Hunting is so much deeper than that, more intimate. There is a very dedicated effort wherein a good hunter exhausts time, money, and practice of his craft in order to take the life of his prey. Better hunters spend even more time researching, scouting, and perfecting their skill. The crux of all this effort is to be a more effective and ethical predator, a skilled killer. It is a costly investment, both materially and emotionally.
I am a killer, I kill animals, and for that I make no apology. There are many reasons I hunt, most of which you’re probably familiar with if you’ve read much of this blog; food, game management, and especially the participation in natures way of taking and giving life. We are part of it, not some distant observer.
You may have heard “wolves lose no sleep over the opinions of sheep”, and just as the wolves sleep soundly in their dens, we should not apologize or soften our stance as both apex predators, and as stewards of the land we rule. Removing ourselves from the food chain does a disservice to the overall ecology, especially when it’s for self righteous reasons.

Sacrifice is an acient principle, it is a beautiful and fullfilling concept that gives meaning to what can often seem like a sufferable existance.
Men have sacrifced animals (for various reasons) since the beginning. And again, I often hear the phrase, this animal gave its life for us. It is used as evidence to care for and respect the flesh of the animal, a fine result but based on a flawed perspective.
Much as I dont care for using Harvest, I also dont feel right about This animal sacrificed its life for us.
Because if it were up to the animal in question, it would still be alive. I draw a similar distinction to my previous point about nomenclature, it goes much deaper than just This animal sacrificed its life for us. This animal was sacrificed against its will for us to live from its loss. There is a big difference you see.
Our agency allows us to choose what to sacrifce in our lives. Parents (both two and four legged) sacrifice for their offspring, soldiers sacrifice themselves for their countrymen, etc. But when a sacrifice is not made of free will, it carries an extremely heavy responsibility. When sacrificing an animals life, honor demands that its flesh be used with little to no waste, in a respectful and responsible manner.

These truths I believe are eternal, and there from comes our moral ethos as responsible hunters. It is what separates us from other apex predators like the wolf. It is the reason our conscience is so heavily taxed when we lose an animal, or when we cause un-nessesary suffering.
It is difficult for man not to think very highly of the animals we hunt. We spend so much time watching, admiring, and challenging them with our own skills, Yet even so we are frequently bested by them. This relationship betters us both, and elevates its value to us.
It is also what gives us such great satisfaction as we eat a tasty venison dinner. A meal that was achieved through great effort, and sacrifice, tastes so much better than one that was not.

Say what you mean, and use the appropriate words that accompany your actions. There is no doubt about the intentions of our brother the wolf when he stares down his nose at his prey. Neither should there be any doubt about our own intentions, and we should honor the sacrifice by giving the most swift and humane death we are capable of. A death we ourselves could make peace with.

-CBM

“Why Do You Hunt?”

The world we live in is infinitely more convinient than it was even twenty years ago, we can have almost any commodity delivered to our door. We almost feel cheated if our food isn’t ready in moments, the services we use are expected to be streamlined and painless. With our lives being simplified and aided by technology and ingenuity, why do so many of us still find virtue in the massive efforts of hunting down our own food?

Despite the convenience of modern life, it is still no easy task to find a wild animal, and through one manner or another convince it to surrender to the dinner table. There are tedious applications and preparations to do, months in advance, there is tackle to make or procure, and that is to say nothing of the actual physical work of scouting, hiking, butchering, hauling out, and preserving our kill. Depending on the hunt and what we put into it, it could be cheaper to just purchase our protein.

Like many of you, I reject the excuses made by our modern society to leave the forest, to gather my food in little plastic containers. I choose to hunt for many reasons, some of which I can articulate, and others I may not be able to put to paper.

I was made to observe nature, but also to be part of it. An observer of nature is exposed to its beauty and cycle, but as a predator within the circle, you get far more than just a snapshot. The vivid imagery one gets when participating in the life and death struggle of nature cannot be seen, it is experienced. Everything from the beauty of a sunrise, to the revolting stench of death are just part of the highs and lows you get to be a part of. The suffering that comes with the challenge of hunting makes the moments of beauty and success much more than victory, even triumph. As an active part of the ecosystem I inhabit, I am no longer an outsider, but part of the same circle as the animals I hunt.

For all our technological advances, we cannot beat nature’s prescription for clean healthy food. Everyday as I prepare food for my family, it is with great pride that I feed them clean and healthy meats that are free from so many of the side effects of agriculture. Knowing that our food lived a free life, moving as it pleased, eating what nature provides gives me satisfaction as we fullfil our part in the food chain.  My children watch and participate as well, which brings me to my next point.

My children know exactly where their food comes from. Most of the time they are with me, they get to see what it takes to bring home these tasty meals. They know what it costs, they are intimately aware with the effort required to get it done. They know the value of the life of the animal, and the sacred responsibilty to respect it. Our traditions may or may not be important, but respect for sacrifice such as this is a must. And while speaking on tradition and its value, I’ll add this;

Doing something because we always have, is not necessarily a good reason to continue so. It is the virtue and moral value of our traditions that should earn them a place in our future.  Handing down a gun for example is traditionally something of great importance to many of us, but it means nothing if the responsibility and respect for it are not expressed in kind.

My Brothers and I, together in adventures of every kind.

Perhaps the greatest reason for the traditions and hunting in general, is the deep conection and camaraderie we feel with our fellows. Nothing I have experienced can quite compare to the friendship and company of loved ones who stand beside us in our adventures. I have so many close friends, like Ive said before, many of them are related by blood and others that should be. Most of these relationships have been cemented in both good times and bad, usually on a cold mountain also involving darkness, steep terrain, snow, rain, fire, heavy lifting, late nights and early mornings. It may sound bad, but the triumph over all is what makes memories. And memories are the lasting beautiful thing that we take with us to turn into tradition.

I will never apologize for being a hunter, and I will fight for the right to do so always. Not just for the reasons above, but because I take responsibility for what I eat instead of allowing others to kill on my behalf. Instead of distancing myself from the unpleasantness of taking a life, I respectfully do it on my own. Cleaning, butchering, and preserving it as best I can. Instead of absent consent, then scavenging on the sanitized remains at the market.

It is my hope that our future will be full of great experiences based on honored traditions. And that those traditions will keep the virtues of hunting safely treasured in the hearts of those that will someday take our place.

-CBM

Two Many First’s, the 25 Creedmoor goes Deer Hunting

A young man’s first deer is a memory that lasts a lifetime, but this story has more than one first time.

The 25 Creedmoor project that I named Operation Quarter Lord, has taken down its first big game animal. But it doesn’t stop there either, it is also the first time a Blackjack bullets ace 131 has been used on a deer.

It started late one afternoon, after a heavy rain storm had passed through the dry desert canyons of Utah. Myself, my Brother, and a good friend of ours headed up into the hills to see if we could get on to a deer or two. Also in tow was my friends son Aiden, who was eager to fill his first deer tag.

Can you spot the buck?

Only a few minutes after setting up the spotting scope, we had eyes on a fine little buck who would fill the tag nicely. The gun obviously was new to him, it was still new to me for that matter but I was very confident in its potential due to much practice.

Aiden was quickly voluntold to get in position for a shot, and after a few moments he more or less said “shooter ready”. We all focused through our perspective optics, and waited for the buck to give us a good broadside shot. When he did, just a moment later, everything went quiet, and we all concentrated on the small buck, six hundred and ten yards away.
Thats no short poke, but this wasn’t Aiden’s first rodeo either. He has practiced all summer shooting further distances with a custom .223 Remington his father built.

Excitement was in the air, and even my own heart pounded. We waited silently as Aiden took his time to get a good hold, and calmly broke the trigger.

I watched as the ultra flat shooting Ace flew through the cool evening air, barely arching above the target due to the uphill angle. It found its mark, as I have found it always does, impacting the young buck behind his left shoulder. He staggered forward a few steps, looking as though he was going to take a dive, but since he didn’t, Aiden sent round two. Running the bolt on the Tikka like some kind of pro. The second bullet also impacted the bucks chest, and after a couple more staggers, and coughing up much blood, he rolled over and died.

The excitement was thick in the air, a Boy’s first deer, a Father’s first successful hunt with his Son, and ontop of that, my excitement for a project perfectly executed.

The deer was dragged back down to the truck, cleaned and inspected, then back home where he was summarily skinned and washed for butchering.

The excitement never dims, be it the first, or just another hunt. These adventures bring so much flavor to our lives, and tables. I can only hope it stays so.

-CBM

Exit wound on the offside

High Tech Hunting

Has technology pushed back the goal posts in hunting?

I can remember, not too long ago, when shooting a deer from a distance like 600yds or more would get you raked over the coals by the general hunting public. I remember telling my own Father about my aspirations of hitting targets at 1000 yards, and hearing his skepticism. I remember a well known gunsmith telling me that it was silly to twist a .223 Remington barrel for 75 grain bullets and higher. “Everything else peeters out past six or seven hundred yards” I told him. Again, came the refrain; “you cant shoot that far.” 
Like Ralphie, in the famous Christmas Story, I felt like nobody understood my dream. Nobody could see what I saw in my mind. But there was a wave coming, and it was fueled by science, technology, and at least in my case, a quest for ballistic perfection.

Don’t get me wrong here, its not that I simply wanted to kill something from as far away as possible, that could be borderline recklessness. What I wanted was something more, I wanted to build a rifle or rifles that would make me unstoppable at hitting small targets at distances like half a mile or more. And to that end the ability, if needed, to take my game wherever it presented itself be it near or far. It’s easy now, to see my former folly. I had focused so hard on equipment, and failed to see my part as a marksman that is equally important. Thankfully, these Rocky Mountains are a great educator. In today’s hardware driven market, it is hard not to fall for the sales pitch of this rifle will make you a sniper. Many of the best manufactures sell more than just hardware, they sell you training to go with it. Dont be a fool thinking that your wallet will make up for your aspirations.

You can buy accuracy to a degree, but you cant buy skill.



There is so much more to making a good shot, than just the hardware. Skill is equally important, perhaps more so. “Its the Indian, not the arrow” many people say. You can put a good rifle in the hands of a skilled marksman, and he will deal deadly force against anything within range. But even the finest precision rifle in the unwashed hands of a novice may be useless beyond its point blank aiming radius.

I should move on from the generalizations and get down to real information we can use. The foundations of a good shot are anchored firmly on several things, I dont claim any kind of authority or prestige, so I’ll just throw em out there in the order I see em.

  • A properly built and accurate rifle, capable of  Minute of Angle (MOA) accuracy
  • A properly trained marksman, who can yield at least MOA accuracy in expected conditions
  • Ammunition matched to the rifle providing at least MOA accuracy

MOA is a good start, but ideally you should strive for much better

If you cover those three basic pillars, you are well on your way. But all three of them have been around for at least half a century, so why has it taken so long to break these time cemented barriers that I mentioned above? I think part of it is human nature, and conservative thinking.
If you cover these bases, all it takes is a little pinch of science and a dash of high tech equipment to shatter the barriers that once congested both minds and ranges.

Now lets talk a little bit about hunting. As I outlined in my last piece, killing an animal, is about placing enough energy in the right spot. To me, that is what accuracy is all about, being able to hit my target exactly where I want to. The capacity to place a shot accurately should be the main determining factor in a hunter’s killing radius. If two hundred yards is as far as you can shoot accurately, then you would be imprudent to shoot beyond that.
Now we have come back to my original point, which was people looking down their noses at long range shooting, and long range hunting in particular. Shooting animals at long range distances is a taboo subject, mainly because people have either shot beyond their accuracy envelope, or watched someone else do it, and experienced poor results (wounded/unrecovered animals). Nobody likes seeing things like that happen, so most will shy away from questionable shots, which is a safe and conservative choice.

And so it was for the better part of the twentieth century, few dared to push the limits, mostly those in competition or LE/Mil circles. But to the average shooter, and particularly the hunter, the subject remained taboo and legend.
The advent of technology has brought a miriad of supplies to the industry, this has allowed everyone, even rednecks like me the ability to crash through the taboo with impressive impacts.
Some of these technological advances are worth pointing out, in no particular order:

  • Better bullets with higher Ballistic Coefficients allowing the bullets to cheat wind and resistance, keeping them on track further.
  • Better propellants, giving higher velocities, more stable and efficient burns.
  • Compact, accurate, and affordable laser rangefinders, allowing marksmen to extract the data they require to make proper predictions.
  • Precise and accurate telescopic sights, to adjust their shots according to data with exactness.
  • Reticles that allow precise measurements and wind holds.
  • Chronographs, Doppler radar, and other bullet flight testing equipment.
  • Ballistic computers, inexpensive and incredibly valuable for predictions.
  • Handheld Weather Stations, giving exact local atmospheric data.


All of these tools, as well as others have not only become available to the average shooter, but they are affordable, and fit in a pocket. The science of shooting has also progressed greatly, even in the short time I have been following it. And again, it is all available right at your fingertips.
So it seems no small wonder then, that what once seemed nearly impossible, is now commonplace. Even as little as twenty years ago, who would shoot at something so far away that a guess could be off by hundreds of yards? And the target could barely be made out in your 3X9 scope? And even if you doped the wind right, and managed the correct holdover, your bullet may have run completely out of energy before it gets there.
These high tech gadgets have given us the tools to cross all those T’s and dot all the i’s. Now you hear about it at every end of the internet, on hunting forums and Facebook pages.
Which begs the question; Are we now living in a post short-range world? And is taking those long shots any more irresponsible with the help of today’s technology? I guess that depends on how you look at it. I have heard both sides of the argument for some time, and I have yet to find a compelling argument against this new anomaly as long as one does his due diligence. For starters, anybody can make a poor shot on an animal. If you hunt long enough, you will eventually make a bad shot, we’ve all seen it. Whether its caused by buck fever, lack of experience, weather conditions, equipment failure, or any one of a million other things that people can blame it on rightly or wrongfully. I’m not making an excuse for it, nor am I defending it, it just happens. I would go as far as to say that more animals are wounded and go unrecovered at close range, than at long range. Simply due to the numbers, the majority of hunters probably never shoot beyond 400 yards. Hitch that to their hit a paper plate at 100yds mindset, and you can count on some animals going unrecovered or lost.

We’ve seen people miss easy and simple shots, as well as make incredible and amazing shots. I’ve said it before, a good shot should be no surprise to a marksman, it should be expected after much practice and experience making same or similar shots in the same conditions and circumstances regardless of range.
We know what it takes to make a good shot, we outlined that above. Making a good shot is the same whether you are shooting 200 yards or 800 yards, the difference of course is the variables that come into play. For example, the wind at 200 yards is much less a factor than it is at 800 yards. What might only blow your bullet off course by an inch or so up close, may blow you completely off target at the further distance. Also, at 800 yards, one MOA is eight plus inches, which is why sub MOA is a much better goal.

As long as one considers all the additional variables and their consequence, they can be mitigated and overcome.
Unless they cant be, what I mean by that is the further away your target the more downrange forces that simply cannot be anticipated unless you have forward observers or other assistance. And the further out the target, the more of these variables you have to worry about. Perhaps someday soon, technology will cover that as well.
Conditions will always dictate what you can and cant do, if it is a dead calm morning, you might be able to pull off something incredible. But if it is a switch wind breezy afternoon for example, it would be a wise choice to keep within your known envelope. A wise shooter, will always keep within his known realm of proficiency. But an even wiser shooter will recognize that his realm changes with atmosphere and weather. Keeping your finger in the air like a weak a politician, and paying close attention to what is happening around you, will go a long way towards letting you know when to shoot, or more importantly when not to shoot.

The ethics of long range hunting will be debated forever. There are those who think taking long shots will always be reckless, and there are those who are willing to take a long hard look at the data, make their calculations, and either take the shot, or choose another course of action.

Those who claim moral high ground, saying long range shots are unethical will always abound. But the truth is this; Not taking long range shots does not necessarily make you an ethical hunter, but staying inside your limits does. For some people, that limit may be four hundred yards, for others it might be twelve hundred yards. It is up to each individual to figure that out, and prove it to themselves repeatedly long before an animal falls in their crosshair.

I dont hold anything against those who dislike long range shots, they are entitled to their opinion. But the irritating part of the debate comes when someone tells me (or anyone else) that you shouldn’t do that, simply because they cant do it. They love to make insults like; that’s not really hunting, or real hunters get closer. And it occasionally comes from people who hunt from a shoot house, with a Keurig and heater, overlooking senderos strewn with corn feeders on land so flat you cant see more than a hundred yards without jackin up the shoot house. Its really an ignorant position to take, particularly when you don’t know someone else’s skill-set or practices.
Just because a person can make a long shot, doesn’t mean they cant stalk into arrow range of an animal. There was a time where big bore muskets were used to shoot deer at what we today would consider archery range, should we go back in the name of purity? Would our ancestors look down their noses at our modern equipment thinking there is no challenge? It was the push for innovation that took us from those ancient smooth bores and stick bows to the rifle and/or bow you hunt with today.

Another problem with this way of thinking is that it is a never ending slippery slope. Long range hunting < spot and stalking < archery stalking < spear hunting < knife hunting < teeth and hands < etc. < etc. Where does it end? Are we so dedicated to our own ideal of hunting that we would deny another’s? Surely if a stalk into bow range is your thing, with wooden arrows and handmade broadheads, who am I to stop you? Despite having seen many wounded animals with arrows still in them, I wouldn’t argue that archery is unethical, nor would I want to keep people from doing it.
That leads me to my last point.
The worst thing that we hunters can do as a group, is to fracture off into different tribes pitted against each other. The anti hunting movement is growing wildly, everywhere you look there are people trying to take away our ability to hunt and fish the way we enjoy. We as a group need to stand together more than ever, for divided we will surely lose.
I used to be infuriated by the mass hordes of hunters that would flood my favorite hunting spots. It drove me nuts that they didn’t understand my plan, and walked right through my hunt. As years have passed, and age has toned my opinions, I have changed my attitude. Those hordes have just as much right to be there as I do, and I would rather it be other hunters interfearing in my hunt than protesters.

Instead, I have evolved as a hunter. I now welcome these large groups of bush beaters, and like the predator that I am, I simply await the inevitable, like a hawk kiting in the sky. Instead of trying to beat them through the forest, and beat them to the stalk, I await the escaping game from a position where my skill allows me an advantage over the hordes. An advantage I intend to keep.

Technology and necessity have indeed pushed back the goal posts in todays hunt. I see nothing wrong with it, provided marksmen respect their prey enough to become swift and lethal, and stay within their known limits.

-CBM

Spring Chuckin’

I used to think that I had a favorite time of year, fall definitely is at the top of that list. And yet I still find myself thinking “this is my favorite time of year” during almost every conceivable part of our annual orbit.
Season change is in the air again, the cold of winter slowly yields its grasp on the mountains and valleys.The sun reaches further and further into the deep wooded canyons where I love to spend these spring weekends. Many people pass by these places, completely unaware of the fun and challenging hunting opportunity that lies within. I myself did the same for a long time, until one day a flash of movement revealed it to me.

It was many years ago now, but during a hike through the high rockies, I caught a glimpse of an animal I was unfamiliar with. The Yellow Bellied Marmot ,also known as a woodchuck,rockchuck, groundhog, or whistle pig, it is basically a giant squirrel. I’ve been known to put the hurt on squirrels, sod poodles, potguts, and any other variation of rodents and other little critters. You might say Im a bit of a varmint enthusiast. So when I first laid eyes on a Marmot, it was like the surfacing blow-hole of the mighty white whale.

Much time would pass before I became more familiar with these hansome and playfull little rodents. But I came to know their habitat, and where to look for them. And as fast as you can whistle, I was hooked on what has lovingly come to be known as Chuckin’.

Every spring since that first chuck took a dirt nap in the cool shade at 9000 feet, we go back into the high country looking for beautiful brown pelts. That first chuck, got named Rusty, due to the color of his coat.

Coldboremiracle Junior scouring the ridge-crests for quarry

This spring, we again make our preparations to go after Rusty’s kin. I say preparations because unlike the lesser squirrel species, the marmot is a keen eyed and wary little animal. Part of the reason I went so long without seeing them was because they are so easily hidden in the landscape where they live. And they are also quick to hide as well. One of my favoite reasons to hunt these cunning little creatures, is because they are the ideal practice for big game hunting. They live in the same canyons and hills where we hunt deer and elk, they are just as hard to sneak up on, and a good sized marmot is about the same size as a deer’s vital zone.
The Yellow Bellied Marmot is as tough as the country they live in, even though they usually weigh in at under ten pounds, a poor shot from even a deer sized caliber might not shut Rusty down. I have seen it many times, where a massive imapact from something like a 308 Winchester didn’t stop a chuck from getting back to his burrow before dying. One year, I specifically remember we hit a chuck off of a rock where we frequently hunted. He was hit, but he disappeared in the rocks leaving one of his legs behind. He managed to get down a burrow before we could finish him (something I dont enjoy). Well, the following year, we made it back to that same rock. By happenstance, it was the first trip of that spring, and my good friend was on deck when that first chuck was spotted from nearly three hundred yards away. He wasted no time getting a 140 grain Barnes Match Burner right between his ears. About a half hour later, we hiked up onto the rock where fresh blood still ran in a glistening puddle. It turns out that ol’ stumpy had survived his last encounter with our rifles, his leg had healed leaving a bald little knee. Had I known stumpy was such a survivor, I would have given him a pass.

These rugged and towering Rocky Mountains offer some beautiful vistas, and adding this challenging little hunt into such a beautiful landscape is the highlight of my spring. Long hikes through beautiful canyons, crossing noisy little creeks, sharing a sack lunch on soft green grass, its definitively my idea of a good time.
With small family groups scattered across the peaks of our mountains, it wouldn’t be hard to exterminate the little guys. So we try not to wear out any particular place, never more than one per den. Not only does this keep the clans going, but it also gives us more country to hunt and survey.

I use my Desert Tech SRS for chuckin’ . The multi-calber platform gives me many options.
Check out the video at the end of the article to see the action

Some of my best stalks have been on marmots. Crawling through waist deep grass, hiding behind rocks and trees, waiting for the perfect moment when Rusty either has his back turned, or perhaps wrestling with one of his burrow-mates. In the early spring, Ive even found myself on the edge of a massive snow cornice, freezing in my t-shirt and shorts, but with a perfect rest to shoot my distant prey.


The day that junior shot his very first chuck, we had snuck into a high alpine bowl, with a glacial pond in the middle. There we positioned ourselves on a high point with a perfect view of the many rock formations situated around us. Junior had just setup his little Crickett EX17HMR rifle looking at a rockpile with known inhabitants. But as we waited for one to appear, we heard a noise from just a few yards in front of us. As luck would have it, two young marmots popped up on a rock barely fifteen feet away from us. Whispering under our breath, junior slowly brought his rifle onto the target, and thumped one of the two.

Whether it is silently stalking through thorny shrubs, climbing through waist deep snow, or hanging precariously over a stone precipice, there is always a great challenge and fun to be had in the pursuit of these cunning little animals.
Sharpening your stalking and shooting skills, enjoying the beauty of alpine forests, and just the camraderie of the hunt with friends will make chucking another hunting delight to add to your spring.

-CBM