Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Highlights from this season so far

Over the past few months quite a number of pictures have made their way into my in-box and I felt it was time to post a few.

Terry sent in this pair of pics showing another old Oregon Blacktail Buck that hesitated just a few seconds to long before bolting for cover. Terry shot the buck with a his 300 H&H Legend at less than 60 yards. His smiling face and this Legend have been featured on this Blog many times. While he owns more than a few firearms and 2 other Legends this 300 H&H seems to be his "Go To" rifle of choice. The paint job is in tatters, the bluing fading on all the edges and the recoil pad looks like solid road kill. Terry shudders at the thought of refurbishing this work horse,  to quote him "you don't mess with perfection". I'll leave it at that.

Louis once again teamed up with Outfitter Travis Adams and Bucks & Bulls to take his best Mule Deer to date and this one is truly a bomber. Travis had this buck patterned at least as to the basin the buck preferred to hang in during the late summer. This buck had eluded a string of hunters for the past couple years to then reappear on winter range after the seasons had closed. Throughout the week the buck was spotted only a few times and was always well out of range and in an area that made a stalk just out of the question. Rather than blow the buck out of the country Travis elected to methodically wait and watch undetected. By the end of the week both Louis and Travis were sunburned and had bloodshot eyes from endless hours of glassing but Travis stayed put. Did I mention there are un-born fawns that already fear Travis

Late in the hunt the buck was seen in a location that just might allow them an approach to get in range. Quietly they made a move to close the distance on the bedded buck. Pinned down and finally out of cover Louis set up and mulled over his options, it was time to fish or cut bait. Wind direction and speed were discussed as there was still a lot of rarified air between the hunters and the bedded buck. Louis had recently hit targets at this distance and the conditions at that moment were just about ideal, he chose the appropriate range line on the reticle and leaned into the bipod. Travis ranged the buck one last time. 

Louis held for some wind and then surgically placed a single bullet into the buck at just shy of 6 football fields with his Legend 300 Weatherby.  It was over before the rifle's report faded into the aspens.

Louis has practiced for this type of shot for many, many years. Always preferring to get as close as possible to what ever he was about to shoot at.  This shot was calculated, the conditions checked and double checked before the round left the muzzle. Some will say "luck" while I say well done gentlemen, very well done. What a hog.

Hulme and Athol put together another Safari, this one in Mozambique. Old friends make fine hunting companions and this pair have shared more than a few campfires together over the years. Athol and the tracking team managed to turn up this heavy bossed, grumpy old bull and Hulme killed him cleanly with his 375 H&H Legend and a single solid. No Drama, no blood trails, no issues, just bang, thump !

Richard traveled into the NWT in search of a Moose and maybe a Wolf if he was lucky enough to see one. He was carrying a Legend chambered for 375 H&H we had built quite some time ago that until now he had never been in the field. The hours in the saddle and diligently glassing into Artic basins finally paid off with this really fine bull. Not a lot of New Yorkers will be eating Moose tenderloin this winter but I know one family will have plenty of steaks on the grill for some time to come.

The Wolf came in circumstances that really defy all reason but not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth Richard dropped the Wolf with a single round while he was fixing something to eat. You just never know what will show up for a meal. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Left Hand 375 H&H Legend


Enclosed are images created by Kevin Dilley owner of Klick Photography and a left Handed 375 H&H Magnum completed not to long ago. This rifle is the second rifle commissioned for a woman hunter to balance out her hunting battery. I have no doubt it will be well used in the years to come. The rifle is 95% stainless steel with a few carbon steel parts that were included that were then coated with NP-3 PLUS to match the parent Stainless Steel hardware. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Testing the Vortex Spotting Scope Part 2

It hasn't been a full year since I acquired the Vortex 16-48x65mm HD Razor Spotting Scope. It Arrived in Mid October last fall and has been put to good use by myself, family and number of friends I loaned it to for their test driven impressions throughout the winter and spring. To date nobody have given it the thumbs down in any regard, quite the opposite. Over the winter bird season it road along in the truck to use whenever a scope could be used to observe wintering big game, small game, coyotes on the hunt, or looking into the heavens at Saturn and Jupiter.

We used it to classify some deer on a local ranch one very bright winter morning along side two other much more costly scopes. Looking at the same deer bedded in the brilliant sunlight or deep in the cedar shadows the Razor held its own with the other Swarovski and Leica in most every respect, edge to edge clarity was more than adequate , image quality excellent as well. We're still dealing with the lame case and lens caps but that's really the only down side to the package that I have found.

Our Spring turkey season always lends an opportunity to use serious optics. Binoculars being the most important tool in the box when hunting Gobblers in our area. You can forget a call, forget your lunch, maybe leave the decoys in the truck that day, but you'd better have your binoculars. A spotting scope becomes the "Big Eye" if you have one along and brought into full advantage for locating birds across canyons sitting in roost, locating an active strutting ground without disturbing the birds and determining if that band of turkey's is made up of mostly hens and one happy, but wore out gobbler ? In which case you'd better looking for a lone tom or band of gobblers rather than cover the distance to to try and call a love struck tom away from a pile of hens. Our terrain allows for locating many of these big birds from miles away at times and spotting scope can save you a hike to look for more promising prospects.

This last weekend we hiked to the southern tip of Antelope Island, roughly a 8.5 mile round trip and I had the Vortex slung over my shoulder for the duration. The birding that day was excellent, with an assortment of big game tossed into the mix for observation as well.

At one location my daughter spotted three coyotes on a beach about 700, yards off one of the main roads and we stopped and spent some time looking them over through the Razor. Mirage was not a problem that day even when boosted to 48X.

With the 65mm objective and reasonable length this spotting scope does fit nicely into a pack, the weight factor in not an issue and the optical quality is even better than I had expected for the price point. The Vortex line is carried nationally and it's easy to find a dealer in your area by going to www.vortexoptics.com.

Turkey Hunting pics taken and supplied by Marcus Jardine

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Making A Plan

My friend Campbell Smith uses the phrase " making a plan" all the time. In association by default I now use the same phrase very often myself. I was at this moment making a plan.

600 yards across a canyon and well below us were at least two Turkey gobblers and a undetermined number of hens. It was 5pm on the last day of the Utah youth Turkey season. The storm force winds that had plague us earlier in the day had died considerably and this flock of birds had probably sought sanctuary on the sun bathed slopes in the valley beneath us. Lexi had the only tag today and she glassed the birds as I pondered an approach. I had sent a string of calls towards the birds when I had first spotted them. I was answered with a gobble and long string of yelps from a hen. Normally hunting toms with hens in our area can be a fools excise as no tom will leave hens to climb 600 yards straight up a ridge to maybe find another girlfriend when he's happily surrounded by attentive females. Such was the situation at hand.

I elected to drop back down the old two track we had been walking on, loop lower down the slope, slip into the canyon, cross the creek and then climb to a slightly elevated level from the feeding and loafing birds. Then sneak to within 150 yards, set up some decoys and try to entice the whole mob to come our way. The tactical part had merit, however turkeys clearly have a mind of their own. Some of my best ideas have been shamefully rendered into memorable avian comedies.

With this plan in mind we picked up and moved. Within 30 minutes we came into an open bench in the maple jungle we had been climbing through. A few years before Lexi and I set up in the very location in hopes of turning around a big band of Gobblers that unfortunately never stopped walking away from us. I looked around and found the tree I wanted Lexi to sit against. Three trunks grew together out of the ground in such a way that would break up her silhouette nicely and give her a commanding view. This set up was going to be to tight for all three of us but it was the best we had to work with. Quickly and quietly I walked 20 yards ahead of Lexi's position and began pulling decoys out of my pack. Since our arrival we hadn't heard a bird. Within minutes all was set and I walked back to Lexi to address any last details. She had her shooting sticks up and at the right height to give her the best field of fire on either side of the decoys. I kneeled down and told her how I hoped this might all unfold. Her mother and I would be behind her out of sight of the decoys regrettably. I said the birds would likely arrive on her 2 O'Clock, to make sure the the bird has a beard, try and pick the largest tom if given the opportunity, don't hit the decoys, and for gosh sake don't hit any hens. Due to the terrain and the slope off the bench the birds would likely appear suddenly and be on alert. She had to be ready before they stepped into view. Only their calling would tip their arrival.

As I have written on this blog before my daughter is now a veteran on this piece of property having hunted turkeys here with me since she was 4. At 15 she already has keen respect for these birds. As we were the only team on the property I felt safe in letting her deal the cards so to speak. "Ready" I asked "Yes" came a hushed reply has she pulled her face mask up to just below her eyes. Rebecca and I retreated 30 yards behind her and sat down for what could be a long wait. We could see my daughter very well but nothing beyond her position. The stage was set.

I opened up with a string of loud yelps and for the next half an hour repeated yelps, purrs and cackles. I felt at least at this moment that soft seductive yelps wouldn't do us any good, I needed to up the ante. The woods were silent. Lexi remained motionless. About 40 minutes had gone by when a muted gobble could be heard coming from our 2 O'Clock. I sent back a reply, minutes later a more distinct gobble could be heard, an old hen chimed in with gusto, other birds opened up as well, the flock was inbound. I looked at my wife and whispered "this is going to work". I glanced towards my daughter and saw she was riveted to what ever was in view before her. I heard her release the safety on the 20 gauge and shift the barrel ever so slightly to her left. The next gobble sounded as if the bird was sitting on my hat, another hen opened up and complained about the group of new arrivals in their neighbor hood. Then a second and third hen voiced an opinion, My eyes were glued to my daughter, Lexi shifted every so slightly once again and the 20 gauge roared. I could plainly hear the sound of flailing wings that would never sail on canyon winds again.

Warning puts of confusion erupted from running and flying birds as I stood up. Lexi was already walking towards the gobbler which was now almost motionless. The Federal Heavy 7's had ended the birds life instantly. I was beaming, her mother was beaming, Lexi was respectful and silent for some time, a quality that I admire in her a great deal. Eventually she broke into a smile and raised one hand to show us that she now had a bad case of the shakes. If you ever loose the shakes it time to put the guns away. She had done everything right under her own intuition, the best experience is earned and never given.

I guessed the bird would tip the scales at 16 to 18 pounds he had an ample beard and a set of nicely polished spurs. We took some pictures and as Lexi validated her permit and tagged the gobbler she told us that indeed two gobblers came in along with a number of hens, I asked how many and her reply was she wasn't at all sure as she was busy at that moment and had forgotten how to count.

I drew the bird, we picked up the decoys and then we began the long walk to the truck. On the way out we saw a number of deer and another small band of turkeys that ran across the two track in front of us. Not much was said on the walk down canyon it wasn't necessary the smile on my daughters face told the story as I'm telling you now. It was a good day on the hill.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Blue Sheep of Nepal

Frank has just returned from Nepal where he went in search of Blue Sheep with Samsher Parajuli and Global Safaris Nepal (info@huntnepal.com). I know little about this part of the world or the hunting that can be found there. But I am always impressed when I receive pics from returning clients that show the panoramic beauty of this mountain terrain and the definite impression of being way off the grid. Much of the game hunted in these far flung points of the globe is done at fairly high altitudes with a slope angle that can resembles a cows face.

Frank and the other hunters in the party left Kathmandu by helicopter and were flown into Dorpathan Hunting Reserve headquarters. It was there that the three day trek into the base camp began.

The base camp sat at an altitude that was just under 9500 ft. If you require Lodge Style accommodations for you own personal comfort then this venture may not be your cup of tea. I have been more than happy for long periods of time sleeping in Dome tent or as a friend of mine has always mused "living in the dirt". Like any other hunt you go prepared with the anticipation of seeing new country and deal with what ever weather or discomforts that are thrown at you.

The actual hunting for this adventure was conducted at elevations higher still with Frank killing a fine Ram on the very first day at approximately 16,000 ft above sea level, rarefied air to be sure. He reports that many sheep were seen and he felt fortunate to have taken a ram so early in the hunt, a testament to the conservation practices in the Reserve.

He carried a now well used and tested Legend chambered for 300 H&H to accompany him on the hunt. It is not a bantam featherweight so often prescribed for success today but instead of standard sporter weight configuration at just about 9 pounds scoped and loaded. The bullet was a Barnes 168gr TTSX with the single shot being taken at under 200 yards.

The coloration and coats of these Blue sheep are beautiful to say the least and somewhat remind me of the varied colors you encounter when looking at Fannin Rams in North America. A unique hunt in breath taking terrain and a memory to savor on the long hike out and for years to come.

I was once asked by a non hunting friend out of genuine curiosity "why do you go to all the physical hardship and effort to hunt for game in areas such as this" "Why put up with days without a shower and the lung searing climbs onto the next ledge or ridge line, why? The answer is simple, one day I will no longer be able to and that is reason enough.

Well done Frank, Waidmannsheil.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A View From The Porch

I got am e-mail yesterday from my sister in law that carried some expected but somber news. John Carr Jones Sr. had passed away at age 93 at home with his family by his side. Johnny owned and ran a cattle farm outside of Whitehall Virginia.  My wife's family were neighbors with the Jones's, separated on one side by a couple of creek bottoms, some rolling hardwood ridges and ultimately Johnny's Rhino proof fencing. The man could build a fence.

All three of Johnny's 3 children Jack, Cecilia, and Mary attended the same Jr & Sr High Schools as we did. My relationship with Johnny was born out of a similar appreciation for Turkey and Deer Hunting. While we never hunted together we did cross paths occasionally on the few two tracks and country roads that ran up and down the hollows and ridges around Pasture Fence Mountain, Foxes Mountain and Sugar Hollow.

These chance meetings were always welcome encounters. I would usually be dripping in sweat coming out of the woods and heading for the cabin I lived in at the foothills below Pasture Fence. Johnny would pull to a stop,  roll down the window and shut off the engine. In a soft Virginia drawl he'd ask how I'd done, what I'd seen and where I'd been? I think it was the miles covered that always amused him the most. He'd push back his weathered cap and shake his head. "You're working to hard for that buck deer" he'd say softly with a chuckle. We'd talk about deer we'd seen, deer I'd missed, the ones he'd killed, acorn mast, if we'd seen any Bears and if Dick Holly's Bear dogs were running anything worth keeping up with. The subject of Turkeys seen, flushed and maybe called back always came up in conversation along with old Gobblers that never fell to the gun, cool mornings and being grateful to be amongst it all with his family.

In November laying on the seat next to him would be well kept Model 94 30-30, typical for the area. When the conversation was done he'd always offer me ride to put me closer to the cabin but I always elected to walk out. Eventually he'd give me a nod and a smile, start up the engine and roll on down the road to tend to things at the farm. What I can remember saying inwardly is there goes a truly happy man.

Within a few years I picked up and left Virginia and headed West. For the next 20 years trips back to Albemarle County were sporadic at best. Children were born, grand kids arrived, and all the while cattle grew fat in the Jones's fields. Johnny and I never wrote or called one another. But whenever I could and needed a break from the chaos of family and in-laws I would make a bee line for Johnny's house. If the weather was cool the visit would take place in his living room if the weather was mild it was always on the porch.

Johnny's porch faced East and just beyond the house his fields dropped out of sight into the Doylesville River. Looking Northeast you had a panoramic view of Foxes Mountain and to the North the mountains above and beyond Browns Cove. If I planned it right we'd be sitting there as the sun sank into the Blue Ridge behind us. On that porch over the years we tried to solve a few world problems, figure the rail weight and profit on steers and tried to determine how a Gobbler can completely disappear from sight without so much as leaving a turd to prove he was once in front of you.

Three years ago I saw Johnny for the last time. It was November just before the deer season was to begin. I had been told by family that Johnny was dealing with heavy medical issues that may one day plague us all. While his body was visibly frail his smile was the same as I had always remembered. We shook hands and once again began to catch up as we had so many times before. A care giver quit looking in on us after awhile and the afternoon fell into step as it had for the past 39 years. Johnny's voice was softer than I could remember but no part of his spirit was subdued, his mind was still keenly honed. We chuckled a lot. Finally the gal now entrusted with Johnny's medical affairs said it was time for us to draw it to a close. We shook hands one last time and he ended the meeting by saying "I hope I'm still around for your next visit, but I don't think that'll happen, it's been a pleasure young man, you take care now, give my best to your family"

I'll be in VA this spring. I will cross over the Moormans River just below Whitehall and follow the Doyelsville upstream to the country road that leads to Johnny's farm house. If I plan it right I'll be there just about dusk. I want to sit on that porch just one more time and talk to an old friend.