Thursday, December 1, 2016

You Just Never Know What Will Walk In The Door

I am occasionally asked to machine a set of grips for some rather ornate Handguns. A while ago I took the time to make a couple of additional fixtures to allow me a bit more versatility when called upon to do so. Making the fixtures took considerably more time to fabricate then to machine any actual pair of grip scales but the sweat equity was worth the up front investment. This pair of fixtures was used initially to machine a set of grips for a highly engraved Luger Parabellum. They allowed me to machine the raised inletting bosses on the underside of the Lugers grip panels for the 1st operation. Then allowed me to rotate the grip scales 180 degrees, index each scale back onto the fixture and then contour the exterior sides. On that particular project the scales exterior surface thickness was left  oversized to allow them to be carved per the clients request.

Recently another highly engraved Colt 1911 required a set of grips to be machined and the same fixture was pulled out of a drawer and dusted off. As the underside of the 1911 scales fit flush against the frame each scale was set up in the mill, machined smooth with an end mill then the screws holes were precisely located and drilled. Each scale was then rotated 180 degrees and each screw hole precisely relocated with gauge pins then counterbored for the screw heads. Low Head Allen screws were machined to mimic the original 1911 grip screws and then each scale was securely screwed to the fixture. Only then was the exterior profile and contour machined.

This 1911 had been expertly surface ground, detailed and polished by the Chad Tarbet and Brad Green at Intermountain Gunsmithing LLC. Once the metalwork was completed it was then completely engraved by Lee Griffiths. As Lee owns the 1911 he chose a World War 1 theme for the scenes. It is a damn shame I have no quality close ups of the scenes at this time as they are excellent.

This set of scales was machined from a very hard block of Turkish Walnut that Lee had squirreled away. It was thick enough for me to split in half to give the pair a "Book Match" look. I had considered using a block of Ebony in the same manner but the Turkish won the coin toss. The scales now finished have been left un-checkered to allow a prospective buyer the options of having them checkered, carved by Lee or remain as is.

Doug Turnbull's crew Carbonia Blued the majority of the finely polished parts after Lee had completed the engraving. The gold plating sets off a nice contrast with the French Grey, Carbonia blue and Walnut back drop. Then Intermountain was called to back into the game to refit and reassembled the 1911 without doing any cosmetic damage to the finished surfaces. I have it on good account that all the cell phones were turned off and Brad chose an Easy Listening radio station for the remainder of the assembly time.

The final result is eye catching to say the least and speaks volumes about the time and effort by bevy of craftsmen doing their best to achieve a desired goal. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

More Pics From The Field

It is Thanksgiving Day and the sun is shinning in Northern Utah. We have a light skiff of snow in the yard and for the 1st time this fall and the temps have finally dropped. One of our Spring Gobblers is in the oven and I can already predict the results. By early evening we should all be in gravy induced daze.

Here are some more recent pics from the field. Many have had a pretty productive fall so far.

Terry drew a coveted tag to hunt on the Eastern plains of Colorado for deer. The tag allows you to take either a Mule Deer or a Whitetail. Terry's plan was to try and kill one of the oversized Mule Deer that live amongst the many corn and alfalfa pivots that break up the short grass sand hills and arroyos. At the end of the 5th day plenty of bucks had been seen but nothing found really pushed the envelope. It wasn't for lack of effort, they just hadn't run into a stud. The Outfitter suggested Terry extend the hunt a few more days and the search continued. Late in the afternoon on the 7th day the team ran into this mature Whitetail tending a doe and the 300 H&H was quickly put into action, a single round closed the deal.

  This is Terry's largest Whitetail to date and fine buck it is. 

Craig and his son Will drew two Elk tags in their home state of Arizona and set about to make the most of the opportunity. Each has a battery of rifles to choose from but the hammer of choice for this hunt was a Legend 270 Winchester that has been used in Canada and Missouri with now predictable effects pushing a 140gr TTSX it has been lethal to say the least. 

I'm not sure if the two of them draw straws to hunt with the same rifle. Does one take a morning shift the other afternoon shift ? or if they alternated days ? but there seems be be a division of possession that works and everybody is happy. Another Legend is currently in the works so when completed they no longer will have to share the same rifle on every other Thursday and or alternate Leap years. 

Craig's bull was shot head-on and very close range and the TTSX drilled through the brisket and up- ended the bull right there. Ross Seyfried once said the Winchester 140gr Failsafe turned the 270 Winchester into a true Elk cartridge. While the Failsafe is now a thing of the past the TTSX may be with us for many Elk seasons to come. A smart man would lay in a case or two of his favorite weight and caliber.

The both Craig and Will are now in Missouri hunting Whitetails and I can only imagine who is carrying that Legend at this very moment ???

Both Karl and John drew deer tags Oregon this fall and rolled out their Legends in hopes of having to use them. For a number of year these two compadre's would go to Namibia on cull hunts as they wanted the trigger time more than worrying about the size of the horns. All the meat is marketed professionally and they were more than willing to bring the ammo, lots of ammo. Needless to say they now have a lot of experience under their belts and have become more than passable shots. The bucks below are the results of that hunt. John dropped this 10 plus year old 2 point with his 7mm Remington and Karl killed this mature 4x4 buck with his 300 Winchester. 

Lexi spent less time at the range this summer and most of her time being employed as a life guard. So as the Utah deer season crept up on us it became apparent that some after school range time was imperative and had to happen quickly. 

With the season just around the corner her point of impact was confirmed from sitting and prone rather than off the Hart rest and within a a few afternoons she was back in the groove keeping all her bullets in a 5" group out to 300 yards. She had drawn a General Season Deer tag in the northwest corner of Utah but I was not at all familiar with where we ought to start. The scouting that I would have normally done was put on hold while I moved my 83 year old mother from Virginia to Utah. I called a number of friends that had hunted Box Elder County in the past and all had some good ideas to pass on.

I am now becoming much more familiar with App functions that allow you to determine land ownership in the field and this was proving to be a real asset this fall. We finally got permission to hunt a large ranch and spent a couple days behind a spotting scope at dawn and dusk trying to determine how to best hunt the first weekend of the season.

A group of Bucks could be seen on the neighbors alfalfa pivots but so far we only turned up a small buck and some Elk where we had permission. Opening day found us climbing a ridge line and carefully glassing the country around us. We found the Elk again but never sighted any Deer. We did however find a canyon trail that a large buck has been using for some time that I think held some promise. We found a place to set up and wait the buck out just at dusk as he dropped into the base of the hills to feed. While we hadn't seem him it was the only game in town that had any merit and the place as well as the plan seemed to have potential. 

As luck would have it at noon we had to drive to another ranch in the same area so Lexi could pitch a proposal for a science project she had in mind to the land owner that would require a healthy amount of real-estate to gather any useful data. We rolled into the ranch yard to find it filled with family and friends, some out for the deer hunt, some there for the meal to come and others deeply involved in a very serious looking game of poker. I knew many of these participants and walked over to the barbecue grill knowing it was a lot safer than being anywhere near that poker table. Lexi made her pitch, was granted the access and as we were about that leave the owner and his son said " why don't you all drive down to that guzzler on the upper bench and look for a 4 point that's been hanging out there for weeks". I like trick questions just as much as anyone and asked "why isn't anyone else here hunting him ??" the owner replied "Card games to important to worry about that buck right now, you'll go ahead" so with that we saddled up. 

This patch of ground is often where I hunt Chukar's and Hun's and I've seen plenty of deer on it over the years. I stopped the truck 600 yards from the guzzler and began to look for bedded deer, within moments I spotted the very buck snoozing under a tall bunch of sage. He was not alone, in short order I spotted 3 other bucks and a number of does. I got out the Big Eye and had Lexi look through the spotting scope" What do think ?" the smile was all I needed to see, it was game on.

There was no way to put a sneak on that buck from our current position. So we drove out of sight, parked, then Lexi, my wife and I sorted out what little gear we needed to attempt a stalk. We got above the bedded deer and slowly made our way in their direction up slope and into the wind. It was then we ran into another dozen deer that had just gone to water. One old doe knew all was not good in Camelot but just couldn't put all the pieces together well enough to start a rapid retreat to safer pastures. I was afraid she'd bolt down the draw and blow up all the other deer around the buck we were after. 

Instead she watched and waited before making move. We were patiently doing the very same thing 300 yards away in some head high sage. At the end of 20 minutes she elected to leave the draw going way from the other bedded deer, the rest of the herd followed her over the ridge. The stalk continued but now the wind was really beginning to swirl. Three times it hit the back of our necks and I thought we were busted, but when its 4th and goal you just don't hand over the ball and walk off the field.

Now we were on our hands and knees then finally our bellies. I could see other bedded deer below us and eventually spotted the buck still snoozing under the same sage. The range was 200 yards and we were now out of cover.  Lexi found the buck in the binocs and decided to slowly scoot uphill on her rear end until she had a clear view and an unobstructed shooting lane. I pulled the shooting sticks out of my pack, extended the legs and handed them uphill. She was as calm and deliberate as ever as she slid the fore-end into the yoke. She then asked for a little more elevation on one leg and settled into the rest. When she was ready I said "wait until he stands and then place the duplex right where you want the bullet to go, this could take awhile". 

Ten seconds later the buck rose to his feet and stretched. I heard the safe safety go off then as an after thought said "don't forget to breath". Seconds late the rifle cracked and the solid thump of a bullet strike rolled through the draw. The buck took a few feeble steps in a half circle and settled back into the sage one last time. The ping of the spent round let me know her situation awareness has improved and we rose to our feet. Lexi did a bee-line for the buck. I motioned to my ever patient wife that she could now come forward. She unfortunately hadn't been able to watch this all unfold as she stayed 50 yards behind us on the final crawl. The buck was a typical 3 year old and for some time the three of us just soaked it all in. We took some pictures and Lexi and I finally went to work on the buck while Rebecca went to get the truck at least closer than it was. 

The 120gr TTSX entered and exited the ribcage shredding the contents. Over the years I have been most impressed in this bullet when used in the 260 Remington, 6.5 Asp and the 6.5-06. So far, at least to 350 yards it is a stellar killer. Soon the field dressing was complete and the truck could be seen lumbering into view. We cut away the liver noting there was no saving the heart as it had been turned to giblets. 

The buck was very fat having been feeding on Reeds wheat for most of his life and as it was weeks before the rut and I had an idea that the version would be excellent. It had been a grand day on the hill. As we pointed the nose of Kermit in the direction of home I asked Lexi if she had learned anything today? a tired voice from the back of the cab said " yes I have, when's the next poker game ? " 

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.

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

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 ( 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.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Fortunes of Stormy Weather

The storm developed like any other, building in intensity with a thunderhead climbing higher into the atmosphere by the minute. The term "Looks Like Rain" was tossed about jokingly. The hail appeared shortly after the first tablespoon sized rain drops slammed into the river bottom. Shelter was sought under the porch as the clouds opened up. The size of the hail and the ferocity of its impact on the roof was a premonition of the aftermath. An agent from the insurance company arrived days later to assess the damage along with other residences in the area. The copper roof was no longer flat and smooth but now dimpled like the skin of an orange. Shortly a payment arrived to cover the roof damage, a contractor was called and all was in order for reconstruction. But here's where the story takes a twist.

Shortly after a quote to repair the roof arrived booking agent Jack Atcheson & Sons phoned Kurt to see if he might be interested in a cancellation Elephant hunt and if so was it possible for him the leave in 30 days? The adventure was to be undertaken in the North Western edge of Namibia's famed Caprivi Strip. Koos Pienaar and James Chapman are the co-owners and operators of Huntafrica Namibia Safari Company and would conduct the hunt. The ball was now in Kurt's court, do we play or pass?

The cancelled hunt was for a Trophy Bull Elephant and Buffalo with an assorted selection of other game available. Shortly after this conversation the dimpled roof took on a whole new visual quality of its own, the setting of a whole new architectural fashion statement came to mind. Surely these funds could be put to better use. A month later Kurt was sitting down to his first evening in camp having just arrived from Montana. With a Grey Lowry calling a short distance from camp the hail damage had become a vague memory in the now gathering twilight.

Kurt is no stranger to Africa and has had the good fortune to hunt in some of Africa's more unique hunting destinations during his career. He is also one on the few hunters I know that is just unabashedly lucky on Safari. Luckily in the fact that the game he encounters is usually quite exceptional in size. Then his skill with a rifle is put to good use. He is always prepared and hunts hard to help make that luck unfold.

Not to long after this shop began building Legends I received a request to build an Iron Sight version chambered for 458 Lott from Kurt. The rifle was to be fit with an Recknagel Universal front ramp and Recknagel See Through rear blade. This specific Legend configuration has always been an elephant hunters rifle and at 9 1/2 pounds and loaded with 5 rounds it is very portable and controllable with enough applied practice beforehand. This combination of sights allow for windage and elevation correction and in my opinion are hands down one of the best Iron Sights systems for elephant hunting that I am aware of. The sights can be purchased from New England Custom Guns here in the States.

The last request was to have the entire metalwork on the rifle coated in Robar MP-3. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, as I hate to involve and introduce another variable into the construction mix. But what the hell, we gave it a try and Robar did not let us down. After two successful Safaris with this rifle Kurt made the decision to have us install one of my Peep Sights on the rifles rear bridge as age was beginning to take its toll on his visually acuity when using the original window rear blade sight. The request was met and rifle returned once again ready for the field.

October in Montana is blessed with cool weather and sunny skies where Kurt resides. The Bwabwata West Concession was a bit warmer than Montana with afternoon temperatures hovering between 100 and 105. You can't change the weather so you dress for it and roll out at dawn knowing its going to be hot day but any day on Safari is worth the heat and discomfort. With enough water and breaks in the shade they stayed on the tracks of Elephant bulls from one day to the next. Picking up spore in the sand when the track was large enough to garner interest and then following these tracks to the elephants. The amount of elephant in the area was remarkable Kurt said and they followed up singular bulls and herds of bulls over the course of the hunt. Finally they walked up on a bull that Koos confirmed was a good representative in regard to trophy quality for the area and for that time of year. It was now up the Kurt to either roll the dice and decide to continue the hunt or close the distance. Most hunters will never have the opportunity to hunt elephant. I have been an observer on a similar hunt years before in Botswana and I can only imagine the thoughts that goes through ones mind when facing that moment of truth.

Setting the science of proper elephant management and modern ecology aside this is a moment in a hunting career that can tip in many directions when the time comes. They are such a grand animal in every respect that the decision to pull the trigger can weigh heavily on ones sole. Some elect to pass and go home without ever having pulled the trigger, content with the tracking and close encounters. It is a decision that will make all the hunting you do in the future change to some degree.

Koos and his head tracker had the wind to their advantage and awaited a decision from the hunter. A nod from Kurt committed the team forward. Methodically they reduced the gap to 15 yards when the bull now aware something was amiss turned to face them. Kurt had spent a solid month learning all he could about elephant anatomy as resident surgeon would. Hoping for that pre-agreed upon Heart shot was now out of the question. As calmly as one could in this situation Kurt settled the bead on where he felt the bullet should impact the skull and sent a Norma 550r Woodleigh FMJ into the forehead killing the bull instantly.

At this moment everything happens in slow motion, you never feel the recoil, as your recovering from the shot you see the hind end buckle first and you know the kill was quick, often the only sound you can recall is the muted ping of the spent case leaving the rifle.

As they approached the fallen bull there was no whooping shouts of triumph, no high fives, no chest bumps or crass comments tossed in the wind. Standing at the feet of to a fallen giant is a very humbling moment that cannot adequately be put into words by anyone I wish to hunt with. This bull was the first and might be the last Elephant that Kurt will ever hunt. He feel the hands of the Bushman congratulating him and sees the excitement in their eyes but it takes quite some time for him to fully process the entire event, as it should.

Driving back to camp that evening with the air beginning to cool and sunset carving a notch in your sole the events of the day are replaying themselves over and over again in you head. This is what keeps you coming back.

Over the next two days the meat is entirely removed from the carcass by the locals in the area and dried in a fashion as old as man himself.

The rest of the safari is spent looking for an old Buffalo bull. Herds numbering in the hundreds are seen day after day, more buffalo than Kurt have ever seen in any given area. Like the search for elephant the day begins before pink light, traveling and looking for sign, looking over herd bulls and hoping for tracks of bachelor groups living on their own. Once the trackers pick up the sign you leg it.

One day while covering the area in search of Buffalo they encounter a very rare sight indeed and make good on the opportunity. A Leopard is spotted lying on a Termite mound. Of all the luck.

The Legend barks once more and the cat roles off the termite mound without so much as a twitch. Not many can claim to have shot a Leopard in the middle of the day and only a rare few have done it with Iron Sights. Luck was once again walking the point on Kurt's behalf.

Eventually they run into that solitary Buffalo bull that is to just to good to pass up. The wind was right, the foot falls in the approach quiet enough and the distance closed again. Shots ring out and the 550r Woodleigh Soft Points find their mark. As they approach the bull Koos shakes his head with a grin and extends a handshake, it has been quite a hunt with this chap from Montana. The bulls horns are both wide and deep and the boss substantial enough for any veteran buffalo hunter to admire. Other plains game is taken on the hunt as well and then one day Kurt woke up and it was the day of his departure.

You regrettably pack your kit, You make sure one article of clothing isn't washed before it goes into the duffel as you'll want to savor the smells as best you can when you arrive home. The boots are worn in a little more, the rifle wears a few more scars and a part of you remains behind with the dust, heat and sands of Namibia.

Further information about hunting with Koos Pienaar and James Chapman co-owners of HuntAfrica Namibia Safari Company can be found at or