Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ramblings From The Field

I just received this mule deer pic from TJ and the results of his hunt this morning. He and his dad were again in New Mexico and TJ was once again putting his Legend to good use. Chambered for 300 Weatherby this rifle has been his go to firearm ever since he look delivery of it. Built in a Standard Sporter configuration it has become well traveled since its inception. The list and variety of game taken with this rifle is long and varied.

Loaded with 200 grain Nosler Partitions at 3000 fps it is hard to refute this being considered an all around cartridge and rifle combination no matter where you choose to travel.

This Labrador Caribou crested a ridge a month or so ago at just the wrong time and was quickly turned into steaks and chops for the barbecue back in Michigan, what a bull TJ. 

I've said it many times before, beware of the one gun man

Hulme and Athol teamed up again for Safari in Zambia with Hulme finally getting a chance to use his Classic 416 Rigby for the 1st time. Built on a highly customized 1917 Enfield with the metal work being completed by the late Tom Burgess and stock work by yours truly. Hulme was already in possession of a 375 H&H Legend when the original owner of this rifle decided to sell it. Hulme made the wise decision to pick it up. This rifle is equipped with Tom's detachable scope mounts and iron sight system and the stock is made from a true piece of old world French walnut. Being an African veteran it is good to see it back in service again. Below is an e-mail I just got from Hulme concerning the amount of prep work that he goes through to get ready for a hunt with any new rifle:


Apologies for late reply, I've been hectic at work.

I don’t have any pics unfortunately. That .416 is a real classic D'Arcy. Athol and I attached the scope, went to the range and using Norma factory ammo, I fired one shot that was an inch above the bull at 50m so I made no adjustments. I fired another two shots at a target in Zambia for good measure, then the next shot was the buffalo at about 80m, on the shoulder. The end.

 Brilliant !!!!!!!!!!

  The lesson here is don't sweat the small stuff, pack the kit and go

Anders checked in from Sweden recently with a picture of a very nice Nordic Moose that he shot with a switch barrel 300-375 H&H Legend that we assembled a number of years ago. He did report however that the pair of Barnes 168gr TTSX did not work quite as planned but did indeed secure Moose meat for everybody in camp. Does a Swedish Moose dog point them or are they just used to retrieve them? Hmmm in either case those dogs deserve a lot of respect as they're working for their keep. I wonder how well they'd do on Pronghorns ? 

Then I finally received a grundle of pics from Annabet's South African hunt with Campbell Smith. She took two Legends on this trip, a newly completed 375 H&H to break in and her time tested 270 Winchester that I have long since dubbed the Hammer. I am convinced that if she leaned this rifle against a tree  she could go back to the truck or just take a nap wait for the sound of a gun shot and then walk back over to see what that 270 had killed, it has been that reliable. Bang thump, game over. Here are but a few.

Glenrock Blue

It's not a big secret in the trade that I do not do my own caustic bluing. Over the years I have sub-contracted this bluing out to a few very talented people. With very few exceptions I have never had any major surprises when the parts were unpacked and readied for final assembly. Some of my past connections had retired from offering this service which led me to look for new talent. Sounds simple doesn't it, go online or ask around, boom a done deal in less than a half a day.

                                                            Not hardly, not with my rifles 

I began to rely on Doug and Katie Mosier the owners and operators at Glenrock Blue for my caustic bluing a number of years ago. Hands down this was one of the best business decisions I have ever made. I'm not at all a fan of baked on finishes nor do I see a need to rust blue every Classic rifle that leaves my shop. There are exceptions of course and each is addressed on its own merit but you will never find a rust blued Legend because they're aren't any nor will their be any. I have always felt that the maintenance of any firearm in and out of the field rested solely on the owners diligence and not on the composition of the steel or some shake and bake wonder finish. Durability has never been an issue if one knows what to look for in a caustic solution and its application. If the owners ever wants the rifle re-blued at some point in the future the original "look" can be  duplicated every time with little fuss or muss.

I felt the need for a road trip and also had two barreled actions as well as few other major parts for other jobs that required bluing so I made a call to Glenrock to check their production schedule. Katie said that they would be running a batch in the middle of that week then they were going on an extended fishing vacation over the 4th of July holiday. Could I get the parts to them by Wednesday to be processed so they could be blued and returned shipped by Friday ?

A quick check on the Mac showed Glenrock Wyoming only 405  miles away, I've driven that far for a cup of coffee. That was all the excuse I needed to make the drive over myself. I'd be going through some of the nicest antelope country in Wyoming, the weather forecast looked prime and the parts were all wrapped for travel. I called them back and said I could be at their shop in person on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday at 9am whichever day worked best for them if they didn't mind the intrusion. All Katie said was "we'll see on Friday at 9am".

I pulled up to the front door on time, knocked on the door and met the team of two. Once inside I have to save that I was impressed with the cleanliness, layout and organization. Note to self: never invite these two over to my shop without at least 2 weeks notice.

Their operation was nicely compartmentalized with a cleanly organized office, more than adequate room and tools for any dis-assembly and re-assembly of any firearm when required, a separate well organized inspection, wrapping and shipping area that was commanded by Katie alone. I was evident she had this facet of the business wired to a science.

The actual bluing room was well lit and very well ventilated. Separate from the all the other space was their polishing room which was professionally equipped. There is a dedicated area for the application of Cerakote as well, a controlled humidity damp box and space solely dedicated to rust bluing. I didn't see any Nitride ovens but who knows what's in store for the future.

I sense some of you wanting to sneer at the Baldor buffing wheels but you need to remember that not everyone wants a 100% completely hand polished firearm before it hits the tanks. Metal polishing is a disciplined art-form whether its done by hand or with hard felt, muslin, canvas or tampico wheels. Even bead or sand blasting steel to given surface finish requires thought and technique. It is not a wham-bam thank you ma'am affair if done right and never has been.

There are course's for horse's and the level of metal prep should depend on the intrinsic value, real or perceived and the current condition of the firearm and the amount of time i. e. money you wish to invest in labor to bring it back into to pristine condition or to finish out a newly assembled project. Where all this rattling on is going is to say Glenrock is capable of handling about anything you can toss at them within reason depending on your budget. You want hand polishing and rust bluing, you got it but be prepared to pay for the skill level required to do so.

I arrived just as the tanks were coming to temperature. Everything was unpacked placed in dedicated baskets and racks and the cycle was begun. First by degreasing all the parts and then placing the those parts into the caustic salt bath.

Doug regulated the temperature of the salts, and pulled the racks in and out of the bath to monitor the progress as the parts went through the color transformation. If you're averse to sweat and have never felt comfortable working in a tropical environment this occupation may not be in your future . The long sleeve shirt, gloves, mask and associated kit are not for show trust me. Once the procedure was complete all the parts were oiled down, wiped off and the barrels patched to remove any residue from inside the bore. Watching Doug work could best be described as very damn efficient.

Doug gave the finished parts the visual once over then they were transferred to Katie's bench where she really looked them over one by one. If something doesn't look up to snuff she gets Doug's attention. At this stage they may re-run the part, shocking it in cold water rinse to get the part to behave as well as raising the salt bath temperature to try and bring that part to color so as to match the rest of the parts for that gun. When all else fails the customer is called to consult and determine what steps might be taken. I know as I've gotten these phone calls a few times. 

When all is good with every part Katie reapplies light oil to each part and then wraps each part in plastic cling wrap before wrapping yet them again in paper towel and masking tape to prevent the parts from rubbing against one another in transit. Quality control and care at it finest. 

With my parts wrapped and ready for the trip back though the Rattlesnake Hills and Martins Cove we called a stop for lunch and we all foundered on a couple of local burgers. It was now time to point the Prius into the wind and head for home. 

My thanks to both Katie and Doug for my intrusion into their work day and for once again leaving me with the feeling that the American Craftsmen and Craftswomen are still alive and kicking. The Mosier's can be reached during regular business hours at contact info below, unless the trout are really biting than its any ones guess. 


Monday, October 9, 2017

Land of Enchantment

It was the third weekend in August and I was once again in New Mexico guiding an Antelope hunt for Bucks & Bulls ( This year the ranch was a green as Ireland due to three weeks of monsoon rains. The thunder heads began to stack up in mid afternoon and by 5pm all hell would break loose. The land of enchantment was living up to its namesake. I for one enjoy these storms but the water can make travel interesting at times.

Jill, my hunter arrived the afternoon before the season was to start and in a let up between two storm cells we checked the zero on her 300 Winchester Magnum. The rifle, a left hand Legend has already served her well on a variety of hunts around the globe and with a few shots we confirmed that both she and the rifle were spot on and good to go.

With all the hunters and guides finally assembled in the ranch house, Introductions were made as the cooks began to pull out all the stops, a low calorie menu was apparently not available. I seemed to recall an adult beverage or two was consumed as lightning lit up the sky. It is always a pleasure to return to this ranch as its expanse and vistas are memorable.

The next morning we concentrated our hunt on one of the many plateaus above the valley floor playing hide and seek with a number of mature bucks. I had a brief glimpse of a buck with very distinctive heavy horns that hooked way over during a scouting trip and then again shortly after first light as Jill and I nosed the truck along to top of a pasture the first morning. I wanted to put the spotting scope him on but the buck never let me get set up fast enough in either encounter. All we got was departing heel dust. Behavior like this leads one to believe that this antelope was a veteran of many seasons. The image of him running away kept nagging at me ever since I'd first seen him scouting.

We spent the rest of the first day looking at buck after buck, Jill would comment "that one looks great, Boy look at that one over there, what do you think of him ?", I would grunt, Scratch my head in a noncommittal way and keep glassing. At sundown we tried to close the distance on a wide flaring buck that looked interesting hoping to have him stand long enough to judge him. He never stopped of course and as we headed back to the ranch house at dusk Jill asked "do we ever get to shoot one , " I replied "sometimes," "that's good to know" she answered.

About 9am on the second morning we saw another very tall buck I had cataloged in this pasture that also showed promise but try as we might we just couldn't close the distance even with the old tried and true Cow Decoy. The doe's didn't like the looks of Betsy and gapped it when we were still 450 yards out and closing. That buck followed the doe's and fawns and ran over the rise a mile away to the East. You don't leave fish to find fish so we took up the pursuit with the herd now out of sight, dropped into a rocky draw hidden from view to close some distance. Jill later told me she had felt like she was walking into a rattlesnake mine field as we contoured the bolder filled draw for the better part of an hour. Jill I found out later is not at all fond of snakes, I just look at them as legless lizards.

For the next couple hours I tried to find the tall buck but to no avail. We saw plenty of antelope to be sure but not that particular buck nor the heavy hooked apparition that had been in this same pasture. The sun and temperature rose. I looked back from where we had started and there was yet another great looking buck now between us and the truck. We were surrounded.

I had asked another guide who's hunter had early success to drive over the crest of the ridge line way above the pasture we were hiding in with hopes of bouncing the heavy hooked buck out of his bed if he was indeed in that area of the pasture where he preferred to hang out. Having hunted this ranch for a very long time I knew any approach from that upper end on foot would be very tough to pull off. Often a buck will chose a particular escape route and so it was with the heavy hooked buck. At least that's what it seemed the two times I had spooked him. When he spotted something he didn't like he beat feet for the center of this immense pasture. We were now in the approximate center of his escape route.

I call this tactic "the nudge"and liberated the title from Gene and Barry Wensel years ago. Whether initiated by recurve masters or riflemen the principle is still the same. It is done to induce a cautious  retreat. While not a mechanized or manual drive in the purist form it can put a crafty buck at attention for up to a 1000 yards and give that buck the incentive to move. If you know that buck has a patterned route for evasion you just never know what will happen next when you nudge a buck. It was an idea to try and we had nothing to loose. I finally spotted the truck stopped way above us, the sun beat down as the mirage began to boil up out of the grass as a mosquito flew in one of my ears and out the other. If either buck was above us something might happen soon.

I just saw the tips of his horns over the horizon at first. All by himself and loping along almost directly at us he came. The buck was still well beyond rifle range but was loping along steadily shaking his head at annoying flies as he headed deeper into the center of his home ground. The shape of his horns identified him to me immediately. This was the first chance I'd really had to look him over from the front. The heavy hook had just made an appearance.

I now tried to get a better look at his prongs, his height and mass were great but he was closing fast. It was time to either fish or cut bait. I removed my spotting scope from the tripod and Jill wrapped up in her sling and rested her fore-end over the tripod top in a sitting position as I eased my knee under her left elbow. We had taken the time to practice this move a couple of times in the last 24 hours. These dry runs have always proved to be an asset when it is no longer a drill. The buck was covering ground annoyed by the ever persistent bugs, He never stopped, but veered off to out right and dropped into a shallow fold. While he was now under 150 yards away all we saw was the very top of his back, head and horns. Jill and I pivoted around the tripod to our left, I whistled and blew like an alert antelope but he never stopped for more than a second and as quickly as he had appeared he was gone, Damn it.

                                                  Jill unruffled got to her feet.

Out came the knees pad and gloves and the stalk began. I knew there was draw in that direction and if we hot footed it over there we might catch him in the bottom of the draw. 500 yards later we spotted the buck now on the other side of the draw but 600 yards away. We began to crawl slowly on our hands and knee's.

Satisfied he was now alone the buck bedded up. At 400 yards we considered our options then kept crawling. At 350 yards the buck saw us and stood up. We had just hit the end of the road. Jill wrapped into the sling and eased onto the tripod base again as the buck broke into a trot. He ran in an arc that was bringing him closer to try and identify what we were. At 260 yards he slammed on the brakes and stood facing us a steep quartering angle, Jill's 300 woke up the pasture.

I heard the bullet strike and the buck wheeled around made a short dash then folded into the grass. All smiles we rose to our feet, I was ecstatic but being the trained professional that I am refrained from doing a hand stand or even the moon walk. As Jill began striding towards the buck I began to gather up gear that seemed to be scattered from here to Santa Fe and soon both of us were kneeling by buck. He was everything I had hope for and little extra. Jill seemed very pleased as we took some pictures, discussed the stalk and all the things that come to mind at the end of a successful hunt. He was mature in every respect and an excellent buck to take. Once again skill and daring had overcome fear and uncertainty. Dinner that night may have tasted a little bit better, the G&T's may have been a little bit stiffer as the success of the other hunters weaved its way into the nights conversation. It was happy camp but this is always a happy camp.

For the last 5 years during the long 900 mile journey home I've said to myself over and over again "this is my last guided hunt, period " but inwardly I'm already looking forward to next August and crawling through the short grass prairie in this land of enchantment. This is one hunt I never can really get enough of.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Perfect Alaskan Rifle ?

Tia Shoemaker began shooting her 416 Remington Legend before the paint on the stock really had time to fully cure. This introduction with her rifle began in the desert of Arizona right after the SCI convention and later in the wilds of her home state of Alaska. Her father Phil assembled a variety of loads for her to shoot during the spring and summer and she wasted little time in getting use to the longer bolt throw, the agronomics of the Legend stock and the shove of that lightweight 40 caliber package. Being accustomed to the recoil was nothing new to her. If you make a living guiding for Brown Bears you learn how to handle it. Throughout the summer I got a few short e-mails from scattered locations up north letting me know that the two of them were bonding.

In a cryptic e-mail in late summer Phil mentioned she was taking the 416 on a sheep hunt in the Brooks range. I chuckled, now this should be interesting I said to myself.

To some this would seem to be a pointless stunt. Not that the cartridge wouldn't be sufficient as 300gr  416 diameter bullets are available that will give you a trajectory similar to a 30/06 out to 300 yards but this rifle came outfitted with 21" barrel and a Leupold fixed 2.5 power compact scope. The scope  had no stadia wires, dots or turrets to aid in extended downrange bullet placement. Today you are almost labeled a fool if you're not properly outfitted with such optics to even hunt whitetails in the woodlots of Pennsylvania. Some would speculate that Tia was going into the rocks with a coveted permit that most sportsman would dearly love to have and was grossly hampered in the optical department with an excessively heavy cannon, Why limit yourself to such a combination?  What in the hell was she thinking ?

Having never paid attention to what the current fashion craze was regarding rifles or equipment she confirmed the zero on the 416 on last time and packed the rest of her kit. Outfitter Luke Tyrell ( a close friend of the Shoemaker clan had selected the drainage to begin Tia's hunt and eased the plane into a rocky valley then settled the Cub onto the gravel. When camp was set up the two pulled binoculars and a spotting scope out of their duffel and began to systematically pick apart the country around them. No hunting allowed that day but no one said you couldn't look around.

For the next few days she and Luke glassed basins and summits before finding a small band of rams with one ram that showed some promise. Using more boot leather and sweat put them closer to the small band of rams but due to weather and distance they could not confirm to their satisfaction the age and legality of the larger ram 100% that day so they backed off the ridge-line lost what altitude they'd gained and returned to camp. The rams were located again the next morning and the climb resumed. They finally determined the larger ram was indeed legal and a carefully planned stalk put Tia just under 160 yards from the sheep. Using a bolder as a rest she settled in to make the shot.  It was over before the echo from the shot faded from the basin.  


Luke's only real comment was how little blood shot meat there was maybe there's something to this ?

Nice work T