Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Hmmm ?

Recently I was asked to machine and partially replicate a Holland & Holland 98 Mauser stock. When the rifle was in my hands there were two things that really stuck out that I have yet to encounter in the past.

Chambered for 458 Winchester the H&H scope mounts had been installed with their own answer to heavy scopes moving under recoil. You simply drill through the ring bands and install set screws that bite into the scope tube.

I'm not sure if the Zeiss warranty covers this type of upgrade ? It would have been interesting and easier to have actually left the appropriate .030 gap between the upper and lower ring halves to see if that might have solved any recoil movement issue with proper ring tension. Clearly no attempt was made in this regard. Rifle making at its best.

Then we have the TWIN safety arrangement. Since I do not know how the rifle originally left the factory the following is purely a guess on my part.

Clearly the rifle began life set up for iron sight use as the butt stocks drop and cast off is perfect for acquiring those sights, you throw it up and you're looking straight down the line of sight. All the parts carry the original Mauser Serial number stamps. The Mauser Wing/Flag safety would have been a perfectly serviceable set up in tandem with its original 98 trigger. You can see they engraved the SAFE into the wing.

Then at some point the rifle re-entered the factory with the idea of adding the scope. Here's where things get a bit interesting.

Clearly with the scope in place this original wing safety is not going to be our best choice. It's either On or Off SAFE. Not really convenient in a tight spot. I suppose you could slip a round into the chamber and lower the firing pin carefully onto the primer as some do I'm told and then when required to shoot you'd lift the bolt to cock the rifle and you're into game, so to speak.

I would imagine your professional hunter would require physical therapy by the end of your hunt by spinning his head around trying to monitor where that muzzle was pointing every minute in the field.

I THINK ????? the barreled action was then fit with a very nicely inletted secondary Sako style 98 Trigger with a recessed pocket for the safety button to nestle into. The inletted mortise for the Sako style trigger and the an original 98 trigger require a very similar inlet footprint so we have to assume the Sako unit was the 2nd trigger unit fit into this stock. 

Now For some reason that is not at all clear the Sako trigger assembly was then modified in such a way to keep the safety in the FIRE position permanently, So the rearward, falling sear block would not rotate into the SAFE position on this trigger unit. I could not move it at all, it has been completely deactivated.

A lot of keen effort has been expelled to properly install this Sako trigger unit such as to machine and then hand file a slot through the tang to allow the bolt lock feature to operate as designed. Which then begs the question if you de-activate the SAFE position mechanically and freeze the mechanisms rearward movement so it can't move reward.

 What was the goal ? 

It would have been nice to install and original looking Oberndorf style bolt knob but with the proper geometry to clear the scopes ocular bell as seen so often since the early seventies.

Another question is instead of removing the original wing safety altogether and perhaps plugging the cavity at the rear of the original shroud/sleeve they choose to leave the safety wing in place. If this rifle is carried in the field with the scope in place it's again either on SAFE or FIRE until you remove the scope and rotate the original wing into the desired position then replace the scope. 

Did someone really signed off on this ?

As a new stock is being made to replace the original the Stock Maker requested I sort out the safety-trigger issue as we're starting with a clean slate. The rifle will now a a conventional 2 position wing safety to clear the scopes Ocular bell and a 3rd trigger installed which is a Swift Blackburn trigger unit. 

Now if we could just get someone like Steve Heilmann to replace the forged bolt handle with a proper looking conversion for scope we'd be in tall cotton. These are just one guys thoughts. 

Its a grand old rifle and needs to go into the field again.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Lightning strikes twice

On the Friday before Memorial Day I asked my wife Rebecca if she wanted try and shoot a spring Gobbler ? Having shot her first turkey, a hen, during our protracted fall season months earlier she gave me the thumbs up and a plan was put in motion. Following Lexi's preference for the afternoons we drove onto another property shutting off the engine about 3pm. As we drove in we saw a mature Gobbler displaying to a lone hen approximately a 3rd of a mile away from where I planned to park. Having hunted this property before I thought I had a fairly good idea of how to approach those two birds, concealed hopefully from view and then set up within a 150 yards or so. No doubt love struck this one Long Beard might consider a blind date engagement if given the chance.

While we tippy towed through the cedars we caught glimpses of another Gobbler that had shown up on the scene and at least two more hens had appeared. A half an hour later we crawled to the very edge of our selected cover and settled into the landscape. I let out a string of yelps and was met with immediate reply's from both Gobblers. For the next hour the gobblers and hens answered my calls and it was easy to tell they were slowly feeding in our direction.

The next time we heard the gobblers it was evident they had changed plans and dropped down into a very steep ravine and were headed over to very spot we had originally come from. A third Gobbler had joined the two other toms and the hens had vacated the area maybe to return to the nest. Gobbling to beat the band the 3 mature birds walked out of sight heading up the ridge-line. From where we sat going after them now would have only spooked them due to the terrain so we headed to the truck to prospect another location on the ranch. I was already formulating the next attempt.

Memorial day we pulled to a stop at just before 4pm, quietly shut the doors and listened intently hoping for a clue as to where the three Long Beards might be. Slowly we slipped down an over grown two track that I hoped would put us in good position to maneuver whenever we finally heard the birds. Not a gobble did we hear. Feeling more than confident the birds were close by I was reluctant to try and cover too much ground but did step out of the tree line to glass further up the fields above us. When I did all three gobblers spotted me about the same time I spotted them roughly 300 yards above us. Spooked but not frantic they started trotting up the hill away from us. Oh fudge !!!!!

My original plan A was now clearly down the toilet but as plan B was now showing even better promise. The birds were now traveling away from their preferred roost trees and it was still well before sundown. We dropped out of sight and clawed our way up that very steep ravine I mentioned from two days before. We were in fact following them uphill and in doing so now had put the roost sight 150 yards below us. Shortly we poked our camo netted heads over the lip of a dike and without seeing the gobblers I began to assemble an ambush spot at the edge of a clearing between two major groves of maples. A few limbs were cut and pushed into the ground, my camo netting strung between some other limbs and soon Rebecca had a nook to slip into that while offered a limited field of fire it gave her 100% concealment. It would have to be as if my plan worked the bird or birds would be right on top of her before she saw them.

I had brought one Jake decoy that evening and placed it 27 strides away from her hide and in the direction of the the roost.  I quietly told her I felt the birds were less than 200 yards above maybe feeding but still on alert. I thought they would stay above us until actual sundown and then slowly make their way down the edge of the maples downhill towards us and the roost. If my guess was right the birds would just appear hard on her right side and may never utter a gobble or a cluck, in short they'd arrive silent and without warning.

I told she'd better have the shotgun at least leaning on the cross bar in front of her to keep her movements to a minimum if they did indeed arrive. I said they might get distracted long enough by the decoy to give her a chance to maneuver for a shot if it presented itself,  That I wasn't going to call at all and then said if they do arrive it likely wont be until after 8pm. She nodded and pulled up her face mask as I slipped into the tangle of maples 10 feet behind her. I had almost zero field of view but it didn't matter what I could see.

It was about 7:30 that I felt that leaving the Bug Spray on the kitchen counter was definitely a mistake as the mosquitos became persistent. Both of us endured the onslaught as best as possible and kept as still as we could. The sun dipped behind the horizon behind us and the stage was now set. If something was going to happen it would be pretty soon.

I saw the partial outline of a Gobbler hard to my right and his red head at what later turned out to be approximately 8:15. He was perhaps 15 yards away at the edge of the maple tree-line walking down hill. The maples were so thick he never saw me or Rebecca. I didn't dare hiss or whisper about his arrival I just watched. Then another bird appeared right in front of my wife perhaps 15 yards in front of the hide. Head out stretched it peered into the very space she was sitting and she never moved. Then the presence of the decoy got the best of him and he turned towards the fake. As he gathered himself into a fighting stance I saw her raise the the 20 gauge and pull the trigger in one fluid motion. The bird was flopping his last as we crawled out of the morass. I think my wife's eyes were the size of tea cup saucers. Her smile alone was worth the price of admission. I had seen this bird before as he had a distinctly crooked beard that a left hand twist. We'd seen him on Friday and I had seen him a number of times the year before hunting with Lexi.

The bird was big, typical of an older mature Rio in our area and in prime condition even this late in the breeding season. We sat for awhile and talked about how he just appeared on her right flank almost close enough to touch when he walked in front of her blind. I congratulated her on not moving until he was distracted by the decoy and for a moment I think she'd forgotten all about the deek and its role in the ruse. She hadn't seen the other birds as she was riveted on the one almost standing at her feet.

The trip home in the twilight was quiet with both of us turning the evening over in our minds, Lexi was most impressed when we arrived and wanted all the details of how it happened having sat within 20 yards of that very spot the year before and had seen the that very Gobbler a number of times. All our tags were now filled, it has been a very short season for us. Hunting in Idaho was off limits due to Covid so we cleaned the guns, sorted gear and now wait for the fall season which can't get here soon enough.

Spring Gobblers

Eventually this spring we became bored with being bored and decided to flatten our own curve and slipped into the May Turkey season without asking permission or getting anyones approval. This year we'd be hunting a new piece of property and Lexi and I managed to spend an evening with the landowner as he gave us the lay of the land. Quite a few birds were seen and I spent the next couple days scouting at dawn and late in the afternoon putting together a plan.

One group of four Long Beards got my attention as a pattern emerged and a rough blind was built late one afternoon while those Gobblers fed towards their roost. When the evening gloom began to take hold I made a few last minute adjustments and slipped out of sight back to the truck. I texted the land owner that evening and told him where we'd be at sunrise and he asked if I also wanted to shoot a bird along with Lexi if the chance presented itself ? Now really, what could I say ?

At 19 a Dawn Patrol attempt is never Lexi's favorite tactic as she's been just as successful hunting from noon until sundown for anything, sleeping in is always good duty in her mind. But she never starts to debate this approach unless it's well into the season. Rebecca decided to go so we saddled up under a star filled sky and nosed the truck through the darkness. We left the truck 45 minutes before any hint of light could creep into our valley and walked the last 700 yards to the hide.

I set up three deeks as team settled in, looked over the scene one last time slipped into the trees and sat down. The Model 12's were fed some teeth and a hunt that is always a favorite of mine began to unfold once again. 15 minutes went by before Lexi pointed a finger to our right indicating she must have heard birds calling from a limb above us. Then she pointed directly in front of us into a tree line 400 yards away, it was that direction that most interested me as the gang of 4 roosted in those trees. Then she pointed to her left and across the wheat field.

10 minutes later six birds sailed into the field coming off a high ridge on our right flank. Another group including the gang of 4 ran out of the wood line and into the field at our front and then I saw a Gobbler sail into view from our left front far across the field. The older Gobblers quickly assembled to sort out who was actually in charge that day. The Jakes that had also arrived stood off to the side minding their manners.

I yelped and cut with a 50 year old Lynch box call now wore and repaired more than once. That Lynch has been the voice of the grim-reaper ever since my father gave it to me as a teenager. The response was immediate and for the next five minutes I tried my best to sound attractive and looking for companionship and it must have been convincing this morning as the mob headed our way. The birds soon dropped into a swale that would hide them until they were almost in range.

For ten more minutes the birds were out of sight, I had just given a few clucks and purrs when Lexi's muzzle began slowly moving to left. I about pushed my eye balls out of their sockets looking left when a big red head appeared very close to the blind followed by a scrum of other red heads all in wad. It was about that time that the first bird in really began to pay attention to the deeks. Likely a 2 year old and wanting to extract some justice on any interloper made a bee line for the Jake decoy. The mob followed with the gang of 4 in the middle of the scrum. No shot was offered as it was clearly a case of safety in numbers. For the next 3 to 5 minutes the Gobblers worked over the look-a-like with reckless abandon. Finally one of the long beards stepped to the side offering a shot that would put the other birds out of harms way. I was waiting for the shot as Lexi is now a seasoned hand at this.

When nothing happened, I softly whispered "shoot him" and again nothing happened, I then slowly looked at my daughter to see her in a mild state of confusion as she mouthed "the gun won't go off".

Wouldn't this be great at time to know a gunsmith.

I told her to push the fore-end slide fully forward and heard the gun lock up. She aimed at the same Gobbler again and pressed the trigger. In the early light that morning I actually watched the shot column of Heavy 7's sail right over the Gobblers head, I think my daughter was a bit rattled.  The birds never flinched and continued their aggression on the fake. Another one of the gang of 4 stepped away from the scrum and wilted when I pressed the trigger on my 16ga. Lexi reloaded selected another Long Beard as all the participants stepped back, separated and began to wonder why one of the team was laid out in the wheat. Her 20 gauge barked and that bird also folded into the wheat.

In more of a state of confusion than fear the remaining gobblers hot footed it away never really knowing where the danger was coming from. Concealment and choosing the right location is a discipline that comes with time. The remaining birds finally trotted over the rise and we all stood up.

We admired the pair as we sat in the wheat while soaking it all in.  With the morning sun now now bathing the field in light we began to pick up our kit and then lined out for the truck with weight of success balanced on our shoulders. I never seem to tire of hunting these grand birds and the apple has not fallen far from the tree as both of us have come to look forward to this season a great deal.