One man, closing all the windows.

Posts Categorized / hunting

• Mar 02 / 2014
hunting

Three Great Rounds Work To 600 Yards

In the bush and flat land where I hunt, one rarely has an opportunity for a long shot at big game. What if …

Calibre Bullet Muzzle Velocity
30-’06 Sierra 180BTSP 2700
7mm Rem Mag Sierra 175BTSP 2900

I chose for comparison three very common rounds. Two are ordinary safety cartridges and one is a belted magnum.

The ancient 8X57J will still do the job as will the US copy, .30-’06. The 7mm Rem Mag, while younger than I am is only marginally better and costs a lot more in brass and powder. They are all capable of fine accuracy in good rifles with good ammunition and a shooter who practises a bit would be successful under the right conditions. I may never take that shot but it’s good to know I could.

• Feb 28 / 2014

Making 12 Gauge Slug Rounds

What do you do with old shotguns with lead-only barrels? I intend to use one for killing deer with 1 ounce slugs and killing grouse with 1 ounce loads of shot. The latter is easy. There’s lots of data around. Slugs are a different matter. One can use the Lee 1 ounce slug in place of shot and do pretty well (~1250 ft/s for 1500ft-lb of energy), but with heavier charges of slower powders, one can do a lot better (~1600 ft/s for 2400 ft-lb of energy), 50% better. These slugs have a ballistic coefficient ~0.06 so they are devastating to about 50 yards and useful to ~100. Lee gives a bunch of loads:

I don’t have Blue Dot powder (tm Alliant) but I do have some old HS-7 which is the same as WW571 (Winchester) which has very similar data for heavy shot loads as Blue Dot in identical cases (WAA) with identical wads.

The Alliant data is for 1150 and 1200 ft/s going left to right. Likely the 1250 ft/s charge would not fit in the case because Blue Dot is more bulky than HS-7. The CB wad is a substitute for WAA12R. Lyman data for a 525 gr slug (1.2 ounce):

Hull Powder Charge Primer Wad Velocity Pressure
Federal Gold Medal Blue Dot 46.5 Win 209 WAA12R 1544 9,900
Federal Gold Medal 571 42.0 Fed 209A Fed 12S4 1429 10,700
Federal Plastic Hunting Blue Dot 44.0 Win 209 WAA12R 1408 7,300
Federal Plastic Hunting 571 42.0 Fed 209A Fed 12S4 1405 9,900
Winchester AA Blue Dot 44.0 Win 209 WAA12R 1474 9,200

The Lee one ounce slug is about 0.64″ long and 0.68″ in diameter so it will pass through a full choke in a plastic wad. Unfortunately, the HS-7 is much more dense than Blue Dot, so I have to improvise. I could just add a bit of wadding to take up the 0.32″ missing from the 1.5 ounce of lead shot but the pressure would likely be far too low. HS-7 and Blue Dot like higher pressures to burn reliably or they leave a lot in the barrel. For a semi-auto that’s very bad because it will rapidly gum up the breach or gas-system. So, I need to increase the charge above 36.5 grains by at least 10%. I have tried as low as 34 grains in a 1 ounce wad but get rather loopy trajectories and the occasional squib. With more than 34 grains of HS-7, I begin to have trouble crimping the cases. One guy solved the space problem by shortening the hulls… He found 42 grains HS-7 worked very well with WAA12R in Remington hulls. I don’t have any of those hulls but 42 grains should be good in my hulls using some corrugated cardboard wadding. More space, less pressure… With such a slow-burning powder this space should not affect the ultimate pressure versus distance relation but it may reduce the peak pressure.

In my digging on the web, I found an article about loading the Lee 1 ounce slug in a WAA12R wad with a 1/8″ nitro card over the powder with a mysterious “powder X” that occupied 3cc. No mention of the charge. Only that 3cc of powder made a good crimp in “Winchester AAHS 12 ga hulls”, two-piece hulls… I find plenty of those at the range. Folks recommend against using those because the base-wad may separate and cause an obstruction of the barrel. Oops! 3cc charges are not listed in Lee’s table, above, but it’s in the range of 44 grains of 571 powder (44 X 0.068 = 2.99) or 42grains of HS-6 (42 X 0.0712 = 2.99). He got decent accuracy. Something the size of Federal 12s3 wads might do. I have to experiment.

I conclude that the only wad I have that is usable with HS-7 for a heavy hunting load is WAA12R which is too short so I will have to add wadding. For safety, I will try crushable corrugated cardboard wads which give the powder more room to expand promptly. I tried to make a 20 gauge cutter by heating the head of a defective 20 gauge hull to soften the plastic for removal. Two or three discs cut from cardboard boxes should take up the slack until firing. That worked well but the tool was too fragile for punching with a hammer. Others have made similar cutters for turning in a drill-press. A brass head failed on the third wad. A copper head lasted about a dozen wads. I’ll have to buy a better wad-cutter ( less than $10 ) or buy some 20 gauge fibre wads. They are less than 1 per card. While I am at it, I could also buy some Blue Dot and WAA12 wads. Blue Dot is only$40/pound, here, and ~$20 in other places, which comes to about 12-23 per shot. The end result will save more than$0.50 per round compared to retail slug rounds.

Another possibility is to buy some Federal 12S4 wads (shorter wad and slug more powder than the Lyman 525) according to the data, but there does not seem to be a local source…

• Jan 14 / 2014

This story further confirms that my ancestors were right to flee England more than a century ago. It’s a madhouse…

“The total cost of policing the badger cull pilot has been confirmed as nearly £2.5m – or about £1,311 per badger.”

Do the maths. Rational people would allow locals to roam the landscape with varmint rifles and knock badgers off for exercise. A decent calibre is 222 Remington. A 50 grain bullet costs about 10, powder, another 10, and a primer 3. The cartridge case can be reused dozens of times so it’s $free. That leaves a cost of 23 per badger. Perhaps you need to dig a hole to bury them. I could throw that in for$free, too.

So, the UK is getting the government crazy people deserve and demand, making nonsensical rules, implementing insane policies, and getting the job done in the most inefficient manner possible. Next they will require badgers be given appearances in court before execution… (SARCASM). Likely the government of UK does not trust locals with firearms and feels the taxpayers are slaves who can’t complain if the money was wasted.

• Dec 30 / 2013

Diversity Is Good, Even In PBR

PBR (Point Blank Range) is a concept useful for hunters. It is the maximum range at which you “can’t miss” without adjusting sights for range. To the uninitiated, a bullet moves somewhat like a baseball, only faster. Despite great speed, a bullet does not travel in a straight line to a target but on a curved trajectory. The trajectory is not as simple as a parabola because the bullet slows down, losing energy to the air. The slower the bullet, the faster the bullet descends from the highest point on the trajectory. A hunter sends the bullet upwards a bit in order for it to reach the target at extended ranges. If you can hit the target at longer ranges, you are a more successful hunter, in theory.

The most common concept of PBR is that the hunter will take aim at the centre of the vital zone (hear/lungs/major vessels) and for part of the trajectory, the bullet will be above the line of sight and for part of the trajectory the bullet will descend to the bottom of the vital zone. The distance to the point where the bullet strikes at the bottom edge of the vital zone is considered the maximum PBR but it is not.

The reason is that at the middle ranges, the bullet is travelling parallel to Earth but later descends at an ever increasing rate. Using ranges after the bullet crosses the line of sight the second time (descending rather than ascending) greatly shortens the PBR. Look what happens if one sights at the bottom of the vital zone and calculates the range where the bullet descends back to the line of sight. For both curves, the bullet is staying within a 10 inch vital zone (say, 150 grain SP from a .308 Winchester and mature white-tailed deer).
See, the PBR with the 6 o’clock hold is ~40 yards further, about the distance it takes the bullet to drop 5 inches…

40 yards may not seem like much, but if you are out in some field, the area you can reach is $latex \frac{364^2}{324^2} X 100 = 26\%$ more. That could mean 3 days of hunting instead of 4 or 4 deer in the freezer instead of 3. It matters.

Where does diversity come in? There are many ways of sighting in a rifle. Hunters who think about the game, the terrain, and the typical distances they encounter game should choose the method that will work best. For example, if you have a really long ranging rifle and a steady rest, you can zero for very long ranges and hold under the vital zone to exploit the flat part of the trajectory out a very long way. With a 7mm Remington Magnum or anything like .30-’06, it is possible to use a heavy pointed bullet to deliver lethal energy to an elk or moose to 500 yards. The large size of these animals gives a larger vital zone. You could hold one “vital zone” down and do the job. Here’s a trajectory for a zero at 573 yards with 175 grain SPBT at 2900 ft/s. Now the hold is useful from 100 to 500 yards with no particular knowledge of the range except that it’s far and greater than 100 yards. That’s 0.31 square miles covered by a single hunter from a single position, barring hills, rocks and trees…

This is a lot like FLOSS (Free Libre Open Source Software). By doing things this way, a hunter gets the best performance out of his hardware.

• Dec 06 / 2013

Production And Consumption

I’ve been playing around with my database of reloaded ammunition and generated this chart with the latest release of phpMyAdmin:
It tells a story. Rifles in 308 Winchester are superbly accurate and good hunting tools. 222 Remington is good for lighter game like rabbits and coyotes and similarly accurate. The others to the right are decent but meant for the heavy lifting of hunting big game. We did have plenty of good groups from the 7mm Remington Magnum however but it’s expensive to shoot… My conclusion: We need to do more shooting if that’s all the production I’ve made in two years and some has yet to be fired! In the Good Old Days, I would fire ~100 rounds of 222 in a day or ~50 rounds of the heavier stuff. At this rate, I might forget how.

• Nov 16 / 2013
hunting

The Hunt – 2013

By laying in wait and walking around, we found the population of white-tailed deer was truly depressed. There were more hunters in the bush than there were deer. The deer were so far apart that in the first few days not one deer was killed. My son and I hunted 8 man-days before we got a deer. There were almost no tracks in the snow. Many that we found were days old. From experience, we knew where deer pass in “prime time”, dusk and dawn, but it took many days before a deer passed by. In the whole time, we saw only a couple of adult deer and they had fawns. This was the first deer we wanted that was within range.

The setup was a bit too close to the deer so some damage to the right shoulder wasted some meat but it is a big deer ~200 pounds or so. We guarded a place with ~350 yards open but the deer appeared less than 30 yards away. It was too close not to notice chambering a more suitable round. A 165 grain boat-tailed bullet designed to be lethal at long range carried too much energy into the shoulder at that range. A heavy round-nosed bullet (lower velocity) or a reduced load and a bullet-placement through the ribs would have been better. Still, the deer collapsed in seconds.

I will recommend to the government of Manitoba that they stop issuing hunting licences for nonexistent deer…

• with the number of deer compared to “normal” values, it could take two years for numbers to build up again
• hunting should be stopped for two years
• when snow is deep and the deer are starving, the government should either feed the deer or inform hunters and others where and how deer need food. If the government lacks funds to do this, they should ask the hunters for a bigger contribution. It’s just silly to allow an important species to fluctuate to such extremes. Hunters would be glad to take two or three deer if populations were larger.

Our government regulates the level of water in the lakes. They should do a better job of regulating the population of an important species of big game.

In comparison, in my lifetime, I have had successful hunts as short as 30 minutes, viewed herds of deer as large as 30 out in the bush this time of year and the longest hunts have been ~3 days when I scout new territories. The place we hunted is very familiar to us and we have observed the movements of deer there for years.

The basic problem is that deer are browsers and need to walk around to nibble on the tender tips of trees, shrubs and forbs, grasses and such. When the snow is deep, like over their knees, it takes more energy to walk around than the eating gives them and they starve. Healthy adults can survive for months of starvation but thinner animals and fawns either die or drink milk. We can go many years without a huge die-off of deer but we have had three years in a row where numbers of deer dropped.

At the same time the government discourages feeding. There are reasons for that:

• near cities, deer are a nuisance,
• it is desirable to kill off weaklings, and
• excessive population can damage forestry, agriculture, safety of motorists, and increase vectors for disease.

The solution is to feed only a little, just enough to keep the strong alive. That does not take much, just a few pounds of alfalfa pellets and such per week. Feeding needs to be managed, not eliminated.

White-tailed deer are not a native species. They are beyond the extreme northerly edge of their natural range here. It is only because of agriculture and sylviculture that they can live here. Now that so many people, hunters and businesses depend on the deer being here their numbers should be managed not only by issuing hunting licences but also by supporting some minimum population level. That means feeding.

• Oct 06 / 2013

Some Days Are Just Better Than Others

Nearly 40 years ago a rifle was purchased, brand new. It was a 7mm Remington Magnum Winchester Model 70. It was topped with a Weaver T16 target scope and 1000 Sierra MatchKing bullets were bought to do some semi-serious target-shooting.

The thing never shot better than 2 minute groups, what you could have obtained from some run of the mill military surplus rifle with iron sights… That scope fell apart under the recoil. The objective lens stayed in place while the rifle recoiled, breaking the objective retaining ring. Another scope, a RedField, was bought and it developed a rattle. All kinds of ammunition was tried from expensive factory-loads to tenderly made handloads. The barreled action was carefully bedded in the stock with epoxy to make a perfect fit… Nothing worked. The thing was put in storage for decades…

Today, a third scope was attached, a store-brand-made-in-China scope. This is one of two very tight groups obtained at 100 yards with Sierra 168 HP MatchKing atop 56 grains of Vihtavuori N-160.

The image was rotated and scaled with GIMP and centres of bullet-holes were located by mouse:

There, this is the best group this rifle has ever fired and we had three like that in one day. We tried several batches of ammunition. One commercial batch from Winchester produced a good group and the load listed above gave two more. To understand the significance of this if you are not a shooter, consider a deer standing 400 yards away. We could fire five shots in a row into its heart without a miss. With the worst group of the day, about two inches diameter at 100 yards, we could put every bullet into the vitals, the heart and lungs. With a bit more testing, we should be ready for hunting in open country next month. We still have to choose a hunting bullet between 140 and 175 grains in weight. The Sierra 175 grain GameKings are the likely choice. The 140 SP bullets we tested were not as accurate and tend to over-expand on close shots. We expect to see deer over 300 yards away by guarding a long opening. For stalking, we can use a much more flexible firearm like 8X57 Mauser with 170 RN bullets.

It’s a great day when real progress is made and things work as they should.

• Apr 17 / 2013

Lead is a cheap and plentiful metal. It is a waste product of the nuclear processes in stars and radioactive decay. The universe has recycled lead as a metal we can mine as sulphides, carbonates or as metal. Man recycles lead from scrapped batteries, roofing, pipes etc. Some of it eventually ends up in percussion caps and bullets used by shooters.

Besides the low price, lead has several very useful properties for shooters:

• the high density, 11.34 g/cm3, which makes projectiles have a higher ballistic coefficient and deliver more energy to the target,
• malleability, being very soft, lead is easily swaged into the shape of a bullet with modest pressure, and also easily deformed on impact to deliver a bigger wound,
• low melting temperature, 327C, making it feasible to form bullets by casting, and
• ease of alloying with antimony or tin to make harder bullets where required.

Copper, on the other hand, has a much higher melting temperature, is much harder and more expensive while having a lower density (8.96 g/cm3).
“Even though the Arizona Game and Fish Department distributes copper ammunition free to hunters, a small number continue to use lead. As a result each year up to half of the wild Grand Canyon condors require chelation treatment to remove high levels of lead from their blood.
"It is critical that we take mandatory actions to remove it from ammunition and require less toxic alternatives, said Sandy Bahr from the Sierra Club.
"Requiring non lead ammunition for hunting on public land would be an important step in limiting lead exposure for condors and other wildlife," she added.”

see BBC News – Lead bullet fragments poison rare US condors.

Sigh. Lead has the important disadvantage of being toxic to workers handling it, shooters firing it and ducks and condors eating it. Still, it will be a major expense to replace it followed with higher costs in the future and lowered performance on game. For example, a .308 Winchester can easily kill deer to 350 yards without adjusting sights for range while copper bullets although they may start with higher velocity because of the lower mass will slow faster. Copper bullets, except for energy delivered downrange are superior in performance but have a much greater cost:

There is some misinformation about all this on the web. For example, in long-range hunting country, the government of USA tested .30-’06 with lead and copper bullets at 50 yards! Clearly, this is the wrong rifle/bullet combination for hunting at such ranges. I always use a heavier/slower RN bullet for hunting in such situations because lead splashes like water at the very high velocities. One should not use a high-power rifle with high-velocity bullets at less than 100 yards. In bush most kills are at such short ranges. One should use hardened cores at least in such cases.

Because hunters are using the wrong rifles/bullets should not be used to justify the higher cost of copper. Education about better choices is key. I would recommend light high-velocity lead bullets only for long shots like 200 yards or greater. If you are in mixed open/bush country, have a heavy RN bullet in the top of the magazine and faster pointed bullets for open situations.

If you hunt with a rifle, use proper tools and you should not have to worry about lead fragments.

• Apr 09 / 2013
hunting

To Hell With PETA

‘If hunters stalk their prey, how well do you suppose they would like being stalked by a drone that hunts for the hunters? Hunters may not normally be concerned with surveillance or drones, but PETA plans to launch drones in order to "spy on hunters," collect footage, and then publicize it.”
see PETA plans to spy on hunters with drones

It may be no problem at all for some hunting activities but if I were stalking deer and trying to get close, a drone buzzing around would not be welcome. I need to hear small sounds in the forest and I need deer that are not alerted by that racket. Hunting is necessary in Manitoba and it is a right:
“(Assented to October 8, 2009)
WHEREAS hunting, fishing and trapping have played important roles in shaping Manitoba’s social, cultural and economic heritage;
AND WHEREAS hunters, anglers and trappers have made important contributions to the understanding, conservation, restoration and management of Manitoba’s fish and wildlife resources;
AND WHEREAS the best traditions of hunting, fishing and trapping should be valued by future generations;
THEREFORE HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, enacts as follows:
Right to hunt, fish and trap
1(1) A person has a right to hunt, fish and trap in accordance with the law.

This Act may be referred to as chapter H185 of the Continuing Consolidation of the Statutes of Manitoba.”

Anyone, even PETA, interfering with that right is breaking the law. In fact by interfering with a hunter, they would be hunting without a licence.
“The Wildlife Act defines “hunting” as chasing, driving, flushing, attracting, pursuing, worrying, following after or on the trail of, searching for, shooting at, stalking or lying in wait for wildlife, whether or not the wildlife is then or subsequently captured, killed, taken or wounded, but does not include trapping or such activity by an unarmed person solely for the purpose of watching or photographing wildlife.” So, PETA (because their intention is to harass hunters) would be effectively hunting without a licence. If they did obtain a licence they would fall afoul of the harassment of wildlife sections, “Hunting from vehicles
22 Except as may be otherwise permitted by this Act or the regulations, no person, whether for himself or to assist another, shall chase, drive, flush, pursue, worry, harrass, follow after or on the trail of, or search for, any wildlife from a vehicle.”
. Last I heard, an airplane is a vehicle.

• Feb 17 / 2013
hunting

Hint: When Hunting Pythons, Use Bait

"You can go out there for days and days and days and not see one python," snake hunter Justin Matthews said last month. "I don’t care how much experience you have. It is going to take some luck."
see Plenty more where those came from — final take in Fla. snake hunt is 68 pythons – CNN.com.

Achh! With possible 10K+ pythons to be culled in the Florida Everglades, people have been walking around looking for patient and camouflaged hunters… That’s just stupid. I have never seen a python in the wild and don’t want to but they are snakes and I know how snakes hunt, by smell… Hint: Use bait and guard the bait, 24×7. Pythons also sense heat so it may help to have live mammalian bait.

These snakes hunt in the trees and swamps so make a trail of scents at the boundaries of forests and swamps and leave the bait where you can watch it. Watch the snakes pile on. Be patient. Snakes move slowly but waiting and letting them come to you is much more efficient than walking miles where your motion alerts the snakes to be still and their camouflage developed over millions of years works for them.

Many years ago I had plenty of experience with garter snakes. They live in similar although colder terrain and they hunt by smell. Let a frog, earthworm or small fish come withing metres of them and the tongue (the sense organ) will flick more and more rapidly with the head moving from left to right to judge direction as they home-in on the prey. When they are really close and the tongue touches the prey, they lunge and it’s all over. They can catch a jumping frog in mid-air. Amazing.

Once again, knowledge is key to a successful hunt. I have been hunting more than 50 years. Simple things like knowing what the quarry is doing makes the job much easier and faster.

Here’s how not to do it. You can see a snake tracking a rat here. See that tongue flicking? That’s what it uses to hunt. If you want to hunt snakes you have to guard the bait at night, too. Smell and heat-sensing work best then.

Smell can also be used against the pythons using dogs.
“So far Jake and Ivy have located 19 pythons, one of which had 19 eggs.”
Two dogs did better than 1000 humans walking around.

• Jan 07 / 2013
hunting

News For City-Dwellers: Wolves Are Predators

“The Sakha agriculture ministry says 16,111 reindeer were savaged by wolves in 2012 – a 4.3% rise on 2011. That meant a loss to reindeer herders of more than 150m roubles (£3m; $5m), as each reindeer is worth about 10,000 roubles (£205;$328).
see BBC News – Russia: Raids by wolves spark 'emergency' in Sakha.

When a new species (humans) is introduced into an ecosystem, the usual predator-prey relationships are upset and must be adjusted. In this case, caribou were domesticated and must be protected by humans. Humans are in direct competition with wolves and the only solution is to hunt/trap the wolves in order to maintain a new balance. A country filled with starving wolves is neither safe for agriculture nor human habitation.

This may be news to city-dwellers who think of wolves as cute and cuddly ancestors of lapdogs. This may be news to city-dwellers that humans have to kill animals they don’t intend to eat but it is reality. City-dwellers should remember this the next time they conceive an idea to purge society of hunters and trappers and their tools, firearms and traps.

• Jan 06 / 2013
hunting

Rare Privileges

Today, I had the rare privilege of firing an antique firearm designed and built in the dark days of WWII. Unfortunately the magazine did not make it to the range and we had to single-load ammunition. This was, to say the least, a jarring experience as the bolt of the semi-auto rifle had lots of speed as it hit the cartridge. There was a danger of a slam-fire but, instead, we had the pleasure of a closed bolt. The rifle felt good to hold, not plastic and sheet metal but wooden furniture and lots of machined steel. The recoil was very mild, thanks to the great mass of the rifle and a muzzle-brake. The bullet arrived very near the point of aim. The fired case was ejected violently, near 1 o’clock.

The load was a 156 grain FMJ RN bullet on top of a compressed load of H1000 powder. Really, a smaller charge of faster-burning powder would likely have ejected the case more gently, I will work on such a load and try again when the magazine is available.

The AG42 was never really a state of the art rifle but it is a beauty and reflects great Swedish craftsmanship. The 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser is a fine cartridge for hunting or target-shooting having modest recoil and good ballistics. Unfortunately, this rifle hammers soft-nosed hunting bullets so is not ideal and semi-auto is scarcely needed for hunting.

In a bolt-action rifle, this cartridge can fire pointed bullets from 120 to 140 grains and 160 RN bullets for hunting or target-shooting and the ballistics are only a little behind the popular .308 Winchester cartridge. This is because the higher ballistic coefficient and higher rate of twist delivers more of the energy of the cartridge to the target. As such, it is acceptable for deer up to 350 yards. Unfortunately, this round is not popular in Canada so brass and bullets are more expensive…

I would recommend this cartridge in a bolt-action for youngsters wanting their first deer rifle or for women or lighter men wanting a rifle with less recoil. It is far superior to 6mm/.243 for deer and a much more compact round than .25-’06. .257 Roberts or 7×57 would be good choices for similar reasons. The military surplus M96 rifle is scarce these days and few bolt-actions are made in this calibre for North America these days so it was a rare privilege to fire this rifle. Only a few tens of thousands of AG42 were made but they still shoot smoothly as ever.

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