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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Crossbow Shooting and Flintlocks

Good shooters have good habits.
A firearm requires a high level of attention and focus.
When shooting a flintlock or muzzleloader, even more awareness is required. When a shooter is distracted by conversation for example, it is all too easy to skip the step of dropping a powder charge down the barrel. Miss this key step and then ram a lead ball down the barrel without blackpowder in place and you will have one of those "Aw Shucks" moments knowing the next 30 minutes will be spent extracting a lead ball wedged down the rifling. (30 minutes if you are lucky)
Inattention at the range can produce exciting moments; like the fella who forgets to remove the ramrod from the barrel after loading but absentmindedly pulls the trigger anyway. Exciting.

Crossbows require a high level of attention just as well. There are similarities to muzzleloader shooting. Normally, both of these sporting arms offer only one shot opportunities. After a day in the field, both arms are discharged by firing. The loading and unloading events should be done with care and never rushed. As a good friend told us this week, his muzzleloader Instruction Book left the indelible impression in the back of his mind that if he was not careful, he could "blow himself up" to use his words.
On crossbows, warning labels indicate that the string path must be kept clear of hands and fingers. Care must be taken when discharging an arrow. Crossbow limbs move and can strike objects (like trees) if the shooter is inattentive. Special care must be taken when shooting at the range or with friends because a moment's distraction can create a hazard. The best practice is to consciously get into the "habit" of following the same safe routine 100% of the time without deviation. What that means is cocking the bow and loading the arrow in the same manner routinely and safely the same way every time. Stay out of the string path. At your hunting location, set up in your blind or stand but try to follow the same process on every hunt. Cocking rope in backpack upper left compartment , rangefinder left coat pocket, first hunting arrow #1 in quiver position #1. There is nothing wrong with a laminated checklist showing required hunting equipment needed for every outing. Airplane pilots use checklists for every flight. These checklists are very helpful when hunting frequently but for short periods such as after or before workdays. Success is when your hunting partners begin commenting that your behavior is getting very odd. That means you are probably in the SAFE ZONE. In summary, identify the key steps, systematize your hunting process and get into good safe habits. Safe habits will keep you efficient and maximize your outdoor experience.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bowhunting 38 years ago ............

In the early 70's, I had the good fortune to be invited to hunt a farm in Southern Maryland. For a young midshipman at the Naval Academy who loved to hunt, this was absolutely heaven. In 20 minutes, providing I could find a way to sneak off, I would be in the woods and temporarily away from all things nautical including the pressure cooker of some very tough schoolwork. The family on the farm was cleaning out the attic last week and thoughtfully forwarded the attached photo to me in the mail. The photo brought back some very nice memories.

Back then, archery was not as popular as it is today. The numbers would indicate that perhaps 5% of the hunting community bowhunted as compared to a number like 20% today. Deer were far less plentiful. Fred Bear was the hero to every archer and to read about his exploits was constant inspiration. There was no internet and good information seemed much less available. Knowledge was drawn from sources like "The Archer's Bible", a lengthy but quite complete resource book that explained all things bow and arrow related. I think I read this book 200 times and still have it. (The chapter on safety must have been overlooked judging by the exposed broadheads in the attached picture.) The distance between a 20 yard sight pin and a 40 yard pin was about 6 inches so to be a successful hunter, judging distance was very critical. Hunting on the ground was commonplace and getting close (like 10 or 15 yards) was the only sure ticket for success. Laser rangefinders were yet to come and cutting edge technology was "self adhesive camo tape" for the recurve. I loved stringing my bow before every hunt. It would not be until 1980 that I could afford a compound bow. This picture and these memories are not unusual. Admire the hunters who still chase their quarry with this equipment. There is always case to be made for simplicity and actually, Kodabow can trace some of it's crossbow design elements back to this era.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cold Weather Hunting - Don't blame Gurnee!

Jim,
You can't blame my hunting partner, "Tatonka" for our 2010 poor results. We have been successful in the past .
Tatonka told me ,"we are leaving at 2 AM so be ready to go.... because the truck pulls out at 2 AM. "
Naturally, I made sure to be sitting in the right front seat of Tatonka's truck in his darkened driveway at 1:59 AM.... 2:00 AM ...2:03 AM.....2:08 AM ....... because the truck "was leaving with me or without me" to quote Tatonka.
Finally, Tatonka sleepily strolls out, opens his truck door, and jumps about 12 feet surprised to find human life in his vehicle at such an early hour.
For the next three hours, Tatonka will relate EVERY SINGLE HUNTING story that I have heard 25 times already. I can finish most of these stories and do so just to move through the sequence a bit faster. I bring a pillow and attempt to appear to be in deep slumber several times as we make our way to the mountains but the tales continue nevertheless. No radio. Just hunting stories that are enjoyable and go nonstop until we arrive at the creek to unload the canoe in the dark . The wind is blowing at 88 mph and the temperature is 50 degrees below zero. I spend the next 30 minutes doing hypothermia calculations and closely counting the number of strokes required to reach the bank in the event that Tatonka and I go for a swim if the canoe goes bottom side up. We make the trip. We always do.
To make a long story short, Tatonka is a hunting machine and these trips are adventures. We usually head in different directions once we reach our hunting destination but will touch base via the miracle of the cell phone a few times during the day to keep each other advised of our location and hunting plan. Over the years, Tatonka has been the teacher of many valuable lessons. Foremost is the requirement to carry a small can of Sterno in the back pack and to take the time at midday to cook up a nice hot lunch. Beans must always be part of the meal.
As the sun lowers in the skys and darkness begins to arrive, the canoe is loaded and the 3 hour trip home looms ahead with one more hunting story to be now added to the list.
Chuck