VOLUME 37-----------JULY 2005
SHOOTIN', HUNTIN', AND RELOADIN'
WITH THE OL' MISSOURI HILLBILLY
July 8, 2005
I just noted that last month marked the end of three years of publishing these newsletters on our website. We hope you've found some of them informative or entertaining! If not, I'm sorry, but I ain't gonna quit writin' 'em!
I decided to let the long Independence Day weekend get behind us before doing this month's newsletter. (That prevarication is good as any for covering up laziness and procrastination, I suppose)
July 4th is always a day of remembrance for our family. We reminisce about my Dad, born on Independence Day, 1922, whose life was cut short by a heart attack at age 52. Dad was a Navy Veteran, serving on the Carrier, USS Lake Champlain, during the latter part of WWII.
July 4th is also our day to give thanks, to and for, the members of our armed services, past and present, whose sacrifices have kept our country Free and Independent lo these many years.
The long weekend also provided opportunity for a birthday cookout for one of our neighbors, and a trial run to Parman's RV Park for Rick, Christi, and Jennifer in their new travel trailer.
First the RV park. Rick and Christi picked up a new 29 foot Nomad travel trailer on July 1st. Since we have a couple of 30 amp RV hookups at the shop, they decided to "camp" here Saturday and Sunday nights, to check out all the new toys in the trailer and make sure everything was working properly. They also wanted to inventory the utensils and gadgets in our trailer, for ideas on equipping theirs. Here's some pictures of the new trailer.
Rick, Christi, and Jennifer with the new Nomad
Apparently the kids got some ideas about stocking the trailer. They tell us they nearly emptied the shelves at Wal Mart on Monday afternoon!
Now for the birthday bash! Neighbor, Bret Cupp turned the corner on the big Four-0, July 2nd. Friends, parents, kids and in-laws brought the Saturday night gathering to 13 people, for hotdogs and burgers at our place. I managed to keep two grills going for the 'dogs and burgers, while the ladies brought out some of their favorite dishes. (I doubt anyone left hungry)
Preparing to light candles. (Hope they don't burn the building)
Birthday Boy at going home time. (No, he wasn't driving)
The shindig took place in one of my shop buildings, making room by temporarily relocating two pickup trucks and a tractor. This building has recently been modified by making a section of wall into a movie screen. Well, it ain't really a movie screen, but it works like one! The supper was followed by a showing of the recently available DVD, "The Pacifier."
My LCD projector was originally purchased for presentations and videos for our Hunter Education Classes, but now does duty for home theater as well. I taped, finished, and painted a 10 by 12 foot section of drywall in the shop, and a DVD player hooked up to the projector makes for a pretty darn good movie theater for family or neighborhood gatherings.
Last month I wrote a bit about load development for Ann's 7MM-08. I am still in the midst of that project, to see if I can find a load using 160 grain bullets that is a bit more accurate than the 139/140 grain loads we've been shooting. So far I've chronographed four test loads, and have loaded a dozen rounds of the most promising one for further testing.
I mention this background to preface a real life example of how finicky some rifles are when it comes to bullets and loads.
On June 26th our friend Courtney Johnson came out for a shooting session, tuning up his wife's .243 for a ground squirrel shoot in Montana. His test loads were all put together using Hodgdon's Varget powder, with several different brands and weights of bullets. Reportedly the loads were all on the mild side of those listed in the loading data used.
None of the loads were chronographed. Shooting was done at 100 yards, with targets utilizing 1 inch orange, stick on dots for an aiming point. The rifle is a Remington Model 7, youth size, which just happens to be the exact same model as Ann's 7MM-08 I'm working with. The .243 is topped by a 3-9X variable scope.
I can't remember the different bullets tested, but did observe some early groups that were, well, somewhat less than acceptable for varmint shooting duties. (Around 3 or 4 inches)
Then came a load using Hornady V-Max bullets. I don't recall the bullet weight, (Hornady makes 4 weights of V-Max bullets in 24 caliber) but the spotting scope showed a 4 shot group, all either inside or cutting the edge of the 1 inch aiming point dot! This, on the heels of several very mediocre groups with other bullets; same rifle, same shooter, same shooting cradle, and no interim rifle tuning.
Another group with the same bullet and a slightly hotter powder charge showed about the same performance with a slight shift of group center. At this point I searched my inventory and scrounged up 3 .243 rounds remaining from a box of Federal Premium factory loads topped with 58 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets. These 3 rounds were fired, resulting in a group of about an inch and a quarter.
I think if that rifle were mine, I'd concentrate on using polymer tipped bullets for further load development!
The point of all this is, each firearm is an individual, and may shoot various loads very differently. Yes, there are those that won't shoot worth a cuss no matter what you feed 'em, and others that seem to shoot pretty well with any reasonable load. Most, however, fall somewhere in between.
Little Heifer's .243, a Ruger M77 compact, does not shoot the above mentioned Federal loads well at all, yet handloads with 58 grain Hornady V-Max bullets consistently print groups hovering around an inch.
My .338 Remington Ultra Mag, a Remington M700 Stainless, will shoot under an inch with Remington factory loads using 250 grain Swift A Frame bullets. (If you can stand the recoil) So far, my handloads with 210 grain Swift Scirocco bullets haven't done nearly that well.
So, what better excuse do we need to justify shooting all those different loads in our rifles, than simply seeking the best the firearm has to offer!
My seemingly never ending quest for pocket gophers continues. As described in previous newsletters, opening burrows and ambushing the little suckers with a .410 single shot when they appear to do repairs has become a fun pastime in addition to an effective control method. My count, since last year's declaration of war on these destructive little pests, is somewhere around 20.
Early spring showed activity near one of the shop buildings that was unlike most past observations. Instead of the characteristic gallon sized dirt mounds usually seen, these were just a hand full pushed barely above ground level.
After opening one of the holes, the waiting and watching began. I've learned through trial and error, that if the resident gopher doesn't attempt to plug the opening within about 30 minutes, it may be several hours, or even a day or two before repairs are made. Whether this is because the gopher is away in a remote part of the tunnel system, or some gophers are just smarter than others, I can't say.
At any rate, this guy would plug the hole each time I opened it, but it was always long after I had given up the wait at the opening. This cat and mouse game went on for several days. I kept the .410 handy, carried a couple of shells in my pocket, and would check the hole occasionally as I went about my other activities.
Finally, one afternoon, I caught the movement of dirt as the hole was being plugged. I made a dash for the shotgun, hastily took up my position, and dropped a shell in the chamber.
Now, poke fun if you want, but I get just as excited in this situation as when I've spotted a nice buck and am waiting for him to move into position for a clear shot. Adrenaline flows, heartbeat accelerates, and breath comes in shallow gulps. I struggle to control these emotions, willing my breathing to become deeper and more even. (When this stuff stops happening, I'm gonna quit huntin'!)
I shoot too quickly, and the angle is slightly off from straight down the tunnel. Dirt flies, but no dead gopher can be found as I probe with my digger.
I dug the loose dirt out of the hole, thinking Mr. gopher will be back eventually. After about 2 weeks the hole was still open, just as I left it. I figure the dang gopher has either abandoned the burrow, or was wounded and died deep in the tunnel, so I gathered dirt and filled in the hole.
A month or more passed. One day I noticed a couple more of those little mounds of dirt in the area, including one where I had covered the previous opening. Retrieving my digger stick, I opened the tunnel and the game of cat and mouse began again. This time I was more careful. Days later, when I finally caught the dude pushing dirt into the opening, I made sure the angle was right and my aim true.
My digger stick dragged out the dead gopher; and what a gopher he was! Noticeably larger than any of my previous specimens, this guy was very obviously a big male. I could almost hear one of Louis L'Amour's Sackett characters describing this one as, "The He-Coon of the clan!"
Another recent specimen was killed from a burrow that I began targeting last fall. After the snow receded this spring, the quest began again. This critter was a large female, showing evidence of having born young. I have photos of this one.
Mature female pocket gopher
Pockets outside the cheeks, from which the gopher gets its name
Feet made for diggin'
I have learned from reading and internet research, that pocket gophers live solitary lives. Except when mating, and while raising a brood, they will not tolerate another gopher in their territory. It is said, they will fight to the death warding off intruders. Noting this trait, I believe the young of the year are now being kicked out of the Mamas' dens, as we are again finding encroachment into areas of maintained lawn nearer the house, as well as many new mounds in outlying areas.
My encounters with the older, mature specimens of these gophers remind me of the wiliness of an old whitetail buck. They're hard to pattern, and you never know what they'll do next! Fortunately, the younger, smaller ones are still dumb and easier to eradicate, so I'm getting most of them before they can do much damage!
This month's hillbilly wisdom comes from an email forwarded by a friend, and was brought to mind by the birthday cookout described earlier: (It may come as no surprise, that this man has been divorced for several years)
It's the only type of cooking a real man will do. When a man volunteers to do the BBQ the following chain of events are put into motion:
1) The woman buys the food.
2) The woman makes the salad, vegetables, and dessert.
3) The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils and sauces, and takes it to the man who is lounging beside the grill -- beer in hand.
Here comes the important part ......
4) THE MAN PLACES THE MEAT ON THE GRILL.
5) The woman goes inside to organize the plates and cutlery.
6) The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is burning. He thanks her and asks if she will bring another beer while he deals with the situation.
Important part ....
7) THE MAN TAKES THE MEAT OFF THE GRILL AND HANDS IT TO THE WOMAN.
8) The woman prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces, and brings them to the table.
9) After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.
And finally ...
10) Everyone PRAISES the man and THANKS him for his cooking efforts.
11) The man asks the woman how she enjoyed "her night off."
Upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes that there's just no pleasing some women!
Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .
'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!