Category Archives: Hunting

HUNTING: 4 Things You Must Know Before You Shoot

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Being a responsible hunter means accepting your role in upholding and respecting humane etiquette and safety. Here are a few things to consider before pulling the trigger or loosing the arrow… Keep reading.

elk

by Justin McDaniel

If I hadn’t heard the brush crack, I probably wouldn’t have seen the buck in the first place. Jumped by another hunter, the eight-pointer came slipping through some grapevines above my stand when, unexpectedly, he made a 90-degree turn and entered the open field beside me.

With the buck partially silhouetted against the skyline, I was faced with one of those split-second decisions that all hunters face at one time or another.

To shoot or not to shoot, that was the question.

One of the trademarks of a good hunter is knowing when to shoot and when to let game walk. Following these basic shoot/don’t shoot principles will help you to make the right decision when crunch time arrives:

ONE: Always properly identify your target before shooting.
A hunter should never shoot through trees or brush at a noise, movement or dark shape. Instead, a hunter should positively identify his or her target and have a clear shot at the animal’s vital area before pulling the trigger. If you’re hunting deer or other big game, only shoot when you have a clear picture of the area behind the animal’s front shoulder. For goose and other waterfowl, never shoot randomly into a flock. Always focus on a single bird and aim for the head and neck area. Doing otherwise could wound or cripple multiple birds. If you’re hunting in a gender-specific season, such as spring gobbler, look for the defining characteristics of a male bird, such as feather and head color and the presence of a beard. If your state has antler restrictions for deer hunting, only shoot when you can clearly identify that a buck is legal.

TWO: Always know what lies beyond your target before shooting.
Based on this safety rule, I had to let that 8-point walk when he was silhouetted against the skyline. It’s always best to wait until you have a solid backstop beyond your target, such as a hillside, or to shoot downward from an elevated stand. You should never shoot toward the crest of a hill. If a home, barn or other building sits on the property you hunt, be mindful of its presence and never shoot at game in its direction, no matter how confident you are of your marksmanship abilities. No trophy is worth the price of putting another person at risk, so if the final landing place of your shot is in question, don’t take it.

THREE: Be aware of the location of other hunters and never shoot in their direction.
When hunting with others, it’s important to know their location and set a “zone of fire” so that each hunter in the group knows exactly where he or she may shoot without putting others in danger. For example, if three pheasant hunters walk abreast through a field, the middle hunter’s zone of fire would be any flushes directly in front of him or her. The hunter on the right would only take shots offered directly in front or to the right, and the third hunter’s zone would be any shots in front or to the left. In addition to knowing the location of the hunters in your own party, always be on the lookout for other hunters who may be near you, and never shoot in their direction. Likewise, when hunting birds or rabbits with a dog, be aware of the dog’s location and never shoot rabbits or low-flying birds in the dog’s vicinity.

FOUR: Know your limitations and be aware of the maximum range of your firearm or bow.
If knowing when to shoot is one of the most important skills for a hunter to possess, competency with one’s equipment is equally essential. Practice often with your firearm or bow in hunting-type scenarios and understand your level of proficiency. In short, know your range. If you feel confident you can make a 100-yard shot, don’t take “pot shots” at a deer 300 yards away. If you practice 30-yard shots with your bow, don’t panic and take a bad shot at a deer 45 yards away. Similarly, if a deer is running at full speed, hold your shot and wait for the deer to stop or slow down before shooting. While it’s important to recognize your own abilities, it’s also key to understand your equipment’s capabilities. While a 12 gauge with 3-inch shells might do the trick on a turkey at 30-40 yards, don’t try to extend that range and take a bad shot at a tom that’s hung up 50 yards out.

It’s no exaggeration to say that sometimes the shots you don’t take are more important than the ones that you do. Putting another person at risk or crippling game is too high a price to pay for being impatient and taking a bad shot. Learning these basic shooting rules will allow you to differentiate between a good shot and a bad one, making you a safer, smarter hunter in the long run.

REVIEW: 450 Bushmaster Ruger American Rifle Ranch

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The new Ruger American Rifle Ranch chambered in .450 Bushmaster was inspired in large part by new deer-hunting regulations in Michigan. The result is a handy, lightweight brush gun that packs plenty of punch. Read more!

SOURCE: NRA Publications/American Rifleman, by B. Gil Horman

Michigan expanded what was formerly known as the “shotgun zone” (in the lower peninsula) into the Limited Firearm Deer Zone in 2014, much to the delight of local hunters. In addition to shotguns, deer hunters can now use rifles chambered for straight-walled cartridges between 1.16- to 1.80-inches in length topped with .35-cal. or larger bullets. This definition allows for popular big-bore revolver cartridges including the .357 Mag., .44 Mag., .454 Casull, and .500 S&W.

However, there is a straight-walled rifle cartridge designed for the AR-15 platform which also meets the Michigan requirements. The .450 Bushmaster thumper round launches .452-cal. bullets weighing 250 gr. or 260 gr. from a 1.70-inch long cartridge case at velocities over 2000 fps. The resulting round boasts performance on par with the .45-70 Gov’t but in a more compact configuration. With Michigan hunters buying up straight-walled cartridge carbines and rifles like hotcakes, the folks at Ruger saw an opportunity to modify an existing platform to fill the niche.

.450 Bushmaster
.450 Bushmaster is a compact but hard-hitting cartridge ideal for whitetails in thickly wooded areas. At less than 6 pounds, recoil is stiff.

The new Ruger .450 Bushmaster American Rifle Ranch is the third member of the American bolt-action line designed to fire AR-15 semi-automatic cartridges, including models chambered for the .223 Rem. and .300 Blackout, and 7.62X39mm. The 16.12-inch cold-hammer-forged barrel is free-floated and has a muzzle threaded at 11/16-24 TPI. The muzzle is then fitted at the factory with a specially-designed muzzle brake.

The steel receiver is topped with a factory-installed 5-inch long aluminum optics rail compatible with Picatinny-type mounting surface. The single-piece, three-lug bolt features a full diameter bolt body, dual cocking cams, and a round knob bolt handle; the handle’s 70-degree throw keeps it clear of the optic.

Rifle Ranch safety
The tang-mounted sliding safety provides easy and intuitive operation. On the left side of the receiver is a bolt release which can be used to remove the bolt assembly without the need to touch the trigger.

The receiver is mounted to the lightweight Flat Dark Earth synthetic stock using Ruger’s patent-pending Power Bedding integral bedding-block system, which plays a key role in the rifle’s top-notch accuracy. The exterior of the stock is nicely shaped with non-abrasive texturing and serrations along the fore-end and grip. Other stock features include a rounded integral trigger guard, an exceptionally soft recoil pad, and front and rear sling swivel studs.

The Ruger Marksman single-stage adjustable trigger provides the feel and performance of aftermarket upgrades, which are often fairly expensive to buy. An Allen screw mounted to the front of the assembly (which is exposed when the action is removed from the stock) can be used to shift the trigger pull weight from 3 lbs. to 5 lbs. This particular trigger was set to 4 lbs. 4 oz. when it arrived, and exhibited a clean, crisp break with almost no overtravel. The safety lever found in the center of the trigger, much like that of a Savage Accutrigger or Glock pistol, locks the trigger and prevents it from cycling until it’s properly depressed.

Ruger Rifle Ranch trigger
Ruger Marksman single-stage trigger adjusts from 3 to 5 pounds.

Other versions of the Rifle Ranch ship with flush-fit 5-round rotary magazines. To accommodate the sausage-sized .450 Bushmaster, this rifle ships with one single-stack, 3-round magazine that extends about an inch below the magazine well. The magazine’s polymer release lever is incorporated into the front of the magazine instead of the receiver.

Rifle Ranch magazine
Due to the bulk of the cartridge, this Ruger Rifle Ranch model holds 3 rounds in a single-stack configuration, unlike its siblings which feature a rotary-style 5-round. The magazine release is built into the polymer magazine.

I’ve had the opportunity to handle a few different models of the American bolt action and I have to say that overall I am impressed with the line. They’re not fancy or pretty like some of the classic hardwood-stocked bolt guns. But the fit, finish and performance are a big step above their price tags.

Some folks may see the addition of a muzzle brake as a nicety, but in truth it’s a necessity for this gun. Experiencing the hearty recoil of this 5 lbs. 8 oz. rifle with the brake firmly installed quelled any curiosity I might have had to shoot a few rounds with the brake removed for comparison. This is not a gun for the recoil sensitive. However, the combination of the muzzle brake and effective recoil pad keeps the rifle manageable for those who don’t mind a little excitement when pulling the trigger.

At the range the American Rifle Ranch ran flawlessly. The bolt cycled smoothly and the trigger felt great. The rifle fed, fired, and ejected with zero malfunctions. All of the controls functioned properly. It’s a compact rifle that swings nicely and will be comfortable to carry on those all-day hikes.

Rifle Ranch bolt
The smooth-operating bolt features a 3-lug design and a short, 70-degree lift.

The primary limitation of choosing to buy a .450 Bushmaster these days is a limited selection of ammunition. At the time of this writing, the only two companies offering this cartridge are Hornady and Remington — with both providing just one option. Remington didn’t have any of its Accutip loads in stock for testing. So, the only load I had on hand to work with was Hornady’s Black label 250-gr. FTX with a listed velocity of 2200 fps. (using a 20-inch barrel) for a muzzle energy of 2686 ft. lbs. To see how this load performed out of the shorter 16.12-inch, 10 consecutive rounds were fired across a Lab Radar chronograph. The velocity average was 2184 fps. for a muzzle energy level of 2648 ft. lbs. That’s about a 1-percent drop in velocity with only a 38 ft. lb. loss of energy with a 3.88 shorter barrel.

Hornady .450 Bushmaster
There’s not a wide variety of different loadings available for .450 Bushmaster, but this Hornady Black demonstrated outstanding performance on target. Learn more HERE and HERE

For accuracy testing, the rifle was couched in a benchrest and fired at 100 yards using a trusty Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 3-9x40mm riflescope. Of the five, 5-shot groups, the smallest was 1.03-inches with an average of 1.10. Based on these results, if Hornady’s Black load is the only one on the dealer’s shelf, you’re going to do just fine.

Ruger’s new American Rifle Ranch chambered in .450 Bushmaster is another example of how the company is striving to meet customer needs with quality products at a reasonable price. This brush gun and ammunition combination is well-suited to taking medium and large game at moderate distances. If you prefer a wood stock to synthetic, then take a look at the new Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle, which is now offered in .450 Bushmaster as well.

.450 Bushmaster group

Ruger American Rifle Ranch 450 Bushmaster specifications

Visit the factory information page HERE

HUNTING: 5 Tips for Getting Along With the Game Warden

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These are hard-working folks doing a dangerous job. Here are a few ideas on how to eliminate the chance for the adversarial encounter most anticipate… Keep reading!

game warden

SOURCE: NRA Publications, American Hunter
by Captain Larry Case (Ret.)

Game Wardens, Conservation Officers, Natural Resources Police Officers, whatever they are called in your state, have a tough job. First, they are law enforcement officers and any job in law enforcement is no walk in the park, especially these days. Next, if you think about it officers in this field have the duty to enforce law and regulations dealing with people’s leisure time and doing what they enjoy, hunting, fishing, boating. I feel I can talk about this because I retired after 36 years as a Natural Resources Police Officer.

I have always felt that our hunters and fishermen and wildlife officers should all be on the same team. Law abiding sportsmen (this means men and women) want what is best for wildlife populations and by and large they support the laws aimed at that. So if you would like to cultivate a good relationship with your local officer, what are some of the things to think about?

ONE: Use the right name.
One of the many things most sportsmen don’t understand about wildlife officers is that they are often called by the wrong name. This is a sore spot for many and it may seem a trivial thing, but would you want to be constantly addressed by an incorrect title? In the work a day world people from other walks of life are quick to correct if you use the wrong term for their occupation. Inquire as to the correct name for officers in your states wildlife law enforcement agency and use it. Save the rabbit sheriff and opossum cop jokes for later when you are better acquainted.

TWO: Be proactive instead of reactive.
If you anticipate a problem in a certain area, such as a new hunting lease, most officers would like a call in advance. They may ask to meet with you and look over the area. This is a win for both parties involved, you get to meet the officer, and he gets to see the terrain before responding to a call there. Many hunting camps issue a standing invitation for officers to stop by whenever they are in the area. This is a gesture they will appreciate; they can get a cup of coffee and catch up with the news in your part of the county.

THREE: Be willing to give information.
Conservation Officers are traditionally the most understaffed law enforcement in the country. One officer in a county can’t be everywhere and they depend on conscientious sportsmen for information, they can’t operate effectively without it. If there are blatant violations going on in your area, be the guy that steps up and calls the officer about it. Game hogs are stealing you and everybody else’s deer and turkeys; it’s just a matter of how long you want to put up with it.

FOUR: Support your officers at the state capitol.
Most fish and game departments live with budget problems and their law enforcement division’s salaries are rarely up to par with other policemen in the state. When the legislature is in session you can call your representatives and urge them to support a pay bill for the officers in your state’s agency. Believe me; it won’t happen without a lot of public support. (Mostly it doesn’t happen anyway)

FIVE: Meet at Joe’s Diner.
All of this really isn’t science related to rockets. Give your county game warden a call and see if he wants to have lunch one day. You will find most are average Joe’s like you with car payments and a mortgage. Most are hunters, so you will have a lot in common. The advantages of personally knowing the warden can be numerous. Can he tell you where all the big bucks in the county reside? No, but he may very well give you a tip on a good spot that you did not know about. You may be surprised that he will learn things from you as well; part of his job is collecting information. Like many things in life, it is all about communication.

Wildlife law enforcement is a tough job, but it can be very rewarding. Especially if the officer knows he has allies in the ranks of his local sportsmen. It’s up to you to make that call.

Hunting Non-Native Species In America: Is it For You?

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Beyond deer, elk, moose, and bear, there are a few critters roaming the wilds in this country that are more than worthy of a planned hunt. Here are a few suggestions…

SOURCE: NRAFamily.org, by Richard Mann

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a definition for the word exotic is: “Something introduced from another country or something not native to the place where it is found.” Another definition describes exotic as something strikingly, excitingly or mysteriously different or unusual. Both are appropriate when it comes to describing exotic game animals in the United States.

The hunting of exotic animals is most often associated with ranches, and it’s most common in Texas, where ranch sizes can range from a few hundred acres up into the thousands. There are places in Texas where you can hunt almost any animal found in Africa, or Continental critters like the European red stag. Since these animals are not native to the United States and have not ever become part of the American free-ranging ecosystem, hunts of this type are generally considered “high-fence” hunts. Animals harvested on hunts like this are not eligible for Boone & Crockett or Pope & Young recognition.

Blackbuck
Blackbuck photo by Nita Turpin, Lifetime Member of the Exotic Wildlife Association

There are also exotic animals that are free-ranging in America. By “free-ranging,” I mean running wild just like native animals like elk and grizzly bears. (Animals harvested on hunts like this are considered “fair chase,” as long as all local and national laws are obeyed.) What might surprise you is that several animals you might think are native to North America are actually exotics.

The most widely hunted exotic animal in North America is, believe it or not, the feral hog. The domestic pig was introduced to the Americas by the Spanish explorer DeSoto in the 1500s. Those that escaped captivity became feral and were hunted for food. Later, when the wild boar was introduced throughout the United States, they crossed with the feral hogs. Hunting wild hogs has become very popular because in most states they are considered a nuisance animal and seasons are year-round. Few hunters consider the wild hog an exotic, but it fits the definition-the pig is not native to North America. Their range is expanding, too. Initially wild hogs could only be found in the Southern states. Now, they have spread to almost every state and they continue to expand their range. This is partly because they multiply at such an amazing rate and partly because they have few natural predators to contend with.

gemsbock

I’ve hunted wild hogs in Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas. They can be extremely challenging to stalk or stand hunt but are most often shot as they come into feeders. Wild hogs are certainly edible, but due to their diet and the amount of exercise they get, they’re not going to be as tender as domestic pigs. (It’s also very important to cook the meat of all pigs very thoroughly, as they can harbor parasites.)

Upland bird hunters across North America frequently pursue another exotic-you might know it as the ringneck pheasant. It was introduced to America in the 1850s. These exotic game birds are often called the Chinese pheasant because they originated in Asia. Because of their numbers and popularity people think of them as a native species so much that the common pheasant, as it is now called, is the state bird of South Dakota.

Axis deer were introduced in the United States in the 1930s. They have thrived and are the most common non-indigenous ungulate found in North America. Over the years axis deer escaped from game ranches…and there have also been free-range introductions, too. Today, huntable populations of axis deer are found over much of Texas. They are still considered an exotic as far as game laws are concerned, so the license is cheap and they can be hunted year-round.

Hunting exotic species in the U.S. can involve any number of hunting techniques. My first axis deer hunt was on a large ranch in Texas near the South Llano River. The only fence there was a low cattle fence. The axis deer that frequented the ranch could have walked to West Virginia had they been of a mind to do so. I hunted from a box blind set up near a feeder. This is a common practice for hunting whitetails in Texas, since the brush can be so thick as to be nearly impassable for people, but it’s not necessarily my favorite way to hunt. (I did take a nice stag and the antlers are impressive.) Conversely, several years later I hunted axis again in Texas, but this time behind a high fence that surrounded thousands of acres. That time, we hunted strictly by spot and stalk. Finding an axis buck and getting close enough for a shot proved difficult. It was a thoroughly enjoyable hunt and that axis tasted just as good as the first one. Most hunters that have eaten axis deer meat agree they taste better than whitetails.

One appealing facet of the axis deer is that they breed year-round. Axis bucks grow and shed one set of antlers per year, but they do so based on when they were born. This can be at any time, so bucks in the same group can be seen with no antlers, velvet antlers or hard antlers. Hunting a stag or buck axis is not restricted to just a few months each year.

Axis deer are not the only free-ranging exotic animal you can hunt in Texas. One of my favorite critters to hunt is free-ranging aoudad, also known as Barbary sheep. (On my last aoudad hunt, the guide called them “doodads.”) The aoudad is a sheep native to North Africa, but these days they roam wild in the mountains of West Texas. It’s technically not really a sheep; the aoudad is a “caprid” or goat-antelope. Sheep or goat, these “doodads” have exquisite eyesight and like to keep to the most rugged terrain you’ll find in west Texas-in fact, today there are more aoudad in Texas than their native land. On my first aoudad hunt I walked and climbed hills until my knees begged for relief. Finally, on the fifth day, I managed to connect with one of these elusive animals with the wide curling horns.

The blackbuck and gemsbok are two other free-ranging, exotic antelope that can be hunted in North America. As a matter of fact, there are more blackbuck in Texas than in India, where they are indigenous and now considered endangered. Gemsbok (pictured above) were introduced to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in 1969. They have established additional territory off the range and in Texas. Each year the New Mexico Fish & Game issues a limited number of hunting permits for these “oryx” (as they are also known). Gemsbok are one of Africa’s most magnificent trophies. A free-ranging, North American hunt for gemsbok can be very similar to, and in some cases more challenging than, what you might experience hunting in South Africa. Interestingly, what I’ll bet you don’t know is that most all of the gemsbok hunted in South Africa are hunted behind high fences. So it’s a little ironic that you’ve got a better chance to hunt free-ranging gemsbok in the United States than you would in its native country.

When it comes to hunting ethics for exotics, we must all make our own decisions as to what is and is not acceptable. For example, in some counties in eastern Virginia it is perfectly legal to hunt whitetail deer with dogs. In South Africa, where hundreds of Americans go on safari every year, they will be hunting a high-fenced concession. What hunters should not do is discount the hunting of exotics as unethical or easy just because they are animals that are not from around here.

What’s important, regardless of whether the game animal is an exotic or not, is the method in which the hunt is conducted and the interaction between the hunter and the hunted. With a bit of research you can find a suitable location where you can have an ethical hunt for animals that in many cases were not even on this continent just 100 years ago.

I’m eagerly awaiting my next aoudad hunt that I hope happens this fall. Thousands of upland bird hunters are anticipating the opening of pheasant season across the midwest. Year round, fathers, sons and daughters will be out looking for wild hogs to hunt and a few hunters are eagerly waiting to see if they will finally draw a New Mexico gemsbok tag. Exotics are fine game animals and if you have the chance you should try for one or more of these mysterious animals.

SKILLS: Riflescopes: Adjustments & Variable Power

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There’s a lot to learn to really understand riflescopes and make the best choice. Here’s another valuable lesson. Keep reading…

riflecope

SOURCE: NRA Staff

Windage and elevation adjustments in riflescopes are made with either internal or external adjustment systems. Here’s what that means.

Internal: Most modern telescopic sights have internal adjustment systems using threaded, cylindrical knobs or screws in the turrets. The adjustment screws move the reticle assembly in the optical axis inside the main tube against spring pressure. The adjustment screws have clearly marked graduations around their circumference and many have a ball-detent system that clicks as the adjustment screws are turned. Each graduation or click represents a change in reticle position that moves the bullet strike at the target. This is expressed in minutes of angle (m.o.a.) and normally has a value of 1/2, 1/4 or 1/8 m.o.a. per click.

External: Many older scopes have an external-adjustment system built into the mounts and rings. Such scopes remain popular today for certain types of target competition. In this type of scope, the reticle remains stationary within the main tube and the point of the bullet strike is adjusted by mounts having micrometer windage and elevation mechanisms that move the entire scope laterally and/or vertically. These mounts often allow the scope to slide fore and aft to reduce recoil. An advantage of external-adjustment scopes is that the user is always sighting through the optical center of the tube.

As internal-adjustment systems became more reliable and more accurate, the popularity of external-adjustment scopes faded. Today, external-adjustment models are still offered, however the use of such scopes is now generally limited to a few specialized disciplines of rifle competition.

It is important to note that some scope-mounting systems designed for internal-adjustment scopes still incorporate the ability to accommodate some coarse external windage adjustment.

This leads us to the discussion of variable power. Variable-power riflescopes have an internal mechanism to change the amount of magnification within design limits. This consists of an additional set of lenses mounted in an internal tube that slides forward and rearward under the control of a cam attached to the magnification ring. The design of the lens system and its position in the tube controls the amount of magnification.

The popularity of variable-power riflescopes rests squarely on their flexibility. Variable magnification enables the shooter to adjsut the power to suit a wide variety of conditions ranging from lower power (with a wide field of view for fast shots at close range), to higher power (for greater precision at long range). Once considered expensive and unreliable, variable-power riflescopes have become the most popular type as their design has matured and prices have dropped. Todya, the single most popular riflescope is the 3-9X-40mm, which has become a kind of “jack of all trades.” Smaller variables such as 2-7X-32mm remain popular for smaller-caliber rifles, while 4.5-12X-50mm and bigger models are favored for long-range shooting. Despite their flexibility, no one variable fits all applications and that is why there are so many different models.

Despite their popularity, variable-power riflescopes may suffer from certain drawbacks:
ONE: The variable magnification system introduces another level of mechanical complexity and another source for optical error, potentially decreasing reliability.

TWO: The movement of the internal components of a variable-power scope can produce changes in zero as the scope power is increased or decreased.

THREE: Variable-power scopes are harder to seal than fixed-power scopes by virtue of the magnification-adjustment ring.
As the magnification increases, the field of view and image brightness decrease, often substantially.

FOUR: Variable-magnification scopes are substantially heavier than fixed-power scopes.

FIVE: Variable-power scopes are more expensive than fixed-power scopes.

5 Things to Watch Out For in the Dark Woods

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Paying attention and keeping your cool when out hunting before sunup is key to anyone’s success, and safety. Here are a few thoughts on a few things to avoid…

hunting in darkness
Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

by Jeff Johnston

ONE: Sticks and Pitfalls
The most dangerous thing you can do in the woods is to become so nervous that you get tunnel vision and begin “crashing through the woods.” If you do this, you may not notice a rock, a hole, or a steep ravine in your path. One of the common dangers while walking to your stand is to get a stick in your eye. Use a flashlight or wear a headlamp.

TWO: Your Gun or Bow
Make sure your rifle is unloaded and your broadheads are secured and covered while you walk in the dark. The chances of having to use your gun or bow in the dark are not nearly as high as the dangers of tripping with a loaded gun or exposed broadheads. Do not load your gun until you are safely in your stand with your safety belt affixed.

THREE: Tree Stands
Always make sure your tree stand is in good condition before using it. If you notice a loose step or something weird, wait until it gets light to climb and fix the problem, if you can. Never climb if the tree is icy. Always keep your gun unloaded and use a rope to pull your gun or bow up into the tree after you are seated safely with a safety harness attached.

FOUR: Streams
Never take a chance on crossing a deep or iced-over stream in the dark. If it is deep or swift-moving, find a new way to get to your stand in the daytime.

FIVE: Wild Animals
Most people who have been lost in the woods report “wild animals” as their biggest fear. Most of these people, however, never see these animals or come into contact with them because the real problem is their imagination. Sure, animals are in the woods, but they almost always avoid humans. If you are in known bear country, you should be aware of that fact, but coyotes, deer, bobcats, pigs and other animals are not to be feared. If you are in snake country, like South Texas, always use a flashlight to walk to your stand, and consider getting snakeproof boots for peace of mind. Realize that snakes can sense large predators and almost always slither off before hunters see them.

To control fear of animals, adjust your attitude. Instead of hustling to your stand, assure yourself that you, with your gun and your wits, are by far the scariest thing in the woods. You are the top of the food chain, the ultimate predator, and you should act like one. Slip quietly to your stand like you are hunting it. You will be less fearful, and you will see more animals once you get there. If you do see an animal, your best bet is to keep walking to your stand. If you have to, speak out loud. It will almost certainly run off.

Optics Terms Defined: Magnification and Objective Lens

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When it comes to optics for firearms, the specific terms that people use to describe them can be confusing. Here’s what all that argot actually means…

optics array

by NRA Staff
SOURCE: NRAFamily

Magnification
The magnification, or power, of a riflescope is expressed as a number corresponding to the size of an object viewed at a specified distance through the scope, relative to its size as seen with the naked eye. Put another way, an object 100 yards distant viewed through a 10X scope will appear to be the same size as if it were viewed with the naked eye from 10 yards away. Different scope magnifications are used for specific shooting activities.

High-magnification riflescopes from 15X to 50X with objective lens diameters of 40-50mm or more with adjustable objective-lens systems are popular for various types of centerfire rifle competitions such as benchrest and F-Class.

Varmint shooters normally prefer a scope with magnification levels of 12X to 24X and adjustable objective lens diameters of 44-50mm for their precision work.

Long-range big-game hunting demands a scope with an adjustable objective lens system of approximately 40mm diameter with power levels up to 15X that enable the hunter to judge game and wind conditions at extreme distances.

At dawn, dusk or during poor light conditions, scopes with large objective lenses of 50mm and above that gather all existing light are preferable, with powers between 6X and 12X. Illuminated reticles are a popular option on these scopes.

Low-power scopes of 1.1X to 4X with a wide field of view and fixed objective are well-suited for hunting in woods or brush at close range.

For general-purpose hunting, most sportsmen are well served by a 3-9X-40mm variable scope with fixed objective, which is a good compromise between a wide field of view for close shots (at 3X) and added magnification (at 9X) for distant shots.

As magnification levels increase, the field of view decreases, which makes target acquisition increasingly difficult. Increasing magnification also magnifies movement, making the reticle appear less steady and thus hampering the ability of many shooters to hold their point of aim. These factors conspire to make most scopes over 8X very difficult to use without a solid rest. When shooting from a rest on a bench, a narrow field of view and high magnification are less of a problem.

Objective Lens
The objective lens is the light-gathering lens at the front of the scope. The larger the diameter of the objective lens, the more light will be admitted into the scope. This results in a larger exit pupil with a brighter image.

Most riflescopes have objective lens diameters from 32mm to 44mm. These provide a good balance between light-gathering capability, cost and image quality. Such riflescopes are relatively lightweight and easy to mount on most rifles. For many hunting applications, such riflescopes are an excellent choice.

For hunting at dusk, dawn or in very low light conditions, the increased light-gathering capability of a larger objective lens may be a better choice. For such conditions, most scope manufacturers offer models with 50mm to 56mm objective lenses. However, there is a penalty to be paid for th is increased performance in the form of substantially increased weight, higher cost and difficulty in mounting a scope with such a large objective.

Varmint hunters and some target shooters prefer riflescopes with large 50mm or greater objective lenses for a different reason. They want a higher-power scope of 12X or more with a clear, crisp, flat image with excellent contrast and an adjustable objective to remove parallax. The image quality reduces eyestrain and enables them to clearly see small targets at long ranges and to judge wind and mirage precisely. They also spend considerable time looking through the scope with the rifle held on a solid rest, so unsteadiness from high magnification and a narrow field of view is less important.

7 Things to Do Before Rifle Season

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Preparation is the key to virtually any successful venture, and deer hunting is no exception! Here are some valuable tips on how to best spend your time getting ready to go… Keep reading.

hunting trip
Image by Jim Bulger/Colorado Parks and Wildlife

by Steve Johnson, NRA Publications

Hunting season officially starts in September in most states…even earlier in others. Most states open with archery season and, as things progress and the rut draws nearer, they have a shorter season for folks who hunt with firearms. As a kid, firearm deer season in Nebraska was always the holy grail of hunting. We would get our rifles out and head to the range, usually on a cool October afternoon, staple a paper plate up on the 100-yard backstop and head back to the bench. Most of the guys I hunted with would take a shot or two, and if they hit the plate say, “meh, good enough,” then case their rifle back up and let the next guy shoot. Strictly speaking, you may only require a permit, rifle, ammo, and knife to go hunting, but there is more to it. A lot more.

ONE: First off: Boots
If you’ve never had a bad pair of boots, it can make it hard to appreciate a good pair. If you’ve only had good boots, you’re lucky or smart. Before you rush out and just buy a pair of “hunting boots” think about where you’ll be hunting and spend some time researching the correct boot for your environment. We grew up hunting in Sorel pack boots, which are great, as they’re waterproof and warm. If you go with a leather boot, Danner is worth a look, just make sure to protect them with the manufacturer’s recommended product for waterproofing.

TWO: Clothes
Both underwear and outer wear require thought beyond “what’s the coolest camo pattern”: Consider breathability, insulation properties (especially when wet), how well it layers, windproofing, etc. Will you be hunting in a tree stand-stationary and exposed-or still hunting, where you can find a warmer spot to sit? Think about where you’re hunting and which performance features will mean the most to you, then purchase accordingly. Check out companies like Icebreaker for out-of-this-world wool clothing. Synthetics have come a long way in the past 10 years, and one of the very best is Sitka.

THREE: Blades
There are a lot of good knives on the market, from the timeless Buck 119 to hunting knives that are bound to be classics like the KA-BAR Gamestalker. The one thing a knife needs to do is get sharp and hold an edge. Taking a dull knife into the field is dangerous. A sharp knife makes work quicker, easier and safer. Trying to cut tough materials, tendons, cartilage and hide with a dull and slippery knife is a good way to earn a trip to the emergency room. Keep your knife sharp. Sharpening a knife is a lost art, so take the time and learn how to sharpen your blade, get a good one and build a “relationship” with that piece of equipment. It will likely be one you can pass to a son or daughter along with your love of hunting.

Check out Midsouth offerings HERE

FOUR: Gather Intel
Trail cams have become a very important tool for the hunter, regardless of the species you hunt. They provide a lot of information about the type of critters passing through and their schedules. Trailcams can be found easily online. Spend some time researching features and talk to friends to get recommendations on the best camera for your hunting application.

Check out Midsouth offerings HERE

FIVE: Prepare Your Hunting Grounds
Prior to season, you’ll also want to head out for an afternoon and make sure your stands are in good repair, and that nothing has broken over the off-season. If you pull your stands after the season, this is the time to get them reinstalled. Cutting shooting lanes while branches still have foliage is not a bad idea either, as the foliage makes it easier to see all the little branches that might be missed if you cut a lane after the leaves have dropped.

SIX: Pack it Up
Make sure you’ve selected the correct pack for your hunt. There are many types of packs, frame packs, soft shell packs, hybrid packs…it’s almost limitless. The basic rule: “go in light, come out heavy.” This is the right idea. Take in only the essentials, and make sure and include spare batteries for any device that you will be using. Carrying a separate GPS is still a good idea, as cell phone battery life is normally very short when compared to a handheld GPS unit. Plus, there is a very good chance your cell phone GPS won’t work in a remote area. If you are hunting a large expanse of land on foot or horseback, it’s also wise to carry an old-fashioned paper map of the area, as paper maps are lightweight, and the batteries never go dead. At least one good flashlight is a must. LED flashlights have much longer battery life and generate more light with less energy. Basic firs- aid equipment is also a requirement. You’ll also want to make sure that you’ve got a back up knife, extra gloves and stocking cap so you can rotate them as they become sweaty or wet.

Check out Midsouth offerings HERE

SEVEN: Nom Nom Nom
Nothing will make you long to leave your tree stand like an empty stomach (not to mention how noisy it can get.) Some healthy, high-energy snacks are also a must. Nuts provide excellent energy and salt that you need to help replace minerals. Beef jerky is also an excellent, high protein, higher sodium snack that is very lightweight.

House Committee Passes SHARE Act by Wide Margin

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The SHARE Act could have a very positive effect on gun-owning sportsmen as well as all gun enthusiasts. Here are some details…

SHARE Act.

SOURCE: NRA-ILA

On Tuesday, September 12, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a hearing on the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, which had been introduced on September 1 by Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-SC). Following the subcommittee hearing, the full Committee on Natural Resources marked up and passed the SHARE Act by a vote of 22-13. All amendments offered in an attempt to weaken the bill were soundly defeated. The bill now awaits floor action in the U.S. House.

As we have reported, this year’s version of the SHARE Act is the most expansive and far-reaching yet. Besides previously-introduced provisions aimed at enhancing opportunities for hunting, fishing, and shooting, and broadening access to federal lands for these purposes, this year’s SHARE Act contains reforms that would widely benefit sportsmen and the gun-owning public at large.

These reforms would protect Americans traveling interstate with lawfully-owned firearms, amend provisions of federal law that have been abused by antigun administrations to impose gun control by executive fiat, and make the health-promoting benefits of firearm sound suppressors more accessible.

Attorney and constitutional scholar Steven Halbrook, who has litigated firearms issues before the U.S. Supreme Court, testified at Tuesday’s hearing that the Act would “enhance protection of Second Amendment guarantees” without “adversely affect[ing] law enforcement interests.”

Halbrook provided background on several key provisions of the act. He noted that under current law, for example, certain federal courts have denied plaintiffs remedies for violation of their federally-protected right to transport unloaded firearms interstate between jurisdictions where they may be lawfully carried. This has emboldened certain states, like New York and New Jersey, to ignore these protections and arrest law-abiding Americans for exercising their rights under federal law. “Title XI of the bill will rectify this affront to the right to travel and the Second Amendment by explicitly immunizing law-abiding travelers from arrest and recognizing a civil action for violation,” he stated.

Halbrook also testified about the benefits of suppressors and how they were rarely implicated in violent crime. “That is why suppressors are freely available,” he noted, “even over the counter or by mail order, in many European countries.” In this regard, the bill would eliminate the current $200 transfer tax and a federal approval process that can take as long as a year to complete.

Others testifying focused on Title IV of the bill, the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage Opportunities Act, which will reduce the regulatory burdens for federal agencies to promote hunting, fishing, and shooting on federal public lands across the nation.

Testifying against the bill was David Chipman, Senior Policy Advisor for the Gabby Giffords/Mark Kelly gun control group, Americans for Responsible Solutions. Chipman claimed to draw on his experience as a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in arguing that the Act “assaults the interests of our nation’s law enforcement officials and threatens our public safety and security.” In particular, his comments focused on the Act’s removal of impediments to the lawful purchase of suppressors. He also criticized the Act’s reforms to the “sporting purposes” standard for firearm importation.

Ironically, Ronald Turk, ATF’s current second-highest ranking official — who has spent over two decades working up the ranks of the agency from his initial assignments as a street agent — offered far different takes on these same issues in an interagency white paper that became public in February. Turk cited both of these issues as ripe for “regulatory changes or modifications … that would have an immediate, positive impact on commerce and industry without significantly hindering ATF’s mission or adversely affecting public safety.”

Turk characterized the import restrictions cited by Chipman as serving “questionable public safety interests,” because they often affect firearms “already generally legally available for manufacture and ownership in the United States.” He also suggested a broader understanding of firearm “sports” was appropriate, to include activities and competitions that use “AR-15s, AK-style, and similar rifles.” Regarding suppressors, the white paper opined, “Given the lack of criminality associated with silencers, it is reasonable to conclude that they should not be viewed as a threat to public safety necessitating NFA classification, and should be considered for reclassification under the [Gun Control Act].”

The SHARE Act now heads to the House Floor, where it could receive consideration as early as September 25.

Please contact your U.S. Representative NOW and ask him or her to vote YES on H.R. 3668, the SHARE Act. You can call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your representative’s office.

There has never been a better opportunity to pass this important and far-reaching legislation, but your help is urgently needed to ensure it goes the distance.

FIREARMS: Five Good Reasons To Reconsider The Ruger Mini-14

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The AR15 platform is decidedly not the only way to go… Let’s revisit another American-made classic that might just win you over. Keep reading…

Mini-14s

 

by Brian Sheetz, American Rifleman

When it comes to .223 Rem. semi-automatic rifles, Ruger’s Mini-14 has long been one of the obvious choices (technically, the Mini-14 has the more desirable 5.56 NATO chamber, which allows use of surplus ammo). And it’s no wonder, considering it offers nearly the same handiness as the M1 Carbine, the ballistics of the AR15, and the feel of the classic M1 Garand and M14. The Mini’s popularity confirms its strong perceived relevance among a wide range of users, and sustained sales for more than 40 years is evidence of its sound design — even if it’s unfairly judged by the same criteria as today’s predominant platform, the AR, which enjoys the huge advantages of U.S. military adoption and unlimited manufacturing sources. So while some consider the Mini a bit dowdy or lowly, it is actually a serious standout worth giving a second look. Here are just five of the many reasons why a Mini-14 Ranch, Tactical, or Thirty model should be on your short list the next time you shop for a modern rifle:

One: The AR may not be right for you.
 As difficult as it may be for some to believe, not everyone finds the AR platform appealing. There are a number of reasons why, but two come quickly to mind. The first is that its appearance may be too “tactical” for some people’s tastes; aesthetics can be subjective. And the second is that its controls may not be intuitive for some users because of their physical makeup and/or lack of prior training. In contrast to the former, most versions of the Mini have a sporter-like profile and some feature wood stocks, making them right at home in saddle scabbards, pickup trucks and, more importantly, in the minds of many for whom the sight of a traditional rifle is less likely to arouse unwanted attention. As to the latter, the Mini’s centrally located safety, its hook-rock-and-lock magazine design, and its beefy, integral charging handle make for a straightforward manual of arms with the respective benefits of rapid employment, secure loading and positive chambering. Add to these factors the Mini’s light overall weight (6 lbs., 12 ozs.) and handiness (36.75-inch length), and you have a combination of qualities that is difficult to ignore.

Two: The latest Minis are more accurate.
The Mini has long suffered from a reputation among many users for poor accuracy. Theories abound as to why that is the case: My own is that the considerable mass of the operating slide impacts harshly against the gas block, which is bolted directly to the relatively thin barrel, not allowing the barrel to return to its precise point of rest between shots. But in 2005, Ruger retooled the Mini-14 production line and most shooters agree that, beginning with the 580-prefix series guns made since then, shooting 2-inch groups at 100 yds. is not out of the question. Again, it may come as a surprise to some, but not everyone needs a half-m.o.a.-capable rifle. Many tasks just don’t require that level of accuracy. In fact, most hunting and self-defense situations are in that category. Also, my experience is that accuracy and reliability in semi-automatic rifle actions is usually inversely proportional. So, anything that the Mini lacks in the way of accuracy is, practically speaking, likely more than made up for in reliability and cleanliness of operation and in lack of ammunition sensitivity.

Mini-14
Classic lines and ergonomics make the Ruger Mini-14 appeal to those who have had experience with more conventional rifles.

Three: The Mini is one of few semi-auto .223s available in stainless steel.
 For boaters, coastal dwellers, and others for whom corrosion is an issue, the Mini is one of the few factory semi-auto rifles available in stainless steel, which can greatly reduce the necessity for fastidious, immediate maintenance. Because of their simple fixed-gas-piston system and Garand-style rotating bolt with two large locking lugs, Minis are generally not maintenance-sensitive anyway, but when it comes to harsh environments, particularly, the advantages of keeping stainless steel free of corrosion are undeniable — especially when gun maintenance cannot be performed as regularly as it should. Note that, with the Mini, stainless construction means that the barrel, receiver, bolt, operating rod, trigger group, and many other small parts are stainless steel. Blued guns, of course, use chromemoly steels in many of those same large components, but even in those guns, many of the smaller components are made of stainless. The broader point, of course, is that the Mini is made largely of steel — not polymers or aluminum — and steel’s material properties lend it a durability and longevity that lighter-weight materials simply cannot match.

mini-14 stainless
A simple, well-proven design that’s even available in stainless steel makes the Mini-14 appeal to many who just haven’t warmed up to the AR-platform firearms.

Four: 20- and 30-round factory magazines are widely available and reasonably priced.
This had been a longstanding bugaboo that plagued the Mini-14’s reputation. Ruger has produced 20- and 30-round magazines since the gun’s earliest days, but, until just a few years ago, it sold the latter only through law enforcement channels. That spurred the production of a raft of inferior aftermarket magazines, which did nothing to bolster the Mini’s otherwise enviable reputation for reliability. Nowadays, factory-fresh, Ruger steel magazines — a durable design that has functioned virtually flawlessly since its inception — are available for sale in the usual commercial channels at reasonable prices. In addition, flush-fitting 5-round magazines are also available. All feature a projection on the follower that activates the gun’s bolt hold-open once the last round has been fired. (The hold-open can also be manually activated by way of a button atop the receiver rather easily.)

mini-14 magazines
A range of quality steel magazines is available from Ruger, and there are many others on the aftermarket. Ruger offers 20-, 30-, and 5-round (flush-fit) magazines. Shown are a 30 and a 5.

Five: It’s recently available in .300 Blackout.
This option should make an already proven platform even more appealing and versatile — especially for those who would like to hunt with a Mini in areas that require a caliber greater than that of the .223 Rem. Of course the Mini has been available in 7.62×39 mm for years as the Mini Thirty, albeit limited to 20-round factory magazines, but the new .300 Blackout Mini brings .30-cal. presence to the familiar platform with the advantage of feeding from the same .223-cal. 20- and 30-round magazines. Ruger is selling the gun with a magazine marked “300 AAC Blackout” simply as a precaution, but there is reportedly no difference mechanically between it and the .223 magazine. It makes one wonder if the smart move might be to buy two Minis, a .223 Rem. and a .300 Blackout, along with a raft of magazines to fit either interchangeably as a practical, powerful hedge against bad times.

Check out the Minis HERE