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Rifles/Guns

NRA Stand and Fight

When the NRA suggested putting armed security in every school across America, mainstream media sharply criticized Wayne LaPierre — calling him everything from "laughable" and "tone deaf" to "whacked," "evil" and "out of step with America."

Read more: NRA Stand and Fight

Predator Sling

Predator Sling

By Kathleen Kalina

Womenhunters President

Wisconsin

 

The Predator sling is the silent version of the military’s rifle sling. It's easy slip on strap and snap into the stock allows you to carry your rifle close and eliminate the weight. For Women Hunters this sling is now on sale for only $69 (a $90 value).

Read more: Predator Sling

Voluntary Restraint

 

 

Voluntary Restraint

By Christine Cunningham

Staff writer

Alaska

 

I examined the spruce branches to find the bird-shaped shadow, or, as my often cryptic hunting partner describes the process, “look for something that looks out of place.” Perhaps, I thought, if I were capable of figuring out what looked out of place, his advice would be helpful. It wasn’t as though I remembered the exact location of every spruce tree branch on our twenty mile trip down a dirt road and would be able to say, “Stop, there,” the way he did, only to then justify it with the, ole “something looked out of place,” when I know it’s a physical impossibility to distinguish one of these overgrown patches of spruce grouse country from another.

My shotgun was clenched across my chest ready to mount at the next disturbed ruffling of wings. “Now, if I could just remember if there were 587 spruce needles on that branch instead of 586 just a moment ago, I could determine whether anything was different,” I imagined my partner thinking. I looked over to see if he was determining any difference. He wasn’t. He was headed back to where the truck was parked. His shotgun was broken open, and he was tucking his two un-spent shells back into his pocket.

“Where are you going?” I hollered. “It’s right in here!” I pointed to the trees in front of me. Somewhere in there, I thought.

“Go ahead,” he hollered back.

I scanned the upper branches of the spruce trees. The evening sun betrayed every deformation of their branches. It didn’t matter how invisible his instincts told him he was, in a matter of minutes, I would find the grouse, he would flush again, and I would have the last bird of the day. I heard the door of the truck close and saw the old giver-upper ducking inside. This is ridiculous, I thought. Why would a person spend nine hours looking for spruce grouse and when one is found, turn around and head for the truck?

“What are you doing?” I yelled over my shoulder. If a grouse could express himself in human terms–and only a refined grouse at that–he would remind me that one must conduct herself a certain way in the forest. Yelling back to the road was poor woods’ manners. I knew I ruined the mood. The romanticism of the hunt is completely wrecked by conduct such as I exhibited. In fairness to my situation, I was still hunting and my, eh hem, hunting buddy was sipping coffee inside a vehicle.

I stood there for a moment longer. Lack of quarry had built up my desire to at least take one bird out of the forest. Desperation, and not the thrill of the hunt, was my driving force. It is in such moments that hunters take the shot they later regret. It’s different with subsistence hunting, and, although I ate the game I took from the field, I was not going to fill the freezer two spruce grouse breasts at a time.

My hunting partner was in the driver’s seat. He grasped his thermos lid-full of coffee and stared contentedly at the road ahead of us. “We could have had that bird,” I said.

“Naw,” he said. “He got away fair and square.” I understood why we passed on the first few grouse we’d seen–they were near a gravel pit adjacent to a major highway. Ethics involving safety and sensitivity to non-hunters made sense to me. What I couldn’t figure out was what new ethic caused my usually reasonable hunting partner, the person who had first taken me into the field and showed me everything I know about the hunting and shooting sports, walked away from a perfectly legal and ethical bird sitting far within the brush line of an abandoned gravel road.

Without having the traditional pipe, he lit a cigarette instead.

“What was fair and what was square about the way that bird got away?” I questioned, adding, “He could have flushed again and I would have had a clean shot.”

“If you remember,” he said, evoking that superior view that can remember things exactly, “We determined that we would both take a side, and when the bird flushed, one of us would have a pretty good shot.”

Yes, I remembered that. “And he did flush,” I said. “And after he landed you didn’t even look!” I said

“I looked,” my partner said.

“You looked for 32 seconds!” I pointed out. I have a gift for knowing the exact number of seconds of which a moment is comprised even if I can’t count spruce needles. I made sure to declare the fact in the same tone he distinguished the way an area he hasn’t seen in twenty years is full of bird-indicating differences even as he declares, “Last time I was through this area the trees were two feet high and you could see to the lake,” and all I’m left to say, without benefit of Google Earth, is “What lake?”

We’d been hunting since eight o’ clock that morning. We’d flushed countless birds. We’d even gotten some wing shooting after we had spotted a bird in the trees. I knew the regulations and the ethics of upland bird hunting. What I had yet to learn was this mysterious code my hunting partner would sometimes evoke of the not-that- bird-at-this-time variety.

“32 seconds!” I repeated. “For some reason, you decided not to look for that bird anymore after 32 seconds.”

“You could have stayed and shot him.” he pointed out.

“Apparently, I would have been in violation of some rule that I am absolutely unaware exists and if, by breaking, I become the kind of slob hunter you elitists talk about amongst yourselves at the skeet range.” I didn’t want to be that slob, but I lacked the refined thinking to figure out for myself how to avoid it. I saw nothing wrong with shooting that grouse and, to take it a step further, I didn’t see anything wrong with shooting the bird with a .22 rifle while it perched on a branch.

 Ruger .22 rifle with a scope and three spruce grouse taken on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula

He smiled. It was the smile of knowing things that cannot be taught. He had the ability to determine for himself when to take or not to take a shot because he understood his relationship with nature. The thoughts that go through an individual hunter’s mind–whether hunting for upland birds or big game–before pulling the trigger cannot be argued. They simply exist as a reflection on the hunter who evokes the not-that-bird-at-this-time reasoning.

“It’s hard to explain,” my partner acknowledged. “I figured that that bird would flush and one of us would get a shot. Instead, he ran into the brush and flushed so that I couldn’t see where he landed. That was pretty smart of him, I thought.”

“So now we’re only going to shoot birds that exhibit no exceptional qualities?” I asked.

He looked at me for a moment. I couldn’t tell if it was exasperation with my level of understanding or whether he wasn’t sure himself why he wasn’t interested in shooting that particular bird. I knew that there was a special place in his heart for what I often called “chickens.” I equated the birds we hunted with the domestic variety. I never shared my grandmother’s fondness for what she called her “girls.” When she took sick for two weeks, and my sister and I were tasked with gathering the eggs, I had tried to lift the hens gently from their nests at first. By the end of the week I was whacking hens off their nests with a broom. Actually, it was a shovel, but I say it was a broom when I’m in mixed company so as not to offend chicken-sympathizers.

We pulled into our last hunting spot for the day. It was an edge line that provided all the elements for great spruce grouse hunting. Winchester and Cheyenne, an English setter and a chocolate lab, who was still learning to honor a point, were let out of the back of the truck. They bounded into the woods with renewed energy. My hunting partner loaded his shotgun with the two shells he’d put away earlier.

Winchester and Cheyenne- Winchester is an English Setter

Cheyenne is a chocolate lab representing two different styles of bird hunting

(Pointers and Flushers)

 

“Maybe we’ll find some dumb ones!” I hollered across the back of the truck.

Winchester with Spruce Grouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ultimate Fitting

Fit your Gun!
by Sheila Ogle
Board Treasurer / Staff Writer
Missouri
Choose a gun that fits you, and get comfortable with its recoil before hunting season, and you will be relaxed and ready when you are out hunting and shooting with it.

Women Hunting Dall Sheep in the Brooks Range, Alaska

For the past 3 years my friends and I have been hunting sheep in the Brooks Range in Northern Alaska. Experiencing these remote wilderness trips has changed my perspective of life. When I am in the midst of these lovely wild mountains and long flowing rivers, I realize that I am quite small yet magically blessed with being a part of the natural order.

The natural order demands that death is necessary to sustain life. Some plant or animal must die for me to eat and live. Hunting is the process of stalking, killing, and surviving and this requires an acute awareness and presence. When I am hunting I feel most alive. I feel what it means to be a human, raw and exposed, without the cushion of society.

I enjoy both the planning process and the product of our hunts. I plan the gear and my friend, Kimberley, plans the food. Marianne and Kay have the same system. Everyone is responsible for providing 3 days of food for the group. The food theme for 2009 was Thai and for 2010 pasta. We always carry wine. We avoid duplicating gear. We only need one spotting scope, one stove. The weight limit for us and gear is 1200 lbs and we take 1199!

Read more: Women Hunting Dall Sheep in the Brooks Range, Alaska

The Big One

For several weeks I would walk out the front door and search for “my” buck.  As with most everything else when we moved, the binoculars had been misplaced, so I would use my camera and good zoom to find him.  There was just something about this buck.  His antlers were very symmetrical and well defined.  He stayed mostly in the middle of the grain field bedded down near the legs of the irrigation pivot.  There was no cover to sneak up on him and although I could have had a blind set up, I was sure he would just move to a different area.  About 11am the deer would start moving around the field and I would usually see this big guy head over to the corner between 2 hay yards and a shorter pivot.  If I was going to have a chance, it would be near this area because there was the most cover to get into range.

Even though I had my tags, I was only set up to bowhunt and I knew this big guy wasn’t going to let me in for that kind of shot.   My husband had just joined us in Montana, after his Air Force Disability Retirement and we were in the throes of trying to get organized and settled in. We had been apart for nearly 3 months while I got the housing and children taken care of in Montana and he tied up loose ends in Delaware.  As much as I wanted to get right out, I just didn’t have a chance.

We decided to look for a rifle since every year we always borrowed his mom’s Remington 6mm, and wanted something of our own.  But nothing seemed to fit just right.  Then I got to talking with my mom and she asked me why I just didn’t use my dad’s 30-06.  It hadn’t crossed my mind really, but he hadn’t hunted with it for about 20 years, give or take a few.  So I convinced him to let me take it.  It certainly needed a good cleaning and going over but it seemed to be in great shape.

The rifle is a Remington 721 30-06 and after doing a little research, I found that it was quite a popular gun and was more accurate for the dollar than any other rifle ever built.  The first production of the 721 was in 1948. Basically it was an inexpensive “plane jane” model that was dead-on accurate.

After getting it all cleaned up we were ready to go to the range, but I was hoping to find a better scope.  My father in law decided to give me a Leopold 12x scope that he had used for many years but that he wasn’t using any more.  So after getting it mounting on the gun, we headed to the range.

I was quite nervous about the kick as I have heard that 30-06 can leave you quite bruised.  Thankfully it wasn’t anything like I expected.  It took quite a few rounds to get it sighted in to 300 yards, but at that I felt confident and was anxious to get out and get “my” buck.

That night I decided to head out, it was later than I hoped to get out, but I thought I still might have a chance.  I snuck up the ditch that leads to the first hay yard.  This turned out not to work so well as the grass covering the ditch was quite noisy.  I made it to the first hay yard and sat down along the fence facing the herd of does that had scattered a bit after hearing “something.”  I had forgotten to bring my shooting stick though and it was quite an uncomfortable position.  I sat for quite some time and had numerous does walk within 20-30 yards of me. I could have taken one easily.  The problem was I had “buck fever” and was determined to wait for “my” buck.  Darkness crept in and I didn’t see a single buck. We had been seeing a dozen nice bucks daily so I was surprised at the lack of antlers that evening. Later on in the week we set up a ground blind at the head of the shorter pivot between the 2 haystack yards figuring this would get us a good shot if the deer followed their daily pattern.

Saturday November 6th I dropped my husband and boys off with his parents to help them out and I was going hunting. I decided to take my 8 year old daughter, Hannah ,with me for the hunt.  We went out to the blind we had set up in the field about 11:30 am.  From what I had been seeing, the deer generally move to this part of the field between 11 and 3 and stay until dusk when they start moving out and bedding down.  We spooked a couple of does and a nice buck up getting to the blind, but they weren’t too scared and didn't run off far.  We got all set up in the blind, trying to figure out which windows to use, etc....  About half hour after being in the blind, several does and a small forky horned buck came out of the haystack. I could have had any of them easily but the buck I wanted was laying down next to the irrigation pivot tires about 500 yards away and I wanted him!  Then the nice buck we spooked when we moved into the blind came back too; it was tempting to take him, but his rack wasn't as appealing.  Did I just say that?  Umm, yes, buck fever.  Normally it’s about the meat, but this year I just wanted a big buck and there were plenty of them running around.  Dad counted up to 12 bucks most afternoons in the herd there.  We watched and watched "my" buck.  He was with several other bucks and does. Many of the does got up and worked their way up to us.  A 6 pointer and a bunch of fawns came up about 2:00.  They hung right around the blind; Hannah was thrilled to see them so close. Even though we weren't exactly quiet, they weren't worried at all. At one point Hannah asked if I could shoot a buck for her, too; she was disappointed that I could only shoot 1.  Several times the bigger bucks would get up and I would think yay! they are finally moving over, only to look back and find them bedded down again.  Hannah was ready to get out and stalk them, which we probably could have done but I wanted to have a good comfortable rest when I went to shoot and was hesitant to do the stalking with Hannah with me.  So we did some more waiting. Finally, about 4:30 a couple of other bucks and does from down below joined the group and they started working their way along the pivot towards the blind.  I was ready to shoot at about 4:50, he was in my sights. Just then it started raining and the sound of the rain on the blind spooked them, or maybe just the rain but they started running past the blind.  Darn!  I was worried they would just keep going. I quickly opened a different blind window, moved Hannah and set up again on the other side.  They were still moving around but at a slower pace and more just milling in the same area than leaving.  I found the buck again.  He was at about 200 yards quartering slightly away, then he stopped. BAM!  It became this bizarre slow motion scene where I could see the dust from the entire herd as they scattered and the buck leap in the air and crash down.  He was down for good.  I couldn't believe it!  That was about 5:05.  Even Hannah was shaking from the adrenaline; we were both thrilled.  I sent my husband a text message to come help me, followed shortly by "wait" as a couple does started coming back to check out what happened.  I thought I would take a doe, too.  But they never stopped long enough and I was shaking too badly so we just went with the buck. Then it got insane as it started raining again, we had to field dress him and get him back so I could feed the animals for dad. Hannah even helped and the kids got a deer anatomy lesson while we dressed him out. Cory, the older of my two boys, was sure we needed to save the heart, like in a box or something, not sure why? I was so super proud of my daughter for having the patience to stick it out with me and then help in the whole process and for my boys coming to help as well.  An experience none of us will forget.

 

Seven Days Hunting Alone in Northern Minnesota

November deer firearms opener in Minnesota is second in importance after walleye opener in May. Every small town in Northern Minnesota has a big signs “Welcome Hunters.” (in May, the signs say “Welcome Fishermen.”) Suffice to say, fishing and hunting brings in the largest income of any industry in Minnesota. Yeah…like who cares about the Superbowl? Many people have inherited family property for hunting, or they have hunting leases from lumber companies or use the scarce public land. Public land is not like out in the western states, but small tracts of state or county land. Those who purchase hunting land pay a hefty price.

My hunting lease is from Potlatch Lumber company. They lease land to hunters while their trees grow for about 20 yearsrs and then they do a cut. My land was cut last year and was planted with pine trees in sandy soil. The lumber company left the 40 acre plot with a clear-cut resulting in large furrows in the soil making it hard to walk, with stumps and logs laying everywhere. The entire property is ringed by tall stands of Pines. This year prairie grasses and bushes have grown to 5ft. In the middle of the property are several large piles of logs, sticks and timber debris. Standing on top of these heaps allows a 360 degree visibility over all of the 40 acres. Deer can sleep in the high grasses and it would be hard to see them. I chose to put my blind on top of the highest debris mound that is about 12-14ft above the landscape. I noticed that a bear dug a den inside this debris last year and covered the door with sticks, grasses and mud. It was probably a sow with cubs, since it was large. The bite marks looked old so I thought that maybe this year she went to a new den or was dead. In November bears are usually denned by then, but we had unseasonably warm weather. It was cold in the mornings at 28F and warmed to 50-60F in the midday.

Trailer and camp. (Kalina Photo)

I have a 21 foot travel trailer that is my hunting camp. My dog, Daisy, a Springer Spaniel, goes with me. My 2000 watt Honda Generator uses about 1 gallon of gas in 4-5 hours. So I use it at night to watch DVDS and to turn on lights. My refrigerator, furnace, hot water and stove run on propane. The trailer has a freshwater tank that holds 24 gallons of water, which can last me 5 days if I am conservative. This year I was hunting alone. If I hunt the southern part of the state with friends, the state allows shotgun only. In the northern part, a rifle is allowed. A rifle can shoot a deer at 300 yards, compared to the 75 yards for a slug in a shotgun.

In my younger years, I worked in the field as an Environmental Scientist and spent weeks in remote places alone. So I am knowledgeable about survival skills. Now that I am 59 years old and have widespread arthritis, and just had a total knee replacement this year, I am still trying, within limits, to keep hunting in remote areas. A lot of people can’t be in the quiet and darkness of the forest for very long. They must talk or feel protected by others around them.

On Saturday, the opening day, I walked to the middle of the property in the 5 am darkness to climb the debris mound to get into a Killzone blind (see the Killzone review). It was 20F and windy. I waited an hour until the noises in the distance of other hunters driving ATV’s or talking rankled the air. When dawn hit, the shooting began. I wondered why deer weren’t running through my property. I saw two deer run at the farthest border for an instant, all day. I used my range finder to determine they were both around 600 yards, before they disappeared behind a hill. Ruts and small hills hide a deer quickly before I could swing the 30.06 around to shoot. The next day, I saw nothing. For two more days, I saw nothing. I sent text messages to Linda Burch (President of Women Hunters) who was hunting her land an hour away. She wasn’t seeing deer either. She encouraged me that the rut was about to start and a new weather front was coming. This really psyched me to wait it out.

When you are alone in the woods for several days, you begin to hear sounds more sharply. Every little leaf sounds like a blast. Sounds are magnified. You know that everything that works or doesn’t work has to be repaired by you. The first night the furnace started to vibrate and make a terrible noise. I read the RV repair book and looked at the schematic diagram of the furnace. So the next day I took the furnace cover off and checked the blower wheel for a loose nut only to see nut was tight. The furnace worked better after that.

On the sixth day I was out of water, propane and gas for the generator; time to pull the trailer into town and get supplies. Luckily, the propane guy also had a water hose to fill my freshwater tank. He told me that several bear sows with cubs had been seen that week and that it had been too warm for them to den up yet. I hoped that the bear didn’t come back when it’s dark and I’m in the blind.

Bear den opening where he put sticks in to cover the opening. (Kalina Photo)

Eating in the café, I heard the local deer reports. This little news gave me an idea of what was moving and what was not moving. I could now stick it out even 5 more days.

Deerblind (Killzone turret xl) on top of bear den with bushes in front of it. (Kalina Photo)

From my blind on top of the bear den, dusk was approaching fast. Suddenly, I saw a doe 225 yards ahead in a small depression. The angle of the shot put the setting sun directly hitting my scope, yet I was able to get a good shot. When my first shot hit, the doe didn’t move. Dead on her feet. I shot several more times to make sure she was down. I didn’t want her running or making me track her in the dark. As I came up to her, I stopped about 20ft away and she suddenly jumped straight up in the air, I shot her again. She was dead now. I could see that I had hit her with every shot. Some deer just don’t fall easily.

After tagging her ear with the license, I walked back to the trailer to get the tarp, rope and Hunter Safety vest™. I couldn’t budge the deer without putting her on the tarp. Wrapping the deer in the tarp and putting the ¾ thick rope through the grommets made it possible to slide the deer. The Hunter Safety vest™ has a very strong deer drag attachment in the back for the rope. Without the vest to displace the pulling weight, I wouldn’t be able to drag it. Inching slowly with my headlamp lighting the way, I weaved around stumps and other obstacles trying to keep only on grasses that were slicker. Telling myself that there was no rush, that I could just inch it for hours if I had to, was really good self guidance. I felt it was sliding and that’s all. It was 60F and hot weather for heavy work. I was in a T-shirt and really out of breath by the time I made it the 600 yards to the trailer. I called Linda Burch and was concerned about what to do with the deer in this heat. I couldn’t load it in the truck and drive home tomorrow to my usual butcher, it was too hot. It was getting late, where would I find a local butcher? I would have to unhook the truck from the trailer, pull equipment out of the truck so that I could push the deer in.

Author after dragging deer 600 yards wrapped in tarp. (Kalina photo-self timer)

After driving the 19 miles to the nearest town, I stopped at the first convenience store to ask about the registration station and a butcher. The teenager only knew directions to the registration station. There I was able to find a flyer for a butcher. Relief! I had persevered and the deer went to the processor.

The next morning, I was so sore that I could hardly move. My first goal was to get the blind from the debris hilltop. The weather was changing and dark clouds were coming in. On my way to the blind, I noticed it was lying on its side and I wondered if it had been windy during the night, since I endured some really high winds in that blind and it was tied down tight to the logs at the top. As I got closer, I noticed the window screen had been pulled out and was lying on the outside, with the window material ripped. That is when I realized that the bear was back. I looked at the den door and it was still locked up with sticks.

Stump next to trailer that was chewed up by returning bear. (Kalina Photo)

Near the trailer, I noticed the stump only three feet away was now torn and chewed up. I had put deer cane on it earlier in the week, but the bear scratches and bite marks were clear. Yes, the bear was back. During the night when this was going on, Daisy kept getting up and growling. I would open the blinds by the bed and flash a light outside and say “There is nothing out there, now go back to bed.” The dog is always right.

Visit killzone to see the blind that I used: http://www.killzonehunting.com/?utm_source=women-hunters&utm_medium=article&utm_campaign=women-hunters-kz-article

 

North to Alaska: Dall Sheep Dreams

For my very first sheep hunt of my own, I would be heading up to Alaska to hunt with Tom Shankster of Alaska’s Trophy Hunts.  With a lot of anticipation and hiking back at home to get in shape, the trip was finally upon us.  The first three days we spotted many family groups of sheep;  they were dotted all across the mountains!!  Occasionally we would spot a single sheep, but upon further inspection we would find out it was an immature ram.  Our hopes stayed high; we had two weeks, and we were only in our 3rd day.  With so many sightings, we were sure we’d spot a legal ram.

On the 4th day of my hunt we woke to find out that we were fogged in to the ground!  We knocked around camp, drank 2 pots of coffee ate 2 huge breakfasts, and just relaxed trading hunting stories.  We decided that if the fog rose just a little bit, we would go hunting and maybe we’d spot a bear down low on one of the grassy slopes.

At noon we decided to head out, as the fog had barely lifted enough to see the lower slopes.  We made our way toward the base of the mountain and took the left fork where the river split and followed it as it twisted and turned crossing the water about a dozen times until we finally got to a spot where we would stop and have lunch.  We climbed a small hill to get out of the river bottom so we could at least glass the partial mountains that were not fogged in.  After about 10 minutes, I felt the urge to explore the mountains behind us.  So I got up and left Brent and Rob as they were still eating their lunch.  I climbed up to the next bench to see if I could get a better vantage point of the tall mountains behind us.  I side hilled and glassed and side hilled some more until I was about 100 yards up the hill and out of sight of the men.  I carefully glassed as more of the mountain was exposed where the fog was rising.  I took another step up and to my surprise a dall sheep was right in front of me, about 1500-2000 yards bedded high up in a rocky bowl.  I froze, I was totally exposed…sky lined completely!  I carefully raised my binoculars to my face to get a look at what I thought was a ram.  I looked briefly;  it was indeed a ram, and to my luck he was not looking in my direction.  I slowly knelt to the ground, and crawled down and out of his sight.  I practically ran down to where I could see the men, and I softly whispered Brent’s name to get their attention. They could tell in the way I was excited that I must have spotted something good!  I motioned them to bring the spotting scope up to me, so we could identify if I had spotted a legal ram or not.  They both jumped up on their feet and ran up to me, setting the spotting scope up . Within seconds we confirmed that it was indeed a legal ram.  He looked to be double broomed.

We made a plan on how we were going to approach the ram without him detecting us.  We decided to drop off of the hillside and get into the river bed, follow the river back until we were out of sight.   We would climb up the back of the mountain and try to approach him from the top and shoot down on him.

It took us one and a half hours to climb the rocky mountain.  When got to the first stopping point we were about ¾ to the top.  Rob would peek over and see if we could see him from this point.  Brent and I waited with baited breath, but Rob came back without seeing him.  We took a minute to think about what we should do.  1st option was to stay put and hope we just couldn’t see the ram at that moment, thinking he would get up and feed, exposing him self later in the day.  2nd option was to climb higher up the mountain behind and above him and look directly into the canyon and see if we could locate him.  My instinct was option #2.  I felt like waiting would be useless, we really needed to go after this ram.  Brent felt the same way too.

So we started to climb the rocks and slowly make it to the tippy top.  Rob led, and on the way Rob walked right onto the ram’s tracks; they were leading out of the canyon away from where we had spotted him.  Rob wanted to back track the ram to where he laid and see if that was indeed the ram we had spotted or if that was another random sheep.  I was like “why are we going to track him to his bed, he’s already gone?”  But we went anyway, and sure enough, we confirmed it was the ram I had spotted.  We found his bed and fresh droppings; Brent even picked up some of his shed hair put a piece in his pocket as a token.  He was mad that the ram had given us the slip, and wanted a “piece” of that ram.  We felt deflated, but with a renewed sense of hope that he had not gone far, Rob decided that we should now track him and see where he went.  Brent was skeptical, and I felt  like “well maybe he just went around the corner and we’ll run into him.”  Brent and I knew that we had not spooked the ram; the wind had stayed in our favor the whole stalk.  So we actually tracked his steps all the way around the mountain.  As we side hilled around, we got to the end where it started to drop off into a big bowl with grass on the bottom.  We were in single file;  Rob was in front, I was behind him and Brent behind me.  We were sneaking as we went up to the edge.  Suddenly, I spotted the ram in the bottom.  I froze, and dropped to my knees,  grabbing Rob by his pant leg and said get down!!!  We all hunched down.  I said that he was feeding in the bottom and didn’t know we were there.  Brent got the rangefinder out and Rob got the spotting scope out to verify it was him.  I got the gun ready, the range was 315 yards.  Rob scoped him and determined it was the “double broomed ram.”

He was feeding without a care in the world, as I tried to get in a good spot; the rocks were steadily sliding out from under me and rolling down the mountain.    We were scared that the ram would be alerted to our position with all of the noise we were making.  So I carefully got into a position on a good rock outcropping and I steadied my gun on my pack for support.  All I had to do was wait for him to take 2 more steps out, and then I would then have a clear shot down the canyon to him.  I held for 200 yards, because of the steep downward angle.  I squeezed the trigger.  Boom…..Brent and Rob could tell that I had made a great shot, I didn’t need to shoot again, my ram wobbled and went down.  We all high fived and hugged!  We were all ecstatic; I had just harvested my first ram!!  It was 7 o’clock pm; we quickly “skied” down the shale all the way to my ram.  I was in shock, he was the most beautiful ram I had ever seen, he was 9 years old, double broomed, and very heavy with a thick fall coat on him.  It took 3 ½ hours to prepare the ram to pack out. By that time it was raining and pitch black dark.  We finally made it back to our tents at 1:30am.  We were hungry and tired.  We ate a Snickers bar and went to bed.

The next day we prepared the cape and mainly relaxed around camp.  We still had about a week left of my hunt, so we spent the rest of the trip hunting for black bears and grizzly bears.  Two days later I harvested a beautiful grizzly bear!!  We had the most enjoyable trip to Alaska that anyone would hope for!  Sheep hunting is really addicting, with one down and 3 to go, this couldn’t have made for a better start to my quest for a Grand Slam!!

 

Mozambique Journal part two

CROC DAY

The next morning after about a two hour drive from camp, we checked the little sandy beach for the croc.  It was only 8:30 AM and I thought it would be a waste to check so early, but he was there.  We had already built a mini-blind when we threw the warthog in the pool.  So after removing our boots, Craigh, Il Ling and I snuck to our hide at 60 yards.  (I shot a croc last year in Zambia.  It was the biggest one we could find on the ebbing Luangwa River and he measure about 10 ½ ft.  Craigh called it a lizard not a croc.)  When we reached the blind, I couldn’t believe the size of the croc.  He was lying on a slight mound.  From my position I could only see the barrel of the trunk of his body.  His head was facing toward me, but concealed by grass.   And, his tail was lying on the far, down side of the mound.  Craigh told me to shoot him in the spine at his neck.  I didn’t have a brain shot.  I fired my shot and the old dinosaur didn’t wiggle.  I fired three more times just to make sure he was dead.  (Later I accused Craigh of setting me up on a dead croc carcass, because I couldn’t believe he didn’t even react to my shots.)  Craigh got to the old monster before I did.  This was the first time he saw him and to his dismay, the old croc was missing about 3 feet of tail.  Even so, he was larger than my other croc.  I was ecstatic and very pleased.  I had shot well and taken the “phantom” croc of Coutada 11!  We winched him into the truck and headed back to camp!

BUFFALO AND THE SWAMPS

By now, day seven, I was getting very concerned that we had not seen any buff spoor since the second day.  So plans were made to go to the SWAMPS for day eight.  The normal route is a three hour drive by truck to the Argo.  A one hour Argo ride to the hunting area, and then however long it takes to find the buffalo.  Then a night or two in a fly camp.  However, this was my lucky day, if going to the SWAMPS is every lucky.  Craigh departed at 2:00 AM in the truck and about 8:00AM Mark flew Bob and I and Il Ling in his helicopter.  We rendezvoused with Craigh, Johnny and the Argo via GPS coordinates.  The heli ride was spectacular.  We saw elephant, hippo, hartebeest, waterbuck and buffalo.  And, just the vast expanse of the SWAMPS was overwhelming.  (No tourist beach on the Zambezi!)  I should have realized what I was getting into, as Il Ling, who hunted her buff in the swamps last year, didn’t want to come along.  So Mark and Il Ling flew off and Craigh, his tracker, and Bob and I launched the Argo.  I’ve hunted black bear in Saskatchewan using an Argo (to and fro the tree stands).  So I knew how rough, jerky and hot the ride could be.  But, pushing through papyrus and sawgrass in varying depths of mud and stagnant water makes the Canadian episode seem like a limo ride.  We bumped one herd of cows and calves and finally Craigh thought we were about 400 yards from another herd where he spotted cattle egrets.

It was about 11:00 AM.  When Craigh and Johnny lithely jumped out of the Argo into waist deep water.  The reeds and sawgrass were at least four feet above their heads.  As I was getting out, Craigh told me to be sure of my foot placement in the slimy mud.  One step could be into a deep hole, and the next, just slippery silt.  My disembarkation (if that’s a word) was not pretty.  I fell directly into the water trying to keep my rifle above my head.  No question now, my nearly blind husband would wait in the Argo.  So we sloshed off, Craigh parting a path through the papyrus, then the tracker, and then me.  I told Craigh I was concerned about all the noise I was making.  He said the buffalo would just think I was another buffalo.  (No kidding!!!)

Each step was slippery and tentative while I tried to stay upright in the water.  Not only was step placement difficult, extricating each step required pulling suction.  I was wearing my Converse high top tennis shoes, perfect for this situation.  I had my pants tucked into the top of my socks. I was trying to avoid leaches and ticks from having totally free access to my skin.

It took three hours to go 300 yards like this!  The last 100 yards was done on hands and knees.  (Johnny followed behind me carrying my rifle.)  It was kind of like swimming over reeds and really easier than trying to walk.  We got within 40 yards of the herd.  It was about 2:00 PM.  The driest ground was where the buffalo herds or elephant had fed or bedded.  The reeds and sawgrass are crushed over a foot of mud, pocked marked by animal tracks. The bulls were bedded down in the mud and the cows were on the perimeter of the herd, feeding.  We crawled around to try to assess the bulls, while being careful about the wind.  We slithered to relocate a couple of times.  Time was becoming an issue as it would be dark at 5:30 PM and we had to be done and out, well before that.  Finally we found a shooter bull asleep on his feet.  His head was hanging down and the only shot he offered was a quartering toward me spine shot to the area below his shoulder hump.
From a position on my hands and knees, I climbed the side of the shooting sticks to about half way up and made my shot.  The buff went directly down and the herd took off.  Craigh quickly asked me if I wanted to shoot Bob’s buffalo.  Bob and I had already agreed to this, so I said yes.  He told me to shoot at the bull running through the reeds at the end of the herd about 80 yards.  It looked like he bucked, but he continued running. I tried to follow Craigh, who can sprint through this muck, but I was plodding behind him.  Craigh and Johnny reached out to me as they could see what was about to happen.  Seemingly in slow motion, suction held my foot and I fell face first…me, rifle, scope…into the mud.

Once the herd disappeared through the reeds, we returned to the first buff who was still flailing from his severed spine.  I finished him.  Craigh left Johnny and I  to go retrieve Bob and the Argo.  When he returned, he used his satellite phone to call Mark with GPS coordinates.

The helicopter arrived about 45 minutes later.  The guys did a short recognizance to see if they could spot the second buff.  But no luck.  Bob and I boarded the heli. Craigh and Johnny tracked the herd and looked for blood for a while before heading back to camp.  They arrived back after 10:00 PM.  No sign of the second buff, but Craigh was fairly sure the birds would point it out in the next day or two.  He would recover it then.


HUNTING FOR IL LING’S NYALA

We took the next morning off.  The other couple in camp departed.  That afternoon we hunted Nyala for Il Ling (using her Ruger Super Redhawk .454 Casul).  My hunt was complete, although Craigh wanted me to hunt Blue Duiker, I wanted to relax.  (I think I hate those little critters now!)  If we found an unsuspecting reed buck, bushbuck, either Il Ling or I would shoot it for camp meat and/or to feed the leopard hounds (being used in another camp).  A group of eighteen people arrived for the permanent Portuguese Camp across the air strip.  They would be hunting “four of everything” and had four videographers along too.

The next afternoon, Il Ling took her Nyala with her pistol and made an excellent shot.

We combined our last night in camp with Bob’s 71st birthday celebration.  Camp seemed quiet and intimate with just Craigh, Colleen, Il Ling, Bob and I.  The PH’s, dog handlers and pilots that were awaiting their clients and visiting our camp, were now at the other camp.  (They ended up taking two leopards the first night.)


GOING HOME

It’s always depressing for me at the end of the hunt.  I consider each safari to be the last one we’ll be able to make.  Our friends refer to my syndrome as “the annual last safari.”  We’ll make that decision early next year.  September 3rd we chartered out of camp, SAA from Beira to Jo’burg, and British Airways to Los Angeles.

We won’t call it MozamBLEAK any more!  Zambeze Delta Safaris, Mark Haldane and his staff were super.  And, our PH Craigh Hamman is one of the best!!!   This was an amazing experience.

If you missed part one click here...

 

Mozambique Journal - part one

August 20 - September 4, 2010
There was not supposed to be a safari for us this year.  I was too concerned about our business and the economy to commit.  My husband and I had hoped to return to Zambia with the DuPlooys, but I begged out in order to “sleep at night.”

Then I started to go crazy as I read the many outfitters’ offerings and saw the great deals appearing on the forum.  Reading the posts of those members prepping for upcoming safaris didn’t help my depressed state of mind.  Life seems to be so much happier when there is a booked safari on the horizon somewhere!

So when our dear friend, Il Ling New, a firearms instructor at Gunsite Academy in Arizona, suggested she wanted to return to Coutada 11 in Mozambique, and asked us to join her, I threw economic “caution to the wind.”

Il Ling had taken a Cape Buffalo with her Ruger Super Redhawk .454 Casul (sponsored by Ruger for a TV show that should air sometime this fall) the previous year and wanted to return for Nyala.  My husband and I had hunted out of Mahimba Camp, north of the Zambezi in 2005.  The camp was deteriorating, low on provisions and poaching was rampant.  I did take buff, sable, waterbuck, bushbuck, and reedbuck, but my husband referred to it as “MozamBLEAK.”  Il Ling wanted to change our bad impression.  Her experience in Mozambique with Zambeze Delta Safaris in Coutada 11 was quite the opposite of ours.

So plans were solidified.  Gracy Travel handled all our travel, meet & greet, and gun permits.  We arrived in Jo’burg, RSA at 6:30 AM via British Airways from LAX.  We spent one night at the AfricaSky Guest House before flying on to Beira.  Although accommodations were great, it would have been a lot easier to stay in transit (avoid SAPS permits) and just connect with the 11:30 AM flight on SAA to Beira (charged $200 overweight by SAA).  On the positive side of over-nighting, we got Frederik Cocquyt of Infinito Safaris (whom we hunted with in 2009) to take us to back to Crawdaddy’s Restaurant in Pretoria that night.  It has fantastic seafood!


ARRIVAL IN CAMP

Craigh (with an “h”) Hamman, our PH and charter pilot, met us at the gate when we arrived in Beira at 1:30 PM.  With the help of their rep., Jeremy, we were whisked through formalities and on board Craigh’s Cessna 206, arriving in Mungari Camp about 3:30 PM.  We were met by Colleen Hamman, camp manager/Craigh’s wife, and her staff.  When she suggested we walk to camp, I was taken back.  But, it was literally steps from the grass landing strip and camouflaged under a canopy of huge trees.

The safari company’s two 206’s are kept, conveniently, tied down under a shade cloth hangar at camp.  Mungari Camp in Coutada 11 consists of a grassy park like setting with the campfire boma in the middle.  Four client tents are located on one side of the lawn.  Behind the dining hut, the kitchen and all the staff facilities are concealed by a reed fence.  It was a picturesque tent camp.

We settled into our tent while Craigh changed from commercial pilot to PH.  We had a quick lunch and then off to check the zero of our rifles.  I brought Thelma; my Robar built .375 H&H Win. Pre 64 model 70.  I was using TBBC 300 gr. softs and Sledgehammers.  My husband brought  his.416 Rem Mag on a Dakota action, custom built rifle by Jim Brockman with a special, adjustable muzzle break to protect the remnants of his deteriorating retinas.  He was using 400 gr. TBBC.  We each brought 40 rounds of ammo: 35 softs, 5 solids.  Both rifles needed minor adjustments, then back to camp for samosas around the campfire.

We had been contacted prior to arrival that due to heavy rains and some flooding problems, the tent camp we were scheduled to be in was not available.  We were given the option of sharing Mungari Camp with another couple, or using the permanent Portuguese Camp just across the air strip.  We have never really shared a camp with strangers, but under the uncontrollable circumstance, we preferred a tent camp with strangers to a permanent camp.   Besides, you only see each other at breakfast and dinner.  As it turned out they were great folks and became our new “best friends.”  We enjoyed sharing lies and comparing daily adventures around the camp fire each night.  Il Ling was scheduled to arrive in three days.


RED DUIKER DAY

This area of Moz is flat, flat forests, jungle tangles and palm islands dotted with golden or green, grassy/papyrus pans.  Some huge, some small.  And between the forest and the Zambezi River are the SWAMPS (which I’ll get to later).  We cruised the pans and forest checking for buffalo tracks.  In the brambles around the pans all the little guys live:  Red duiker, blue duiker, and Suni.  Reedbuck, bushbuck, Oribi, warthog and bush pig live in the tall reeds and grass in the pans.  Nyala visit the pans in the late afternoon.  Sable and Lichtenstein hartebeest live in the drier pans.  Waterbuck, hippo, eles live in the Swamps.

Late the first afternoon, Craigh and I did a stalk along the tracks (dirt road) through the brambled forest where it opened to a pan.  We were actually trying check for Nyala, but dumb luck provided a great red duiker.  I used Craigh’s .223 for a 60 yard shot off the sticks.  As it turned out the little bull was 4 ½” x 3 ½”.  Craigh told me this was a very good red duiker.


STALKING BUFFALO

We spent all day of the second day stalking a buffalo herd through the forest.  My husband had one shooting opportunity which resulted in a “warning shot.”  A black buffalo in black shadows was just too tough for his minimal vision.  (Due to his macular degeneration problems.)  I love this man for many reasons, but his tenacity to keep hunting is amazing.  Before we even arrived he told me to shoot both buffalo if the opportunity arose.

The mosquitoes are horrible in the forests.  After walking all day, the mosquitoes’ bites made my back, face and arms looked like I had been peppered with 00 buck shot.  I’m one of those people insects seem to love.  In fact, I picked the first tick off by day two and the last one a few hours after I got home.  Tsetse flies get their share of flesh while I’m riding in the high seat.


BURGLARY IN CAMP

After dinner, we all retired to our tents.  There was some commotion coming from the other couple’s tent.  Shortly Craigh came to our tent and asked if we had anything missing.  It seems that while we were all eating dinner, just 50 yds from our tents, someone slipped over the en-suite bathroom walls into the tents.  The other couple lost about $1500 from an envelope they had left out.  They had had their things locked up while gone during the day, but lowered their guard since we were all nearby.  Bob’s Strider knife and an envelope containing only band-aids and scissors were taken from our tent.  Craigh and Colleen lost a cell phone and his aviator’s flashlight.  The trackers were put on the trail and found spoor of an adult and child.  Craigh said the guilty party would be found. No one is able to keep secrets in the villages nearby.  This was a first for this camp and the first time we have ever had anything taken.  I always keep valuables in our locked Tuffpak.  To Zambeze Delta Safaris’ credit, without hesitation, they deducted the missing money from the couple’s bill.  And by the last day of our safari a disgruntled, former employee (who had been let go on suspicion of stealing) had been apprehended by the community authorities.  Seems it is pretty hard for these folks to explain how they came by a large amount of US dollars.


NYALA

The morning of day three, while checking for buffalo tracks at a little, ebbing river in the forest, Craigh pointed out a huge, fresh croc track.  He told me they had baited it many times, but had never seen it or had a shot.  With a little good marketing on his part, Craigh had me shoot a warthog which we tossed into the shallow pool near the spore.  We’d check it later.
Il Ling arrived late that afternoon and the next day joined me on the high seat for the duration of the hunt.  Craigh and Bob rode in the cab.  Johnny, Craigh’s tracker, rides up top, but not much of a conversationalist, so it’s nice to have Il Ling as company.  Craigh’s young sons occasionally, and alternating, joined us; and they were a wealth of info and had the best manners of any kids I’ve ever met.

We checked our croc pool and the warthog was gone.  We stationed out and could hear splashing, but nothing out of the water.  Craigh and I did a stalk on two Nyala bulls, but I passed on a 250 yd shot.  We tried to get closer, but the bulls were ready to move back into the forest before we could get on them.  We stalked another pan and caught another lone bull feeding at 180 yds.  I hit him well with my first shot; he didn’t go 10 yds.  But I put two more shots into him before he went totally down.

BUSHPIG & SUNI

August 29, 2010, my 64th birthday.  At breakfast I received b-day cards from Bob, Il Ling and Colleen.  Craigh presented me with four .375 rounds!!!  The day started very well.  Bush pig has been on my wish list for several safaris.  I’ve seen a few, but have never had a real shooting opportunity.  This morning we basically drove over 2 bush pigs in the tall grass.  As they flushed from under the back of the truck, I nailed the larger with a “Texas heart shot.”  He was spined.  While Craigh and Bob waited at the truck, Il Ling and I ran up to him and I finished him with a solid.  So far the birthday is going well.  When we broke for lunch, we discovered that Colleen had packed a special birthday lunch.  We had venison kabobs and a chocolate bar for me!!!  We cruised the tangled brambles of the forest enroute back to camp.  I took a Suni w/Craigh’s .223.  (I must admit this wasn’t my first shooting attempt, but my first success at Suni.)  Mark Haldane arrived at camp via his helicopter.  He brought fresh prawns and fish from Beira.  Mark and several of the other PHs joined us for a fabulous dinner, complete with chocolate birthday cake. (Note: 64 is the new 46!)

to be continued..... Mozambique Journal part two

 

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