Tag Archives: mule deer

Are Deer Hunting Cartridges Arbitrary?

How many times has picking the wrong rifle cartridge ended a hunt prematurely versus being unfit to hunt due to cold or poor conditioning? Nobody has ever gone into the woods to hunt deer with a .243 only to give up after seeing a big buck because they didn’t have a .300 Win Mag. Almost ritualistically, we continue to rehash the same arguments over guns and ammo at the expense of other items that have more bearing on actual hunting.

Type of hunting cartridges.

Image: 1source.basspro.com/

My point isn’t that big game rounds aren’t different, but that most white-tailed deer hunters are unable to take advantage of their differences. The task of deer hunting west of the Mississippi doesn’t really discriminate between a .243 or a .300 Win Mag. Because of modern bullet construction and the fact that most white-tailed deer are taken under 200 yards, a deer shot in the vitals with a .243 is just as dead as a deer shot with a .300 Win Mag. Yet we keep asking ourselves the same stupid question: What is the most effective deer round? The only answer to that question is, how much recoil can you stand? Everything else is basically meaningless.

Image: www.statesymbolsusa.org

Image: www.statesymbolsusa.org/

In my early 20s, I bought a 7mm Remington Magnum because I loved the look and feel of the gun, an older Sako Finnbear. It was an aesthetic choice. All I knew about the cartridge at the time was that it was plenty capable of taking a deer. Since then I’ve killed a couple deer with it, but never at distances greater than 100 yards. Where I hunt in Pennsylvania, it’s rare that you get a shot over 100 yards unless you want it that way or you’re hunting over an agricultural field. So what is a 7mm Remington Mag? At 50 yards, a 7mm Mag produces an obscene amount of energy—around 3,000 ft-lbf. What distinguishes a 7mm Mag from a .30-30 is that the 7mm Mag has the same energy at 500 yards that a .30-30 does at 50. They are vastly different cartridges. But again, I’ve never taken a shot over 200 yards, so I might as well be shooting a .30-30 (or any other deer cartridge for that matter) because I’m nowhere near being able to make use of its downrange energy. It’s not a problem, but it goes to show how arbitrary rifle calibre selection is when you’re shooting under 200–300 yards.

Most big game cartridges offer perfectly adequate performance under real-life hunting conditions. The constant hair-splitting over the ballistics of big game cartridges is mostly hypothetical nonsense that benefits gun makers but not hunters—it simply sells guns. To me, a discussion about the merits of different Vibram boot soles is more valuable and interesting than whether the .270 or .308 is a better deer round. We’ve somehow managed to equate hunting with shooting when, in many aspects, the shot is the least important component of the hunt. Guns don’t kill animals; smart hunters do.

New Year’s Hunting Resolutions

It’s time for the annual tradition of setting up unrealistic personal goals in order to thoroughly undermine them over the course of the new year. In terms of hunting, 2015 was a pretty good year for me. I gave myself ample time, hunted hard when the time came, and was fortunate enough to get a nice buck while still hunting (a first for me) during rifle season. But there is always room for improvement. Here are my five hunting resolutions for the 2016 season.

1. Go West

Image: hqworld.net

Image: hqworld.net

My grandfather was an Idaho elk hunter who died before I took up hunting. I can trace my interest in hunting and wild game to his stories of hunting the Idaho backcountry. Having hunted exclusively in the Northeast, I’ve always dreamed of going West for a backcountry elk or mule deer hunt. So this year I’m going to buy an Idaho mule deer tag and hunt the same mountains my grandfather hunted.

2. Farewell, Wood and Blued Steel

Tikka T3 Lite Stainless [Image: loomisadventures.com]

Tikka T3 Lite Stainless [Image: loomisadventures.com]

I love my pre-Garcia Sako Finnbear, but it’s nine pounds scoped and prone to surface rust during foul weather. It shoots cloverleafs all day long and has the smoothest action I’ve ever cycled. But it’s over nine pounds. One of the lightest rifles on the market, Kimber’s 84m, weighs just over five pounds. After a day of hunting with the Finnbear, I can barely lift my arms. It’s time to move on. Tikka T3 Lite Stainless, I see you.

3. Butchering

Image: guide.sportsmansguide.com

Image: guide.sportsmansguide.com

I’ve butchered deer and sent them to the butcher. The butcher charged me $70, which is very reasonable, but I didn’t get nearly as much meat as when I butchered the deer myself. While I appreciate the convenience of dropping a deer off at the butcher when you’re tired and beat up after hunting, doing it yourself yields more meat (usually) and gives you more control over how it’s processed. Butchering is also a great way to bring friends and family together. Sharpen the knives, invite some friends over, pour some drinks, and get cracking.

4. Take a Friend Hunting

Friends that hunt together stay together [Image: hdimagelib.com]

Friends that hunt together stay together. [Image: hdimagelib.com]

In 2015, I took my roommate (who had never fired a gun before) deer hunting, and he loved it. I truly enjoyed the process of sharing my knowledge with him, and in turn, was pushed to learn even more in order to better answer his questions. Maybe he’ll never hunt again, but at least now he has an understanding of the woods that he didn’t have before. My goal for 2016 is to take another friend hunting.

5. ALTADIFOY

Image: www.easttennesseewildflowers.com

Image: www.easttennesseewildflowers.com

ALTADIFOY stands for “Act Like There Are Deer In Front Of You.” I always seem to bump deer when I don’t think there are deer ahead. As everybody who hunts knows firsthand, just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. So if you act like there are deer ahead of you (pausing every couple of feet, being alert, scanning ahead of you, etc.), even when they’re not, you’ll have a much better chance at finding them when they are there. What’s to lose? If you’re out hunting you might as well be the best hunter you can be.

What’s in a Daypack?

Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak

The hike up the snow covered mountain wasn’t by any means easy. Each step crunched as our boots sank in the snow, and the steepness of the terrain made our leg muscles burn with each step. I turned to my hunter to see how he was doing, and he was absolutely winded.

“Are you all right?” I asked as we stopped for a break.

“Yeah,” he responded, slightly out of breath. “This pack is just sorta heavy.”

I looked at his daypack and quickly realized just how much he’d overpacked. The entire pack was bulging from all the gear that was crammed into it, and it was so full that the zipper actually popped off its track. Even the kitchen sink was threatening to fall out and slide back down the mountain to the truck.

I checked myself and realized I was completely comfortable. Recently I consolidated my daypack and lightened it up quite a bit. And it was at this moment that I was extremely thankful for doing so. Optimizing weight and taking only what’s absolutely necessary is vital when out in the field. It’s definitely important to take the essentials, but by catering what’s in your pack to the activity you’re participating in can really cut down on weight and make the whole day much more enjoyable. The following are a few tips to help you optimize exactly what goes into your pack every day.

The Essentials

There are a few items that always go into my daypack regardless of what activity I’m doing. These things practically never come out. One of the most important items is your standard compass.

Hand holding a compass from his day pack

Image: Alex Vail

If you’re as good at getting lost as I am, having a compass on you at all times is a must. It’s one of those things that you’d rather have and not need than need and not have. 

Inside my pack I also always carry a small kit with basic survival items in it, such as matches, a fire starting kit, a small extra pocket knife, fishing line/hooks, and an emergency blanket. There’s also a tiny basic first aid kit that’s secured inside as well. It fits neatly in a pouch on the pack and never really leaves unless I need something inside of it.

Man's hand holding a camo first aid kit from day pack

Image: Alex Vail

Water definitely makes the essentials list as well. I don’t care how cold it is or how short the walk is every day, water is a must. It’s necessary to try and plan out about how much water you might need over the course of the day since water is quite heavy, but it’s a good idea to carry a little more water into the field than you think you might need.

Finally I consider a good knife to be the last piece of essential gear. There are so many uses for a knife that the list could go on for ages, everything from starting a fire to cleaning an animal. A knife is another must.

All the Rest

green day pack on the floor

Image: Alex Vail

Everything else that is carried in your daypack can be considered “extra” or nonessential. These things might be essential for exactly what you’re doing each day, but they aren’t things you’d necessarily need each time you went outside. It’s important to make sure you’re taking exactly what you need each day, so you must consider what activity you’re doing. Look at binoculars, for example. Are you hunting pigs in the Georgia swamps where you can’t see beyond 50 yards? Then the binoculars aren’t necessary—leave them at home. Or are you hunting mule deer in the high desert in Colorado where you can see upwards of three miles? Bring them along.

The same thing holds true for clothing, food, etc. Are you going to be walking far in chilly weather? Then put that sweater in the daypack so you don’t get sweaty while you walk. Are you only going to be out until around lunchtime? You can probably leave the cook stove and food in the truck. I’ve had some hunters insist on carrying an entire extra box of ammunition, which of course adds weight, and I didn’t stop them. But there are alternative methods to cramming that entire box into the pack. Not everything needs to go inside of it. Use an ammo sleeve for the stock of your gun, for instance. Or rather than cramming that multitool inside, slip it onto your belt and help alleviate not only the weight in your pack but also the amount of time you spend rummaging through the pack in search of one item. 

So the next time you’re getting ready to head out into the field, ask yourself, “Will I really need this today?” Do this with each item, and you may be able to lighten up your daypack considerably and make it a much more efficient, better-suited pack for the day. Your back with thank you later.

image: www.ancient-origins.net

Should Millennials Hunt? A Response to Michael J. Parker

By Jack Kredell

Michael J. Parker’s Huffington Post article “Millennials Must Hunt” recounts the story of his life-changing first hunt and calls on Generation Y to take up hunting as a way to resist the environmentally damaging industrial food apparatus. According to Parker, the queasy refusal to personally source our food has lead us “to outsource the ‘sausage-making’ to third party leviathans, whose increasing power have left us disconnected from the wild.” Parker’s solution is for the eater to reabsorb the “emotional, environmental, and psychological burdens” through hunting. “The further we put ourselves from the source of that act,” writes Parker, “the worse the impact for everyone and everything in the chain.” The solution is for Millennials to return to a pre-industrial or ‘direct’ mode of food production through hunting, thus ending our dependence on industrial food practices.

As a city-dwelling Millennial who began hunting in college for many of the same reasons as Parker, I completely agree that we need to radically rethink our food practices. I also think that hunting might be part of the solution. However, going on a thousand dollar guided mule deer hunt in the Yellowstone wilderness because it offers “the most honest possible version” is not a viable solution to the food crisis: it’s a form of privilege. Millions of Americans already supplement their diets with fresh wild game every year, and the vast majority don’t require expensive guided hunts in the wilderness to do it. The arrogance of a first-time hunter to say what honest or real hunting should look like.

Parker’s version of nature and hunting is also deeply elitist. This is hunting as safari, a cottage industry where people spend large amounts of money flying to exotic locations for the experience of hunting wild animals in their ‘natural’ habitat. Not only does it privilege one ‘natural’ environment, Yellowstone, over others-it simply isn’t sustainable. Are we all going to fly to Montana and ride horses into the wilderness for our food? Why not don loincloths and spears to make it even more authentic?

The deeper problem with Parker’s model is that it operates under the romantic notion that the social and environmental crisis is rooted in the individual’s existential relationship to the world. Hence this truly warped and counterfactual statement about our reliance on industrial farming: “It is our fear of facing the gruesome consequences of our own choices that leads use to outsource “the sausage-making” to third par party leviathans, whose increasing power have left us disconnected from the wild.” Industrial farming is widespread because of the demand for food that, unlike a Yellowstone mule deer, people can afford. That it does so at the expense of quality and the environment is a direct result of the socio-economic inequalities brought about by capitalism. It has nothing to do with us not choosing to have an existential and authentic relationship with our food. Even paleolithic societies had a division of labor.

The problem is not the distance between people and their food, but between people and other people-the chronic income inequality that sustains and even makes necessary cheap industrial food. The irony is that the kind of hunting Parker encourages is not the least bit sustainable, and nor is it the kind of hunting that millions of Americans already take part in. If anything, Parker’s story reads like an attempt to reinsert masculinity into the food chain as a response to the intergenerational power struggle between hard conservative Baby Boomers and soft liberal Millennials.

When it comes to solving the food crisis, we need to abandon individual concepts like authenticity and start thinking in terms of collectivity. A solution that doesn’t benefit everybody is part of the problem. Parker’s call on Millennials to hunt is little more than an exercise in privilege that snobbishly ignores the millions of American hunters who already practice a more sustainable version than Parker’s. Everybody should have the right to eat good food, not just young entrepreneurs who go on thousand dollar deer hunts when the equivalent can be accomplished few miles from home for the cost of a 20 dollar hunting license.

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