Tag Archives: Rifle

A Day on the Mountain

I hunt from dark to dark each day because if I climb down the mountain, I know I won’t climb back up. My feet get cold, I run out of food and water, but I tell myself it’s worth it because there are two weeks during the year when I can do this, and I can only get off work for one. I also enjoy the limitation of not being able to do anything but hunt. So I maroon myself. Two weeks ago in Maine, I put in 50 hours without seeing anything—not a single deer. I was now approaching 80 hours of hunting, and my body was feeling it. I was beginning to doubt myself as well.

As I was walked home at the end of the third day of the 2015 Pennsylvania rifle season, a Jeep stopped behind me. The driver offered to give me a ride to the bottom. We talked about what we saw that day. He was a real Pennsylvania hunter. He had his own names for all the different topographical features in the area. He also spoke with the thickest Western Pennsylvania accent I’ve ever head. My speech is a clumsy hodgepodge of all the places I’ve lived plus television influences. When he spoke, it was like listening to flute music. His name was Lewis, and I said thanks for ride.

The next day—Thursday—I decided to take my walking stick. The day before, I slipped in some mud and hit my kneecap on a tree stump. When I got home, I couldn’t bend my leg. I kept waking up in the middle of night worried that I might not being able to hunt in the morning. Then I remembered my walking stick. Walking sticks are also useful for slowing you down, which is key when you’re still hunting.

Later that day I was walking along in this manner when I heard a nearby shot. A few seconds later a small buck came running out of the brush and stopped 15 yards in front of me. I raised my rifle instinctively and peered at him through the scope. My first thought was that he was legal. I could shoot this deer if it hasn’t already been shot. But then his right leg dropped and he fell over. I watched him draw his breath through the scope. Then I walked over. His antlers were still green, meaning the deer was actively making rubs. The stringy bark of birch and maple saplings clung to his brow tines. I looked towards the shot and saw a hunter crouched behind a fallen tree. I waved him over. It was Lewis. He shot the deer open-sighted and offhand with his great grandfather’s Remington Model 14. It’s an odd and beautiful gun. The twist on the magazine tube is oddly mesmerizing. I told him congratulations and moved on.

Once I was out of sight, I sat against an oak tree and had a sandwich. I texted my friend to say the going was tough. He texted back saying, “Shoot the next buck you see.” OK.

I decided to still hunt my way over to a ridge below where there are several narrow benches that deer use when feeding and traveling. The area my course would take me through is the only part of the mountain that I haven’t spent extensive time on. The soil there is sandy and the trees, mostly birch and maple, are smaller and so tightly packed together that you sometimes have to thread your gun through them like a needle. The trees provide excellent cover and deer sign is everywhere.

By 1:30 in the afternoon, I made way through to top of the ridge. My plan now was to hunt the ridgeline until I felt it was late enough to wait out the evening above one of the benches. I bumped a group of does while waking the ridgeline and chided myself for being clumsy. Slow down.

It was then I noticed a particularly active deer trail leading down over the top and decided to go have a look. As I peered down, I saw the backend of a deer as it disappeared into some mountain laurel. I stopped and listened for movement. Something was making its way toward me from my left. The wind was in my favor, and if he kept the same direction, I’d be able to see him before long. Then i saw a flick of a tail about 80 yards below. Through my binoculars I saw a flash of white bone through the dense cover. I slowly knelt to a seated position in case I was going to have a shot. I looked through my binoculars again, and as I did, the buck walked out of the thicket. I saw three up and raised my rifle. I put the crosshair behind his shoulder and followed him until he stopped. He raised his head, and I fired.


As he tumbled over, I saw the white of his belly. He kicked a few times and was gone. I lit a rare cigarette and sat against the deer to let it sink in. When I went to wipe the sweat off my brow, my hand came back full of blood. The scope had cut a nice gash on my forehead.

5 Military Surplus Rifles for the Budget Hunter

I’ve never understood why more people don’t hunt with military surplus rifles. They’re inexpensive, rugged, easy to maintain, and ammunition is now readily available through the Internet. Understandably, a heavy rifle with iron sights leaves a lot to be desired if you’re hunting out West, but on the East Coast where the average shot is probably 75 yards or less, why not give the surplus rifle a go? Why not learn to shoot the old-fashioned way? Glass can fog up, lose its zero in the field, or put the hurt on your wallet, but iron (provided you know how to use it) will never fail you. And unlike lightweight yet overpowered modern hunting rifles, older service rifles are a pleasure to shoot because the extra weight absorbs more of the felt recoil, giving the shooter more of a push than a thump when fired. So for the more adventurous and budget-minded hunter, I recommend the following options.

Russian M44 Mosin Nagant

Image: en.wikipedia.org

[Image: en.wikipedia.org]

The M44, produced in the later stages of WWII, is the carbine version of the famous Model 1891, a Russian bolt action rifle that has been documented in armed conflict as recently as 2014 in the Ukraine. Next to the AK-47, the Model 1891 and its variants are among the most mass-produced firearms in history. With over 37,000,000 manufactured in the Soviet Union alone, it’s not hard to see why you can usually pick one up at a gun show for a little over $100. The round it uses, 7.62x54mmR, is a rimmed cartridge with a ballistic profile similar to the 30-06, which means it’s perfectly suited to taking big game in North America. While surplus rifles are a good thing, surplus ammo often is not. Spend a little extra and pick up some quality hunting ammo.

Swiss Schmidt-Rubin K-31

Image: classicfirearms.com

[Image: classicfirearms.com]

The Karabiner Model 1931 (K-31) is a straight-pull bolt action in 7.5x55mm Swiss (almost identical to a .308) that was the standard issue Swiss infantry rifle from 1933 until 1958. The straight-pull action is unique in that a round is chambered when the bolt handle is pulled directly back, rather than being turned or rotated. Among the era’s bolt actions, only the British Lee-Enfield had a faster rate of fire than the K31. Where the K31 outshines most WWII service rifles is accuracy, and the Swiss dedication to individual marksmanship is reflected in the K-31’s excellent machining, craftsmanship, and finish. In today’s market, you can get a pretty good K-31 for $400.

Yugoslavian or “Yugo” Mauser

Image: http://home.comcast.net/

[Image: http://home.comcast.net/]

This can refer to either the M24, the first Mauser-based rifled to be manufactured in Yugoslavia, or to the Zastava M48, a post-World War II Yugoslavian copy of the Karabiner 98K. The reason I’d recommend an off-brand Mauser over say a 1942 German K98 is that the former will run you about $300 while the latter, depending on its overall quality and manufacturer’s stamps, can fetch upwards of $1,000 at auction. While not exactly German-made, you’re still getting the robust and legendary Mauser-designed bolt action chambered in the powerful 8mm Mauser. You can’t go wrong with either.

Italian Carcano Model 1891/38

Image: www.icollector.com

[Image: www.icollector.com]

The Carcano achieved widespread notoriety when, according to the Warren Commission, a scoped 91/38 Carbine was used by Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate  John F. Kennedy. Most surplus Carcanos will be chambered in 6.5x52mm Carcano, a round not unlike the American cult classic .257 Roberts. On today’s market, Carcano’s fetch anything from $150 to $400 depending on the chambering and level of wear. Overall the Carcano is a fine and handy bolt action chambered for a round perfectly suited to hunting white-tailed deer.

British Lee-Enfield No. 4 Mk 1

Image: en.wikipedia.org

[Image: en.wikipedia.org]

The No. 4 Mk 1 was a late 1930s variant of the British SMLE (Short Magazine Lee-Enfield) officially adopted by England for service in 1941. Chambered in the powerful and versatile .303 British, the action was known for its accuracy, durability, and high rate of fire. After the Mosin-Nagant, the Lee-Enfield rifle platform is the second oldest still in official service, and the .303 remains a popular hunting cartridge throughout the world, especially in Canada. Like the Mauser, the Lee-Enfield saw a post-war resurgence as a hunting platform and modern “sporterized” versions without the original furniture can be had online for as little as $250.

Bacon and the 7.62×39

Contributed by Alex Vail of The Flying Kayak

When it comes to hunting wild pigs, one of the first things a hunter must decide is exactly what he/she wants to hunt with. A Google search along the lines of “pig hunting rounds” will most assuredly lead to message boards with hunters arguing ad nauseam about ballistics and preferred rounds. At the end of the day, round choice comes down to personal preference, and let’s be honest—there are tons of good pig hunting rounds out there. There’s more than one way to skin a cat (or pig), and this article won’t actually delve into the different types of hunting rounds out there. Instead this will focus on my own personal favorite pig hunting round.

A dead hog and a gun atop it.

Image Credit: Alex Vail

The 7.62×39 obviously isn’t the only round that I’ve used for pig hunting, but it certainly is my favorite. It’s one of those rounds that can generally be found in surplus and is incredibly inexpensive, especially when compared to some of the other popular rounds. Many hunters praise the 7.62 because it’s generally a hard hitting, heavy round. The 7.62×39 can be found in most stores in a variety of grains ranging from the standard 123gr up to 154gr SP. There are also a few different options as far as firearms go when dealing with this round.


An AK-47.

Image Credit: Alex Vail

Probably one of the more recognizable rifles around the world, the AK-47 fires the 7.62×39 and is a an excellent choice for a pig gun. Most carry the standard 30 round magazine, which comes in handy because a hunter rarely only gets one shot when dealing with pigs. A relatively short rifle, the AK is perfect for dragging around in the thick brush that pigs often inhabit. Its size also makes for quick target acquisition, which is helpful when firing at multiple running pigs. One of the few cons is that it isn’t the most accurate rifle when shooting over longer ranges.



Image Credit: Alex Vail

The SKS is what I personally carry most often when pig hunting. It has a standard 10 round non-detachable magazine and is considerably longer than its AK cousin. This means that downrange accuracy is a bit better. With enough practice, it isn’t out of the question to take shots up to 400 yards away and expect to down a pig. There are also a wide range of aftermarket stocks for the SKS that can allow a hunter to easily add scopes, foregrips, optics, and detachable magazines. The same actually holds true for the AK.


A Mini-Thirty.

Image Credit: Alex Vail

Coming late to the scene in 1987, the Ruger Mini-Thirty is the last of the common 7.62×39 rifles that I would consider using to hunt wild pigs. An extremely short and light rifle, the Mini-Thirty commonly sports a 20 round magazine (though a five round magazine is offered for states where magazine restrictions are in place). With it being a very lightweight rifle in comparison to is counterparts, it does have a slightly greater muzzle rise when firing. However, just like the AK-47 and the SKS, there are a wide range of aftermarket parts available for the rifle that can easily turn it into exactly what a hunter wants to use.

Obviously picking out what rifle you want is an important step, but a much more important thing to consider when hunting with the 7.62×39 comes down to an actual hunting issue: shot placement. Wild pigs are extremely tough animals. Thick hide, gristle, and bones make firing an ethical kill shot quite challenging. I’ve personally seen big boars run off like nothing happened after getting hit in the chest with much bigger rounds, like the 30-06 or the .458 SOCOM. The trick to effectively hunting pigs (with ANY round) boils down to shot placement.

Their shoulders are extremely thick and essentially act as a protective shield around their vitals. A pig’s organs are also arranged slightly differently than other animals, such as a deer. Their vitals are a bit more compact and tucked away behind the shoulder when looking at a broadside profile of the animal. This means that in order to effectively harvest a pig, one must wait for a suitable shot. Quartering away shots are ideal as the round can easily get past the protective shoulder plate and into the vitals. The same goes with shots quartering toward the hunter. Just remember that shots like this tend to travel through the animal, hitting the guts and making a big (and smelly) mess. Head and neck shots are also ideal. Pigs actually have a very large skull, and once a hunter has shaken the habit of instinctively aiming at the chest, head shots are extremely effective. For shot placement, draw an imaginary line from the back of the eye toward the body then draw one straight down from the ear—where these lines intersect is where the shot needs to be placed.

So if you’re in the market for a new rifle to hunt pigs, consider picking up one that’s chambered in 7.62×39. It’s often overlooked as a sufficient hunting round, but its effectiveness cannot be denied. Just remember proper shot placement when hunting pigs, and be sure to check your local and state laws concerning magazine capacity for harvesting game animals. And as always, happy hunting!

Wintertime Pigs

Contributed by Alex Vail, The Flying Kayak

When it comes to colder weather and hunting, most people immediately turn almost all of their attention to deer. And while deer season certainly is a big deal, it’s important to remember that in many parts of the country, it’s still legal to harvest wild pigs during the deer season. This is nice not only because you can still have a chance to fill the freezer if you don’t harvest a deer, but also because it can help keep the invasive pig issue somewhat under control. It’s important, however, to remember that hunting pigs during winter differs slightly than hunting them during the warmer months. Take the following tips into consideration when hunting pigs during the colder months, and you might just walk away with some bacon.

Man holding gun next to a wild pig

Image Credit: Alex Vail

Staying cool

It’s no surprise to anyone that pigs like to wallow in the mud. But one must remember that pigs wallow primarily to stay cool. When it’s already cold outside, the need to lay down in a mud hole and stay cool diminishes greatly. Though areas where pigs wallow are always a great place to check out, I personally wouldn’t spend nearly as much time in these areas as I would in the summer. The pigs simply don’t need it as badly.

Finding Food

As always, pig are… well… pigs. They need to eat, and they eat a lot. Unfortunately, they’re extremely difficult to pattern. Winter doesn’t make this task any easier as they’ll roam far and wide to not only find food, but to stay warm. If you have access to food plots or feeders, these are probably going to be your best options. Look for pigs to stay out more during daylight hours, too. Depending on the temperature, their need to stay warm will actually outweigh the need to stay cool.

Hunting rifle on top of spotted wild pig

Image Credit: Alex Vail

Increase range

Imagine a swamp in the deep south and how thick the foliage and cover can be during the summer. That cover, however, is a little different during the winter. Yes, there will always be places that are thick as can be, but generally a lot of foliage dies off during the winter months. Use this to your advantage and try taking something different than the slug gun. I personally like to break out the 30-06 with a 3×9 scope for pigs during the winter. On low power, I have easy target acquisition and I can take advantage of the newfound distance I can see in the woods.


Wintertime is an awesome chance to use new gadgets and technology when hunting pigs. Thermal imaging such as FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) and Nightvision can really step up your pig hunting game to the next level. As stated before, winter means slightly less foliage, so it’s easier to see a long distance with the Nightvision without all the brush in the way.

Two hunters as seen through night vision goggles

Image Credit: Alex Vail

Similarly, it’s easier to spot hot spots with thermal imaging because inanimate objects (stumps, logs, etc) don’t heat up as much during the day. They stay cooler, and help eliminate the chances of mistaking a stump for a boar. Just remember to check your local and state laws regarding such equipment.

Wild hog as seen through night vision scope

Image Credit: Alex Vail

So, the next time you get ready to take a trip to the woods, remember these tips while you’re bundling up in the morning. Just because it’s cold out, doesn’t mean a summertime favorite activity is done for. Afterall, bacon and eggs is hard to beat on a cool, crisp morning.

10 Reasons to Start Hunting

White-tailed deer [Image: www.lehighvalleylive.com]

White-tailed deer [Image: www.lehighvalleylive.com]

Hunting season is around the corner. Here are ten reasons why you should consider hunting for your food this year:

1. Game animals are a natural public resource managed by state fish and wildlife agencies who in turn are funded by your tax dollars. Many of these animals live on public land. It’s the closest thing to having food on tap, only taking a deer isn’t as easy as turning on the faucet.

2. There are no checkout lines, price tags, spills on aisle 4, crying babies, etc. in the forest.

3. You inherited an old rifle but it’s sitting in the attic collecting dust. Hunting rifles haven’t changed much in the last 100 years, so assuming everything is in working order, grandpa’s gun will do the job just fine. Have a gunsmith check the gun out before firing it.

4. There is no meat as local, fresh, or free-ranging as the deer in the hills behind your house. Head for the hills.

5. Hunting is a rich sensory experience. The outcome of your hunt depends on how you interpret the sensory data presented by your environment. Hunting puts you in touch with your body in ways that modern life simply cannot.

6. When you buy a steak from the market you’re only entitled to a small portion of the animal. But if you fill a deer or elk tag, you’re entitled to the whole thing. Animal hides are beautiful and provide warmth. Antler and bone can be used for knife handles, lamps, or decoration.

7. Because you like doing things that are difficult. If you think taking an animal as quick, nimble, and alert as a deer with a modern bow or rifle is easy think again.

8. The venison roast you brought to the potluck is gone in 10 minutes. Now you feel like a boss.

9. Hunting forces you to assume the full responsibility of eating meat. To be responsible for an animal’s death is a powerful and humbling experience.

10. There’s a moment after you’ve settled into your spot or treestand when the birds forget about your presence and you literally disappear. Then the sun begins to rise. It’s sublime.

Suggested Gear List:

  • Osprey Packs Talon 44 Backpack
  • Petzl TacTikka Plus RGB Headlamp
  • Brunton Eterna Compact Binocular

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