It's July, have you hugged your rifle lately? I haven't, and it's high time I did. Despite what the calendar says deer season is right around the corner. Soon, the heat of Labor Day will give way to cool mornings, cooler nights and the anticipation of days on stand we crave all year. Though spring presented me with innumerable warm days without rain, I passed up too many opportunities for a tune-up at the range.
I need a little recoil in my life.
What rifle should I carry into the woods this year? I could dust off Dad's old Marlin. It's not only good for deer, but the .35-caliber slug it throws is ideal for bears that appear seemingly out of the blue (and with greater frequency than ever) in the Blue Ridge Mountains each November. The view through the Marlin's Redfield Widefield is a bit milky these days, but the last time I shot the rifle the scope still held zero; no reason to expect anything different now. There's my trusty .270 Featherweight. Of course I'd need to mount a new scope on it, because I pulled off the Leupold Vari-X II years ago and put it on my understudy gun—a Remington 504 rimfire. Or I could opt for my latest favorite, the Kimber 84M in .308 Win. After all, that rifle and I go together like peas and carrots.
There's nothing like a day at the range in mid-summer to remind a rifleman why he shoots. The weather can be blazingly hot, but beneath the roof at the range it isn't so much the heat but the cacophony of sounds that begs my attention. I watch as benches are positioned just so, as rifle cases are unzipped, ammo cans opened and staplers tap-tap targets to backboards. Blasts ring out from rifles new and old made for sport and for war. Old-timers chew the fat. Youngsters exclaim, "That wasn't too bad," while rubbing sore shoulders.
This season I'll use the Kimber again. But first, I'll tune up with the Remington rimfire. There's nothing like the absence of recoil to expose bad habits that crept into my mind with Old Man Winter.
Amid the clamor I begin my work in sandals, shorts and a T-shirt. Steadily, surely I breathe, relax, squeeze and fire. Then I fire again and again until I'm convinced it's time to move to the centerfire. I don the recoil pad and follow through on a promise I make to myself every year—to pay the bill now that will come due in November.
I love July almost as much as November. Where else on Earth besides America can a guy hear the sounds of freedom represented by the fireworks of Independence Day and gunshots at the local range? Do yourself and your fellow patriots a favor this month: Annoy anti-gunners by sending well-placed rounds downrange every chance you get.
A Shed Hunter's Trophy Tips
by Mark Kayser
Hold off on shed hunting as long as possible.
Early searching could force animals to move into new areas off-limits to you, making shed antlers unavailable. Plus, pressure on wintering animals causes them undue stress when they are most vulnerable after surviving a long winter.
Game can drop antlers at any moment,
so look for sheds near food and bedding cover, and trails connecting the two. Crops like corn, soybean and winter wheat, and pastures that haven't received grazing pressure attract hungry big game.
Since big game spends considerable time
on south-facing slopes it makes sense that a higher percentage of antlers are dropped there. Southern slopes attract game looking for protection from brisk north winds. They also provide the best locations to soak up warm winter rays.
For the biggest sheds,
look for out-of-the-way micro environments offering isolation, thick cover and a nearby food source. Although the bulk of shed antlers will be near traditional locations, such as high-energy food sources or on south-facing slopes, mature animals don't always follow the crowd. Trophy animals like to detach themselves from the herd.
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Like the fossilized skeletons of its ancestors displayed in the Smithsonian, a 12-foot alligator can be scary even when it's dead—something that Shooting Illustrated's Adam Heggenstaller learned in person during a gator hunt in Florida. Read More »
Could 2011 be the year of the work truck? If so, the Ram Tradesman is ready to clock in. Equipped with a juiced-up HEMI® engine.... Read More »
The year that Sumner, Mo., erected a statue of "Maxie" to commemorate being the "Wild Goose Capital of the World."
Maxie sports a 65-foot wingspan while resting on a cinderblock building in a community park.
The number of cackling subspecies.
The cackling goose, a smaller-bodied goose prominent in Canada and Alaska, is a tundra-breeder with considerably more black plumage than the Canada. At one time, the cackling goose was considered the smallest subspecies of the Canada, but is now recognized as a separate species.