It’s March. Let’s face it – when it comes to North American big game, we are doing one of three things – Looking back at last fall’s hunts, looking forward to next fall’s hunts, or hopefully planning a super sweet spring bear hunt. Whatever non-actual hunting thing you are up to now, you can curb your shakes by analyzing your current gear set and buying more. That’s exactly what I did last spring and it worked out great. Below are three essential pieces of mountain hunting gear I had never used before, but most certainly will again.
Black Diamond Whippet SKI Pole:
I’ve confessed my love affair and pronounced the benefits of trekking poles many times. The Black Diamond Whippet Ski pole is a next-level item – adding even more security, safety, and confidence on the mountain. Simply replace one of your trekking poles to make the ultimate mismatched set – or carry as a single. It is essentially a high-quality trekking pole with a small pic built into the handle. Works great for plunging into soft earth for increased purchase, or heaven forbid, stopping in a self-arrest scenario. Even if you’re conservative when it comes to sketchy spots (like I am), the reality is, we just sometimes end up in places we would rather not be in. I found it super handy, easy to pack, and relatively lightweight. And it still worked to erect my emergency shelter. I’m not saying it is a replacement for an Ice Axe, but it will be a lot better than your fingernails if you end up needing it.
Hell yeah, I said Pop Tarts. I was chatting with Remi Warren prior to heading up to POW last August for an Alpine Sitka Blacktail hunt. He has much more mountain-hunting experience than I – which is why I was peppering him with questions. While talking food options, he recommended Pop Tarts. They make sense. It’s no secret – Calories are key for any high-output, multi-day activity. Lucky for us, Pop Tarts are loaded with them, taste great (if you have a sweet tooth) and fall right in line with many bar-type choices more commonly associated with backpacking. Averaging more than 100 calories per ounce, they aren’t the only thing to keep in your pack, but do provide a welcome break from more standard choices. They do tend to crumble over time, so maintaining their structural integrity can be problematic. Now I’m not recommending them for your pre-hunt fitness regimen, but they are dang solid choice on the mountain.
The Razor HD LH Riflescope:
If you haven’t looked through one – look through one. Better yet, just get one and hunt with it. You won’t be disappointed. I’m that confident. Now I know I always sit in my “Vortex Chair”, but these scopes flat out rock. They are optically off the charts, lightweight and tough as nails. Essentially, they are the best mountain scope there is. They aren’t cheap, but when you consider what you are getting, they are more than worth the cost. They are the perfect complement to any mountain or sporting rifle. I mounted the 1.5-8×32 on a Kimber Montana in .308 for the same POW hunt referred to earlier. After getting my ballistic data and confirming it at the range, I was consistently using the BDC drops to make lethal hits on steel out to 540 yards. I ended up shooting a buck right at 200 yards. The target dot is super intuitive. Pin that baby in the pocket and your confidence is through the roof. The HSR-4 Reticle available in the 2-10×40 and 3-15×42 is ideal for those who want to get exact ballistic data and hold more precisely off their reticle for longer shots. I used the 2-10×40 on another deer hunt later in the year. I ended up killing a buck on that hunt at 80 yards, but it was nice knowing I could have executed shots at much greater distance. Any way you go, it will be a lethal combination.
Spring is a great time to evaluate gear, confirm what worked great, what didn’t and make additions. If you don’t currently use any of the items mentioned in this article, I suggest you consider them. They may just become some of your new favorites too.
— by Mark Boardman
Every gun has a story – Whether it’s a classic lever action, passed down through generations, a battle-torn rifle responsible for defending our Nation’s freedom, or perhaps it’s the first gun you ever shot. Whatever it is that makes you a gun fanatic, we completely understand, because we’re gun crazy, too! In “Guns of Vortex”, we’ll be highlighting some of the firearms owned, used, and/or collected by our crew in-house. What we like about ‘em, what we don’t, and the stories they all carry with them.
The Carl Gustav Model 1896 Swedish Mauser:
The Carl Gustav Model 1896 Swedish Mauser – just saying the name is enough to drive any rifleholic crazy. Many of you are probably already familiar with the Mauser family of rifles. They are perhaps one of the most iconic rifles in history – one on which many of today’s rifle actions are based. The Winchester Model 70, Ruger M77, CZ-550, and Kimber’s family of bolt actions are just a few of the many models out there, still using much of the same design and technology to date. With that said, this particular example is a beautiful looking rifle, but what makes it so special? We certainly can’t deny that over half a million were made almost exactly like this one for the Swedish Army, not to mention the millions of other Mausers made all over the world in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. That said, this one is particularly interesting, because not only is it an entirely numbers-matching example, over 100 years old, but of all the models built, this one is only #613.
To find a gun of this age and history, in this fine condition, and with such a low serial number is no easy task.
With a number as low as #613, and stamped date on the receiver from 1898, that can pretty easily lead us to believe that this rifle was manufactured as a model 96. However, the shorter-than-normal barrel leads us to believe that it underwent some kind of change in its lifetime. Conveniently, many of these rifles were converted to what is known as a model 38, or “Short rifle” in their service life. The model 38 consists of both factory models with turned down bolts, and converted 96’s, which featured the shorter barrel, but a straight bolt handle. This rifle is most presumably a converted m96 because of its straight bolt knob, and serial & date of manufacture numbers on the receiver.
Ever wish your rifle had a spot where you could record important data about it? I mean, the Vortex Defender flip caps with a “Dope Disk” are a great way to keep dope handy, but what did the Swedes do when they needed to know their “DOPE”, or the condition of their bore? Well, they used this – the “OG” of DOPE disks. There are 3 sections on this version of brass disk, each indicating vital info about the rifle. The first section shows the bore’s actual diameter, and at the time of inspection, it was marked to show if the barrel needed to be replaced. The 2nd section indicates bore condition with a 1, 2, or 3; 1 being good bore condition, and 3 meaning it was on the brink of needing replacement. Because the Swedes didn’t see much battle, they were generally a bit pickier about bore condition, so even if you see a bore with a 2, or 3 marking, it will probably shoot pretty darn good. Finally, the 3rd section of the disk indicates if your rifle is shooting high, or low of your point of aim. Yes, even without an optic, the Swedes knew the importance of your zero distance.
All Swedish Mausers were chambered in the 6.5x55mm cartridge. Clearly they knew what they were doing by going with a 6.5mm cartridge – who ever said 6.5’s were just the latest fad? This aerial view gives a perfect shot of that classic Mauser style action with the iconic claw extractor. Rifles like these lack the third safety locking lug at the rear of the bolt and feature “Cock-on-closing”, rather than “Cock-on-opening”. Lifting the bolt handle might surprise you as it is spring loaded to assist the bolt moving backward. This causes it to feel and function quite similarly to the Lee Enfield rifles which many are also familiar with.
Nothing too out-of-the-ordinary about the tangent-style sights on this Swedish Mauser. The neat thing about the “T” marking on this converted 96’ is that, while these rifles were originally intended to fire 160 grain ball ammo, they got a new rear sight when the 140 grain spitzer round came about in the early 1900’s. This new rear sight kept soldiers from hitting too high when issued the new ammo. Whether it’s optical or iron, you could say that we are geeks about sights. Funny to think that the adjustments in sights like this ultimately do the same function that the adjustments in your riflescope do!
Easy now – a modern shooter might think we tampered with this muzzle to thread it for a suppressor. While you may be able to fit one on here with a proper adapter, this threaded muzzle was actually used to attach a device called a “Shredder”, which was used for training purposes. Wooden blanks were used in training by the troops, and the shredder was attached to ensure the bullets would dissipate upon exiting the barrel, thus avoiding injury to anyone downrange. Rifles with threaded barrels were then known as “B” models, and referred to as such in any military documentation. Later on, these rifles were fitted with flash hiders to both – you guessed it – hide flash, and to also protect the threads.
- It MIGHT have been sold to the Finnish government and used to defend Finland from the USSR during the Winter War of 1939-1940. Or
- In the Continuation War which lasted from 41’ to 44’, again between the Finns and the Soviets.
1) Your Trigger Pull.
Trigger pull is more important than sight alignment.
2) Your Sight Alignment.
No one can hold perfectly. Accept what you see and let the shot surprise you.
3) Your Stance.
You should always try to have your weight forward. This will aid you in recoil management, and help you stay on target for your follow-up shot or when transitioning to other targets.
“Accept what you see and let the shot surprise you.“- Jerry Miculek on sight alignment.
4) Your Grip.
Try to keep as firm a grip as possible. Just to the point of shaking. This will help you be more accurate on both your first shot, and your follow-up.
5) Your Posture.
Try to stand as tall as your stance allows. This will keep you looking through the center of your glasses, allowing for the biggest field of view as possible.
About the Author:
Jerry Miculek is one of the best all-around shooters on the planet. His accomplishments during his more than thirty-year shooting career include 52 National titles and 45 World titles. Although best known for his amazing feats of revolver speed shooting, Jerry is also one of the top Multi-Gun competitors in the world, demonstrating equal prowess with pistols, rifles and shotguns.
I grew up wanting to be a mountain man. As training, I spent much of my youth cooking various sorts of wild meat over a fire. While I never managed to fulfill my youthful fantasy (I was born about 150 years too late) I developed a skill set that serves me handily as a back country big game hunter. Here are a few cool and interesting meals to keep you busy and well fed in the woods or mountains. I call it caveman cuisine.
1) Beaver Tail
That’s right, the tail of a beaver. Historians often cite this meal as a mountain man favorite, but it took me years to figure out what exactly they did with it. Turns out that it’s pretty simple. Poke a hole in the end of a beaver tail and slip in the end of a green, thumb-sized skewer about as long as your arm. Prop the tail close to the flames of a fire, but not touching the flames, and gently roast it until the skin of the tail bubbles up and turns crispy. Peel the skin away and you’ll be shocked by what you find. The inside is like beef fat and gristle, snow white. It might not be the best meal to serve to your mother-in-law, but when you’re calorie starved in the wild it is mighty satisfying.
“If this seems too far out, consider that the finest French restaurants serve marrow bones on their menus.” – Steven Rinella
2) Bone Marrow
It’s been proposed by anthropologists that early humans probably scavenged the remains from kills left over by lions, wolves, and saber-toothed cats. It seems that they specialized in extracting the marrow from femurs. Try this once and you’ll see why. Bury the femur from an elk, moose, or caribou (whitetails are a bit too small, but can still be worth the effort) in the coals of a fire and let it roast for ten or fifteen minutes. Pull it out and give it a smack with a rock or hatchet, careful not to shatter it too violently. Pull out the slugs of marrow and sprinkle with a bit of salt. If this seems too far out, consider that the finest French restaurants serve marrow bones on their menus.
For a group meal, roast up a rack of ribs. I learned this trick from a Dall sheep guide named Lance Kronberger. Start by building a three-walled, open-topped box with river cobbles or boulders. Make it about the size of a big microwave oven. Start a fire inside the box and let it cook down to a thick bed of coals. Now take a rib rack of a deer, sheep, or whatever and place it like a lid on the box. Flip it every five or six minutes and add wood as needed to keep things very hot. Cook it until its dripping fat and getting nice and charred. Then you and your buddies can stand around and start slicing off ribs and meat. Have a little Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning on hand if you want it to be really good.
About the Author:
Steven Rinella is the author of five books about wildlife and hunting. He hosts the MeatEater TV show and the MeatEater Podcast. Find him at themeateater.com.
Extend your hunting season by starting early. Obtainable tags and large tracts of public land make these hunts shine like the August sun.
August Sitka Blacktails in Alaska
One of the coolest hunts in the world, but you better have your $%*! together. South East Alaska, Kodiak Island, and some of its surrounding islands are home to these beautiful, small-stature deer. In August, you can find them high up in the alpine. I’ve actually spotted them above the mountain goats, so that should give you some perspective. Travel logistics, remoteness, rapidly changing weather and extreme terrain demand you and your gear are up for the challenge. This is a true mountain hunt, and ranks right up there with any sheep or goat hunt. The reward for your effort – some of the most spectacular country you will ever see, high adventure, and if you tag a buck, quite possibly the best game meat to ever hit your palate. Consult state regulations for details.
August Black Bears in Arizona
In August, the bear hunting can be just as hot as the daily high in AZ. Big bruins can’t resist the sweet temptation of prickly pear cactus fruit and come out somewhat predictably to feed. This primarily is a morning and evening hunt. Get up high, glass bears from afar and make your stalk. If you can’t make it to a bear before the sun goes down, or before he retreats for cover as the sun makes its way over the horizon – mark the patch of pears and be ready for him the next day. Bears will often hit a productive patch for multiple days. A mix of archery and rifle hunts begin in August. Strict sow quotas can shut units down in short order – so be mindful of that when planning – as well as during your hunt. Consult state regulations for details.
“The reward for your effort – some of the most spectacular country you will ever see, high adventure, and if you tag a buck, quite possibly the best game meat to ever hit your palate.” – Hunting Sitka Blacktails in Alaska
August Archery Antelope in Wyoming
Public land abounds in Wyoming – and so do antelope. Take advantage of the August archery hunt and get the jump on a big buck coming in for a drink. Finding a good water hole to set your blind up will take some scouting – or an inside tip. Another plus, it will be so hot, it’s one of the few hunts you can do in your underpants. Just make sure to cover up upon exiting your blind. Rain can make sitting water a challenge, so pray for hot weather and adjust tactics if needed. Glassing up a buck and putting a stalk on him will add a degree of difficulty – and satisfaction. Either way you do it, you’re in for a good time. And if you don’t notch your tag, you can still hunt the gun season – so make sure you have a few vacation days on tap to come back if needed. Tags are issued by drawing, so research the unit you want to hunt and get your application in on time. The number of points needed to draw will vary by unit. Some units will likely go under-subscribed. Leftover tags can be purchased on a first come-first-served- basis until they are gone. Make sure to get the on X Maps Wyoming chip for your GPS. It will be an invaluable tool when deciphering public Vs private land – which can be a bit tricky. Consult state regulations for details.
Depending on how you look at it, you have a month to scramble a plan, or a year to prepare. Regardless, give one of these hunts a shot and have a great summer!
Here are a few exercises you can do at the office or on your lunch break in the name of better hunting. A few rounds of these movements can get you a quick spike in heart rate, as well as improve your overall mood and productivity. Making time for a little training here and there can add up to major fitness gains when fall rolls around. We all are extremely busy and things will continue to be hectic, so take five and try this quick and easy office workout. Every unwanted pound left on your body is not going to improve your overall hunting experience, rather it could negatively effect your ability to move through the mountains and recover day to day. Stay motivated and let me know how it goes!
Perform each exercise for 5 Reps, then move on to the next without resting. You can do this circuit for 5-15 minutes continuously right at the office. Don’t mind the strange looks you get from your coworkers, they probably have never heard an elk bugle anyways and wouldn’t understand.
Air Squats – Knees out and chest tall, descend into the bottom and drive through your heels as you stand up. We’re looking for control on the way down and speed on the way up.
Burpees – From a standing position lower yourself to a push-up position in one smooth controlled fashion. Once your chest touches the ground, push yourself back up and get to your feet with a small jump at the end. Nobody likes burpees.
Chair Dips – Position your hands at the end of the chair and keep your feet out in front, lower yourself with your arms into a dip position while keeping your elbows near your mid-line. Keep your chest tall and move through an appropriate range of motion for your body.
Chair Step Ups
Chair Step Ups – Maintain strong posture while you alternate legs stepping up and down with the same leg per repetition. The leg on top is the working leg so avoid pushing off with your back leg. This isolates the working leg to ensure muscle balance and will transfer over to your long hikes in the fall. Happy training.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan Staton holds a Master’s degree in exercise physiology and owns CrossFit Spokane Valley. He’s an avid out West bowhunter from Washington state. You can follow him on Instagram @danthefitnessman or check out his YouTube Channel ElkShape.
You would think loading a backpack would be as simple as stuffing a bunch of gear into a bag, but this type of thinking will make for a painful hike in to your hunting area. There’s actually a method behind the madness, and getting the most comfort from your backpack has a lot to do with how and where your gear gets put inside.
Most backpack hunts and hunters will require roughly the same type and amount of gear, so I will try and generalize how and what gets loaded with a step by step process.
1 — Make sure to put your light and bulky gear at the bottom of the pack; my sleeping bag normally goes at the bottom, but you can also pack jackets or clothing to fill the void if needed.
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You might be a gunsmith, you might be an engineer, and you may have been mounting scopes on rifles since a date that borders on ending with B.C. You might be doing it wrong. “It’s not your fault,” (Good Will Hunting, 1997). There’s more to mounting a riflescope than commonly thought. Overall, it is a simple process, but must be done correctly for proper optic function and reliability. Save yourself time, frustration, and ammunition by doing things right on the front end.
1. Start with good rings and bases—you’ll thank yourself later
Often overlooked, many people highly underestimate the importance of quality rings and bases. They become an afterthought in the rifle/riflescope purchase process and get skimped on. Remember, these are the components that connect the riflescope to the rifle. If they are not up to the job, you’re stumbling out of the gate.
Using the LRBC provides ultimate ballistics knowledge, which in turn results in unparalleled shooting confidence. Essentially, it’s the equivalent of hosing yourself down with AXE body spray and walking into a frat party at 12 a.m. Chances are, you’re going to hit your mark. I should know. I use the LRBC and I was at that party.
2. Rifle Selection
How the heck is a ballistic calculator going to help me pick my rifle? Well, I’ll tell you. Instead of just walking to the gun counter and asking for a rifle based on the opinions of myriad people who are no longer with us, use the LRBC to do some pre-purchase ballistics research. The results may not only astound you, but drive your rifle selection in an entirely different direction. Even if you’ve narrowed your cartridge candidates down to a select few, the LRBC will assist in deciphering which will be the most effective for your intended applications.
3. You Owe it to Yourself and the Animal
Our lives are often strongly dictated by two very important, but increasingly finite factors – Time and Money. Whether heading out as a weekend warrior, or on a hunt years in the works, getting the most out of your experience is paramount. Using the LRBC to gather accurate load data just might make the difference between a hit, a miss, or a crippled animal. Now I’m not saying the success of any trip is defined by the presence of hooves and horns in the back of your pickup, but I’m not going to say it doesn’t make the experience a whole lot sweeter either.
— by Mark Boardman
1. Less can be more – and often is
The desire to fully realize the long range potential of loads we push through our rifles can lead to a tunnel-vision-like approach where only bullets with the highest ballistic coefficient loaded to screaming velocities that push the edge are considered valid candidates. After all, more is better right? Not so. Accuracy and consistency are the goal. Hotter loads are often less consistent compared to those that are backed off a bit. And just because a bullet has a BC you drool over on paper, doesn’t mean it’s going to shoot well out of your rifle. Now don’t take this as trivializing the significance of using bullets with high ballistic coefficients. It is important. However, we ultimately need to remember, as long as the bullet is arriving where it needs to every time you squeeze the trigger, neither you or it should care what numbers are attached to it. In other words, it’s not the size of your BC, it’s how you use it. So you might dial a few more clicks – big deal.
2. Trust the bullet and yourself
I had a buddy who broke up with his long-time girlfriend by saying, “It’s not me, it’s you”. This isn’t just mildly humorous – unless you were that girl – but applicable to shooting. How so you ask? Think of it like this. Just as he was trusting his gut and experience to make the call he and his female cohort weren’t destined for the alter, you can trust yours to conclude your bullet impacts are hitting where they are for reasons that have nothing to do with you, your trigger squeeze, rifle cant, form, or anything else you rack your brain trying to adjust. The facts are, often times, you aren’t the problem. Here’s an example: I was engaging a steel plate at 1,000 yards during a rifle competition. There wasn’t a breath of wind at our location. Perfect conditions for the shot. Three misses later with all impacts in the same spot about 1 foot right of the target, I packed up for the next stage. Only when I rounded the corner did the reason for my misses hit me. The answer my friend, was literally blowing in the wind. Once you’ve sorted out it’s not you and trust yourself, you can start investigating what the real culprit is…It’s probably the wind, that F@#%ing wind.
3. Fast tracking a dang close – if not spot on – dope chart
Let’s face it. We’re all looking to save time and streamline aspects of our lives. In some ways, I’m even hesitant to throw this tip out there, because there are few shortcuts to getting reliable dope. However, from experience, I can tell you this works pretty damn good. And, all it takes is more gear and a little bookwork.
You’re going to need a “good, reliable and accurate chronograph.” Notice I didn’t just say “chronograph.” The MagnetoSpeed fits the bill. Next, you’re going to want to use a tested BC number by Bryan Litz. These tested BC’s and velocities oftentimes won’t match what’s listed on the ammo manufacturers website, but plugged into your ballistic calculator with the other necessary variables, you’ll get a ballistic chart you can dang near take to the bank. We highly encourage you take it to the range instead though.
— by Mark Boardman
Do you sight in rifles? Do you shoot at long range? Do you spot for and call other peoples shots? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you might benefit from the convenience and functionality of a reticle eyepiece.
Prior to using one, I questioned its significance and passed it off as a luxury accessory. I was wrong. In fact, I was so wrong, now, I actually find it annoying to not have one when at the range.
It usually doesn’t take more than a few seconds after pulling the trigger on a successful hunt for someone to state the obvious: “Now the work begins!” While there can be months of hard work leading up to a hunt, it’s often the time directly after the shot that turns out to be the most difficult. The tasks of processing and packing are what typically lodge in our memory as being the most challenging aspects of the hunt—especially if we aren’t prepared.
Time can be a precious commodity—particularly during the early parts of the season—when it comes to field dressing a big game animal. The steps of gutting, skinning, quartering, and deboning can be quite daunting, especially on larger animals like elk. This process can literally take several hours for a single hunter. Being efficient at this task can ensure your hunt—and your meat—doesn’t get spoiled.
Over the last few years, the field dressing process known as the Gutless Method has become increasingly popular. There are two primary reasons for its popularity: one, it saves time, and two, it saves a mess. The Gutless Method allows a hunter to completely break down an animal without ever opening the body cavity. This can save 10-15 minutes (or more), as well as keep the fresh meat from being exposed to the internal organs (i.e., guts). Using this method, every scrap of edible meat is still obtained from the animal.
Here is a quick breakdown of the Gutless Method:
1. Get the hide off. With the animal lying on its side, skin the hide off the entire exposed side from the knees to the backbone. This leaves the neck, front shoulder, ribs, hind quarter, and backstrap exposed. NOTE: If you are planning on a shoulder mount, you’ll need to adjust your skinning process to accommodate those needs.
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Glassing with high-powered binoculars mounted on a tripod with a quality head is one of the most underutilized, yet most effective ways to tear apart the landscape in search of game. Using this technique, you’re going to see more, walk less and execute calculated stalks. Once you do it, you won’t look back.
1. Look Mom, no hands: Hand-holding high powered binoculars like our 15×56 and 20×56 Kaibab HD’s can be an exercise in futility. Natural movement and perceived hand shake not particularly bothersome with a lower power binocular becomes truly magnified. Lock the same bino down on a tripod and you’ll experience greatly enhanced, shake-free, fluid viewing.
2. Two is better than one: Is it easier to see using both of your eyes, or just one? Exactly. Glassing at long distances with both eyes is more natural, comfortable and greatly reduces eye fatigue. This is not to say spotting scopes don’t have a place while utilizing this technique—they do. It’s just after you’ve found that buck, bull, or conspicuous detail requiring further evaluation.
3. Slow down: Setting up shop with high-powered, tripod-mounted binoculars inherently causes you to slow down and systematically pick apart terrain piece by piece. Tines, legs, out of place horizontal lines and other conspicuous details lost by a cursory glance are revealed. Heck, even if an animal is standing in the wide open, it will be easier to spot.
4. Spot movement by not moving: By taking your movement out of the glassing equation, you are much more likely to spot movement—including tail flicks, ear twitches and subtle head turns. While hunting Coues deer in Arizona, our outfitter found a buck when it licked its nose while bedded securely under a palo verde tree. We ended up killing it.
5. Dude, relax: Tripod glassing alleviates muscle strain and is easier on your arms, back and neck. If you spot something requiring investigation, simply stop and watch it for a while – hands free, shake free and fatigue free. The detail that caught your eye may soon materialize into an entire animal.