What Is the Best Caliber For…

One of the most overused enticements in hunting literature is the ever popular "What is the best caliber for?..." Before we get too far into this article, I will assure you that there is not a definitive answer to that question. We are not here to argue that the 30.06 is the most popular caliber ever, or that the 7mm-08 is the ideal whitetail whacker, or that it takes a 338 Lapua to kill a big buck at 600 yards. We are here because I am looking for a new rifle. In particular, a new elk rifle for grizzly country.

grizzly1I may dampen your adrenaline rush a bit by telling you that I favor the 7-08 for deer. I also think the 7mm Mag is a great choice for elk. Both 7mm calibers can do the job well out to 300 yards and, in the right hands, beyond. Since I already have these calibers, it is obvious that I am itching for a new shooting stick. If I am so sure that a 7mm Remington mag is a good elk rifle, why am I eying a possible replacement? The twist in this mix is defense. I can assure you of 2 things. First, an attack by a large predator would most likely be unexpected. Second, I would not throw down my rifle and attempt to outdraw a charging mama Grizzly with a six-shooter. If I am carrying a rifle, I intend to use it.

I hate to break this to the "Quick Draw McGraws" out there, but it a head-to-head dual with a furry carnivore, even the mild-mannered 7mm-08 can overpower the mighty 500 Smith & Wesson when it comes to close-range lethality. This is not a video game, and you cannot press the space bar to cycle through weapons. I have looked at, and lifted, both the Smith 500 and Ruger 460 wheel guns. They are impressive. They are also inherently heavy. Carrying a pack, a rifle, and a heavy pistol (even in a chest holster) is cumbersome. I did not say impossible. I recommend the chest holster from the great folks at Guides Choice if that is the approach you are looking for. The obvious choice for more defensive power in a single firearm is a large bullet at a velocity that only a long-gun can deliver.

Unlike many riflemen, Icartridge30 am not ashamed to admit that recoil becomes a factor when discussing rifles above the 300 Win mag range. The 300 Mag is a definite improvement over the 7 Mag for dangerous animals at the ranges we are discussing. The question is, how much shoulder punishment can a hunter absorb and still maintain long-range accuracy? Unless you are Superman, you have limits in this area as well. If you are Superman, I apologize. Just let the bear gnaw at you for a while, then toss it back into the woods. For the rest of us, there is a trade-off between the long-range accuracy needed for elk in open country, and the loss of precision that comes from recoil anticipation while yanking the bang switch on a fire-belching, lead foundry. A fellow hunter suggested a Browning lever action in a 358 Win. I do not disagree that this is a fine defensive caliber. Much like my 45-70 lever gun, it lacks the long-range performance I am looking for.

Let's look at two options. Both are documented performers, and have a well-earned respect in the shooting industry. First, the Weatherby 30-378. Yes, there are larger Weatherby calibers that are more bear-worthy, but the Accumark line with a muzzle break brings the recoil down to a level that is manageable in a long range rifle. The other option is the venerable 338 Win Mag. This is the go to caliber for many Alaskan guides. The performance of the 338 Win is admirable at mid to fairly long range trajectories. Once again, there are options for a muzzle brake if the recoil is above manageable levels. In case you were wondering... The recoil on these 2 calibers is very similar.

The next step in the selection process is to search the availability of rifles in these calibers. The 30-378 is simple. There are Sako,and Weatherby rifles chambered for the long range cartridge. The Weatherby options vary from the new $2600 Terra-mark, to the new Accu-guard at $950. For the 338 Win, the possibilities are huge. It seems that almost every arms manufacturer still in business has, at one time or another, chambered a rifle in the 338 Win Mag. Since I have my fair share of Winchesters and Remingtons, I would lean towards a Sako Classic, or a very reasonable Savage. So, the guns are out there. Let's get to a very real factor... the cost of ammo.

Does a hundred bucks for 20 factory cartridges seem a little high? I am being generous.The difference between a box of factory ammo for the 30-378 and the 338 is around $100, with the Winchester cartridge hovering between $35 and $50. I have no issues paying for a quality rifle that will hold its value. I do have issues with $7 flying out the barrel with every practice shot.

elk4Now for the bad news, I have not made my decision yet. Seem like a bait and switch story? Not really. As I said in the beginning, there is no perfect option. That is especially true when this decision is applied to other hunters with different abilities. The problem with my scenario is that there is a trade-off between the best long range calibers and the short range defensive varieties. If I were hunting on Kodiak Island, I would lean heavily towards a short barreled 338. If I stalked a 6x6 bull all day and never got closer than 500 yards, I would curse my choice. The opposite would hold true as well. In the unlikely event of a bear charge, my brain would be screaming, "45-70 lever!" as I attempted to swing the 26 in barrel and high magnification scope at a furry, blurry target.

There are other reasons I chose the 2 calibers above. At some point I intend to hunt for moose and bear... 338 territory. I would also like to customize a long ranger... 30-378, possibly 300 RUM. I have been debating this since the spring thaw. I have also been wearing out the "Watch This" icon over at GunBroker. Whichever I choose first, it will go in the safe for this year. It is time for some range practice, and my 7 Rem Mag is looking mighty comfy as my elk rifle again this year. I can still strap on the old 44 Mag for camp duty. There is a lot to be said for being familiar with your firearm. A wise man once said that a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush. That thought applies well when comparing new rifles to your trusted favorites.

Dove Hunting

dove1Of all the crazy things that sportsmen do, dove hunting has to be one of the most idiotic. Dove hunters get up too early, and hunt when its too hot. They buy guns that are too expensive, and blast too many shells at birds that are too fast. They sit in fence rows, brush piles, corn fields, lawn chairs, deer stands, and stickery trickery berry patches. This is all in an attempt to bag a bird with a breast the size of a walnut. To make matters worse, this year Missouri's dove season started on the last day of a 3 day weekend. You would be a fool to give up sleep to pursue such trivial creatures on a holiday.

muddybootsMy friend and I skooched (that is correct English in Missouri) our way up the dirt path that farm equipment had left through the bean field towards some old grain bins. Our footprints grew larger as the brownish clay soil gathered on our boots. We had started at daybreak next to the grain bins along the edge of the field. Another farmer had cut silage in the next field over. We knew the doves would be meeting there for breakfast. What we didn't realize was mosquitoes eat breakfast long before doves do.

Looking straight up into the gray morning sky, I could see the mosquitoes had entered a holding pattern over my head. The smaller ones would dive-bomb me in the shoulder every now and then to distract me as the big ones were cleared for descent to aim for my face and neck. I tried to focus on the doves flying a route along a power line an eighth of a mile from us. "Holy crap!" says my hunting partner, "You have a huge mosquito on your hat". As a kid, I don't know how many times I saw Alan Hale - "The Skipper" hit Bob Denver - "Gilligan" with his skipper's hat, but I agreed to play Gilligan's role if it would stop the attack. Since the mosquitoes and my buddy were having all the fun, a relocation down the slick path to the power lines seemed like a good distraction.

Once we got situated closer to the power lines the doves decided to change course, and fly an eighth mile to either side of our new location. We discussed camo, and why the doves kept avoiding our area. I sometimes laugh at our inability to think as wild animals. If I can pick out a hunter in camo at a quarter mile, I am sure that it is much more simple for a dove flying overhead. Our new location was a bust. At least the mosquitoes didn't follow us. They were probably just too heavy at that point to fly.

Skootch - to sneak as quietly as possible from on spot to another. We skootched through the clay back toward the grain bins. As we approached our previous location, we noticed doves gathering in a dead tree just beyond the bins. A plan was quickly formed where my hunting buddy would sneak along one side of the bins, then I would walk out the other side, spooking the wary quarry towards him. I gave him about a minute before I walked out nonchalantly singing, "The movie star, the professor and Marie Ann"... Blam Blam Blam! The doves had acted as I predicted. As they passed my hunting buddy, he slung $5 down the barrel and successfully knocked one down. As he returned victorious, he tossed the bird into the bed of my truck. "You can have him", he said.

I headed for home. It felt like my truck had lost power, or that I had a greater load than when I had arrived to hunt,  A mysterious object had caused a rapid decompression in a rear tire on my toy hauler. That, combined with the weight of the dove in the bed of my truck, caused my fuel gauge to drop a little as I lumbered the 3 miles home. I would need to fix that tire tomorrow... and refill the LP tanks... and put more diesel in the truck. As the calculations went through my head, I determined that dove hunting must be the most expensive way to satisfy ones desire to put meat on the table.

I remember a humorous piece by Jeff Foxworthy where he explained that his wife should be more appreciative of venison. With all of the expenses figured in, he calculated that deer meat was the most expensive meat on the planet.  I beg to differ. The same 4-wheeler, trailer, pickup, an other accoutrements that were used on Jeff's deer hunt were employed on our dove outing. The difference is in the return on investment. Since I was shooting a 20 gauge, I was only throwing an ounce of shot bear6down the barrel at a time. This was done with the hopes of earning a one ounce dove breast per shot. That is close to a one-to-one ratio. With that calculation in mind, Jeff would have had to fire a round from a battleship to knock down a 250 pound buck to be in the same ballpark. Larger game / more meat can be obtained with a comparatively teeny bullet.

So, there you have it. This article is not intended to make light of those who take their dove hunting seriously. Consider it instead as a plea for my wife to exult in my value-mindedness when I discuss another elk hunting trip to Colorado, or bear hunting expedition to Minnesota. After all, i am just trying to save us some money... comparatively.

Redneck Project 1


Some people proclaim they are rednecks as if they earned a badge for it.  I am a little more reserved.  It's not that I don't have a lot of redneck blood running through my veins.  I just have the unique problem of attending some events where rednecktivity may be frowned upon.  Sure, I could explain the unique "squeeze" method of dressing a mess of wild rabbits, but probably not a good idea to do so while attending one of my wife's college staff receptions.  To make matters worse, I wouldn't even have to explain it at an event.  The mere fact that I can explain it is enough to rattle some folks.  I will keep this on the down low because I am not even sure if it is legal in my state (yet), but I am somewhat a closet redneck!

RedNeck1To satisfy my redneck urges, I have included a few unconventional uses of a common item in this week's podcast.  If you are looking for storage, an enclosed trailer, or even building a chicken coop, you will want to have a listen to the podcast I am calling Redneck Project 1.  If you have been paying attention the last few weeks, you know that I am on the hunt for a big bore lever rifle.  I explain a little about online gun purchasing, and get some input from Firearms Discussion in this week's show.  This podcast has something for the redneck in all of us.  So click on the play button, or you ain't got a hair on your chest!

An Early Taste of Hunting Season (hashtag new gun)


We see it every year.  Some overanxious manager has to propose a Christmas in July sales event.  Obviously, the idea is to make money.  I'm all for making some moola, but my early event is based more on emotion than bringing in some greenbacks.  This week my Colorado elk tag came in the mail!  This simple event has my brain thinking of cooler weather, shimmering aspens, flagging white tails, and geese honking overhead.  These are 444Marlinwishful thoughts as hay dust seeps into my cab tractor with no A/C in 90 degree temps and 90 percent humidity.  I say we think cooler weather, and go with it.

There are things that need attention throughout the year to assure a truly good hunting season.  Food plots, salt licks, stand maintenance, new gun, lane clearing, and bow practice are all things that must be addressed.  (did you notice how I nonchalantly placed "new gun" in the middle of that sentence?)  Deer archery season is not so far away.  If I started practicing now, I would have Popeye-like arms by the time the season started.  It is just too hot out for bow practice.  A lot of things on my list fall into the "too hot right now" category.   Wait a minute... I could address that new gun thing without sweating much!  (I am not as subtle as I once was.)

I have pistols, long range rifles, deer guns, black powder rifles and so on, but one thing is missing from my arsenal.  I don't have a good, get close, honest to goodness, big bore timber gun.  I have been perusing gun sites on the internet, scouring ballistics charts, and hiding from my wife.  All of these are signs that a new gun may magically appear soon.  I have narrowed my choice to the tried and true 444 Marlin lever action.  I can still buy these new, or find a good used one.  Ammo for the 444 is not cheap, but has not yet been added to the endangered list like .22 shells and 223 ammo.  Knockdown power is similar to the 450 Marlin, and the range is a touch better than the 45-70.

I can already see myself Elmer Fuddin through the deep, dark timber at 9,000 feet.  Before I get ahead of myself, I have to find the gun.  That said, consider this an update, and a chance for me to make readers jealous.  I will post more info as project "Big Bore" progresses.


Hearing Loss Affects Sportsmen

Guest Post

Hi my name is John O'Connor, I am a father, outdoorsman and passionate about living a healthy lifestyle.  Over the past few years I have become more and more interested in hearing loss.  My father and grandfathers, who are and were all hunters, are affected by hearing loss.  I feel that there is a general lack of understanding around the issue and it is our job to spread awareness where we can.  Check out my new blog at bloggingwjohno.blogspot.com!

 Hunters Begin to Develop Hearing Loss

In the fall months, many people enjoy going hunting with their loved ones and friends.  Hunting is a great sport that teaches a person about patience and living off of the land.  Unfortunately, there is also a major issue concerning hunting that many people do not even think about before going out to catch game.  The issue concerns hearing loss and how much of an impact it can have on your life if you go hunting without using some type of ear protection. My father who has been an avid hunter since I can remember is severely affected by hearing loss.  For many years he did not pay much attention to his hearing and after awhile it reached a level where he decided to make an appointment with his doctor.  His doctor told him that a big reason why his hearing has decreased so much over the years is because he failed to use the proper protection while out in the field.  He was prescribed hearing aids to help improve his hearing levels and has been conscious about his hearing levels and hearing protection while hunting ever since.  It is important to first understand how essential your hearing is and then to understand how you can protect yourself.

Your hearing is an essential part of living a comfortable and fulfilled life.  Believe it or not, your ears are a lot more sensitive than you might think.  Every loud noise or piece of heavy machinery that you use is impacting and affecting your hearing.  This is why you need to make sure that you protect your ears if you go out hunting.

When hunting, many people use guns and whistles to catch their game.  When using a gun, it is absolutely imperative that you also use some type of ear protection.  One of the best things you can do is to use earplugs when you are firing a gun.  These small foam items are inserted right into the ear canal so that your hearing is fully protected.  You will find that the earplugs are also rather comfortable when worn for long periods of time.  They can really help to drown out the noise of the gun if you happen to fire it.

If you do not have the time or patience to use ear plugs when out in the wilderness, you may just want to invest in good quality pair of noise-reducing earmuffs.  You can find these in most hunting supply stores or in any store that also sells guns.  These can be worn just like headphones and serve to fully protect your hearing.  Some hunters find earmuffs much more comfortable than earplugs and a lot more effective in the long run.

If you hunt long enough and use a gun often enough, there is a good chance that your hearing will be impaired if you do not also use protection.  Most types of ear protection are very inexpensive and will serve of great benefit to your in the long run. The overall point is to be as safe as possible while you are out in the wilderness hunting so that you can fully enjoy your hearing in the future.

John O'Connor

I’m From The Country…

And I like it that way.  If I had a nickel for every time I have heard that, I... well... I'd have a lot of nickels!  Often, in my opinion, it is stretching the truth a little.  Who am I to judge?  Calling one's self  country is a state of mind I guess.  Growing up 7 miles from a town of 140 people doesn't give me the right to claim a patent on being from the country.  (remember that last sentence, i will reference it later)

"I'm From The Country"

I have held many jobs that wouldn't be associated with being from the country, and lived in cities larger than I will expand on here.  When mingling with the truly citified, you get the feeling that they look down on you a little.  That never bothered me.  Being around city folks who claim they are "more" country than others, bothers me a lot!  So, what started this little tirade today?  It was something I heard on the radio.

While listening to a scanner app on my Android phone (some of us hicks have these), I heard a conversation between 2 turkey hunters on their CB radios (I'm a high tech redneck).  It went something like this:

"We'll get 'em next time", "Yeah, not a good week", "It was worth it to get out of the city though", "Lucky I'm from the country, I hunt 5 blocks from my subdivision"What?!? I don't need to tell you rural residents what was wrong with that last transmission.  So I came up with a little Foxworthian test to tell if you are a "I'm from the country" poser.  You may not be quite as country as you think you are if you...

  • Call your buddies to make sure you wear the same color cowboy hats to the bar.
  • Use "I used to be a moto-cross rider, but now I'm a cowboy" to pick up chicks.
  • Spend extra money to camo anything, then buy the latest chrome wheels for it.
  • Don't realize "hunting camp" is a working farm the rest of the year.
  • Say "blocks", not yards or miles, when referencing distance from your house.
  • Think a rodeo is a great place to see a horse.
  • Don't realize land beside a gravel road is private property
  • Get too involved in cell phone calls while driving to wave at other drivers.
  • Think farmers don't understand animal welfare or environmental issues.
  • Never cleaned something off your shoes to attend a social event.

About once every couple months, I have to get something off my chest.  That should do for a while.  I need to go check my cows anyway.  They are spread over 30 blocks right now.

The Forgotten Feast

How did people live before convenience stores, drive-thru menus, and pre-packaged food?  Quite well actually.  You didn't think food always came in a box did you?  Before the days of additives, colorings, and corn syrup debates, the human race thrived.  Food was hunted.  Food was gathered.  Food was relished as a resource that only one's abilities could produce.  Is it possible to subsist today by these methods?  According to Hank Shaw, the answer is... Yes.

The Salt Creek Blog Talk Radio Show is back for another year.  The first show of 2012 focuses on one of my favorite subjects... food!  As if food were not a great enough subject, we will be discussing wild food.  Call in live and on the air with suggestions, recipes or questions.  Hank Shaw is an expert at transforming natural and native foods into culinary delights. 

Hank is the author of "Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast".  He states, "My hope is that the book will help open the world of foraging, hunting and fishing to those interested in food, but who may have never hunted mushrooms or picked up a gun or cast a rod and reel before."

We want to enjoy our food.  Can a diet of foraged grub, wild game, and plants be appetizing?  This time I will answer... Yes!  You will agree after a quick look at Hank's blog "Hunter Angler Gardener Cook" .  The recipes found here are definitely not dried deer on a stick.  You will find an awesome array of tasty foods, from Pheasant Piccata with capers and lemon, to vegetarian fare like Sicilian Sun-Dried Zucchini, sauteed with mint and chile.

Hank has written articles for Field And Stream, Food & Wine,  and other publications.   His blog has received accolades and awards including The Bert Greene Award as Best Food Blog from the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

Join us as at 7 Central Time on February 12th, when we discuss "The Forgotten Feast".