Sep 27, 2009

On hunting

The weather has taken a quick turn to the cool; the first day of Autumn arrived and it's as if someone flipped a switch. Nights are regularly falling into the 40s and occasionally 30s, and spotty frost is now possible in "the colder valleys". Geese are flying south with their usual melodic cacophony, and the songdogs are raising their voices under the moon.

Hunting season actually starts around here on September 1 - various small game and geese are legal then. After that, there is something in season through the end of March, and then turkeys in May. I've been trying to find locations near the new house where hunting is an option, and it's looking pretty reasonable thus far. There's a huge (11,000 acre) state Wildlife Management Area about five minutes south of me, a National Forest about fifteen minutes north, and plenty of farmland right out my door once I get to know the neighbors and owners.

Our esteemed governor (snickersnort) signed a bill into law last week opening my county to rifle hunting for large game (deer and black bear), so my .270 may well see some harder use than in the past. I've got a couple boxes of my handloads ready to go, and supplies for plenty more available. NY doesn't have a minimum-caliber requirement for centerfire rifle rounds, so I could even use my AR for deer if I wanted to. I will need to block a magazine to five rounds, though.

Meantime, I've been offered free run of a fellow firefighter's back-forty for coyotes. His family raises a few goats and is having some concerns about predation. I went over yesterday and was pointed in roughly the right direction for hunting them. The spot to shoot from looks comfortable and easily accessible; there's both an old flatbed wrecker and the remains of a wooden deck to choose from. The longest shot I'd expect to take is about 150yd, so I've been pondering what rifle will prove most suitable. Outside of deer season, I can use the AR in .223 24/7 and probably will. During deer season, it's going to be trickier due to the vagaries of NY's laws and county lines. The .17HMR will likely be the go-to, and I'll have to wait for them to be a touch closer.

There seem to be two camps of people regarding the .17HMR for coyotes: those who like it with some limitations, and those who think it's completely inadequate for the job. Purely based on my own intuition, I fall into the first group. I haven't tested it yet, but I will soon, and here's why: the coyote is a thin-skinned animal with a relatively lightweight frame. The .17HMR will make a tiny entry hole and likely completely fragment inside the chest cavity. It has plenty of power to punch through a rib, but may not do a shoulder blade. It will certainly have enough energy to make head shots - if I do my part. It is not a 200-yard-plus cartridge; the energy falls off rapidly and wind drift becomes a much larger issue to contend with. Out to 100yd I am supremely confident in it; to 150yd I think it will be adequate. I may be wrong - and if I am, you'll hear about it here.

The other options available to me are the muzzleloader (which might be kind of fun), bow (ultra-challenging; a songdog inside 30yd is a sensing machine), .270 (overkill but very effective to 300yd and perhaps further), or a shotgun loaded with buckshot. Probably a 20ga with #3 buck, with the hopes of minimizing pelt damage.

And that brings me to the next point ... pelts! If I do bag a 'yote or two, I will be trying to salvage the pelts; either for decoration or sale. Does anyone have any recommendations for fur tanners with a reasonable price? I've found a few online but prices seem to vary wildly and references would be appreciated.

I have tags for two deer thus far, and have yet to buy my muzzleloader or bow tags - those need to be procured soon. I have some slim hopes that there may be additional doe tags available near MrsZ's family farm; her father would desperately like to remove a couple of the does from resident population. If he'll get nuisance tags next year, I can handle that in the summer time with a rifle, too.

In any case ... I've said this before. Hunting is not simply about killing. If it were, I could blast starlings and red squirrels galore without worrying about seasons or bag limits. No, hunting is not just killing. It's providing for us; it's the ultimate in "locavore"-ism; it's a way to really appreciate where my food is coming from. More than all that, it's a break from everything around me. No phone, radio, pager, tv, pets, wife, etc ... just calm. Very zen.


doubletrouble said...

Sorry, my friend, but I have to strongly disagree with your choice of .17 for coyote.

The .17 is 17 grains in weight- just about the same as your average pellet gun. Wind and distance degrade the energy of that round quickly. Critters get taken around here (as you might have guessed), but .22lr is only for lil' rodents up to squirrel, and a .22 center fire for anything larger, .223 or .224 being the tools of preference.

Coyotes are wiry critters, & I know of a neighbor's body hit on a GROUNDHOG with a .17 that resulted in a very badly damaged beast making it back to its burrow.

Not for my tastes- it want it DRT.

My $.02...

(sorry if this is a double post- I've having some issues here.)

ZerCool said...

Heya DT,

I appreciate the input. I know the .17 is marginal for anything at distance or a poorly-placed shot - but I am confident enough in the rifle and myself to make headshots out to 150 without issue. Ammo-wise, there are a couple options available, of course. The 17gr VMax are my usual round, and are death on squirrels and rabbits and woodchucks. I have a few boxes of the 17gr JHPs, and even a few boxes of 20gr FMJ. No doubt in my mind that the FMJs will provide plenty of skull penetration.

In any case - I'm willing to take a chance with the .17 the first time around but will have the AR sitting next to me ready to go.

doubletrouble said...

Good plan. I'm guessing headers are a must on a good sized animal given the lessons of the groundhog incident.

I must admit I'm a "heavy bullet" (if a 55gr .223 can be considered "heavy") guy, & have never found the .17 on my want list.

I shoot 180s in my .30-30, 220s in my .30-40, & 300s in my .44 mag.
I should probably just hit 'em with a 48 oz ballpein...