Sep 28, 2009

Rural Living

If you read Marko's blog, you already know about the dog-raccoon pit match he refereed this morning. If you don't, you should go read.

It brought to mind something from last week:
MrsZ and I were at home one evening doing our respective things around the house; I was upstairs reading, she was downstairs working on something. I heard her call for me, and I finished the paragraph I was on. She called again, and I answered her ... she said, "There's something at the front door". Not someone, something.

Being the master of witty repartee that I am, I replied, "Huh?"

"Something is scratching at the front door."

I looked out the side and front upstairs windows and couldn't see anything, so I headed downstairs. I got down the stairs as MrsZ opened the front door - and our stupid cat bolted back into the house from where he'd been sandwiched between the front door and storm door.

The two-second thought process as I headed down the stairs, though, was simple:
Gun? Yes.
It's scratching, probably small something.
.45? Next to bed, overkill.
Shotgun? Locked up, no shells handy.
.22? Downstairs in case, magazine nearby. First round is a short, though - remember to drop it...

So, the .22 was the go-to choice for that particular situation.

After the cat stopped glaring at us, MrsZ asked me, "You were thinking about a gun, weren't you?"

Duh. There is almost always a firearm of SOME type within a couple seconds of me. This time I had the luxury of figuring out which would be most appropriate to the circumstance.

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.

Sep 22, 2009

Straw poll

Alright, I'm curious ... I know I'm not the only guy (or gal) out there who has an other-half not so into guns. I consider myself luckier than some, though; MrsZ enjoys shooting (it's a zen thing for her) but doesn't choose to carry.

We went out last week for an "open house" with a company whose name starts with "Direct" and ends with "Buy". That's a whole story by itself but the short form is: they suck, it's a scam, and it's all high-pressure sales schtick. Avoid.

In any case, the store is in a city about 90 minutes from home, and this city is known for having some less-than-desirable areas. It's not shocking to hear their name on the news following the words "shooting in" or "murder in".

I almost always have a pistol within easy reach, but don't carry 100% of the time. I chose to carry for this trip. I tucked my Bersa .380 into it's IWB holster around 5-5:30 and slipped an extra mag into a front pocket of my jeans. Tucked my shirt over the butt and threw on a flannel shirt. Off to pick up the wife and then on to the store. We went through the tour, listened to the sales schlock, then did one more bit of tour.

As we were walking out of the room from the sales pitch, MrsZ put her hand on my back, presumably to knead some knots out ... and instead put her hand directly on the butt of the pistol. She jerked her hand back like she'd been burned, and kinda gave me a funny look, but didn't say anything about it.

So ... the question/request: anecdotes about spouses not realizing you're carrying, and reacting one way or another?

Sep 3, 2009

Bug Out!

About a year and a half ago, I picked up a sturdy backpack with the intention of turning it into a Bug Out Bag. Grab Bag. Ready Bag. Whatever you care to call it; the intention is a bag that is always ready to go and will keep me relatively comfortable with essentials for 48-96 hours.

In the hustle of wedding, house hunting, moving, etc, the bag got a few items tucked into it and then was stuck in the back of a closet and forgotten. As we've moved and unpacked, the bag got unearthed. I pulled it apart last night, and it's ... well, pretty empty. Right now, it contains: (1) micro LED headlamp, (1) larger LED headlamp (Black Diamond IQ), (1) large folding knife (CRKT Point Guard), 100 rounds of .22LR, 50' of OD 550 cord, (2) D-carabiners, (2) mylar "space blankets", (2) Aquamira Frontier filter-straws, and the (empty) hydration bladder it came with.

Must add:
Two universal holsters
one pistol mag pouch, 2 full 1911 mags
one rifle mag pouch, 1 full AR mag
fixed-blade knife (GLOCK knife may win this one)
spare set(s) of batteries
copies of: driver's license, pistol permit, marriage certificate, deed, titles, and birth certificate
three pairs of cotton socks
two pairs of wool socks
three pairs of underwear
two t-shirts
lifeboat rations (4500cal)
Nalgene bottle(s)
50rd .45ACP ball
50rd .223
hotel soap
$100-300 cash in nothing larger than 20s

One thing many people run into when planning their BOB is weight. The instinct is to pack as much crap as possible in, and think it'll either be tossed in the car or items ditched along the way. Here's the thing: this is three days of minimum necessities. Not niceties, necessities. Clean, dry, fed - and the clean is somewhat optional, as is the dry. You might be lugging this a ways, so keeping it light is critical.

Here's the game plan: fire, flood, riot, whatever; I have to leave. In my own truck, in the wife's car, in the back of a National Guard 6x6, on my own two feet - it doesn't matter. I've got short-notice to do this. Stop at the gun safe and grab the AR, 1911, and 22/45. Poop one last time on my own toilet. Pull on comfortable shoes and an appropriate layer of outerwear. Crate the cats and their food if possible, turn 'em out otherwise.

Off we go. Time elapsed: 5-10 minutes. Necessities on hand: 100%. I can move on foot if need be, survive for a couple days easily and longer if necessary, am comfortable with defensive needs, can supply my own clean water, and have cash to get things I may need along the way. Family, friends, motel ... but not a shelter if I can possibly avoid it. MrsZ and I have family scattered literally across the continent; New Hampshire to North Carolina and Texas to Alaska. We've got choices.

(Commander Zero Rule One: Don't be a refugee. It's good advice.)