Dec 30, 2010

Is this what normal is?

I've spent the last year working overnights. 11pm-7am. It was a test run, essentially: trying to find a way to spend a bit more time at home and with MrsZ. Previously, I had been working evenings (3p-11p) and almost never saw my wife.

It's been a long year. Sleep became a precious commodity, snatched in fits and bursts when the opportunity arouse. Instead of my preferred 7-9 hours daily, I've been getting about 6 on a good day. Evening social events were again out, unless it was something absolutely critical or on one of my nights off.

I've gained fifteen or so pounds, my blood pressure has gone up, and my stress level has gone through the roof.

I walked out the door at 7:04 this morning and closed that chapter on my career. Beginning next week, I'll be on day shift. I finally came up with the seniority to get there. (Six years in March, although I could be bumped back to evenings in the next shift bid.) MrsZ and I get to commute together at least three days each week. I can be active in my fire department in the evenings. I get to sleep at night. I can do social activities; go out for a beer, enjoy a poker game, invite the neighbors for a BBQ, all that crazy stuff. I'm looking forward to it.

That said... there is a small piece of me that will miss the solitude and freedom of nights. With no upper management and no visitors floating around, it was usually just those of us working with an occasional visit from a deputy bringing coffee. The workload was generally quite tolerable - occasionally even slow - and the calls tended to the dramatic.

On top of that, the group I worked with were some of the best people I've worked with. Certainly there were personality differences, and arguments, but when things had to get done, we did them. We made a pretty good team, playing on each other's strengths and picking up the slack when needed. I'm going to miss working with most of them.

... but not enough to give up my sleep. :-)


(I know I'm behind ... well, most everyone on this. S'OK.)
Thread over on ArfCom about a guy who ND'd into his hand - and somehow did no permanent damage. Looks like he was over-the-top gripping the slide to take down his XD but the edge of his palm was over the muzzle. Tired and frazzled from holidays, etc.

Usual assortment of ArfCom troll comments, some good stuff, but then this caught my eye:

"All guns are loaded"

And I immediately thought, "But some guns are more loaded than others!"

Dec 28, 2010


One of the "perks" of NRA membership is a subscription to one of their magazines. I take "American Rifleman" because it has the articles I tend to find interesting. I say this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, because the magazine is more than half advertising, and I have yet to find a blunt review of any gun.

Reading the latest issue, however, there is one line that is really tweaking me the wrong way.

In an article about Dakota Arms the writer says,
"Whoa—never heard of Dakota rifles? Can’t be much of a gun guy, I thought."

Condescension much?

In context, the person he was writing about was a customs inspector who couldn't find Dakota on his list of manufacturers. No suggestion that the inspector had ever claimed to be a "gun guy".

This is a perfect example of what I have now deemed "fudditude": the idea that any firearm not considered a traditional sporting arm is unworthy of contemplation. Higher price tags correspond to greater worthiness. (The author's other articles cover double rifles, Federal Premium ammo and Zeiss optics. None are noted as being low-budget items.)

It's entirely possible to be a "gun guy" and not have heard of Dakota Arms. Most of their rifles have price tags higher than my first car. For a "gun guy" who has a couple shotguns and an off-the-rack deer rifle, and maybe reads "American Handgunner" every couple months, there's no reason he'd be aware of a low-production high-price manufacturer. (ATF 2007 report: Dakota Arms produced 493 rifles.)

I consider myself a "gun guy". I'm sure there are plenty of manufacturers I've never heard of, or if I've heard of them in passing there may be no reason I'd remember any particulars.

Let's be honest: how many of us are likely to take an African safari in search of the Big 5? Not I. The hunt of a lifetime for me would be to Canada for brown bear, or Alaska for moose. I can certainly enjoy reading about the adventures of those who do travel to far-off places to shoot animals I'm only going to see in the zoo, and perhaps could someday afford a semi-custom rifle. ("Could afford" should not be confused with "will afford". Something along the lines of a Cooper rifle is probably near my upper limit for any single firearm.)

Maybe "fudditude" isn't right. Maybe it's simple snobbery. Either way, it's not the way to foster positive relations with anyone.

I don't think the NRA is perfect, by any means. Truth be told (IMHO), the Second Amendment Foundation has done more for gun rights in the past five years than the NRA. But - and this is huge - identifying yourself as an NRA writer and then acting the snob is a great way to make someone who is either on the fence or simply unaware into an anti-NRA person. Either simply keep your mouth shut, or smile and maybe explain it a bit. "Oh, they're a small maker from _____."

Or maybe I'm just an angry person.

Dec 24, 2010

Pocket Knife comparison

I think most of us carry a knife of some sort on a daily basis. For many of us, it's a single-blade folder. Benchmade, Gerber, CRKT, Kershaw, whatever. All are great knives with a purpose. But let's face it - some days, a knife blade isn't quite the best tool for a job.

Over the summer I picked up a Victorinox Tinker and carried it around for a week before giving it to my brother-in-law as I got on an airplane to go home. It was a nice knife to have around.

Looking for something along the same idea as a Victorinox Classic, I decided to get a Leatherman Style. That arrived early this month. A few weeks ago, Amazon did a sale on Victorinox knives, so I picked up a few, including an Alox Classic.

Once I had them side-by-side, a review pretty much became mandatory.


The specs are pretty similar. Both are a hair over 2" long, both have a short knife blade, both have a file/screwdriver, both have scissors. Either of them can be had for under $20, and usually under $15.

The Alox Classic is a VERY slim knife, and foregoes the tweezers and toothpick that Swiss Army Knives are known for. It's also about 2/3 the weight of the Style. By getting a traditional red Classic, the thickness increases, as does the weight, but it adds tweezers and a toothpick.

The Style... I want to like it. The size is right. The tools are right. Leatherman has a great reputation for quality tools - I own at least four of their full-size tools and have zero complaints about any of them.

Unfortunately, the Style is a piece of crap.

It feels cheap and unfinished.

Here we go, with pictures:


First up, the knife blade. Both are a bit over 1.5" long; a good size for opening envelopes, peeling an orange, cutting small rope or twine - basically, any small-knife tasks! Out of the box, both are VERY sharp.

The Style has a "normal" blade profile, and is single-grind: the back side is flat all the way to the cutting edge, the front side has a fairly wide angle to it. Easy to sharpen, but for a left-handed user, a push-cut will be less effective. Additionally, the spine of the blade has VERY sharp edges - a quick grind down both sides would have smoothed it out tremendously. It just feels unfinished.

The Classic has the usual pen knife "spear point" blade, and is a lighter blade than the Style. For anything this size knife is appropriate for, the lighter blade is perfectly acceptable.


Both have a nail file/flat screwdriver combination blade, and the only gripe I have about the Style in this regard is that the opening divot is within the file. It's an unpleasant sensation to grind the end of a nail into the file, as opposed to filing it.

Neither screwdriver is suited for heavy tasks, but that's typical of any small knife - and many of the larger multi-tools, as well. If you need a screwdriver, go get a screwdriver!


The scissors... The scissors on the Style are pathetic. The little lever that is supposed to open them up for you doesn't have enough oomph to open them any further than what you see above. Acceptable for snipping a thread, perhaps, but nothing else. Additionally, because of where the moving part of the scissor is relative to how it folds out, getting a full-depth cut means squeezing the lever past the edge of the knife. It's really a poor design.


Style on the left, Alox Classic on the right. The Style is, quite literally, twice the thickness of the Classic.


Next to keys for size comparison; I keep the Classic on this keyring now, and the Style has been quickly relegated to the drawer o' knives.

One other point about the Style: on the right end (in the picture above), the pointy end is not tacked or riveted down. It's made of very thin metal, and has a penchant for bending away from the body of the knife just slightly. It was less than 24 hours before I stabbed the end of my finger on that point, quite painfully (but no blood).

I still like my Leatherman multi-tools. A PST, a Core, a 200, and a Kick all float around my pockets and gear from time to time. I gave my groomsmen Squirt tools for my wedding, and those are, to the best of my knowledge, still getting regular use.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend the Style as a wise purchase. If you need a small pocket knife for times when a clip-on folder isn't appropriate, spend your money on a Victorinox or Wenger Swiss Army Knife.

#GBC Secret Santa 2010

Over at Gunblogger Conspiracy, pdb set up a Secret Santa for us.

Mine showed up a couple days ago and I (of course) ignored the "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL CHRISTMAS" blazoned across the box. :-)

Inside I found... a 5.11 pistol case, and a MOLON LABE ball cap.


Thanks, JP!

Dec 20, 2010

"This above all...

... To thine own self be true". (Polonius, Hamlet, I:3:78)

Brigid has a post up with a few good pointers.

I felt it, rather than heard it, a coldness at the very base of my spine, a sense, somehow, that I was being watched. There was no sound, no steady growl of rustle or movement upon which our mind will tell us to hurry along. Yet, I knew it was there; the murmur of threat, the panting whispers of predators unseen.
I was operating on the instinct of an animal, one that is both predator and prey.
Instinct overrode logic and when I got to within a few feet of the car, I literally ran and dove in, slamming the door behind me. Echoing in that sound was a large WHUMP against the back of the vehicle as if something had bounced off of it.

There is a book out there, titled "The Gift of Fear", by Gavin deBecker, that touches on this. On page 6:
I've learned some lessons about safety through years of asking people who've suffered violence, "Could you have seen this coming?" Most often they say, "No, it just came out of nowhere," but if I am quiet, if I wait a moment, here comes the information: "I felt uneasy when I met that guy..." or "Now that I think of it, I was suspicious when he approached me," or "I realize now I had seen that car earlier in the day."
Of course, if they realize it now, they knew it then. We all see the signals because there is a universal code of violence. You'll find some of what you need to break that code in the following chapters, but most of it is in you.
(Emphasis mine - Z.)

We have surrounded ourselves with convenience, mechanical safeguards, and other things to insulate us from the dangers of the world, but at his most basic levels, man is an animal with animal instincts. Sadly, most of us have managed to suppress those instincts, choosing instead to trust to - what? Human kindness?

We are not the end of the food chain, literally or figuratively. There are predators out there. Some walk the woods and fields on four paws, others pad the streets on Nikes. We are developed to identify threats - consciously or not - and respond to them. Fight-or-flight, no? But we suppress that reflex, simply to prevent offending someone, or [sarcasm]worse yet, looking silly[/sarcasm]. Silly is a much better way to look than dead.

While out hunting, particularly when walking in or out of the woods in the dark, I don't carry my gun on its sling. I keep it at low-ready. My carry pistol isn't carried in "condition 3"; there is always one in the tube.

Why? Predators rarely call ahead to announce their intentions. Brigid was stalked by a large wild cat and had no warning; her revelation was that "thump" of a cat into a bumper. A mugger isn't going to wander the streets wearing a sandwich board that says, "MUGGING ABOUT TO HAPPEN".

Make no mistake: predators aren't invisible. We just have to know what to watch for. Brigid didn't look back that night. Would she have seen a wild cat stalking along the side of a lonely country drive? Maybe. Maybe not. It doesn't matter. She knew it was there. Those "urban yoots" who crossed the street towards you down the block? You see them. Are they going home, or waiting for you to come to them? As long as you know they're there and are willing to react appropriately, it doesn't matter.

Most predators, on being recognized as such - and recognizing that perhaps their intended victim is not the soft target they'd imagined, will move on to easier prey. Would Brigid's stalker have gone looking for a rabbit? Will those yoots let you pass by with nothing more than a token snarl?

I've blogged it in detail before, but I'll excerpt the critical parts:

...We pulled into the rest area, which was pretty empty. There was one other car in the lot, running, with at least two people in it. We parked a couple spots down and under a light, shut off the truck, stretched for a few seconds, then hopped out. Between the time I'd parked and getting out of the truck, someone had gotten out of the car and walked all the way around the back of my truck, stopping essentially right at the driver's rear corner by the bumper. The very first words out of his mouth were, "Hey, sorry to walk up on y'all like this."

My first reaction was to get both hands out of coat pockets and turn my left side slightly toward him, while my right hand rested on my belt just behind my hip - essentially on the sheath for my Leatherman tool, but also precisely where I would carry a pistol (this was prior to my carrying full-time - Z.).

He rambled on with a long story [...] [with] both hands up in front of him as he talked. Eventually he got to the point and asked for "fourteen dollars". Kind of a random number, but the easy answer was, "Sorry, I don't carry cash." He started backing away then, apologized a couple more times for, "Walking up on y'all," and got into the car.
Was he just looking for a few bucks in sympathy? Maybe. If I'd reached for my wallet, would a knife or gun have appeared? Maybe. Either way, he realized pretty quick that he'd picked the wrong prey, and disappeared most rikki-tik. Did I handle it perfectly? No. But that going back to deBecker, "I felt uneasy when I met that guy." That's all I needed to know.

I'm not advocating living our lives in fear and constantly looking over our shoulders, by any means. But we have to learn to listen to that little voice inside; the one that says, "This is a Bad Person/Situation/Place." Learn to be somewhere else. What's the worst that can happen? You leave a party/club early? Walk three blocks instead of one? Offend someone who really did mean well? Burn an extra half-gallon of gas? Big deal.

This above all: to thine own self be true.

Sellin' Out

I have become a (more) shameless capitalist and have sold a bit of advertising to Sportsman's Guide. It's over towards the bottom of the sidebar (Yay Capitalism: Rifle Ammo); please feel free to click through for your ammo needs.

Dec 16, 2010

Group Hunt, closed!

I've gotten several takers, and don't want to over-extend myself (or my welcome with my in-laws)... so the list is closed at this point!

The maniacal few who were quick to respond are JayG, Cybrus, Wally, and Dragon.

LinkP - if you're serious about coming cross-country for a hunt, you'd be most welcome.

All other planning will be done by email, so the blog won't be any further cluttered.

Dec 15, 2010

I have a hunch...

... That this could be the basis of a bi-partisan agreement.


(The whole headline is "Republicans favor BJ's Wholesale Proposal" ... but that's how it appeared in my ticker.)

Stupid Criminal Tricks

"Gunman on motorcycle robs Bellagio casino of $1.5M in chips"

That's a hell of a way to end up dead.

Especially since the chips are essentially worthless within hours, as the casino cycles out everything on the playing floor and in the cages for new designs.

Dec 14, 2010

Group Hunt, Part 2

It appears that there are at least a few of you interested in making this happen.

So, you all have a homework assignment: take your hunter education class. Contact your state DEC/DNR/FWC/FGC/whatever and find out when and where.

The class will give you a certificate. NY will recognize the certificate from all other states. You will need the certificate itself to get a NY hunting license the first time; after that you can simply show your existing NY license to get a new one. (So keep the certificate in a safe place. Mine is in an envelope taped to the inside of the gun safe.)

My gut feel on dates would be the week following Thanksgiving, probably Wed/Thu through Sat/Sun. (11/30-12/3 or 12/1-4.)

And this will be the last blog post about this: anyone (Cybrus, Jay, Wally, I'm looking at you three) who is serious about doing this, please email me (zercool gmail com) and we'll start sorting this out as a group.

Dec 13, 2010

Group Hunt?

As hunting season starts winding down, I'm already thinking about next year.

Seeing the posts from TooOld and Ambulance Driver about their hunt with Alan, MattG, and Vine has me toying with the idea of a small group hunt for a few of the #GBC'ers.

I have free access to about 250 acres of private land that is a mix of fields, woods, and a bit of swampy bottom stuff. There are BIG deer in there. (The doe I got last year had - no shit - two INCHES of back fat. And marbling. I've never before seen a deer with marbled meat.)

So, at least initially, I'm looking to gauge interest. I'm thinking four to six people total, and hunting newbies would be welcome, for two or three days of hunting during the regular season (late November/early December) 2011.

Costs would be lodging (inexpensive motels are readily available), meals, travel, and licenses.

So ... pipe up. Is this something I should try to plan?

Dec 10, 2010

Doe. (A deer!)

MrsZ's shiny new CR-V is going to be getting an even shinier-new front end.

Squared off with a doe at 55mph last night.

The deer didn't walk away, the CR-V didn't drive away... I don't know who wins that round.

Pictures forthcoming once I get down to the wrecker yard and remove a few more things from the car.


Edit to add pictures:



By my count: hood, grill, bumper cover, d/s fender, d/s wheel well, two headlight assemblies, radiator, fan, battery, battery mount, and a couple reservoirs all have to be replaced. There is some scuffing down the driver's side where the deer tumbled, and the driver's door grates on the fender when opening. Paint work (or at least clearcoat) all the way down the side, probably.

This ain't gonna be pretty, but State Farm gets to cover the VAST majority of it.

Also, for those of you who have Traveler's insurance, consider changing. While I was at the shop some guy in a Traveler's jacket was there to do an estimate on another car; he asked who the insurer was on the CR-V. I told him, and asked why. "Because I don't want to look at the damn thing."

After he left the office the guy working there said, "That's the first time I've ever met that guy, and I want to wrap a chair around his neck. What a dick!"

Dec 8, 2010

Car Kit

Last week, friend and fellow blogger mhaithaca put together a post on the bare minimum of things he keeps in his car. It's a good start, and nudged me to put together a kit for MrsZ's car. Please understand, this is in addition to the permanent items like a flashlight, some hand tools, a fire extinguisher, a few road flares, tire sealant and compressor, etc.

Mark's entry was prompted by the lake effect blast that shut down several miles of the NYS ThruWay around Buffalo. Most drivers were only stuck in their cars for ten to twelve hours, which is unpleasant but generally not dangerous - at least in temperate climates. Given the unpredictability of snow in that (and many other) areas though, a motorist could easily be stranded for 24 to 48 hours. In remote areas that number could easily triple. (Remember that family on the West Coast that accidentally went up a seasonal road?)

Do you have enough in your car to survive for six days in winter?

First and foremost: there is no such thing as "just a quick trip to the store" in winter. If you run out of gas, or get a flat tire, or slide into a ditch, are you dressed to deal with the situation without endangering yourself? Grabbing a three-season coat and light gloves to go from the house to the garage and the parking lot into the office is fine - but make sure you've got an extra sweatshirt, a winter hat, and some real gloves or mittens in the car. Throw an extra pair of wool socks in there too.

If you're stranded on the highway, how are you going to keep warm? Hopefully you're keeping your gas tank at least half-full at all times. Make sure your exhaust stays clear, and run the car for 15-20 minutes out of every two hours. Turn the defroster and air conditioner OFF - just use the heater and fan. Crack a back window to get a little bit of fresh air without losing all the heat. Cycling the engine like this should allow a half-tank of fuel to last a few days without any trouble and will keep the car tolerable if not exactly comfortable. (Most cars and light trucks will go about 300-400 miles on a full tank of fuel at highway speeds; that's five to seven hours of running time.)

Have something to eat? (A pack of gum, a box of tic-tacs, and an old package of Ding-Dongs really doesn't count.) You want something calorie-dense. Clif bars are a good option, as are most granola bars, and peanut butter.

How about water? A nalgene bottle kept 3/4 full won't burst if it freezes, and will keep you from going terribly thirsty too fast.

Now, how to make it all much easier? Put together a car kit. A backpack, plastic tote, cardboard box, whatever - put everything in one container and make it easy. I went through Walmart on my way home from work this morning, and this is what I put together:
  • A Rubbermaid "Action Packer" tub (small size)
  • two light fleece throws
  • an enamel mug
  • Bic lighters
  • a watertight match container
  • a collapsible candle lantern
  • spare candles
  • a whistle
  • a lightweight poncho
  • two cheap folding knives
  • half a dozen chemical heat packs
Grand total: $66.

I supplemented that when I got home with two MREs, a few tea bags, two envelopes of cocoa mix, a mylar "space blanket", two "Frontier" filter straws, and a Nalgene water bottle.


A candle lantern, by itself, will put out enough heat to keep a car tolerably warm. Interspersing that with running the engine will keep the temperature up even longer. In addition, you can put the mug on top of the lantern to melt snow or heat water to make tea or cocoa.

Chemical heat packs will keep fingers and toes warmer or help thaw out frostbitten parts.

The fleece blankets, particularly when combined with the mylar blanket (fleece inside, mylar outside!), will keep one person VERY warm in extremely cold weather.

Lighters and matches are great for building a fire, lighting that candle, and are just a good thing to have around.

Cheap knives - and there are two, because two is one, etc - can be used to fir a stick for tinder, or anything else your little heart desires. Would a better knife be a good idea? Perhaps. But for a buck apiece, these are a pretty good value.

A Nalgene bottle part full lets you have an initial supply of water, and keep whatever water you melt. If you're not sure of your water source, use those Frontier filter straws to reduce the chance of getting sick.

Tea and cocoa... hot liquids are a great way to raise the core temperature quickly. It's important to remember that tea (non-herbal) generally contains caffeine, which is a diuretic. If you're like me and a bit of caffeine daily is necessary, make sure you drink a bit more water to avoid dehydration.

MREs aren't necessarily tasty, but they are calorie-rich and include a heater so you can have a hot meal. They can be a bit pricey - about $70 for a case of 12 - but it's worth it. If you stretch the meal a bit and aren't working hard, it has enough calories to feed you for one day - approximately 1,250cal. (If you're buying a case of MREs, make sure you buy them with heaters. The food is edible without, but wouldn't you prefer a hot meal?)

Finally, the whistle is great for signaling if you are off the road a bit.

All of this fits easily into the tub, with a bit of room to spare for whatever you think is appropriate - an extra pair of socks, a hat, a paperback novel, spare box of ammo, etc. That tub should fit in the trunk of nearly any car on the road today, excepting exotics - and if you get stuck in a blizzard in your Ferrari, I don't feel too bad for you.

(Side note: Why didn't I get into firearms in this entry? Because you should already have your carry piece with you, and this isn't about that. Suffice it to say that there may be "have-nots" who wish to become "haves". Discourage as appropriate, but share if you can.)

Dec 6, 2010

Warm ears

I stopped by the local big-box sporting goods store earlier this week, looking for a new hat and gloves for hunting. I ended up getting a decent pair of gloves and a "mad bomber"-style hat. Now, it's no cunning hat, but that's ok. I don't have the 'stache to rock a cunning hat.

I went hunting after I got out of work this (Sunday) morning. The weather was foul. It had snowed most of the night and the plows hadn't done their thing yet. With the truck locked in 4HI, it took me about 20 minutes to go ten miles.

I got there just as Hunting Buddy was pulling a small button buck out of the woods, with (he says) an 8-point still waiting in the ravine. He was short on time and wanted to keep hunting, so we set up for a quick drive (he'd walk, two of us would sit) and I settled in to watch.

It was a near-perfect morning, and spot. Cold but not bitter, I had a nice spot tucked in the lee of pine tree and about six feet below the edge of the ravine. The wind would gust a little snow over me now and then, but never really caught me. I watched across the flat bottom and creek below, and tried to stay awake. I nodded off a few times for a minute or two, so perhaps I missed seeing a deer, but likely not.

I did get to see a very small red fox at a flat-out run as Hunting Buddy pushed down the far side of the ravine and across the bottom. I toyed with the idea of taking it, but (1) it was at a dead run, (2) I wasn't going to spend a $3 slug on a fox, and (3) I'm cheap and wouldn't feel like paying to have it mounted.

Having finished that small drive with no luck, we moved to another spot to repeat the process. This time, however, we were on the windward side of the highest point for a mile in any direction, in a cut field. 25 and sheltered from the wind was comfortable; 25 and walking into a 20-25mph prevailing wind was bitter cold.

I have to give credit to the hat, though: my ears were toasty warm! My nose and cheeks took it hard, but no permanent damage. As far as I'm concerned, that 30-minute walk/wait has already made the hat worth the price.

Hopefully I'll sneak out a few more times this week and put another doe in the garage.

Dec 3, 2010



Most of us have some trinket or souvenir from our past that we've kept around for sentimental reasons. A postcard, a shell, a stuffed animal... or in my case, a coffee mug.

For as long as I can remember growing up, that mug was Dad's Mug. Coffee, cocoa, anything hot went in that mug.

When I was getting ready for college, we spent weeks making lists and making sure I had everything I'd need to survive dorm life. Sheets, pillows, blankets, food galore, clothes, laundry soap, dish soap, dishes, etc. A set of silverware and a plate and glass... and a mug. But I didn't take just any mug.

I went to Dad and I asked him - when he was in a good mood - if I could take His Mug. I didn't explain it to him - we don't have that kind of relationship - but I think he knew that I needed a little piece of home along with me.

He hemmed and hawed a little bit, then consented to parting with it.

It went to college with me. It survived a year in the dorm, a move home, a move to an apartment, a year there, another move home, and then ten more moves over the following years. It's still in one piece, and it's still my favorite mug ... even though it's still Dad's Mug. When my parents visit, Dad still gets his hot drinks in that mug.

It's not much to look at. Nothing sets it apart from any other mug in the cabinet. It's not the largest, or the smallest, but it holds more than coffee for me. A whole lot more.

Thanks, Dad.

Another notch

If you'll recall my post from two days ago, I wished for snow. After I wrote that post, I made a mug of cocoa and settled in with a book and a puppy while I listened to the rain patter on the patio doors.


An hour later, mug empty, I went out to the kitchen to find some more cocoa. Glancing out the kitchen window, my wish had come true: there was a good inch of fresh wet snow, and more coming fast.

We ended up with just a couple inches, but it was enough to make things clean and white for a while. The lower-lying areas around us had some problems with flash flooding; the high school got a few inches of water in the hallways and a few people drove their car into flooded roads and then flooded ditches. While our house isn't completely immune to such things, it's in a pretty good spot and we'd need a whole lot more than two or three inches of rain to cause problems.

The weather broke late Wednesday evening, and while Thursday was overcast, it was reasonably mild, not windy, and there was enough snow to make spotting deer a bit easier. I changed and headed out around 2, arriving at my hunting spot around 2:45.

Pulling on the remainder of my clothes and loading the gun, I moseyed in to the woods, watching the trail and muttering to myself about life. As I rounded a bend in the path, a snort from my right froze me in my tracks, and I slowly turned my head that way. Not twenty-five yards away stood a small deer. I brought the gun up and clicked off the safety, drew a bead...

And lowered the gun and put the safety back on.

Rule 4, kids. "Identify your target, and what is behind it." It's easy to get a little turned around in the woods, and a difference of 30 degrees can be the difference between shooting towards a house and an open field. I knew for a fact that there was a state highway about 200 yards beyond the deer, and while the woods between were dense, I wasn't going to take a chance on a stray slug going somewhere I didn't want.

We stood and watched each other for a few more minutes, then he (90% sure it was a button buck) turned and loped off. I headed further down the trail and found a comfy tree to sit against overlooking a wide swale, with an easy view into an adjacent cornfield.

As I sat, a few flakes drifted down, and the highway in the distance faded into background noise; like cicadas in the summertime you don't hear it unless you listen for it. Even the squirrels were quiet today, and contemplative silence was what the doctor ordered.

After 45 minutes or so, I moved my seat to the other side of the trail for a slightly better view of the opposite side of the swale. Half an hour later, a bit of movement out of the corner of my eye turned my head to the cornfield. Sure enough, a deer was coming up over the edge of the swale and into the field - a common spot for them at sunset. I turned my torso a bit and brought the gun up and double-checked for antlers through the scope. None - good. Not even nubbins that I could see.

I clicked the safety off, calmed my breathing, and waited. She took a step forward into a good clear spot and started nosing the ground for forage. I settled the crosshairs just behind the shoulder, held a breath, and squeezed the trigger.

The gun barked, the deer jumped ... and started running. She'd only been 35 or 40 yards from me when I pulled the trigger, and ran in a wide arc to my left. I worked the slide on the Mossberg as I stood up and brought it back to my shoulder. Just as I brought my cheek down on the comb, she stopped for a moment, and I thought I was going to have a clear second shot.

Instead, she fell over. A few kicks later she stopped moving. I thumbed another shell into the magazine and set my gun down against a tree for a moment. After I found my spent brass I picked up the gun and started walking towards the deer - and was greeted by two snorts and two tails bounding off from the same spot she'd come out of. If I'd looked, I would have seen them and could easily have hung up another one, but I didn't (and that's ok).

She's another small-ish doe, probably going 110-120 on the hoof, but in fine shape and should be nice and tender. I filled out my tag, dressed her out (again, the 20ga SSTs went through-and-through in the chest, and both lungs were pulverized), and dragged her back to the truck. On the way back I bumped yet another deer out, but it was far past legal shooting light and my gun was already unloaded.

I got home and hung her in the garage; in a few days I'll skin and quarter her, and we'll figure out how to divide this one. Loin medallions, some grind, and some stew cubes, most likely.

I'd like to get at least one more deer this season. There's a week of regular season left, then ten days of muzzleloader. I've got one antler tag, one deer management tag, and two tags for muzzleloader... we'll see how it goes.

Dusty room

AD writes about stains - the ones we can shout out, and the ones that mark the very fibers of our being. Shouting, screaming, laughing - some stains won't come out.

So yeah, that’s why I was in your Emergency Department at 0645 this morning with a big mascara stain on my shirt. I’m sorry I didn’t smile at your joke, and I promise the next time you see me, I’ll be wearing a clean uniform.

Read the whole thing.

I've worked the field as a volunteer for just shy of a decade now, and worked the console for a check for six years. I've picked up my own share of stains along the way.

There are days that I (and I think most of us in emergency services) ask myself, "Why the hell am I doing this?" Why take the abuse, the hours, the lost sleep, missed meals, fast food, caffeine, and why pay the emotional toll? If someone who has worked one of these jobs for any significant length of time tells you that the job never gets to them, they are lying. Either to you or to themselves, but they're lying.

So why do we do it?

The only answer I can come up with - the one I keep coming back to - is simple.

Someone has to.

"Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy how's yer soul?
We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints:
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;"

Rudyard Kipling, "Tommy"

Dec 1, 2010

Karma time, kids

I don't know how many of you read Tam regularly - most of you, I'm hoping. (If you don't, you should. Guns, snark, and generally the wittiest things I'll read in a day.)

Anyways, she managed to break a tooth. Must have been some undercooked kheer or something...

Whatever it was, she, like many of us, doesn't have the funds for immediate corrective action. There is, however, a donate button over on the right sidebar of her blog. If you've gotten something of value - even something of intangible value, like a smile (without a gap) - from her blog, please consider dropping a sawbuck or two in the pot.

The gun blog community is a pretty tight bunch, and I'd hope we can help take care of one of our own. (Not because we have to, this ain't no tax fer another gummint program; but because we want to.) And, yes, there's a bit of a karma aspect to it - I'd hope someone would do the same for me in a similar situation, even if I don't write as well or have as many readers as Tam.

So - Tam - feel better, my click has been made, and I hope you get a few more hits.

Weather, sitting beneath

A few random thoughts:
If we call the ugly hot weather of mid to late summer the "dog days of summer", are the miserable days of late autumn and early winter the "cat days of winter"? Around here, the cats are intent on spending time on me.

The weather forecast for the space shuttle must be boring. "Hey Joe, what's the weather today?" "Sunny, dark, sunny, dark, sunny, dark, sunny, dark, (repeat to a total of sixteen), either 600 above or absolute zero, with no chance of precipitation."

I closed the storm windows yesterday, because I'd forgotten to earlier in the year. The house is a solid five degrees warmer this morning. Looks like I'll be re-glazing some windows in the spring, too.

It's December. Can we please stop with the rain and make with the snow? Please? Z much prefers looking for brown deer on white snow, instead of brown deer on brown leaves.

I shot at (and missed) a doe last week: from about 60 yards, I hit the ONLY branch between us, sending the slug off to who-knows-where. The deer wandered off. I did check very carefully for blood or hair where she'd been - and where she wandered - and found nothing.

The deer that I got ten days ago has been fully processed. There are two trussed loin roasts in the freezer, and the rest was ground. Nine-plus pounds of grind, and about 12 pounds of sausage in one form or another.

Another deer would be really nice about now...

On that note, it's time to make cocoa and read a few more chapters!