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Gun Safety Reminder

August 21, 2014

The guns are already out in several states, and with September rolling around, more of us are gearing up to hit the field.  But as we do, whether at the range, in the field, or even cleaning up at the house, remember… gun safety is no joke.  It only takes a second to turn a wonderful day into a nightmare.

And yes, I have posted this one before… but it bears repeating. 

Gun Safety – A Reminder About Negligent Discharge

July 21, 2014

I know.  I take off without so much as a word for a week, and then come back with something this random on a Monday, no less.  Blame it on the day job.  Or just blame it on laziness.  Matters not.

I’ve been a little short on simple content lately, and not provided with a lot of time or motivation for deep dives into any topic that requires research (or verification), so I was bouncing around social networks and YouTube hoping for something that would just feed right into the page.  Absolute relevance is never a requirement at the Hog Blog, but I do try to maintain a modicum of peripheral connection to topics related to hunting.  So I found the following video:

Now before anyone jumps in with the kneejerk, banal comments about stupidity or Darwin Awards, I want to ask you to hold your water. That’s not why I shared this.  I just want you to watch this video, especially starting at about 00:26, and give it some thought.

As “Tex” says in the video, negligent discharges happen.  It has happened to me, and I have seen it happen to my friends.  I was almost killed by one (the difference between almost and actually was less than the width of a hat brim).  With careful gun handling, particularly a laser focus on muzzle control, they usually don’t do much more than scare the bejesus out of you.  But the fact is that sometimes, in less than a heartbeat, shit happens.

The point is, just be careful.  Be safe.  Do everything you can to try to make sure shit doesn’t happen… and if it does, that the outcome is little more than a raised heart rate and ringing ears.

Thoughts On The Christmas Gun, Ralphie, And Avoidable Tragedy

December 2, 2013

Red Ryder advertisementWhen I started thinking about writing this post I couldn’t get past mental images from the movie, A Christmas Story.  You probably know the one.  All Ralphie (a juvenile Walter Mitty) wants for Christmas is a BB gun… and not just any BB gun, but the “official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot, range model, air rifle!”

His dream, however, seemed to be thwarted at every turn by the admonition, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

I hate that movie.

I just never understood the allure of fiction that seems to hit so close to home.  The travails of a middle class, suburban family and the way Christmas always seems to draw such a sharp distinction between the responsibilities and realities of grown-ups and the self-absorbed fantasies of children… well, I can’t see why anyone would think that’s funny.  That’s hard, dark stuff, man!  Hearts are broken…. dreams shattered… the poignancy of lost innocence and the bitter resentment of adults toward the carefree joy of youngsters… it’s an ugly, ugly thing.  It’s not funny.  It’s mean.

I think I was about eight years old when I got my Red Ryder, and yes, it was a Christmas gift, hidden behind everything else at the back of the tree.  I knew what it was.  My parents knew I knew.  But I didn’t get to open it until every last thing had been pulled from under the tree… the socks, underwear, and flannel shirts.  It probably wasn’t even the New Year before I was hit by my first riccochet (and not my last).  I don’t even remember what I shot… only that it was impermeable to BBs and rejected my shot, sending it back at my head, post-haste.  Of course, the incident went unremarked in the family history.  The tiny red mark faded long before I returned home to the call of the porch light.  No one ever knew but me.

Do I digress?  Maybe a bit, but I think not.

It’s December now, and that means time to start looking seriously at Christmas gift giving.  Firearms are on the top of the list for many a hopeful recipient.

For various reasons, it seems like more and more parents are giving firearms to their youngsters, and the manufacturers are stepping up to provide for this market.  There are the traditional, youth offerings from companies like Crickett or H&R, but the “serious” gun makers are also getting deeply involved.  There are youth guns from Browning, Weatherby, Remington, and many more.  Youth models on the AR platform are also available for young shooters.

I think it’s pretty cool, although I sometimes feel a twinge of jealousy when I see a 10-year old sporting his new deer rifle.  I was 12 before I was allowed to have a “real” gun, and that was a shotgun.  My dad was extremely safety conscious, and he didn’t believe a kid should be shooting a centerfire rifle (or even a rimfire without direct supervision).  I wasn’t even allowed to shoot slugs, except when hunting from an elevated stand, and seated next to my dad or grandfather. My first handful of deer fell to 20-gauge, #3 buckshot.

When I finally got my first deer rifle at 15, it wasn’t a 30-06 or even a .243.  It was a Winchester Model 94 Trapper, in .30-30… a short-range, relatively low velocity rifle.  Of course, it was perfect for the coastal swamps and bays where I hunted, but all I saw was that it wasn’t the sexy, long-range piece of gunmakers’ art I’d been drooling over in the catalogs.

My dad’s justification was, again, safety related.  The coastal plain of North Carolina is about as flat as any place you’ll find in the US.  While the swamps and forests can be pretty thick, the truth is that there aren’t many geographic features that will reliably stop an errant bullet.  This is significant enough that some counties in NC actually require centerfire rifle hunters to use elevated stands (at least 8′).  Despite my solemn oaths to only use my rifle from a tree stand, my dad was savvy enough to know that a 15-year old doesn’t always have the wherewithal to pass up the occasional, unsafe shot (truth is, a lot of “adult” hunters don’t have the restraint).  That .30-30 would discourage me from taking long shots, and if I did, the bullet would still be in the dirt within 400 yards.

I chafed at what I saw as overly-restrictive rules, expecially because so many of my friends didn’t seem to be so encumbered.  But looking back, of course, I see the wisdom (isn’t that always the way?).  I think about some of the things I witnessed or heard about, and it’s honestly a bit of a miracle that none of my friends seriously injured themselves… or anyone else.

Gun safety.

I expect most of us think we’re pretty good about it.  We consistently observe the rules ourselves, and we demand the same from the people with whom we hunt.  I’m pretty certain that I could ask every hunter I meet if they consider themselves safety conscious, and every one would answer with the affirmative.  Muzzle control, trigger etiquette, target identification… they all come as second nature to each of us as we spend more time afield and at the range, and become more and more familiar with our firearms.

Familiarity.  We know what that breeds.  Contempt… usually demonstrated through complacency.

I know it happens.  I catch myself doing it, and I have observed it in others… often (but not always) directly proportional to the length of time they’ve been hunting.  I think some folks just don’t know any better, some don’t realize, and many others have just begun to relax their diligence since nothing bad has ever happened to them.  Personally, I may be a little more diligent (and less tolerant) than some because I have had a couple of very close calls that were only mitigated by my adherence to basic safety precepts.

It’s one thing, and bad enough, when we become complacent about firearm safety ourselves.  It’s another altogether when we reflect that complacency to our kids.  When we give guns to children, there is no room for lacksadaisical.

Maybe I’m a reflection of my dad, and maybe that’s a good thing or maybe not, but when it comes to kids and guns, I believe in absolutes.  There is no try to be safe.  You are safe or you are not, and if you are not, then you lose the privilege of using the gun.  We can try again later, but until the lesson sinks in, the shooting is over the moment that muzzle covers an unintended target, or the finger goes inside the trigger guard while the gun isn’t pointed downrange.  Gun safety, in my opinion, is too serious for “three warnings” or constant leniency.  The potential consequences are simply too significant.

But even when we’re sure we’ve drilled safety into their young heads, we can’t stop there.  It’s one thing for a kid to know better.  It’s another thing altogether for them to consistently follow the rules… especially when no one is there to catch them at it.  You may think you have the best-behaved kid in the world, loaded with responsibility and intelligence.  But listen to the interviews of parents after some kid shoots his best friend while showing off his new rifle, or when some youngster gets into the closet and finds dad’s pistol and accidentally blows his brains all over the bedroom.  Those parents thought their child knew better too.

And here’s the thing.  The kid probably did know better.  But that didn’t stop him from making a bad judgement call.  The reason it didn’t stop him is because he’s a child.  Without diving into an extended discussion of childhood development and psychology, suffice it to say that they simply don’t reason like an adult (should).  Their perceptions of cause and effect aren’t really consistent, and the concept of irrevocable consequences is largely unformed.  The thought of death, or especially of causing death, is abstract… it’s just not real.

An adult may think he has impressed the idea that “this is not a toy” on a kid, but the truth is, to a kid, everything is a toy.  The gun, then, is merely a toy with special significance.  For some kids, it’s simply impossible to resist that tabu, especially if they can use it to satisfy their own curiousity, or to increase their esteem among peers or siblings.

“Look, this is my gun I got for Christmas.  It’s not a toy.  It’s very dangerous.  Here’s how you put the bullets in.”

Bang!

Another mother sobbing for her dead baby.

Sorry, this conversation has drifted a long way from a stupid comedy about Ralphie and the ridiculous lamp.  But has it?

We all laughed, at least a little, when he bounced that BB off of the sign and cracked his Coke-bottle glasses.  It had been so long foretold, it was simply inevitable.

But isn’t that how real tragedy happens?  What makes it tragic isn’t always what actually happened, but what could have happened to prevent it.

Look folks, we all know better… even if we don’t always do better.  But when it comes to our kids, don’t they deserve more than that?

Here are some thoughts to consider:

Supervise your children any time they’re around firearms. 

  • I don’t care how responsible you may think your own little “Ralphie” may be, kids should not be left alone with firearms.  They sometimes do things they don’t even know they might regret, and that’s a lesson I don’t think any of us wants to teach the hard way.
  • How old is “old enough”?  I don’t know.  I think it varies from one kid to the next, and from place to place… but seriously, at the very least think more than twice before letting a pre-teen run loose with a gun.
  • Even when you do turn them loose, provide an atmosphere of supervision.  Remind them of the safety considerations and then set and enforce rules.  Let them know that if they violate those rules, the best they can hope for is to lose their shooting privileges.  The worst is unthinkable.

Lock up those guns.

  • If you honestly believe your kid would never mess with the guns just because you told him not to, you are deluded.  It is as simple as that.  I know from my own childhood experience, from my friends, and from my friends’ kids, prohibition simply doesn’t work… even with the real threat of a serious ass-whipping as a consequence.
  • There’s simply no excuse not to lock them up.  If you can’t afford a safe, use a lock.  The manufacturers give away trigger and cable locks when you buy a gun, or you can pick one up from almost any sporting goods store for well under $10.  Or go to the Project Childsafe website and locate a local source for a free lock and safety kit.
  • If you believe you need an accessible firearm for home defense, consider one of the quick-access biometric safes.  They’re not that expensive these days. If you can’t afford that, then at least lock the gun away when you’re not where you can see it… or keep it with you as you move around the house.  The news archives have way too many stories about kids who died because dad’s loaded gun was unprotected in the bedside table, even while mom and dad were right in the next room.

Demonstrate and practice safe firearm handling.

  • Nothing teaches a kid good or bad habits better than observing a mentor.  If you model the behavior you teach, kids tend to make a positive association with those behaviors.
  • Vice versa, if you are a slob with a gun, your kid will become a slob with a gun, no matter what lessons you think you’re teaching.  And just because you got away without killing yourself or someone else, your youngster may not be so lucky.
  • No one… neither child nor adult… respects the “do as I say, not as I do” approach.

So go on out there and get your kids that new rifle or shotgun for Christmas.  Teach them to shoot and hunt, and all the things that go with the shooting sports… including woodsmanship, patience, responsibility, and respect for and appreciation of safe gun handling.

 

 

 

 

Hog Blog Gear Review – BattlePlugs Hearing Protection

August 21, 2013

If you spend much time around folks who’ve been shooting and hunting as long as I have, you’ve probably noticed a couple of common traits.  We’ll lean forward a bit when you speak to us.  We’ll often ask you to repeat what you’ve said.  Some of us might even cup our ears in the universal sign of, “speak up, please.”

When I started shooting, you didn’t hear much about hearing protection.  I’m sure someone must have known about the risks, but no one really talked about it.  You just took the gun and went out to shoot it.  No one bothered to tell you to wear ear plugs.  I remember in Boy Scout camp, I’d spend every available minute at the rifle range.  They didn’t pass out hearing protection or safety glasses (of course, these were just .22 rifles, but still…).  I’m pretty sure that if I’d shown up at the junkyard to shoot with my friends, I’d have been laughed clean out of the woods for wearing a set of “Mickey ears”.  And if I ever showed up in hunting camp with a set of plugs in my ears, the old guys would have looked at my dad and wondered what sort of spoiled little pansy-ass he was raising.  That’s just how things were then, and many of us are paying the price today.

In fact, it wasn’t until I was late into my teens that I first learned the importance and value of hearing protection while shooting.  I think the catalyst was an article I read in Outdoor Life about how a shooter’s flinch is often a response to the noise of the firearm, rather than a response to the recoil.  It made sense to me, and the next time I went out in the woods to shoot up a bunch of cans and paper plates, I took a roll of toilet paper. I stuffed a goodly wad into each ear, settled down and started shooting. 

And I was amazed that there was a noticeable change in my groups, especially with my .243 which is still one of the loudest rifles I own (not counting the ones with muzzle brakes).  I realized that I wasn’t anticipating the shot as much, and I was able to stay on the target right through the muzzle blast.  Of course, I was noticing things I’d never paid attention to before, so maybe the change wasn’t as extreme as it seemed at the time, but there was definitely a difference.  Perhaps the best thing was that I didn’t have to sit through school the next day with that infernal ringing in my ears.  I was sold.

I eventually graduated from wadded up toilet paper to those orange or yellow safety plugs.  I was working at paper mills at the time, and there were always jugs of plugs available for the taking and I made the best of it.  A few years later when I started shooting at organized ranges, I moved up to ear muffs (Mickey ears), and then discovered electronic hearing protection at the SHOT Show. 

The thing about wearing hearing protection is that it doesn’t just reduce the noise of a gunshot, it reduces all noise.  It’s difficult to have a conversation with plugs in your ears.  It’s even more difficult to hunt without the ability to hear all of the sounds of the woods around you.  Even most of the electronic aids that amplify normal noise but block sudden, loud noises can be a real detriment in the field.  The amplification makes the slightest rustle of grass sound like an elephant charge, and if you turn them down enough to dampen the noise of your footsteps then you can’t hear much of anything.  As a result, like many people, I’ve stopped wearing hearing protection while I’m in the field. 

The industry has been all over the place in an effort to create hearing protection that allows you to hear and function normally while still dampening dangerous noise.  The electronic solutions are the best, so far, but the quality options are all pretty expensive… generally in the range of several hundred dollars for a set of good ear buds, to over a grand for the high-end, digital systems.  There are also some electronic hearing protection devices in the $25 to $50 range.  These are fine for target shooting and plinking, but terribly unsuitable for hunting applications. 

There have also been advances in the design of the basic ear plug.  While you can certainly still get the old-fashioned, squeezable foam plugs, there are newer designs that offer baffles that create a better fit in the ear canal and block even more of the noise.  I know, for example, that shooting my .325wsm with the muzzle brake is too much for the old-school plugs.  They help, but I still end up with ringing ears after a couple of shots.  The baffled plugs work much better.  But of course these make hearing other sounds practically impossible.

BattlePlugsEnter BattlePlugs

BattlePlugs are, according to the manufacturer’s website, authorized hearing protectors for use by the U.S. Army… both for soldiers and civilian employees.  They offer a non-electronic filter that dampens sudden, loud noises (e.g. gunfire) while allowing normal soundwaves to pass through. 

How do they work?

With the cap open, more sound gets through.

With the cap open, more sound gets through.

Well, I’m not a specialist in this kind of thing so I don’t pretend to understand the science here.  However, the plugs have a little cap that opens or closes.  When the cap is closed, you get a pretty significant reduction in sound (about 24dB).  When it’s open, the reduction is about 9dB. I’m not sure if there’s some sort of high tech thing happening in there, or if it’s just simple physics.  If I open the cap and look inside, it’s just a tiny tunnel from end to end. 

But they do seem to work as advertised. 

I received a sample pair last week, and had a little time to mess around with them.  They were a little uncomfortable to put in, but once they were in place they filled my ear canal very snugly (I got the medium size.  They come in three sizes.) and were quite comfortable.  With the cap closed, they really dampen all the sound like a super-effective ear plug would be expected to.  You can still hear, but not much. With the cap open, I was able to watch TV… although the sound was somewhat muffled.  Carrying on a conversation was possible, but not optimal.  9dB of sound reduction is a lot more than it may seem.

I did have some trouble opening and closing the cap without removing the plugs from my ears, but the literature that accompanies the plugs indicated that I should expect this until I got used to using them.  That’s probably true enough, and I also think they just need to be opened and closed a few times until they loosen up.  Overall, I didn’t find this to be much of an issue.

I took the BattlePlugs out behind the barn this weekend to test them under fire.  I started out with the .22 pistol, which is really not much of an ear ringer without protection.  It wasn’t much of a test.  After emptying a few mags with the .22, I moved up to 9mm which was still pretty much nothing, and then to the .44 mag.  Now, my .44 is loud, even with the 7.5″ barrel on it.  I don’t like shooting it without hearing protection.  With the BattlePlugs in and the little cap closed, the report of the .44 was nicely muffled.  That wasn’t really a surprise, based on how completely they fill my ear canal.  With the cap open, the report was not unpleasant at all, and it was still muffled enough that I didn’t get any ringing in my ears.  That’s not very scientific, but it was a good practical experience. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t try them with any of the braked rifles (.270, 30-06, .325wsm).  Sorry, but with temps in the low 100s, I just didn’t feel like sitting out in the sun any longer.  Based on the results with the .44, I feel confident that the BattlePlugs would be plenty sufficient for shooting a braked gun.  They’re miles and miles better than the old, orange squeezables.  I think they also outperform my cheap, Outers ear muffs. 

BattlePlugs retail for around $12.75.  That’s about $10 more than the old-fashioned plugs ($2.95/pkg at WalMart), but about half the price of low-end electronic muffs.  The plugs are washable, so if you take care of them you should get a bunch of uses out of them.  I expect that the baffles will eventually start to wear and tear, but of course I haven’t had these long enough to see any sort of wear.  You can also order additional tips for about $3, in the event that the originals do finally wear out.

Overall, if you’re looking for something relatively inexpensive but effective, and don’t want the bulk of a pair of muffs, the BattlePlugs are certainly a good option.  I’ve used other baffled plugs in the past, and the BattlePlugs are at least as good as any of those.  The option of opening the cap to allow for better hearing is a nice feature, I suppose, although honestly; I find it’s just as easy to remove the plugs so that’s not much of a selling point. 

BattlePlugs are currently available online, from National Safety, Inc.  I found them at a few other industrial safety equipment sites as well.  I haven’t seen them at any of the major outdoors distributors yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them start showing up soon.

Securing Our Guns In The Home – Firearms Safety And Kids

June 21, 2013

Guns aren’t toys. 

It seems silly that I’d even have to write that statement.  Is there a single one of you reading out there who doesn’t recognize this simple fact? 

Of course, if I were writing this for youngsters I wouldn’t think it silly at all.  In fact, I’d consider myself criminally remiss if I failed to teach kids to treat firearms with the utmost of respect and care.  It’s not about fear of the gun, but fear of what it can do.  I’d feel obliged to demonstrate proper handling, and drill those basic safety rules over and over.  By the time I got done, I’d expect my small charges to be able to quote the manual right back to me.

But even with that training, I know better than to expect them to always make the best decisions.  They’re kids, after all.  While it’s arguable that even some adults aren’t always intellectually or emotionally mature, children have the excuse of their age… and sometimes they do things that, to us grown-ups, seem really, really stupid. 

Like playing with guns.

This is why we as adults… parents, mentors, guardians… need to take special care to never allow children access to our firearms without appropriate supervision.  Does this seem as self-evident as my opening line?  It should, but apparently not all adults get it.  Some folks apparently think their children “know better”.   And too often, tragically, they find out that they were wrong.

Look, this isn’t about capitalizing on recent news stories to pile onto some grieving parents.  It’s about reminding the rest of us that, “hey, it could happen to you too.  And it doesn’t have to.”

I’m all for teaching kids to shoot.  I’m fine with buying your six year-old a Cricket or a putting a .410 under the Christmas tree for your eight year-old.  Learning to shoot can teach a lot of quality lessons, such as responsibility, discipline, and coordination.  It’s a good thing.  But you also have to teach them that these things aren’t toys… they’re not playthings.

The key is supervision.  When the shooting is done for the day, teach the youngster to clean the firearm and put it away with the grown-up guns… preferably in a safe, or a locked closet.  At the very least, store the gun with a trigger lock or cable.  Don’t trust the youngster.

Kids are slaves to impulse.  No matter how well a child is taught, or how well-behaved that youngster may be most of the time, they slip up.  I don’t think they can help it.  For whatever reason, that little sense of right and wrong gets skewed and they do something they know they shouldn’t be doing.  If he sneaks into the kitchen and nabs a cookie before dinner, that’s one thing.  But if he goes into the closet and grabs that slick little .22 to show off to his friends… well that’s another thing altogether.  The consequences can, very literally, be life changing.

And it doesn’t have to happen.

While I firmly believe it is every gun owner’s responsibility to be a  firearms safety expert and advocate, I recognize that some folks might need a little help. 

In 1998, the NSSF created a program called “Project ChildSafe“.  While a big part of the program is education, the organization also worked to provide free gun locks and safety brochures to parents.  Originally, the project was funded with matching money from the federal government, however; as those funds dried up, the shooting sports industry chipped in to keep it alive. 

With recent events and firearms safety and regulation all over the headlines, the NSSF has updated the campaign.  But please, shelve your cynicism.  The Project ChildSafe site is not a political podium.  It’s not layered inside and out with gun rights dogma or propaganda.  It is, strictly, about firearms safety… and especially about safety for our children.  The site offers resources to parents, gun owners, and educators who want to learn and teach more about gun safety… and those resources are free. 

Check it out.  Share the link.  And most importantly… just think.  Kids are kids.  It’s our job, as adults, to protect them.

A Little Safety Note On The Way To Deer Camp

October 19, 2012

Since around the middle of September, I’ve seen a growing stream of pickup trucks, SUVs, and campers coming and going along the caliche road in front of my house.  In the backs of these vehicles, and on trailers, they’re hauling tree stands, building materials, feeders, and pallets of corn.  Rifle deer season is right around the corner, here in the Hill Country, and these folks are obviously gearing up, working on their leases, and sighting in their rifles.

It’s that last one that got my mind to working this morning, as I heard a couple of distant rifle shots down the canyon.  As the guns come out (I know they’re already out in much of the country), I just wanted to offer up a reminder to be safe.  Keep some basic, gun safety commandments in your mind:

  1. Treat every firearm as if it is loaded
  2. Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot
  4. Always be sure of your target and what’s beyond it

There are a bunch more rules, and I’d wager most hunters are aware of them.  If not, I strongly recommend signing up for a hunter safety course or refresher. 

But knowing the safety rules and following them are different things, unfortunately, and every year a handful of hunters and gun owners learns this lesson the hard way… often with tragic consequences.  I tend to agree with some of the hunter ed instructors I know who say, “there are very few firearms accidents, but there are plenty of firearm incidents.” 

The implication is that almost every unintentional shooting is preventable if the individuals involved followed basic safety rules, and I think this is both a true and a fair statement.  Sure, sometimes there are just absolutely freak situations that defy explanation.  But in most cases, the problem comes from a gun that someone thought was unloaded, a muzzle pointed in an unsafe direction, or failure to consider what lay beyond a target.

This last consideration is the one that’s been on my mind lately, as folks begin to show up to their hunting camps and the hills echo with gunshots.  Target shooting is a lot of fun, whether it’s with your hunting rifles or a plinker.  But it’s also important to think about where you’re shooting, and where those bullets may end up.  Even if you’re going to a camp that’s been in the family for generations, remember that while the old place may not have changed, the area around you may have.  Someone may have built a home or put in livestock.  New camps may have been built on adjacent properties.  Stands and blinds may have been set in places where they never were before. 

Point is, just because your target range was safe last year, it may not be this season.  Check it out before you start slinging lead. 

Be safe everybody.

From North Carolina – Be Careful, But Night Shooting Feral Hogs and Coyotes Is Legal

August 7, 2012

A while back, I wrote about the North Carolina Resources Commission’s decision to temporarily allow night shooting for feral hogs, as well as for coyotes.  Keep in mind that coyotes have never been a factor in that particular ecosystem, and of course, hogs have never been a factor in North America.  So night shooting isn’t about hunting.  It’s about depredation… and there really is a difference.

Anyway, all of that said, I just got my latest update from the NC WRC publications.  Along with other things, there’s the reminder for folks in the area around the Alligator River.  Red wolves (recently reintroduced to that habitat) look very similar to coyotes.

Coyotes and red wolves can share the same habitats, particularly in the area of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina. The red wolf is a protected species while the coyote is an invasive, nuisance species. If hunters believe they have possibly killed a red wolf, they should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service immediately because prosecution will not be pursued when such events  are unavoidable, unintentional, non-negligent and are reported immediately to authorized personnel.

The two species have similarities in appearance, but there are general guidelines to distinguish a red wolf from a coyote. Red wolves are mostly brown and buff colored, often with a reddish, cinnamon color on ears, head and legs.  Coyotes tend to be light gray with some black on the tips of outer hair.

The key point is, if you think you screwed up, report it.  There’s no penalty for accidentally killing a red wolf while night-shooting coyotes.  Nevertheless, be careful, dummy.

On that same point, the same press release offered some core, night-shooting safety rules.

Day or night, stick to basic firearm and archery safety:

  • Always point a firearm or bow in a safe direction.
  • Treat every firearm as if it were loaded and never assume a firearm is unloaded.
  • Keep your finger out of the trigger guard and off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond your target.
  • Take time during an advanced scouting trip to “walk the field” and identify safe shooting zones:
  • Know your field of fire.
  • Do not use a night vision scope to scan a field.
  • Never shoot at movement, noise, color or shapes.
  • If hunting in a group, know where others are at all times and communicate.
  • Make verbal directions specific so that nothing is left to question.
  • Let someone know when and where you are hunting.
  • Have additional light sources and batteries, and consider protective eyewear.

 

Heading Back To Texas… And While I’m Gone, A Caution

June 15, 2012

After an almost interminable two weeks in CA, I’m heading back to Texas.  Hopefully this will be my last round trip.  Next time I drive down, that should essentially be it.   Color me stoked! 

At any rate, before I go, I wanted to pass along a little cautionary note. 

Star targets are available at places like Cabelas. There are many other brands, and some folks have learned to make their own.

There’s a hot new product out there for target shooters…  exploding targets.  They are usually composed of tannerite, which is basically ammonium nitrate with an aluminum powder catalyst.  Separately, the components are inert and harmless.  However, once you mix them you get an explosive.  The friction of a high velocity bullet causes the mixture to explode with pretty spectacular results. 

These things hit the market last year, and they’ve become really popular.  I have to say, they are pretty damned cool.  They can really add a whole new dimension to a range session. 

It shouldn’t take a ton of common sense to recognize that something like this comes with a few caveats.  For one thing, when the target blows up, it sends small fragments flying at pretty high velocity.  I’ve seen one blow a big chunk out of a dead tree, and the shrapnel destroyed a paper target that was set up about five feet away.  You wouldn’t want to be shooting these things at close range (such as a pistol range). 

It also shouldn’t require a genius to understand that the explosion is caused by the target components’ rapid combustion… aka, burning.  Even though it only lasts a second, the fire is pretty hot and can easily ignite dry grass, leaves, or other flammable material.  There are warnings on the package to this effect, but apparently some folks just aren’t getting it.  According to this article in the Idaho Statesman, at least four wildfires have been attributed to exploding targets already, and it’s likely that there are going to be more. 

It’s summer time, which equates to fire season across the country.  In particular, the west is really drying out fast, and major wildfires are already in the news.  Blowing stuff up can be a lot of fun, but that fun needs to be tempered with some common sense. 

Be careful out there.  Please.

Hat tip to Jesse’s Hunting and Outdoors for posting this up on Facebook.

Friday – California Or Bust

April 27, 2012

I’m heading back to the damned city this weekend, and I’m not real thrilled about the prospect.  After a few days out here, even a drive into the Texas town of Uvalde gets my blood pressure up… getting back to Oakland is going to be a sore trial indeed.

Nevertheless, I wanted to make sure and get in one last note for the week.  So here it is.

A couple of people have forwarded some stories to me from recent news, and asked why I didn’t cover them here on the blog.  Let me respond…

The first story is the sad tale of the guy in Florida who mistakenly shot his girlfriend while after a “wounded” hog.  It’s all over the news, but it came into my feeds the day it hit the presses.  After a quick read, I decided there was no constructive point in writing about it.  Why?

Because it gets a little old to hear all the armchair safety experts and paragons of hunting safety chiming in about what an idiot this guy was and how this should never have happened and it was completely unavoidable and he needs to have his guns taken away… etc. To all of those things, I say, “duh.  Big frickin’ duh.”

Look, I imagine there’s not a hunter reading this blog or others like it who doesn’t know better than to shoot at a sound in the bushes.  My money says this guy knew better too.  And he still did it.  Dumb?  Yeah.  Is he remorseful?  Absolutely.  Does that remorse make it better, or call the bullet back?  No.  I don’t put high odds on the future of his relationship either… but that’s a whole different topic.

And that’s the end of the story as far as I’m concerned.

The second story makes me even queasier.  Ted Nugent, the Mouth from Motor City, made news twice in rapid succession.  First, he said some pretty harsh things about President Obama that resulted in an interview with Secret Service agents.  Stupid.  But he’s known for that.  No news there, just folks focusing on Ted Nugent because it makes for great sound bytes.  That’s politics though, and I don’t cover that beat.

But then he pleads guilty to a poaching charge in Alaska.  When he got busted in CA a couple years back for shooting a spike buck, I really wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt.  But this time makes it pretty clear he has no concept of or respect for wildlife laws.  Maybe he thinks his fame and fortune can buy him out of real trouble?  Maybe he figures it’s so minor that it isn’t worth worry.  Or maybe it doesn’t matter if he loses his hunting license, because on his high fence ranch in Texas, he doesn’t need a license.  Or maybe he’s really just too dense to understand the regulations.  Whatever the case, I just didn’t feel the need to provide more publicity to someone who, at this point, doesn’t deserve it.  I’m only writing about it now in answer to folks who wondered why I didn’t before.

Enough.  Yes, I’m grumpy because I’m leaving Texas again.  Does it show?

 

 

A Cautionary Tale For Hog Hunters

February 28, 2012

Just saw this over at the Field and Stream Field Notes blog, and felt like it’s definitely worth sharing.

Almost every hunter of warm-blooded creatures is at some risk from blood-borne pathogens.  Whether it’s tularemia from rabbits, bubonic plague from ground squirrels, or CWD from deer, we’re warned by “the authorities” to be careful handling game.  By all accounts, hogs are particularly subject to various diseases.  I’ve heard some horror stories from a few hog hunters about mysterious symptoms and illnesses that turned out to have come from handling feral hogs in the field.

Rubber gloves are widely recommended for field dressing and handling wild game meat, and I know a lot of folks use them religiously.  I’ve always been one of the hard-headed guys who won’t use gloves (and I’ve made all sorts of justifications… but I’ll spare you), but that doesn’t mean I’m right.  Sort of like seatbelts or motorcycle helmets, I suppose… you only really appreciate them when you need them.  The rest of the time, they’re  sort of a hassle.

Well, according to the article Chad posted on the Field Notes blog, this hunter in Greenville, SC probably wishes he’d buckled up!

Upstate family and wildlife officials are warning hunters of a hog-bourne illness after a Laurens County man was hospitalized following a hog hunting trip.

“Had we known this, we would have never — he would have never gone hog hunting,” said Renae Hensley, whose 23-year-old son, Josh, was in Greenville Memorial Hospital on Thursday with an undiagnosed illness.

Read more: http://www.wyff4.com/news/30530687/detail.html#ixzz1nh7S2zf9

The “undiagnosed illness” in this case may be brucellosis, but it could be any of a number of diseases.  Cymptoms include dangerously high fever, muscle and body pain (sometimes severe), nausea, and several other flu-like symptoms.  If it is brucellosis, it can be treated, but the treatment is long-term and potentially expensive.

And all for the lack of wearing gloves…  Food for thought.

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