Arby’s Has The Meats… Even Venison?

October 27, 2016

I’m no fan of fast food these days (with the notable exception of Bojangles chicken… it’s a weakness), but I’m not going to play the elitist snob who dismisses those who still eat that stuff.  I get the convenience, and I grok the fact that a lot of people actually enjoy some of it.  I know I used to.  Hell, I still get nostalgic over the thought of a Hardee’s cheeseburger and fries, soaking through the paper bag.  If I close my eyes, I can almost smell it… almost as if I’m back in the backseat of that old station wagon, counting the seconds until we get home, where I’ll devour the greasy treat.  Those were the days.

I also developed a thing for Arby’s roast beef sandwiches, back in “the day”.  They were a “sophisticated” departure from burgers, and you could mix that “Horsey” (horseradish) sauce with their sweet, red barbecue sauce to make a runny, orange mess that invariably dripped all over your t-shirt on the way to the mall.

But I let fast food drop out of my diet over time, and now, when I do eat it, most of it literally nauseates me (except that damnable, fried chicken).  That should be a sign of some sort, but I still catch myself out of necessity or nostalgia, stopping along the highway for a quick bite.  I’m often left disappointed by the experience, and wishing for something a bit more toothsome.  Apparently, I’m not alone.  In response to declining sales, the fast food industry has stepped up their campaign to bolster both the quality of their food and the variety on their menus.

Arby’s joined the fray, and their current campaign is, “We have the meats!”  In addition to beef, they serve chicken, turkey, and pork belly sandwiches.  I stopped in the other day to meet up with my mom and some of her friends, for whom a trip up I-40 often includes a stop at Arby’s.  It was my first time inside an Arby’s in years, and I was surprised at the variety of new offerings (but I still opted for the regular, roast beef sandwich).

Never, though, would I have anticipated their next move.  Beginning next week, Arby’s is going to start selling venison sandwiches (in a limited, trial market area).  It’s true, according to the press release that’s been making the rounds.  It describes the new sandwich as:

The Venison Sandwich at Arby’s features a thick-cut venison steak and crispy onions topped with a juniper berry sauce on a toasted specialty roll. The venison is marinated in garlic, salt and pepper and then cooked for three hours to juicy, tender perfection. The juniper berry sauce is a Cabernet steak sauce infused with juniper berries, giving the already unique sandwich another signature twist.

For the more knee-jerk inclined, hold your water.  Nobody is going to start market hunting North American deer again to supply this demand.  The venison comes from farmed stock, not wild, free-ranging populations.  Much of the commercially available venison in the U.S. comes from Argentina or New Zealand, but there are farms here in the States that also supply “game” meat.

There has been some other discussion, though, among a diverse range of opinions.  Some people applaud Arby’s for putting venison out there in a very visible way that might help form positive attitudes toward eating game meat.  Others seem to be concerned that a “fast food treatment” of game meat will cheapen the experience, and maybe even turn people off to eating venison.  Some foodies are turning up their noses at the idea of farm-raised game altogether, but then, I wonder how many foodies eat at Arby’s in the first place.

For my own part, I don’t see myself rushing out to buy one of these new sandwiches (I couldn’t if I wanted to, since the nearest trial restaurant is Atlanta, GA), but I don’t know that I’d knock it.  I’ve eaten farm-raised venison at fancy restaurants (it was amazing), and I’ve also had it at less fancy places where it would be polite to call it, “mediocre.”  My guess is that Arby’s version will feature a largely flavorless piece of meat that will rely heavily on the sauce for crowd-pleasing flavor.  But don’t be discouraged by my preconceptions.  You’re welcome to form your own.

In the meantime, no matter how good or bad we may think the venison sandwich will be, I’ve been absolutely loving the supporting ad campaign! Check it out.

Lead Ban Chronicles – Copper Vs Frangibles, Check The Facts

October 20, 2016

Lead Ban ChroncilesBeen a while since you’ve seen this, huh?  Trust me, it’s not because the lead ammo ban movement is dead.  Oh no, not by any means.  While the anti-lead forces have run into road blocks (e.g. the European Commission recently announced that it would not pursue a ban on the use of lead ammunition), they’re still pushing… and in some cases, they’re making headway (I’m looking at you, Wolverine State).  And, of course, California is well on its way to completing its implementation of the statewide ban of lead ammo for all hunting.

The thing that got me to dust off the familiar little icon above, though, is an “article” I saw this morning (courtesy of my friend Albert, at the SoCal Bowhunter blog).  The title of the link is what caught my eye, of course, “Copper Bullets Can Be Inhumane“.

The argument isn’t new, and as I read through the first part of the “article”, I recognized most of the talking points, such as:

  • Copper bullets don’t expand sufficiently to leave a major wound channel.
  • Copper bullets don’t perform well at lower velocities.
  • Copper bullets don’t deliver enough “shock” to kill with imperfect shot placement.
  • Copper bullets are inaccurate.
  • Copper bullets kill slowly (due to the aforementioned factors).

I won’t argue with some of these points.  For example, I don’t believe copper performs its best at low velocity.  Anecdotal evidence is pretty overwhelming, when talking to friends who are shooting game with copper shotgun slugs and muzzleloaders, especially when shooting at the longer ranges afforded by modern guns and powders.  This is why I recommend (when asked, and sometimes when not asked) that if you’re hunting with these, traditionally short-range firearms, you use them as such.  Even lead slugs or muzzleloading bullets don’t offer consistently good terminal ballistics outside of a certain distance (modern sabots may extend that range… slightly).

I also recommend that, if you don’t have to use lead free slugs or muzzleloader bullets, don’t.  Most of the studies have shown that these big, slow-moving projectiles present very little risk when it comes to environmental impact, such as being consumed by scavenger birds.  They seldom fragment or disintegrate due to their low velocities, and when they don’t pass through, they are relatively easy to recover from the carcass.

But when you load a modern copper bullet in a centerfire rifle, and deliver the bullet at modern velocities, it generally performs quite well.  While I can’t claim, as the “article’s” author does, to have killed over 8000 head of game in my research, I’ve killed a lot, my friends and hunting companions have killed a lot, and as a guide, my clients have also killed a lot.  I’ve seen field performance enough to feel that I can make a pretty valid comparison between lead ammo and copper.  In that comparison, copper has consistently held up very well.

To be completely up front, over the course of that experience I’ve seen occasional “failures” with copper bullets.  But, and here’s the kicker, I’ve also witnessed a fair share of anomalous performance from lead projectiles.  When you look at the physics involved in propelling a relatively tiny projectile, at supersonic speed, into a target composed of a mix of bone, soft tissue, and muscle, it’s amazing that ballistic technology has achieved any semblance of consistency.  The tiniest factor can affect the outcome.

And sure, copper bullets don’t kill quickly when they’re poorly placed.  Neither does any bullet, though.  If you shoot an animal in the gut, you’re probably going to have to track it.  If you shoot it in the ass, you’re probably going to lose it.  It doesn’t matter if the bullet is copper, lead, or uranium.  Animals are made up of all sorts of blood vessels and vital organs, though, and you don’t have to thread a needle to hit those vitals.  As much as I hate the saying, “it’s not the bullet but the placement,” I have to say it fits here.  Take the good shot, not just any shot, and you’ll kill cleanly and humanely.

It’s also a fact that copper ammo has come a long way, but it wasn’t always great.  Despite the author’s contention that copper ammo was originally presented as an environmental boon, the truth is that monolithic copper solids were designed, and effectively used, for dangerous big game for years before serious, public discussion of lead’s effects on the environment began.  It may be somewhat true that the introduction into the US was padded by ecological considerations, but I think it was primarily a plan to expand the market share.  However, those monolithic bullets are not made to expand, and many US hunters who adopted the early version complained of “pencil hole” wound channels and lost game.  Barnes, the primary producer of copper bullets at the time, stepped up their game and improved the bullets, overcoming various shortcomings.  The current variations of copper and lead-free bullets on the market today offer impressive terminal performance and accuracy, both in the lab and in the field.

How impressive?  Well, you’d have to fight me to make me give up the Nosler E-Tips I shoot in my 30-06 or the Barnes TSX that I use in my .325 wsm.  Even though I could switch back to lead ammo since moving out of California, I have no desire to do so.

Back to the “article”…

You have probably noticed, by the way, that when I reference the “article”, I use quotation marks.  Yes, it’s intentional, because as I continued to read, I soon came to the realization that it’s not an entirely objective piece at all… it’s an opinion piece, and on some level, an extended advertisement for DRT frangible bullets.  DRT, by the way, is officially Dynamic Research Technologies, but most folks recognize the short form of Dead Right There… a term popularized on certain hunting television programs.  It’s a slick bit of marketing, and kudos for coming up with it.  Also, note that what I’m writing here is not intended as a hit on DRT.  I’ve never used them, but by all accounts I’ve heard, they deliver exactly what they advertise.  In fact, not only am I not taking a pot shot at DRT, nor am I taking issue with Mr. Foster’s (the author) credentials, I’m going to step right up and say that, technically, the point he finally makes here is pretty solid… even incontrovertible.

What is that point?

When he gets to it, Foster is saying that the only way to ensure a quick, humane kill is to inflict massive tissue damage.  The best way to do that is with a bullet that not only hits hard, but expands explosively… e.g. frangible bullets such as those made by (surprise) DRT.  That’s an impossible point to argue, because even the least scientific mind can recognize the practical truth in it.  If you shoot an animal, even if you don’t hit vitals directly, a round that leaves a hole as big as a man’s fist, or bigger, is certainly more likely to result in quick death than one that leaves a wound channel that is only as big as a finger.

I hunted with frangibles in Texas, in order to test some ammo from a certain manufacturer.  My experience though, is that the additional tissue damage these bullets create is unacceptable for the meat hunter.  In one case, I lost over half the meat on an animal with a single shot.  In other instances, immediate meat loss was significant, but worse, the tiny fragments spread through a broad area.  Even though the meat was not mangled, it was peppered throughout with little bullet bits.  The manufacturers will tell you that these fragments are harmless, but the thought of it was enough to put me off my appetite.  (Tungsten, which was a component in the particular ammo I was testing, was later determined to be a carcinogen, and less stable than metallic lead.  Even the US military won’t use it.  The manufacturer I was testing for is no longer in business.  I do not know what DRT or other current manufacturers are using in their projectiles. )  In addition to meat damage, if you’re shooting for fur, consider that the damage may make any hides you collect worthless.

Frangible bullets do offer a specific level of safety, in some situations.  Since they are designed to pretty much disintegrate, they are not likely to ricochet or pass through the target and carry on downrange (which is why they are popular for home defense and some law enforcement applications).  For folks shooting in more densely populated areas where a ricochet or pass-through might be risky, frangibles are actually not the worst idea in the world.

A more important consideration, however, is the legality of frangible projectiles for big game hunting.  DRT is approved as a lead-free projectile by the CA DFW, as is Sinterfire, another manufacturer of frangible bullets.  However, CA regulations prohibit the use of frangible projectiles for the taking of big game.  So, my Golden State friends, remember that it’s not enough to simply see a bullet manufacturer on the “Lead Free List“.  Make sure that the projectile is legal for the game you want to hunt.  Not all states prohibit frangibles, by the way, but if you want to give them a try, you’d better check your local regs.

At the end, Foster does circle back to the argument that lead ban regulations that require a switch to copper are ill-considered, based on his argument that copper bullets are not humane… the unintended consequences of a well-intentioned regulation.  It’s an argument that was, and still is, trotted out regularly in the discussions of lead ammo bans, and while I think the reality trumps the theory in regards to copper bullet performance, it’s not entirely without merit.  I think there are, or should be, questions about the long term effects of lead alternatives, such as tungsten.  I also agree, at a higher level, that general bans on lead ammo are misdirected and unnecessary.

But if you do have to use lead free ammo, don’t believe the negative hype.

Like any other ammo change, you need to experiment until you find something that is accurate for your firearm, but between the major manufacturers, Barnes, Nosler, and Hornady, as well as Winchester and Remington, there’s almost certainly a bullet or cartridge that works well.  It’s certainly more expensive than the basic lead ammo.  For some hunters, that is a very real issue, but for most of us it is not, honestly, a limiting factor.  An awful lot of folks shoot “premium” ammo already, so we’re talking about a potential difference of a few bucks.  The biggest real issue I see is that it’s still difficult to find, except in the most common calibers.  If you don’t handload, you may have to start.  For example, it’s the only way I can feed my .325 wsm.

But when it comes to terminal performance, copper works, and it works well.

I’ve Got Tales To Tell

October 17, 2016

Sitting in my stand the other evening, watching a trio of foxes hunt mice in the pasture below me, I realized there are stories to share, and I’m not doing it.  I have blamed all these other factors, but the fact is, all I need to do is put down a few words… or better, dig the video cameras out of their boxes.  I can let nature do the talking.

Oh, yes, most of my gear is still packed in boxes since leaving Texas.  Some has been pulled out, briefly, then re-interred in the shuffle of moving, removing, and settling down.  When I loaded the Savage for the opener of rifle season this weekend, I realized I had four rounds.  Somewhere, in all that stuff, I’ve got boxes and boxes of ammo.  But all I could find was the four cartridges strapped to the rifle sling.

The other morning, I practically turned the spare room we’ve been using for storage upside down, looking for my pop-up ground blind.  I gave up, angry, and went out to the old barn to get the chainsaw.  There, half-obscured in spider webs and dust, was my ground blind.


But just because I’m not shooting anything right now (I almost shot something Saturday evening… but that’s one of those tales) doesn’t mean there’s nothing to tell.  There’s the pileated woodpeckers, working on the dead gum trees in my “swamp”.  Carolina wrens flit and chitter.  And the squirrels… oh, for the first frosty mornings and the air rifle.  Wood ducks are roosting in the retired hog lagoon on the property next door (flushed out by the neighbor who bought it), whistling in at last light to whine and splash.

So, I’m officially dusting off the Hog Blog.  I’ll get those cameras rolling.  And I’ll see about breathing some life into this place.

Still Kicking At The Hog Blog

October 13, 2016


I’m not dead yet.

And despite appearances to the contrary, neither is the Hog Blog.

True, I’ve been quiet for quite some time.  No gear reviews.  No hog hunting reports.  No pithy commentary on life, the universe, and everything.  Not even a lambasting of some truly deserving television hunting program.  If current posts are the pulse of a blog, then I’d say death is a pretty fair diagnosis because the heart of this thing has been awful still.

But it’s not dead.  Not yet.

A couple of updates…

In September, I finally moved into the new house.  Right now, Kat and I are just calling it, “the Farm.”   We wanted to do something clever, like name the long driveway Bagshot Row, and the house would be #1 (aka Bag End).  But apparently, to have a street name in the county, there have to be at least three homes on the street.  That was disappointing.  So, it’s The Farm.  For now… which, with me, means probably forever.

At any rate, the point there is that the trials of getting the place built are behind me.  That was a lot more stressful than I’d ever want to deal with again.  I like to think this is my last house (hmm… in keeping with the Tolkein thread, I could call it “the Last Homely House”), but I’ve thought that before and see what happened?  But it’s pretty much done.  Still work to be done on the pasture and setting up for horses, and of course the never-ending maintenance that comes with a piece of land, but I feel like a load has been lifted.  The Hog Blog has a new base camp.

Of course, we’re barely settled in and along comes Hurricane Matthew.  I was among the fortunate ones here, and weathered that storm with nominal issues.  I’m high enough that the flooding hasn’t been an immediate problem, and the wind didn’t cause appreciable property damage.  For the most part, we sat in the living room and watched TV all evening, as the power and satellite remained largely uninterrupted.

Sadly, many of the neighboring areas didn’t fare nearly so well.  If you’re feeling charitable, there are a lot of folks in this area who are recently homeless… some probably for the long haul.  The American Red Cross and other worthy organizations are going to be stepping in to try and help, so a few bucks here and there would probably help.  And, of course, that’s not to mention the devastation down in Haiti… destruction and loss on a scale that most Americans can’t even imagine.  If nothing else, spare a positive thought and count your blessings.

What about hunting?

Yeah, I’ve been at it.  All the work here on the new house sort of scotched the deer activity in the usual places (although they’re coming back now), and I didn’t get around to moving stands to more productive areas.  I’m reaping the rewards of my inactivity now, as the one stand I had high hopes for has turned out to be a dud.

But rifle season opens Saturday, and that will give me a couple of options I didn’t have with the bow.  Those little suckers thought they were safe, hanging out there at 100 yards or more…

Of course, rifle season also brings out the dog hunters… the houndsmen.  I’d like to think they’ll be respectful of private property holders this year… maybe a little more than last year… but I’m not holding out high hopes.  I really have no problem with hunting over hounds, but I do have a problem with running the damned animals across any piece of open ground and the No Tresspassing signs be damned.  The law was fairly recently updated so that running hounds on posted property is now illegal, but enforcement is utterly impractical, especially in such a rural area where dog hunting is such an ingrained activity.  It’s pretty frustrating, especially after spending most of the off-season working on habitat, food plots, and setting stands.

The thing is, I’m probably more tolerant of it than my immediate neighbors.  They’re pissed, and you can bet that if a ban on hunting with hounds comes to the table, these folks will be helping to push it into law.  I recognize what a tradition it is, but the houndsmen are their own worst enemies here.

Besides deer, I’ve been getting pretty excited about the upcoming waterfowl season.  Given the current weather patterns, I don’t think we’re going to see a good, cold season.  That’s a drag, because it means the migration will be slow to arrive again.  But this year, so far, we don’t have nearly as much water around (once the Matthew floods recede).  That means the birds will concentrate more along the normal waterways instead of scattering into inaccessible swamps.  That’s what I’m hoping for, anyway.

Kat and I also drew tags for tundra swans this season.  I have never hunted the big birds, but I’ve eaten them and I’m tickled pink at the opportunity to put a couple on the table.  I’m also looking forward to meeting up with a couple of blog friends I’ve chatted with for years, but never met in person.  This will be a late season hunt, so the story will be a while in the offing.  But stay tuned.

What about hogs?

The raison d’etre of this blog has pretty much been a no-show this entire year.  Between work and the house, I’ve had neither the time nor the money to go out and try to find some Carolina wild pork.  I had a trip planned to South Carolina, but had to bag it for the aforementioned reasons.  Still, I’ve been doing some research and working on connections.  At this point, it looks like 2017 will have to be the big year, but I’ve found some promising leads and I can’t wait.

In the meantime, I’ve really been jonesing for a CA hog hunt again.  I know I can’t pull it off any time soon, but I keep looking for that winning lottery ticket to blow up onto my front porch.

That’s enough for now…  I’ll have to try a little harder to keep this blog thing on top of the daisies instead of under them.

Hog Blog Gear Reviews – Buck Buck Moose Is More Than A Cook Book

September 6, 2016

buckbuckmooseThe same could be said for any of Hank Shaw’s books, I suppose, in that none of them are written like the stereotypical, catalog of recipes.  His latest, Buck, Buck, Moose, is a nicely written piece of work that happens to consist primarily of cooking instructions related to all things cervid…from antelope to moose meat.

If you’ve followed Hank’s work, either here on the Hog Blog or elsewhere, you recognize the cadence of the book title.  Previously, he released Duck, Duck, Goose, which, as you’ll probably guess, is all about cooking with waterfowl.  Who knows what’s next… Fish, Fish, Clam?

To the topic most recently at hand…

Buck, Buck, Moose really is a cookbook, of course.  In it, as he does so well, Hank offers a variety of options for the successful hunter (or for the lucky recipient of gifted venison).  There are ideas from around the world, literally, with everything from Romanian sausage to Icelandic Gravlax to Scottish Hough, to Wisconsin to Kentucky to Japan and so on.  You’ll never need to wrap your venison in bacon or drown it in canned soup again… unless you like that sort of thing.

He also opens the book with a pretty solid, and thorough, introduction to basic game processing… from skinning through cutting it up to storage options.  There are more extensive sources for any of these topics, but this is not a bad overview for someone who’s never done it before.

Personally, I’m not usually one for following recipes.  I like ideas, and cookbooks do provide those, but as my high school chemistry teacher could attest, I have never been big on sticking to a formula.  But Hank’s books don’t necessarily read like cookbooks, and to me, that’s what sets them apart.

When I got my copy of Buck, Buck, Moose (I paid for this one via Kickstarter… another story in itself), I flipped it open to skim through.  I figured I’d take a look at what he’d done, maybe scope out an interesting recipe, and then put the book on the shelf.  A couple of hours later, though, I’d totally tuned out everything else and had read half the book.  It’s simply a pleasure to read.

It’s a little early yet for most of us to start talking about stuffing Christmas stockings, but deer season is open or opening all across the country over the next couple of months.  That seems like a good excuse for a lovely gift.  If you’re a hunter who is looking for some new options for cooking this year’s harvest, or if you’re the one in the kitchen left to figure out what to do with Nimrod’s pile of meat, you could do far worse than Buck, Buck, Moose.

Oh, and a gold star to anyone who recognizes certain names that may have found their way into the interludes…



Sharing Your Joy – Say, “Cheese”, But Not, “Cheesy”

August 23, 2016

People have been sharing pictures of their successful hunts since the earliest bloggers sketched stick figures on cave walls.  Hunting and art were both a little tougher back then.  Nowadays, you don’t even need basic skills with a burnt stick, since your telephone will take a digital photograph and post it to your virtual cave wall for the whole world to see…. and as best I can tell, all you have to do is say, “Phone, take a picture,” et, voila!  You’re practically Arny Freytag!

Of course, as you probably know, I certainly have no issue with posting success photos (hero shots, grip-n-grins, whatever you want to call them).  I’ve certainly posted enough of that kind of thing here on the Hog Blog, as well as on Facebook.  I share my own (when I have them), and I sometimes post photos from friends and readers.  I think it’s a great way to share your excitement and the joy of success with fellow hunters.


At risk of falling into the Cult of Inoffensiveness, I do want to suggest that folks take a critical look at the photos you’re about to share.  Think about the story it tells.  Consider that when someone else looks at your photographs, you’re not there to tell the tale yourself, so everything rests on the thousand words the viewer takes away from that image.

I’ve posted on this before (here), but with hunting seasons already underway, I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more pictures on our feeds over the coming weeks and months.  It also comes to mind in the light of the Josh Bowmar fiasco.

Haven’t heard of that one?  Bowmar was hunting bears up in Canada, and decided to kill his bear with a spear.  I don’t know the regs, but it appears to have been a completely legal option (although in light of the outcry, Alberta is considering a ban on spear hunting).  From an ethical perspective, while most people probably don’t have the skills to heave a spear accurately at game, Bowmar appears to have practiced a good bit, and his shot was good.  Beyond that, I can’t see where a razor sharp spear is any less lethal or humane than a broadhead.  From a technical perspective, it actually seems much more effective.

Not only did he want to kill the bear with the spear, but he wanted to get it all on video… and then share that video on the World Wide Web.  I think this is where he went wrong, at least in the eyes of the general public.  To begin with, he’s killing an animal with an extremely primitive-looking weapon.  Most non-hunters don’t understand how weapons kill, and to many, primitive means “ineffective”.  It seemed brutish and cruel.

But what I think really got to people was his reaction on hitting the bear with the spear.  It was, not to put too fine a point on it, pretty over-the-top.  Maybe he was genuinely, uncontrollably excited, or maybe he was hamming for the camera.  Either way, he came off looking like a total ass.  Let’s be clear here, I’m not saying he was a total ass, but that’s how he came across to many viewers.  And that’s my point.

Once the picture (or video) leaves your direct control, then you no longer have the ability to speak to it or to manage who sees it.  It’s a lot like firing a bullet.  Once you pull the trigger (or click Submit), it’s too late to call it back.

So, as we all go out this season with our cameras or phones or burnt sticks, keep a few things in mind.  Here are some general suggestions:

  • Keep it clean(ish).
    • Wipe up excess blood, and avoid sharing extremely gory images with the general public.
    • Put the animal’s tongue back in its mouth if it’s hanging out.
  • Show some respect.
    • You don’t have to be crying or praying over the animal, but there’s no need to share your victory dance with the world.
    • I would avoid the too-common “ride the pony” pose (sitting astride the recently deceased beast), and just kneel or sit beside the animal.
    • And for heaven’s sake, don’t pose the animal in sexual or demeaning ways.
  • Tag your animal.
    • Most states require immediately tagging a big game animal.  It’s easy to forget this step before jumping into photos, and while it probably doesn’t hurt anything in the moment, remember that viewers are only going to see an untagged animal.  It gives a bad impression, and can potentially lead to a visit from a game warden.

Most of us don’t have professional sponsorships to lose, and I realize that some folks will never be satisfied with any hunting photo, so you may be thinking, “what the hell difference does it make?”

Truthfully, it probably doesn’t make a huge difference for most of us.  But sometimes, it’s just the little things we do, and people we don’t even know take notice.  It’s not that hard to take good, quality, respectful photos and video.  Why not just do it?

And hey, if you want to be “funny” for your buds, go ahead.  Just don’t share those private moments with the world.






NSSF Teams With Association For Suicide Prevention To Reduce Firearms Suicide Rates

August 10, 2016

It seems to be a recurrent theme from folks who dislike and fear firearms.  “The gun industry is just sitting back, raking in profits.  They don’t care about the people who are killed or injured by guns!”

I understand it, of course, since the truth is that efforts by organizations like the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) don’t generally get a lot of publicity.  Folks outside of the gun industry probably have no idea, and even many firearms owners are pretty much in the dark. Most people don’t know, for example, that the NSSF is on the leading edge of the industry in efforts to promote safety ( such as Project ChildSafe), efforts to educate firearms dealers to prevent crime (e.g. the “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” program), and efforts to work with the Federal government to improve the quality of background checks (e.g. the FixNICS initiative).  What people do hear is when the NSSF echoes the NRA hardline on certain firearms issues.

To do my own tiny part, I think it’s worth sharing the press release I just received from the NSSF.  I think it’s simple enough that it doesn’t require my interpretation.  Here it is, in its entirety:

NEW YORK, N.Y. – A new partnership between the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®), the trade association for the firearms industry, will allow for both organizations to embark on a first-of-its-kind national plan to build and implement public education resources for firearms retailers, shooting ranges and the firearms-owning community about suicide prevention and firearms.

According to recently released data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all suicides were by firearm in 2014, and suicide accounted for almost two-thirds of gun deaths in the same year. In addition, 90 percent of suicide attempts with a firearm are fatal. By working together to develop and deliver suicide-prevention resources, AFSP and NSSF hope to help stem this loss of life.

“This partnership has been a true collaboration since we started conversations last year. AFSP sees this relationship as critical to reaching the firearms community,” said Robert Gebbia, AFSP CEO. “One of the first areas identified through Project 2025 was a need to involve the gun-owning community in suicide prevention. By joining forces with NSSF, we reach both firearm owners and sellers nationwide to inform and educate them about suicide prevention and firearms, and offer specific actions they can do to prevent suicide. Through Project 2025 analysis and the work of this partnership, we know that this public education has the potential to save thousands of lives.”

“The firearms industry has long been at the forefront of successful accident-prevention efforts and programs aimed at reducing unauthorized access to firearms. Since two-thirds of all fatalities involving firearms are suicides, we are now also in the forefront of helping to prevent these deaths through our new relationship with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,” said Stephen L. Sanetti, NSSF President and CEO.

Currently, the two organizations are collaborating on this initiative through AFSP’s firearm and suicide prevention pilot program, which involves six AFSP chapters, located in Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri and New Mexico. The goal is to take the program nationwide within two years.

I always encourage folks to think for themselves, do their own research, and learn about issues with a skeptical eye.  This is no different, and I wouldn’t blame the cynics in the crowd who will look for some sort of self-interest on the part of the industry.  But I think it’s important to be aware that the leading organization representing the U.S. industry, the NSSF, is doing some solid work behind the scenes to reduce firearms death, injury, and crime.

Oops, It Happened Again

July 27, 2016

Oh, look!  I have a blog!  I should write something…

On a Facebook page I follow, I saw a post about a guy in California who booked a hunt with an outfitter he found on Craig’s List.  The outfitter had a website that listed references and other realistic information, but when the time came to hunt… you guessed it… a no-show.  Not only did the guide not show up, but he took the hunter’s deposit with him into the ether.

Not long after the post appeared, a small gaggle of “me too” posts followed.  This ersatz guide did pretty well for himself… as long as he can avoid some really pissed off hunters.

This should never happen, but it does… every season, and especially in the last minutes before a season opens.  Folks are desperate to find good ground.  Time slipped away, and suddenly the opener is looming.  Whatever the reason, they start grinding through the usual routes to find a guide.  Of course, the reputable guides are generally booked well in advance, or their prices are set a little high.  The search gets wider, and before long, a Craig’s List posting, or maybe an ad in the local paper shows up.  A couple of phone calls or emails get exchanged, a plan gets made, and the deal is done.

Often, it goes well.  The guide is maybe new to the business, or maybe it’s just someone who has a good hunting opportunity and wants to make a few bucks on it.  The hunter has rolled the dice and come up a winner.

But sometimes, it doesn’t go well at all.  In the worst case, the hunter gets stood up and the crook absconds with deposit money.  In some cases, the hunter finds himself facing trespass charges because an unscrupulous outfitter has dropped him on someone else’s property.  Other cases include blatant misrepresentation… such as how much property is actually available (10 acres instead of 100) or even the actual presence of game (crawling with sign turns out to be an old game trail).  The “comfortable lodging” turns out to be an old chicken coop.  The “hearty meals provided” are snack crackers for lunch, and MREs at dinner.  And so on… I’ve heard all of these things from jilted hunters.

It seems odd to me that, for all the distrust and skepticism people demonstrate in daily life, hunters so often fail to do a little due diligence prior to paying someone to take them hunting.  Caveat emptor, folks!

When the fellow on Facebook posted his sad tale, I quickly jumped to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s registry of hunting and fishing guides.  In seconds, I found that the alleged guide was not listed in the directory.  That would have been my first move, and what I found would have been a significant red flag.

Apparently, the fake guide had a website too.  It listed “references”, and provided some other good-looking information.  When I asked on Facebook if the victim had actually contacted the references, I never got an answer.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that he did not call.  The presence of references on the website was enough to give the appearance of propriety.

Point is, I can see how someone would find themselves in this situation, but I also believe it’s 98% avoidable.  I’ve written a time or two in various places (like here)about how to select a guide.  However, to break it down to a bullet list:

  • Define your expectations clearly before you ever contact an outfitter or guide. You need to know what you want before you can tell someone else.
  • Communicate these expectations to the outfitter or guide. Don’t be afraid to be specific about what you’re hoping to get for your money. You don’t have to be a jerk, but be upfront and honest.
  • Be completely clear about what you will accept, and what you will not (e.g. high fence, hounds, road hunting, etc.).
  • Be prepared to be flexible. These are wild animals. They don’t always do what the guide expects them to do. Sometimes you have to be willing to adjust if you want success.
  • Verify what is included in the price of the hunt (guides, accommodation, food, skinning/field dressing, etc.). The more you pay, the more important this is. You may find that what one outfitter offers for $1200 can be had from another at half that price.
  • Ask about success rates. Guided hog hunts usually have high success rates, but if anyone advertises 100%, then question them. Also note that some outfitters advertise “shot opportunity” instead of actual success. Be sure you understand and agree about the definition of “shot opportunity” before you book the hunt.
  • Ask for referrals AND THEN CALL THEM. (Be sure to ask for successful as well as unsuccessful referrals.)
  • Oh… and ask about tips. The outfitter may hedge, but it’s always good to feel out the expectation.

You’d think it would go without saying, but you have to do your homework.





News And Reviews – CA Lead Law, MO Hog Regs, Rapala Skinning Knives, Browning Headlamps

June 29, 2016

I suppose a lot of folks think it’s a little early for hunting news and gear reviews, but the truth is that we’re just a couple of days out of July, and while most of the country is still sweating it out in the summer doldrums, and most sportsmen are focused on finned quarry; deer season is just around the corner in California.  A zone deer hunters will start bowhunting the second week of July.  South Carolina and a couple of other states will open up in August.

So, first the news…

Lead Ban ChroncilesCA hunters are reminded that the second phase of the lead ammo ban will come into effect on July 1.

This phase adds upland birds to the list of species that must be taken with lead-free ammunition.  Also, lead free shotgun ammo is now required for taking resident small game mammals, furbearing mammals, nongame mammals, nongame birds, and any wildlife for depredation purposes.  (For some reason, if it’s any help, you are still permitted to use lead shot for Eurasian collared doves.)  Remember that the lead ammo ban has no effect on ammo used for target shooting.  It is only for hunting.  The final phase of the lead ban will kick in on July 1, 2019.  You can learn more about the lead ban on CA DFW’s website.

Feral hogsIn Missouri, the State has determined that, when it comes to feral hogs, sport hunting and eradication efforts are not compatible.  As a result, the state is shutting down sport hunting for feral hogs on any lands owned or managed by the Missouri Dept of Conservation.  This does not affect hog hunters on private land.  Since I’m not a resident of MO, nor do I hunt there, I can’t speak to the impact on the Show Me State’s hunters, but there is an unsurprising uproar from that population.  Personally (not that my opinion is crucial here), it’s probably the right call.  As I mentioned in a Facebook post earlier, feral hogs are either a destructive pest that needs to be eradicated, or they’re a game animal.  It really doesn’t work to try to have it both ways.

Rapala Drop-Point SkinnerNow, on to some gear reviews…

Fishermen have known about Rapala fishing knives for eighty years (since 1936).  I’m pretty sure my first fillet knife sported that recognizable, light, wood handle and leather sheath.  It made sense as a “first” fishing knife, since it was not only inexpensive, but it was extremely durable.  I don’t remember where or how I finally lost that thing, but it survived years of harsh use in the saltwater environment.

I’ve graduated to a “professional” knife at this point, with the white, “comfort-grip” handle and stainless blade, but it’s still a Rapala… and it’s still affordable.

I was intrigued to get an email a couple of weeks back, informing me that Rapala is now adding the Classic Birch line of hunting knives to their long list of quality products.  Even better, they offered to send me one to check out.

Rapala drop point in handThe new line includes several classic designs:

  • 3.75″ Drop point (MSRP $34.99)
  • 4.5″ Clip point (MSRP $34.99)
  • 3.75 Gut hook (MSRP $39.99)
  • 4.5″ Skinner (MSRP $34.99)
  • 3.5″ Caping knife (MSRP $34.99)
  • 3.5″ Bird knife (MSRP $29.99)

While I’d love to get my hands on all of these, I could only pick one, so I asked for the drop point.  That’s the design I personally prefer for all-around work, and the 3.75″ blade is a handy size for anything from squirrels to hogs.

I’d love to tell you I put it to work right away, but the truth is that there’s nothing around here for me to skin right now.  Still, I did play with it around the kitchen for a bit.  The edge on the sample they sent me is wicked-sharp, which is no surprise for the Rapala knives (made in the same J Marttini factory in Finland that produces their classic fishing knives).  The wooden handle is rough, and almost feels unfinished.  However, after messing with it for a few minutes, I realized it gives me a really sure grip, even under water (in the sink).  I can’t wait to get this thing bloody, but that probably won’t happen until September or so.  You can bet I’ll report back on how it performs in the field as soon as I get the chance.

Browning Blackout 6VI’ve also been holding onto a new headlamp, the Browning Blackout 6v.  This particular light is part of Browning’s Black Label Tactical line, and it’s definitely built to take a beating. Instead of the plastic body that most of the consumer headlamps offer, the Blackout comes in a waterproof (to a meter) aluminum body.

If you’ve followed the Hog Blog for very long, you know I’ve got a soft spot for quality headlamps, and I’m always looking for the best thing I can get my hands on.  I’ve tried out a bunch of lights over the years, and while most of them were pretty good, I had yet to test one that I thought was suitable for blood trailing.  That’s sort of my grail, when it comes to this sort of thing, and I’d sort of decided that my bar might be set a little high.  I have seen a couple that would probably work, but those exist on a higher plane than I do as a simple blogger, so getting a test unit has been an exercise in frustration.  Even if I could test them, I think that the $250 – $300 price tag would dampen the enthusiasm of most hunters.

The Browning, though, at an MSRP of around $99, advertises a 730 lumen output and the pure, white light definitely looks bright enough to show blood on the ground.  Again, since nothing is currently in season, I haven’t been able to really put this to the test, but walking around the yard at night, this thing cuts right through the dark to show incredible detail.  The Blackout is a spot beam, and not adjustable, but that suits me fine.  It also offers two lower settings to conserve batteries, as well as a green mode to preserve night vision… which can be really nice when going into the stand in the wee early darkness.  I also think it’s going to be great in the canoe or kayak when duck season rolls around.

Are there downsides?  Sure, a couple…

The light is a little bulkier than I’d prefer for a headlamp.  It extends about 2.5″, and weighs almost six ounces.  That’s not really a lot, until you’ve worn it for a couple of hours.  Maybe I’m sensitive, but it starts to make my head hurt.  It does fit nicely over my Stetson, though, and is a lot more comfortable worn that way.

The lithium, CR123A batteries are a little pricier than AA or AAA, but this light does need the extra power to achieve that bright beam.  According to the literature, I should see about 3 hours of use at full power, though, and that’s pretty good.  A comparably bright, high-end ($275) headlamp runs down in about half that time.  On the lowest setting, it’s supposed to give me 48 hours of continuous use.

Like many of the high-powered LED lamps, the Browning gets really hot after a short time.  I mean really hot!  I didn’t really notice the heat while I was wearing it around the house for about an hour, until I reached up to turn it off.  I learned real quick to be cautious, and make sure I avoided touching the lens or the front cap.  It will get your attention.

Overall, though, I think this light is a winner.  At $99 it’s not cheap, but compared to the cheaper headlamps I’ve tested, I think the Browning will last as long as you can keep up with it.  That’s the catch with all of these small pieces of equipment, though… they’re easy to lose.  Other than that, as far as I can tell, the only thing you can do to hurt it is to leave the batteries in too long and let them start to leak.

As always, I’ll follow up on both of these items as they get more time in the field.  I can say that I like both of these products enough to plan on using them this coming season.

Technology Again…

June 22, 2016

Thanks to my friends at Orion, I followed a link to this article on the Izaak Walton League website.  It sort of tees up an easy shot for pretty much anyone who’s interested with the title, Technology vs. Ethical Hunting.  In the parlance of the Interwebz, that would be called, “clickbait.”

So, of course I seized the opportunity to pick some of that low-hanging fruit for myself and write an easy blog post.

The content of Technology vs. Ethical Hunting is about what you might expect.  The writer ponders technological development since the days of his recurve and birch arrow shafts… or the changes since our forefathers carried flintlocks and powder.

Hunting has changed a lot since our forefathers walked into the woods with black powder rifles and iron sights. Today, we have rifles that can shoot unheard of distances, scopes with built-in range finders that adjust for myriad external factors, and bullets that are manufactured to extreme tolerances that allow consistent shooting patterns. And anyone can download bullet calculators and punch in the zero range, caliber, bullet type, and weight. You can even factor in different temperatures and wind speeds. You can print out the exact bullet drop out to several hundred yards.

Is this good or is it bad?  Has “hunting” lost something in the transition?  These are, of course, the questions the essay begs us to ponder.

To begin, I think it’s worth pointing out that hunting technology has been evolving since our species first hunted for our food.  Obviously, the change was initially driven by necessity, and we’re some pretty clever monkeys when it comes to getting dinner.  Once it stopped being about feeding ourselves, however, I think it became more about pushing the envelope just to see how clever we can be.

And we’re pretty accomplished at pushing that envelope.  Hunting has become more comfortable, more efficient, and, to a lot of people, more fun.    It would be silly to argue that it hasn’t also, in many ways, become easier as well.  Still, it is only as easy as any individual chooses to make it.  I believe that’s a key point that gets overlooked any time this discussion comes up.

It mystifies me, why some hunters take such offense when some other hunters don’t hunt according to the same standards.  Why is it so important to criticize the other guy?  What does the way I hunt take away from you?  It’s not like the treestand hunter is trying to force the backcountry guy to climb a pine and sit tight.  The crossbow hunter isn’t making any effort to force the trad bow guy to switch gear.

If technology doesn’t suit you, then don’t use it.  I know, that’s a super-simplified response.  This is simple, though… or it ought to be.  If you’re not breaking the law, harming the resource, or threatening public safety, then hunt the way you want to hunt.

So, there’s this other thing that some folks like to trot out when these discussions come along.  “This technology looks bad to non-hunters.”

We’ve all heard it.  Some of us have probably said or written it.  And I’ve challenged it time and again.

Here’s the reality.  Most non-hunters don’t have a clue what happens when we hunt.  Most of them don’t even realize the levels of regulation we deal with, much less the subtleties of ethical behavior.  Many non-hunters think that we just go out and shoot stuff, with whatever we want, however we want.  They generally think we kill stuff every time we go out, and a ridiculous number of them are actually surprised to find that we eat what we kill.  Maybe there’s a vague recognition that there are seasons and limits, but I’ve found that even these basics come as news to a lot of people.

The other reality is that most non-hunters really don’t give a damn about hunting.  To be sure, this makes them a little more susceptible to well-managed propaganda campaigns, but day-to-day efforts by anti-hunters generally fall on deaf ears.  There’s always a risk at the tail end of an election cycle, of course, when hunting bills are on the ballot.  People tend to believe the worst, and when it comes to issues that don’t impact them directly, they vote on the most recent thing in their memories.  This, though, is really more about managing election campaigns than about who uses trail cameras or high-powered rifle optics.

I’ve said all of this before, and it looks like I’m going to keep repeating it.  When I look around social, and even traditional media, the most vocal outcry about bad hunting ethics and abuse of technology is coming from hunters, not from the antis.  If anyone is tainting the public mind about hunting ethics, I say it’s the hunters who scream about other hunters using everything from tree stands to drones… often without even really knowing much about what they’re screaming about.

I probably shouldn’t even have to add this, but I will.  There is “bad” technology.  Not that anyone is really doing this, but arming drones is probably bad.  So is computer-based hunting (using a computer and a networked camera/gun system).   Ethical questions aside, firing a gun at something that you can’t see with your own eyes is an inherently unsafe activity.

I also have no issue with discussions about the esoterica of hunting ethics.  I think it’s great to aspire to the ultimate ethical high ground.  I think it’s awesome to challenge yourself as a hunter, to test your woodsman-ship and stamina, and it’s good to encourage other hunters to do the same.  But seriously, if I choose to sit on my back porch and pot deer when they come to my food plot, how does that take away from the guy who backpacks 20 miles into the wilderness with a self-bow and hand-knapped broadheads?

It doesn’t.

Technology vs. Ethical Hunting presents a false dichotomy.  It’s good click-bait, and can make for a lively, online discussion.  But at the core, it’s a self-defeating topic, and rife with the potential to be both destructive and divisive.


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