It is interesting to wander through a big sporting goods store, or examine a Cabela’s fishing catalog and see the bewildering array of fishing gear available these days … baffling numbers, styles and colors of fishing lures, dozens of fishing lines in any pound test one wishes, dozens of spinning reels and advanced bait-casting reels that seldom if ever backlash.
American-made big game rifles after World War II were certainly adequate but also mundane — even the superb Model 70 Winchester with its incomparable action and excellent trigger was sold with a walnut stock that was less than inspiring.
It was somewhat comforting, paging through the 1980 Gun Digest Review of Custom Guns, edited by Ken Warner, with chapters by John T. Amber — the latter largely responsible for the Gun Digest editions that I devoured as a youngster. Warner and Amber are both long gone, but reading about rifles circa 1980 was like going back in time to the days when I was a young man.
When I observe two generations of people younger than myself who cannot seem to go more than eight minutes without playing with their electronic gadgetry, I hesitate to point out a few educational experiences from the distant past that helped me during my work years. But I’ll do it anyway.
At St. John’s Academy more than a half century ago, a couple nuns forced us urchins to diagram sentences.
And so we rolled down the highway in the old Suburban, heading toward Oklahoma for our annual visit with daughter Katrina and family, and we saw the big open country along the Yellowstone, just greening up with spring, and far in the distance the mountains of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and the Crazy Mountains, still deep in snow with peaks scraping the sky.
A reader recently e-mailed his inventory of ammunition components — powder, primers, and bullets — to get my opinion. I replied that with some 6,000 primers, 2,500 bullets in five calibers and 23 pounds of gunpowder, he was in pretty good shape, granted he had sufficient empty casings to load.
There is nothing fancy about one of the rifles I have brought to the range today. It is a Ruger Model 77 bolt-action in .280 Rem. topped with a 40-year-old Redfield Widefield 4X with Duplex reticle. The rifle belonged to my father, Jake, who sent it along with me not long before his death, asking that I give it to my son-in-law, Brad Koerner.
My father used a pair of Buck folding “Hunters” for all types of big game and birds, and a Buck fillet knife for fish. He was amused by my affinity for handmade knives and never owned one. Commercially-made knives are far better today than they were 50 years ago, and the majority of outdoorsmen, like my late father, operate very happily without a handmade knife.
Knives have been made by hand for centuries, but it wasn’t until guys like Bill Scagel of Michigan and North Dakotan R. H. “Rudy” Ruana started making knives available to discerning customers in the early years of the 20th Century that the knife-making art began as a commercial enterprise.
Scagel’s knives today, if you can find one, sell for $20,000 or more. Scagel, who died in 1963, generally is recognized as the pioneer of modern knife-making.
Self-defense “expert” and Vice-President Joe Biden is at it again. He was interviewed last week by Parents magazine, and took questions from viewers. When one woman asked if a re-instatement of the 1994 “Assault Weapons Ban” would leave people defenseless, Biden said, “… get a double-barreled 12 gauge shotgun and have shells on hand.”
Minnesota is shutting down its moose hunting season after moose populations dropped 52 percent in two years, and Montana is beginning a 10-year study on moose numbers in that state, which has likely seen moose populations decrease by at least 50 percent since the mid-’90s, though the wildlife agency doesn’t provide an estimate.
Politicians love to portray themselves as good ol’ country boys and girls who are just like you — they grew up in a small town or on a farm, and they grew up with hunting and shooting. They’d have you believe that they continue to have an undying respect for the Second Amendment and firearms.
In truth, they regard bumpkins like us with suspicion, they left the small town or farm as soon as they could get the hell away from it, and they haven’t picked up a gun in decades, let alone gone hunting or target shooting.
I have loved hunting since the first days when my father took me along back in the mid-1950s, and I hunted because he hunted, and because both of my grandfathers and most of my uncles hunted. Maybe I have hunted because my ancestors going far back in time in Austria and Germany also hunted.
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