Last year, for a number of reasons, I didn’t make my annual out of state hunting foray. I vowed then that I would not miss this year. That was, of course, pre-COVID. Well, one planned hog hunting trip did get cancelled at the initial height of the pandemic, but an old friend and I did follow through and go deer (and hog) hunting this year. My freezer is full of venison and pork, I have a nice 7 pointer at the taxidermist, and next year’s trip is already on the calendar!
Where I’ve gone to hunt for the past few years, things are truly a bit different. The “good ‘ol boy network” is alive and well, and the government can be damned (at least until it comes knocking). Being a healthcare professional, I am (and was) well aware of the risks of travel in the COVID era, but I was determined to go hunting. And quite frankly, while I did venture into restaurants, the grocery, and a local sporting goods store, I didn’t see a lot of risk in sitting by myself in a tree stand in the woods or driving by myself in my truck to a truly rural area. I’m not all that worried about (nor do I have the luxury of excessively worrying about) the dangers of COVID. My reality is that the disease exists, and risks are mitigated by knowledge, training, and proper PPE. Hmmm, see any parallels there?
Forgive this brief unrelated rant, but COVID is real. The effects of the pandemic on our culture and society will no doubt be debated for the next several decades. I don’t agree with everything that’s been done in the name of “flattening the curve,” but the disease is a real thing with real effects. I have yet to have a direct coworker die, but I’ve transported positive patients that have died, and my employees have deployed into hard hit areas where they started their shifts with seven or eight presumptions of death, stepping over the bodies to get to the critical patients still barely alive. Albeit in isolated hot spots, the hospital ERs filled wall to wall with tented and vented patients are not hyperbole, nor are the refrigerated tractor trailers filled with occupied body bags. People I see daily at work have witnessed such scenes with their own eyes. Every week, more of my coworkers test positive. Despite nitwit propoganda, I was voluntarily vaccinated last week. Like it or not, COVID is here to stay, but how to deal with it is up to you.
Anyway, back to the point of this post. I truly think that every hunting trip, I learn something useful. My goal with these hunting related posts is to share the crossovers into the self-defense and self-reliance worlds, and to hopefully encourage people to explore hunting as a useful pastime.
I tried a few things different this year. On my first day in the woods, I used a Hill People Gear Snubby Kit Bag Original Pattern (v2) with their new Recon Harness system. The harness has a hydration bladder pocket, so I carried a Gregory hydration bladder in it. I like this minimalist setup very much, but not necessarily for sitting in a deer blind. For spot and stalk hunting, I think it would excel. In retrospect, I probably would have been better off without the hydration bladder for just sitting. What I will probably wind up with is carrying the kit bag on the recon harness with a hydration bladder carried in a pack worn over the harness. I discussed just such a layered approach in previous posts, and I think for hunting, this will be the way to go. This is something I’ll continue to work with on future trips. However, for the rest of my trip I elected to use the same cheap buttpack that I’ve relied on in years past. It’s easy to carry to the stand and then set aside while I’m sitting.
I also briefly carried a different rifle for a few hunts. Although I didn’t shoot anything with it this year, I brought my Marlin 336Y lever action. With its short barrel and stock, it is an exceedingly handy package. I am probably going to put a Leupold Scout scope on it next year, just because my eyesight is terrible. The XS Ghostring sights I have on it are perfectly adequate, but I want some magnification for hunting scenarios. I’ve also discovered that the Barnes TSX ammo that I zeroed it with doesn’t reliably feed in it. The sharp nose of the round hangs up when closing the action. A quick jerk down with the lever allows the round to fall into place and then the action will close, but that’s not a manipulation I want to habituate. Plain soft point Winchester ammo feeds fine, so I’ll stick with the basics for now. I would like to try some Hornady Leverevolution ammunition, but with the current ammo availability crisis, it’s unobtanium. No matter, a 150 grain lead soft-point will do the trick if I do my part.
On my first morning in the woods, I shot a seven point buck at about 30 yards with my Browning AB3 Micro chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. I was using the same Sellier & Bellot 131 gr semi-jacketed soft point ammunition that I’ve talked about before. The bullet passed through and the shot was true, with the deer taking a single step before collapsing where it stood. I didn’t get a shot at anything else for the rest of the week, but that’s okay. Simply sitting alone in the woods gives me some free time that I otherwise usually never get. I did see a coyote at first light on day three, but I didn’t have gun in hand and missed the brief window of opportunity. There’s probably a self-defense corollary in there somewhere, but that’s a post for another day.
The hogs that we got were taken in the same way that I described in years past, with knife in hand. I would like to take a hog with a handgun one year, and may explore this possibility in the future. When the supply chain opens back up, I really want a Ruger Redhawk in .44 magnum. I have very little use for such a piece outside of a potential hunt, but I suppose that’s the difference between want and need.
Interestingly enough in the current climate, in late October, ammunition was still available in rural South Carolina. Certainly not in great quantity or in every loading, but available. The store I visited also had a good supply of firearms in stock, in stark contrast to my local Cabela’s. Whether this was due to the rural area or good management by a privately owned store is up for debate, but it was good to see that not all of the market had been decimated by unprecedented demand and limited supply.
I did make one attempt to go out during my local hunting season in late November, but the observation that the pandemic has driven large numbers of people back to the great outdoors is an accurate assessment for where I live. This is a good thing in as much as it’s a bad thing. Even before first light, the parking areas of local public land were overflowing with vehicles. I prefer to hunt without seeing other hunters every few hundred yards, so I just turned around and went home. All of us that enjoyed the great outdoors pre-pandemic didn’t go anywhere, but now we have a lot more company. I imagine this is how residents of the western states feel watching expatriates from California move in. Maybe someday I’ll find local private land to hunt on or be able to purchase enough of my own land to hunt on. But not this year. This is yet another reason that I like to schedule a hunting vacation every year… just to get away from it all. That is an increasingly difficult proposition in the world we live in, and that’s unfortunate.
If you’re not a hunter, that’s okay. But I would urge you to really think about where your food comes from. I buy meat in the grocery just like everybody else, but the meat I’ve harvested in the field with gun and knife gets treated a little bit differently, maybe with more reverence, just like an expensive cut purchased for a holiday meal. As it should be…
There are a lot of resources out there for new hunters, but the process for the uninitiated can be daunting. My advice, as in years past, is to find a mentor. Hunters, much like gun owners in general, are generally welcoming to new motivated individuals seeking knowledge and experience. Seek them out and ask for a helping hand. There is a lot of security inherent in owning a gun, learning to use it for real in the field, and having the ability to put food on your family’s plates. Short of joining the military or becoming a cop, that’s hard to come by these days. That’s also an unfortunate reality.
So get out there next year… even if you do crowd my hunting areas! Start planning now, reading books, and taking a hunter’s education course if you need one. Go hiking (scouting) on local public land and talk to landowners in your area. You might be surprised at what you find. Given the recent volume of gun and ammunition sales, wildlife conservation funding should be virtually unprecedented. If you don’t know what the Pittman-Robertson act is and how it impacts wildlife conservation, you should research the topic.
As always, thanks for reading. Due to a new schedule with a new job, I haven’t had a lot of time to write. The loss of our Facebook page has hit the blog hard, so I appreciate those of you that have subscribed to follow us by email. We always appreciate the support that comes from shopping using our Amazon Affiliate link. Stay tuned for next year, because we’re not dead yet!