We are creatures of comfort and security, but what if we are caught in a hurricane or tornado, or something equally as unsettling while hunting? What could possibly be as threatening to personal welfare and life itself while on a hunt?
Well, actually, I’ve been on two October hunts when a hurricane went through our areas: once on a deer hunt and another on a moose hunt farther away! The first put us in our friend’s summer cottage for a couple of days. We had no heat, lights or water! The other was the tail end of a hurricane that sideswiped us on a moose hunt. On both occasions trees were coming down blocking roads and trails.
But then there are other matters that may catch us completely off guard: What if I’m on an elk hunt in northern B.C. and a friend from Alberta will join me there at a cabin he’s previously rented in years past. Since we’re non-residents we must have a guide-outfitter. I fly west, rent a vehicle and drive to the location, counting on my partner’s arrival the next day. Late that evening as I’m settling in I get two messages on my cell: my partner’s wife was involved in a car accident so he’s not sure when he can arrive or even IF he can! The other message is ominous as well in that the outfitter has had a heart attack and is sending a helper with little experience in wilderness hunting with grizzlies in the area!
So even before the hunt gets underway, I have a rather serious dilemma: do I carry on anyway in an unknown area, especially with grizzlies around and about, and a rookie for a guide? Or do I head back home to Ontario on the next available flight? So I stay awake that night with lots of “What ifs” on my mind in addition to concerns for my friend and his wife as well as the outfitter!
Having a great imagination and a positive disposition (most of the time), I tend to imagine matters working out as planned or even better! But then, there’s that strong pragmatism that lurks over my shoulder, saying “Go prepared for the worst, not the best!” Depending on what I’m hunting and where, and whether I have a partner or not, I’ll take ample of everything and then some. For example: most of my hunting these days are day trips with no plans to spend the night afield… but then, who knows? For one reason or another I may be forced to! And nearly 100% of those trips are solo! My former partners are either in Heaven (I hope!), preoccupied or moved away. So, considering my age and physical state, any plans even for a day trip must include contingency matters: Extra of everything! But most of that can be stored in my SUV: dry clothes, boots, food and water… even meds and ammo! In my hunting jacket I carry extra ammo, food bars, a topo map or GPS. On my belt: knife, 8×20 binos, range finder. Both the pants and jacket have multiple pockets for storing “whatnots”.
TRANSPORTATION: to and from hunting area, plus all equipment and field dressed animal This Ford Free Star “mini van” served for many years as my “truck”. The middle seats were removable during a hunt and the rear seat was folded down. Behind that was a storage area. Plus, there were multiple “pockets” for storage of smaller items. In this pic it was loaded with everything needed for a bear hunt… even to a bear itself! No, not for moose – for that a trailer was needed. It had a large V6 truck motor with lots of pulling power. It was four years old when purchased and with 62,000 Km (+38,000 miles). It served well for six years, and at 210,000 km (130,000 miles) it got replaced. My current “truck” is another Ford compact SUV used uniquely as a “hunting vehicle”- and serves me well. It’s now twelve years old with 214,000 Km (132,700 miles), having better gas milage, more horsepower than the “old” Free Star and less weight. It appears to be good for another couple of years, if I last that long!
The point? I’ve never needed a $60,000 pickup to go hunting, even IF I could have afforded it! That Ford Free Star had more inside room than most pickups and large SUVs! And gas milage was 30 mpg (Imperial) mixed driving. No boasting or criticism of anyone intended, just something that those on a tight budget may want to seriously consider rather than going so far into debt that they may never get out – thinking they must (like “everyone”) have the latest and biggest pickup to qualify as a hunter! To become a successful hunter, even an elk, bear or moose hunter, no one needs the best equipment. Adequate will suffice.
RIFLE? – while the economy of scale isn’t the same for a rifle, the principle is. None of my rifles are absolutely mandated for what and where I hunt – a .308 Win would suffice, but… I’d miss out on a lot of experience and knowledge that I share with others. And that’s very meaningful to me with my temperiment inclined to search out truth for myself, experience it and then share it with others. Then there’s the “science” of handloading – getting the best any rifle has to offer. A challenge that my “science bent” mind responds to.
So the inclination to know and experience ballistic truth from rifles is strong, and I enjoy sharing it with others of like mindedness. This was recorded by a 500gr Hornady RN at 15 feet from the muzzle of my Ruger No.1H in .458 Win Mag. Add 14 fps for correction to the muzzle. That’s 5959.69 ft-lbs KE. Some believe that only a .458 Lott could do that! I know differently! So I share what I know from the application of ballistic knowledge and experience!
All my BG rifles are multipurpose, as well as the ammo handloaded for them. This includes not only for the game being hunted but anything that might become a target of opportunity or danger. For instance, while hunting deer a pack of coyote-wolf hybrids could show up wanting those same deer or a carcuss! That’s not just an overactive imagination, but has happened while deer hunting with a partner who was a CO. Many elk hunters have had to abandon their kills to bears, and so on, and by times the elk hunters have become victims as well!
By May 1st of this year I’ll have a bear license, God permitting. My intent is to get some well needed exercise in familiar Crown Land where moose, deer, beaver, coyote, wolf-coyote hybrid, timber wolf and bear roam… plus some other critters including wild hogs. Bear will be chasing moose calves, beaver kits or anything thay can catch or dig out of their burrows. I’ll be scouting some of those low areas, the edges of ponds and marshes. In tight quarters, the .35 Whelen fits nicely – being a single-shot, it’s short, light and handy… did I mention it’s power? And a backup for walking trails and overlooking swamps and marshes, and corners of small lakes, will be the .375 H&H with the accurate and powerful 250gr Sierras at +3000 fps.
But “WHAT IF?” the most dangerous among them goes into an attack mode… In this order, that could be a hungry spring male bruin, a female with cubs, a cow moose with a calf, or a pack of hybrid wolves. In Canada we’re not allowed handguns for hunting, so I don’t own one. I’ve owned rifles and shotguns because I’m an outdoors guy and a hunter. If I wasn’t a hunter, I’d not own firearms. As soon as I have what I consider a good to excellent handload for a rifle, I want to take it hunting. Last week on Tuesday, I fired several new loads from my new .375 H&H. Most were experimental, but one was superb. Last evening I loaded up a bunch more of the same for further testing at the range or hunting spring bear – either, it doesn’t matter because I don’t shoot for the sake of shooting, I shoot for verifying a load, for practice and familiarity with the rifle. But the greater satisfaction for me is the hunting and outdoor’s aspect of matters. If I only wanted to shoot targets for bragging rights, I’d just shoot my 22LR in the bolt-action CZ.
But I also find satisfaction in adapting a powerful rifle so that it becomes useful and practical in any hunt of large or potentially dangerous game (large or small).
< This is an area I know well. It’s 400 yds to the farthest corner. It’s also habitat for all of Ontario’s big game and a lot of smaller game. A .375 H&H could be very serviceable here using appropriate bullets from 235gr to 270gr. My current load will be the 250gr Sierras at +3000 fps. And this is one area I’ll be checking for bear sign. Hey! I’ve killed bears nearby over bait!
So “What If?” I went on that hunt in northern British Columbia, killed a mature bull elk and then…
….was charged by a grizzly for its possession? Yeah, I know “the law” says the grizz has prior claim, but he/she doesn’t know anything about human laws! And that’s a serious problem! The grizzly only knows about grizz laws that say “That’s my elk because the stupid hunter can’t pull the trigger on me because of his stupid laws, so I’ll get him/her too!” Sorry grizz, but… KABOOM!
Well… it may mean a day in court, but that’s better than six months of rehab or a premature funeral for the family!
Most dangerous beasts (including some humanoids) don’t have a sense of morality. I recently watched a video where a big black bear was stripping the hide off a calf elk as the mother watched at some distance. The calf was bawling as the bear casually held it down with one paw and literally ate it alive beginning with the hind quarters! The big black bear never killed the calf before eating it… and that went on and on and on… bawling with momma elk watching at a safe distance. And I’ve seen the exact same thing on video of another big black bear – in our hunting area – talking a spring calf moose – maybe a day old – from its mother, into a bush and ate it while bawling for its mother! The cow moose was like the elk cow, standing at a distance. We ascribe morality and human feelings to wild creatures when in reality their instinct is only survival and reproduction – just like some humans!
But IF it’s a matter of survival, just like the bear or lion or other predators, which use their cunning, craftiness, strategy, stealth. strength and speed, I’ll use the means, knowledge and skills that God has given to defeat the aggressor!
Word has gotten around in Haliburton Highlands among the bear kind that they are thinking of hibernation again… “Hey, you guys, listen up, Bob’s coming our way on May 1st, and he’s not totin’ one of those pea shooters like a .243, but some heavies like a new .375 H&H and his old standard that makes us tremble – his mighty .458 Winchester! Let’s head for the hills… er caves!”
I may have to start totin’ a .243 in those Highlands so I can catch a glimpse of a bear once in a while! Naaa… I wouldn’t do that! I’ll just pretent to, and let the word out that I might be bringin’ a .243… Yet WHAT IF I’ll be totin’ this instead in a turning of the tables?
< My Ruger No.1H in .458 Winchester in those Highlands in the fall of 2019 in a “walk it up” bear hunt. So you want to know what the load was? 350gr Hornady FTs at ~2500 fps/4857 ft-lbs, and that was a mild load. That rifle has fired the 350gr TSX at 2782 fps/6014 ft-lbs, seated and crimped in the bottom cannelure at 3.44″ COL.
Details: New Hornady brass, 81 grs of H4198 and WLRM primers. Two shots recorded 2770 and 2760, instrumental, at 15 ft from the muzzle. Average = 2765 fps + 17 fps for correction to muzzle velocity = 2782 fps. These loads, along with some others, were put together in the late fall of 2019 and fired in early spring of 2020. No details of temperature was recorded, though assumed to have been in the mid to high teens Celsius, about 60 – 65* F.
< A pic of those two shots at 100 yds
Till the next…