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Barnett RC-150 Crossbow – Approved

The Barnett Ranger was a good fit for this young hunter, although an adult would have to cock it for him.

A video version of this announcement is at

I just learned from David Barnett that this crossbow will be discontinued. This was not unexpected as the company (and the industry in general)  is upgrading its crossbows. If you are disabled, or have poor arm strenth, get one of these now, before they disappear. I hate to see it go. It is a useful instrument and needed for young and disabled shooters, even though it is not as durable as its higher-cost replacements.  

  At about $236 Barnett’s RC-150 is the lowest-cost crossbow in the company’s line.  I killed a deer with an earlier model called the Ranger, which uses the same frame, but had a simple stave bow. I  was interested to see how a compound-limbed RC-150 would perform.

The RC-150 as part of a lightweight hunting outfit.

  The Ranger took a doe with a 20-yard shot and the RC-150  killed a similar  doe at 10-yards.  Both crossbows gave double-lung penetration and rapid kills. These crossbows use relatively light-weight arrows, and I would recommend that their use be restricted to about 25-yards.

  Because of these crossbows’ adjustable stocks and light weight, they are very useful for individuals with weak or missing limbs. They also had reasonable 3-4-pound trigger pulls with a bit of creep. These crossbows cannot be expected to be as durable as those costing hundreds (or thousands) of dollars more, but they can provide a low-cost introduction to crossbow hunting and will kill close-range deer. Despite their small size and light weight, these are serious instruments and are not toys.

  For more on this and other crossbows, consult my books, Crossbow Hunting and also Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound. 

  Products and/or payment was furnished by the manufacturer.

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Tree Lounge Tree Stands – Approved

The Elusive Whitetail climbing stand is a stable stand that is liked by many, paricularly women.

I regret that Tree Lounge closed its doors for the last time the Spring of 2011. I enjoyed supporting the company and was rooting hard for it to survive. To the best of my knowledge no one is offering products, accessories or support for Tree Lounge stands. The stands are heavy, rugged and will last for decades if  reasonably cared for and not hung on a tree for years in all weather. If you are lucky enough to have one with the accessories, take care of it. The original designs will be worth more every year that you own it,  provided that it is kept in good condition.


Tree Lounges’ original Tree Lounge ($299), Ground Lounge ($79) and Elusive Whitetail climbing stand ($279) won my enthusiastic endorsement. I have used the Elusive Whitetail and Ground Lounge for two years and have been very satisfied with these excellent, American-made products.

Original Tree Lounge, made the way it ought to be

To view a  3-minute video go to . Tree Lounge was among the first really successful climbing stands. Margarete Hice and her late husband Bob, sold the company; but got it back after the buyers failed in their attempts to produce the stand in China and mass-market it.

Production of the original Tree Lounge has returned to Georgia.

Ground Lounge. Ideal for turkey hunters to pre-position on field edges.

New stands including the Ground Lounge, Ladder Lounge and elusive Whitetail climbing stand have been added to the line and all are made in the U.S.

These stands are now sold exclusively through their website to cut out the middlemen and offer maximum value to buyers.  All of these stands use square aluminum tube construction with steel pins and fastenings. The only thing that I add is a cushion when I sit in the Ground Lounge.

Products and/or payment was provided by Tree Lounge for the placement of this ad.

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3-Minute Seminar: Marketing Books, Movies and Creative Content in a Down Economy

  Below is a 3- minute video that touches on some of the topics that I have in a 40-minute CD, “Marketing Books, Movies and Creative Content in a Down Economy.”

  This video was done following a visit to the Macon, Georgia, Film Festival where I found that many people who were interested in books, video production and making movies had not been exposed to the realities of modern marketing. The approaches presented in the following “short-short” and in a longer 40-minute CD, will also work for artists and others who make physical objects.

  If you are a creative person of any sort and have not just got out of College where they taught marketing as a vital part of surviving as a creative individual, this is worth a look.

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Getting Muzzleloading Rifles and Shotguns Ready for Turkey Hunting

An antique Brunswick .69-caliber smoothbore used to take a turkey with a load of shot.

  I saw the first flights of returning robins coming through Central Georgia yesterday, so Turkey season is not far away. Simultaneously, I received notice that I had been drawn for a hunt on some state lands that has a nice population of birds. I have hunted there before. I know the ground, I know where the turkeys are and now is the time to get guns and gear ready.

  In Georgia shotguns and muzzleloading rifles are legal for turkeys. On some hunts you are also allowed to take any wild hogs you see, which makes using a muzzleloading rifle very attractive. Wild hogs as well as coyotes will sometimes come to turkey calling, particularly to the “lost bird” call. If you are going to use a muzzleloader, you need to make sure that it is sighted in at 20 yards or so.

  A caution is that you do not shoot a turkey as it approaches. If you hit in the chest, the bullet (even a .50-caliber round ball) may pass through breast meat and wing feathers which will have the bird fly off and be lost. Take your bird when the tom is facing sideways and aim low enough to go through the lungs and backbone.

  Largely unappreciated is that even fast-twist muzzleloaders will shoot patched round balls very accurately provided that the powder charge is reduced to about 50 grains of FFg in .50-caliber rifles. This charge is sufficient to nail any turkey and can also take hogs with good shot placement. This is a more potent load that the .45 Long Colt or .44 Special;  although a little on the light side for deer hunting.  

A crossbow killed turkey that was shot with a blunted arrow designed to remain in the bird.

  Crossbows with X-shaped cutting blades that are up to 2-inches long can work too. These will cleanly take the head off the bird which does not make for very attractive photos, but is instantly disabling. The deal here is that there must be absolutely nothing between you and the bird that might deflect the arrow.

  If you use either muzzleloading or cartridge shotguns, PATTERN YOUR SHOTGUN AND KNOW WHERE IT SHOOTS. This is something

Pattern your shotgun and know where it shoots.

everyone has been told to do, but many do not. Heavy turkey loads very often shoot below the point of aim. It is better to choose a 1 1/4-ounce load that shoots to the point of aim than a 2-ounce load that does not. If you use the heavy turkey loads you will often be forced into using a scope or adjustable sights so that you can shoot to the point of aim.

  Turkey cooking instructions are in both Crossbow Hunting  and Backyard Deer Hunting converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound while I will have  load information for muzzleloading smoothbores in the 2011 Gun Digest and in my forthcoming book Xtreme muzzleloading: Fur, fowl and dangerous game with muzzleloading rifles, smoothbores and pistols.

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Cooking Deer, Wild Hog and other Wild Game Livers

Wild hog liver with attached gall bladder. The bladder is removed before freezing

  The liver from wild-game animals has traditionally been consumed in deer camp. More often my game livers are extracted, frozen whole and eaten at home. While deer liver is generally considered safe to handle, it is no great trouble to slip on a pair of rubber gloves when cutting and processing liver. Gloves must be used when handling hog and bear livers as these can contain  blood-born parasites that can cause serious diseases.

  That caution given, remove the gall bladder (free in deer liver, attached in hog liver) and the pancreas before freezing. I wash the liver to expel any excess blood and remove any surface contamination. Cut away any parts that have been ruptured or cut by a bullet or arrow, but otherwise make few cuts, except to partition into one-meal portions.

Wild hog liver and onions with potatoes.

  Before cooking, allow the liver to semi-thaw and then cut into slices about 3/8ths- inches thick. Remove any large blood vessels that may still be attached. Start canola or olive oil heating in frying pan. Coat liver in flour, salt and pepper mixture. When oil is hot fry liver, taking care not to be hit by popping oil when you add the liver.  Brown liver on both sides, remove and drain. Pour off excess oil. Some coating will be stuck to pan, let that remain.

  Dice two medium Spanish onions and add to pan. Put on medium heat. Scrape pan with spatula until onions caramelize and any stuck-on residue is free. Return liver to pan and add water to cover. Allow liver to steam until tender. Serve hot with pan scrapings and onions on top.

  As a variant, put left-over liver on bottom of dish and add cooked  spinach with a  sprinkle of cheese on top. Reheat for 15 minutes, garnish with sliced hard-boiled eggs on top and serve.

  Small livers from geese and turkeys are incorporated into giblet

Deer liver pate.

gravy (see recipe in my books Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound and X-Treme Muzzleloading: Fur, fowl and dangerous game with muzzleloading rifles, smoothbores and pistols (Summer, 2010).    Or crushed, the veins removed and mixed with mayonnaise to make a pate.

  Huge livers from moose and the like, are often made into liver sausage.

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Stryker Crossbows for $750

The Stryker with its built-in crank cocker enabled the author to take these two backyard deer without climbing down from the stand to recock the crossbow.

  I recently visited Bass Pro’s store in Macon, Georgia, and in the bargain area they had reconditioned Stryker crossbows for $750 compared to their release price of about $1,700. These crossbows were factory reconditioned with factory warranties, cases and accessories. 

 The Stryker made a splash 2-years ago as the fastest crossbow on the market. It reported a speed of over 400 fps with a heavy arrow which attracted immediate attention. Since then BowTech (the maker) has brought out lower powered (and much more user friendly) crossbows that are better suited to the average hunter. 

  The reason that the Stryker was discontinued was because it was too big, heavy and complicated to please most hunters. After receiving a sample and shooting it extensively, I found no mechanical problems; but expect to replace strings about every 100 shots. 

  This high-speed instrument is a specialized tool for the person who wants to push the comfortable limit of crossbow hunting to 50 yards. The arrow drop at 50 yards is about 6-inches when the crossbow is zeroed at 20 yards. I had no mechanical problems with the crossbow, even when a string broke. The instrument appears to be  sufficiently “overdesigned” so that the limbs will not fly apart when the string fails. I particularly like the way it drives very wide-bladed mechanical points, like the Grim Reaper with extra long blades, through game.  

  Compared with the present high-speed products from PSE, which either use an AR-15  trigger assembly platform or another model which has a non-gun firing mechanism, the Stryker is much better as a hunting instrument and does not require special factory-furnished arrows. 

 Things to watch for with the Stryker concerns the strings. In storage, particularly in hot weather, the strings will stretch and change the bow’s zero. This can be corrected to removing the strings, shortening them by twisting and using the factory-supplied restringing cables to reinstall them. These strings will ultimately fail and must be kept waxed and the rails lubed for longer use cycles. They will polish the deck somewhat and the second, and subsequent strings will last longer than the first. 

  For anyone who shoots from a stand and wants longer range crossbow capabilities or who has to have the “baddest” crossbow on the block, the Stryker at $750 is an outstanding buy.

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Guns and Uses for the .410 Gauge

Modern 2 1/2-inch and 3-inch .410s with an old 3-inch paper-hull shell shown between the plastic loads.

  Although commonly called “a gauge,” the .410 shotshell in either 2 1/2-inch or 3-inch chamberings is more properly “a bore” as the number refers to bore diameter in tenths of inches.

  ” Well, what about it? Is it really useful in modern chamberings?”

  Yes, the .410 is very useful on close-flushing  game (like stomping up rabbits in young pines) and on easy-to-disable game in cold weather. I also like it for squirrel hunting in wet weather when they are feeding on the ground and offer close-range shots.

A Italian Vernona over/under double (top), a Spanish Stoeger Zephyr side-by-side from the 1970s and a modern Mossberg 500 pump (bottom).

  The .410 is chambered in single shots, combination guns (Savage 42  which is typically 22 L.R. or .22 Rimfire Magnum/.410), double guns and even in revolvers as a close-range self-defense round loaded with both slugs and shot. Typically .410s are tightly choked and their performance is often improved if one barrel of a double is opened up and the other left extra-full. The tightest choked .410 barrel that I ever found was on a Savage 42 that was made in the 1930s when it and the 3-inch .410 were introduced.

  Youngsters can start out with the 2 1/2-inch .410 in the Savage. I don’t like single-barreled .410s for kids because all that I have ever handled kicked hard with the 3-inch shell. By the time kids have grown enough to handle a pump gun,  it is better to get them a 20-gauge gun, rather than a .410.

  I have killed truckloads of small game with the .410, one wild turkey shot on the wing at 15-yards and have never been without one. A South Carolina friend turkey hunts with his. He delights in calling the birds to within 20 yards, which is well within the gun’s effective range.

 I also enjoyed using .410 doubles  in Alaska on spruce grouse and snowshoe hares. The big rabbits broke out of the snow at very close range, and you had to be on them in a hurry or not shoot at all. The same applies for Southeastern rabbits hunted in planted pines where I would quit after I got five. I did not want to carry any more rabbits around in the game pouch of my shooting vest. 

  In short, the .410 bore is nice to have around if you have close-range work for it.

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More about Swan Hunting

Swan hunting is a closely regulated activity. Each hunter in the U.S. is allowed one bird a year, provided that he has been drawn for a non-transferable permit and conforms with all other federal and state waterfowling regulations.

 Not only do many North American swan hunters go through some variations of the processes that I describe in my video, “Swan Hunting and Cooking,”  there are also some necessary legal steps to be taken.  

 Swan permits are allocated by the Federal Governments to a few Western states in the U.S. and some Western Canadian provinces as well as to the Mid-Atlantic states. These permits must be applied for and are typically awarded in an annual drawing. In NC, permit applications must be received by October 1. If successful, the hunter is given a tag.  Only one swan per permit holder may be taken in most areas.

  After the hunt, whether successful or not, the holder has to report to the state on his hunt. This process insures that close accountings are made on the outcome of each year’s hunt which helps officials plan the next season.   Swan are big, aggressive birds both in feeding and occupying nesting areas. If their numbers are not controlled, they crowd out other native ducks and geese. This is the reason that a controlled harvest of swan is permitted.

No one minds a few swan, like this family group of Mute Swan on Town Lake in Austin, TX. When their numbers grow to hundreds or thousands, they cause environmental problems.

  The NC swan that have been feeding on green vegetation and corn for months by the time I hunt them are excellent eating – the best of all waterfowl.  Those taken from alkali playas in the West are not nearly so good. I have not had the opportunity to try a Mute Swan, and do not know about those. 

 The NC swan are Tundra (whistling) Swan. There is also an invasive species, the European Mute Swan, which is also breeding in the U.S. and often seen in ponds located on public parks.  Now,  some mute swan are in wild-breeding populations and are mixing with flocks of native swan in NC and other states. An increasing number of states are encouraging the harvest of these exotic swan in areas where the flocks have grown to the stage that they consist of hundreds or thousands of birds and compete with native species. 

  The best control measure for mute swan is to take birds from the population each year to keep them within desired limits, rather than wait until hundreds of birds must be killed to protect public health and other reasons. Swan can cause no less of a problem that non-migrating Canadian geese. 

  Wildlife, of any sort, has a history of not making good park or lawn ornaments; however attractive they may be.