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Troubleshooting Your Crossbow When Arrows Fly Badly

Exacting shot placement is what is expected from a crossbow. When your good-shooting crossbow starts to perform erratically, here's how to diagnose the problem/s.

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  In any crossbow’s life there will come a time when this once reliable and accurate instrument will start shooting erratically. Attempting to dope out where the problem/s is/are can be challenging and take a long time if you attempt it haphazardly.

  Erratic arrow flight from what once was a precise shooting instrument can come from a number of causes.

A: Bent and or warped arrows. Check your shafts. Use only one good  shaft and point when attempting to diagnose a crossbow problem. This way this potential problem area is avoided. Chose a straight shaft and a balanced point to continue testing.

B: Does your problem seem to be progressive or are the shots randomly distributed?  If the problem is that your crossbow seems to be shooting lower and lower, this is usually a sign of a weakening string. Replacing the string should solve this problem.

C: If your shots shoot occasionally to the point of aim and then higher and lower, some component in your crossbow, the limb attachment, forend attachment, sigh mounting may have loosed over time. With proper fitted wrenches (Some crossbows use American Standard and others are Metric, and Allen wrench types can vary between the sight mounts and crossbows.) tighten up your connections and shoot some more. If four or five shots are still scattered even after attempting to adjust the sights, this makes it more likely that the problem lies with the sight.

D: Crossbow optics are delicate and often not particularly well made. It is easy to strip the adjustment function on any type of crossbow sight to the point where any amount of adjustment results in no change in arrow impact. If you mounts are solid, then the internal mechanism of the sight is apparently stripped. The way to check this is to install a new sight, and then re-shoot the crossbow.  If the crossbow now returns to its old good-shooting characteristics, that proves that the sights were the problem all along.

E:  All this assumes that you are shooting from a solid rest (usually at 20 yards), using a rope cocker to get even pressure across the limbs and are paying close attention to sight picture and trigger pull. Time was when crossbows had terrible triggers and trying to get a uniform release from some super-hard triggers was very difficult. The last of these was the Horton Steel Force that I, and many others, found to be almost unshootable from anything but a rock-solid rest. This crossbow worked, was the least expensive crossbow in the Horton line for years, but has thankfully been removed from the market. If you have a chance to get one, don’t.

  For more on crossbows check out my book, Crossbow Hunting, on my website,

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Rino Bottom-Shooting .357 Revolver, Lyman .38-55 Sharps Rifle

The Chiappa Rino revolver is a .357 revolver with the barrel located at the bottom of the cylinder for less felt recoil even in magnum calibers.


  Designed by Rino Chiappa from a concept that had been first tried, a decade or longer ago, for Olympic target pistols, the new Rino revolver was given his name. This 6-shot, .357 Magnum revolver has a smooth double action trigger pull, can also be fired single action, and is available in a variety of barrel lengths from about 2-7-inches. The longer barreled versions are equipped with a rail for the attachment of lights or other accessories.

The Rino revolver showing its flat-sided cylinder.

  I had the chance to shoot this revolver at the Range Day event preceding the 2011 Shot Show and was impressed with its smooth functionality and performance. Although a bit “strange-looking” to U.S. customers, this pistol worked very well. It received some adverse comments that its finish was not as good as it might have been and its interchangeable grips (several styles to fit large and small hands) were unusually shaped.

  Where it counted, and the only thing that counted in my book in a self-defence gun, was that it worked very well, was controllable even with the .357 and shot better than some similar-sized revolvers that I had struggled with in the past. With prices ranging between $500 and $700 these revolvers are very interesting items to play in the U.S. self-defence market.

This 20% reduction of the Sharps makes the Lyman .38-55 a neat package for deer hunting.

  Chiappa is mostly noted in the U.S. for its introduction of black powder replica firearms, although not above introducing some new variations such as a scale-reduced model of the Sharps Rifle in .22 Hornet and .38-55 that in the U.S. is being exclusively marketed through Lyman, the maker of lead bullet molds, casting equipment, sights and gun accessories. This little rifle sells for $1,500, and would be a handsome deer-killer in anyone’s collection.

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.410 Shotshell Shooting Revolvers

The Tarus revolver chambered for the 3-inch .410 now has special "buck and slug" ammo designed to ensure close-range hits.


  Shotshells in pistols and revolvers have a reasonable modern history. My experience with them started with Thompson/Center Arms’ .44 Hot Shot which was a barrel for their single-shot pistol that could accept either the .44 Remington Magnum or shot-capsule-loaded shells for small game shooting. The barrel was rifled, but had a screw-on choke which helped to slow the spin of the shot charge and give better patterns. A later version of this barrel was chambered for the 3-inch .410 and .45 Long Colt, but these were frowned upon by the ATF, removed from the market, and then later, I think, finally re-allowed.

  My problems with such guns has been sighting them in. If I sight in for a solid lead load, that meant  that the shot charge may, or may not, fly to about the same point of aim.

  I had the opportunity to shoot the Tarus at the last couple of Shot Shows, and at 10 yards it does reasonably well. Beyond that,  the number of hits on the figure of a man decreases as does the potential effectiveness of the load. If the object of using a pistol is to quickly disable the subject, the relatively light weight and poor penetration characteristics of the projectiles (round balls and flat discs) of some loads argue against it. The potential for hits is increased, but the probable disabling ability of the load rapidly diminishes beyond across the room distances.

  A determined person taking a hit from such a load at say 25 yards could still likely continue his assault with potentially lethal consequences. He will be injured to some degree, but not disabled. I would like to hear of some real-world circumstances of such shootings and their consequences.

Smith and Wesson's new Governor which was first shown at the 2011 Shot Show.

  Smith and Wesson’s new Governor is a 6-shot revolver has optional lazer grip sights that can be zeroed in for a given load. This gun will shoot .45 Long Colt, the .45 ACP (with half-moon clips) and the 3-inch .410 loads. I have dry fired this gun and much like its double-action trigger pull. This is not a pocket pistol.  If I had named it, I would have called it the “Home Defender” because this is how I see this gun as being used.

  Many shooters already reload load one or the other of the two .45s and likely have cases and components. What I would recommend is picking a load that the gun shoots reasonably well and using the lazer-sight to establish a good zero so that one could reasonably engage a person at 50 yards if needed or at point-blank range if necessary.

  Perhaps the wife is not so well-practiced or confident of being able to handle this relatively large pistol. For her, perhaps the .410 would be the appropriate selection. The chamber loadings might also be alternated, but my usual luck would have me shooting the least appropriate round. In a life or death situation, you do not want to be concerned about re-indexing a cylinder or reloading your gun.

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Slow Downloads with Telephones and Low-Speed Connections

  The very qualities that make the Backyard Deer Hunting Blog attractive and useful slow connections speeds on devices with limited memory and low operating speeds. My use of multiple photos, videos and internal links unfortunately make these blog entries very slow to bring up on dial-up connections and most telephones. That is the present state of technology. The only real user solution is to use faster systems and more capable portable devices.

  Things can be improved somewhat if you access this blog directly by linking to, rather than using a window on my website, This will help some telephone users, but unfortunately even direct access will not help dial-up users. Higher speed and more available memory are the best solutions.

  Another alternative is to obtain much of this information from my books Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound,  Crossbow Hunting, Practical Bowfishing and X-Treme Muzzleloading. The last title will be available later this year as will a DVD version of  Backyard Deer Hunting.  Both are now in the final stages of production, but, as almost always, seem to take longer to get out that they seemingly ought to. For muzzleloading information you can also consult my annual review of this topic in Gun Digest and I write fairly often about knives in the monthly publication Knife World.  Yet another way to access my materials is through my radio shows. There is the archived show “The Backyard Sportsman” on VoiceAmerica Sports Radio where 13 mostly instructional shows will be found and may be listened to anytime, and my active weekly show “Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures” with current and archived shows on Both sets of shows have hunting-fishing information and cooking segments, and there is also a business-starting segment on “The Backyard Sportsman.”

  My objective is to provide the best available information on these topics in a variety of formats, although not everything will be accessible to all users on every device.

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Greeting the New Year with Discount Peas, Wild Hog Meat, Sour Greens and the Dregs of New Wine

As we eat the wild hogs and sour greens while washing it down with the dregs of this year's new wine may the worst be behind us.

  For many 2010 was a year of hunker down, make do and get by. The dawning of January 1, 2011, was welcomed with a traditional Southern good-luck meal consisting of black-eyed peas, greens and smoked pork. Corn bread is a traditional accompaniment, but $3.00 gas prohibited a trip in town to the store for a single item. I do not garden , so a can of mixed greens had to do instead of a large pot of washed, stripped and cut up collards on the back of the stove producing a pungent, some would say stinking, odor in the house.

Black-eyed peas and onions preheating prior to pressure cooking.

  I had started at 3:00 AM with the soaked  88 cent package of peas from the Dollar Store.  I had already thawed and marinated slices of  Texas wild hog meat  in brine and cane syrup. This meat was patted dry with paper towels and then put into the smoker over hickory coals for three hours – just enough to give smoke flavor to the meat, but not dry it out. At 10:00 AM, the partly expanded peas, one large diced onion, salt, pepper and the cut up hog meat was put into a pressure cooker. After reaching operating temperature the beans were allowed to cook for 20 minutes, which finished them off and tenderized the hog meat.

  Also in the early morning hours of the New Year the pear wine was decanted and bottled. The dregs containing the sediment were put into a pitcher in which the sediment settled prior to pouring a small glass for the meal. Drinking the dregs of the old year seemed to provide some solace in preparation for facing the year ahead.  Opening and heating the canned mixed greens proved to be the simplest part of making the meal. The old year was worthy of no pretence or celebration, and the New Year’s meal was consumed with the hope of better times with a dash of vinega -pepper sauce on the greens to steel me for its  ups and downers, for there will be both..

  As I had greeted the New Year by myself there was no need to set plates on the table as I “supped sorrow with the poor” that all too many are becoming. Stephen Foster wrote that phrase in his song “Hard Times” along with “Many days have you lingered by my cabin door. Hard Times, Hard Times, come again no more.  I have the same wish for everyone.

  The first day 2011 started well with a friend unexpectedly bring me a fresh road-killed deer to put some meat in the freezer for myself and my dogs. From that deer I made sausage, messy, but eatable. Perhaps this is an indication of what the coming year will be  – a messy one that is going to need a lot of work, but having a positive outcome.

  May good fortune be visited upon you all as we fight hour way through “The Great Recession ” to  “The Messy Recovery.” Maybe we all will see some of that next year. Some say they are now, but far, far from all. For those on retirement incomes, this “recovery” seems to be a slow, halting and uncertain proposition. 

The new wine holds promise. A toast to friend and stranger alike for  good health and good fortune in 2011.

 Wm. Hovey Smith, The Backyard Sportsman, 2011.

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Camp Trail Soup Mixes Designed for Wild Game Components

Using a Camp Trails Wild Rice soup mix to make a swan soup from the leftovers of a Christmas swan.

Soup mixes used in testing were provided by Camp Traditions.

   Five soup mixes from Camp Trains are designed to be used with wild-game components to provide tasty meals in hunt camp and at home. These mixes are produced by a Minnesota company and are best considered soup bases to which the cook adds meat and other components to produce hearty soups for up to eight diners. The foil-lined packages contain dried components which could keep for years in a pantry or camp food box.

  Presently offered are Chile, Potato Garlic, Cheese, Wild Rice and Beef Barley mixes.. All are improved  by adding one finely diced onion, salt and pepper.  I also used a variety of meats and some fish in these soups. When I cooked the soups, I found it very useful to employ a wisk to insure break-up and through mixing of the dried components. I like my soups a bit thicker than these recipes cook, so I also added more rice, potatoes or beans. Using a pressure cooker reduced the cooking time to about 40 minutes.

Wild Rice. Although this mix might be used with any fowl or mild-tasting meat, I used leftover meat from a Christmas swan. I also added 1/4-cup of regular rice, 1 finely diced onion, 1/4-teaspoon of dill weed, additional salt and black pepper to fill out the soup.  The end result was a thick, filling soup. Other things that would work well include wild turkey meat, goose meat, quail, dove, prairie chicken and other grouse. If  no wild meat was available, chicken might be substituted. The amount of meat is not critical and about a pound would be appropriate.

  Cheese Soup.  There is a blend of cheeses in this mix. To it I added a pound of my homemade Italian deer sausage, a cut-up onion, two stalks   of celery, and would have also added broccli,  but I did not have any on hand.   Almost anything could be put into this cheese base and it would work because of the heavy flavors of the cheeses.. Because the sausage was already seasoned, no additional salt or pepper was needed in this soup.

   Garlic Potato. After a fairly steady diet of fowl and deer, I decided that I would use this to make a fish chowder. I used about 1-pound of frozen fish, one diced onion, three small peeled and diced Irish potatoes. salt and pepper to produce a potato based chowder. After thawing the fillets, I diced them and added them to the water and soup base. Once the soup started to cook I tasted and added some salt and black pepper.

Like the other soups this was also cooked in a pressure cooker for about 20 minutes. Pressure cooking helped to insure that the dried components in the soup were fully re-hydrated and that the additional potatoes were cooked.

Chili. Midwesterners don’t know how to make a good Chili. Some of the necessary ingredients were in the mix, but I found it needed 1-tablespoon of Chili powder, 1/2-teaspoon of crushed red pepper, 1/3 of a green bell pepper, one medium diced onion and a can of dark red kidney beans. I browned a pound of deer meat with the onions and bell pepper and added this to the soup before pressure cooking.  

  Using a pressure cooker allowed the pre-cooked dried beans to re-hydrated and the remainder of the components to blend.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Beef Barley.  One pound of lean ground deer was browned along with one diced onion. This was added to the soup mix along with one 14-oz. can of stewed tomatoes, one cut up Roma tomatoes, 1/4-cup of rice, salt and pepper. The soup was then pressure cooked for 20 minutes. I liked the result. The soup is still thin enough to qualify as a soup. but I like the rice-thickened soup better.

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Making Wine from Pears and other Fruits

Decanting homemade pear wine.


  Pears, peaches, apples, persimmons and other fruits may be used to make homemade wines with relatively simple equipment. The basics include a food-grade fermentation vessel, a recipe book, yeast and a variety of other things that your local vineyard can likely supply.  Although these kits may be purchased by mail from Cabelas, Bass Pro and other outlets, I recommend working with a local wine maker. Many will give a basic class that includes the price of a start-up wine-making kit.

The new pear wine.
  In my case the hard canning pear provided the fruit. In 2010 the trees bore strongly and even after putting up pear sauce, poached pears and making pear pies there were sufficient pears to make gallons of wine. I only did a small batch starting off with 8 pounds of cooked pear sauce, 5 pounds of sugar and let that mix ferment for 6 days. After that the wine was decanted and allowed to ferment from August to January. At that time fermentation had stopped and the mix was no longer yielding gas.  The wine has a pear taste and a bit of a bite.

  The fruit wines are best drunk fairly quickly as they do not keep as well as grape wines. You should plan on consuming them within a year.  I also used the pear pulp after it had fermented to make a pear bread by mixing it with some butter and whole-wheat flour. The Scotch in me would not allow me to discard what was a potentially eatable product.

  I did a short video of the process which is on YouTube and available at the following link if you have any problems watching it here:,

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Urban Deer Hunting in a Backyard Setting, GA, 2011

This buck struck near a friend's in-town house prompted a follow-up deer hunt in his back yard.

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  In my book. Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound. I advocate hunting close to home as well as salvaging road-killed deer. New Year’s day found me processing a road-killed buck that  friend Roger Kicklighter had recovered near his house. We decided to go there for an early-morning hunt the following day, with the results shown in the following video. During a period of three days, not only was this buck struck by a car, but a doe was also killed by a vehicle strike very near his house.

  I do not know of a more practical demonstration of a statement that I have often made, “We are going to take these deer with our guns and bows or we are going to take them with our cars and trucks. You have your choice.” Over the years I have taken three deer from behind Roger’s house, another of his friends has taken two and now that he has a bow that he can shoot well, I expect that Roger will take some more too.

  Georgia allows the use of bows and crossbows when hunting urban and near-urban areas. These instruments are very effective, kill well and when used from tree stands all the shots are directed at down angles towards the ground effectively preventing the arrow from causing danger to nearby residents when used by careful and knowledgable hunters. There is no practical difference between the relative lethality of guns and archery equipment used at close range. In fact, sometimes deer taken with sharp arrows that do not strike bone are not even aware that they have been hit. They feel tired, lie down and die from internal bleeding.

  If you are having a problem viewing the video  “Urban Deer in a Backyard Setting, GA, 2011” in this post, it is also  on YouTube and may be seen by clicking the following link:

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Medium-Length Knives for Deer and Other Game

These knives with 3.5 to 4-inch blades are optimum lengths for most deer processing, but too short for meat cutting.

  Modern technology and design has allowed the construction of strong, lightweight knives, that a hunter can easily carry in the field, do not get in the way while he makes his way through the woods and provide sufficient blade length to skin, gut and do most of the initial work on a deer. The above photo features three folding and three fixed-blade knives.  All but one  have  points, which are popular for most such knives but tend to poke through hides if too acute. A unique knife is the Camillus Lever Lock “prison” knife which was issued to guards to cut down inmates who tried to hang themselves. The shape of this  blade is similar to secondary gutting blades used in  European folding hunters. I prefer the more rounded drop-point blades than the very sharp- pointed clip blade on the Puma folder in the left-center of the photo.

  The folding knife beneath the Puma is Buck’s Ergohunter which has a thicker, stronger blade for working around joints. The hollow-ground blades used on the Ka-bar Piggy Back (bottom center) cut easier than the saber-ground blades used on the OD Hartsook neck skeletal neck knife above it. when both were sharpened to a similar edge. As in all blade designs, there are trade-offs between the two styles. The saber-ground blades have more metal and resist snapping and edge chipping, while the hollow grind proves what everyone knows, that thin things, even paper, will cut. Different blade grinds have different end-use attributes. The more metal in the blade the more abuse it will accept.

Knives your Grandpa might carry.

    All of the knives except for the Marble’s fixed blade in the upper left of the photo and the Leatherman Hunter milti-tool at the bottom have blades between 3.5 and 4-inches long. The Schrade Sharp Finger in the upper right is once again available. This made for a strong, but light, fixed-blade knife. Milti-bladed knives in this photo include a Victorinox West German army issued knife with a saw blade with a detachable guard  (the saw really works) and a cork screw,  a twin-bladed Buck  Crosslock with cutting and saw blades and a gut hook, a Case XX Changer with interchangeable blades, a Remington folder with cutting and saw blades and at the top right a Remington folding Waterfowler.  All of these will process deer, although the multi-tool has the shortest (2-inch) blade and would be the most awkward to use.

Two Schrade products, a twin bladed slip-jointed hunter and the Sharpfinger represent the upper end of this size range.

  These two Schrade knives along with the Buck Folding Hunter and numerous similar lock-back knives made by other companies, represent the upper end of this class of knives. In some European countries lock-backed knives are considered “weapons,” rather than tools and may not be sold. In Washington state, proposed legislation would have restricted the general  carry knife (pocket knives without needing a concealed carry permit) to blade lengths of 3.5 inches. The first offense is a misdemeanor, but the second is a felony with mandatory 2-year jail time in many states. If you do not now, pay attention to your knife laws in the states or countries where you hunt.

  The open carry of sheath knives is not generally a problem, it is when these might be covered by other garments or concealed, like a neck or boot knife, where difficulties might arise with different local and state laws. If there is any doubt about how you might carry a knife or where, a concealed weapon carry permit from your home state is relatively inexpensive insurance.

  For efficient meat cutting longer blades are helpful and considerably speed up the process.  A discussion of these knives will be in a later post. I also have discussions on knives in my books “Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for  pennies per pound” and in my forthcoming book, “X-Treme Muzzleloading.” Go to my website for details and also to previous blogs such as “Tiny Knives for Deer Processing..” I will also have a future radio show on knives at “Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures.”

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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 38,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 92 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 158 posts. There were 521 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 4gb. That’s about 1 pictures per day.

The busiest day of the year was September 10th with 277 views. The most popular post that day was Best Production American Made Revolver and Bolt Action Rifle.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for crossbow, bowfishing, mossberg 835, deer stew, and stryker crossbow.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Best Production American Made Revolver and Bolt Action Rifle October 2009
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Barnett RC-150 Crossbow – Approved February 2010


Hunting Big Game with Muzzleloading Pistols April 2010
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Choosing among today’s crossbows August 2009


Stryker Crossbows for $750 February 2010