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Buffalo Percussion Revolver Takes First Game

The .44-caliber Cabela's Buffalo percussion revolver from Pietta takes a squirrel as its first game animal.

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  As part of the preparation for writing my article on black powder guns for the  Gun Digest Annual,  I have been developing heavy hunting loads for the stainless steel Buffalo revolver with a 12-inch barrel imported by Cabelas and the discontinued Ruger Old Army.  These muzzleloading, percussion revolvers have top straps, like the 1858 Remington, adjustable sights, and solid frames. They represent, in my opinion, the most capable muzzleloading revolvers that are/were  commercially available.

  Using Hodgdon’s Triple Seven powder and both round ball and elongate bullets, I have confirmed the findings of others that these components in strongly-built guns will closely approach or exceed the 500 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy generally stated as being the threshold value for killing deer-sized game. In the case of the Pietta revolver, this round ball load developed 470 ft. lbs. from its long barrel. Although a 240 grain elongate bullet did exceed the 500 ft. lbs. threshold, it is too inaccurate with this gun’s slow-twist barrel to meet my requirements.

  My first test on live targets for round-ball rifles and handguns is to take them squirrel hunting. If I can consistently shoot squirrels with the loads, then they are certainly accurate enough to kill deer. I use my deer-powered loads for everything to keep from having to remember to hold over or under the game and to accustom myself to the handling characteristics of the gun. I once had considerable trouble with Cantank, a .45-caliber flintlock rifle. Ultimately I developed a load consisting of 85 grains of FFg black powder, an over powder Wonder Wad and Cream of Wheat filler loaded under a lubricated patched .440 round ball. This load nailed seven squirrels in a row and has subsequently taken two deer and most recently a wild turkey.

  The Pietta revolver, loaded with round ball, had already been on two squirrel hunts. but this season’s very dry weather produced no shot opportunities. Archery season arrived and under a recently enacted piece of Georgia Legislation, holders of concealed handgun carry permits may also take handguns to their deer stands during archery season, although they may not use them to shoot deer.  On my fourth trip out this season I walked out to where I already had my stand and crossbow pre-positioned and carried the Pietta revolver on the mile trip to my hunting location.

  As I hunt literally, in my back yard, I walk to my stands to keep vehicles out of my woods during hunting season as well as to obtain some useful exercise for someone who spends hours a day sitting at a keyboard. This morning I was a bit quieter that usual in that I was not dragging a sled or carrying a tree stand. 

  Not quite 100 yards from the edge of my yard I heard a squirrel chattering at me from one of a number of old oak trees that formed an old hedgerow. Drawing my pistol from my holster I quietly retraced my steps. Although the trees are still green and in full green leaf, I ultimately spotted him sitting on a limb about 20-yards away.

 I took off my glasses (because I see iron sights better without them), and holding the long gun with both hands took an off-hand shot. Immediately following there was the solid thunk of the ball hitting the tree behind the squirrel and the  plop of  the squirrel hitting the ground. The Buffalo Revolver had taken its first game. The ball had caught the squirrel in a portion of the head and killed it instantly. One thing about using these heavy loads on squirrels, is that you seldom have to shoot them twice.  And no, they do not “blow them to pieces.”  The balls  just punch a .44-caliber hole through the animal.

I also use the Ruger for gator hunting.

 This was not an unusual activity for me. I had commonly take squirrels with the Ruger Old Army as well as with a variety of other .30-.50 caliber muzzleloading handguns. What followed was, that I had to clean the gun. I removed the cylinder, took the caps off the other chambers, removed the nipple and used brushes, rags, water and rubbing alcohol to clean the chamber. This saved the other four loads. (I only load five chambers and carry on an empty one.)  The barrel was also cleaned and the frame whipped down with a wet rag followed by one soaked in alcohol. After everything was throughly dry the next morning, the chamber was reloaded and the gun reassembled.

 A couple of times a season, usually after a rain, I will go out and it seems that every tree will be full of squirrels. More usually I will collect one or two a trip, as I did here. When I get a half-dozen, these often go to make squirrel dumplings. I have a YouTube video on cleaning squirrels at: and another on  making  squirrel dumplings at: http://youtu.b0e/nOfhw1ZqTIw. In addition, I have recipes for squirrel stew and other wild game dishes in my books including  Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound  which you can find on my website at or order from and other E-retail book outlets.

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Bread, Beer, Pudding and Deer Scent From Wild American Persimmons

Persimmons may be used for a variety of breads, pies, puddings and even to make beer as well as providing deer-attracting scent pads.

 We are living in a time when many need to recapture some of the knowledge that our grandparents had in regards to making food from free wild products. The American persimmon can be used to make breads, puddings, beer and even be frozen for use as a deer attractant  long after all the wild fruit has been consumed.

  Deer love persimmons.  Even rutting bucks will check out a persimmon tree that is dropping fruit and make  scrapes near persimmon groves.

  The following video was made in early September in Central Georgia. The fruit from the tree I used was fully ripe and dropping on the ground. Fruit that is still hanging on the tree may have an astringent taste until the first frost sets the sugars, however by that time most of the persimmons will have ripened, fallen and been consumed.

Persimmon beer being fermented.

When you gather persimmons you want to use only the soft ripe fruit may be discolored and have split skins. This is picked up from the ground or forest floor and washed. I then take a large spoon and mash the fruit in coarse sieve. The seed with clinging pulp and skins are put into a gallon jug with water, yeast (one tablespoon), brewing enzyme (six drops), sugar (one cup) and yeast food (one teaspoon). This will start fermenting as soon as the entire mixture warms.  This could be decanted and drunk anytime after fermentation is under way. I prefer a weakly bubbling product that is something between beer and wine.  The result is a lightly yellow-green-tinted drink that has a bit of citrus taste, like weak grapefruit juice or un-sweetened  lemonade. When chilled this is very refreshing without the belly bloating feel of regular beers.  

  I let it ferment for 5-6 days or until it has almost quit. Then I strain it, pour it up into a glass pitcher and refrigerate. As I make it in small batches, I just put it into the fridge until I consume it. You could bottle it, but I have not.

  Even the wipe-out from the containers has uses.   I take the paper towels with the persimmon mash on them and hang these around my deer stand as a deer attractant. When these are frozen in plastic bags they keep indefinitely – even from one year to the next.

Persimmon seed in deer droppings.

Once the seed and mash have gone through fermentation and are strained out, I plant the seeds in areas where I want persimmons.  In the natural run of things, these seed pass through the digestive systems of deer and then germinate.  I think that my seeds that have gone through the fermentation process in glass jars are likely to sprout as well, although I do not know that for a fact.  I am going to plant some this year and find out.

  If you cannot view the following video easily here. I also have it on YouTube at:

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So Where Do You Get That?

  This cryptic question appeared on one of the responses to this blog. I receive hundreds of post in my spam file a week about this blog, over 33,000 thus far, which mostly say nothing about the content of my work but most often are very laudatory in the apparent hope that I will post their contact info for everything from sex ads to do-dads.

 Some small percentage of these people have actually read my blog posts, or at least one of them, but are obviously sending a generic general-content message that could be sent to anyone and very likely is being sent to hundreds of others. Not uncommonly, they even steal from each other,  and I receive exactly the same comment from four or five different addresses.  I do not think such comments offer anything to my readers and do not post them.

  To answer the question, “Where do you get that?”

  I invent, write, photograph or otherwise make it. I provide very nearly all of the content of my blogs except for the occasional photo or short piece of info that might be from a manufacturer. The experiences that I write about are my own, my own invention or those that I have heard from others who I know very well. I do not use other people’s materials on my blog and only rarely does anyone compose or have input into what I say.  

  This might change a little when I have live-in interns who come here to Whitehall and work with me for three months while I teach them something of the arts of writing, videography and broadcasting. They help me. I help them, and we learn from each other. This is damn tough work. It is like living with a very demanding grandfather five days a week. Not only do they do the creative stuff, but also help me keep this place together by doing some of the physical work to keep a rural lifestyle going. 

  At the end of their stay they will leave with a portfolio of work that they can call their own, an outline of their prospective business and the knowledge of how to make money from it. Some of my interns’ work may ultimately appear on my blogs, but very soon they will have the confidence to start their own. So if you really want to know how I do stuff, come and intern with me for a few months and start to learn the craft.

  If you have basic computer skills, some web savvy already, and can get some seed money; I can start you on your own outdoor business that might ultimately be worth millions – provided that you have the personal drive to make it happen.  That I cannot supply.     


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Cutting and Burning Large Limbs from Backyard Trees


Burning cuttings and smaller branches from pecan and other trees is a convenient way to remove yard debris in rural areas when done safety under high-moisture conditions.

 Many northern residents are moving South to enjoy a more pleasant climate and reduce living costs. Some relocate to old homes or old orchards containing large pecan trees that may be 20 to 70-years old. These trees will very often shed some big limbs in late Summer. Pecans are members of the hickory family, and this is tough, hard wood.  It is best worked up with a chain saw and small hand tools. There is no need to call in an expensive tree specialist to whack up and burn some backyard limbs.

A selection of small cutting tools that might be used for branch trimming.

The chain saws that I show in the accompanying video are over 10-years-old and the smaller one had a blade that was just about sharp enough to cut butter, much less pecan, and it really struggled and smoked to make its way through the limb. With a sharp chain, things go much faster. I also had the typical trouble of getting it to fire up for the first time. Read the starting directions, cross your fingers and give it a try. If it does not go, then let it set for 10 minutes or so and try again. My larger saw was balky too. However, after it warmed up a bit it cut very well and made very fast work of  7-8 inch limbs.

  In cutting up the wood you will often find that it is home to a

Carpenter ants.

number of  insects such as  large black carpenter ants and sometimes even wasp and hornets. If you hear something buzzing as you move the limbs, it is wise to find out what that is and deal with it/them to avoid getting some painful bites while you are handling a running chain saw.

 Chain saws give nasty cuts that are painful, easily infected and take a long time to heal. Watch the videos that come with your saws, trim and carry away all of the smaller branches before you start cutting on the main part of the limbs to keep from getting the feet tangled and keep your immediate work area clear. Only one person should be cutting on a limb at the time. It is very easy for these limbs to unexpectedly shift and trap or kick-back a saw blade if more than one person is doing the cutting. The best solution is for one person to cut and another to drag away branches to the burn pile.  

  Pecan wood is very nice for fire places once it dries out, has an excellent heat value in wood stoves and is good for barbeques and smoking. Often I cook entire hogs using pecan wood and always use the twigs for starting charcoal to keep the petroleum products away from my grilled food. Carvers, wood turners and furniture makers also use pecan to produce pens, bowls, carvings and almost anything that needs to be made from wood.

  I have a burn spot in my back yard. My old trees continuously shed limbs and twigs.  When a pile of  them and yard trimmings builds up, I wait for a moist day and use my shredded mail and waste cardboard to start the blaze. Even green wood will burn once you have a good bed of coals. I also start my fires early in the morning when the grass/woods are damp and there is little or no wind. It is very easy for burning leaves and paper to be taken up on the hot gasses generated by the fire and ignite dry grass and leaves on the forest floor.  

 As an additional precaution, I also make sure that I have my water hose ready with sufficient length to reach the fire and surrounding area. Once the initial burn takes place, I throw the unburnt sticks from the edges into the fire and finally use a rake to push all of the smaller stuff into the middle of the pile so that it will be completely consumed.

  If I do not have an immediate use for the wood, I will take it to a friend who has a fireplace and outdoor cooking stove who can enjoy it. For more information on outdoor living go to my website where you can access my blooks, videos, blogs and radio shows, “Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures” and “The Backyard Sportsman.”

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Reality TV Concept Comes to Talk Radio and BP Oil Spill Recovery

Gulf Coast Task Force members, Biloxi, Mississippi, August 30, 2011

In a mash-up that mixes concepts of  radio  journalism, reality TV and professional testimony, I reported from President Obama’s Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Task  Force’s final public meeting that was held in Biloxi, Mississippi, on August 30, 2011. This reportage took the form of a YouTube video released within three days of the event, an episode of “Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures” radio show broadcast over on Sept. 19 and blog posts.

  The objective of this work is to help frame public policy by presenting a 200-year plan for the ecological restoration of the Mississippi River Delta.  Considering outside plans was one of the objectives of the Task Force. I submitted written comments to previous events in Pensacola, Florida, and Galveston, Texas, that had no detectable impact. To get my points across in the most effective way, it became apparent that I needed to attend the final meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi.

 These public hearings, although filled with significant information, are often dry and long-winded. My comments were written in the formal language of a Professional Geologist; but I certainly did not want to deliver them in that manner as I wanted to use my testimony as the core segment of my radio show. This show  provides entertainment and secondly, delivers content. I chose to give my testimony as “The Backyard Sportsman,” my radio persona. This show will be broadcast on Sept. 19 on To listen, go to my website, and click on the radio link immediately below the banner.

  Thus, not only have I tromped on the traditional rules of professional journalism and  incorporated a “reality TV” approach in that my show records  a real action in an unresolved event, I am also introducing performance art  in order to make appealing  radio. Did I succeed?  That is for you to judge. You can hear my presentation as well as view  photos of  the event by viewing my video at: You can contrast my oral comments with the attached copy of  my written recommendations.  

  I realized that the success of my efforts largely depended on exposure.  An adverse circumstance was that my testimony was delivered in a break-out listening session which was not recorded for the public record and only about 40 people heard it. However, two Task Force members were there, including the Task Force Director, John Hankinson. I was fortunate that I had my own recording equipment and had the foresight to bring 20 copies of my presentation to hand out to anyone who might be interested.  

   The listening sessions were to start after lunch. I recorded some materials from the introduction to the meeting and had lunch with a member of the Environmental Protection Agency who happened to be of Vietnamese extraction. From him I got an interesting segment on Vietnamese cooking and, in particular, the making of  fish sauce, which in the West was an important item of commerce during the days of the Roman Empire. 

  I got a little antsy before I was to speak, but fortunately there was an easel-mounted pad where I could post some of my points. I wrote these up, and almost as soon as I put up the title, “A 200-Year Plan for the Restoration of  Louisiana’s Mississippi Delta,” I heard some detracting remarks from the rear of the room to the effect that, “That will never work.”

  I replied to the 5th-generation Gulf  fisherman, “Listen to what I have to say. If you have questions later, I will be happy to answer them.”  After the presentation he found that he had little to disagree about, and he made no additional comments about my presentation. As it turned out, he and I apparently have very nearly the same opinions about many aspects of  these complex issues.  I also recorded some of his comments about the fishing industry for inclusion in my radio program.

  Finally, my time came to speak. I was certainly ready to go. I called myself an, “odd bird in this community,” which I certainly was. I was from Georgia, which is not a Gulf Coast state. I was not representing any organization, only myself. I am an author, radio  host, playwright, Professional Geologist, former Engineer Officer and performer. All went reasonably well until it came time to flip the pages on the tablet. My fingers decided that they did not want to work and I fumbled with the pages. The session facilitator turned the page, and I continued.

  One of punch lines was, “It is never a bad time to start a good thing.”  After delivering this line the second time I concluded with “So let’s get one started.”

  No applause.  No response.  Silence.  John Hankinson, the Conference Director, who had come in and was sitting behind me, rose and presented me with his Task Force pin which he said was in recognition of my long thought and hard work on this question.  Later he asked some off-the-record questions about how this plan might be implemented.

  Well, I did my gig. Did I do any good? That question will remain unanswered until the Task Force delivers its report to President Obama by the end of  2011. Like the best of  reality TV, this is a significant issue, the outcome will impact millions of people,  I am one man who gave this issue my best shot, and the ultimate outcome is still in doubt.

Stay tuned.


Wm. Hovey Smith, P.G.                                                                               August 30, 2011 

Public Comment

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force

Biloxi, Mississippi

August 30, 2011


Designing a 200-year Plan for Louisiana Wetlands

Restoration and Management


  Although all of the nation’s coastal wetlands are important, those associated with Louisiana’s Mississippi River Delta are nationally significant because of their size, economic contribution, impact on transportation, wildlife resources, seafood production and as a protection forNew Orleansand other up-river communities.

  This is a large geographic area that is subjected to adverse natural and man-made events that have occurred in the recent past and can be anticipated in the future. Some, such as the 2011  floods in the Mississippi River system have been managed to the extent that the major cities along the River have been protected and the levee system has kept some of the lower parishes dry, although large areas of the Mississippi and Missouri river valleys have been allowed to flood to reduce the danger to New Orleans and other cities.

  These Spring floods were a record event which resulted in wide-spread flooding of pre-designated areas. This event is remarkable in that adequate time was allowed for evacuation and few, if any, lives were lost. The system of engineered structures and levees held and the Corps of Engineers’ efforts can be considered successful. There were loses of crops and homes, but these were unavoidable consequences of living on and farming the very rich soils of theMississippiValley.

  Such things happen from time to time. The question is how to manage such events while minimizing losses to life and property while simultaneously fostering the ecological recovery and restoration of vital coastal wetlands?

   The options of doing nothing, restoring the Louisiana wetlands to the exact state they were at any time in the past or permitting unrestricted development are all impossible outcomes. Stabilizing and rebuilding the Mississippi Delta will require compromises and concessions to the ecological, economic, cultural, energy and transportation interests as well as continuing efforts though storm events, periodic failures and reversals. This can never be a build-it-and-leave-it response because of the dynamic nature of this huge natural system.

  Seen in the long view of geologic time, the present complex of coastal islands, waterways and marshes are but recent modifications of the last catastrophic event. Restoring the delta will be a continuing process of progressive, successive approximations which are somewhat predictable in their general result, but are subjected to too many variables to expect long-lived outcomes without continuous interventions. Practical examples are the needs for constant dredging to keep shipping channels to useable depths, levee repair and replacements, etc.     

Part I. Organizational attributes

  In order to successfully restoreLouisiana’s wetlands an optimum organization should have the following characteristics.

  A. Longevity. Restoration efforts are very long term projects, and such an organization should have a 200-year mandate.

  B. Science. Several organizations such as theNationalWetlandsResearchCenterof the U.S. Geological Survey have been studying the hydrology, geography and biology ofLouisianawetlands for more than a quarter-century. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers utilizes some of this information in their design programs.

  C. Stakeholder input. Because any decision to alter the present wetlands will have both negative and positive impacts, governmental groups from the state, parishes and town should be involved along with NGOs to represent environmental and economic interests.

  D. Local management. This organization should have its resources and personnel close at hand and have its operational functions inLouisiana.

  E. Decision making authority. Because of the need to respond rapidly to take advantage of short-term conditions, or to respond to hurricanes and other disasters, this organization needs to have the authority to immediately act to implement pre-planned activities. These might include opening certain levees when river levels reach predetermined flow rates.

  F. Use existing natural system as a base for rebuilding the wetlands, but acknowledging that these are geologically transitory features that can never be “restored” in the strict meaning of the word.

  G. The abilities to call-in resources from other organizations in order to fulfill its mandate for wetlands restoration and respond to emergencies.

  H. Independent funding sources to continue centuries long, but “non-sexy,” engineering projects. Funding would most likely be derived from oil, gas, shipping, greenhouse gas capture and other potential revenues.       

  No existing organization has all of these attributes. In a previous statement I thought that perhaps the U.S. Geological Survey, if sufficiently augmented, might be most appropriate as they have on staff most of the scientific personnel to consider the geological, ecological, hydrological, geographical, environmental, economic and cultural impacts. Further research revealed that while the above is generally correct so far as personnel and activities are concerned, the U.S.G.S. does not have the engineering, management capabilities or congressional mandate to undertake a project of this magnitude, although they would be expected to make a continuing scientific contribution.

  Born when the nation was in the midst of a depression, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) appears to offer the best model for an organization that can have the above-listed attributes. Although this may not be politically possible at present, I firmly believe that a new TVA-like organization needs to be established with the mission of restoringLouisiana’s wetlands over the next 200 years.  

  Such an organization would have the following significant advantages over any existing organization or grouping of them.

  A. A central mission of wetlands restoration.

  B. Stable management that would not have to be re-trained every few years or replaced with each election.

  C. Independent sources of revenue.

  D. Have direct input from local governmental organizations, business interests and NGOs.

  E. Be equipped and capable of rapid response to emergencies according to pre-approved plans.

  F. Arrange for the continuing management of programs that will outlive anyone in the organization.

  G. Be able to make the tough decisions and trade-offs between competing interest for the best outcomes for wetlands restoration and the people whose livelihoods depend on this ecosystem and the natural resources on and under them.

About the author.

  Wm. Hovey Smith is a Professional Geologist (GA. no. 622) with degrees from the Universityof Georgia, University of Alaska  and  post-grad work at the universities of Arizona and Arkansas. He has been a Army Engineer officer, newspaper writer, the author of 14 books, a radio producer-host, photographer, blogger, video producer, wild-game cook and playwright. His work is noted for being bold, inventive and wide-reaching in scope. Among his books are four of the first ever written on AIDS, popular works on local geology and architecture and more recently outdoor titles featuring hunting and bowfishing. His current radio show is “Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures” on For more information go to his website: