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Shot Show 2012: Good Guns, Gear and Folks

The Range Day before the Shot Show allows writers to shoot some of the guns exhibited at the Show.

     Although it is a hassle to attend the annual Shot Show event in Las Vegas, there are things at the Show that will be seen nowhere else. In a strange twist of,  “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” some hopefuls introduce products at the Shot Show, never to be seen again; while other products succeed beyond their originator’s wildest expectations. This is a place where the marketplace speaks to entrepreneurs and lets them know in sometimes cruel terms if their products are desired or not.

  Each show appears to emphasize different themes across product lines. This year’s show had an expanded tactical side, and these parts of the show, even with more space given to their exhibits, were always crowded. In comparison the “civilian” sporting goods side was not nearly so thronged with people, although it appeared that more business was being done than at last year’s events. Some people who I usually call on in the gun and knife trades were much too busy writing orders to pause and chat – good for them, and for the industry as a whole in this dismal economy.

Colt's replica 1877 Gatling gun at Range Day.

  The fear on the part of  retail customers that the economy and U.S. society would fail combined with twelve years of continuous foreign wars was apparently driving store owners to purchase more things on the combat-tactical-survival end of the sporting-goods spectrum. While the got-bucks segment of society could still buy  high-priced traditional goods, buyers had more interest in things that had more practical appeal – particularly if they had  a “black gun” tactical look, rather than wood and blued steel. The medium-priced decorative parts of the market, like  art works and knickknacks, slacked as people were apparently using their money for things that they saw as more  useful.

  Appealing to an older segment of the market, companies like Case could not write orders for their traditional pocket knives fast enough, and more Colt 1911 frame pistols in .45-ACP and other calibers are seen than ever before.  There were also more self-defense and police style handguns from all parts of the world vying for  the U.S. market. Large-caliber lever-action rifles also appeared in more variety and in greater numbers.   Some of these lever-gun sales are driven by the Cowboy Action Market, but others are purchasing modernized versions of these rifles, like the Model 71 Winchester (.348 from Browning, .444 Marlin and .45-70 from Davide Pedersoli), for hunting.

CVA's lighter-weight Accura.

  Makers of muzzleloading guns, which I specialize in, continued their trends towards producing either exacting replicas of  Civil War Guns (Davide Pedersoli and Chiappa) or lighter-weight versions of their in-line drop-barreled hunting rifles, such as Traditions’ Vortex and CVA’s Accura.   In an unusual turn of events,  CVA and Traditions are offering .50-caliber big-game-capable muzzleloading pistols with drop-barrel actions. I enjoy hunting with muzzleloading handguns, but this is a tiny part of the gun market.  Such guns come and go fairly quickly. If you want one, buy it now while they are to be had.

  One potentially significant muzzleloading shotgun was introduced by Davide Pedersoli. This is a single triggered double-barreled 12-gauge Coach Gun with 11, 20 and 28-inch barrels. This is a new design with back-action locks, and while the shorter barrels are cylinder and cylinder bored, the 28-inch barrel version has cylinder-modified choking in its right and left barrels respectively. This gun should be a fine upland-game gun when used with moderate loads. I hope to get one to use next season – stay tuned.

  Hog hunting is receiving increasing attention as a sport and needed activity to help control these rapidly breeding animals. They can be extremely destructive to the environment and absolutely wreck food plots and even large-scale agricultural plantings. In addition, hogs will eat anything smaller than they are, including endangered plants and animals by chomping down on  sea turtle eggs, young of  gound-nesting birds and anything else that they can catch, kill or root up. Once they reach 200 pounds, almost no predator is going to take them on. A 600 lb. boar hog is “king of the woods” throughout most of its rapidly expanding range in the U.S.

Guns like these traditional 1873 and 1876 Winchesters are often take wild hogs as their first North American game.

  Although not particularly my style, AR platform guns are often used with night-vision equipment to help control these animals. They allow rapid repeat shots at multiple targets from a line of guns that may range from .223 to .50 caliber. This year Winchester introduced their Razorback bullets with delayed opening to insure penetration in hogs which may be protected by mud, hide, a thick gristle plate, shoulder bone and ribs before a bullet can get into the vitals of the animal. They recommend the .223 for smallish hogs weighing less than 100 pounds and the .308 caliber for bigger ones.  I never had any great love of the .223 as a big-game cartridge, and would certainly elect to use the .308 so that I could take out a huge hog if one appeared. It was also noteworthy that the AR that I shot at the Winchester Ammunition booth on Range Day was made by Rock River and had the best trigger of any such gun that I have shot.

 Although Barnes, Remington and others have offered hollow-pointed solid bronze bullets for use as saboted muzzleloading projectiles for years, this year saw increasing emphasis on machined brass bullets for muzzleloading and cartridge gun use.  Knight Rifles has a new “Blood Line” bullet in sabots for its .50 and .52 caliber rifles and Cutting Edge Bullets offers bronze bullets from .223-.50 caliber for cartridge guns. To improve the long-range ballistics of these bullets, Cutting Edge has an optional polymer tip to streamline these projectiles.

  Thompson/Center Arms introduced a new Dimension bolt-action rifle with interchangeable barrels and stock components that will be available in calibers from the .204 Ruger to the .300 Winchester Magnum. The gun uses four bolt-magazine-barrel groups which they name as Groups A-D. Ruger’s new bolt-action, The Ruger American Rifle, has a polymer stock, two-point bedding, weighs 5.25 pounds and is chambered for the .308 and .30-’06 families of cartridges. The  bolt on this gun works as slick as many straight-pull actions for rapid follow-up shots. Mossberg is also offering a variety of “black stocks” and add-on components for the Winchester Model 94 and  its Model 500 12-gauge shotgun in addition to its already large selection of interchangeable shotgun barrels. These stock components can be changed out very quickly to fit perceived needs as the “Flex Your Mossberg” system. In-store promotions will include stand-up store displays with multiple stock-forend-barrel add-on options.

Thompson/Center's new "black gun" is a bolt-action that features a new bolt action and interchangeable calibers, stocks and barrels.

  These and many more items are discussed in my radio shows on  Hovey’s Oudoor Adventures. These include “Deja Vu Vegas: Shot Show 2012.  Part I was aired on January 30, 2012, and Part II which will be broadcast  in early February. More photos and contact information for the companies appears on my “Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures Radio Show Blog.”   Should these links not work you can access the materials from my website page  For the radio show click on the live link immediately below the banner and for the blogs continue to the link at the very bottom of the page.

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Hovey’s Guns, Loads and Hunts for 2011

  Frequently I take game with a variety of  muzzleloading guns and 2011 was no different. Often I use guns that were sent to me when first introduced, but have now been discontinued. I continue to work with them because thousands of people may own them or have a chance to purchase these models as used guns.  A sad fact is that black-powder hunting guns are  a tiny part of the total gun market. Makers may only offer a gun for a few years and then drop it because of slow sales. This is particularly true for muzzleloading shotguns and pistols. The hint is that if you see one that you like, buy it now. You may not be able to the next year.

Austin & Halleck 12-gauge shotgun shown here with a Canada goose and load components.

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  February 2011, found me on a snow goose hunt in coastal North Carolina where I used an Austin & Halleck 12-gauge bolt-action shotgun. This gun is no longer made, but was noteworthy for being very light , (I increased its weight by adding  beeswax and lead shot in the butt and a solid steel ramrod up front.) too light, for heavy duck and goose loads. It had the advantages of taking an interchangeable choke and working well with the plastic wads that I needed for my usual load of HeviShot no. 4s which will abrade steel barrels if not used in protective cups.

  My load here was 100 grains of Hodgdon’s Triple Seven powder, a 1/4-inch thick cardboard over-powder wad, 20-odd grains of Cream of Wheat, a plastic shot cup with some crumpled-up plastic in its base to take up the excess space and 1 1/4-ounce (by volume) measure of  no. 4 HeviShot. This was topped off with a pair of thin over-shot cards to retain the shot. A very similar load was used in the Thompson/Center Arms’ Mountain Magnum 12-gauge shotgun that was used on this year’s North Carolina swan some 10 months later.

  This design suffered because of a mainspring that weakened under use and the care that needed to be taken to insure that the slam-fired bolt was properly adjusted to strike the 209 primer. Once I solved these problems by putting two lock washers around the firing pin rod to increase spring speed and replaced a too short firing pin, I had a gun that I could depend on. Despite the rifle version failing on me during a South Dakota bison hunt and the shotgun on a swan hunt, I later used the shotgun to take a turkey, snow geese in both North Carolina and Canada and honkers in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

  The gun points, shoots and handles well once its weight and mechanical deficiencies are overcome. After modification, the A & H becomes one of the best single-shot muzzleloading shotguns ever made and its simple bolt design makes it relatively easy to load in the field and clean. My gun was shipped to me in a puny plastic case and the solid steel breech-plug-removal rod knocked a hunk of  wood off the fancy maple pistol-grip stock before it ever went to the field.

   I produced a YouTube video about the 2011 snow goose hunt and it can be viewed by clicking on the following link: This hunt was also featured on an episode of my radio show, “Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures.” This, and other shows featuring these guns, may be found by going to my website and clicking on the live link to the show immediately below the banner.

"Cantank" a .45-caliber Navy Arms Kentucky rifle that finally bagged its turkey after already taking deer and small game.
  I purchased this .45-caliber flintlock decades ago from Val Forgett, the founder of Navy Arms Company, and it, in camo dress, had been turkey hunting several times but we never had the luck to see a bird for it until 2011. I had already shot deer and other game with the gun, and it was featured in an article that the late “Butch” Winter published in the Dixie Gun Works’  “Blackpowder Annual.”
  I had unusual difficulties in developing a load that this gun would shoot well. Finally that load became 85 grains of FFg GOEX black powder, a .45-caliber felt Wonder Wad, a charge of 15-grains of Cream of Wheat buffer and a lubricated pillow tiking patch holding a .440 round ball. That load shot well enough to win some club matches as well as take a series of squirrels without a miss.
  For this year’s turkey hunt I used a piece of flint salvaged from a broken Indian arrow-head that might have been 3000 years old. I knew from experimenting with similar materials before that it could be depended on sparking well enough to fire the gun once, perhaps twice, but would need to be retouched before it would reliably shoot a third shot.
  After a number of previously unsuccessful attempts over the years, I  did call this bird in close enough for a shot, and Cantank took it down.  I, the gun and the unknown Indian brave who fashioned the point so may hundreds of years ago, had again made meat. This turkey was the centerpiece of my Christmas meal. The turkey hunt also resulted in a video at: as well as the last of  three turkey hunting episodes produced during 2011.  My cooking of the turkey was also reported in a series of four YouTube videos with the turkey cooking segment being Part 3 which may be seen at:
Ruger Old Army revolver with Georgia deer and squirrel taken on the same hunt.
  My challenge for the 2011-12 deer season was to take deer with two muzzleloading revolvers. The guns I employed were Ruger’s Old Army and Cabela’s stainless steel “Buffalo” which is produced in Italy by Pietta. I experimented with a new 240-grain (now also as a 255 grain) flat-nosed  bullet by Kaido Ojamaa
 in both guns. I used the round ball to shoot a 60-pound doe with the “Buffalo” and Ojamaa’s bullet to take down a 120 pound buck. Because of different barrel twists and chamber capacities different charges of Hodgdon’s Triple Seven powder were used in these guns.
"Buffalo" revolver with 60-lb. doe.

  Load development and hunting with these revolvers took some time and included taking squirrels with the Buffalo. I  concluded my hunt with these pistols with taking my buck with the Ruger and on the trip out also killing a squirrel with the same load. What these loads tought me was that these guns can be capable close-range killers of deer-size game when used with adequate charges of Triple Seven powder which develops 10 percent more energy than black powder. With appropriate loads these guns can produce the 500 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy generally considered to be the threshold for reliably killing deer-sized game in hunting situations. 

  Detailed load information can be found in previous posts and also in the coming 2013 edition of the Gun Digest Annual. My experiences with these and other percussion revolvers were recorded in a series of  seven videos taking the viewer through the stages of gun selection, prepping the gun, cleaning, load development, small game and big game hunting. The big game hunting video is Part 7B which may be seen at:
  This Thompson/Center Arms' Black Mountain 12-gauge side-hammer gun is unusual in that it takes musket caps, has interchangable chokes and a relatively short barrel.   
  The 12-gauge Thompson/Center Arms side hammer shotgun has almost  all the attributes that one needs for a successful muzzleloading shotgun. The action is robust, it uses musket cap ignition for easier manipulation in the field, it has a synthetic stock and interchangeable chokes. I also increased this gun’s weight by adding beeswax and lead shot to the butt and now most commonly shoot it with a metal ramrod to help hold down recoil. I would like a little more barrel length on this gun, but most turkey hunters would like it very much as it is.
Hunters with swan from field shoot at Lake Mattamuskeet, North Carolina. Author is holding his swan on right.
  This gun also had a brief production life and was never  made in large numbers. Thompson/Center Arms has now discontinued almost all of its side-hammer muzzleloaders, leaving this as the most technically advanced side-hammer muzzleloading shotgun that they ever made on a commercial basis and their best ever for wingshooting waterfowl and game birds. I would not hesitate to use it on anything that flies.
  This is an effective shotgun when used with loads similar to those that I described in the first post for the Austin & Halleck. The only change that I made for my 2011 swan hunt was to use red Winchester wads for 1 1/4-ounces of shot.  (Now discontinued from Winchester, but available from Harvester Bullets.) This gun made a one-shot kill on this year’s swan which was taken during a field shoot on private land that is described in a previous post. This hunt is also featured on my radio show, “Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures” that was broadcasts on Jan. 9, 2012.

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Historic Mattamuskeet Inn Knocked Down After Hurricane Irene

This grimy and wrinkled photo was recovered on the road. This was a fairly late picture of the Inn because it shows Ginger, the most recent of Joey Simmons' dogs, and a TV dish.

The final blow to the historic Mattamuskeet Inn came with Hurricane Irene in 2011 when the storm swept over the Outer Banks and pummeled  the mainland areas of coastal North Carolina. I, as had thousands of hunters, stayed at the Inn over the years to hunt waterfowl with the Simmons family and a succession of  assistant guides. Some of these guides, like Adam Jones who now works out of Engelhard, have started their own guide services. There was also a succession of memorable dogs, such as Meg, who recovered my first swan, and most recently Ginger who appears in the photo of the Inn.  

Happier times at the Mattamuskeet Inn photo with Joey Simmons with Lab Meg, me with swans, Tom Jones (upper L., L. of sign) and Adam Jones, who I also hunted with in later years, in the bottom center.

  Joey Simmons and his wife lived at the lodge during its last years of operation.  As they raised their family I enjoyed hunting with them and hearing stories of his father’s and grandfather’s hunting experiences. I added my little bit to Mattamuskeet lore by taking, so far as I know, the first swan in living memory with a flintlock muzzleloading musket loaded with the now-required non-toxic shot.  

  That was my most memorable hunt with Joey. During the morning we hunted a flooded impoundment. While we attempted to shoot what few ducks were flying on a blue-bird day,  we watched as another group of hunters in the “swan blind” progressively shot their birds. Their technique was when  a swan flew over them everyone in the blind shot and kept shooting until the swan fell dead. After they limited out, we exchanged blinds, and it was my turn to show what this replica of a Brown Bess musket “Indian Gun” that was sold by Dixie Gun Works could do. This .75-caliber musket is 11 gauge and wads in this size are available from Dixie. I had it stoked up with 100 grains of  FFg  black powder and likely about 1 3/8ths ounces of steel no. 4 shot.

  This gun had no choke, but fired reasonable patterns with the steel shot, although I had to aim a bit above the bird to drop the shot charge on the target. This is a robust gun using a 1-inch flint (an original English flint salvaged from a shipwreck), and I had no doubts that it would function if I did my part. Joey called an approaching swan using the same type of hail mouth calling that I use today.  The swan came in, and I crouched in the blind. Not only did it come, it landed in the impoundment outside of the decoys – too far for me to shoot. This was  too much for Meg who bounded off the dog step and went after it.

 The swan took flight to escape the charging dog and flew in the direction of the other blind where the hunters were rearranging the decoys. The swan then reversed its direction and came back towards us. “Move over here. It is going to pass by this corner of the blind,” Joey said.

  I pushed and half climbed over my partner  and Joey in the tight blind and stood by the door as the swan approached. The swan continued plowing through the air with those enormous wings. As it made its closest approach to the blind, Joey said, “If you are going to shoot, take it now.”

 I cocked the massive hammer, raised the gun and started pulling past the bird with the barrel. The gun caught on some brush tacked onto the blind,  and I had to lift over it and resume my swing.  By this time the bird had flown by the blind and was pulling away. I swung past the bird, held above it and pulled the trigger. The black smoke erupting from the gun completely obscured my view.

 The hunters in the other blind later said that they did not think that I was going to shoot.  When I finally did shoot they saw a pillow of black smoke erupt from the blind, envelop the bird and it fell dead on the water. It was  hit from beak to feet with the charge of steel no. 4s.  That blind erupted with a  cheer. By the time I heard their encouraging shouts,  the smoke had drifted away, and I could see the bird dead on the water with Meg swimming out to get her bird.

  Even by the time that I made by first hunt in 1998, the Lodge was showing signs of age with continuous patch-up work being needed to keep the plumbing and electric systems working. The Oyster Bar at the lodge provided some after-hunt activities as well as good-eating seafood. When the Simmons family disposed of the lodge, it was in need of considerable repair. The new owners purchased it, sight unseen, so the story goes. They attempted to fix it up, but when Irene swept through and did additional damage it was apparently time to knock the entire structure down and start over.

Only the sign, the shell of the Oyster Bar and a container for the debris was all that remained of the Mattamuskeet Inn when I returned to hunt in December of 2011.

  Blowing around outside was a fairly recent photo of the Inn,  as Joey’s most recent dog, Ginger, was in it. This  is the somewhat wrinkled photo with the grit on it at the head of this post. I have many fond memories of my experiences at the lodge as, I am sure, do thousands of others. I regret seeing it go, but I have no doubt that the new owners are making the correct economic decision.

The sign looks a little battered and forelorn standing beside the bare spot where the rooms once stood.

There are still nearly places that cater to hunters. The Hyde-A-Way  (252) 926-8101 is a little further down the road at Fairfield and Carawan’s  Motel (252) 926-5861 is located at the other end of the causeway. Harris’ restaurant has changed owners and is now known as the Lone Goose, but it still offers dinner and supper. Hotel Engelhard (252) 925-1461 or toll-free at (800) 290-53411) is located at the other end of the lake and has a limited menu. When I passed by, the hotel was operating, but was for sale.

  I also shot my swan with a muzzleloading gun in 2012. This time it was a repeat visit for a Thompson/Center Arms Mountain Magnum 12-gauge shotgun loaded with Hodgdon’s Triple Seven powder and HeviShot.  This hunt was recorded for my radio show, “Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures” and may be heard by visiting my website and activating the live link below the banner. If it is not the current show, it is still available under the “archived shows” tab or on Apple’s iTimes as “All About Swan Hunting: Part 1.”

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Why Do You Hunters Kill Swan?

Author's "hero shot" drew him a disdainful look from a likely member of the Swan Society and inspired this post.

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 As I was attempting to use the self timer on my camera to take what in the trade is known as a “hero shot” with my 2011-12 swan in front of the Mattamuskeet Wildlife Refuge sign, a small eco-friendly car with a swan license plate on the front drove up and stopped.  The lady driver sat in her car and took a photo of  my swan and muzzleloading shotgun. As she was preparing to drive away I waved and she gave me a dismissive look and wave off  such as one might bestow  upon a child who had done something  distasteful, but knew no better.  She made it quite clear that she did not want to talk to me.

  As she was obviously very interested in swan, we actually had more common ground than she might have thought. I suspect that her passion about these birds has resulted in her being a member of the Swan Society whose members follow with considerable interest the annual migration of the various swan species from the Arctic to their wintering grounds in the U.S. Those in the Lake Mattamuskeet, North Carolina, area are legally termed Tundra Swan, but are biologically perhaps more correctly called the Whistling Swan, compared to the Trumpeter Swan, which is an endangered species restricted to the Western Flyway.

Hunters with an age-range of swan. Lake Mattamuskeet, 2012. Note orange tags on legs of each bird.

 A limited harvest of Tundra swan is permitted in North Carolina and Virginia and in a scattering of Western states during their Fall migration. This is done by permit only with the number of permits depending on the annual swan reproduction. The biological objective is to keep swan numbers in check so that they do not overstress their nesting  or wintering environments. These large fowl eat a lot and can deprive other migrating species, such as ducks, of food. Before their was a season, North Carolina guides referred to them as “Sky Carp” because they consumed much of the plantings done  for ducks and geese.

When I hunt swan in late December and early January they have been in the state for about a month and have been fattening on corn, soybeans and other field crops. This diet makes  them the best eating of all waterfowl. Those taken from alkali lakes of the Desert Southwest are not nearly as tasty.  When I have one, I often have a swan for my Thanksgiving or Christmas meal.  Unlike turkey, swan meat is dark because of the many blood vessels used to drive those powerful wings. When properly cooked, it tastes like a very good roast beef.

Why kill swan?

  1. Population management is the primary objective that most federal and state wildlife agencies will cite for maintaining an annual swan harvest. Each hunter who draws one of the limited number of tags has the chance of taking  only one bird per season, and must report the results of his hunt whether he went or not, any bands recovered, etc. The penalty for taking an illegal bird may include fines of between $500 and $1000 and might also mean confiscation of the firearm, vehicle, boat and  gear associated with the hunt.

2. The challenge  is to attempt to take one of these magnificent fowl cleanly with one shot. Using muzzleloading guns, which are slow to reload and most often only have a single shot, puts an additional burden on me, which I accept as part of the hunting experience. Over the years I have taken a number of swan and often, but not always, killed them with a single shot.  To be effective, this shot must be at the yard-long head and neck of the bird.  As I have most often have only one shot opportunity at the time, I am careful to try for only close-range birds and, in addition, must keep all of my shooting components dry. By the time I hunt swan,  I have used that gun and load for the entire hunting season and know it very well.  The best advice that I can give any swan hunter is to know your gun and exactly where you must point it to get a good killing pattern on your bird. Some heavy waterfowl loads can shoot a foot or more below the point of aim.

Thompson/Center Arms Mountain Magnum 12-gauge muzzleloading shotgun that the author used to kill his swan.

An episode of my radio show, Hovey’s Outdoor Adventures, broadcast on January 9, 2012, presented hunts from  a public blind at Lake Mattamuskeet and also a shoot in an agricultural field about 15 miles from the lake. On the field shoot some of the cartridge-gun shooters struggled to take their birds. I killed my swan with a single shot from my Thompson/Center Arms Mountain Magnum 12-gauge shotgun using 100 grains of Hodgdon’s Triple Seven powder, a 1/4-inch hard cardboard over powder wad, 20 grains of Cream of Wheat, a red Winchester plastic wad for 1 1/4-ounces of shot, about 1 3/8 oz. of  no. 4 HeviShot (a tungsten iron non-toxic mix that is heavier than lead) sealed in the barrel with two thin over-shot cards.

  This single shot ended my hunt. I am not always so fortunate and had missed a swan the day before by apparently letting the eye guide me to shoot between a pair of approaching birds, rather than picking out one and killing it. Wingshooting, even on huge fowl like swan, is never a sure thing in hunting situations; as was abundantly illustrated on my radio broadcast.

 The previous discussion covered the mechanics of swan shooting, but more challenges to the hunt are to arrive with all of the gear you need, physically make something of a trek out to your blind location (particularly at Bodie Island on the Cape Hatteras National Wildlife Refuge where you may walk through a mile of flooded marsh to your blind) and put up with severe weather conditions during your hunt. This year was quite warm, whereas two years ago every small pond was  frozen solid and only the largest part of the lake and the salt-water Pamlico Sound had open water. (You can see a video of this hunt by clicking on the following link: Walking through flooded marshes and operating boats under these conditions can be quite interesting. This year some hunters sank a 19-foot boat in the sound when waves crashed over the rear of it, flooded it, pulled it off  the bank and sunk it in 15 feet (or more) of water. Fortunately, the three hunters were rescued.

Swan ready to go into the oven.

3. Swan are excellent on the table. During past centuries it was a hanging offence to be caught eating a swan in England, as these birds were reserved for the Royal table. In North America these birds have been eaten since colonial times. When they have been on good feed they are excellent with the younger gray birds being better than the older ones, as is typical with any fowl. For best results swan need to be plucked and cooked in moisture.

4. Swan hunting provides a much-needed income boost to area residents who live in an impoverished part of coastal North Carolina.  Hyde County, the location of Lake Mattamuskeet, does have large-scale agriculture in areas that are dry enough to farm; but much of the area is undeveloped marsh and forests. The county’s population is only about 8,000 with the principal non-agricultural employers being county government,  a prison and the school system.  The Fall waterfowl hunting season provides a  boost to the economy by filling motels, restaurants and giving local merchants some needed trade.

5. Human interactions are also part of the swan hunting experience. These include running into other hunters, (as I did and unexpectedly joined two different groups on their hunts), interacting with local residents and even, in my case, attempting to give the area a boost through my radio show. When you and others are facing the same challenges there is a bonding between like-minded people that, although temporary, can be quite strong. You come to care about each other and each other’s problems and challenges.

6. Fun is a word that has thus far been absent from this discussion. Where does it come in? Killing an animal, as an act, brings a complex series of emotions. There is an elation that you have struggled to accomplish something and have successfully completed it. There is often “Ha-Ha” humor in the sometime completely ridiculous situations that hunters get themselves into that is easily understood and shared with other hunters. These experiences ultimately related to story telling, that can get so extreme  and enjoyable that it actually interferes with the ongoing hunt. (You cannot put two talkers in a turkey blind together, for example, because they will never stop yacking long enough to get their bird.)

 Killing a swan, to me, is no more enjoyable an act than slaughtering a pig at a “hog killing.”  I have seen, and dealt, sufficient death in my life to say that I  appreciate life and take it only when I am going to make use of  the animal. To me the highest value that an animal has, even a swan,  is to provide food for the hunter’s family. I have trophy heads on my wall, but I am more interested in shooting meat rather than horns. The best trophies, the most long-lasting ones, are trophies of the mind rather than horns on the wall.

  So where does that leave me and “the swan lady.” I think it is a safe assumption to say that we both respect these native North American birds and wish them, and their kind well. My enthusiasm does not extend to the  imported European mute swan or Australian black swan, which are now wild breeding populations. Mute swan by the thousands are now causing problems in a number of states and are even mixing with migrating populations of swan that winter in North Carolina. Control measures are now being conducted on these populations. Often the best, and least expensive, measure of control is to open a hunting season on them and consume them. In these hard economic times and in a country, and world, where millions are going hungry, there is no reason for not utilizing these exotic swan as a food source. If they were good enough for European Royals, I think that they are good enough for us too.

Christmas dinner featuring swan, swan dressing and giblet gravy.
 More on swan and other hunts may be found on my website and in my forthcoming book, X-Treme Muzzleloading. The website is the key place for accessing my books, videos and products. The best links to my blogs is at the very bottom of the website page.

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