Posted on 1 Comment

Cooking Wild Hog (Wild Boar) Livers

Here is an attractive photo of hog liver with onion gravy.
Here is an attractive photo of hog liver with onion gravy.

Historically the livers of wild game were among the first parts of the animals to be consumed and were often eaten in the hunting camp. Wild hog livers are, to my taste, better than deer livers. They typically cook up softer and have a less harsh flavor. As with processing any parts of a wild hog, gloves should be worn when handling uncooked meat of any sort, including previously frozen sausage when you make breakfast paddies.

Being from the American South, and in particular from Georgia, a favorite meal is hog liver steamed with onions and served with or over grits. Should you not have access to grits, mashed potatoes is an acceptable substitute starch. For long term storage livers are best stored frozen in water. This eliminates freezer burn and preserves flavor.

This is more like what I serve for breakfast. No I did not eat all that liver. This is a kitchen-tested recipe approved by hound dogs.
This is more like what I serve for breakfast. No I did not eat all that liver. This is a kitchen-tested recipe approved by hound dogs.

In preparing your liver for frying, put on your gloves and wash it. Some skin the livers, but I do not. While the liver is still semi-frozen it will slice easily into uniform slices. After you have it sliced let it drain while you dice up one large Spanish onion. In a plastic bag mix flour, salt and pepper. Heat a skillet that contains sufficient Canola or other oil to cover the slices. Flour the liver by shaking the pieces in a plastic bag, and when the oil is hot, drop the slices into the oil. Fry until golden brown and remove. The liver will not be completely done. Frying just browns it. Allow the liver to drain. Pour the oil from the frying plan leaving the pan drippings. Put the onions in the hot pan and stir. Return the liver to the pan and add a cup of water. Turn the liver slices from time to time and cook until done. No blood should run when you stick or cut the liver. When the liver is done put it on a serving plate and reserve the pan drippings and onions for a gravy to go over grits or mashed potatoes.

This goes well with a full-bodied red wine followed by a small glass of Port if this is served as an evening meal. For breakfast a good strong coffee is a suitable accompaniment.

Posted on 2 Comments

Hovey’s Tree Lounge Tree Stand Cautions

TL Caution sheet

Tree Lounge tree stands are robust, stable stands that can give decades of good service. As the hunting population is aging, more of these stands are showing up on E-bay and other places as used stands, but without the original Owner’s Manual. Users of these stands can get in serious trouble if they either assemble the stands improperly, try to climb too small a tree, attempt to stand on the fabric seat, overstress the stand because they are too heavy or any of a number of other causes. The problem is that the companies that made the stands are no longer in business and the manuals are not available. These are copyrighted products and cannot be reproduced directly without permission of the copyright owner, whoever that might be.

Tree Lounge in proper position for hunting.
Tree Lounge in proper position for hunting.
To help alleviate this problem I have produced a YouTube video at: http://youtu.be/ztj0VY1Rk_c which shows some pages of the manual as well as extracts of two previous YouTube videos that I did. These showed how to put the stand on a tree and how to backpack it. The easiest way to find these is to Google “Hovey Tree Lounge video” and that will bring up these as well as hunts that I did with the stands. The most recent video is deficient in that it does not have sufficient resolution for a person to be able to read the 20-items listed on the Caution sheet that is shown. These 20 items are listed below, along with my comments.

!CAUTIONS!

DO NOT BECOME A HUNTING STATISTIC!

“Climbing 20 to 30 feet or more above the ground is inherently dangerous because a fall from that height can produce serious injury or death. It isn’t possible to completely eliminate the danger of falling to the ground. You can minimize that danger by reading and viewing your Tree-Lounge owners manual and video tape. Follow the warnings and instructions and use common sense when using your Tree Lounge.”

I trust that statement got your attention. Below are the 20 cautions that they mentioned along with my comments.

1. Always grip the Tree-Lounge with both hands when your weight in not in the seat! Failure to do this can cause the Tree Lounge to slip down the tree trunk dislodging the hunter. (If no weight is on either the foot piece or upper piece with the sling seat, the Tree Lounge will grip the tree very weakly. When you take your feet out of the foot piece, for example, most of the time it will immediately slide down the tree until retained by the two straps that connect it to the upper piece with the seat.)

2. Always keep enough weight on the front side of the Tree Lounge to keep the “Lever-Grip” action activated. Failure to do this can cause the Tree Lounge to slip down the trunk of the tree dislodging the hunter. (See comment on no. 1.)

3. Never use the Tree Lounge without a safety harness, wear the Tree Lounge safety Harness from the time you begin your ascent until you return to the ground.

4. Do not use the Tree Lounge if you weigh more than 280 pounds. (People are seemingly getting larger every day. At the time my videos were made I weighed 185 pounds. The sling seat and the bow platform took my weight with no apparent problems, but all mechanical things will someday fail. Check your stand before each season and do not leave it out between seasons.)

5. Do not climb over 5-feet high until you have practiced and understand all facets of using the Tree Lounge. (Certainly do not take it out and under the pressure to kill a deer stick it on a tree for the first time. The removable bars that grip the tree go on top of the foot and upper pieces, and the straps must be put in the middle of the foot piece so that it can be retrieved when you start to descend from the tree.)

6. Do not climb trees unsuitable for the Tree Lounge. (Bad trees include those that are dead, crooked, swollen at the base, have obstructing limbs or knots, contain insect or animal nests, weak root attachments or have many smaller trees growing close to the larger tree’s trunk that will hang up the stand when you try to descend.)

7. Do not climb too high with the Tree Lounge. (The limit here is the diameter of the tree. As the tree becomes smaller the angle of the Tree Lounge decreases from about 80 degrees to below 45 degrees. Below 45 degrees the ability of the crossbars to hold the stand on the tree is decreased. Ultimately the stand will slip or you will reach a point where you cannot climb or go down.)

8. Do not climb with equipment. Always use your equipment cord to raise or lower your gun (unloaded), bow, pack or other equipment so that your balance and the gripping action cannot be adversely affected. (I use a long length of cord on a spool. On this I daisy-chain tie each piece of equipment on the same cord so that I raise them one after another when I get the stand in position. The last item up should be the gun or bow. This way the gun is less likely to be accidently knocked to the ground or fall from the gun rest while you are positioning the other items or bolting on accessories. Also, the less weight that you have on the stand when you climb, the easier it will be to manage.)

9. Do not use improper climbing techniques. Always use good judgment when climbing. (Don’t try to climb super fast or descend too fast. If you attempt to go down more than about 4-inches at the time your legs will be so bound up that you cannot raise them enough to free the foot piece to continue your descent.)

10. When climbing always be sure limbs, trees or other obstructions do not interfere with the “lever-grip” action of the Tree Lounge. If you cannot avoid limbs, trees, or other obstructions, descend and select another tree. (I once climbed a dead palm tree in the dark. Palms are weakly rooted anyway, and as soon as I discovered what I had done, I relocated to another tree. Tree Lounge stands are not easy for one person to put on a tree and there is the temptation to leave it on a bad tree and not move to another. Be safe and move the stand.)

11. Do not climb to a point where the Tree Lounge or the foot climber are below a 45-degree angle. (See comment on 7.)

TL Moving back brace

12. Never try to move the back brace of the tree lounge or foot climber when climbing. (This would be an invitation to instant disaster. You cannot support the weight of the stand and the gear you have on it with one hand while attempting to hold it against the tree with your body. The worst result would be for you and both elements of the stand go crashing down the tree because you are attached to the upper part of the stand by the safety strap. The dynamics of this would probably have you hitting the ground head first. The next worse result would be for you to be suspended from the tree with the safety belt under your armpits, 35 pounds of aluminum hanging over your head and the foot piece still gripping the tree holding the entire assembly off the ground by two 1-inch nylon straps. The only recovery here is to pull yourself up the strap, grip the tree with both legs and arms, release the safety strap button and slide down the tree ripping and skinning flesh and bark as you go. Not good.)

TL Adjusting angle

13. Learn to use your wedge properly before attempting to climb more than 5-feet high. (This wedge is a 90-degree triangle. The base of the triangle is furthest from the ground the right-angle away from the tree and the inclined side against the trunk. Place the wedge above the bar and attach it to the tree with the bungee cord. Supporting the upper seat member with both hands push forward away from the tree raising it slightly to position it on the wedge to help level the stand. The stand will still be at a down angle, but the gun holders should now hold the gun without any problems. The bow platform may then be adjusted to where it is level by repositioning the bolts in the appropriate adjustment holes on either side of the bow platform.)

14. Before climbing, study, understand and practice the proper procedure for turning around in your Tree Lounge. (Use your knees rather than your feet to keep from ripping through the fabric of the sling seat. Even if you do not bow hunt, the bow stand option is very helpful in providing a step to get into the stand from the ground as well as in repositioning yourself in the stand.)

15. Keep fingers, hand and feet out of tree-gripping sections of the Tree Lounge. (I can’t quite envision how that might happen, but you sure do not want any body parts between those bars and the tree.)

16. Never stand up in the Tree Lounge seat. (The synthetic fabric is not designed for that kind of stress. I suspect that it would rip long-ways dropping you out feet first through the seat. That would be an exciting event.)

17. Do not climb utility poles or hunt when lightning may occur. (You can climb a metal pole with a Tree Lounge, and I know of some people who change street lights that way. However, in hunting situations you are surrounded by a lot of metal which will make a fine lightning rod.)

18. Never hunt from a Tree Lounge while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. (Never hunt, period, while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.)

19. Never lend or sell your Tree-Lounge to anyone that does not know now to use it property or has not read the Owner’s Manual and viewed the safety and use videos. (This was a nice thought, but many of the stands that are being sold do not have their manuals with them.)

20. Persons who do not have enough mental or physical ability should not use the Tree Lounge. (These are heavy stands, and it takes physical strength to put them on trees and climb with them. It goes much easier if two people are there to put the stands on the trees so that one can support the back of the seat section while the other adjusts the stand on the tree and attaches the cross bar.)

Posted on Leave a comment

Heart Attacks in the Hunt Camp

Cumberland still camp

Sad fact is that most of us guys in hunt camps across the country are over 50 and for a lot of us, the half-century mark was reached 20 or more years ago. Twice within the past few years I have had friends who have suffered heart attacks in hunt camps that resulted in their deaths. I was not in the camps at the time, but that did not make the events any less telling. Both of these instances were similar in that the person having the attack was an authority figure, insisted that he was all right and that others should continue their hunts while he stayed in camp. This was a macho thing, and may have cost them years of life.

All of us are going to die of something, sometimes; but there is no since in rushing the process. Common to both of these events was that the guy having the attack was the senior member of the hunting party, he had a son or some younger hunt member that he wanted to take a deer and had made a special effort to go on this hunt. I do not know if either thought that this might be their last time in the woods, but I do not think this was the case. On the most recent of the two hunts there had been a drive down with a small trailer and a set-up in the rain. Complicating the situation was that the guy also had pneumonia that he apparently caught the previous week.

That morning as they were getting ready to go out before dawn, the older gentlemen said that he was not feeling well. As it turn out he had been, and was having, chest pains to the extent that had taken one or more nitroglycerin tablets. By the time his son returned some hours later after having shot a deer, his dad was in bad shape indeed. The son called his relatives who lived 4-hours away in another state, told them that his dad was seriously ill and they immediately left to come down to the camp.

The property owner, about 100 miles away, received a telephone call from a member of the gentleman’s family. He asked if anyone had called 911, the local emergency number, for an ambulance. No one had. That call was made while everyone was still in route to the camp and an ambulance with an EMT crew arrived to transport the stricken hunter to a local hospital. Almost simultaneously the landowner arrived and took care of the son and brought him to town. Within a relatively short time after his arrival at the local hospital the patient, still conscious, was air-transported to a regional hospital with a cardiac unit. He died within the next 12 hours.

Because they kept in contact by cell phone, the out-of-state members of the family were told to go directly to the regional hospital where they were at the time of the death. The landowner took the son hunting again the next day. This was more to take his mind off his father’s illness than anything. The landowner was informed of the death and waited until the other members of the family arrive before retrieving the son and telling him that his dad had died. With everyone there, the camp was cleaned out and the family started on their trip back home. Sometimes during these events the deer was cleaned and taken to a local processor.

As is apparent, hunt camps are terribly inconvenient places to die. If you or some member of the hunt party starts feeling symptoms of chest pains or even things that are apparently minor like unexplained pain in the shoulder or tightness in the throat, get you/them to a hospital. Once past the mid-40s that bad heartburn may well be something much more serious than an overdose of chili powder or cinnamon. It is better to be thought of as a “Nervous Nelly” and be alive than be a “Macho Man” and dead. It is also considerably less trouble to everyone if you can get someone to take you to a treatment facility before things get critical. With strokes and heart attacks minutes can mean the difference between survival with good outcomes and death. Don’t waste these minutes which will be the most valuable time of your life.

Posted on 2 Comments

Audio-Visual Tree Lounge Tree Stand Manual

TL cover

There is a need to provide owners’ manuals for those who are purchasing used Tree Lounge tree stands. Out of a concern for public safety, I have produced an audio-visual version for the original U.S.-made stands as a YouTube video which includes some pages from an original 1993 manual. This is now posted at: http://youtu.be/ztj0VY1Rk_c.

The original manuals are copyrighted, and I cannot just copy them without violation of existing copyright unless I make a publishing arrangement with the copyright owner. As all of the companies that produced the stands like AHE, Inc. and its successor, CESSO, L.L.C., (and maybe others) are now out of business, I do not know who owns the rights to the manuals or if they perished when the company’s assets were sold. If you believe that you own the copyrights to Tree Lounge manuals please contact me, and I will come to an agreement with you in regards to their re-publication and sale.

Tree Lounge stands were/are very strong, safe stands if used correctly. However, there are risks for inexperienced users in regards to adjusting the climbing bar, attempting to climb too small a tree, not using the leveling wedge correctly as well as the rather disconcerting fact that the foot bar will very often slip down the tree when the climber removes his feet. When the foot-piece falls, hefty safety straps on each side will retain it and allow it to be pulled back up, provided that the new owner attached the straps correctly when he climbed the tree. If he did not he might find himself 30-feet up a tree facing a very perilous descent with his foot piece resting quite comfortably at the base of the tree.

Items that I have to date are a Catalogue from 1999 (fairly late versions of the old model stands and accessories), Tree-Lounge Owner’s Manual from 1993, yellow Caution sheet and instruction sheets for the Bow Hunting Adapter, Gun Holder and Bow Holder. If you have more recent manuals for later-model Tree Lounge stands or instruction sheets for other accessories and no longer need them, please contact me at http://www.hoveysmith.com, and I will add these to the video/s.

My concern in doing this is to again make this information readily available to the public and add information based on my experiences with the stands so that new Tree Lounge owners can have safe climbing experiences with their stands. This video is now available at: http://youtu.be/ztj0VY1Rk_c.

Posted on Leave a comment

Dressing for Hunts when the Temperature is Around 0 Degrees F.

Layout of improvised cold-weather hunting clothing.
Layout of improvised cold-weather hunting clothing.

On a recent hunt in Illinois a group of Alabama hunters was sharing the lodge with me. After the first evening one of the hunters remarked, “After about 20 minutes in the stand I had to get down and go buy some electrically heated socks.” As the temperature was in the single digits and the wind was blowing about 15-20 mph., he was being exposed to below 0-degree wind chill in his tree stand and obviously needed more or better clothes.

Those who live in the more Northern states are accustomed to these temperatures as a normal part of Winter life and hunting. In fact, 0 degrees might even be thought warm compared to deep winter temperatures of -20 degrees or colder in the northern states of the U.S., Canada or Alaska. These very cold temps obviously require specialized clothing, but we Southern hunters do not often own severe-weather clothing and have only occasional use for it. From a point of view of practicality, most of us have to somehow make do with what we have when temperatures get around 0. This can occasionally happen even in the deep South. I once did a hunt on Georgia’s Cumberland Island when it was just a few degrees above 0 and portions of the marsh froze. On this hunt there were only six deer taken, and I took two of them with handguns simply because I had the gear to keep me warm. Some hunters never left camp.

One of the things that I learned well when I lived in Alaska was the military admonition to wear your clothing loose and in layers. In dry weather even light-weight cotton hunting clothes will work if you wear enough of them, keep them loose and have a hard-woven shell to break the wind. Cotton does O.K. so long as it is dry, but quickly fails to offer protection if it is wet from rain/wet snow or soaked with sweat. Wool or synthetic fleece is far superior.

Starting from skin out, put on your cotton underwear and on top of this invest in a fleece top and bottom and head-neck covering. Usually these are sold separately and purchase them one at the time if you must. They are now inexpensively priced from Cabelas’ and other mail-order outlets. This will run about $60 for the three-piece outfit. Over this you can put on a set of flannel pajama bottoms or lounge pants and a heavy cotton long sleeved T-shirt. Then put on your cotton camo pants and shirt. On top use what you have for pull-over wool or synthetic sweaters, then your insulated hunting suite, a top camo jacket with a hood, fleece cap, billed cap and finally your hunter orange vest and gloves.

One type of glove that is found in more northern states is a wool, or synthetic fiber, mitten-glove where the front of the mitten pulls back to free the fingers for finer work, such as pulling a trigger. These are excellent when worn with a thinner glove underneath. This provides two layers of protection for the fingers. Further warmth can be gained by pulling the fingers back and balling them up in a fist inside the glove or putting the hands in a pocket.

A selection of shoes and boots to wear hunting and in the lodge.
A selection of shoes and boots to wear hunting and in the lodge.

The above will take care of your body and head, but your feet are likely the first things to give you problems. I am lucky in that I purchased a pair of Sorrels while I lived in Alaska and still have them. These boots have rubber bottoms, felt boot liners and leather tops. These boots with a set of wool or synthetic fleece socks will keep my feet warm even when sitting in a tree stand for five hours or so. Here is one case where you will be well advised to get some specialized cold-weather foot gear. You can adapt somewhat by taking something to wrap your feet in while on stand. This sort of works if you are sitting on the ground, but is dangerous in a tree stand, least you get tangled in your foot-wrap and fall out while making a quick movement to shoot a deer. Your best alternative is to move from a tree stand to the ground, and cover your feet with dry leaves.

Tent and permanent blinds can make hunting much more comfortable and even admit the possibility of having heat in the blind. This will help, but is not always possible. I have hunted in duck blinds with four inches of frozen water in the bottom of the blind which made footing dicey, but the wooden sides of the blind kept the wind off so I stayed put and did not attempt to stand when I shot.

What you wear must also take into account the condition of any snow or rain. The Eskimos have a very large number of words to describe snow/ice conditions. English is not so rich in language, but there is a striking difference between flakes of well crystalized dry snow falling and snow-ball size masses of wet sloppy stuff that melts when it hits you. For conditions where there is dry snow, fur works very well for exterior garments, but for wet snow you also need an exterior rain suite. Fortunately the wet snow is present when the temperatures are around freezing down to about 20 degrees F. Colder that that and the snow is more nearly dry, and the colder it gets the dryer the snow becomes. As I did in Illinois, I can successfully hunt with a flintlock rifle in dry snow, but wet snow presents real problems for flintlocks and other muzzleloaders.

The takeaway here is even us Southern hunters need to accumulate a little bit of cold-weather gear if we are to comfortably hunt in moderately cold conditions. Fleece underwear and good felt-lined Sorrels or L.L. Bean’s Maine Guide Boots are worth putting on your Christmas list. If you can’t get out in the woods, you can’t kill deer.

Posted on 2 Comments

Tips for Shooting Traditions’ PA Pellet Flintlock

Evening discharge of the Traditions PA Pellet rifle shows details of ignition and bullet discharge.
Evening discharge of the Traditions PA Pellet rifle shows details of ignition and bullet discharge.

Those who are looking for a reasonably priced off-the-rack flintlock rifle to participate in Pennsylvania’s and other states flintlock muzzleloading seasons/hunts can reasonably consider Traditions PA Pellet rifle as an effective alternative to higher-priced guns. Flintlocks made by Davide Pedersoli and sold by Dixie Gun Works and other companies now start at $600 and up with custom-made guns often selling for over $3,000.

Traditions PA Pellet rifle with accessories.
Traditions PA Pellet rifle with accessories.
Although the $400 black synthetic stocked PA Pellet rifle that I recently used on an Illinois deer hunt is not as attractive as its higher-priced alternatives, it is a reliable flintlock gun that performs well with either loose black powder or granular Pyrodex or Hodgdon’s Triple7even. As might be expected from its name, it will also shoot Pyrodex and Triple7even pellets if a little priming powder is teased back of the pellets when the pan is charged with FFFFg.
My first experiences with factory flintlock rifles began with Thompson/Center Arms’ Hawken which used the same coil-spring lock as their percussion gun. My gun had a warped pan cover that allowed prime to dribble from the pan if the gun was tilted to the right. Replacing the frizzen with a new one solved this problem, but an even greater problem was that the coil-spring lock would not reliably spark.
This problem also extended to the modernized Thompson/Center Arms’ Firestorm flintlock, which I experimented with for over a year. A partial solution was to reinforce the strength of the coil spring by putting one or two lock washers on the rod back of the lock’s mainspring. This helped, but flint life with these guns was short. For sure-fire results I had to use fresh flints and retouch them every few shots with a small knapping hammer.
Gregg Ritts, then the CEO of Thompson/Center Arms told me, “This is just part of shooting flint.” Sorry Gregg, but good flint guns will shoot a half-dozen times or more before the flint has to be touched. While it is always good practice to start a hunt with a fresh flint, hunting guns need to shoot more reliably that that, and the new versions of the flintlocks used on Traditions’ PA hunter’s leaf-spring lock performs much better than the Thompson/Center coil-spring locks or the similar locks used on Lyman’s flintlocks.

The fired flintlock is now disassembled and ready for cleaning.
The fired flintlock is now disassembled and ready for cleaning.

Although less expensively made than Thompson/Center’s guns, the plastic stocked Traditions PA Pellet rifle was more reliable than the two Thompson/Center Arms rifles or even the Lyman flintlock. When it comes to deer killing, functionality is much more important than appearance. My hunts with the PA Pellet rifle demonstrated that the gun could be used in snowy conditions and still function with either loose powders or Pyrodex or Triple7even pellets, provided that some reasonable precautions were taken.
In my new E-book Shooting and Maintaining Your Muzzleloader (Amazon.com and other sources) I have a chapter titled “Twenty-one steps to flintlock success,” and following are some shooting tips that particularly pertain to the PA Hunter.

1. Remove the butt plate from the rear of the stock and add lead shot or sand with wadded plastic bags to increase the weight of the gun until it balances about the carry point. This increased weight makes the gun much more comfortable to shoot and carry as well as decreases the chance of it slipping out of your lap as you sit in your tree stand.

2. Either you or a gunsmith should disassemble the lock and use a fine oil stone to polish any burrs from the lock parts that increase friction by scrubbing against the lock plate.

3. Have a gunsmith recess the crown of your barrel back about 3/8ths inch by drilling that portion of the barrel smooth so that saboted or lead bullets will be easier to load straight without damaging the bases of the projectiles. This is $20 very well spent.

4. Purchase cut-agate flints. These are available from Thompson/Center as four-packs. These are usually found on peg-board displays with other muzzleloading products.

5. Thompson Center also sells a ring of flintlock tools, including a pan brush and vent prick. These are worth having for cleaning your pan and brushing excess prime from the sides of the pan.

6. Buy or beg some FFFFg black powder priming powder. Hodgdon’s Triple7even FFFg granular powder will sort of work, but gives slower ignition than black powder. Using as much as 5-grains per prime, a one-pound can will last for more than 1,000 shots. Get two cans while you are at it. These will keep forever if kept dry, and you never can tell when our supply of black powder might be terminated by over-protective legislators.

7. Use a leather cover to help protect your lock from rain or snow. These are available from Dixie Gun Works. (Go ahead and purchase their catalogue for $5.00. It contains a wealth of information about muzzleloaders and black-powder guns.)

8. De-grease the barrel and lock before you shoot the gun for the first time and take a small bottle of rubbing alcohol with you in the field to clean the frizzen as needed.

9. The PA Pellet will shoot patched round balls (may be required for some hunts), saboted bullets or lead bullets. Saboted bullets will generate higher pressures and promote more complete combustion of the powder, although they are an SOB to load in cold weather. Carry your bullets and powder in plastic tubes or quick loaders on your body to keep them warm.

10. Select or grind some screwdrivers to fit the slots of the PA Pellet rifle’s screws and keep these with the gun.

11. You will need either a piece of leather or lead to pad the flint in the jaws of the cock. You can either pound a lead ball flat and or cut a piece of leather from a worn-out bag, shoe or belt.

12. Loads that work best in this gun will have from 85-110 grains of loose powder behind a patched round ball or 100 grains of Pyrodex or Triple7even pellets. Although this is a .50-caliber gun, it will shoot well with either .45 or .50 caliber pellets. I prefer bullets that weigh about 300 grains, although the gun does reasonably well with 240-grain saboted bullets or the 370-grain Thompson/Center MaxiBall.

13. After shooting remove the breech plug for ordinary cleaning using the Allen wrench that comes with the gun. If it does not come out, it can be left in and the gun cleaned in a bucket of soapy water and drawing the water up the barrel with a tight-fitting patch just like old-time muzzleloaders have been cleaned for hundreds of years.

14. Each time you get through using the gun, even if you fire only a single shot, the barrel needs to be washed out with soapy water and dried. Each time you clean the gun screw out the vent plug and clean it. Its threads should be lubricated with a high-temperature grease. This is a small part and is easy to drop it down a sink drain.

15. Although the PA Pellet rifle has been in the Traditions line for a several years it is a low-volume seller and production might be stopped at any time. It is prudent to buy some spare parts that might be easily lost or damaged.
These should include.
1. Spare frizzen
2. Vent hole liner
3. Upper hammer jaw
4. Jaw screw (threads get stripped on this part)
5. Lock plate screw and washer
6. Barrel wedge

16. When shooting pellets, take your prick or the arm of a large safety pin and push about half-a-pans-worth of FFFFg prime into the back of the barrel. The priming pan should be a little more than half full, but not blocking the vent hole which should be opened. If it is packed full it will burn like a fuse and retard ignition.

17. Flintlocks (aka. flinchlocks) throw a bright ball of flame up in front of the master eye, and it is always best to shoot with the gun well braced against your body, a tree or something. Shoot from any sort of expedient field rest as might be available.

18. Practice with your gun. Shooting flint is something of an art where you learn that you must keep your powder level in the pan, pay attention to the weather, keep your lock dry, follow through after you pull the trigger and learn to master involuntary jerks as you shoot the gun.

19. Until you really feel confident with your gun, restrict your shots to about 50 yards. Well practiced flintlock shooters can make hits at any range, but beginners need to start short and then shoot long as they gain more experience.

I have several YouTube videos about this gun and hunting with it. These include a recent hunt in Illinois at: http://youtu.be/iiIJy1cYHNI and working up loads for the rifle at: http://youtu.be/yIoiR9fyCzA.

Posted on 2 Comments

Building a Super Walker Revolver for Hunting Big Game

The Uberti Colt Walker Kit as received from Dixie Gun Works.
The Uberti Colt Walker Kit as received from Dixie Gun Works.

It followed from my publication of an E-book series on muzzleloading guns that I needed to revisit the Colt Walker pistol for my forthcoming title Hunting with Muzzleloading Revolvers. I had owned two previous Walker revolvers and had not been impressed with them because of their poor sights and the fact that when the gun was shot the loading lever very often fell and tied up the gun by jamming the rammer into a chamber. At that time only black powder was available, and as I considered that 85-grains of black powder and a round ball to be a minimal deer-killing load, I gave up on the gun as a potential tool for hunting big game. This load from a rifle recently downed a 180 lb. buck after penetrating both shoulders and blowing nearly a 1-inch hole through the backbone.

I got some flack from readers who said that they had been killing deer and hogs with a variety of muzzleloading revolvers for years and that these guns would do the job. With the advent of Hodgdon’s TripleSeven powder, which develops more energy than black powder, and heavier elongate bullets from Kaido Ojamma, I decided to revisit muzzleloading revolvers as hunting guns. The most readily available gun was Cabela’s .45-caliber Buffalo Revolver with a 12-inch barrel and adjustable sights. This gun was produced for Cabela’s by the Italian firm of Pietta. Ultimately I killed a small deer and three hogs (the largest 150 lbs.) with this gun and a TripleSeven-round-ball load and killed a 150-lb. buck with the Ruger Old Army using one of Ojamma’s bullets. These five animals were killed with seven shots. These experiences indicated to me that these guns would work on smallish deer and hogs, provided that that the bullets were well placed.

Walker and other revolvers.
Walker and other revolvers.
I also did a save on a deer with a Sheriff’s model 1858 with a black-powder and round-ball load. Unlike the other pistols, this one does not have adjustable sights. It shoots about 2-inches left of the point of aim, but I was able to file down the front sight sufficiently so that it was on target vertically, even if I had to hold off a little to put bullets into the bulls-eye. The deer was spine shot with another pistol at 50 yards, but struggled to its feet and started to run. I fired five shots at the deer. Three struck and the fatal bullet penetrated both lungs, but lodged just under the skin of the off-side leg. This doe weighed about 90 pounds. The load worked, but illustrated the relatively poor performance of the round ball and black-powder load from this short-barreled pistol.

During this period another friend reported having shot a large log with a black-powder-round-ball load from his percussion revolver. The ball failed to penetrate the gristle shield and shoulder to disable the animal. This hog was ultimately killed with a shotgun slug. In contrast to his hunting on the ground, I often shoot my animals from tree stands and am able to make better shot placements with the guns’ iron sights. As with anything, precision shooting will trump raw power; but there must be a minimal amount of available energy (and hardened bullets) to make fatal double-lung shots at huge hogs. This is not an theoretical concern, as 600-pound boars are shot in Georgia every year. These animals take some serious killing.

The Colt Walker revolver’s chambers will hold 60 grains of FFg black powder with a round ball load. This enhanced chamber capacity appealed to me as being able to hold a significant charge of TripleSeven for improved performance with the added asset of having 9-inches of barrel to allow more effective use of the powder charge. My thoughts were that if I could put a better loading lever retaining latch on the barrel and install a Weaver scope base on the barrel flat, I could cure the gun’s previous problems and make a Super Walker. An additional refinement could also be giving the gun a matt black-nitride finish to make it non-reflective and corrosion resistant.

Because of my aging eyes, which will likely get worse, I also wanted the option of putting optical sights on the revamped Walker pistol. I had bad memories of these sights-on-hammer-and-front-pin Colt revolvers shooting wretchedly far from where I aimed. If I have a mean, big hog in front of me, I want that bullet to go where I point the gun; not some 7-inches high and left. I am not sure if a red dot, laser or scope will work best, but having the Weaver bases on the pistols gives me all of these options. State regulations may permit only certain types of sights on muzzleloading guns or prohibit the use of muzzleloading revolvers altogether. These regulations often change from year to year, so be sure and check before you use these pistols for hunting.

As it turned out, I was not the first to come up with this concept, even though I derived it independently. Master Gunsmith Dykes Reber of North Little Rock, Arkansas, has been doing this type of conversion for years. I found this out from Kaido Ojamaa who recently received his modified gun from Reber and posted a video at: http://youtu.be/JwYsvZg-miE. Ojamma calls his gun, “A Boar and Bear Percussion Revolver,” and he hopes to be able to try it out on both species in coming years. Currently he cannot use percussion revolvers to hunt big game in New York state where he lives, although equivalent power cartridge handguns shooting the .45 L.C. are allowed.

Because I planned to have the gun nitride coated, I ordered a Uberti Walker Kit from Dixie Gun Works of Union City, Tennessee. I removed the grips and brass trigger guard for me to refinish and sent the action, barrel and attached loading lever to Reber for him to modify the loading lever, install a new front latch, open the frame so that Ojamaa’s bullets would be easier to load and install his Weaver bases on the barrel. I was pleased with the Uberti kit. I had expected to get the internal parts in a bag to be individually fitted, but the gun came assembled and functioned smoothly. It had an excellent trigger pull, which saved several hours of meticulous work. The metal was unfinished and there were some external scratches. I ignored these blemishes and did not bother polishing what was to become a matt-finished gun. I have a video of this part-removal process at: http://youtu.be/mS333R2CrQI as Part 1 of Building a Super Walker. I will post additional videos as more work on the gun is completed.

When the gun is returned, I will send it to H&M Metal Processing of Akron, Ohio, to do the matt black nitride surface treatment. This treatment may also be modified to yield a brightly polished finish. Before I send it to H&M, I will need to disassemble the gun and remove any springs as these will lose their temper if subjected to the nitride treatment process. Unlike plating, which changes the dimensions of the part, the nitride processing does not. Many military and civilian guns now have components that are nitride finished for improved functionality and corrosion resistance.

If you wish to contact Mr. Dykes Reber at The Muzzleloader Shop in North Little Rock, you can give him a call at (501) 758-2222. H&M Metal processing has a website explaining their process and giving contact information at http://www.blacknitride.com. Currently their price for a Matt Black Nitride Finish is $200 a gun, provided that the gun is shipped to them completely disassembled except for the springs which will lose their temper if subjected to the finishing process.

Posted on 1 Comment

In Praise of the Wrongly Maligned Tinker / Tinkerer

Two holes in the bottom of my aluminum camp pot prompted my revival of the Tinker's arts.
Two holes in the bottom of my aluminum camp pot prompted my revival of the Tinker’s arts.

So many thousands of words have been written in derision of the Tinker’s trade that even the phrase “to tinker with” implies that someone did an inadequate repair on something. Even the word “tinkering” implies that someone who did not fully know what they were doing are trying to fix something that may temporarily work, but will likely break again in the near future. Tinkers are even being damned as worthless individuals today with the phrase, “Not worth a Tinker’s damn.”

To put things right, the Tinker was a tradesman who repaired metal cooking pots. He traveled through the cities, villages and country estates of England with a box or push cart that contained his tools. Tinkers worked in much the same way as did the Grinders who had a rotating stone mounted on a treadmill that was used to sharpen axes, knives and scissors. Tinkers soon discovered that the few pennies they earned fixing pots was not sufficient to make a living and expanded their activities to include repairing all classes of mechanical objects.

This case of classic “job creep” was driven by demand, because he had the tools to do limited work with metal objects. He might be called upon to fix a broken hinge, clock or lock using his tools and whatever materials that he could scrounge. Sometimes he would replace a broken steel part with a piece of brass that he could more easily work with the tiny vise and files. This replacement part might work for a time, but would ultimately fail. This common use of expedient materials resulted in so many failures that Tinkers and the art of “tinkering” received a bad name.

It did not help that those who made their living as locksmiths, gunsmiths, blacksmiths, millwrights, etc. did not care for the competition from Tinkers who not only undercut them in price, but took trade by making these repairs with varying degrees of success. We still have a phrase in the language, “Jack of all trades and master of none,” that was so commonly applied to Tinkers that it remained a part of the language long after the Tinker’s job of mending pots has almost completely vanished. Metal pots that were once highly prized are now so cheap that they are commonly thrown away should they develop holes or need new handles. If their owners cannot repair them, they are often tossed or sold for their metal.

I took a small aluminum pot that I had purchased in 1968 in Fairbanks, Alaska, on a recent hunt at the Cumberland Island National Seashore (See video at: http://youtu.be/wgPNeKXxAXg). This small Swiss-made pot was part of the gear I gathered to do a Summer of backpacking in the Chicken District of Alaska while I worked on my Master’s thesis. I cooked hundreds of meals in this pot in the following years. Perhaps one of its most striking adventures was when I took it on a successful hunt for Dahl sheep. On the trip out, I had the sheep’s head lashed to the top of my pack and the teeth on the bottom of the sheep’s skull abraded through the pack and scratched the pot’s lid. That sheep is still on my wall, and each time I took that pot to the hunting camp it reminded me of this adventure. This pot had become one of that class of objects that I consider, “Sacred implements of the hunt.”

These are not sacred in the meaning that they are any more or less holy that anything else, but they have a deep meaning to me such that I would be distraught should they be lost. On my recent hunt on Cumberland Island, the pot leaked through two tiny pinholes that had apparently been poked into it by a steel fork in my camp box. I noticed this when the propane flame from my Coleman stove started to sputter, as if the pot were boiling over. When I took the pot off the stove it was wet on the bottom and had a slow drip. Fortunately I had another pot, so I transferred my supper of Hog’s Head Brunswick Stew to the new pot and continued my meal.

I thought about retiring the pot, but remembering the Tinker’s trade, I decided to see if I could use a steel rod to shift enough malleable metal to seal these holes. After making a few strikes, I could see that the the holes were closed, but proving that this cold- forging repair was successful could only come when water was heated in the pot. Water’s surface tension is sufficient to keep the pot from leaking through tiny holes, but this tension is broken when sufficient energy is imparted to the water to bring it to a boil.

I am pleased to report that the repair worked, the pot passed its cooking test and it has been returned to service. It will again someday fail, as will all mechanical things, but my attempts at a small revival of the Tinker’s trade was successful. As I very often use whatever I have to make the things that I need, as I recently did with making homemade covers for hatchets, my appreciation for the often disparaged Tinker and his trade has considerably increased. The video of this repair may be seen at: : http://youtu.be/p4dipuLnr88.

My camp pot has now been returned to duty as before when it cooked me a meal in New York's Adirondack Mountains.
My camp pot has now been returned to duty as before when it cooked me a meal in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

So tinker away, you may be successful or you may be only temporarily successful, but isn’t that what life is all about? The lowly Tinker was just like the rest of us, but he tried.

Posted on 1 Comment

Making a Sheath for a Camp Hatchet or Axe

Components, tools and the completed sheath for a camping/hunting hatchet.
Components, tools and the completed sheath for a camping/hunting hatchet.

In a recent YouTube video that I posted at http://youtu.be/KD08S_RQwvM , one of the items that I discussed was a camp axe that was sold with a clear plastic sheath. This sheath was stuck to the hatchet’s head because the protective grease had apparently formed a adhesive bond with the plastic cover. This cover was apparently designed to be used to hang on a pegboard for display, and was nearly worthless for any other use. Because camping hatchets must somehow be transported to the campsite, their blades need to be protected to keep them from accidently cutting holes in tents or other gear and/or cutting someone or something, like a horse, while being taken to camp.

Foam lining for sheath.
Foam lining for sheath.
In looking through my accumulated items that I had mostly salvaged from my local Dempsey Dumpster, I recovered some canvas that had once been part of an inexpensive Chinese screen. The clear, white wooden supports were cut for tent stakes, and I thought the canvas, although somewhat thin, would do for an exterior cover. By happenstance, I also had a piece of packing foam that was about 1/4-inch thick and tear resistant that could be formed to fit the hatchet’s head and protect the sheath’s cloth exterior.

My first step was to cut a hole in the foam for the handle and then form the foam around the hatchet’s head. As a temporary measure, I used masking tape to hold the foam into shape while I sewed it with blue polymer thread from a spool that belonged to my late wife. I also found a fairly thick needle from a package of assorted needles that I had bought decades ago. After I formed the basic shape with the sheet foam, I roughly cut the cloth to allow a sufficient amount to wrap around the foam form to make a flap that would extend to the bottom of the sheath and cover the hatchet’s head. I used the handle of a small Buck folding knife to push the needle through as many as six layers of cloth, foam and nylon.

Sewing up the canvas components was a 8-hour task.
Sewing up the canvas components was a 8-hour task.

Part of the sewing was done while I was in my deer stand waiting for deer (none came). Because the cover was completely white, I used the camo cloth from an old Mossy Oak badge holder to mostly cover the sheath’s exterior, and I salvaged two strips of Velcro from the badge holder to provide a positive closure over the hump caused by the protruding hatchet’s handle. I thought about adding reinforcing grommets, but decided that the many lines of tough polymer thread were sufficient to hold the weight of the hatchet, considering that this weight was distributed over the bottom of the sheath by the foam lining.

The last step was to sew on two nylon straps to form belt loops so that I could carry the Camp Hatchet on my belt to clear trail or take to the camp. Now this hatchet is permanently part of my camp gear, and it is stored with other camping gear in a pre-packed box that I keep ready for my next camping trip.

Now stored in my camp box, the hatchet with its homemade sheath is ready to help put up camp or clean game.
Now stored in my camp box, the hatchet with its homemade sheath is ready to help put up camp or clean game.

There is a video about making this sheath at: http://youtu.be/npcvQErZVDQ and also a group of annotated photos on Pinterest.

Posted on 1 Comment

Hatchets for Work, Camping, Hunting and Cooking

A selection of small hatchets.
A selection of small hatchets.

Hatchets, or belt axes, have a variety of blade shapes and uses for both the building tradesmen and outdoorsmen. The evolution of these useful shapes goes all the way back to the Stone Age, but it was hardened bronze that really brought this form into full development with significant improvements being added when iron and steel became the preferred material for hatchet heads. It wasn’t that stone was all bad. Indeed, some beautiful and effective hatchets were made from tough rocks like diabase, andesite or even jade. Obsidian can yield the sharpest edges, but even the tougher rocks could not be sharpened as effectively as a metal blade, and obsidian was too brittle to be used for forceful chopping.

The Carpenter’s hatchet is the variant that is most often seen. Most commonly these have wooden handles and a flat back with a broad curved blade with a nail puller forged into the blade. A particularly robust version that I have from Norway also features a forged neck that extends down the handle below the head, a steel wrap around the wooden head and a screw through the head and handle to doubly insure that the head stays attached. These added features were designed to prevent two common failings of hatchets that have wooden handles. Either the head would become detached because the handle wood dried out or the handle would be snapped off if the user missed his piece of wood and hit with the handle just below the head.

Heads on Carpenter’s hatchets are strongly wedge-shaped. They are very much like smaller versions of the common heads on felling or chopping axes and for the same reason. This head was intended not only to cut, but to also push the chips away from the work as it impacted the wood. Using a hatchet wooden structural elements could be effectively shaped/notched to rest, or be inserted into, other timbers. The wedge shaped also helped the head split straight-grained pieces of wood so that they could be quickly cut into pegs to hold a building’s frame together. It is not unusual for a Carpenter’s hatchet to weigh 2-3 pounds with the heavier implements being preferred by shipwrights.

Coopers, barrel makers, and Shinglers, those who worked with wooden shingles, needed a different tool as they were working thinner pieces of wood and attempting to do so in a more precise fashion. The Shinglers’ hatchet, for example, has a sharper thinner blade, with an adjustable stop to enable him to very precisely trim shingles from heart pine, cypress or cedar. In more modern times Western cedar is the most commonly used shingle material. Because straight-grained Western cedar splits very easily, the head could be lighter and some hatchets even had built-in stops on the blade to prevent the blade from overly penetrating the shingle and striking the roof that was being worked along with a flat back that could be used to wedge and nail the shingles in place. (I find this stop very useful when cleaning tough gar fish where you must brake through the tough scales along the back to extract the “backstraps,” but do not want to penetrate into the guts.)

Campers’ needs for hatches depended directly on how they traveled. Those who were carrying everything on their backs wanted a hatchet that was as light as possible, but more effective than a belt knife for working up firewood for camp, pounding in tent stakes and incidentally for cleaning game. Many a Carpenter’s hatched went camping, but specialized tools started to be made in the late 1800s for this market and increased in diversity and type through the 20th Century. In the U.S., these small axes had their roots starting in the 1500s with the Native American’s tomahawk that was not only used for combat, but was also a utilitarian tool. These were commonly tucked into a sash with the blade exposed which invited disaster, should this blade be brushed by an arm or somehow reversed and driven into the abdominal cavity.

Accidents caused by carrying hatchets with exposed blades or having the blade cut through packs, clothes etc. while being carried on horse or in a boat caused makers to either put their Camper’s hatchets in leather sheaths for belt or pack carry or to provide some mechanical means of protecting the blade, as with Marbles Safety Ax. The Carpenter’s hatchet conversion to a camping tool consisted of its retaining its flat back, but is blade length was commonly reduced, its head slimmed and made into a more compact, light-weight package that was sold with a sheath. The wedge-shaped head remained, as wood would always need to be split for campfires and cooking.

Hunters also needed hatchets for working up big game, particularly animals the size of moose, elk and mule deer. Here the need was not for so much for splitting but for cutting, although weight was still needed to break through heavy bone. This increased cutting function was facilitated by reducing the width of the blade and making it more like a plate of sharpened sheet steel attached to a handle. In fact, some of these were forged in just that manner with very thin scales of bone or wood and the back of the hatchet becoming only a bit over 1/4-inch thick. Hunters could still cut some wood with this instrument and pound tent stakes by hitting them with the flat of the blade, but the pounding and nailing ability of the hatchet was largely lost. (Interestingly, the nail pulling cut remained on one old hatchet of this type that I own, although it has a very thin back that would be nearly useless for setting a nail.) The hunting hatchet also needed to be carried to the kill site, and it was also sold with a sheath.

Modern hatchets became divided into two categories of instruments, i.e., one with a flat back and wedge-shaped head and a second type that was shaped more like a sheet of steel with an attached handle. For reasons that I can only conjecture, Fox, an Italian Company, decided to go back to Roman times for inspiration to revive a hatchet shape first used in the Bronze Age and refined by the 3rd Century AD. This hatchet has a broad sweeping blade that is made of sheet steel and is welded to another sheet-steel wrap that goes around a very well designed ash handle. This type of assembly was first seen in Bronze Age swords and axes from China with rivets holding the components to a wooden shaft. This assembly provides a flat back which may be used for pounding and a thin sharp blade made of good steel that I have used for a variety of tasks including hacking up limbs up to 4-inches in diameter from a fallen pecan tree. You can see a video of me using the Fox hatchet at: http://youtu.be/mTxeqtsmxU8. For larger wood, a bigger tool is required.

The small hatchet worked, but the Fox did better.
The small hatchet worked, but the Fox did better.
This hatchet has gone with me on boat trips, to the Adirondack Mountains of New York, on many camp-out hunts here in Georgia, and has become my favorite instrument of this type, compared to both larger and smaller versions of the hatchet. For example, I used a Swedish-made backpacker’s hatchet to help clear trail in New York, but the next day did much faster and easier work with the Fox hatchet. I have a video about this hunt at: http://youtu.be/XOCOJXSc3ak. The Fox hatchet is cataloged by the R.G. Russell Co., who specializes in high-quality knives and edged products from the world’s best makers.

For cooking purposes there is a transition between hatchets and cleavers with the significant difference being that cleavers have much longer blades than hatchets, but I also commonly use the Fox hatchet, and others, in the kitchen when I need to do some serious carcass splitting, as for breaking up a turkey carcass to go into the stock pot. I also have a Swiss-made tool which is somewhat like a cleaver, but with a much thicker blade designed for splitting firewood. In this derivation, the blade is longer than the handle, as is exactly the case with cleavers. As in most categories of objects, a little research will often reveal transitional forms that do not cleanly fall into one category or the other.

A video about these axes is now up on YouTube and may be seen at: http://youtu.be/KD08S_RQwvM.