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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: 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: 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 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.

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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: 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: :

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.

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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 , 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: and also a group of annotated photos on Pinterest.

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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: 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: 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:

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Low Cost, No Limit Hunts for Deer and Hogs on Cumberland Island National Seashore

Cumberland Lady being loaded to take hunters on their 3-day hunt on the Cumberland Island National Seashore.
Cumberland Lady being loaded to take hunters on their 3-day hunt on the Cumberland Island National Seashore.

Georgia’s Cumberland Island National Seashore offers resident and non-resident hunters the opportunity to go on managed hunts and take an unlimited number of deer and wild hogs with bows, crossbows, pistols and muzzleloaders as well as with conventional cartridge rifles for the Adult-child and Feral Hog hunts in December and January. The hunting season on the island begins with an either-sex archery (bow or crossbow) hunt in late October with a 150-hunter quota, a Primitive Weapons either-sex hunt in mid-November with a 100-hunter quota, an Adult-Child hunt in December with a 50-person quota (only the child may shoot) and two Feral Hog hunts in January with a quota of 100 each.

Tent camps are needed for the 3-day hunts on Georgia's coastal islands.
Tent camps are needed for the 3-day hunts on Georgia’s coastal islands.

Each of these hunts are three-day hunts with hunters being transported to the island on the Cumberland Island Ferry. Hunters are required to have a Georgia big game hunting license (currently $90 for a 3-day nonresident license) and are charged a $35 fee for transporting them and their camp to the island. The ferry only makes one trip to take hunters in and another to collect them and their game at the end of the hunt. These are camp-out hunts, although showers, indoor toilets, a game cooler and an ice machine are available at the Plum Orchard Camp. There are no facilities at the Brick Hill Camp, but game is picked up daily and put in the cooler at Plumb Orchard. This is Georgia’s largest barrier island. The areas that may be hunted extend for about 10-miles on the northern 2/3rds of the island, and hunters select non-exclusive hunting blocks and walk out from camp. The hunting areas are designated wilderness areas and no wheels are allowed, although deer carts may be used on the major roads. Hunters put their stands along many of the designated trails, shoot their animals and drag them to one of several roads or to the beach for pick up.

Hunters board the ferry at St. Marys the day before the hunt starts to allow them to set up camp and perhaps pre-position their stands for the next day’s hunt. About equal number elect to hunt from climbing tree stands or from cushions or stools on the ground. The vegetation is very thick on most parts of the island with shots typically being at ranges of 30 yards and closer. Videos showing the details of the hunt and the trip to the island may be seen at: and

Exotic animals on the island, besides hogs, include very large numbers of armadillos and about 100 feral horses. These species are protected as are the island’s native snakes, including at least two species of rattlesnakes, and some of the state’s larges alligators inhabit the island’s fresh-water ponds.

Although the island is sub-tropical with palm and palmetto trees, the weather is highly variable. Often it rains on some days, and the temperatures may occasionally drop below freezing with the recent record low being near 0 degrees F. More commonly temperatures are above freezing and mosquitoes and sand fleas can be very bothersome. ThermaCells, head nets and bug repellent are recommended.

People often hunt in small groups and camp together hunt after hunt. These camps can get quite elaborate with several tents, large tarps and elaborate lighting and cooking equipment. Others go with small one-man outfits. Electric generators and loud music are discouraged. Once people have hunted the island for a few years, they often have favored areas and will revisit them year after year. Stand hours are designated for the morning and evening hunts, although hunters may stay out all day if they wish.

Allowable hunting instruments are those that are legal under Georgia laws. These include either bows or crossbows for the archery (or any other) hunt, muzzleloading guns (including pistols, smoothbores with single round ball and rifles) for the muzzleloading hunt, and any of the previously mentioned hunting tools as well as cartridge rifles for the Adult-Child and Feral Hog hunts. For details consult the current state game regulations at

To apply for the hunts make your application and pay your hunt fee at and type in “Cumberland” in the search box to bring up the menu that will give the details of the hunts. The new hunt dates are set and applications are accepted after July 1 of each year. Residents and non-residents may apply as well as non-U.S. citizens. All are required to have hunter-safety training and all must wear some blaze orange garment/s (usually a vest) during the hunt.

A pair of hogs from Cumberland Is.
A pair of hogs from Cumberland Is.
Although I had been successful in taking one or more animals on previous hunts, very windy weather and perhaps the use of a heavy Tree Lounge tree stand prevented me from being as successful as I had been the previous years. I have taken up to three hogs on a single hunt and have also killed deer. Because the hogs are so often hunted, they generally max out at about 200 pounds. The hogs that have been feeding on nuts and soft mast are excellent eating, while those working fiddler crabs on the marsh are not nearly so tasty. These island deer are small, with the record buck weighing only 132 pounds. These deer can have handsome 10-point and larger racks, but primarily because of competition with the wild hogs do not have sufficient food to grow huge racks or increase their body size. When some of these deer were transported to the interior of the state where better food sources were available, they proved that they could grow to 200-pounds, provided they had enough to eat.

The desire to improve the island’s habitat for deer and other wildlife is the reason that the hunt limits are so liberal. Other methods of hog control have included trapping and now a full-time employee has the job of shooting hogs every day. The hog population must be reduced by 75 percent on an annual basis to keep hog numbers from increasing. Even though this is an island, hogs will re-populate it from nearby areas even if their numbers were reduced to small levels. The practical objective is to attempt to control hog numbers to help preserve the island’s unique habitat and also to protect the eggs of endangered sea turtles that nest on the island’s beaches.

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Turnips are Not Just for Food Plots: Turnip Greens, Roots and Stems for the Table

Turnip greens with wild hog tenderloin.
Turnip greens with wild hog tenderloin.

Some deer hunters who put in Winter food plots only consider turnips as part of a mixture of growing cold-weather greens that deer like to eat. Know what? They are also very good on the dinner table. Most rural Southerners were weaned on turnip greens and corn bread, and these dishes are as tasty now as they were when they were babes in arms. Of the common green-leafy crops, turnips are the least harsh tasting, compared to collards and kale. They are an excellent and tasty leafy vegetable that will be enjoyed not only by your family, but also by your dogs. Dogs need their greens just like we do and for the same reasons.

Young turnips trying to grow in the author's food plot. A very dry Fall and deer browsing have kept the plants very small.
Young turnips trying to grow in the author’s food plot. A very dry Fall and deer browsing have kept the plants very small.

Here is how to cook a bunch of turnips. Start with picking out good plants at the Farmers’ Market. Turnips are sold by the bunch and some twenty or so will usually be tied together with a string or rubber band. Select a bunch were the leaves are bright, green and still alive. Careful turnip sellers will have the roots of the plants in water, or be constantly spraying the leaves. It is OK if a few are starting to turn yellow on the edges, but live plants are what you are looking for. These should have their roots attached. The roots will vary in size from about 3-inches across to pencil-eraser size, depending on how closely the turnips were planted. The last batch that I purchased at the Farmers’ Market was $3.00. I was glad to have them, as I cannot grow them at that price.

Once home, put the roots in a washtub with some water and let the plants sit in the cool until you are ready to start cleaning them. Turnip cleaning and cooking is best done over about a 3-hour period. The more hands the faster the work goes, and kids can help wash the grit from the plants. Washing is a significant part of the process as turnips will likely have been dusted with insecticide multiple times during the growing season and will also have more or less sand on their roots and leaves. My mother use to wash the leaves three times in fresh water before she thought them fit for the pot. The water would be changed between each washing.

When the turnips are in a bunch, the roots are all sticking out in one direction. Usually the first thing that I do is to take each plant and cut off the roots, which I trim and place in another container of water. I later wash these separately and cut the larger roots into smaller pieces, often 1-inch or less in size. These are then put into a pot and boiled. Traditionally, that is as far as this process went.

Some fat meat, salt and a little black pepper was added to the roots and they were cooked separately from the greens. More for color than taste, some people reserved a few roots and cut them into about half-inch cubes and added them to the greens. This year I devised a slightly different dish using the roots and stems which is given below:

Turnip Roots and Stems with red kidney beans make for a one-pot meal for deer campl
Turnip Roots and Stems with red kidney beans make for a one-pot meal for deer camp.

Turnip Roots and Stems with Deer Meat and Red Beans

3 lbs. turnip roots washed and cut into 1-inch and smaller pieces
1 lb. turnip stems stripped of leaves and cut into 2-inch lengths
1/2 cup dried dark red kidney beans
3 pounds roast from doe or a small buck
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

Clean and dice turnips and put in pressure cooker. Cut small deer roast into 1-inch and smaller cubes, salt and pepper and add to pot along with dried beans. Cover with water. Pressure cook approximately 20 minutes. Put pressure cooker in water for a quick cool-down, remove lid when safety button is down. Taste and adjust seasonings. The turnip roots will turn dark and the beans will be done, but perhaps a little firm, like in a bean salad. Serve in bowl with pot liquor on top of vegetables and accompany with corn bread, real butter and iced tea. This makes a one-pot meal that freezes well, should you want to save some for later.

I like this dish because it uses a portion of the stems which are most often thrown away and captures the nutrients stored in the biggest part of the plant.

Stemming, that is cutting or pulling the green leaves from the coarser stems and tearing them into 1-2 inch pieces, can often be done by kids who enjoy the destructive aspects of tearing something up in addition to helping their parent cook. The more they can participate in the process, the more likely they are to eat the product. The torn leaves are placed into a large bowl or pot and when the process is completed the leaves are put into the sink where sufficient water may be added to float them. Mix with the hands until the greens are well washed and transfer the drained leaves into another container. Empty wash water and wash the leaves a second time. If grit and dirt still appears in the bottom of the sink, repeat the process until no sediment is visable on the bottom of the sink.

Turnip Greens with Wild Hog Tenderloin

Very often in the South turnips are cooked with a slab of diced, salted and smoked pork fatback or streak-of-lean. This turns out to be a bit too greasy and salty for my taste, so I will often use some other pieces of leaner pork, such as from the shoulder of a wild hog or, in this case, Wild Hog Tenderloin. The tenderloin is tender, tasty, cooks fast and does not have much associated fat when it is from a wild animal. To take the place of the animal fat I added a tablespoon of margarine.

1 stuffed plastic grocery bag full of washed torn turnip leaves (about 1 1/2-pounds)
1 1/2 pounds of Wild Hog Tenderloin
1 tablespoon margarine
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

In a large pot add about 1-inch of water and bring to a boil. Add greens and while stirring allowing the greens to reduce in bulk so that you can get them all into the pot. Add additional water as the volume of greens is reduced to about one-half, but not enough to cover. When the greens have been reduced to their lowest volume add sufficient water to cover. Add cut meat and margarine and stir to keep meat from sticking to the pan. Boil until meat is fork tender. Partly drain and serve with slotted spoon. Again, corn bread, butter and iced tea are traditional accompaniments.

To see a video about these dishes go to: There are many more wild game recipes in my books “Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound,” “Crossbow Hunting” and “X-Treme Muzzleloading” which are available as softcover and E-books. Take a look at the books at These prize-winning books make excellent Christmas gifts for the hunter.

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Book Advances: What they Mean to an Author

Front and rear covers for "Backyard Deer Hunting"
Front and rear covers for “Backyard Deer Hunting”

Self published titles that bypass conventional publishing houses are becoming increasingly significant parts of the modern book market.

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From the publisher’s point of view an author’s book advance is often considered as a production cost which, like all others, should be kept as small as possible to maximize the potential profit from the risky business of book publication. However, this view is somewhat shortsighted because this is the first indication to a prospective author of the publisher’s intent and how seriously they intend to promote the book. No advance, or a miserly one, is a strong indication that the book will receive minimal support from the publisher and they will do little or nothing to promote it outside of listing it in their catalogue, showing it on their website and exhibiting it at a few trade shows.

The lack of a significant author’s advance also indicates to potential wholesale buyers and distributors that, “If the publishing company did not think that the book was worth paying for, why should we bother to stock it?” The payment of a significant advance to an author is in most cases the first advertisement for the book and an indication of its importance. Regardless of the topic, there are increasing numbers of books published each year, and the announcement of a significant advance paid to an author is a first indication that this title is expected to be a contender for the best sellers’ lists.

Advances are designed to enable the author to cover the physical expenses of producing the book including the necessities like paper, toner, postage and a working computer as well as allowing him to work on the book without having to do other work to meet his monthly bills. A writer who is stressed out worrying about how he is going to pay his electric bill is not likely to give his book maximum care while he is trying to raise sufficient scratch to live on. This is not meant to support, “the lifestyle to which he would like to become accustomed,” but to allow a reasonable living. There is a maxim in the writing business that, “Paying work goes out first,” which is as true now as it ever was.

A common argument against paying advances is, “If we pay author “A,” then we will have to pay the same amount to every other author in our catalogue.” This is not true and never has been. Writers who have previously produced numerous books, who offer multiple books, titles that have the potential to turn into a series, have demonstrated that they promote their own titles, are good copywriters, enthusiastically promote their works through the social media and do well when interviewed on TV are worth much more than a writer who just sends in a book and does nothing else. Past demonstrated performance as well as future potential are both significant factors in determining who might get an advance and who would not. These factors also indicate how much that advance should be.

Writers who feel that they have been ill treated by a publisher or are offered no incentives to publish with that firm are increasingly likely to self-publish their own works and bypass commercial publishers. In today’s marketplace the connections between the producer of content and his consumer is becoming more direct. Producing, keeping and shipping inventory which was once the bane of all authors is now unnecessary with the advent of print-on-demand publishing houses.

Another even less expensive alternative is for the author to produce the title as an E-book, which brings the cost down to about $500 a title. Today’s author also has the possibility of selling ads to go into his softcover and E-books which further reduces the price. Should the E-book become popular, it is not uncommon for this already-published title to be re-edited and sold to a major publishing house for a considerable sum. A decade ago publishing houses controlled the book market, but this is increasingly not the case. Authors are now becoming their own publishers with their own imprint that is marketed through regular book channels.

The offer of a meaningful advance increases the possibility that a prospective writer will elect to have a publishing company produce and market his book. Publishing companies who want the best books from the best authors need to be prepared to pay for them.

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Modern Muzzleloaders Now Have Problems Once Restricted to Cartridge Guns

Traditions Strikerfire from video

The drive to produce lighter and lighter hunting rifles has been extended to muzzleloading guns to the extent that barrel diameters have been reduced to the point where pressures on the ends of the barrels can significantly change the impact points of any bullets shot from them. This point was illustrated by my test of Traditions’ Vortek Strikerfire Northwest Hunter. This gun, like other current drop-barreled Traditions rifles, has a very slim barrel to help reduce weight. In comparison, the flintlock Traditions PA Hunter, which is also a .50 caliber rifle, has an octagonal barrel that is about 7/8-inches from flat to flat. The Strikerfire barrel has a .50-caliber hole in it, but is only about .70-caliber at the muzzle.

The difference between these barrels’ sizes is about like comparing a wrecking bar to a gas pipe. My first indication that something was wrong was when I kept adjusting the scope to alter the strike of the bullets and the subsequent shots struck even higher than they were before. This can indicate that the scope is loose, the adjustment mechanism of the scope has been stripped and scope adjustments are not making any difference or that something is wrong with the barrel. I took the scope off the gun and installed the original set of iron sights with the same results – no matter how I adjusted the sights, the strike of the bullets appeared to rise or fall at random. Changing bullets, powders and primers did not solve this problem, although much time was lost going through the component tests.

Chronograph data did not show sufficient velocity changes from shot to shot to explain this difference. If all of the other variables had been changed and these changes had no beneficial effect, then the problem must be with the barrel. Only then did it dawn on me that the problem was that the barrel was bearing on the front of the rest that I was using, and this, indeed, was the problem and ALL of the problem. When I started shooting supporting the gun with my hands and shoulder, the changes in impact points from the bullets correspond with the sigh adjustments, as they should.

After cleaning the gun, remounting the scope and this time using my arms to support the gun, my sighting-in attempts became meaningful. However, going through all of the previous steps had rapidly taken me through my supply of bullets. I had to save some of the original 240 grain saboted Hornady XTP Hunters because I was to go hunting in a few days with the Traditions’ PA Hunter which was sighted in with these bullets. Just to get somewhere close on target I also used the Full Bore 300 grained hollow based bullets and the Traditions Smackdown SST’s 250 grainers which have a polymer tip. Shooting all of these bullets at 50 yards with the re-mounted scope enabled me to ultimately put shots near the 10 ring with the Smackdown SSTs. As I had only three of these bullets left, I reserved these for hunting and fired a confirming shot with a similar Thompson/Center Arms 250 grain polymer-tipped saboted bullet.

My level of accuracy shooting with just the support of my arms is about 1-inch at 50 yards. My final sighting in shot from the gun hit almost exactly where I would have called it at the upper left edge of the 10-ring. After shooting from about 9:00 AM until 3:00 PM, I was ready to call it a day. While at the bench I loaded up the CVA multi-shot universal tool with the remaining three 150-grain Traditions Smackdown SST bullets and three .45-caliber TripleSeven pellets (these in a .50-caliber barrel). Before these are loaded in the gun, I will pre-load a charge of 10 grains of FFFg GOEX black powder to help insure that the musket-cap primer will ignite the load even if the cap is partly wetted by snow or rain and has lost some of its strength. I am manually adding an ignition charge that is similar to what Hodgdon has used for years on the rear of their Pyrodex pellets.

You can see a YouTube video of me working with the gun at:

Other charges were tested in the gun including 85 grains of granular FFg Hodgdon’s Triple Seven, three (150 grain equivalent) TripleSeven pellets and the full bore 300-grain bullet (not recommended because of very heavy recoil), as well as the composite charge with a priming of 10 grains of FFFg in back of two .45-caliber TripleSeven pellets loaded in a .50-caliber barrel. The velocity and energy figures are tabulated below:

Bullets and Loads for Traditions Vortek Strikerfire Northwest Gun

Bullet Powder Velocity Energy

348 gr. PowerBelt Bullet 100 gr. .50-cal. TripleSeven Pellets 1263 ft/sec 1233 ft/lbs
240 gr. XTP Hunter 10 FFg. 100 gr. .45-cal. TripleSeven Pellets 1568 ft/sec 1311 ft/lbs
300 gr. Full Bore 10 FFg. 100 gr. .45-cal. TripleSeven Pellets 1385 ft/sec 1279 ft/lbs
250 gr. Smackdown 85 gr. Granular TripleSeven Powder 1451 ft/sec 1169 ft/lbs
250 gr. Smackdown 10 FFg. 100 gr. .45-cal. TripleSeven Pellets 1557 ft/sec 1346 ft/lbs

When the smoke cleared I had three of the Smackdown polymer-tipped Traditions bullets remaining, and these are the ones that I will use for hunting. These are now loaded in one of CVA’ universal rotary loading tools. So far as I know, Rightnour was the first to invent this type of tool and he marketed it along with other plastic muzzleloading accessories, like a pellet flasks, and even briefly made an excellent modernized .50-caliber flintlock rifle for Pennsylvania’s muzzleloading season. This rifle had a laminated stock, L&R Lock and a molded plastic trigger guard and butt plate.

Despite the challenges that I had with the Strikerfire, I liked the gun. It needed a little lubricant on the cocking slide and some fresh musket caps to make sure it would fire, but I liked the style of the gun, the way it felt and the way it shot, once I figured out what I was doing wrong. The pre-priming with 10 grains of FFg black powder helped increase the likelihood that the TripleSeven pellets would shoot with musket cap ignition, but the pellets did leave a resistant residue about 7-inches up the barrel that made it difficult to load a tight-fitting saboted bullet. I found myself having to wipe the bore with a damp patch followed by a drying patch and a final one that was lightly lubricated with Thompson/Center’s Bore Butter after every shot with these pellets to insure relatively easy reloading.

If you are reloading in the woods, you may have to push the ramrod down as far as you can get it with your hands and then do the final bullet seating by pushing the end of the ramrod against a tree while you hold the gun in both hands. Do not shoot this gun if the bullet is not seated fully down on the powder or you will likely ring this thin barrel. This problem may be avoided altogether by using a load of lose FFg-size granular TripleSeven powder.

Does the Strikerfire’s hammerless feature make the gun significantly better than the similar Vortek rifles that have hammers? You do not have the noisy click-click of pulling back a conventional hammer. (If you have the presence of mind to do so, you can silent cock hammer guns by pulling all the way back on the hammer and then slowly lowering the hammer down on the sear.) The hammerless design also eliminates the possibility of the hammer being inadvertently cocked when pushing the gun into a gun case or by catching on a limb. The mechanism is also a bit more weather resistant because of the solid top of the receiver, although the slide could become blocked by freezing rain or sludge. I could happily hunt with either version of the gun.

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