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Putin murdered Navalny and is no saint, and you are your own leader

Political candidate, longtime Putin critic, and political prisoner Alexei Navalny (aged 47) was murdered in a Russian prison last week. Like the murder of Jeffrey Epstein in a supposedly heavily guarded and monitored prison in America, Navalny’s murder was also done to send a signal about who is in charge, this time in Russia.

The person in charge of Russia is Vladimir Putin, president for life and de facto dictator. Putin is known for poisoning his critics (Navalny was previously poisoned while abroad, and survived to bravely return home to challenge Putin in rigged elections, and was then jailed), having them thrown out of windows (too many examples to count), having them brutally murdered in the streets, and having them encounter impossible “accidents” like when the airplane they are on just mysteriously blows up in the middle of the sky without any warning.

I know that a lot of Americans are justifiably frustrated by the lack of leadership in America. While the Democrat Party is busy blowing up and setting America on fire, and illegally importing a veritable army of military-age illegal alien men, which is a dereliction of duty and outright treason, the Republican Party and almost all of its elected officials from coast to coast are spineless, flaccid, weak kneed, limp wristed, whiny, two faced girly men (first reference to GOPers as girly men was here on this blog months ago, and then used by Wayne Root, for which we are honored) who can’t do anything, not a damned single thing, to oppose or resist the Democrats.

These Republicans were elected on the basis of their campaigns, where they promised to be leaders, and lead on issues their voters care about. But they get into office and just don’t do anything. We have seen the same empty campaign promises here in Pennsylvania, where the vast majority of elected Republicans just can’t or just won’t say anything about election integrity.

In October and November 2020, the overwhelmingly Republican-dominated Pennsylvania legislature could have easily impeached and removed those PA Supreme Court justices who unconstitutionally turned PA law and constitution alike on their heads to make way for the theft of the 2020 election from President Donald Trump in favor of the non-campaigning basement dwelling zero-charisma plagiarist and serial liar Joe Biden.

But the PA GOP did nothing, absolutely nothing. Zero. And even now, asking people like state senator John Disanto to publicly say something meaningful about election integrity is like questioning the law of gravity. And as a result, elections are stolen and America is going up in flames.

So yes, there is a huge failure in leadership everywhere around us, at every level, and so yes, Americans are desperate for leadership anywhere they can find it. And so up steps Vladimir Putin to both attack the globalist swamp in Ukraine and to also stand firmly for his own country (imagine that) and for his church and history (doubly imagine that). And all of a sudden a void is filled, and Vladimir Putin becomes the embodiment of leadership to many Americans.

Stop it, people. Putin is not any kind of leader that any kind of traditional freedom-loving American can relate to or support. He is a cruel, evil, murderous tyrant who brooks zero opposition or even questioning. Yes, he has some good qualities, no, those qualities do not outweigh the terrible things he is doing to his political rivals or to Ukrainian civilians, much less to the American Dollar.

Forty-seven-year-old Alexei Navalny was just murdered in cold blood in a dark and cold jail cell, in the middle of Russia, alone without his wife or friends to hold his hand and comfort him, for the simple reason that he posed a threat to Putin’s illegal grip on absolute power.

We Americans are witnessing the same exact thing happening here in America, where absolutely innocent and peaceful protestors from January 6th 2021 are still being rounded up by gangs of federal Gestapo thugs and held in solitary confinement, without medical care, with inadequate food and water, under terribly unsanitary conditions, for the simple reason that they represent a We, The People response to the stolen election dictatorship of Joe Biden and his posse of lawless and violent federal employees.

So if you oppose what Joe Biden is doing here in America, you must oppose what Vladimir Putin is doing in Russia and in Ukraine. Standing up for freedom and for The People’s political opposition like Navalny and Trump doesn’t mean you automatically have to whole-hog embrace everything about Putin, or anyone else for that matter.

And I will bet that if you ask Russians, they will have mixed opinions about Putin. I will bet they admire and appreciate his strength and passion for Russia, but also reject his lawless violence and unnatural grip on absolute power.

When dictators in Russia or America resort to jailing their opponents, and killing them, they are illegitimate, and The People can and should rise up and take back what belongs to them. We, The People are the leaders we have been longing for.

Two great shows coming up soon!

Two great shows are coming up soon. If you live in central Pennsylvania, then fortunate you. If you live farther out or even far away, even out of state, both are worth traveling to, even from far, far away.

The first show starts this Friday, the 18th Century Artisan’s Faire, now (as of last year) held in Carlisle, PA, at the Carlisle Expo Center at 100 K Street. It used to be called the Lewisburg Show, because for decades it was held in Lewisburg, PA, along Route 15. The Carlisle Expo Center is SO MUCH BETTER than the prior hotel venue. I went to this show last year and could have easily spent both days there. Better lay-out, better room, more room, higher ceilings and far better lighting.

If you are afflicted with history-itis, with a passion for hand-made tools and utensils of all sorts, including eating utensils like forks and knives and plates, with blacksmithing and historic reenacting, with hand-carved curly maple furniture and gunstocks, leatherworking, with anything black powder or flintlock or percussion, with 17th and 18th century clothing, then this show is for you. I have been attending for I don’t know how many years, a long time, and every time I go it’s worth it. The nationwide talent that is assembled at this show is amazing to experience.

The second show starts this Saturday, the Great American Outdoor Show. It is held for the whole week in Harrisburg at the Farm Show Complex on Cameron Street. This is the “new” show built on the ashes of the old one, which I helped end by starting a boycott.

The prior show was run by a British promoter, and they had no feel for America, Americans, guns, gun rights etc. In the immediate political backwash of another Democrat-run mass school shooting, that British promoter tried to prohibit exhibitors from having AR-15 platform rifles. That set off a slight negative reaction among the paid participants, advertisers, and attendees that culminated in the boycott, which ended the show that year. And it ended that tone deaf promoter’s role in the show ever-after.

In the press interviews I did about shutting down that show, my favorite quote was “The British did not understand Americans in 1776, and they still don’t understand us in 2012.”

To which I think we can easily now add the entire Democrat Party, because it is openly and officially the political party of big government, of citizen disarmament and gun confiscation, of digital currency and your money control, of high taxes, of speech control, of thought control, of censorship, of car control, of health care control, of Covid lockdowns and private citizen movement control, but not USA border control.

Nope, under the Democrat Party the American border is wide freakin’ open to tens of millions of anyone and everyone from around the world.

So, go to these two shows. Both are very family friendly, regardless of what your family members each like. You will be really happy you did go. Enjoy America and freedom while you still can.

On Friday and Saturday you can rub elbows with gunpowder horn makers, flint knappers, flintlock and percussion rifle makers, black powder bag makers, historic dress and bonnet makers, tri-corner hat makers, and blacksmiths.

On Sunday you can go to the Farm Show Complex and see the whole world of tactical socks and vests, endless semiauto blast-em rifles as well as very cool historic lever action rifles and Wild West revolvers, bushcraft duck calls, high fence deer hunting legends and other TV created one-dimensional personalities, useful ATVs, fabulous boats, and cool end-of-the-world survival RVs, high tech synthetic and high tech  wool outdoor boots and clothing, hunting guides from all around the world, and all kinds of fishing stuff. The Great American Outdoor Show really is an amazing experience. I highly recommend it.

I myself will be both a visitor and a volunteer at the GAOS. After many years of volunteering at the show and its predecessor, I took 2021-2023 off. This year I will be volunteering one or two days with the Pennsylvania Trappers Association, a wonderful conservation group of which I am a Life Member. Come on by the PTA booth and chat with us!

Gunmaker extraordinaire Mitch Yates

Leatherman’s new proprietor with his wares, which many black powder hunters use nationwide

Hoffman Forge. Jymm Hoffman made the outstanding modern steel anvil that we use in our own forge

I am a proud volunteer with the Pennsylvania Trappers Association at the GAOS.

Reviewing the Marlin 1895 SBL

I have had some Marlin rifles, and what American deer, bear, or small game hunter doesn’t have one or two along the way in a life in the woods. But I never got so excited about one of them that I needed to join an online forum to discuss them and compare notes on handloads (handloads are non-commercial ammunition loaded by hand by the end-user, on a personally owned loading press, allowing the shooter to tailor ammunition to exacting tolerances and specific uses). This changed with the purchase of a new Ruger-made Marlin 1895 SBL, which I am really liking (after sending it back for much needed warranty work immediately after taking possession of it brand new in the box from the factory – ahem).

Overview

The new Ruger-made Marlin 1895 SBL (https://www.americanrifleman.org/content/2023-rifle-of-the-year-marlin-1895-sbl/) is a rugged, well designed firearm that I bought for two reasons and for two uses: It is fast shooting and unusually hard hitting within 50-60 yards for a sporting rifle, and I cannot think of a better rifle to hunt with on our bear drives here in PA and on bear hunts in Alaska.

After several months of ownership, here are my experiences with this gun.

Despite purchasing it brand new from the factory, I returned it to Marlin one day after picking it up from the gunshop, because the lever screw backed out, the action kept binding up, it was difficult to cycle the lever, had lots of sharp metal edges, and proud wood around the tang. This gun should have never been allowed out of the factory in the first place, and yet the buyer demand is so high that there must be pressure on the factory to just sling them out the door. According to reports made by other new owners, my experience is not unique. Ruger Marlin is going to kill their golden goose if they keep up this sloppy behavior. The gun is being sold on its presumed high quality.

The “Improved, slimmer” Forearm

While Marlin touts that the new, improved 1895 SBL forearm is slimmer than the old one, it is still too fat. This forearm is hardly easy to handle, and is not slim by any definition. It can easily use another 1/8” shaved off each side, or more, and tapered, like a shotgun forearm. That is, if you mean what you say about the forearm being easier to handle, dear Marlin.

Floppy Trigger Syndrome

The SBL’s factory trigger is pretty good, though it could be better. It is almost crisp, with a very defined and short step of creepy travel, and no stacking, but is a bit heavier than I and other users would like. It works well as a hunting trigger, which is all it really has to do anyhow. I don’t think this trigger was designed by a liability-minded lawyer. Other reviewers have reported that their 1895 SBL triggers were coming in between 5.5 to 8.5 pounds pull weight, and I am just guessing that this particular gun’s trigger is around 5.5 pounds. My preference would be in the 2.5-4.0 pound pull weight range, but I do not believe this factory trigger is adjustable. So “it is what it is,” as that tired old cliché goes, though there are superior aftermarket triggers available (https://www.wildwestguns.com/product/trigger-happy-kit/). One thing I do not like about the factory trigger is that it flops around and can make a tiny metallic sound. It would be preferable that it be stationary, locked in place, and not make noise. Because it’s on a hunting gun, and hunters require stealth. Nonetheless, the factory trigger works well as-is, and it certainly could be a lot worse.

One Rugged Beast

The SBL is one well made and tightly built rugged beast, and I think this is one of the main reasons for its popularity. Stainless steel and high tech laminate wood on anything, especially a firearm, mean it is made for southeast Alaska, at least, or anywhere else that is physically challenging and frequently wet and/or loaded with salt air. This is a rugged gun that should take all the wet and salty environment that could ever be encountered under normal hunting or camping conditions. The stainless steel does result in a shiny, reflective presence, however, and maybe too shiny for a hunting gun. Someone out there is going to bead blast their SBL for good reason, and thereby start a trend.

OK, I Guess Modern Hunting Guns are High Tech

Because I am a devoted black powder shooter and hunter, and because the year 1895 was the pinnacle of firearm development for people addicted to antiques and history like me, and because I prefer break-action single shots and double rifles over all other types of sporting guns, and because nicely blued or blacked steel with figured walnut make the most attractive firearms, I have heretofore been positively allergic to stainless steel and plastic modern guns. Everything about them just irked the crap out of me. Modern sporting firearms are just not appealing to me on any ground, most especially because nearly all of them are just plain ugly as hell. But in recent years I came to recognize that the most beautiful sporting arms can and likely will be destroyed by extended visits to places like Alaska, and so I came to a form of détente on this conundrum by recognizing the unique abilities of the SBL, and only the SBL. Its traditional lever action form is recognizable as quintessentially American, even in stainless and epoxy laminate.

The SBL is not only stainless steel and laminate wood that you can dig out a fox hole with, it also comes with a screw-off end cap for attaching a sound suppressor or a muzzle brake. Neither of these make any damned sense to me on this gun in the relatively quiet out-of-the-box 45-70, but whatever. People who are already crazed about suppressors and high tech gear-queer technical gobbledygook like muzzle brakes on deer cartridges will have all the joys of toys their little flaming hearts desire with this rifle’s little bells and whistles. Leave me out of it. To me, this is just a reliable, fast action mechanical gun in a caliber I can rely on in close-quarters grizzly country, end of technical story.

However, the factory attached Picatinny rail is pretty intriguing, even if it is also downright fugly as sin. It blows up and sets on fire whatever nice lines the 1895 SBL had to start with, but it is a valuable addition for those who use scopes and red dots and other training wheel tubular sighting contrivances on guns that don’t need them. I myself have not yet needed to use a scope on any gun I own, much less this lever action, and so this Picatinny rail is of no use to me. But in the interest of not “fixing” things that are not broken, I will leave it attached to my rifle and just hope it stops jabbing me in the proverbial eye every time I look at the gun.

This Gun Can SHOOT

Accuracy out of the box indicates these are being roughly sighted in at the factory with a laser bore sight, which is a good place to start shooting it in for hunting accuracy after you take possession of it. Do not take your 1895 SBL hunting out of the box! A fair amount of adjusting the rear peep sight for windage and elevation was necessary to get this one dialed in point-of-aim at 70 yards, which is the likely range I will be using it (see below for the deer I took with it this week at a measured 151 yards). Four shots were needed to get it centered, using the Hornady LeveRevolution 325 grain FTX, which is pretty much the standard factory ammunition designed for this gun.

Reloaders be aware that the loaded Hornady FTX brass is trimmed back shorter to accommodate the long ogive on their polymer-tipped FTX bullet that comes with their factory ammunition. You might be able to reload the Hornady factory ammunition FTX empty brass, depending on which bullet you use, and I certainly will try. If you are reloading with the Hornady FTX, then the empty brass can be reloaded without any fussing or fooling around. Other bullets, I don’t know. The 45-70 brass of any manufacturer is expensive enough to warrant trying to reload each one as many times as possible.

Accuracy is excellent after dialing in the open sights. Surprisingly good. Actually, amazingly good. This is, after all, a lever action with a short barrel, and historically these kinds of guns were mostly utilitarian 3” MOA (achieving three-inch groups at 100 yards) hunting weapons. The 26” barrel Henry 45-70 I hunted with in Alaska last year was achieving 3” groups at 100 yards with both Federal and Hornady ammo, so accuracy better than minute-of-deer in this thumper cartridge is a welcome surprise, emphasis being on the surprise. The SBL is very accurate, with surprisingly tight groups. I have read about many shooters getting MOA and even sub-MOA accuracy out of the 1895 SBL. Apparently even the old problematic “Remlin” 1895s had outstanding barrels. The new Ruger Marlin barrels are apparently just as good, if not better. This lever action gun provides accuracy expected of high quality bolt actions. Impressive and most welcome.

Its Open Sights

Yes, I like open sights, as you might guess. They are all I use and have ever used, and the factory supplied rear peep sight and neon yellow front sight work very well for me, especially at the fairly close distances I intend to hunt at with this gun. The sights are light years better than the Henry 45-70 I hunted with last year. That Henry had a cheap and flimsy rear sight that would constantly readjust itself out of true, which is downright dangerous in the grizzly country I was in. And yes, I was constantly surrounded by grizzlies, and so I kept checking and fidgeting with the Henry’s flimsy rear sight. This Marlin’s rear peep sight is more rugged, but it really sticks out and so it is vulnerable to catching on things and hard hits. It could use some sort of protective arch or band, which given how ugly the Picatinny rail already is, I don’t see how such a protective piece of steel could hurt the gun’s looks any more.

Built for Speed and Comfort

The SBL is fast shooting, and despite lobbing huge hunks of ballistic lead downrange, it is also comfortable to shoot. Probably due to its weight and the purposefully big and soft butt pad, I did not notice any real hard kick from this gun. But then again I am a very large framed guy with not only a lot of muscle but also a generous helping of blubber, which is like a giant shock absorber. Consider that I also shoot a .577 NE comfortably, so don’t be looking for reports of “the 45-70 kicks like a mule” here on this blog. I find it quite pleasant at the range and also hunting.

The 45-70 is No 50-110, OK?

Due to the SBL becoming so popular, much has been made about the 45-70 as some sort of atomic cartridge. Well, it’s not. The 45-70 certainly is no 50-110, which with modern smokeless powders really is a powerful stomper, and it is no .50 Alaskan, either. The 45-70 Government cartridge is not a “Jurassic” dinosaur killer, and in most ways it doesn’t come close to “boring” 30-06 performance.

For God’s sake and Goodness Gracious, it is not anywhere close to something so powerful. Yes, this 1870s black powder case is big compared to the modern bottle-necked cases we hunters mostly use today, and it has a lot of room for powder. And yes, it holds large bullets that are double or even triple the size of the typical 120-180 grain bullets we typically use for big game these days.

But way too many, if not almost all, the online video reviews of the 45-70 cartridge and this 1895 SBL rifle are done by young men wearing cool guy sunglasses and tight short sleeved shirts that showcase their pumped up biceps, bragging up how monstrously “powerful” this “howitzer” cartridge supposedly is (accompanied by the inevitable macho heavy crunching rock guitar musak). The implication being that they are powerful and macho as heck, and you can be, too, if you just own this rifle.

So powerful, so awesome, so macho. Barf, puke. No.

Wrong, guys. Holy smokes, people, calm down. Put down the new toy and get a grip on reality.  Stop and back up to the technical reality that simple science imposes on this 45-70 cartridge and on every other cartridge, for that matter. Put away the emotional nonsense, the ego, the lame desire to be seen as cool, or tough, or macho. The 45-70 is not that powerful, nor is it macho. Owning a lever action 45-70 won’t make you cool or make your you-know-what bigger.

We Americans do like our big trucks, big engines, big homes, big landscapes, and big bore firearms, no doubt. And I am all for all of that. But the 45-70 is just nowhere near what so many people promote it as, some kind of crushingly, overwhelmingly powerful “Jurassic dinosaur killer.” Even its modern loadings in the updated Speer and Hornady manuals pale in comparison to the apparently boring old .30-06 and even the .308. And 45-70 brass is prohibitively expensive, not to mention the high cost of better factory loads, which are somewhere about two fifty per round.

In short, an American deer and black bear hunter can get much better performance and value with any off-the-shelf 30-caliber rifle than with the 45-70. The 45-70 requires an awful lot of tweaking and handloading to get it into the realm of impressive. And even at its most impressive, it is still overshadowed by the boring old .30-06 for general duty. And the .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, and proprietary Marlin rounds like the .338, too, for that matter.

Sorry to all the macho strutting young bucks on YouTube, but your new toy is not that big or impressive! Please don’t cry!

Where the 45-70 shines these days is with just a few modern smokeless powders married to just a couple really modern solid bullets, in a fast handling, fast shooting, high quality lever gun like this 1895 SBL, at relatively close range, for fast follow-up shots on tougher-than-average critters that can stomp and eat you if they get too close.

That’s it.

That little description above is the narrow application for the 45-70 cartridge that is superior to most other sporting cartridges. Put a big, heavy 50-caliber hunting round in a Winchester Model 71 lever action, or in a Winchester 1886 lever action, and the 45-70 again falls into a far distant second choice for big and dangerous game.

But neither the old Model 71 nor the Model 1886 are made in stainless steel by one of the best gun makers.

And this reason above is why I have selected the 1895 SBL in 45-70 to be my new bear hunting rifle in Alaska and for bear drives in Pennsylvania: It is rugged, fast shooting, and potentially very hard hitting at close range with solid bullets.

If I am sitting on a hillside calling to black bears, which might require a 100-150 yard shot, then I will use a longer range bolt gun or double rifle with a flatter trajectory. One guy I know of has used the 1895 SBL for big game in Africa, but again, using a very narrowly designed combination of powder and high tech solid bullet at short range (see below).

If I were simply hunting black bears in open country, at ranges up to 200 yards, with occasional grizzlies around, like southern Alaska, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, the 1895 SBL would not be my choice. Not even in my top five choices. Rather, a more powerful rifle with a flatter trajectory would be my first choice, such as a .300-.338-.375 magnum bolt action. If I were hunting black bear way down the southern Alaskan coast, like on the islands from Juneau south, where brown bears (grizzlies) are far fewer and black bears are much more numerous, then I would take a .308 or .30-06 and dispense with the need to cover myself in case of short range ambush charges from the really dangerous bears in heavy Alaskan jungle cover.

Summed up perfectly by a federal wildlife employee who hunts big game and also dangerous game with the 1895 SBL in Alaska and Africa, who goes by the online name Tundra Tiger, “It is true: [the 45-70 Govt.] comes with a shorter effective range than some other calibers. However, if one chooses to recognize its limitations and work within them, I don’t see what the issue is [with hunting dangerous game with it].” He has taken some dangerous game in Africa with his Marlin lever action 45-70 using just one bullet, the Cutting Edge Bullets 325-grain solid brass bullet (https://cuttingedgebullets.com/458-325gr-lever-gun-safari-solid).

In Closing

I am sure that plenty of people can and will find a way to make the 1895 SBL in 45-70 round their home defense gun, their everyday big game hunting round, whatever, and that is fine. Why not, it’s a gun, which is better than nothing for self defense. It is far better than a baseball bat, which like all striking or stabbing weapons requires you to close with your opponent. And it is far better than calling 9-1-1 and waiting for your spirit to watch the EMTs zipping up your corpse in a body bag while the police show up to write a report about the crime scene. Lever actions are fast, and being mechanical, they are reliable and theoretically less susceptible to jamming problems than semi-autos, which are notorious for jams.

And lever actions have always made good hunting guns.

For most of my big game hunting, I prefer old guns shooting black powder at relatively close range that pack the same punch as the modern 45-70, or more, or more modern but still old centerfire guns of blued steel and aged walnut shooting modern bullets at woods range, in calibers like the 7x57R, 243, 308, 270, and 30-06. Like within 100 yards, without all of the unnecessary hard work trying to figure out how to make my short barreled lever action firing huge hunks of 45-caliber lead and brass with rainbow-shaped trajectories into performing like a flat shooting bolt action in a caliber nearly half the size of the 45-70.

AGAIN, this gun was purchased for just three reasons: 1) It is constructed of the most weather-resistant, durable materials possible in a firearm, stainless steel and high tech epoxy laminated wood, 2) the lever action is extremely fast, much faster than a bolt action and even than a pump action, and finally, 3) when properly loaded with the proper high-penetration solid bullets propelled by generous and safe amounts of powders like R7 and IMR4198, this modern 45-70 lever action provides the best combination of a practical stalking rifle for black bear in Alaska with a practical emergency short range defense weapon against grizzlies.

Loaded hot with the proper (heavy high quality solids going 2,000-2,100 fps) bullet, the 45-70 does its best better than most calibers within 50 yards. Only a short-barreled 12-gauge pump shotgun accurately shooting high tech heavy slugs is a superior, equally reliable defensive long arm than the properly loaded 45-70 lever action. But I would not take that same 12 gauge short barreled shotgun bear hunting, because it is really limited in range, even more limited than the 45-70.

AGAIN, I bought this gun only for a) hunting in Alaska, which is brutal on firearms, and, thus, where a stainless steel gun will do best, and b) for bear drives in northcentral Pennsylvania, where fastest-possible shooting (i.e. lever action) at short ranges in thick laurel are the norm. Our PA bear drives are brutal on guns, boots, clothing, and every other piece of gear you have. One of my friends broke his brand new Remington 7600 pump action 30-06 stock in half on one of our bear drives. Alaska is also known for eating firearms alive, especially the southeastern coastal strip, where endless rain and salt air will corrode and rust blued metal, and mildew and rot traditional walnut stock wood, in just a few days. So the Marlin 1895 SBL really fits the bill in these two tough hunting environments.

I am presently testing my own hand loads using 16:1 and 20:1 alloy cast bullets and the Cutting Edge Bullets 325 grain solid brass bullet at 1950-2100 fps. Field reports from Alaska to Africa indicate that this CEB load in the 1895 SBL is more than adequate for both hunting black bears and also for defending against attacking brown bears at powder-burn range (and yes, grizzly attacks happen frequently).

Readers interested in understanding how modern (i.e. last ten to fifteen years) bullet technology in an 1870s cartridge like the 45-70 creates a lot more flexibility and dangerous game ability (i.e. grizzly/ brown bears in Alaska) should read the following online discussion threads:

https://www.africahunting.com/threads/45-70-for-dangerous-game.6852/

https://www.marlinowners.com/threads/african-lion-bullet-suggestions.661932/?post_id=8826110&nested_view=1#post-8826110

And for those hunters and bystanders interested in what a properly loaded 45-70 lever action rifle can achieve against dangerous game, Vince Lupo’s reports about his African safaris are amazing: https://www.leverguns.com/articles/lupo/lupo.htm

p.s. Men and Their Personal Weapons

Men have always cherished certain weapons. A boar spear that saved your life once, a sword that swings just perfectly in battle, a custom hunting knife made specially for us and used to gut and butcher our hunted game many times, or a well-made trusty poniard on the hip in case of trouble while at market. For thousands of years we men clutch these things close, reflexively place our hand upon them when at rest, and stare at them lovingly from across the room, because they reliably work for us daily and we can always rely on them in a tight spot. And because these weapons speak to us, us men, through their beauty, and because very often they speak for us, they come to represent us. To stand for us. We identify ourselves through them.

And so I say, you men on YouTube and elsewhere are in really good company, in your admiration for the stainless steel and laminate Marlin lever actions, like this 1895 SBL. Their robust build, certain mechanical reliability, and extremely durable materials are all big draws in a world of semiauto jams and broken parts and surprise rust at just the wrong moment. This gun is the equivalent of a good heavy steel-tipped spear a thousand years ago, and it just feels right, hefts right, in our hand.

Deer I stalked and shot at 151 yards this week with the Marlin 1895 SBL. The 325-grain FTX bullet passed through lungs and stomach without slowing. Custom knife by JRJ John Johnson.

Beautiful Central PA landscape in winter

Winter sunset over the Susquehanna River

Exhibit A in macho gun reviews. Joe Cool shades in the shade. Biceps. Etc. Unfortunately, this rifle will not make his or your you-know-what bigger.

A 45-70 dangerous game round I loaded, using the 325-grain solid brass bullet by Cutting Edge Bullets. This is for stopping a grizzly

Welp, it’s the GOP vs. The People, again

Here in Pennsylvania, we have the annual GOP Stomp On The Little People Event happening again.

Mimicking the failed and useless PA GOP, which is pretty much a reflection of the failed and useless Ronna McDaniel and her ridiculous RNC, yesterday in Dauphin County and elsewhere across our Commonwealth was the county candidate endorsement meeting, where county committee people meet to endorse registered Republicans running for office.

Even before the ballot petition process has started.

Even before we know which candidates are going to be on the ballot and available to the voters.

Even before all the candidates have had an opportunity to present themselves for consideration to elected committee people and political activists.

In other words, this endorsement process is a charade designed to keep ironfisted authoritarian control over the choices available to voters.

If the GOP is wondering why so many people, so many voters, so many political activists are jaded and fed up with the Republican Party and elected Republicans, they might consider how the GOP treats said people, said voters, said activists, much less the Republican candidates, all of whom are Republicans because they believe in freedom.

One of the best ways the GOP shows its disdain and elitist mistrust of the great unwashed Republican Party masses is this endorsement process. Its endorsement process is 100% inside baseball, ultra insular, ultra inward looking. The party endorsement process is designed to keep the GOPe (Republican Establishment) in control of everything, including the usual milquetoast do-nothing stand-for-nothing empty suits who populate the Republican Establishment and its constellation of interest groups.

The Democrat Party is much better at this dance than the GOPe. The Democrats have made a science of both maintaining control of their base and also simultaneously giving a long leash to their base while feeding them plenty of red meat. It is a remarkable and terrifying feature of the Democrat Party that they are now so similar to how the German Nazi Party operated. They are way way ahead of the GOP, and it is no compliment to say that the GOP is unlike the Democrat Party.

The artless GOPe is both hamfisted and snobby, and so it finds itself with an ever shrinking sphere of influence. Its voters are in ever increasing revolt against their own political party.

Take for example the PAGOP’s fake “unanimous” endorsement of globalist RINO and tourist candidate for US Senate, Dave McCormick, whose leftist wife Dina Powell is up to her eyeballs in shoveling illegal immigrants into America.

Dave McCormick and his elitist leftist wife bear no resemblance to the Republican voter base. These two are everything that is wrong with the Republican Party establishment, with the GOPe, with American politics in general. Dave McCormick may have grown up as a tree farmer in central PA, but he long ago threw away those good values not just when he moved to Connecticut, but when he ran a New York City hedge fund and made his millions. Hedge funds operate by betting against and working against what is good for America, good for Americans, good for American workers and good for American companies. This makes Dave McCormick no good for America.

McCormick has an opponent. Her name is Brandi Tomasetti, and she lives in Lancaster County. Brandi is a study in contrast with Dave McCormick: She believes in America and wants to put America first, she is concerned about election integrity, she is concerned about the lawless flood of millions of illegal immigrants into our nation.

I spent about an hour and a half on the phone with her the other day, and I offered her as much help as I can provide in her effort to get on the ballot so she can challenge McCormick.

Brandi told me that she has been overwhelmed with an outpouring of offers of help, from Republican voters fed up with the GOPe and with the Dave McCormicks and the PAGOPs and the Dauphin GOPs and the games, the elitist attitudes, the constant resulting GOP establishment failure. I hope everyone who reads this essay contacts Brandi and helps her out.

First things first: In the next few weeks Brandi Tomasetti must get enough signatures to get on the ballot. She needs registered Republican voters to circulate ballot petitions for her. Hope you can help.

Why the GOP met to endorse Dave McCormick before ever considering Brandi Tomasetti, or any other potential candidates for that matter, is not a mystery. Rather, it is a sordid and pathetic story of insider elitist people lusting for power and control, and lusting for dirty money from democratic representational politics, and this crap is absolutely killing America. And they don’t care.

Put America first and help Brandi Tomasetti get on the ballot and beat the damned GOPe.

Welp…there is always the late deer season

The 2023 deer hunting season is probably going to be remembered in most parts of Pennsylvania as a strange time. For reasons already written about here previously, the deer just have not been available to the hunters in ways and numbers that hunters are accustomed to. On properties I hunt all over Central PA, deer were either invisible or invested with magical disappearing powers. Everywhere I am familiar with, the deer moved up hill, as far away from human activity as possible.

To say many hunters are frustrated is a big understatement.

All I can say to all this bad luck is that at least we have the upcoming late flintlock and archery seasons to try to make up for the low productivity of our regular season. And in at least one area designed to reduce Chronic Wasting Disease, DMAP 6396, we have a continuation of rifle season for antlerless deer only until late January. I intend to take a new rifle afield for that season in that area.

Folks, for the next ten days, practice, practice, practice with your flintlocks. My biggest challenge with flintlock hunting is the huge flash going off in my eyes. Once I get used to that, I am deadly steady with the old smoke pole. Probably takes me ten to twenty flashes to begin staying stone cold steady.

Late last year after a bunch of really lame close-range misses, I began practicing shooting my flintlock rifle with only priming powder in the pan, and nothing loaded in the barrel. Repeated trigger pulls with explosive flashes in my face helped me overcome my natural reaction of flinching and pulling my head back and away from the flame. Needs no explanation that moving your head off the gunstock is going to ruin your accuracy and aim, which means you probably won’t hit what you thought your gun was aimed at.

Ah yes, the well-earned moniker “flinchlock…”

Couple of recommendations: Go high up, because that is where most of the deer are, and try to hunt in groups, either as actual drives or as organized approaches to hunting the same area together.

Remember to go afield with a brand new sharp flint on your gun. If you take the old, dull flint that you have been practicing with this year, you stand a good chance of hearing “klunk” when you pull the trigger as the rounded flint then hits the frizzen without any sparks, and thus yields no primer ignition, and thus there is no ka-boom coming out the end of your gun barrel.

Though quite often the deer will be fascinated by the weird klunk sound, staying riveted in their spot staring intently in the direction of that odd sound. You might get a second or even a third trigger pull during this stare-down period.

Good luck, folks! Shoot straight and walk tall.

 

Do deer processors give you back your own deer?

Pennsylvania rifle season for deer is nearing the end of its second and concluding week. On average, Pennsylvania hunters annually kill 400,000-500,000 deer, and I would just hazard a guess that 2/3 of those carcasses are taken by the hunter to local deer processors.

Tonight, deer processors across Pennsylvania are working triple-staffed and double overtime to process the hundreds of thousands of deer being brought in by successful hunters.

A perennial question asked by both new hunters and well seasoned is “When I pick up my deer from the processor, will it actually be my deer I am getting, or will it be someone else’s deer?

There are two certain answers to this question, and I base these on my own experience and the experiences of many friends and acquaintances.

First answer, Maybe. Depending on what you want done to your deer, you might get back 100% of your deer or you might get back 75% of your deer, with the 25% difference being parts of other people’s deer. If you just want real simple cuts, basic steaks from the backstraps and the hams, and roasts from the neck, leg, and shoulders, then you stand a better chance of getting your deer back. This is because it is almost as easy for the processor to cut your deer up into these basic cuts with a bandsaw and a boning knife as it is to grab whatever oddball cuts he has on hand to fill your order.

Second answer, when ordering sausage and hamburger, is absolutely No. This is because deer sausage, pepper sticks etc. are made from various trimmings and random pieces of deer as they are brought in from the very beginning of the archery season, based on the kind of demand that processor has experienced in the past. Additional batches of sausage are made as demand increases towards the end of archery season and into the rifle season. There is just no way that your deer can be turned into its own sausage mix. Your deer might be contributed to a big pot of deer trimmings destined for sausage, and you might be getting your portion of that sausage, but that sausage just isn’t going to be yours and yours alone. It will be a mix of various deer brought in the same time as your own.

I cannot tell you how many times I have gone through the expense of having my prize deer turned into beautiful shrink wrapped cuts at a processor, only to discover that the cardboard box I received my order in is short at least ten to fifteen pounds of venison (from a huge buck). And worse, some random pieces have been thrown in a try to make the balance, as the processor guesses it. And some of the packages have been frozen a long time. And the same cuts of meat are colored differently, as though from different animals.

The truth is that if you want to eat your deer, then you must either butcher your deer yourself, or get together with buddies and butcher all of your deer together.

Butchering a deer by yourself is much easier than most people think, especially if you are willing to cut up the backstrap and hams into basic steaks, and then grind up everything else for hamburger or sausage. In fact, I am about to take a deer I shot today over to a friend’s house where we are going to butcher it in his garage. This is going to be his first experience doing this, but I am sure it will not be his last time.

With buddies, you can pool your odd trimmings and leg meat for sausage. One or two guys or their wives run the sausage/ hamburger grinder and filler, and by the end of the weekend the sausage has been cooked/smoked, and everything is all done simultaneously. I have seen a historic hunting camp in Elk County that had the most impressive kitchen and butchery set-up, including scales for weighing both the whole deer and the various parts and cuts. This is nice so that the guy who shoots a 60-pound yearling gets his deer, and doesn’t unfairly get a bonus pay-out taken out of someone else’s 120 pound deer. Unless this is the way everyone agrees to work together: Everyone goes home with more or less the same amount.

Nothing against the deer processors, they have an important role to play. But the question asked in the beginning can only be satisfactorily answered by doing the job yourself, and I can say from long experience that butchering a deer is easy and gets faster and easier the more experienced at it you become.

 

Ok so how is your deer season going?

You wait all year for these two weeks of rifle season in PA, and then after a restless night the opening morning arrives. Five days in, and hardly a shot heard each day, no deer seen, hardly any sign encountered, and you are wondering what the heck is going on.

Don’t sweat it, you are not alone. You are in very good company. A lot of Pennsylvania hunters are grousing to each other tonight about not seeing any let alone many deer so far, not getting shots at deer, not even finding sign of deer, like poop or tree rubs. Not even hearing shots. Apparently Wisconsin is also seeing a real drop in their deer harvest in firearms season, too.

Something is amiss, especially in the Big Woods, no question.

Are we witnessing some mass die-off from disease, like Chronic Wasting Disease, or Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease? It is possible, but I have not yet seen any deer skeletons lying randomly in the woods. Maybe they are out there and I just haven’t found the graveyard yet. In 2005 northcentral PA had a huge deer die-off from late season snow and ice that made the mountains impassible. The deer could neither walk on the surface for weeks, nor could they dig through the compacted ice and snow to reach food. We did encounter random deer carcasses everywhere during the spring that year.

Maybe black bears ate more deer fawns than we anticipated (I witnessed a large black bear catching, killing, and eating a young deer this May, which is cool). Same can be surmised for coyotes, which are renowned deer eaters. After several years of purposefully hard harvests, there are now fewer bears in PA, by design, and theoretically less bear depredation of fawns in 2023. But there does seem to be an awful lot of coyotes. Everywhere.

Up north, we have no acorns to speak of. Late spring frosts killed our acorn flowers a couple years in a row, and gypsy moths have been terrible year after year. Any acorn flowers that survived spring frosts were eaten by the gypsy moths, whose egg masses are visible everywhere up here. So there is very little to no food in the Big Woods, and as a result, most wild animals seem to have flown the coop. Bear hunting last week was impossible. And so far this week, deer hunting has been tough.

Yesterday I was fortunate to set up in a natural funnel and catch two does transitioning from feeding areas to bedding areas. And today, with the help of friends on a small and carefully targeted drive, I filled my buck tag. Based on what I am hearing, I am incredibly lucky this year. Most hunters are struggling just to see deer tails bouncing off into the distance.

So if you are one of the PA hunters who is feeling dispirited right now about the apparent evaporation of deer this season, here is my best advice: Go hunt places you don’t normally hunt, and where you think others probably don’t hunt often, either. Steep hillsides are great locations for hiding deer. Play the wind, keeping it in your face as much as possible. Go slow, and quiet. And have a friend or two join you for a two-man push or leap-frog, or a two-man push with one stander. And then the stander becomes a pusher and the former pushers take up stands.

Remember that whitetails like to loop around behind their pursuers. If one guy is pushing and another guy is quietly lagging behind a hundred yards or more, he has a good chance of getting the deer that snuck off and went around the pusher. Again, make sure the wind is in your favor (blowing from the deer to you, not from you to the deer), and be as quiet as possible.

Switch up your game this season, because it seems that just sitting and waiting for animals to come out and present themselves broadside is not happening a whole lot in 2023. We gotta get in after them, and make our own action.

Good luck!

Yeah, PA’s lame bear season in one picture

Pennsylvania is about to have one of its lowest bear harvests in decades. And like so many policies of any sort, the story of this failure is told not just by the data, but by a picture of the data (see below).

In sum, this year’s early bear seasons of archery and muzzleloader resulted in roughly 1200 bears being taken by hunters. These are predominantly individual hunters in elevated stands, not crews of drivers pushing bears to standers.

By the time the real firearms “bear season” arrives in late November, much of the steam has been bled out of the system, so to speak. The demand has been met. Many serious bear hunters have already taken their bear and they won’t be going “to camp” to participate in punishing bear drives through thick mountain laurel on steep mountains in the northcentral region. And when the most ardent hunters pull out of a camp, that loss of energy and excitement affects everyone else. We noticed many empty camps across the entire northern tier this past week.

Again, the 1,217 bears taken in the early season so far are 200 bears ahead of the roughly 1,000 bears on record for the “bear season” as of tonight, which is the end of the formal “bear season.” In other words, bear season wasn’t. It is actually producing behind the early season.

So is the early season the real bear season now?

Add a poor acorn crop to the situation, and whatever bears were roaming around in October’s early season have gone to den for the winter now in our “bear season,” or have moved southward by the time November arrives, because all of the available wild food has been eaten up. We are now in our third year of a failed acorn crop in the northern tier, and the silence of our woods shows it. No food means no wildlife. Hunters saw no poop, no deer rubs, no squirrels, no nothing. Hunters scouring rugged northern tier landscapes that are the historic high producers of bears are encountering woods devoid not just of bears, but of deer and turkey, as well.

Yesterday was a classic example of this dynamic. Our guys put on a drive across a NW Lycoming County mountaintop area that usually holds bears. I was the lone stander in the primo spot, a saddle between two hills with a stream running through. I could see far in every direction. There were no other drives happening anywhere around our guys, which is unusual. But another and much larger drive was going on behind me, and pushing toward the area we had hunted the day before. And half a mile down the forest road several long range hunters were set up looking across a canyon. If there were bears around, or even deer, the two drives would push them past the long range guys, at least.

And yet, by the time dusk arrived and our men had slid and tumbled down the mountain side to gather at the truck, no one anywhere had seen a bear or a deer, nor heard a shot. The long range guys were packing up as we were driving out, and they told us they had seen several deer on Sunday, but nothing else any other day, including that day that had so much activity.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is a government agency, and agencies make mistakes. Sometimes the best-intended and carefully considered policies have unintended consequences. Maybe the Saturday opener (as opposed to the long-time Monday opener) to bear season is part of the failure we are seeing. Maybe it’s the acorn crop failure making a bad situation worse. Maybe it’s the early season stealing all of the thunder from the regular rifle bear season. I don’t know the entire answer why, but the numbers don’t lie, and this 2023 bear season was a flop. Yes, we will see another 100-200 bears taken in the extended season that is concurrent with deer season in some Wildlife Management Units. But overall, PA has not seen a bear harvest this low in a long time. And as I recall, last year wasn’t that great, either.

Something is wrong and something needs to change. A lot of small businesses in rural areas depend on these big bear and deer seasons to make their end-of-year financial goals. Let’s hope the PGC staff and the board are up to the task of fixing it.

Harvest results as of the last night of regular rifle bear season, 2023. Not final, but not going to change much. The early season was the best season.

 

 

PA’s 2023 bear season

After hearing just one rifle shot all day (followed by the customary follow-up shot thirty seconds later, and the coup-de-grace shot a minute later) today, at 4:20PM, I felt compelled to write about what seems to be happening this bear season. In a nutshell, this is not your pap’s or even your dad’s Pennsylvania bear season in Northcentral PA. That long-hallowed experience of buffalo plaid Woolrich coats and moldy little hunting camps built in 1948 filled with men putting on big drives across the landscape, is now a thing of the past.

Some people blame the Saturday bear season opener that started eight years ago for the demise. Others blame the early October muzzleloader and archery seasons. Either way, what many hunters are calling the death of the famed PA bear season is actually a direct result of the incredible success of PA’s decades-long bear population conservation program.

When PGC biologist Gary Alt became the steward of the PA bear program in the early 1980s, he faced a problem. Hunters, nature lovers, and simple habitat and ecosystem health required more bears across Pennsylvania. And bears were not responding to the demand. In twenty years of hard and smart work, Dr. Alt turned the situation completely around. When Dr. Alt left the PGC twenty years ago, his life’s work was one of the great wildlife conservation success stories in America. Black bears then filled habitat niches in almost every county from Philadelphia to Erie, from Honesdale to Pittsburgh, and everywhere in between.

And then, almost overnight it seemed, PA had way too many bears. Bears were showing up in cities proper, turning over trash cans in suburban back yards everywhere. And so the PGC had to try and dial back some of Dr. Alt’s success. Increasing the number of bears taken by hunters was the solution.

Now looking at harvest data resulting from a half dozen years of early muzzleloader bear season, early archery season, regular bear season, and extended bear seasons running concurrent with deer season, it is easy to see why we only heard one rifle shot all day today in what probably still is the epicenter of PA’s bear hunting. And why none of our guys encountered any bears hanging from hunting camp porches on their valley run tonight.

Early muzzleloader and archery seasons combined now account for almost half of the overall annual PA bear harvest, even before “bear season” has begun. These early season hunters are mostly single men hunting near their homes. By the time the traditional bear season arrives in late November, half the licensed bear hunters who are likely to kill a bear are already tagged out, and the rest are looking forward to the concurrent bear-deer seasons in their home hunting territories. Few hunters feel compelled to make the historic annual migration north, and why would they?

Those of us, we hardy few, who do still come to the traditional bear hunting ground up north, are faced with an already depleted bear resource, and many fewer men pushing across the landscape to break free and push those bears that remain. And yet, despite our reduced opportunity, we enjoy the crisp Fall air, the camaraderie, the laughs, and the naughty food and drink our wives would never approve of, if they only knew.

Good luck this season, boys. You’re gonna need it.

A fabulous hunting trophy

Another PA archery season over (UPDATE: No, it wasn’t over, I have not kept up with new PA archery season dates), another season I did not arrow a deer or a bear. It’s not that I could not have killed a buck with a gigantic rack, I could have, a hundred times. It is that I chose not kill him. He isn’t necessarily tame, but he has been hanging around an awful lot. It would have been easy to send an arrow or a bolt through him from a porch or an upstairs window. But in my old-er age, I must be turning soft-hearted. He even came into a ground blind I was in with a crossbow, and puttered around. I decided to admire him, instead.

Just seeing wild beauty like his brings me real pleasure. I don’t need to put his head on the wall for him to make me happy.

Even without killing a black bear or a wolf, I still got an amazing trophy from my Alaska hunt in September. And no, I am not referring to the beautiful stones and colorful pebbles I bring home with me as keepsakes from all around the world. Alaska streambeds were loaded with all kinds of incredible geological samples, and I could have easily filled a pickup truck bed with the easy ones. Instead, I picked up a memento of someone else’s kill, and brought that home with me.

While I was stalking a salmon stream in the northernmost part of southeast Alaska eight weeks ago, cradling a 45-70 rifle in my arms and looking for black bear feeding on spawning fish with one eye, or a wolf, and watching out for the ever-present brown bears/grizzlies with the other eye, I happened upon a scattering of big bones up against a stream bank. Bleaching white on the top side, and staining green with algae and moss on the bottom side, these bones marked a kill site. From what I could piece together, a two-year-old moose had made a stand against a pack of wolves or a large grizzly on this site, and had lost. It was right here where he had died and had been eaten.

One bone in particular caught my eye, the hip socket, sitting concave-side-up to the sky. What made this individual bone stand out so much was both how perfectly round it was, and yet how it was also framed on three sides by heavily fragmented and fractured ends of bone. Something really big had broken this heaviest of bones, and the tooth marks are still on the socket. As artists are fond of saying about something that catches all of the visuals just right, it was a study in contrasts.

I bent down, picked up the broken socket bone, brushed off the dirt and leaves, and stuffed it into my backpack among the long underwear and my PB&J sandwich. Back home in Pennsylvania, it was cleaned off, lightly bleached, and re-purposed into a pipe holder and ashtray. It is actually incredible how perfectly my tobacco pipe fits into that hip socket. Now I can use the bone as both an ashtray and a reminder of being in some of the world’s wildest country.

As soon as it dried, I sat down to enjoy a bowl of cherry cavendish, and with the light tobacco smoke swirling up around my head, I was immediately lost deeply in thought about God’s magnificent creation, the amazing wild beasts that have inspired us wee humans since our dawn here on Planet Earth, and how a hunting trophy is what you make of it. It doesn’t always have to be something you killed yourself. Sometimes it is just a small piece of the wilderness we love that serves as a symbolic touchstone and a time machine that transports us back to a place and time where all that mattered was the wind direction and the smell of Fall in the air.

Looking at this ten thousand years ago or fifty thousand, any Neolithic hunter anywhere around the planet would have felt exactly the same way. This one piece of fractured bone connects us two hunters across time, even though we never met.