Tag Archive | "blacktail deer"

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Wonders Optics 4-14×50 [Product Review/Radio Interview]

Posted on 24 June 2010 by Cork Graham


Cork Graham sighting in the WOTAC 4-14×50

With only a couple months until California’s coastal deer opener, it was time to not only check out the new custom loads received from Nosler, but also the Wonders Tactical (WOTAC) 4-14×50 scope (4th generation) I’d been given by their sales rep, Forrest Ebert. Just yesterday, I learned that I’d been lucky in the special deer draw with an X3B tag, so I’ll not only be hunting with the WOTAC scope for the first time, but also using it on my first California mule deer…good hunting luck on my side, I hope.

My first trials at the range were excellent. The glass is very clear, and the elevation and windage knobs turn easily without that mushiness scopes made in Asia can have. A number of target shooters had requested louder clicks to them, and WOTAC has made those improvements.

First trained on the MilDot reticle in the military, I was actually very impressed with the EPB reticle. For really long shots, those over 1,000 yards, I’d still recommend doing “come-ups” with the turrets (1/4 click MOA adjustments). But, for ranges under 1,000 yards, I can see how just raising or lowering, using the small hash marks along the main verticle line of the crosshair can be very easy and accurate.

Easy to use turrets and parallax correction

It was very fast to get on target with the adjustsment and longer hash mark at the bottom easily aids shooting for a crosswind. Would I use this scope to shoot an animal at 1,000 yards? No. Would I shoot a deer at 600-700 yards? Absolutely!

Ethical long range shooting will be covered in a later article, but you don’t have to start adjusting for elevation until 300-plus yards on a modern high-velocity rifle, a move from 300-600 is not that much of a challenge, especially if you’ve been practicing—and it’s all about practice!

What the hash marks (each represents a shift in 2MOA) do is make quick elevations using the reticle that much more effective. Let’s the take the new rifle I’ll be using this year. Sighted in at 200 yards, there’s a 68.8-inch drop at 600 yards with the 130 gr. Nosler Accubonds out of my .270 Winchester Model 70 Super Grade.

The EPB Reticle

All I have to do is check the wind speed (let’s say an afternoon 10 mph crosswind from the right). Then, raise the rifle so that sweetspot at the deer’s shoulder is halfway between the fifth and sixth hash mark. Compensating for wind, move the rifle muzzle to the right, so that target center is two and a half hash marks to the left (4.75MOA) of the vertical crosshair.

This is done with the scope zoom ring set to MOA. There is also a mark on the zoom ring for MIL.

Either MOA or Milliradian

What I don’t like about the scope are the turret screws. They are too small and always worry me that I’ll strip them in trying to make sure they’re tight. I’ve already read reports of stripped heads. Best would be to either have the turrets locked in with one larger screw, or to have a flip-lock system as can seen on the Premier Reticle scope.

Now it’s not a US Optics, Premier or Nightforce scope (And you know how much I love my Nightforce Optics™ 3.5-15×56mm NXS with MilDot!). It’s also not priced in the thousands of dollars like them, either. Like those higher-end scope manufacturers, Matt Wonders, the owner of WOTAC, offers a solid guaranteed. If you’re not happy with your WOTAC scope, contact them within 14 days of receiving it and they’ll either replace the scope or give you a total refund!

For a scope that provides good glass, an excellent reticle design that can efficiently turn your highpower 300 yard rifle into a consistent 600-700 yard shooter, it’s a very good deal at $329. If you’re looking to get a scope that you can accurately adjust your crosshair in the field for longrange shooting,  the WOTAC 4-14X50 is an excellent scope to start with.

Looking forward to putting it through its trials on a real hunt instead of just at the range!

For more information, or to order your own, contact Wonders Optics Sales Representative Forrest Ebert at email: ebco2009@gmail.com

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy the latest news at Wonders Optics (WOTAC) on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

TOPICS: Wonders Optics Sales Representative Forrest Ebert talks about the history of Wonders Optics line of tactical, target and hunting rifle scopes.

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Venison Curry and Fond Deer Hunting Memories

Posted on 22 June 2010 by Cork Graham

The last deer season on Mindego Hill

The Ziploc read “Stew meat 2008.” I tried to remember the deer from which it was taken. That’s when I remembered 2008 was the last year my good friends, the Caugheys, and I were allowed to hunt the Mindego Hill Ranch.

Though my buddy’s uncle was promised by his father, the Admiral, that he would never have to worry about losing their family’s little bit of heaven on Skyline (now tall and massive, olive trees and fruit trees were planted around the cabin over 40 years ago by the long departed Admiral when he was a professor at Stanford), with an amazing view of not only the San Francisco Bay Area but also the Pacific, the uncle’s mother passed away, and suddenly an $8 Million bill from the state of California arrived: it could only be paid by selling the property.

What a lesson in living trust and wills in California: especially those that were written to guarantee a stress free handing down of land ownership among the middle class…

So what had served as a great source of venison, for at least 25 years—for an Irish/Portuguese-American family that has hunted these San Mateo County mountains since the mid-1800s—was forced out of their hands. Where it ended up was with Open Spaces, which means unless you like to only hike or mountain bike on specific trails—you can’t even walk a dog there—you’re out of luck.

You can already see where the brush—on what were previously cattle ranches and now under Open Spaces ownership—is taking over the feed for the wild animals: in 30 years it’ll all be covered up in non-nutrient brush…the same flora that the local Native Americans had burned over thousands of years in order to keep their venison supply healthy.

Yes, it was a fond goodbye. And though I had hoped to take one of the bruisers that make up the genetic stock of the San Mateo County blacktail bucks, I was happy to get the small forkie.

As I was looking at the bag of stew meat, I recalled how tender those steaks off the young buck were and waited impatiently for the meat to defrost, recalling a recipe for lamb curry that I’ve wanted to adapt to venison.

Cork's Venison Curry with basmati rice, egg and banana slices

Venison Curry Recipe


· 2 lbs of venison stew meat

· 2 large onions, chopped

· 5 cloves of garlic, crushed

· 2 Tbsp olive oil with butter

· 2 Tbsp curry powder

· 1 tsp salt

· 1 tsp black pepper

· 1 Meyer lemon sliced (with rind)

· 2 peeled and chopped apples (I like the sweet apples)

· 4 cups of chicken broth

· One can of coconut milk

· 8 small red potatoes, quartered

· 6 eggs


Marinate the venison pieces overnight.

Marinade: grind and mix with 2 Tbsp of olive oil

· 1 Tbsp of coriander seeds

· 1 Tbsp cumin

· 1 Tbsp curry powder

· 1 tsp thyme

· 1/2 tsp salt

· 1/2 tsp pepper


1 On stovetop, brown the meat in a little bit of olive oil in a large pot. Remove the meat from pot.

2 Add olive oil with a little bit of 1 Tbsp of butter to pot, add curry powder, cook on low heat for a minute or two. Add onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Return meat to pot.

3 Add the sliced lemon, apples, chicken broth, salt and pepper. Put pot on stove on low heat and simmer for 3 hours, boiling down until the meat is almost falling apart. In the last 45 minutes remove the cover and put in potatoes and coconut milk. Let the curry boil down to the consistency you like. I prefer it halfway between dry and watery

4 Add eggs in the last 15 minutes (take them out at end, peel and put them back in the curry)

Serve over rice with sides of chutney, banana slices, boiled-egg slices.

Serves 6.

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TROPHY BLACKTAILS: The Science of the Hunt by Scott Haugen [Book Review]

Posted on 12 March 2009 by Cork Graham

You may call me partial, because outdoor writer and TV show host Scott Haugen is a stand up guy and my friend…but this book is really GREAT!

When I first arrived in California, I would have given my eye-teeth to get my hands on the information Haugen

Scott Haugen and a trophy blacktail

Scott Haugen and a trophy blacktail

delivers in this masterpiece. Perhaps it’s because he was a biology teacher for years in Alaska and Indonesia, or has a phenomenal understanding of how to use a map from his university days in cartography-the major he took up for his bachelors he concedes was for improving his deer hunting-but he really teaches the reader how to not only recognize what makes blacktail deer special, but how to effectively hunt them as a blacktail deer hunter and not a misplaced whitetail or mule deer hunter.

Starting with a foreword by another well-proven hunting writer, Bob Robb, Trophy Blacktails’ chapter one covers the deer itself, taking you through physical characteristics and average blacktail life-cycle and then moving to diet. What caught me off guard was the information on Deer Hair Loss Syndrome (DHLS)!

I’d never even heard of it down here in California, but up in Oregon and Washington this is one big bad dude! DHLS is a caused by a louse that came to Washington from either the African or Asian continent, latin name Damalinia Cervicola. DHLS results from the horrendous skin biting from the louse.

As the hair is lost, the deer’s own biting and rubbing against the irritation leads to intense stress, and that added to chill of early fall and definitely during winter, deer loses too much weight and dies. Haugen describes two events of young deer standing near the wall of their house to hide from wind, only to see them within three days, dead.

It’s just in the last few years that DHLS has been seen in the most northern reaches of California. Who knows how long before it reaches down the rest of the coast and ventures further into mule populations, too? Perhaps the more benign temperatures south of San Francisco might help in keeping DHLS at bay, though just as likely not Damalinia Cervicola itself. Stay tuned!

Haugen carries on with record books classifications and trophy judging. He then delves into a very important aspect of hunting overall and in hunting blacktails specifically: The Mental and Physical Game. This book is a book for trophy blacktail deer hunter, in contrast to the recreational, though all deer hunters will benefit greatly from reading Trophy Blacktails. It’s not as hard to get an average blacktail as compared to one that has lived more than two or three years. Most deer taken are in the two three-year range. To get the buck that has survived longer than five years that’s when you’re getting to the bucks that anyone would unbegrudgingly call, trophy, and that’s the range logged in the books. That takes a mental and physical conditioning most are not prepared to follow through with, but if you do, Haugen suggestions will be that much easier to follow toward your own wall-hangers.

Chapter two takes the reader through the strategies and planning taking into consideration blacktail behavior and scouting tactics, along with the best times and places to hunt for antler sheds. Fullfilling the rest of the strategies includes map research, locating does, and most controversial especially in California where the DFG frown and actually makes it illegal to implement: food plots.

Personally, considering how poorly the California DFG has managed its deer herds and major predators as the result of insane political pressures that have nothing to do with actually improving wildlife populations, I’m all for food plots. If I had my way, I’d have every hiker going into national forests and parks to plant foods that are most beneficial to deer, but also collaterally turkey, squirrels, quail and a number of non-game species.

I’ve always held to the belief that if you take care of the habitat the populations will follow. Is it any wonder that in the Eastern United States they’re complaining that hunters aren’t taking enough deer? Or that here in California our salmon populations have hit near rock bottom? Blow a few more dams and salmon populations will skyrocket back to what they were-how many people know that before the dam was put in to form Lake Shasta, the largest salmon run in America was the Sacramento River run? Yes, even larger than Kenai in Alaska!

How many more blacktail deer would we have in California if we allowed landowners to legally plant property to draw and feed blacktail deer with strategically placed food plots? Probably the same large healthy population of deer they have back east.

As for predators, they’ve needed a proper management program in this state for years. And no, contrary to what the Mountain Lion Foundation and other groups that make money off keeping the cougar on the no-hunt list, predator populations don’t drop along with the prey. They keep growing, eating everything until it’s gone, simply moving to find more prey, i.e. your dogs and cats in lower altitude areas as we’ve seen this drought year.

If you want to help deer populations, like I do: shoot two to three predators for every deer that you take and you might just make a small enough dent in bobcat and coyote population, and mountain lion population if the DFG’d actually get on the ball on this like they do in Washington, Idaho and California: isn’t it ironic that since mountain lions have been on the no-hunt list, there have been more mountain lions killed on depredations permits than there would ever have been on a hunting license/tag system? Right attitude: keep a healthy mountain lion population in California. Wrong implementation!

Now implementing the tactics described in Haugen’s Trophy Blacktails will bring you much more success than DFG strategies have brought to the improvement of California deer populations. Haugen shares these with you in a seasonal format that goes into the Early Season, Mid-Season, and Late Season.

As I hunt in California’s A Zone, I was most intrigued by what an Oregonian had to say about the early season as we start one to two months before the northern states. During the first half of the archery season that starts in July, most of the bucks are in velvet so it’s much easier to find deer in the open as they’re trying to keep them from breaking off on a tree or branch. Once the velvet gets rubbed off, they deer get real spooky and often become nocturnal, especially on public land with heavy hunting pressure.

By rifle season the bucks are deep during the day, offering a slight opportunity in the last one to two hours of daylight morning and evening. Because of this and the overgrown brush that has just gotten worse because of overzealous fire protection foregoing widespread controlled burning, with a tradition of use that goes back to the Spanish, we’re allowed to use dogs to basically drive deer out of that deep manzanita, low oak and chemise, though even those dogs don’t guarantee success as described in an article I wrote for Hunting the West magazine a few years back.

Cork's Blacktail taken with ELK, Inc. "Deer Talk Call"

Cork's Blacktail taken with ELK, Inc. "Deer Talk Call"

Haugen really shines in his description of using calls, blinds and stands. Also of note is using spotting scopes for checking out the feeding habits of the targeted bucks. As one who called in a nice 3X2 in 2005, I’m a true believer in using deer calls. When used during the rut, which in the A Zone can occur during the last two weeks of the season, fawn calls can be very effective. The buck in question came in following a doe that was responding to the bleat I made with an ELK, Inc. “Deer Talk Call”.

There is one last caveat about Trophy Blacktails. I wish publisher had included an index for speedier referencing, something I do when riding up to a hunt or preparing a plan. I’m confident considering the excellent quality photos and content on this first run by Haugen Enterprises that the following publications will have that much needed index.

You can order your own copy here: http://www.scotthaugen.com/books/trophyblacktails.html

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