Tag Archive | "rifle scopes"

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Hunting in the Land of Ishi

Posted on 31 August 2016 by Cork Graham

Early morning set up in the canyons of Ishi Country.

Early morning set up in the canyons of Ishi Country for Cork Graham and his guide.

Ishi, the last of California’s Yahi tribe, had hunted these hills and canyons. While he carried only a few arrows and a hand-made bow, I shouldered my Montana Rifle Company X2 chambered in .338-06. My hope was that the famously large mule deer/blacktailed crossbred deer had migrated out of the high country onto this ranch. Philip Massaro of Massaro Ballistic Laboratories had especially loaded custom rounds for me to using a variety of non-lead bullets from Barnes—TTSX and TSX and EBR—I sorely planned to connect with a mulie/blacktail cross using one of those bullets.

A guest of Harry and Rocque Merlo, of MERLO VINEYARDS and MERLO WATERFOWL, two cousins who had done well making their love of hunting, farming and wine a successful career, I had heard about these big deer that had almost reached mythical status due to how they hid so well up in the Sierras of Northern California, only driven down onto the ranch by snow. But, while I was having a full season of rain back in Alaska, California was deep into a fourth year of major drought.

We had stretched it as far as we could, by having me fly into California on my way home from a fact-finding mission to the Baltics. This put me there just in time for the last week of the coveted G-1 deer season. But, my luck was just not turning. So, when I was sitting on a bluff overlooking a canyon on my hosts’ ranch, and noticed a “bush” move in the early morning light below us, I had hoped it was a buck.

A quick glance through my 8X56 HD-R Geovids and it was clear I was instead looking at very big black bear. A gorgeous cinnamon phase American black bear, it moved with that swing and roll that the bear who owns the woods carries himself.

He was the kind of bear wildlife manager like hunters to remove as these bears love to eat deer. And, with the new prohibition of the use of bear hounds, the California’s wildlife conservation department had lost another effective tool in keeping a major predator’s numbers in check.

In whispers, I told my guide. The range was 280 yards. This was an easy downhill shot for someone who practices out to 1,000 yards and efficiently and consistently takes his big-game out to 400 yards. Taking a few deeps breaths I setup best as I could in a seated position, which, with rifle locked into my hands by twist into the military leather sling, was solid.

Two deep breaths to settle the crosshairs of my ER5 on his chest as he angled away, and it was clear, through the 2-10X50 magnified to the maximum setting, how big this bear really was. He was an easy 350 pounds, if not 375! I began moving my finger back on the trigger. Trigger pull set for three pounds, and crisp, it didn’t travel far before the Barnes 185 gr. TTSX was on its way. A millisecond later, the bear reacted as if shot in the heart, a conclusion the guide also came to, exclaiming on the video shot on his iPhone of how good the shot was.

It was a good shot…but why did the bear keep moving downhill? Based on the reaction and the sounds of its thrashing as it moved downhill, it should have seemed more like a roll, and then should have ended short thereafter. Instead, the crashing and snapping of brush continued for a little longer than I would have expected or felt comfortable with. It left me with an uneasy feeling as we waited for the guide’s buddies to come help us pack out all that great tasting meat.

All was quiet when we finally arrived at where the bear had been standing when the bullet hit him. All the sign was there: the blood from the hit, even a large pile of scat where he had stopped for a second to relieve himself, just before I hit him. Inspection revealed that he had fed well on manzanita berries and acorns: the tastiest bears in California, other than those feeding on black berries, are those fattened on manzanita berries and dropped acorns.

Alas, we searched almost half the day, following what was at first good blood sign, then meager, neither of it having the good signs of a lung, or liver shot: no frothy bright red blood, no rib bone chips, not even any sign of a horrible gut shot, such as digestive track contents.

Blood spatter on the brush limbs....

Blood spatter on the brush limbs…

When the trail started back uphill after 150 yards in the opposite direction, I was completely disheartened and beside myself. I’ve always made sure to make as efficient a kill as possible: less suffering for the animal, better taste of the meat, and less chance of waste.

This bear was hit, but evidently not mortally wounded. He would be back here again next year.

No hunter likes to wound an animal. We do our best to make sure our shooting skills are beyond exceptional. We match out gear to the job at hand. But, even when the best laid plans are put into action, we are only left to variables that just can’t be explained…and are no less distressing.

About the Boots

The LOWA Hunter GTX Evo Extreme

The LOWA Hunter GTX Evo Extreme

There have been two pairs of boots that I’ve been able to take right out of the box, and head into the hills with. A pair of Danner boots I received in 1994, while I was the outdoors columnist for THE TIMES of San Mateo County; and this pair of LOWA GTX Evo Extremes. This hunt was my first trip out with the Lowa GTX Evo Exreme.

There was a lot of thought put into the GTX Evo Extreme. It starts with the design and how it hugs the foot and ankle. There’s major support. As a result of the materials used, I was able to wear one pair of socks, instead of the normal two, in order to keep the blisters down.

As for durability, that comes through in the use of quality of the materials: Nubuck leather, stitching, glue, rubber. Their warranty is phenomenal.

What I found was that the boot held to the lower leg and foot, at the same time offering enough slippage to let the foot move enough to not require two sox in order to keep the feet from blistering. Most materials inside boots hold the sock so tightly that the only thing to give is your skin.

Within first six hours of hunting, I was chasing that bear up and down a variety of terrain on that steep hillside that often crumbled away. This was a great opportunity to challenge the quality and efficiency of material and design for the GTX.

The Vibram Masai sole, that has a self-cleaning mountaineering tread, grabbed slipper dry grass, and offered solid purchase on rocks. Not once did I feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the potential of falling or sliding into danger. Confidence in footwear goes much further than just comfort.

One of the hardest ideas to deliver in production is a boot that is as once offering solid support, but enough suppleness to offer mobility, resulting in stealth. Moving through the young buckeyes, live oak, and madrone that cover the sides of canyons in the foothills of Northern California was made that much easier due to the design and fabrication of the GTX Evo Extreme.

Part of the reason for the comfort and stability is the C4 tongue that has a metal stud to whip the laces around and hold in position. Very few boots have this and after experiencing the stability due to the stud holding the tongue from slipping right or left, I feel it a necessity for a hunting boot.

Not every boot is appropriate for every terrain, but the GTX Evo Extreme is best suited for alpine and sub-alpine environments. It can also be used in boreal and mountainous deserts. Attention to average temperatures down to cold is what works with this boot. Waterproof and breathable due to GoreTex, and filled with 200 grams of Permaloft, I consider it a great boot, whether you’re going after blacktails in the mountains and foothills of the Lower 48, or hunting sheep, and goats in the rocky shale of Alaska, in temperatures from below freezing to 80 degrees.

Stay tuned for an upcoming article on the Mountain Expert GTX Evo, and factory visit to the LOWA factory in Germany.

lowahuntergtxevofactory

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CORK’S OUTDOORS TV: Weaver KASPA SCOPES & Federal 10MM SHOT SHOW 2014

Posted on 18 January 2014 by Cork Graham

In this episode of CORK’S OUTDOORS TV recorded at SHOT SHOW 2014, TIM BRANDT at ATK talks about the KASPA line of scopes and binoculars, along with FEDERAL PREMIUM’s new 10mm.

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Pride Fowler Industries, Inc. RR-600-1 Rifle Scope [Product Review/Radio Interview]

Posted on 16 March 2012 by Cork Graham

Glass it’s all about the glass. That’s what everyone tells you about picking an excellent rifle scope. The problem is that to really appreciate what that means, you need to take it out into the field. 

Sure, you can see across the sporting goods store and see what a mounted elk or deer looks like, quartered by the reticle. You can even walk outside and check the scope in natural light out on the street. But, it’s the evaluating in the field that really tells of the quality of a scope you’ve put on your rifle. And, contrary to what you may think I find that that when checking glass, it’s not the long shots that indicate glass quality, but the close ones in the brush.

This is for two important reasons: clear definition of reticle against distraction, such as branches and vines; and light transmission in low-light conditions. What I was reminded on a pig hunt in Northern California awhile back is that the RR-600-1 3-9X42mm Rapid Reticle scope not only has an impressive lens system, but everything about the scopes is high quality and of excellent durability. Were this scope available twenty years ago, it would have easily been in the $2,500 to $3,500 range. That was before prices dropped because China got into the market with some very good components and opened opportunities for a number of scope manufacturers over the years.

What PFI has done is stay true to the “high quality at a reasonable price” philosophy that scope manufacturers on the Pacific side followed as compared to the heavily unionized competitors in Europe, who charge an arm and leg for optics that if it weren’t for their two-to-three-hundred-year-old brand doing the selling the price would be much, much lower. PFI stuck to standards of glass that negated China, and remained true to Japanese glass. No one in Asia, or most of the rest of the world for that matter, makes glass as good as the Japanese. Anyone who has ever had to work professionally with a camera can attest to that, whether your loyalties fit Nikon or Canon.  Like all good scopes, the PFI glass is multi-coated: contrary to the myths perpetrated by German and Austrian scope sales reps in the 1980s and early 1990s, that many gun writers bought into, it’s the lens and types of lens coatings that improve your ability to see in twilight, not whether you’ve got a humongous objective bell and a 30 mm tube. There are reasons for a 30 mm but they revolve more around adjustments than use once the scope is set…especially if you don’t need to make  turret adjustments, like come-ups, on a more traditional long-range scope.

The tube is black anodized 6061 T6 aluminum tubing, which is not only strong but light. But, as I say, what is it about PFI that makes their scopes unique and above so many? It’s the reticle.

 

The innovative and fast RR-600 Rapid Reticle

 

If you were introduced to long-range shooting in the military post-Vietnam, likely you went through some training in mildot. It was a number of calculations to determine angles and distances. It was not fast, even for the fastest. The Rapid Reticle on the other hand, is fast and accurate!

Their reticle design is based on the premise that a variety of cartridges deliver a bullet trajectory that can be grouped with others. For example, a 150gr. .30-06 is similar to a 150gr.  .308 Winchester, and a 150gr. .280 Remington.  Based on this premise, John Pride and Mickey Fowler, both winners of the Bianchi Cup, designed the Rapid Reticle to not only provide ranging, but also ballistic drop compensation. What they did that was innovative, getting away from the way it was normally done with mildot for range estimation and turret come-ups for compensating for bullet drop.

They took trajectories and grouped them. For the RR-600 it was a number of common hunting rounds. For the RR-800 and RR-900, it was a collection of trajectory compatible military rounds used in the military sniping community. From this data, they designed a reticle for each line of scopes that enables the shooter to simply adjust for drop by laying the range-corresponding stadia line on the target. Though the RR-600 doesn’t have range estimation, the RR-900 does. This was accomplished was by integrating the Rapid Ranging system.

The Rapid Ranging system is based on the average head being nine inches tall. By measuring a nine-inch target with the bracket system on the RR-CQLR-1, or the head-and-shoulder Rapid Ranging system on the RR-900-1, you can easily discern your target’s distance. Reports from the hunting field and the battlefield have been excellent: a number of endorsements which are on their site. It’s a scope that that can be used to get an SDM (squad designated marksman) qualified for long-range shooting in a fraction of the time that it would take get a sniper qualified on the standard milidot and turret system.

Not only a good looking and functioning scope system, it’s just plain simple.  And when there’s a lot of stress, as in combat, or even the jitters that might hit a hunter during that moment of truth, the better it is to not have to fiddle with a lot of things like calculations and making sure you gone through the process of doing your come-ups. It’s one thing to be on a hunt when you’re calm and in charge of time. It’s another when your team has been ambushed and you’re suddenly on counter-sniper detail: the Rapid Reticle and Rapid Ranging system earn their bars on this one.

 

Three-shot groups for 200 yards, 300 yards, and 400 yards at 100 yards for a .280 Remington

 

So simple, all you have to do with the RR-600 is sight it in at 200 yards, check for 400 yards, and you’re ready to go. I sighted in for 200 yards at 100 yards and then walked my rounds up the paper to see the variations per each stadia line. As a kid with his first 4-plex-reticled scope back in the late 1970s, the innovations in the market have been stupendous, but not in a long while has a manufacturer come out with something as fast, accurate and durable as the Pride Fowler Industries Rapid Reticle line of scopes.

Happily, you won’t have to make sure you’ve got change in your pocket, either! Don’t you just hate being at the range and realizing after searching your pocket that you’ll have to ask some next to you if they’ve got change, or you’ll have to use one of the screwdrivers that becaue of its shape will automatically scratch or mar the notch in the top of the turret in order to make elevation and windage adjustments to get zeroed? The designers at PFI made sure that all you have to do is unscrew and remove the turret covers and adjust by turning the adjustments with your fingers–now how sensible and forward-thinking is that? I’m still wondering who in the world was the ning-nong who came up with the penny or dime slots for getting your scope on target.

 

No more digging in your pockets for change!

Also, as everyone knows, wind can kill a good shot. The RR-600 stadia line lengths help compensate for left and right winds up to 10 miles per hour.

That’s not to say that when you’re out in the field you can extend the range of your “hail Marys”. What it does enable is the opportunity to make very accurate shots out at ranges well within the capabilities of your round, such as 200 to 500 yards. It’s something I’m looking forward to reporting further on this fall.

To get your own RR-600, order directly through their website: www.rapidreticle.com  

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy the interview of Pride Fowler Industries Vice President Richard Nguyen, on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

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