ED puts me back on the beam

Balance Beam ScaleED puts me back on the beam

Something was not right. The numbers on the digital screen jumped to 28.4, then dived to 23.2, then stabilized at 24.3.

The electronic scale was measuring charges, in grains, of XMP 5744 powder for a reduced load of .30-06 ammunition that I wanted to shoot for practice rounds with my lightweight mountain rifle. The scale was making a botch of this reloading session. Not good.

(One of the Over the Hill Gang asked me, “What, exactly, are you practicing FOR?” Yes, it’s true my days of rifle hunting in the West are probably over, but I can still daydream while stalking ghost mule deer and elk on the back 40 of my farm, shooting at a paper target in lieu of a 10-point mulie in the Rockies. All my fantasy hunts are one-shot kills, off course, but I may shoot 10 or 15 phantom deer and elk in the course of a morning, and I don’t want the rifle’s recoil ratting my teeth. Hence the less powerful ammo.)

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Posted in Hunting Rifles, reloading, Rifle Shooting, Rifles, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Three steps toward reducing firearm violence and fatalities

semi-auto pistol

Three steps toward reducing firearm violence and fatalities

Proposals for gun control, for the most part, are ludicrous.

Not because the intentions of the “gun control” advocates are unworthy. To the contrary: reducing the number of firearm homicides is an eminently admirable intent, and decreasing the threat of mass shootings – especially school shootings – is a goal that every right-thinking citizen supports.

It’s just that many of the “gun control” spokespersons have no clue how to achieve those worthy goals. Not the slightest hint.

After each mass shooting that involves an assault-style rifle or a semi-automatic pistol, the calls go out for legislation to ban the sale of these military and police weapons, or at least to ban the sale of high-capacity magazines and “bump-stocks,” and to require the purchaser of a firearm or ammunition be at least 21 years of age. None of these restrictions will advance us toward the goals of fewer firearm homicides or mass shootings. They cannot even advance the cause of safe and ethical use of firearms.

It is as if the list of “gun control” proposals was compiled by the NRA for the purpose of sidetracking the real issues, and making any meaningful action politically impossible. These proposals are screams to catch the mouse in the room while ignoring the elephant.

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Posted in Firearm Safety, Firearms Legislation, Gin Control, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

North Country Tales


North Country Tales, my latest collection of essays, stories, poems, and tales about life in the North Country, is now published and available at independent book stores listed at indiebooks.com and through amazon  (https://www.amazon.com/North-Country-Tales-Jerry-Johnson/dp/1983577154/)

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The .44 Magnum caper

Jug Test

The plastic jug exploded and water sprayed everywhere, so the Model ’95 must be a good deer rifle.

…as we aging members of the Over the Hill Gang know, circumstances change.


The .44 Magnum caper

Blame it on a change in deer hunting regulations. And a fat little doe that came out of the woods on the wrong trail at last light. And, sure, my stupidity in running myself over with a two-ton boom-lift trailer a few years ago.

The Department of Natural Resources, a yearling whitetail deer, and an incompetent amateur heavy equipment operator: those are the culprits in the .44 Magnum caper. Those are the reasons I traded a couple shotguns for a Marlin Model 1894 lever-action rifle in .44 Remington Magnum caliber. Not that I needed a lot of motivation.

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Tyroler hat

Klas took it down and spent several minutes in a more careful investigation. It was just a hat, a fawn-brown Tyroler with a braided, black leather hatband. Its sweatband was smooth, perhaps doeskin. Except for its too-square cut, there was nothing unusual about it.

Tyroler hat (2)Tyroler hat

Perched on top of a crosshatched pile of alders that the beavers had felled during the summer but had not dragged to their dam at the head of their pond. That is where he found the Tyroler hat, he told me. Right out in the open, at the edge of the clearing on the downstream side of the oxbow loop in Wolf Creek. As if someone had tossed it there and left it behind, unintentionally, most likely, and had forgotten it until it was too late in the day to go back.

The Tyroler hat, it looked almost new, he said. Its sweatband was a little stained and there was a spatter of dried mud on the brim, but otherwise it could have been a first-season hat that some Orvis-coat, city-bred grouse hunter had ordered from a haberdasher’s custom shop so that he could play the role of an Austrian gentry hunter when he ventured out for the first time in the northern Minnesota aspen forests. You see that kind of thing every few years.

Klas Svenson. He said that was his name, although his short pause before he introduced himself made me doubt that was true. We were the only two patrons in the bar in Duquette at the end of an October afternoon, and having bagged three woodcock and two grouse over my hard-working dog I was in a magnanimous mood and offered to buy him a beer. He ordered a Grain Belt, so I was sure he was a local.

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Snow bird

Snow bird 12-11-2017Abbey began to lecture me: “Wahrl-arn-wahrl-yawl!” which, translated from spaniel French to North Country English means “Pheasant season only lasts eleven weeks, you know, and every day spent in the Clubhouse is wasted, lost forever and cannot be regained.”

Snow bird

Huge snowflakes were falling this morning as the first real winter storm of December descended on The North Country, beautiful but not the sort of day I would choose to go pheasant hunting. The temperature was only a few degrees below freezing, so the snow cover was wet and clingy and just plain sloppy. And a cold wind was blowing from the northwest.

I’ve reached that time of life when I want recreation to be fun, not misery.

The dogs had a different opinion. Released from their kennel runs, Sasha found a half-frozen puddle of slush to roll in while Abbey ran eleven circles around me and begged me to chase birds with her. Scenting conditions, she said, were perfect, and the pheasants would be hunkered down in the thickest patches of grassy cover as they waiting out the snowfall.

She was right, but there were fewer risks for her. She has four-footed drive, a low center of gravity, and the strength, energy, and enthusiasm of youth. I have two-footed drive, a relatively high center of gravity, and though my enthusiasm often matches hers my strength and energy are waning in my senior years. As another member of The Over the Hill Gang likes to remind me, we have lost our catlike quickness and grace.

I was adamant about not going hunting in the snow, but Abbey wore me down. She was not appeased by a mile-long walk around the farm that left her soaking wet from running through snow-topped stands of brome and weeds, and left me leg weary and a bit dizzy from the herky-jerky dances I perform while struggling to keep my balance after tripping over gopher mounds.

When we returned to the farm yard she refused to go with Sasha (13 years of age and retired from the hunting trade) into the Clubhouse for a mid-morning nap. She began to lecture me: “Wahrl-arn-wahrl-yawl!” which, translated from spaniel French to North Country English means “Pheasant season only lasts eleven weeks, you know, and every day spent in the Clubhouse is wasted, lost forever and cannot be regained.”

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Posted in Bird Dogs, Bird Guns, Bird hunting, Uncategorized | Tagged | 3 Comments

Bringing out the Big Gun

16 Gauge Loader

The bird hunter with a sixteen double gun is a peculiar fellow who almost certainly handloads his ammunition.

Over the course of the past hundred years the sixteen rose to the height of its popularity and then quickly disappeared. I seldom see a hunter with a 16-gauge double gun, and if I do I can be almost certain that it was manufactured decades ago…

Bringing out the Big Gun

THE LATE WEEKS OF THE pheasant season demand that I bring out the Big Gun. Abbey and I have had a good year thus far, hunting with the Browning BSS 20-gauge, but the roosters are educated now, the shots are longer, and it is time to switch to the Lefever Nitro Special 16-gauge.

For as long as I can remember, December has been the month of the Big Gun for ring-neck pheasants. We begin the year shooting tight-sitting and slow-flushing pheasants with 20-gauge loads of 7/8-ounce No. 7 1/2 shot, switch to 1-ounce loads of No. 6 shot about a week into the season, and increase shot size to No. 5 in late November. When I flip the calendar it’s a reminder to clean and oil the BSS and put it away in the gun safe until next year.

December is the month of the Big Gun.

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Posted in 16 gauge double guns, Late season pheasants, Lefever Nitro Special 16 gauge, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 4 Comments