The Gun Cabinet
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John’s monthly column for the Northwoods Sporting Journal – the largest hunting and fishing paper in the northeast U.S.
This past deer season was the best I can remember in years with plenty of 200 pound bucks showing up on social media and in photos tacked up by the liar’s bench in many of the small town general store tagging stations. In my local area, big bucks were hanging from game poles all across eastern and northern Maine. I thought, “What if every year could be like this?” It was an intriguing notion.
There is plenty of debate on whether deer mortality rates are impacted more by wintering habitat or coyote predation. I’ll leave that to the wildlife biologists and academics. As a hunter and guide I can tell you a couple of things for sure. Northeast Maine is coyote country and coyotes kill deer. While I‘ve never been a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions, this year I am making an exception – kill more coyotes. If you are new to predator hunting and want to join me this season, here are some tips to help get you started.
January is the time I perform the majority of checks and services on all the equipment and guns I’ve used afield since the opening of black bear season in late August. This helps me get reorganized after back to back hunting seasons and square away the residual disarray throughout the shop that inevitably follows. At the same time, I take the opportunity to inspect accessory items like rifle scopes, rings and bases, slings and the sum of other gear that gets put through the paces during varying weather conditions. Rain and snow are by far the biggest considerations as rivulets of moisture always find their way into the nooks and crannies of equipment. Daily wipe downs throughout the season keep the majority of moisture issues in check but nothing beats a complete detail cleaning at season close.
The time we have all been waiting for is finally here. All of our early scouting is complete. Rub lines, scrapes and bedding areas have been identified and a hunt plan is in place. Tree stands are up and blinds are popped. Our rifles are cleaned and oiled, ready for the 2017 deer firearm season debut. A few of us put some rounds on paper to check our zero, many of us have not. We figured it this way; the rifle has been in the cabinet, protected since last year. It hasn’t been dropped or knocked about and we know we are a darned good shot, right? Why bother? Let me relate a story to you about a hunter in bear camp this year and the biggest bear he never shot.
This month bird hunters are making their way into the logging roads and field edges in pursuit of that ever elusive, fighter jet of a game bird – the ruffed grouse. Getting back to these basics will help you put more birds in your bag.
We talk a lot about the most effective gun choices when it comes to hunting the Maine black bear. We also talk a lot about calibers and specific rifle action types. The hardiest of us talk about pistols and revolvers best equipped to match the black ghost of the Maine woods. One thing we don’t often hear about is handgun holster choice when hunting bear. Whether you are a guide that has the misfortune of surprising an angry sow with cubs during a bait refill run or a hound hunter slogging through bog after bog, having the right holster and the ability to ‘clear leather’ quickly and neatly is important.
I’ll be honest, when my client Doug told me he was considering using an AR-15 for his son Will’s Youth Day deer hunt last October I was somewhat skeptical. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge AR fan. I learned to shoot in the military with one and have owned a few ever since. My 20 inch Stag Arms Mil-Spec model is one of my favorite guns.
On April 19, 1775 British troops marched on Concord, Massachusetts with orders to seize American colonists’ weapons and ammunition. The day ended with the first shots fired of the American Revolution and the catalyst that birthed the greatest nation the world had ever seen. It also marked the very beginning of the fight over gun control in America.
The month of June holds innumerable opportunities for the outdoorsman. Most notably for me is the hot bass fishing action that can be found in lakes and rivers throughout Vacationland. I have spent quite a few days on my deer stand in November day dreaming about monster June smallmouth, planning the casts and lures I’d use to put those lunkers hiding in the weeds in my boat.
Spring wild turkey season is upon us. Most states in New England open the first week of May with lucky Massachusetts hunters already in the woods calling toms. Leading up to the spring turkey season, my mailbox starts overflowing with catalogs from outfitters and hunting gear suppliers offering the newest in gadgets, guns and ammunition I need to ensure a successful gobbler hunt. Here is one thing I know for sure: there is no amount of technology that can take the place of a well-placed shot from a properly patterned shotgun.