Rod, Gun & Game: Modern sporting rifle continues to evolve; DEC looking for hunting stories
By Forrest Fisher
A few years ago, I walked into the hunting cabin of a friend of mine and watched as he cleaned up what looked like an automatic military firearm. He was an United States Army Reservist, so I thought, well, pretty cool that he thought enough about his job to bring his combat toys home and clean them up right. Like many sportsmen not in the modern sporting rifle “know” at the time, I would have assumed all of the wrong things!
While the modern sporting rifle has been evolving for decades, in the last 10 years or so, shooters and hunters alike have become educated, more logical and have developed heightened interest for one shot shooting accuracy. That has led legions of hunters and shooting sportsmen to a new love and what many call the greatest sporting rifle of all time, the AR-15 platform.
Of course, as mentioned earlier, this is a rifle that is largely misunderstood due to the fact that it looks like a military rifle. It is not. The military appearance is purely cosmetic.
Military rifles are usually automatic, that is, they are machine guns. Hold down the trigger and the firearm will keep shooting until you release the trigger. Automatic firearms are severely restricted from civilian ownership since way back in 1934, during prohibition.
Back in the 1980s, California anti-gun legislators coined a lot of anti-gun phrases, among them was the “assault weapon”. They used it as a political term to help them ban certain semi-automatic rifles that were popular there.
When someone calls an AR-15-style rifle an “assault weapon,” like many of our legislators do today, it usually means they do not understand their non-automatic function and sporting use, or they simply support banning all firearms and this is one trail they like to use and reuse.
From now on, maybe you can help correct them and others too, please! After the last election, with voters reacting to continuous Democratic based tax hikes, the New York State Senate has a Republican majority, allowing gun ban bills to move to the back burner.
All sportsmen should try to be as informed as possible, but they also need to realize that if AR-15’s were ever banned, a large number of ordinary semi-automatic bird hunting shotguns, target shooting rifles and similar other firearms would also be eliminated. That would be the beginning to the end of the Second Amendment. Maybe you’re starting to see where we are headed to discuss the AR-15.
You also need to know as a sportsman, that the AR-15-platform rifles are among the most popular firearms being sold today. Why? They’re light, accurate, comfortable to hold and are available in a number of calibers. For many, they have become the modern sporting rifle of the day. Hunters and shooters like them for a lot of reasons because they are made from steel, aluminum and plastic, and they are durable.
I visited the gun show at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Union Road last weekend and was startled to see the large number of options for the AR-15. Various stocks, paint options, sighting arrangments, and much more were all there to see.
The “AR-15” symbology has meaning, as the “AR” stands for “Armalite Arms” rifle, after the company (inventor Eugene Stone) that developed it in the 1950’s as a division of Fairchild Company. Armalite later sold the plans to the Colt Company. “AR” does NOT stand for “assault rifle” or “automatic rifle,” as many think. The “15” stands for Armalite Model 15, roughly the length of the barrel, 15 inches.
While AR-15-style rifles may look like military rifles, such as the M-16, they function like any other semi-automatic civilian sporting firearm. They fire only one round with each pull of the trigger. Versions of modern sporting rifles are legal to own in all 50 states, provided the purchaser passes the usual NCIS mandatory FBI background check as required for all retail firearm purchases.
Since the 19th century, civilian sporting rifles have evolved from their military predecessors. The AR-15 modern sporting rifle also follows in that tradition. The rifles offer true lightweight making it easy for senior hunters to carry their firearm long distances during hunting season, a true advantage. There’s more, they also offer extreme accuracy, high reliability, ruggedness and versatility that also serve target shooters and hunters equally, and they
are true all-weather firearms.
The AR-15 is available in a number of cartridge sizes, including .22, .223 (5.56 x 45mm), 6.8 SPC, .308, .450 Bushmaster and about a dozen other calibers. The upper receivers are also available for pistol calibers such as 9 mm, .40, and .45 caliber. There are even .410 shotgun versions, though a check with the National Shooting Sports Foundation shows these are not as popular as the rifles, with the .223 most popular.
The choice of calibers and scope mounting options has allowed the AR-15 to become a favorite firearm for target shooting, varmint hunting or big game hunting. The AR-15 is so accurate, it is a popular choice for national target shooting competitions.
There’s more. The AR-15s also offer extremely low recoil. Add that there are accessories made by countless companies today, and you begin to understand why a new, most popular sporting rifle has emerged. While these rifles have only recently become popular with sportsmen, the AR-15 platform has been around for nearly a half century. I am sure it will remain one of the most popular rifles for decades to come.
Given the understanding that the AR-15 caliber choices are what they are, it is safe to say that the AR15 is no more or less powerful than other hunting rifles of the same caliber. In most cases, the AR-15 is chambered with less powerful calibers than other more traditional sporting rifles.
The AR-15 platform offers a modular approach to customizing the rifle to be what each shooter would prefer for fit, appearance and caliber. Folks love these rifles! Did I mention that they’re a lot of fun to shoot?! I don’t have one yet, I’ve been dropping hints that Christmas is not far away, but the cost would be a stretch. Maybe I could bargain that this could serve for a three year gift? Not.
Even if I explain how safe they are and how much they are to shoot, I probably would not be able to sell that story to my better half. Maybe I could offer to wash the kitchen floor for a few years. Naw, that could become a nasty habit and cut into ice fishing time!Enjoy the holiday season!
In other news, As deer season came to its usual December end last Tuesday, we also near the end of the year with an all-time low number of DEC workers in official employment. Not a very Merry Christmas for many of those passionate and dedicated environmentalists, thanks to our lack of Albany leadership. Somehow, among those lucky few remaining at DEC, there appears to be definite inspiration. Maybe there is a Miracle on 22nd Street in Albany? Last week, DEC announced an innovative new idea for all those folks that love the New York outdoors.
If you are a hiker, camper, hunter, fisherman, birdwatcher, or you just love to go “out there,” DEC has a special offer for you. DEC will kick off a new contest called “Great Stories from the Outdoors” in hopes of prospective contestants sharing their positive and inspirational experiences for others to learn from.
I know that the hunters have some special stories and the Christmas holiday might make a great time for families to gather thoughts about the recent big game hunting season. There are lots of stories to share from among the 600,000 plus hunters in New York State alone, but did you realize there are over 10.1 million deer hunters across the country?
Each of us hunters averages 15 days in the woods. That’s 132 million hunter-days in the woods each year! Conservative estimates reveal there are well over 30 million deer in the United States and that about 6.2 million are killed by hunters each year. Stories of first deer harvests, kinship, passion, close calls with trophy bucks, tricks that your grandfather that he passed down to help you stay warm, deer camp scuttlebutt and whatever else might be on your mind. Stories of bullets and binoculars, arrows, surprises from your new gear and other fun items might also be an option.
Stories can range from the simplest walk through the woods, to meeting a challenge through an impossible outdoor situation, like the unforgettable black bear encounter that Tom Gorczyca shared with us earlier this month. The contest is open to all and runs through February 2011.
Each month, DEC will select stories and post them on its website at www.dec.ny.gov. A prize will be awarded for the top story each month. Complete contest rules are available online at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/69643.html. Through the Great Outdoor Stories contest, students, sportsmen and women, outdoor enthusiasts, campers and hikers can reflect and share the importance of the natural environment in their lives.
Entries can range from a few sentences to a maximum of 650 words. All story entries must be received by Feb. 28, 2011. Submit stories online at GreatOutdoorStories@gw.dec.state.ny.us or by mail to Carole Fraser, NYS DEC Universal Access Program, 625 Broadway — 5th floor, Albany, NY 12233-4255.
Get ready to ice fish
As our early December artic air blasts have brought about single digit, early freeze temperatures, many inland waters have already formed a thin skin of ice. Most ice is not yet safe to walk on at this time, so use extreme caution. One piece of advice: ice picks! Be sure to carry a set of fishermen “ice-picks”, these are made commercially as well as home made, where a hude 12 penny spike nail is epoxied into the end of a wooden broom handle with a six foot rope tied to each handle. Anglers allow the rope to dangle around their shoulders and neck as walk out.
These are used in an emergency to help an angler get a grip on the ice to pull themselves out should they break through. While falling through the ice is not a usual occurrence, it happens during the early season from time to time. In a few more weeks, ice thickness will grow to four inches and more, eventually getting to two feet and more. This is, of course, perfectly safe ice!
For ice fishing equipment, check out the latest Reeds catalog. They have the largest assortment of ice tackle I’ve ever seen in one place. Including ice armor weather gear, Under Armor underwear, ice fishing shelters, tip-ups, portable heaters, manual and gas-powered augers, ice-fishing line (two pound test), jigs, hooks and bobbers, ice fishing underwater cameras, vexilar color sonars, gloves, sleds and more. Their catalog provides a one stop education on what’s out there! Go to www.reedsports.com.
Report hunting harvest
Remember that successful hunters are required by law to report all harvest of deer, bear and turkey within seven days. Effective Nov. 17, 2010, the reporting deadline was extended from 48 hours to seven days, but if time slipped away, please report your harvest as soon as possible. There is no penalty. Simply report on the DEC website or call toll-free at 1-866-GAME-RPT (1-866-426-3778).
New Pennsylvania black bear hunter record set
According to Pennsylvania Game Commission spokesman, Tim Conway, the heaviest black bear ever recorded in Pennsylvania, an 875-pound monster, was taken in Pike County on Nov. 15. The lucky hunter is David Price of Barrett Township. The bear had a field-dressed weight of 744 pounds and was 15 pounds heavier than a bear taken in 2003 that weighed 864 pounds near the same location.
World class state musky
The last day of November this year turned out to be a great day for Eddy Beers, as he fished the St. Lawrence River with Clayton fishing guide, Bob Walters. Beers landed a 59-inch musky that tipped the unofficial scales at 56 pounds. The team attempted a live release, but unfortunately, the fish did not respond to resuscitation attempts and succumbed.
This denizen of the deep was most likely a female, at least 20 years of age and one of the biggest muskies caught in the St. Lawrence in quite a while. A world class fish! Although top-notch musky fishing is available on the St. Lawrence River today, muskellunge populations were in danger of collapse in the late 1960s. At that time, the biology of the species was virtually unknown, and as a result, little was done to manage and protect them.
In the 1980s, an international working group of researchers and managers from the NYS-DEC, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) and SUNY Environmental School of Forestry (ESF), joined forces to form the Escoid Working Group. Efforts from this group led to a vast collection of information on muskellunge, which helped create consistent international regulations to effectively manage the species and its critical habitats.
Additionally, “Save the River,” an environmental advocacy group, has been an instrumental partner with DEC in promoting a catch and release philosophy to anglers, which undoubtedly has led to improvements in the fishery. A tremendous amount of effort from many individuals has been invested into learning about and restoring musky to their rightful place as “King of the St. Lawrence.”
Further information can be found at the SUNY-ESF website. Look for “muskellunge management and research initiatives.”
Big buck story from WNY
Like many hunters, Tim Collins, is a careful hunter and for many years, he has hunted for big bucks with a group of about a dozen friends out of the hunting camp of his brother, Don, in Langford, near North Collins. Tim, Don and their other brother, Jerry, all spend a good deal of time patterning the deer they hunt and all of them agree, their careful scouting plays a big part in the repeated success they have enjoyed over the years.
There is one buck in their hunting area that has become legendary and locally, it was known as the “Langford Buck.” Tim says, “I have been hunting the big deer for three seasons. I first saw him on opening day of shotgun three years ago. He was about 125 yards away with too many trees between us, so I passed.” The following bow season, he says, “I heard him raking some trees and so I grunted to him. He snuck around behind me to catch my wind, made a loud blow and I turned to see him bound off into the distance.” That’s how big bucks get big.
Tim added, “All of our patterning has helped us to understand the favored routes for the big buck and on the morning of Nov. 24, I hunted alone. I moved along a creek bottom that he favored, but he did not show. I returned to the car, ate a quick sandwich and headed for the double blind we set up earlier that season. It was about 1:15 p.m. when I noticed some movement to my right and sure enough there was the big fellow. He was in full rut, walking slowly with his nose to the ground, checking scent. My single shot at 40 yards was right on.”
The legendary buck is expected to score in the 160s or better, is estimated to be seven years old and weighed in at 225 pounds field dressed. Collins is not sure if the bottle of attractant given to him by a friend helped, but it couldn’t have hurt. Collins used a 12 gauge Mossburg 500 pump shotgun equipped with a Nikon prostaff scope and Remington copper solid sabots to down the trophy.
Tim Collins has taken many trophy bucks over the years and I asked if he could leave all of us this Christmas season with advice for next year. Collins said, “Sure, the most important thing to always try to hunt with the wind in your favor. This has been the most important key. Hiding your human scent is everything.”
Ice in Small Boat Harbor
Our early, sub-32 degree temperatures have frozen the Buffalo Small Boat Harbor and many other inland waters have already formed a thin skin of ice. I visited the Small Boat Harbor and didn’t feel it was safe last Sunday, yet I watched at least four anglers spread out on the ice surface catching small perch from my binoculars. The ice was about two to three inches with some open water very close by. So, by now, a week later, it may be much safer. Be sure to carry a set of fishermen “ice-picks” to assure your safety.
Dec. 26: Duck and Snow Goose season reopen in western zone.
Contact Forrest Fisher at email@example.com with news.