Archives for July 2014

Whitetail Wednesday

Here’s a few Northern Missouri bucks from a couple years ago just because




Missouri 12

Flashback Friday

Here’s a Preston County West Virginia public land buck that gave me fits in the fall of 2012.  I saw him three times that fall but never got a shot.  I’m not a fan of hunting a specific deer because I think that’s impossible in the big timber, but this guy was definitely one of the reasons I made the 1.5 mile hike into this area 39 times over the course of that archery season.  He wasn’t a monster by most people’s standards, but anyone that has hunted public land in northern West Virginia can attest to his status as a great buck.  West Virginia Buck

Throwback Thursday

I think this photo is from somewhere around 1995.  My dad had tagged out during the West Virginia rifle season and came to my grandmothers to rescue me from a boring week of Thanksgiving break.  That evening, this spike walked out into a small clearing we were watching on a ridge top.  One shot with a .243 was all it took.  To this day, I remember how excited I was.  I wouldn’t trade the memories I made with my dad growing up in the woods for the world.


Trail Cam Photo

Yesterday I retrieved a trail camera from one of my hunting spots.  Nothing remarkable, but I did get a photo of a doe with a split ear that I saw a lot last fall.  She’s an older deer and very wary.  Good to see she made it through the brutal winter up here.  The seven point with her is the biggest buck I’ve seen in this spot so far.  Hopefully the giant that roamed this place last year shows back up.

Pennsylvania Trail Cam


First Shots With the CVA Accura MR

With the Kansas early muzzleloader season only 55 days away, my dad decided to test out his new musket.  We’ve always been T/C shooters, and I still am, but last year a friend gave Dad the new CVA Accura.  For full disclosure, the first rifle he was sent didn’t work.  For whatever reason, the hammer wouldn’t strike the 209 primer hard enough for ignition.  CVA’s customer service was pretty spot on though, and replaced the stainless steel rifle he sent back with the blacked out nitride coated version.

CVA Accura MR

Out of the box, I was rather impressed with the fit and finish of the CVA.  It breaks open smoothly and it action locks up tight.  There’s no play or slop in the hinge pin.  The stock is coated with the rubberized Softtouch finish that is the right amount of grippy.  This rifle has a 25 inch fluted Bergara barrel and it is worth noting here that Ed Shilen had a big hand in the design of the barrel for CVA.  Who is Ed Shilen?  Just the best target rifle builder of all time.  He owns 13 world records with guns he built.  Shilen is synonymous with accuracy.

One of the cool things about modern muzzleloaders is a lot of them are made of stainless steel.  The Accura takes it a step further.  It’s a stainless rifle with a nitride coating to inhibit any kind of corrosion.  Is it necessary to coat stainless steel?  Probably not, but it’s black and black rifles look good.

Like most modern inlines, the CVA Accura has a removable breech plug.  It’s big and has a good textured surface very rarely do you need to use the tool to remove it.  That’s handy.  What sets this rifle apart from all the others though, has got to be the trigger.  Out of the box, the trigger breaks at 3 pounds with absolutely zero creep.  It is perfect and really stands out against its competitors.  You want to shoot accurately?  You need a light crisp trigger and the CVA has one.

Using the included DuraSight one piece scope mount, we installed a 3×9 Alpen Apex XP scope and took it to the range.  I know there are a million different powder/bullet combos, but we kept it simple. 150 grains of Pyrodex pellets pushing a 250 grain T/C Shockwave.  The picture below is the target with six shots from 50 yards and they’re numbered.  Shot three is a flyer.

CVA accura targetSo there you have it.  After correcting for being 5 inches right, the Accura shoots great.  Aside from the flier third shot, all others were touching right in the bullseye.  Dad is going to shoot at 100 and 150 later today and see what this thing can really do but so far I think he has a winner.  Great fit and finish and 2 shots to zero it.  No complaints here.  I’m a die hard T/C Encore shooter, but I think I’m ready to toss mine in the weeds and go get a CVA.


Flashback Friday

NRG Turkey2011 Fayette County West Virginia

DIY European Mount

European mounts have gained in popularity over the past ten years.  They’re aesthetically pleasing and as well as being a less expensive alternative to a shoulder mount, they take up less space.  They also run in the $100 to $150 range.  In my opinion, that’s too much money to pay somebody to strip a skull and make it bright white.  For under $10 and one hour worth of actual work, you can produce a professional quality European mount.

My dad did his first European mount around 1995.  It was a heavy 8 point he killed on Thanksgiving week in West Virginia.  It took hours.  It was a gross, tedious process that yielded a passable, yet lacking end result.  Since then, we’ve done dozens and the technique has refined quite a bit.  Of all the ways we’ve done these over the years, the following method is the easiest and yields the best result.

1. I’m going to use a bear skull because it’s the middle of summer and this is all that was in the freezer.  A whitetail skull would be the same process, just try and keep the antlers out of the water.  More on that later.


2.  In a bucket, dump a couple heaping palm fulls of Arm & Hammer washing powder and two caps full of concentrated Lysol.  Fill the bucket with water deep enough to submerge the skull(if you were doing a deer skull, you could set the skull on a couple of bricks in the bucket and cover it up to the antler burrs).  Cover this and leave it sit undisturbed outside for a week.  The washing powder is mostly sodium carbonate which is a pretty strong base with a pH of around 11.  This alkaline solution denatures the proteins in the meat and fat and basically liquifies them.  The lysol keeps the smell to a minimum.  


3.  After the washing powder works for a week, transfer the skull to a pot big enough to hold it and cover with water.  Again if this was a deer skull, you could set it on a brick and fill it to the burrs.  Boil this for about an hour outside on a propane burner.  It’s important to note that you’re going to lose teeth.  A black bear has 42 of them and some of them are pretty small so it’s natural that this will happen.  Deer teeth are less likely to fall out, but keep an eye on them.  When you find them, save them.  You can glue them in later.cookpot


4.  The skull should come out of the boil clean.  All the meat that was attached is long gone.  Blow it out with compressed air.  Mix a good bit of Dawn dishwashing soap with water and dunk your skull.  This will leech the grease out of the bone and prevent the final product from being yellow.  Leave this to soak for at least three weeks.   Every week, mix up new water and soap and change it out.

Bear Skull

5.  After the degreasing soak, let the skull dry thoroughly.  Now comes the bleaching. Clorox has no use here.  Even diluted, it will make the bone brittle and powdery.  Drug store peroxide is too weak and so is oxyclean.  Get some Clairol Basic White and a bottle of Salon Care 40 Volume from a beauty supply store.  Make sure you get the liquid Salon Care and not the gel.  The powder and peroxide will run about $25 out the door but you can do a lot of skulls with it.  Skull Bleach


6.  Mix to a soupy paste.  This stuff has a pretty strong smell so do this outside and it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to wear some gloves.  You probably don’t have to apply it as thick as I did here, but I wanted to make sure you could see it.  You can wrap it in plastic wrap or just leave it out.  The warmer the better.  SkullBleaching


6.  After a day or so, the bleaching paste will be completely dry.  Using an old tooth brush, flake it all off and give it a good brush down.  It should be bright white.  Bleached Skull3

7.  Glue your missing teeth back in and hit it with a shot of rattle can clear coat and you’re done.  EuropeanBearSkull


I kept the lower jaw intact on this one because I wanted the whole skull to set on a shelf.  If this was a deer or if you wanted to display it on a plaque, you could.  Here’s another bear skull on a 3 dollar craft store plaque.


Fishing has been pretty good

I’ve had big plans to do a bunch of stuff and make a bunch of posts, but I’ve been up to my eyes in work and family stuff, so my time has been pretty limited.  This coming week I’m planning on doing lots of stuff with the Benjamin pellet rifles.  I’ve been tinkering with both of them and I think I’ve got the ins and outs of them down.  Time to experiment a little bit.  I’ve got some ballistic gelatin on the way as well that I plan on shooting with a variety of muzzleloading projectiles.  There’s also a new CVA muzzleloader to test and I might blow something up with tannerite too.  So yeah, the next week should be good.  Here’s what I’ve been up to recently…putting clients on fish.

SatisfiedCustomerGuy’s First Tiger Trout

SatisfiedCustomer2This chunky Brown was missing an eye.



DIY Antler Mount for under 15 bucks

Over time, deer antlers can accumulate in corners of rooms, barns, and garages.  Here’s a quick cheap way to display your bucks with a couple things you probably already have in your garage.

1.  Choose your rack.

Kansas Deer Rack


2.  Clean up the skull plate by squaring off the front bottom and back.  If they’re is old dry meat and hair on here, now’s the time to get rid of it.Kansas skull plate


3. Cut a 4 1/4 inch diameter circle out of some 1/4 inch plywood.

Antler plate


4. After drilling some pilot holes in the skull plate, center it on the plywood and anchor it with some 2 inch wood screws.  You’ll want the screw heads flush with the bone.  

Deer Antler 1

5. You’ll need to cut these off on the backside.  A hacksaw works as well as a Dremel with a cutting wheel.  



6. Stick a wad of damp paper towel between the skull plate and plywood.  

deer skull


7.  Use Durhams Water Putty to build up the space between the wood and bone.  This stuff cures pretty quick and is easy to work with.  It’s cheap too.  A 1 pound can is $2.50 from Sears.  

Durhams Water putty


8.  Use a butter knife to build up the putty around the skull plate.  You’re just trying to achieve an even dome shape that covers the skull.  After the putty starts to set, smooth the surface with a wet finger.  Antler mount


9.  After the putty has set, you’ll need to cover it with something.  We’re going to use deer hide here, but any thin, supple leather will work.  Velvet or felt would also work.  Most craft stores carry craft size leather pieces that are 8 1/2 x 11 for 7 or 8 bucks.  Cut your holes and angle the cuts back so the seam will be hidden behind the antler.  Measure the space between the antler burrs and make sure your holes in the leather match. deerhide


10.  After test fitting, you’ll need to glue down the leather.  Nothing works as well for this as hot glue.  Start between the antler burrs and work your way out.  As you go, you can stretch the leather and get it smoothed out as you glue it down.

antler mount4


11. Glue the deer hide all the way down and then zip off the excess with a razor blade.  

antler mount5

12.  A couple 1 inch wood screws will fix the rack to a plaque.  This is a pine plaque from a craft store that cost 3 bucks.  A little bit of wood stain and a finish coat of poly dressed it up nicely.  You can also leave the antlers plain or you can use a leather bootlace to ring the burs.  You can also see from this angle where to hide the seam.  


13.  An added picture hook on the backside of plaque completes the mount.  Hang it up someplace your wife won’t bitch about.   

finished antler mount

The 2nd Most Interesting Man in the World Kills Record Stag

record stagI was looking at archerytalk the other day and stumbled across a thread that was dragged up from 2013.  A thread about the world record red stag killed by what appears to be The Most Interesting Man in the World’s brother, Carl.

There’s nothing really remarkable about stag.  Even though it is a giant stag and is in its native home range, it is most likely a fenced plantation specimen.  Free range red deer just don’t grow like that.  And any time you see the SCI score on something, it means it was probably shot in a pen.

The best part of the photo is the hunter.  Fur collar, pencil thin mustache, smoking a cigar and 100% not giving a shit what you think.  Style for miles.  Only in Spain.

All jokes aside, lately I’ve been looking at hunts that take place other than North America.  This continent has 29 big game animals and dozens of small game species.  It’s easy to have blinders on and only think about what’s here.  The world is a big place and hunting takes place across seas too.  Whether its Tarh hunting in Iran, or Indian muntjac, also called a barking deer, in Nepal, there’s something really cool about hunting somewhere that isn’t home and chasing animals that aren’t white-tails.  Sure, they’re probably insanely expensive, but to be able to do one exotic / high adventure hunt in a lifetime is a feasible goal.  Maybe some research is in order.