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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Missouri's 'Antler Point' Restriction 

(Re-posted from Nov. 2008. Keep up the pressure. This isn't going away until we make it go away.)

Beginning in 2004, the Missouri Department of Conservation began testing Antler Point Restrictions on hunters, as a deer management tool. In 2008 it was extended to 65 counties, comprising the upper 2/3 of the state. From MDC Online:

The APR requires a buck to have at least 4 points on one side to be legal. The restriction applied to the archery season and all portions of the firearms season except the youth portion. The expectation was that restricting the bucks that could be taken would promote a larger doe harvest. An additional benefit of this restriction would be that more bucks survive longer and grow antlers large enough to be considered trophies by hunters.”

MDC's “Hunting tips for counties with antler-point restrictions”offers this sage advice- “Bring binoculars and give yourself plenty of time to count antler points before you take a shot. Wait for a buck that has at least four points on one side. Successful hunters wait for the best shot – when the deer turns broadside. Learn to recognize antlers from this view to minimize errors in the field.”


Now I am generally not a vocal critic of MDC and many of its recent changes have been good ones. The 'Telecheck' system eliminated the need to haul your deer across the county to a check station. Missouri deer hunters also enjoy one of the simplest 'legal firearms' descriptions on record.

Still- this Antler Point Restriction nonsense is for the birds.

First, APR stacks the odds against novice hunters- and as a father and husband who's been in on a number of 'first deer' I can tell you that these hunters need all the help they can get. Many of these are kids, out with Dad or Uncle Fred for their first deer hunt. Under the 'old rules' they'd see maybe 1-5 shootable deer per season; and they might get a safe, sure shot at only one of those. They are thrilled to get any deer at all and even a forkhorn buck is a big deal to them. APR deprives this vitally-important group of opportunities. New hunters are quite literally the future of hunting and the last thing we need is to discourage them.

Second, APR is a slap in the face to 'traditional hunters' who use iron-sighted .30-30's, military rifles and period firearms from 1830 forward. Folks, this is deer hunting at its finest and it is the essence of hunting in general. APR essentially requires that the traditional hunter adds a substantial set of binoculars to his kit; and spend more time 'glassing' than enjoying the nostalgia of the traditional hunt.

Third, APR turns a uniquely American test of hunting & shooting skills into an equipment race. We have done just fine with a 10 year old set of budget binoculars here and most of our 'deer guns' wear carefully-zeroed iron sights. The only 'scoped rifle in the outfit has a 4X on it, which has facilitated precise shots and instant kills at well over 200 yards. Now, by edict of the crowned heads at MDC, all of our optics are obsolete. I suppose we could run down to China-Mart and drop a grand on some new glass; but I am disinclined to have the state dictate how I spend my recreational dollar.

Fourth, APR does nothing to alleviate the hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage and personal injury caused by deer each year, in Missouri. MDC obviously knows this because the Kansas City and St. Louis areas got a 'hall pass' on APR. Now, this would probably never occur to the Commission- but us 'dayum hillbillys' don't liked to wreck our pickups anymore than them high-falutin' city slickers do! Someone in my neck of the woods learned this first hand. By the third day of the season, there was a spike buck lying dead along 135 Highway, just south of US-50. He was doubtless passed over by hunters but he died just the same and somebody got a repair bill- thanks to APR.

My final complaint with APR is that it promotes the notion that deer hunting is all about 'points and trophies' rather than harvesting the winter meat. Every young deer hunter I've mentored, has been taught exactly the opposite. We've killed a few decent bucks over the years, but shooting a big rack was never the driving force behind the hunt. And frankly- 'an obsession with racks' has never been a character trait of the better hunters I've ever known. I hate to see MDC foster this kind of thinking. 

I have a grandson and two granddaughters; I looked forward to having the honor of taking them on their first deer hunt. I sincerely hope that the Missouri Department of Conservation mothballs this stupid 'antler point restriction' before that day comes.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Rossi's 'Little Big Gun': The 92 Carbine in .45 Colt

Rossi's copy of the 1892 Winchester has a long and successful history with US shooters and the 'Cowboy Action' craze insured that the little lever actions would stay popular here. Rossi has continued to improve them and the current guns are pretty darn good. They have excellent metallurgy that optimizes the strength inherent in the 92's design and the finish, on the examples I've handled, puts many US makers to shame.

I picked this one up at the annual 'Apple Fest Junk Sale' from a fella who had it on his table. It's a 16" Rossi 92 in .45 Colt, barely a year old and with nary a mark on it. The spot on the stock is a bug that lit there to get in the family album.

I didn't buy this right off because he wanted four bills for it, but when I priced around they were bringing well over that now (plus FFL & shipping, etc.) and this one came with a Steve Young spring, follower, safety plug & DVD, case, sling & swivels, barrel-mounted peep & original sights, box of ammo, 50 230 FMJ bullets, etc. Given the condition and all the extras, I don't feel like I got beat up too bad. Besides, it'll make a nice stablemate for the Old Vaquero depicted next to it.

Plinking off the hood of the pickup yesterday revealed that the gun's good for an inch at 50 yards, if I don't screw up too bad. Real 'accuracy work' will wait for the trigger to be cleaned up a tad. This carbine also feeds any bullet style slick as a whistle, from 240 grain Sierra JHC's to 325 grain Keith Semi-Wadcutters.

Does it have warts? Like all short-stocked guns this one boots me harder, with heavy loads, than it ought to. This makes me feel like a sissy when the same loads I shoot with impunity through my sixgun, get my attention when shot through this trapper. What I really need is something to slip or lace onto it to lengthen the pull and keep that slick little buttplate from sliding all over my shoulder. Much as I like the Mini 14 and 10-22, I always hated their OEM buttplates. While a pad seems ridiculous on a poodle shooter, I find the 580+ Minis far easier to shoot well simply because they stay put when shouldered. I watched Peggi shoot it with standard 255 RNL's and she was draining the magazine like it was a .22 rifle. I gave her a couple of 1100 fps (from a sixgun) SWC's to try and they didn't bother her none either. The gun just fits her.

I also understand these have an odd-sized dovetail. As it stands, I can use the issue sights but I had to yank the elevator plumb out of the back sight to get it in on at 50 yards. I'll probably just undercut the elevator to work at it's lowest setting and zero the next couple of steps up from there, for say 200 & 300 yards, with a specific hunting load.

And the little gun will hunt. I loaded a few 335 Keiths over what we'll call 'over 20 grains' of Winchester 296 and they produced 1364 fps from the Rossi's 16 1/8” barrel. I would expect a wound profile in game not unlike the old Trapdoor carbine load, which was known for shooting through several feet of horses & men. For lighter game, a Sierra 240 JHP can easily be driven to 1550 fps and I have seen that bullet is plenty for deer at 1300 fps. The sedate factory duplication load of 7.2 of W231 produced 950 fps from this carbine and insignificant recoil. John Linebaugh's 'working load' (Ruger only) of 13.0 of HS6 and a 255 SWC ran 1232 from the Rossi; and in reality you don't need much more for the anything but biggest of game.

It's been ages since I had a rifle & pistol that shared ammo, but I have to admit it's nice to load some ammo knowing that it'll feed two guns. Being able to load them on carbide dies and roll crimp when seating, makes it even nicer. My .45 Colts aren't long-range affairs, but I've got rifles with some reach for when the need arises. The old cartridge does so many other things so well, I can sure live that small compromise.