New Year’s Day Hunt

Skipping the usual New Year’s eve madness I went to bed early. While everyone was out waiting for the witching hour, I was dreaming of fresh air, mountain vistas, and hopefully, a tasty dinner.

My hunting buddy had a little too much holiday cheer the night before so I found myself driving through the predawn glow alone. The ski traffic was minimal and I pulled off at my destination just north of Idaho Springs. I opened my trunk, threw on my field BOB and shouldered my new gun. I had recently purchased a Westernfield .410 single shot bolt-action and I couldn’t wait to try it out. On my hip was a H&R model 676. Like I said, a gentleman owns more than one suit.

Foothills in JanuaryI had never hunted this area so I picked my way along slowly. All the mania of the modern world melted away as I inhaled the scent of fresh snow and pine trees. The ground was covered in a light snow and the trail petered to nothing. I marched along an ever steepening draw. There was little in the way of sign but plenty of stunning views. I finally picked up the trail of a deer and followed along in her steps. I wasn’t looking for a deer but I couldn’t find anything else to track. I lost her spour along a steep set of boulders and withered little pines.

The morning followed that pattern. Little trail, lots of wandering. Around noon I stopped to rest and warm myself up. There wasn’t much snow here but the air was cold and gusting occasionally. I found a spot down among the boulders where I could stretch out and build a fire. I set up my SOL tarp and made a quick wind break. With the wind stopped and a fire burning it was ideal. I ate a power bar and kicked myself for not bringing more food. I had done so intentionally as motivation to hunt something up for lunch. A small reminder of why we hunt. It’s not to kill. It’s to be tied, body and soul, to the natural world around us. This silly maneuver had failed to settle my appetite.

Making tea in the snow

After some tea and a nap I broke camp. A light snow began to flurry so I turned back for the two hour march to my car. I was a little nervous because the weather at 7,500 feet can be tricky this time of year. I wasn’t doing much hunting and instead was focusing on self extrication lest the snow turn bad. I burst into a little clump of stumpy doug firs and found about a dozen drey’s. The weather wasn’t bad yet so I stopped to look around. No movement, no chatter. I tried every trick I could think of; throwing a rock up into the branches, firing a round off from my pistol, calling them. Nothing worked. I figured the drey’s were either old and abandoned or the weather was too foul for them to come out. I managed to find a set of squirrel tracks some distance from the dreys. I followed them around for bit but still had no luck.

.22 LR case for comparison

.22 LR case for comparison

The snow became heavier so I really started moving. The first hunt of the year was a bust. No matter, I’d rather go home empty than spend the night in a snow cave. Well actually, I wouldn’t mind spending the night in a snow cave but the wife and I had dinner reservations so I thought better of it. I hiked the last hour out and was a few hundred feet from the car. At the bottom of the draw was a big cliff about 30 feet high. The trail led to the bottom of it before veering off to the parking lot. The snow had stopped for a moment and a bright sun illuminated the cliff. As if a sign from the heavens, an explosion of wings emerged from a ledge on the cliff and a dozen rock doves flew into the sky. I froze as they circled up back around. They landed on the open flat space at the base of the cliff to feed during the brief break from the snow. I was still back in the trees and they had no idea I was there. The Westernfield had no magazine so I grabbed more shells from my pocket and held them between my teeth. Creeping to the edge of the clearing I waited for them to bunch up a little. I put a bead halfway between two feeders and squeezed the trigger. The gun popped and they balled up in a halo of feathers. The whole group started to rise in a confusion of flapping wings. I had a live shell in the chamber before the spent one hit the ground. Bang! A third dove dropped to the ground. By now they weren’t disorganized and had flown up together about twenty feet. They got another twenty feet of height and were quartering around to me before I could get another round off. I hit the fourth dove square in the chest before the rest got away. Now the year was off to a proper start.

Rock Doves-Richard Hammack


SHOT Show 2014: Guns, Gear, and Gadgets

The 2014 SHOT Show wrapped up last week. On display were more than 1,600 exhibitors covering over 630,000 feet of floor space. Final numbers put attendance at 67,000 people! It was an extravaganza of all the latest and greatest in shooting, hunting, and outdoor gear. Here’s a selection of some of my favorite things from the show floor.

Beretta A400 XcelBeretta A400I’m a pump action kind of guy. I love the sound a pump makes when it racks a shell. It’s a visceral reminder, like clicking off a safety, that things are about to get loud. I also love my pump action because it’s how I learned to shoot shotguns and it’s what I’m comfortable with. With the Beretta A400 there is no learning curve. I shouldered it and was killing clays with precision. The A400 is an effortless gun that’s feather light and easy shooting. I thought 28 gauge would be difficult as I am only accustomed to 12, but this gun practically shoots itself. It’s ideal for the dove hunter who wants something that will snap to aim quickly and deliver rapid shots. I hung around the shotgun area and observed as others used the A400 to see if it would fail. One of my chief gripes about auto loaders is that they can be jam prone. I watched the Beretta go through box after box of ammunition without a hiccup. This is exactly what I need to put the hurt on some Eurasians.

Winchester AA TrAAcker

Winchester AA Shot TrAAckerHere’s another brilliant shotgun load from Winchester. This time it’s not about the powder or the arrangement of the shot column. It’s all about the wadding. It’s often extremely difficult to tell where your pellets are going when shooting up into the sky. Fear no more for now Winchester brings you a simple method to track your shots in real time. You can pick from either blaze orange or black depending on the background you shoot against. For sky shots the blaze orange is almost incandescent. Against trees the black really stands out. In addition to its bright coloring, the AA TrAAcker has a unique “shot cup within a shot cup” design. At the base of the column is a smaller shot cup built into the wadding. This adds a little weight and keeps the wadding flying true. I shot several rounds of this during media day and I can attest that it’s as easy to spot as the clay you’re shooting at. This is a great way to quickly improve your shotgunning skills.

5.11 XPRT 2.0 Tactical

5.11 Tactical XPRT 2.0My healthcare career began in EMS. I was often walking through the broken glass and twisted metal of car accidents or the needle strewn hallway of a junkie squatter house. Between all the blood, barf, and sharp things I wanted the best footwear on the market. All my coworkers told me 5.11 was the ultimate option. 5.11 delivers rugged protection and comfort regardless of the environment. The XPRT 2.0 Tactical builds on this tradition of excellence. These boots have a strengthened toe cap, neoprene ankle collar, and a shank that runs the full length of the foot. They look heavy but are in fact incredibly light. The XPRT 2.0 comes in three stylish colors that will fit any uniform; Fire, EMS, or mossy oak!

Savage Arms Rascal

Savage Arms RascalYouth are the future. Next to women, they are the fastest growing sector in the shooting sports industry. In order to keep our conservation heritage alive we need to cultivate the next generation of hunters. Savage offers a great solution to this task with the Rascal rifle. It’s a light weight bolt action rifle that teaches kids the essentials of safety and marksmanship. The dimensions of the rifle are designed with a youngster in mind. It’s got great balance, an easy sight picture, and an adjustable trigger. You can tension it up or down depending on their finger strength. Anything you can do to get your kid feeling safe and in control while handling a fire arm is great. The Rascal makes that happen.



This one came to me, like most great things, out of left field. I had mapped out my SHOT Show route with Delta Forces like precision days before I got to the show. There was a specific set of vendors and products I just had to see. Being a SHOT Show noob I had no idea how big it was actually going to be. After a while my route disintegrated and I wandered along like a paramecium in pond water, bumping into whatever random thing I floated past. During my ambulations a guy jumped out of nowhere and asked me what kind of phone I had. I told him and he handed me a small, clear baggie. He said it would fit my phone and be waterproof down to 200 feet. In addition to being waterproof you could still manipulate the touch screen, take pictures, and even make phone calls. This is no zip lock baggie. It’s a hermetically sealable, 6 mil plastic that won’t tear or deform. This is now an essential component of my fishing and kayaking gear. I plan on getting several more for other electronics and valuables. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for until you find it. The LOKSAK definitely fits that bill.

Trauma Pak Pro

Adventure Medical Trauma Pak ProAs my readers know, I can’t get enough of Adventure Medical and SOL products. The Trauma Pak Pro is no exception. It’s a handy case you can slip on your belt or throw in your pack and know that you can handle any major hemorrhagic emergency. It has the Quickclot impregnated gauze and SWAT-T tourniquet in a nylon pouch for secure storage. It’s great for the range, hunt camp, day hike or anywhere you don’t want to be bleeding to death. Just another great product from a company that never fails to impress. I wish I had magic gauze that stopped bleeding when I was a medic. All we had was boring old regular gauze.

Kodiak Express MK VI

Kodiak Express MK VIHark back to the golden era of Samuel Baker and Chinese Gordon. Hunting tigers in the sunderbans or lions on the Serengeti was not for the faint of heart. Pedersoli takes you back with the Kodiak Express MK VI. A side by side, double barrel, muzzle loading rifle in .50, .54, and .58 calibers. It has all the excellent fit and finish you would expect from a Pedersoli. My favorite feature is the ghost ring sight. It allows for quick target acquisition but won’t skimp on accuracy. For a truly sporting experience leave the modern high power at home and take this into the field. Our great great grandfathers used to hunt lions and hippos with guns like these. Could you? Bring along some tonic water and a pith helmet just in case.

All in all a truly amazing experience. I saw guns I didn’t know I needed, gear I didn’t know I wanted, and met 67,000 other sporting aficionados. There were people from around the world from all walks of life. Good ol boy mossy oak dudes chatting with skinny jeans euro mullet guys about the latest single stack xd. A one of kind event that shows the passion and creativity of the shooting, hunting, and outdoor trades. As these massive amounts of great new stuff starts hitting the shelves this year you won’t be disappointed.

-Richard Hammack

Target Shooters Make An Impact

The National Shooting Sports Foundation released its latest infographic showing just how important target shooters are to the nation’s economy.

Target Shooting In America: Millions of Shooters, Billions of Dollars

It goes to show just how important our shooting sports heritage is. Thanks NSSF for keeping us informed and up to date!

-Richard Hammack

Five Great Products from Media Day at the Range

The 2014 SHOT Show started with a bang. Actually lot’s of bangs. I went to the Media Day at the Range to see what great new gear is coming out this year. I was definately impressed. So now, in no particular order, are five great products from this year’s Media Day.



Here’s something that will definately drop the hammer on some gobblers. The Winchester Shot Lok XR looks like a normal shot shell from the outside but inside is something revolutionary.


In a traditional shot shell, there are lots of little spaces between the pellets. When force is applied to the shot column, the pellets at the bottom are moving faster than the pellets at the top. This causes them to move into the empty spaces and deform. Deformed pellets won’t fly straight and decrease how many land on target. With the Winchester Shot Lok, that’s no longer a problem. They fill the entire shot column with a resin so force is evenly distributed throughout. This prevents the pellets from defroming. With less deformed pellets you can put more metal down range and more meat on the table.


Beretta Pico

Beretta Pico

This is a little gun with a big punch. The Beretta Pico is chambered in .380 and fits in the palm of your hand. Everything is designed for ease of carry, right down to the magazine release hidden in the trigger guard. That way nothing catches when you’re drawing the pistol and you won’t accidently drop the mag when you hold it. The sight picture is clear and re-aligns quickly for follow up shots. I’ve been carrying the Ruger LC9 but I might have something new to consider.


Redring Shotgun Sight


When I first saw this I was skeptical. Could a laser sight on your shotgun really make a difference? Ask the pile of busted clays in front of the Redring booth and you’ll get your answer. This sight affixes to any standard shotgun rib without special tools and will improve your accuracy dramatically. It’s parallax free so you can keep both eyes open as you bring the barrel on target. It’s so smooth even my middling shotgun skills were approaching a 99% hit rate.


Kriss Vector Series


What can I say? These guns are AMAZING! The Kriss system directs the force of the recoil down instead of straight back at the shooter. Not only does this reduce felt recoil, it reduces muzzle rise dramatically. I dumped an entire mag on full auto and saw almost no muzzle rise. It’s chambered in .45 ACP but it feels like you’re shooting a BB gun. Not only that but these guns just look cool. I also had the opportunity to put some rounds down range with the Sphinx series of handguns. Part of the Kriss group, Sphinx are a series of handguns that deliver the same Swiss reliability and performance of the Kriss long guns. While lacking the magical recoil diverting technology of the Kriss, Sphinx pistols only rise vertically. No angled blowback to fight with while re-aquiring the sight picture. The gun goes bang, goes straight up, and then easily settles right back down. Truely an amazing family of firearms.


17 Winchester Super Magnum


Another great line of ammo from Winchester. The .17 Super Mag scoots along between 2,600 and 3,000 fps depending on the grain. That’s enough speed to give Mr. Coyote a headache or completely evoporate a praire dog. I was shooting the 25 gr polymer tip rounds and putting tight groups down range. For those of you dreaming of a pickup truck, a spotlight, and dusk are all you need for a weekend of fun then this is the ammo for you.


Stay tuned for more updates about all the great new stuff coming out at this year’s ShotShow.

-Richard Hammack