Saturday, October 09, 2004

It's Elk Season in Utah

Tomorrow morning the elder Goddess and I will be walking the hills south of Strawberry Resevoir in central Utah. Look for us in Sec 7 (the red numbers in the middle of the squares) right in the middle of the map.

It's her first hunt carrying a rifle. We both have tags for spike elk. This morning we zeroed the Remington 700 in .30'06, the M1 Garand (same caliber/match iron sights), and a Swedish Mauser Model 98 in 6.5mmx55mm (Iron milstandard). Elder Goddess dislikes the scoped Remington's kick only slightly less than that of my family of vintage Winchester shotguns. I am sadly out of practice; shot well enough for getting good dope on the guns but NOTHING like I used to even five years ago.

*note to self: Maybe if you dragged your armory out more than once every three months you might retain proficiency. Pistols monthly are great - but the rifle exists to keep the pistol in the holster.*

Before my hunting partners drifted to other states I would start preparing for the October hunts in late March or early April, when the snow began to come off the places I like to shoot. I'd have reloaded most of my available components for all my iron during the winter, with a modest cache of brass left to try new loads mentioned by friends or publications. The rifles would have been stripped to the screws (except for the scope on the Rem - never mess with a Leupold solid base that is already working) during the depths of January, cleaned and tweaked, and ready to roll.

The Remington was an early Christmas present from the wife. I was ready to execute my first Utah deer hunt with the beloved Garand. From the first time I shot it it had been an amazingly dependable and accurate weapon. Don't' take my word for it - ten thousand dead Nazis can't be wrong, etc, etc. She doesn't do rifles but she did think that it was more than I should have to carry up and down the hills. So she surprised me with a Gart Brother's Special - rifle, scope, and sling in a package.

Two days later she came downstairs to find the rifle exploded across the work bench. The broken Simmons rings were in a cup. Wood shavings covered the floor. The last inch and a half of the original butt was gone - cut off to allow me to mount a Pachmeyer recoil pad with a slight offset from perpendicular to the long axis of the rifle that would fit my draw length exactly when shooting right handed. I had relieved the receiver part of the stock to make ready for the Acra-glass bedding. The forestock channel was rasped out and then sanded and sealed to keep the wood from bearing on the barrel. I had ground out the pillar that surrounded the bolt that pinned the barrel into the stock and replaced it with an oversized Delrin bushing. The trigger assembly was in pieces, ready to be assembled after each pin had been rolled across a microfine gunsmith's stone, then kissed with GunSlick lube. The entire basement reeked of epoxy from the bedding compound.

I hadn't fired the rifle yet. I am male. If I haven't taken it apart it's not really mine, right?

I pointed out she would often try on ten pairs of shoes to end up with a pair of flat heel black pumps but that didn't do anything to turn down the volume.

The Remington will shoot a quarter sized group at one hundred yards from a bench with factory ammo. I've had one dime group using my own 168gr Speer Match bullets but freely admit that the gods were involved. For the quality of the barrel and scope, it's a sweeter shooter than I ever expected. Now all I have to do is practice.

Back when I was serious about shooting, by the time the last weekend before the hunt rolled around I would have been out at least three or four times to practice, test loads, and verify my scope zero. But I'd always go out to my favorite spot on the west side of Utah Lake that last weekend for one more round. I'd have to squeeze in amongst the herd of pickups and Blazers and Broncos belonging to the people who had just that morning dragged out their rifles, still dirty from last year, to race across the lake to sight in.

There's nothing more motivating than standing offhand on a firing line and punching milk jugs at will out to five hundred yards while clusters of shooters to the left and right are trying to find the paper at a hundred yards from benches.

Today, I was one of the guys seeking paper (BRIEFLY) and teaching my girl how to deal with healthy recoil. We had a good time. We'll have a good time tomorrow, too.

I'll let you know how it turned out.

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