Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Learning - Quotes for the Day


“No great thing is created suddenly.”
Epictetus

Caution: Cape does not enable user to fly.
-- Batman Costume warning - Unknown

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Barkley Tangles with a Cougar!

With the fading evening light and blur of motion, it was hard to get a good picture of the scuffle. But Barkley is unharmed and the cougar escaped to her lair with a glass of Merlot.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Revisit to Reloading

This is my third year reloading. I was lucky in that two of my friends reloaded, and were there to answer questions and provide tips. If you don't have friends to guide, there are some good manuals out there to get you started. If you buy a starter kit through Lee, there's a manual called "Modern Reloading" by Mr. Lee himself available for just a few dollars extra. Other bullet manufacturers and reloading companies put out manuals. Hornady does a very good manual, as does Lyman and Speer. I am using the Lyman one as my reference.

I can't stress enough, that reloading isn't just something you sit down and do with a few purchased supplies and no instruction or training. Handloading should be approached with the same degree of caution as that science experiment you did in college. Although the manuals are helpful, I'd really recommend you learn from an experienced handloader or a NRA Certified Reloading Instructor.

If you don't know someone who actively reloads, or have an instructor in the area, ask at your local gun club, store or fish and game range to see if there are people who would be willing to mentor you in the process.

Just like in shooting the ammo, reloading the ammo requires the handler to assume the responsibility of safe handling with good judgment. Just as I will say that this post is simply a guide for a beginner and not to be used as a sole source of information; learn as much as you can before you start. Learn from someone with a keen eye on safety and if there is any question between you, use as a reference, a reputable reloading manual. For an excellent overview of reloading safety tips and information, before you get started, check out http://www.three-peaks.net/reload.htm . One of the best all around reference sites I've found as a beginner. The picture above was my "basic starter kit". If you are ahem "mechanically" challenged, don't let reloading intimidate you. At its most basic, it's simply putting a new primer, bullet and powder into an existing brass case. You could probably even teach a Congressman to do that (though they'd probably try to stick some pork in the case). You don't have to be an engineer, you simply need some supplies, and a personality that has some patience and attention to detail.

Most people started off reloading to save money. When your favorite pistols are .45 auto,like myself, the cost of ammo adds up. So you think 'I'll reload to save money!". Well, that is a myth, but don't tell your non-shooting spouse (shhhh). For you will shoot MUCH more for the same money, getting twice the bang for your buck, as they say, which is what makes reloading so valuable, not even factoring in the availability aspect of ammo. You can stop thinking "well that's a Quarter" every time you hear a bang (ah the good old days) and concentrate on practicing. And practicing some more.

I can't give you a precise idea of starting costs. Though I could venture to say if you shoot less than a box a month, it might not pay to reload unless you are having a hard time finding a particular ammo. If you shoot that little, I'm not sure you'd want to reload, but in any event, save your brass, as I guarantee you have friends that would love to have it.

You can easily spend $500 and up for precision and high-speed reloading for both rifle and pistol, especially if you get into the progressive presses. With an investment of this type you can produce some fine ammo at several hundred rounds an hour. If you're mechanically oriented, and have the finances to add to your store of tools, you might well enjoy that. But you don't have to. Buy the basics, save the really expensive high quality extra equipment until you've decided it's really what you want to do long term. You can buy the reasonable starter kits or obtain or purchase used and well maintained pieces, ask friends if they have any old equipment they want to get rid of, and you can get all set up for less than the cost of a fancy steak dinner out with you and the family.

If your budget is a little more than "bare bones" and you don't have a want or a current need for a progressive press, Lyman, Hornady, RCBS, and other companies make fine quality reloading equipment that uses more steel than aluminum and plastic. They each have kits (like the easy on the budget LEE kit) that will provide you all that you need to get started and will last you as long as you wish to use them. These kits can be found from $150 to around $300 and do provide some savings over buying pieces individually. I've been told that these kits will work for rifle or pistol (caliber-specific dies are required, and add a little cost $20 - $40 each, I think.) With this basic reloading equipment, the process is simple.


  • Resize and decap the case (remove spent primer) in a sizing die

  • Expand case mouth slightly so the bullet can be seated, (expander die)


  • Prime the case with a new primer


  • Charge the case with powder, in my case using a simple LEE graduated scoop


  • Seat the bullet in a seating die.


  • Since it’s a 9x19 cartridge that headspaces on the case mouth, crimp the bullet in place using a ‘taper crimp die’ rather than a roll crimp as the bullet seating die will do (if so adjusted).

    • Let's start with the equipment - A set of LEE reloading dies. LEE does not have the fancy or high priced "premium" tools, but the quality is more than enough to get the job done right. Sure, I like RCBS. RCBS reloading equipment is the Toyota Land Rover of tools. Extremely rugged and dependable, vastly over-engineered, and as good as you can get. LEE reloading tools are the Toyota Corolla of reloading tools. Relatively cheap, rugged enough for your needs, not too pretty, but you still get the job done and at a much cheaper price. For a beginning reloader the LEE starter sets are handy, as they come complete with shell holder and powder scoop sized to that cartridge.

      For reloading straight wall pistol cartridges, the set needs a resizing/decapping die, a case mouth expanding die, and a bullet seating die. The starter equipment is not ideal for long term use in that regard, but it is a great, budget-minded way to get started. You can add those other items to it later. This will allow rifle or pistol reloading at roughly 50 rounds an hour (maybe 75 with plenty of practice). The sizing die installed on a hand press. To fully resize the case, the die body must be screwed in until it touches the face of the shell holder installed on the press ram. The mandrel rod in the die must have it's decapping pin clear the base of the cartridge to fully eject the spent primer from the primer pocket. I can make a perfect blue cheese souffle. How hard can this be? Here we have a shell casing mounted in the shell holder and ready to be pressed into the properly adjusted sizing die. Watch your fingers! Another view. A shell casing ready to be inserted into the case mouth expanding die. This die should be adjusted in small increments till it 'bells' the mouth of the case just enough to allow starting a bullet by hand. This will let the bullet be pressed into the case without crushing the walls of the case, and without shaving lead from the bullet (when loading lead bullets). Over-expanding the case mouth leads to cracked cases and short case life. A sized and decapped case ready to have a primer installed. The biggest problem I had in finding supplies was in finding primers. Here is the LEE 'Autoprime' hand priming tool already set up to install primers in this size case. This is an area of reloading where you have to be as careful with safety precautions as you are on the range.. Wear safety glasses, follow directions, pay attention, etc. The primer is the only thing in the whole process that is actually explosive. One is not a big deal, but the tool can comfortably hold 50. Pressing the primers in by hand allows the reloader to 'feel' it being seated, and a case with a stretched pocket can be caught and discarded. Voila'. A case with the new primer correctly seated. (and no, I am not going to tell you how many many times it took to get it right. :-) If you can, buy your powders and primers locally to avoid Hazardous Material shipping charges which can quickly add up on a mail order. Gun shows often are a good source of powder and primers. The powder companies produce written guides (free!) that will tell you how much powder to use with particular bullets in each caliber. If you can study the powder manuals ahead of time, you can minimize the different powders you need for different purposes and keep your costs in check. In the picture of my supplies, the powder is what was recommended in the kit. A case with a LEE powder scoop. There are several ways to measure the proper powder charge. The best way is a mechanical powder measure checked by a good quality scale. That said, the oldest method in the world is a simple measuring scoop no different than a chef might use. Make sure you use the powders listed in the directions, if you're not a professional, this is not a process to say "hey let's try this!" Practice using a steady and repeatable scooping method.

      I like to pour the powder into a small dish and drag the scoop through it. Is a scoop high tech? No. . . but it serves well as part of a beginner's cheap and portable kit. Later, when the reloader either obtains or cleans off their "dedicated bench", then a mechanical measure can be acquired and bolted to the bench. Till then, remember, most spouses would be cranky about having holes drilled in the dining room table to mount the measure. Speaking of workbenches. You will need a place to work. It will need enough weight to stay put while you're applying pressure to the handloading press and should be stable. The height should be right about your belt line. Can't find your belt line? Stand about a foot and a half from the wall with your arm at your side. Bend your arm at the elbow, keeping your elbow tucked into your side, and pivoting the arm 90 degrees to point at the wall. The spot where your fingertips touch the wall should be an ideal benchtop height for you. My start up benches were different heights as they were originally old doors made into tables which were beefed up with spare lumber and repainted. Total cost. $4.00. Give yourself enough space to lay out your tools and components. Add some shelves and storage area (secure from young children or grandchildren if you have them in your house) and make sure you have good lighting. An overhead lamp can really augment your garage or basement lighting. Ventilation is nice. I've got a big screened door into the backyard from here for a nice cross breeze. Remember though, if you are CASTING bullets, not reloading, ventilation is a basic necessity, not a nice option.I've got an old sink with hot and cold water next to the bench which makes cleaning of casings and general hand clean up easier. Here we have a case, bullet, and a bullet seating die. In a pistol round this die has two functions. It will press the bullet into the case, and it will apply a 'roll' crimp to hold the bullet snugly in the case. The person that taught me the basics stressed that crimps can only be (and should be) used on lead bullets or jacketed bullets with a cannelure. Jacketed bullets without a cannelure should have a taper crimp applied. Autoloaders generally work best with taper crimped cartridges, but soft lead bullets do not work well with taper crimps usually. The primed shell casing with powder charged, ready to have the bullet seated. Follow the die set up directions to properly set the seating die. If you want some more detailed instruction beyond reading about it, the LEE website has Video instructions on setting up the dies.You'll find them in the "single stage press' section. A loaded cartridge, displayed with a taper crimp die. This die squeezes the side walls of the case into the bullet, holding it in place without rolling the end of the case over. This is important in an autoloader, as most will headspace the cartridge on the mouth of the case rather than the rim. Now for clean up. You don't want to be reloading with cases that have grit or fouling on them. That can wear out your nice dies VERY quickly (including scratching them internally). Many folks have a small vibrating tumbler to clean the cases, equipment similar to what we rock hounders have, the cases vibrating with ground up walnut shells or corn cobs. One of my favorites group of folks, Midway (http://www.midwayusa.com/) has tumbler kits at a good price. But you don't have to have one to clean up. You can simply put the cases in hot water, and then rinse, and rinse again. To dry them out, put the cases on a clean pan in a warm oven for an hour or two to dry them out. Be careful that you use the lowest possible heat setting, less than 175 degrees. Any more than that is a really BAD idea. If you have a teenager in the house let them know, as they've been known to eat about anything found coming out of an oven. In the end you'll find more advantages to reloading than simply saving money on the cost of each bullet (you know, so you can shoot twice as much). You'll be able to tailor your ammo to a particular firearm and you can have ammo for obsolete guns. With practice and experimentation within the prescribed limits of the manufacturers, you can improve your accuracy by developing loads that work best in a specific gun. You can reload ammo that by either market conditions or manufacturing rate isn't readily available. You can also match your ammunition to the type of game you are hunting or the type of sport shooting you are doing.

      It's GREEN. (everyone's favorite buzz word). By picking up all those brass casings on the ground and re-using them you are stopping global warming (OK, NOT, but Al Gore would try and use that line). But it IS fun if you are technical/mechanical minded. But mostly, it's a way to work with your hands, using new tools to enhance another sport you already enjoy, there quietly in your own garage, shop or basement. I can't think of a more relaxing way to spend an afternoon while gaining something truly useful with only a little time, effort and patience.

      Sunday, April 24, 2011

      What do you do if you have a Blog Meet and the Restaurant Doesn't Show Up

      3:00. Broad Ripple Brew Pub, a light crowd was expected as it was Easter, but I was first on the scene, waiting for the cruise director and the rest of the gang to show. Hmmm. I'm the only car in the parking lot. This is not a good sign. Sure enough, the Pub was closed.

      Oh boy, Barkley is not going to be happy with me if I leave him and don't even come home with a doggy bag.

      But you're gonna see Aunt Tam, why can't I go?

      The Jack , Joanna, Tam, Old Grouch, Roberta X, also known as Retrotechnologist, Nathan,and first time attendee Dave soon arrived. Old Grouch led a scouting expedition while everyone showed up and he came back with a short list of what was open.

      We passed on the Wild Beaver Saloon.

      And decided on the Canal Bistro, which had all the prerequisites for a IND blog meet, outside of that open sign, a great view of the bridge over the Monon and the wonderful smells wafting out of the front door. . .


      (1) Within walking distance of the trail and everyone's cars.

      (2) great food

      (3) alcohol

      (4) falling hippies.

      For yes, soon after we arrived we were treated to the the sight of a drunken hippie falling off the Monon bridge after sitting on the edge with his friends and leaning back just a little bit too far ("hey man is that a turtle?") Someone summoned the IFD (I Fell Down?) who arrived with ambulance and fire trucks and a few locals out in the rain watching the action there in the shadow of a statute of long arms holding a turtle into the air??

      I couldn't help myself but all I could think of was, at first, was that song "it's raining men". Everyone but the X Team was soon assembled to bring him up to land, probably the little worse for wear as there are concrete pilings under there, not just water. But I'm sure his last coherent thought as it watched the giant turtle up in the sky like some demented sun with legs, was "Wow, I sure am glad I have Obamacare!"

      Soon, the excitement was over and everyone was back to catching up and someone suggesting I could be in the group picture if I had one of those fake nose and glasses and Tam doing the budget version of a disguise.

      Soon, those conversation came to a slow, turtle crawl as the food continued to arrive.

      It starts with the appetizers. I'm not sure what this was called but involved dousing a delicious wedge of cheese with what appeared to be some fragrant oil or liquid, which was then set on fire (WHOOOSH!!!) and then doused with lemon juice to put out the rather impressive flames. It was served with fresh hot pita bread to smear it on. It smelled wonderful and after checking to make sure my hair was not on fire, I ensured it tasted wonderful as well.

      Pardon me, I think that calamari has my name on it.

      The Gyro's were incredible. Actually everything on the table was excellent, as was the service and I'd recommend the restaurant to anyone. It's casual enough for just stopping in but with decor beautiful enough for the most romantic of evenings.


      I had one of the many Kabobs offered, which were brought to the table by our attentive waiter, skewered on a giant sword, which he deftly removed. (What, I don't get to keep the sword as a souvenir?)

      Soon, as the light faded, it was time to say goodbye. We took a moment to stop and salute the spot to our fallen, crunchy warrior and head on home. There was no tie dye body outline so we assume he survived the fall.

      Dave, it was great to meet you and we really hope you will join us again. To some other regulars who weren't here, we missed you. To everyone else, have a safe drive home!

      Happy Easter

      To all of you. The past that taught me to love, the present that supports me, and the future that fills me with hope. May you all have a most wonderful of days.

      Friday, April 22, 2011

      Dinner with Afterburners

      Dinner on the fly.
      (click to enlarge photos)

      Steak marinated with Srirachi sauce, Guinness, key lime and spices for 24 hours, then grilled. The Srirachi gives it a nice little afterglow when all is said and done.

      The veggies? Mushrooms, sliced onion and green beans tossed with olive oil, a little balsamic vingerette, then quick roasted at 450 F for about 10-15 minutes and sprinkled with a little smoked mozzerella the last couple of minutes of cooking.

      It's Friday, so I'll leave you all to your own devices. I've got a dog that's happy to see me, an airman who probably is wanting to talk to me and about 11 hours of sleep on the horizon.

      Afterburner Steak Marinade
      1/2 cup soy sauce
      1/2 cup Guinness
      3 garlic cloves, minced
      3 tablespoons brown sugar
      2 tablespoons key lime juice
      a pinch of dried thyme
      2 generous tablespoons Sriracha
      2 pounds New York strip or rib-eye steak

      Whisk together and marinate steak in a big zip lock for up to 24 hours. Grill as you like, brushing with marinade. Or, if you like smoke and noise, coat marinated steak very lightly with olive oil, let sit at room temperature for a few minutes and then cook for one minute in a preheated smoking hot cast iron pan, flip the steak and immediately place in a preheated 450-500 F oven for 3-5 minutes. (be prepared for smoke alarm). Remaining marinade can be cooked down in hot pan until reduced, for a dipping sauce, while the steak rests, lightly covered with foil for 3-5 minutes.

      Serves 2-3 people.

      Wednesday, April 20, 2011

      Office Warfare



      Some years back, I once looked up from my cubicle to see a remote control blimp flying over my head. Stranger things have happened and the boss didn't even blink. Work can be stressful anywhere, there's meetings, budget cuts, layoffs, so sometimes when the natives get restless, there are small things designed for either the battling boss or the tactical temp. Not that I would EVER use such things where I work now. Model of decorum. That's me. :-) But IF I were to contemplate, and worked in an environment that would take such antics as stress release and not "fire me now", here are a few out there.



      The son of Odin and Nord, the earth goddess, Thor was the strongest of the aesir, the Norse Gods. Thor was portrayed as a large, powerful man with a red beard, a hearty enjoyment of food and drink and eyes of lightning. Despite his ferocious appearance, he was very popular as the protector of gods and humans against evil. A hero for all. Unfortunately, for office warfare, it is not that hero. However it's the next best thing. A monkey with a cape and a mask.



      Because nothing says "I'm going to kick your butt" like a cape and a mask. But this isn't just any monkey, there are little pockets in the monkeys hands that you can slip your fingers into. Then pull back his hind legs like that crazed personal trainer tried once with you and stretchhhhhhh. His arms, will extend out to vast lengths while the latent energy of rubber positively trembles with potential. Then let fly! FORE!
      >Adding to the experience, the monkey will screech when jolted. Loudly. So if you can get a really strong launch, you'll hear that roar of the undefeated in mid air. Or, if the landing is bad enough, you'll get that scream that says "holy *(#)@(* GRAVITY!. Get both with a skillful launching and it's Chuck Norris, monkey edition.



      Even the most relaxed work environments frown on hurling a 21 inch rubber chicken at work, so come break time, you must settle for 1.5 inch chicks propelled by a rubber band gun. The Chicken Chucker. Getting slapped by someone else's chicken is usually seen as an insult so be ready for counter warfare. Look, rubber bands are just for starters.

      That cheap little helicopter you bought for 20 bucks broke the first time it met up with Mr. Wall.

      You have other options. Get the WowWeeFlyTech Bladestar, (not to be confused with the WowWeeM61A1) and never worry about walls and ceilings again. Made to fly indoors, the Bladestar senses when it’s close to a wall, and automatically adjusts course. The same technology allows you to control it simply with your hands, walking it around like Boba Fett transporting Han Solo in carbonite.

      Offices are constructed on many levels, both in terms of use of geometric space and structure social levels. This can present difficulties when planning those "we haven't clocked in yet, the night is ours!" raids and attack strategies.

      Sure you can go in hard, hitting with rock hard determination. But that didn't work out so well at the LAST budget meeting, so how about going in with sugar and honey. Or at least sugar.

      Ammo comes in various types, 9 mm, 45 acp, FAT FREE? The Marshmallow Shooter. But even the best of shooters have their limitations. For such time, there is the Marshmallow Blaster. Firing one regular sized marshmallow (not included) at a time, the Marshmallow Blaster can hit soft targets 40 feet away. Easy to lock and reload I still don't understand why they didn't have this on at least one episode of Top Shots.



      Just pump the handle to build up air pressure, then lock and load a marshmallow. The handle of the pump conveniently doubles as a stock for added stabilization. Don't have any large marshmallows but there's a bag of those little ones for hot chocolate? Sugar buckshot. A blast of mini marshmallow makes for a good scatter shot. (avoid the eye area, a blinded opponent may take out the overhead light fixture with his flying monkey).

      Add a Marshmallow Blaster to your arsenal and sweet victory is yours.



      The Microsonic Hand Grenade. Small and with the decibils of a hand saw, it will wake up the dead or even drown out your neighbor's TMI phone call about their appointment for their colonoscopy.
      How does it work?"
      A Reading from the Book of Armaments, Chapter 4, Verses 16 to 20: >Hans the Cleric (reading)

      "Then did he raise on high the MicroSonic hand grenade of Antioch, saying, "Bless this, O Lord, that with it thou mayst blow thine loud and annoying coworkers eardrums to tiny bits, in thy mercy." And the people did rejoice and did feast upon the Cheetoes and burned popcorn and leftover Christmas cookies and caffiene and Little Debbie cakes. Now did the Lord say, "First thou shalt thou set the delay. You can have a delay of 5, 30 or 60 seconds. 5 or 30 or 60 seconds shall be the number of the counting and the number of the counting shall be 5 or 30 or 60. Four shalt thou not count, neither shalt thou count two, excepting than thou then proceedeth promptly to five .Then you shall seeth the LED flash briefly. Then, is the time of the throwing. Once the proper number, being the number of the counting, be reached, then lobbest thou, the Holy Microsonic Hand Grenade in the direction of thine foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it."

      -- Monty Python Holy Grail - microsonic hand grenade edition.

      Nothing like a trebuchet to break the ice (or the bosses window). Actually some of the smaller ones for sale aren't really a trebuchet but a torsion engine, but that doesn't make them any less awesome.



      You can't lob a disease ridden corpse over the castle walls like they used to, but it will lob balled up copies of your last "not so good" performance review (does not concentrate on work).

      Airzooka is the 'fun gun' that blows a harmless ball of air towards any object, person or anial (though I'd warn aganst zapping your feline with it least they launch a catapult in return). The airball will travel up to twenty feet and beyond. Seemingly from nowhere, you are able to mess up anyone's hair or disrupt the papers on the desk of your favorite type A personality.. Requiring no batteries or electricity, AirZooka operates simply by pulling and releasing a built-in elastic air launcher. And here's the best part: because it shoots air, you'll never run out of ammo (unless you happen to be on the moon!)



      Special finds for the home office. Carrying even a toy gun into the workplace isn't smart today, and even the marshmallow blaster will probably get you fired in Illinois (they have NO sense of humor) but there are still some "office warfare toys" that are fun to have in the home office if only for a break from paying utility bills.

      Practice your undead shooting skills between balancing the checkbook and scheduling the kids next dental visits! The small plastic zombie assault rifle fires a laser which is detected by the zombie targets . She shoots! She Scores! (That's because I have brains.)



      Shoot each zombie as it pops out or a human hostage is devoured, indicated by a red silhouette in an upper window. As you shoot, the Zombies get faster and faster (think caffeinated zombies) so shooting them quickly increases your score which is easy to see with an LED display (requires a boatload of batteries, but worth it).

      With the advent of the home office for both the layman and the professional, there's a ready supply of goodies from Walmart and Staples you brought home to equip your space. Clothespins, rubber bands, paperclips, Sporks, you name it. All things you may need to build your miniature arsenal on your lunch break. Why at home?



      Well, there's the kids, the dog, the UPS man, all kinds of threats to your work space and that last bag of Fritoes you have squirreled away in your desk. With a little forethought you too can have a home arsenal Detailed, step-by-step instructions for each project are provided, including materials and ammo lists, clear diagrams, and construction tips.

      This is also great for teachers. Think of it. You're at your desk and across from you are several ruffians, Lord knows WHAT is in their pockets, eyes sullen, shoulders hunched. They can smell your fear. Oh WHY did you think home schooling was a good idea?

      Seriously, some of this stuff would make for the best experiment for them, and ready them for when they complete their schooling and go out into the world, armed only with rubber bands and some paper clips.

      Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction is your guidebook to conquering your workplace, even if it's that 4 x 6 corner in the basement between the Little Tykes In Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction, you'll find plans to build 35 devices of office warfare - including catapults, slingshots, minibombs, darts, and combustion shooters. You'll construct a tiny trebuchet from paper clips and a D-cell battery, wrap a penny in a string of paper caps to create a surprisingly impressive explosive, and convert champagne party poppers and pen casings into a three-barreled bazooka. Finally, plans are provided for a top secret concealing book to hide your stash, as well as targets (cardboard critters, big-headed aliens, and zombies) for shooting practice. Never let your home office space go undefended again.

      And finally, when the enemy has only one weapon left to him, and it involves closed spaces, chili for lunch, and gas warfare, there's only one thing you can do.

      Secure, Lob, Drop and Roll.

      h/t to Think Geek for the inspiration and a couple of the photos.

      Monday, April 18, 2011

      Conservation - a Hunter's Perspective


      I grew up out West, where camping was something done in tents, not an RV with electricity and a cable dish. Animals roamed the forests and neighbors hunted alongside of neighbor to put food on the table. I still do.

      It came into sight, quickly and unexpectedly. A small road, leading up into the pines to a spot I planned to turkey hunt at first light. The Ozarks are full of turkeys and this public land, I'd been told, was as good a spot as any, being far enough away from the city and a good hike up steep terrain where a lot of people would not tred. I couldn't camp on it, but I could hunt on it. There was a nice little Super 8 nearby where I could spend the night, getting up before light to head out.

      Turkey hunting, for me anyway, is a lot harder than whitetail hunting. With their eyesight it only takes a blink to have your quarry take off to the next county. On the plus side, their sense of smell wasn't as keen so I didn't have to spend as much time prepping my clothing or person with de-scented products and using a bottle of "Gee Your Hair Smells like Dirt!" shampoo.

      Some believe the word turkey comes from a corruption of a Native American name for the bird; Actually, the name of the bird comes from the name of the country Turkey, by way of the colonial error when early English settlers mistakenly thought turkeys were a kind of guinea fowl, an African bird that English people used to import from Turkey. If Cliff Clavin from Cheers were here, he'd probably add " However, the Spanish name for turkey, guajolote, does come from the Nahuatl (Aztec) name huexolotl!"

      Before the United States was settled, millions of turkeys roamed most of what is now 39 states, the big birds playing a key role in the physical and spiritual well being of our country’s early inhabitants.


      Turkeys are also used as clan animals in some Native American cultures, with turkey feathers being used in the traditional regalia of many tribes, particularly the feathered cloaks of eastern Woodland tribes like the Wampanoag and the feather headdresses of southern tribes like the Tuscarora and Catawba. Only men of great courage and valor were permitted to wear headdresses like the Seneca gustoweh headdress, pictured above, made in 1890 in Ontario, Canada. It was made from turkey feathers, eagle feathers, silver, wampum beads, leather and wood, and is on display at the Smithsonian.

      Although the Apache and Cheyenne reportedly would not eat the birds, they were a major food source for the American Indians, with their feathers used to make robes and fletching for hunting arrows. The the small wing bones themselves were used to craft a rudimentary call in which a Indian hunter could yelp through it to call another turkey into bow range.


      But as settlers spread out west, clearing the land, millions of acres of trees dissolved away in cold Spring rains, the turkey's habitat changed and disappeared. More and more wagons jolted across the slow and shifting land as the wilderness watched them pass. Land across which there came now no thunder of Buffalo or cry of the turkey, but the long drawn out bellow of a train pushing further West.

      Heavy market hunting in the late 1700's (gobblers bringing as much as a quarter at game markets) spelled doom for turkeys and by the mid 1800's, the bird have been virtually eliminated from half its original range and all that remained of those days of a Indian turkey call were small towns with Indian names.


      As millions of acres cleared by pioneers began to regenerate into woodlands, visionary leaders began to enact conservation plans, laying the groundwork for the return of the American Turkey. Funded by sportsman's dollars during the last 75 years, state and federal wildlife agencies have spent millions on habitat improve and turkey transplant and trapping projects.

      Over the past three decades, the National Wild Turkey Federation and its partners have chipped in with more than a quarter billion dollars to conserve more than 13 million acres of wildlife habitat. That's money that would not have come but for the sportsmen and women who hunt and support responsible conservation. Non game animals benefit as well, with hunter and fisherman's licenses (and Pittman Robertsen excise taxes on sporting equipment) benefiting many non-game species. Where does that all end up? Here. On the side of a mountain in the Ozarks, listening to the gobble of a turkey at dawn, the birds having been restored to roam 49 states.

      There's a great misconception among people that don't hunt, that those that do, are bloodthirsty louts that care nothing for the land, and for the welfare of game, depleting it all to extinction if we could. Certainly there are rare individuals that meet that description, just as there are bad seeds among any activity or group. But the majority of hunters I know, understand that the many fees they pay for hunting go, for the most part, to good use, not squandered on pork and personal pet projects. With it, much of that land has retreated, back towards what it was when we were first here, before axe and saw echoed in the last lone gobble of the last lone witness. Game that was dwindling is surging, game that exists is healthy, the numbers culled enough to provide for those that hunt, while keeping the species strong.

      It's money well spent and it draws me now, just as it drew the early hunters of this land, coming on wheeled transport, with bedding, food and drink, the keen hearted anticipation of the hunt. It's conservation from a hunter's perspective.

      It's campfires and stories of old, told as the last of the days light is snared between earth and sky. It's the last clink of a glass and the the final rumbling of laughter that dies into snoring. It's the young hunters, dreaming dreams of the deity of flight. It's old hunters,waking early in a peaceful tent, with not enough days left to waste it all sleeping, laying beneath bedding that gets less and less warm as the years rolled away. It's the call of the American turkey in his instant of immortality, as gun barrels draw up, and the blood of that which marks us forever proclaims us forever one with the land.

      It's conservation, of a life, of a land, of a way of life.


      It's mornings listening to the song of the trees, wondering if the answer to my call will be gobbler or Jake. It's roads that are once again the ancient pathway of game and promise, leading up to reforested hills, the call of the American turkey somewhere up ahead.

      - Brigid 2011