Once again we do the rounds of our traps, the burrows and the duck ponds, yet beaver remains mighty scarce. A warm welcome to all readers as we rug up against Victoria’s chilly winter weather. Many thanks to Paul (Le Reynard) Sly for contributing our feature hunting story. We certainly appreciate the input of members sharing their black powder experiences and hunting stories.
Game Food and Firewood
On an autumn morning that promised to be bright and sunny I felt the urge to harvest some game birds to stock the home freezer. I also felt it time to take out my 12 gauge original percussion shotgun made by W.C. Scott & Son of London. Attaching a trailer to my Ute would allow me to fetch a load of firewood and hopefully double the productivity of the day. I would hunt along a creek that is near my old home further north. There would be ample firewood to gather and hopefully a chance to bag a brace of ducks for the pot.
Helping me to collect the firewood I’d have my two young sons, Nathaniel and Nicholas. After a nourishing breakfast and rather slow preparations we finally headed off by mid morning. Soon after we arrived at our destination we spotted a good sized mob of grey teal flying along the creek. But first the chores, as we set to filling the trailer with good dry firewood. Then it was time to get serious and do some hunting.
After busting a few caps to dry out/clear the nipple of oil, I poured 2¼ drams of 2F black powder down the barrel, pushed down two 3mm over-powder wads with the ram rod until seated on top of the powder, put in 1¼ oz of number 4’s and finally pushed down a thin over shot wad to sit on top of the shot to keep everything in place.
With loaded gun set safely on its half cock notch and the boys under strict watchful guidance, we headed off along the creek to see where that mob of teal had gone. We proceeded quietly – well, just as quiet as two energetic young lads loose in the bush might be. Then, some 250 yards ahead of us, we observed a small mob of ducks lift off above the far side bank. Damn it all, I muttered to myself, thinking we had made too much noise. But no, not the case, the disturbance had been caused by another bush user driving nearby and spooking the birds.
Encouraging my sons, we hastily got behind some cover, kept quite still, waited and watched to see what those ducks were going to do. As the birds were beginning to circle around, more and more teal were lifting off the water to join them until there appeared to be three separate large groups in the air. The closest mob out to my front was moving from my right to left. They dipped down out of site and rose up again immediately on my left.
I brought that ancient single barrelled smoke-pole up to my shoulder, selected a leading bird and touched off the shot. Through the large cloud of grey/blue smoke billowing out in front of me I could see that my bird was tumbling down, with another teal following it in a nice downwards spiral that ducks do towards the ground. It seems that as I fired another teal flew up beside my targeted bird and was caught in the edge of the pattern. A 200 percent success rate shot is most pleasing.
Satisfied with the morning’s sport and the spot of good luck, I thought it a fine time to quit while ahead with two plump birds in the bag. Although that gun is over 100 years old it’s a great pleasure to take out on a hunt. With the firewood stacked at home and both teal cleaned, dressed and in the freezer, thoughts drift towards a cosy fire, ducks roasting in the slow cooker until dinner, then served piping hot with mushroom sauce.
The ups and downs of rifle shooting
This is the lowdown – Remember that, “the lowdown”! Well anyway, that’s how I remember how to aim when shooting at a target that is significantly either uphill or downhill from your shooting position. It all has to do with apples, Newton, Einstein and gravity but the necessary adjustment is the same – uphill or down – the lowdown is to aim low down from your rifle’s normal point of impact at any given distance!
Just how much lower is an interesting assignment to figure out for each individual firearm and for various gradients? Now you need no more excuse to just get out there and do some experimental shooting. Oh, and be sure to make it fun!
We recommend English black Brandon flints by Will Lord trading as Beyond 2000bc.
The Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend in June has become our traditional Winter Quarters camp. Just why we refer it that way I don’t know. Several members still call it “Rondyvoo” and perhaps they are correct. Yes, its winter in Victoria but June 10th through to the 14th had an air much more like autumn than mid winter. In fact the weekend climate was most decidedly, well, in a word – salubrious!
Jim, for once, was not first to arrive and light the campfire. In fact Jim would not be attending at all – he being laid up with a massive haematoma after a firewood gathering mishap causing a terrible blow to the shin. It was Ian first to arrive to pitch camp on Friday morning, followed by Bob, Chook, Murray and Peter. Four others – John Morland, John Maccioni, Glen Mitchell and Justin Fletcher all arrived Saturday and it was a glorious day, the weather just perfect for doing what we love doing.
It was only a week earlier that the first snows of winter had laid promise for a grand ski season and perhaps that’s why other members chose not to attend our Winter Quarters. But we did it yet again – turned on glorious fair weather for the intrepid winter campers. Sadly you others missed a long weekend of cloudless blue skies, cool bracing mornings warming to temperate sunny afternoons and wonderful toasty evening campfires with guitar picking, strands of song, ballads and much story tellin’.
Ian had concocted a little test of woods skill commencing at the knife and hawk block. Our well used and battered knotty pine French/Indian warrior was divided into five scoring zones ranging in difficulty and rated 1-5 with any miss automatically scoring a 5. These numbers were then transposed to the next skill segment of shooting at simulated vermin with the lower numbers applied to easier, closer targets, while higher numbers applied to the more distant, smaller feral animal silhouettes.
Several members have difficulty in the concept of throwing away a hawk or knife that could be better utilised if retained in the hand. This showed in their scores – 5 throws for five 5’s and five complete misses at that! We won’t mention any names other than that of the most successful chucker – John Maccioni.
The second segment consisted of five steel animal silhouettes set up at different locations ranging from about 15 yards to about 50 yards. The silhouettes were a sitting rabbit, a running rabbit, a squirrel, a fox and a pig. Here it was John Morland out-pointing the rest of us, in spite of him having to take all shots at the distant fox. John was rewarded with a bottle of wine and asked to draw a name for the hand-woven powder horn strap kindly donated by Jenny Baker. With odds at around 8 to 1, would you believe, a delighted John drew his own name from the hat! Club thanks to Jenny.
We spent the afternoon resting and yarning in the shade thrown outside of our log shelter, marvelling at the mild winter weather. A firewood harvesting chore occupied the later part of the afternoon as the sun dipped toward the horizon and clear skies hinted at a chilly evening to come in the Highlands. Pushed for time as we hobbyists usually are, it was out with Bob’s petrol axe and into a couple of standing dead Stringy-barks. No time for period niceties on firewood for a three day long weekend!
Late in the afternoon Murray took his .54 cal for a short hunt along an old trapping line. Trappings were poor and the uneventful follow up early next morning suggested that the rabbit calicivirus had decimated the small game for the time being.
Sunday being a day of rest for all religious folk, our fervent hunters took their rest casually plinking away at silhouetted targets, burning the black stuff, muttering praise to whatever gods when a distinctive clang recorded a solid hit. Ian and Justin spent a pleasant afternoon playing their guitars, jamming together, swapping songs, chords and riffs. John Maccioni was still shaking off another Melbournian wog whilst sawing wood during a private siesta in his tent.
Bernie and Judy left the dogs to guard the horses and arrived after dark. Bernie quickly set to preparing another fine damper to be shared and smothered with Judy’s fine home-made jams. Justin and Ian entertained with music and song, while others told stories or lies. We soon drank up John Morland’s winning bottle of booze and one or two others as well. Judy said our smoke free fire was simply the best we’d had. Hey, Winter Quarters is for fun!
Monday morning saw the plinkers still praying for better accuracy before decamping, Ian took a quiet afternoon hunt hoping to flush a fox but game proved mighty scarce. That evening it was just Ian and I yarning quietly at the campfire. The club has some future work to attend, building a higher hearth for the shelter fireside, applying some protective oil to the pine flitches and of course there are always firewood chores.
Our thanks to Bernie and Judy for the privileges we all enjoy so much.
“Do It Yourself” says our Club President
There are times when we barely have sufficient material to fill our modest newsletters. In the past I have contributed several DIY articles, so, as space permits and lacking other suitable articles of substance I will continue with this series on crafting your own muzzleloading gear.
Being raised on a farm I learned that when things could not be readily purchased, either unavailable or simply too expensive, then you made it or modified something else to do the job. You did so by using resources on hand – fencing wire being an all-time favourite fall-back. So anyway, I tend to be a DIY tight arse (no comment -Ed).
Most muzzleloading shooters make at least some of their own shooting and camping gear. Then there are those that “will one day” make those moccasins or powder horn etc. With this brief treatise I hope to encourage the “will one day” person and maybe give a few ideas to those already crafting their own gear (OK, I’m encouraged -Ed).
Before we can make anything we need some tools. Some folk think that you need expensive fancy power tools to create craftwork masterpieces – nothing can be further from the truth. Just look around at any antiques, most were crafted with only hand tools while any “power” tools that they did have were mainly foot or hand powered. Whereas factory produced products may have employed water or steam power.
Begin by acquiring a few basic tools and only buy what you need or can use. Look around for quality tools which will stay sharp longer and won’t break easily rather than buying cheap inferior junk. To keep costs down I mostly buy second-hand tools at flea markets, junk shops, garage sales etc. Most hand tools found this way are of better quality as junky tools of their era would normally have been trashed years ago.
Older tools, which pre-date modern plastics, have wooden handles and are made of carbon steel which holds an edge better and can be heat treated. Let’s face it – a 60+ year old carbon steel wooden handled chisel or screwdriver (turn screw, if you must) made here in Australia, England or the USA looks far better and lasts much longer than the plastic-handled cheapies churned out of Asia.
The one power tool I feel you should have is an electric drill. Of course a hand drill will suffice however a fine quality hand drill is probably dearer than most reasonably priced electric drills these days.
Another way to acquire tools is to make your own – wooden mallets, soft face hammers, scrapers, knives, scribers, straight edge and inletting chisels, wad punches – all these and more can be made by using scrap wood, old files, old hacksaw or cross-cut saw blades, scrap steel and brass etc. You might make a particular tool for a one-of specific task, whilst others will satisfy numerous jobs and last for many years.
Next, I’ll talk about materials and fasteners, meanwhile – watch yer topknot! Ian Convey
Club Calendar – Don’t ya wanna have fun no more?
- July 9th
- The 22nd Eureka Arms and Militaria Fair at Ballarat. Saturday one day only from 9am until 3.30pm the Council of Muzzleloaders representing the Free Trappers, Seymour Black Powder Club and Western Districts Muzzleloaders will attend a promotional display table. Adult entry $7, free if you wear complete Trapper/Longhunter outfit.
- August 6th & 7th
- Leap into the future at Beechworth’s Ned Kelly Festival. Shuck off those pre-1840 duds and embrace time travel into the 1870’s and 80’s. Join all the fun at historic Beechworth and camp over on the Police paddocks right behind the Courthouse where the wounded Ned will re-hear the charges against him. Streets of period style tents planned. Be in the thick of the weekend’s re-enactment festivities and country fair. Contact Bob Ellis for further details.
- September 16th – 19th
- Our traditional Spring Rendezvous weekend extended from Friday 16th through to Monday 19th. Arrive early to be assured of a place in the Mountain Man hunt. – Where? – Why, Beaver Creek at Whorouly, of course!
- November 5th & 6th
- Time Line Festival at the Old Cheese Factory, Berwick. A weekend display camp in the heart of Melbourne’s eastern suburbia. Your chance to show them Flatlanders what Longhunter and Mountain Man fun is all about.
Victorian Anti Duck Hunting Protestor found Guilty
Field & Game Australia Inc. following up on previous front page media reports of a female injured in the face by several shot pellets on Opening morning, provided us the latest outcome on that incident.
A female anti-hunting protestor has been found guilty in the Magistrates Court at Morwell (6/6/2011) on the following charges;
- Entering into the water of a specified hunting area before 10.00am.
- Hindering five hunters.
- Using noise producing equipment in a State Game Reserve to the unreasonable inconvenience of another person (annoying hunters by blowing whistles).
The offences occurred on the opening day of the 2010 season at Dowd’s Morass State Game Reserve near Sale. The protestor was found guilty on all 3 charges and fined $750 and ordered to pay court costs of over $120, she now has a criminal record.
This is the first time that a person has been found guilty of hindering a hunter under 58 E of the Wildlife Act 1975 and sends a strong message to those who choose to break the human safety legislation.