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This week, F&S shooting editor, Richard Mann, explains his beef with turkey hunting, prescribes some strong medicine for giant arachnids, shares why he still thinks the 30/06 gets more credit than it deserves, and more.
Q: What’s the most scared you’ve ever been on a hunting trip? —Kelly Davis, via email
A: It was two in the morning in Mozambique, and I had to pee. I grabbed a flashlight, unzipped my tent, and stepped into an adjoining enclosed bathroom, zipping the tent flaps behind me to keep the bugs out. Standing there in my underwear, tinkling, I heard something behind the toilet tank, and when I shined the light, a monster emerged and scaled the wall. It looked like a cross between a spider and a crab and was just as black and just as large as a No. 9 cast-iron skillet.
With my flashlight on this beast—which had descended the wall and was now advancing—I wasn’t about to turn my back to unzip the tent and escape. So for the next 30 seconds, I did my best near-naked version of the hillbilly two-step trying to avoid it. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted an aerosol can of bug killer within reach.
At first, I thought I’d crush the thing with the can, but I wasn’t sure the can was up to it. So I sprayed it with a chemical I’m sure is illegal in the States. The creature reacted like the Wicked Witch of the West when Dorothy doused her with water—I swear, it screamed. I emptied the can, broke into a profane rant, and then immediately went back into the tent and mummified myself in blankets. I haven’t been back to Mozambique since.
I found out later the bug was an amblypygid, or tailless whip scorpion, which is fangless and nonvenomous. The naturalists say they will not eat humans. I’m not convinced.
Q: What do most average shooters get wrong about guns? —Jake Shoemaker, via email
A: Two things. The first is that shooters think they can spend enough money on guns and gear to improve their marksmanship. Shooting is athletic and based on hand-eye coordination. The only way to get better is to train and practice—often. I’d much rather have a $250 deer rifle and know how to shoot than have a $2,500 deer rifle and not.
The second—and this is directed at hunters—is that they think there’s a big difference in the ability of different cartridges to kill game. In the extremes, like when comparing a 22 Hornet to a 416 Remington Magnum, or when shooting at distances you probably shouldn’t, it’s true. But when it comes to common big-game cartridges, the differences are easier to see on paper than anywhere else. Ninety percent of a cartridge’s ability to kill hinges on a good bullet being put in the right spot.
Q: Two questions: What is your favorite shotgun, and is Professional Wrestling real? —Larry Case, via Facebook
A: I own two shotguns. One is a Mossberg 940 Pro Tactical, which is probably the best general-purpose shotgun currently made. The other is my father’s Winchester Model 12 16-gauge, which he used to kill damn near every game animal in West Virginia. I’d sell the Mossberg because it is replaceable. Dad’s Model 12 is not. Both work just fine, but the truth is, I don’t like either one of them. As for wrestling, in this new world of pretend we now live in, the professional wrestler may be the most real and noble of all the imposters.
Q: Over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen technological advances in rifles, ammo, and reloading. Do you sense that any of these advances have moved us closer to a single general or all-purpose rifle? —Craig Lane, via Facebook
A: Since the turn of the century, optical sights have probably improved more than anything else. But a compact and lightweight bolt-action rifle in 308 Winchester is still the supreme all-purpose rifle, and the advancements you mention have only made it better. In another 20 years, I doubt much will have changed.
Q: What’s your beef with the trusty ol’ 30/06? —Matthew Surface, via Facebook
A: My ought-six disdain comes partly from the fact that I got damned tired of hearing one deplorable uncle of mine—and everyone else—saying it won two World Wars and is the greatest thing since penicillin. It’s a great cartridge that’ll serve most hunters perfectly well for anything they’ll ever need to do with a rifle. But as a point of fact, if a 308 Winchester won’t get the job done, you’re going to need a hell of a lot more gun than a 30/06. So why bother? And for the record, I also don’t like Ford trucks, tequila, or ketchup on hot dogs.
Q: If you had to pick one factory 308 load to cover hunting everything from moose on down, what would it be? (The big bears excluded.) —Christopher Ramsey, via Facebook
A: Hands down, Nosler’s 165-grain AccuBond Trophy Grade load at 2,800 fps. I’ve used it to kill everything from black bear to moose, as well as most of the plains game in Africa. Put one in the right spot, and one is all you’ll need.
Q: I hear you don’t like turkey hunting. What the hell is wrong with you, anyway? —Will Brantley, via Facebook
A: Because you get up at three-frigging-thirty in the morning, and as the sun is rising you blow into a contraption trying to mimic an owl. What you really sound like is a fat man getting off the toilet. After not hearing anything, you walk a mile, try again, and a turkey gobbles back at your truck. You sprint back, throw out decoys that look like meth-addicted chickens, and pull on a face mask to hide your embarrassment. An hour later your ass is numb, your decoys have fallen over, you’ve pulled two ticks from your nether regions, and you’ve not seen anything resembling a turkey. And of course, you have to poop, but your toilet paper fell out of your turkey vest during your early morning run. Turkey hunting is stupid, and that’s why I don’t like it.
Q: Any additional uses for Ballistol besides as a head lice treatment? —Eric Wayte, via Facebook
A: It will indeed rid your noggin of the crawly things. I also use it as a disinfectant on scratches and scrapes. It’s great for cleaning up blackpowder guns and as a general firearms lubricant, but a reader once told me he wouldn’t use it on guns because the smell would scare off the deer. Forever the doubting Thomas, I hung a Ballistol-soaked rag in front of a trail camera, and that night I got a photo of a big buck with his nose stuck to it. In three days, eight different bucks checked that rag, and the big one was there every night. I don’t think Ballistol is the best or the only gun lubricant you need. But if you’re the self-reliant sort, you’d be wise to keep a couple of cans handy.
Q: What sling do you recommend for a scout rifle? —Pete Evans, Facebook
A: All of my rifles are outfitted with the RifleMann sling I designed for Galco. It works equally well as a sling (to help build a shooting position) and a strap (to carry the rifle). It can be configured for two or three-point attachment, allows for a variety of carry methods, won’t slip off your shoulder, and can support your shooting arm. It also weighs less than 6 ounces. I wish I could say I received a royalty from Galco for every RifleMann sling sold, but I opted for a lifetime supply of slings instead. The problem is, they’re sold out every time I ask for one.
Q: What’s the best shot you’ve ever made? —Tucker Jameson, via email
A: A “best” shot could be defined in many ways. This one was not that hard to make, and it did not save my ass from a charging grizzly, lion, or buffalo. But it was cool as hell. It happened many years ago, back when I was a gunner on an M60 tank in the Army. We’d just finished zeroing and had a few rounds left over when my tank commander said, “There’s a crow on the 1200-meter bore-sight panel. You think you can hit him?” Of course, I did. But I also knew that if I hit the panel, the Range OIC would rain down on me with all the terror his little silver bar could muster. The tank’s fire-control system did all the work. I just placed the reticle on the ominous black bird, touched the trigger, and let the beast roar. It was the coolest shot I ever made and one I will for sure make—quoth the raven—nevermore.