I Bought a New Gun — 6.5 Creedmoor X-Bolt
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So I bought a rifle. I hemmed and hawed over a couple different centerfires, but ultimately settled on a known quantity – a Browning X-bolt Long Range Stalker chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor. As far as caliber choice, I was torn between a 7 mm-08 and .270 Remington (same caliber as “Betsy”; the Boss-equipped Browning A-bolt that both dad and I shoot like a dream). Ultimately, my research led me down a slightly different path in interest of minimizing recoil, matching down-range trajectory with many of the long gunners, and placing cartridge accuracy above all. Behold, the 6.5 Creedmoor.

Ever since the last evening showdown with a big black bear in NW Montana in 2014, the temptation of upgrading rifles to be more compatible with proficiency in the 300-500 yard range has been fluttering around in my head. Dad’s A-bolt performs at that range, especially now that he has it topped with quality optics, and I wanted to join suit. That big bruin would have been dead to rights.

I won’t try to convince you why the 6.5 Creedmoor is better than a .308 and I won’t weigh the merits of the 6.5 CM versus the aforementioned 7 mm-08. Those debates have been had by far wiser rifle snobs than I. I will, however, tell you why I bought an A-bolt in the caliber I chose (besides the ridiculously good deal I got on it!!).

Barrel life…NOT!! Back to those rifle snobs, one of the favorite arguments against the 6.5 CM by .308 “homers” is that of abbreviated barrel life. I’m sure this is true if your weekends revolve around long-distance shooting matches – mine don’t (and won’t). For a hunter like myself, what’s the difference between a barrel w/ life expectancy of 3,000 shots fired versus 6,000? Zero.

Let me illustrate–if a guy totaled 200 lifetime takedowns of game with a single rifle in a single caliber and let’s assume a liberal 2-shots fired/kill average, there’s 400 shots. (An aside, dad and I went through a 20-round box of .243 Remington Core-lokt ammunition and logged 19 kills during one span in the mid-2000s in North Carolina!) If you own that rifle over 50 years and you consistently check your zero w/ a pre-season firing range tune-up, let’s assume a 10-shot average/year there. That’s an extra 500 shots. Let’s say you manage another couple firing sessions per year where you’re really stretching your limits and attempting to improve your mid-long range proficiency – let’s call those 15/shots/session, 30/year, over 50 years would be another 1500 rounds fired. (Disclaimer: I’m not saying 2 range session/year would make you an ethical and proficient long-range marksman; re-read above mid-range—this is the 300-500 yard range at which I’d like to become MOA-accurate). Long story long: 2,400 shots later, you’re dead of old age and your rifle still has some life left in the barrel. For the 99% of us, stop with the barrel life argument.

Knockdown…NOT!! Knockdown, smockdown. Place a bullet in the lungs, watch animal fall over quickly. I’ve never been infatuated with big calibers, wide-cutting broadheads, and heavy poundage bows. I watched my dad kill LOTS of deer with an old Fred Bear compound that slung aluminum arrows at the blazing rate of 167 FPS. Between dad and I, we’ve killed a couple hundred+ whitetail with the .243. There are guys that swear by the 7 mm-08 as a go-to youth gun for elk, and for crying out loud—the .30/30 still probably holds the record for most Western game taken in history. And for those interested, there are plenty of long-range guys tipping over muleys and elk at longer ranges than I’ll ever even practice with 6.5 CMs. I’ve always adhered to the “shoot something you shoot well” philosophy and then things like knockdown hardly ever matter.

So why did I choose the 6.5 CM?

First, accuracy. They are deadly accurate, match-grade precision and incredibly popular with the target shooting guys. Really anything <1 MOA will allow me to achieve my accuracy objectives at 500 yards, and it’s likely I’ll discover a factory load that performs in the 0.6-0.8 MOA range before it’s all said and done with. With a 26” barrel and “normal” rifle weight, I should be able to shoot it exceptionally well off bench or in field.

Second, ballistic trajectory. Also (and this is completely beyond my level of gun nerdiness), apparently some dimension of the bullet profile means that wind drift is significantly less in the Creedmoor than with other similar-grain bullets. I could throw up a wind drift chart or bullet drop figure, but this simulation tells the story best I think (full information here: Precision Rifle Blog). What’s important to know is that the simulation was “based on 0.25 MOA extreme spread, and good wind-calling ability, which means we’re able to call the wind speed within 1.25 mph 68% of the time, and within 2.5 mph 95% of the time.” Tall orders but you get the point–with a 6.5 Creedmoor, I should hit my target more often than with other “comparable” calibers.

Last, recoil. I’m a small guy and I don’t like recoil. The 6.5 CM is comparable or edges out all the above mentioned calibers in the different aspects I’ve mentioned so far. In this area, the 6.5 CM blows them away (except for .243 of course). Not that shooting a .270 is like cranking off an elephant gun, but did I mention? I don’t like recoil.

Can’t wait to start shooting it, but first need to settle on a scope to top it with. Well under 6 months until its first field test up on Kodiak Island!!

DIY Trail Camera Mount
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I’ve posted several DIY hardware projects on the blog before, and I came across another gem last week.

Blasts from the past:

DIY Euro Mount Hanger

DIY Industrial-Strength Wooden Treestand

And the reason for today’s post. I’ll be trying a couple of these out, although the screw-in feature makes them illegal to use on public lands in Ohio.

DIY Trail Camera Mount from Cambush on Vimeo.

Post-Season Deer Scouting – 4th Outing
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Two or three times I’ve stumbled on to such a high density of shed antlers that there is no doubt if you look 10 more minutes, you’ll find another, and with another 5 minutes of searching, another will materialize out of the leaf litter. One such occasion was a magical weekend in which myself, dad, and 2 friends picked up 42 antlers or deadheads from private ground on the Eastern Shore roughly a decade ago. It’d been a long time since I’ve been in that situation but it happened again last week. A bachelor herd of bucks had evidently called this open ridge home for the past couple months and the deep-cut trails and abundant sign was paired with a scattering of antlers. First one, then two, then a pair lying within 10 feet of one another (albeit from different bucks), and then a fifth and most impressively sized one to conclude. The cold weather ended up killing my cell phone battery in between the second and third pick-up, so my “as it lay” album is a little abbreviated.

I am already looking at my schedule and the weather to time another outing before green-up makes it too difficult to shed hunt (which is already and rapidly progressing with the amount of bush honeysuckle in the area). I am hoping that the big non-typical buck that we had pictures of throughout the season is cohabitating with the bachelor herd and another search yields one or both of his antlers.

National Museum of the Air Force
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I don’t usually post extraneous items on the blog, but we went for a brief Ohio vacation round-a-bout this past weekend. We swung down through Cincinnati and back up through Dayton doing fun things along the way. Our last stop was Sunday at the National Museum of the Air Force – it was simply phenomenal. I think someone could spend a week in the different hangars and still not see everything. That said, with all the spectacular airplanes and memorabilia and history in all the different hangars, this picture summed it up for me. Scrawled on the inside of a C-134 airplane’s lavatory door with a black Sharpie marker…

“To the family that waited…and to those still waiting, Thank you for letting me serve you.”
– signed Sgt Harold “Buck” Rogers

I have nothing but the highest regard for our soldiers – Thank You!

Kodiak Island Hunting Trip – Bush Flight Logistics
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Getting from the Lower 48 to Alaska is the easy part (see post on commercial flight logistics here); deciding on and coordinating a bush flight is the exciting part!

***This post is NOT about Alaska’s state statutes differentiating between a transportation and a guide service – just be aware there is a BIG difference! Simply put, there is a lot of information that a transporter simply can not and will not tell you by rule of law. Using a transporter is still a full-fledged DIY hunt in every regard.***

I could end the post here (but won’t) and simply recommend you book based purely on reputation. It’s 2017, people talk [type] and there is this thing called the Internet. Some transporters have great and untarnished reputations, others don’t have much more respect than a cockroach. While there are others operating on Kodiak, I restricted my search to two of the more well-known and tenured float plane operators on the island. Andrew Airways and Seahawk Air.

(I’ll also mention Vertigo, LLC, which operates wheel-based aircraft. I do not have a sense for this operator’s reputation. Wheels as opposed to floats allow adventurers to access some tough-to-reach ridge lines that are devoid of lakes large enough to land a float plane. Vertigo, LLC, opens up some interesting options in terms of hunting locations, but we ultimately went another direction.)

Prices between Andrew and Seahawk were comparable, within $150 for any flight I checked on, but their weight limits were subtly different at the lightest payload — 800 pounds maximum for Seahawk Air and 750 pounds max for Andrew Airways. This might not seem that important, but for a party of 3 trying to squeeze under weight or for a party of 2 trying to get back to Kodiak proper with some extra meat, 50 pounds could mean the difference between 1 and 2 flights and a pile of money.

Both companies were excellent to deal with via email and both encouraged phone calls directly to their pilots to discuss specific potential hunting locations. Both companies check out well on the Internet, with outstanding recommendations by nearly everyone who mentions them. Both companies will pick you up at the Kodiak airport and provide “taxi” service around town to finish grabbing your last minute gear. Heck, the 2 companies occasionally pick up each other’s clients when push comes to shove or when contracts take a back seat to convenience. We are flying with Seahawk Air, but I’d offer my complete confidence in choosing Andrew Airways as well. I’d have been happy booking with either.

To give you an idea of cost, the last leg of your journey – the bush flight from Kodiak City to the wilderness and back – is booked in one-way, single-flight installments. In other words, you pay for the “out” flight at the nearest max weight ceiling and the “back” flight at the nearest max weight ceiling. These are frequently and usually different; hopefully you were successful in bringing home lots of meat! Weight thresholds are at the 750/800 range (company dependent), 1200, and 1500 pound marks. Predictably, prices for heavier payloads are higher. Also obvious but worth being explicit about, longer flights are more expensive and shorter flights are cheaper. Note: weight maximums do NOT include pilot’s weight.

Close-range hunting destinations to Kodiak proper are in the $600 to $800 one-way range and slide between the min and max depending on payload. For drop-offs on the southern end of the island, price tags are closer to $1,250 for a light plane and $1,750 for the heaviest of payloads. For dad and I’s hunt, even though we are on the close and light end of the spectrum, the cost of our bush flight (and given we’re flying for peanuts from the Lower 48 up to Kodiak – thank you Alaskan Airlines Credit Card!!) is half of the entire trip’s budgeted cost.

Infolinks 2013