LR ‘Chucks. My brother Terry and I did some long range rockchuck hunting today. Terry built a 6.5 SAUM last year but has had little time to shoot it. It performed admirably hitting this ‘chuck at 687 yards! A Stiller Predator action, Pac-nor barrel, McMillan A-3 Sporter stock, Jewell trigger, Defensive Edge muzzle brake and a Nightforce ATACR 5-25X scope round out the package. After hitting his chuck, we got some valuable dope on his gun and load at 900 and 1030. Good stuff!
A 940 yard coyote. First round hit. Ben is at it again!
I had my LR rig out to let a couple of sagerat hunting clients try out the Nightforce ATACR scope. After they finished, Ben checked the far rim for rockchucks, spotting one. While we attempted to relocate the rockchuck, he spotted a coyote on the rim. Everyone got on their spotting scopes. He ran the drop using the Kestrel Applied Ballistics program. First round hit!
.243AI, 105 gr Berger VLD,Nightforce 5-25 ATACR, McMillan A5, YHM-3300 can, Leica 10X40 BRF, Kestrel 4500 AB
Ben and Gus went to my brother’s place after calling behind our house where Gus made the running headshot on his coyote. As they pulled in, they saw a coyote on the pivot. A stalk put them at 710 yards with nothing but a bare alfalfa field between them and the coyote. Ben ranged, dialed and put one in the midsection with a wind that was heavier than he expected, but it went down quickly. When they got to the coyote, they spotted another that Gus hit at 370. (A mile and a half blood trail never turned the coyote up.) But, as they were looking at the area of Gus’s hit they turned to find yet a third coyote on the pivot! This one was ranged at 730 yards. At the shot, the coyote just stiffened and tipped over!
It got dark on them while tracking Gus’ coyote so they went back in the morning but ran out of snow and had to give it up. They found a good stand near where they quit tracking and called. A coyote came hard on Ben’s side but turned just out of shotgun range. Ben switched to his rifle and, not to be outdone by his cousin, put a running headshot of his own on it! On their last stand, one more coyote backdoored them in the only place he could have got it done and made it out with his skin.
Overall, a pretty good couple of days for Team NOS.
Your Kestrel 4000 Series Weather & Environmental Meter will measure air pressure in order to calculate barometric pressure and altitude. Changes in either air pressure or altitude will affect these readings, so it is important to make adjustments as necessary if you bring your Kestrel to a higher or lower altitude.
To adjust the altitude, first you will need to obtain a barometric air pressure reading from a local weather source to use as your reference pressure. Once you have that reading, scroll to the “Current Altitude Screen” on your Kestrel. Once you are there, press the center button to enter the adjustment mode and then use the right and left arrows to adjust the reference pressure.
As you are doing that, you will notice that the altitude reading will change as your reference pressure changes. When you are finished, press the center button to exit the adjustment mode.
To adjust the barometric pressure, first you will need to obtain your altitude from a topographical map, landmark or the Internet. Once you have that number, scroll to the “Current Barometric Pressure Screen” on your Kestrel. Once there, press the center button to enter the adjustment mode.
Again, use the left and right arrows to adjust the reference altitude. Again, you will notice that the Barometric Pressure will change with changes in the reference altitude. When you are done, press the center button to exit the adjustment mode.
No Off Season put on its first long range shooting school for my cousin, Kristy Titus. Kristy is an up and coming outdoor TV personality and, as such, wanted to increase her knowledge and competency in long range shooting. We don’t pretend to be experts in the field but I felt we could give Kristy a good foundation to start her on the right path in long range shooting.
The course began with classroom time on equipment, shooting form and technique and ballistics. We then mixed range time with classes on ballistics programs, MOA calculations and use, wind doping and environmental factors affecting shots as well as slope shooting. Ben demonstrated LR reloading techniques.
At our range, we worked on Kristy’s benchrest technique, evaluated her rifle’s performance and introduced her to more of the equipment she would use in her long range shooting. We had her shoot a rifle of known accuracy to evaluate her BR shooting and got her on gongs at 200 yards. Kristy is a representative for Swarovski so we got to enjoy using some nice optics she brought for the event.
After getting her shooting form and techniques headed in the right direction, we moved right into prone work on the gongs. She practiced with a headwind and then went on to 400 yard gongs in a full value crosswind. We wanted her to use the same tools in the class as she would on her own so, even though we took weather with the Kestrel 4500 with HORUS/ATRAG ballistics, we had her work her firing solutions on the Shooter program on her Smart Phone. Her first 400 yard shot in the full value crosswind was a hit and she was able to put a three shot group on it measuring just over one MOA. Not bad for her first time shooting that far.
After still more class time, graduation day found us heading to the rockchuck fields for some in-field practice and evaluation. Kristy’s first opportunity came on a steep uphill shot into a quartering wind at 211 yards. Kristy made perfect adjustments and sent the big rockchuck into the air! Let’s just say that Kristy’s natural enthusiasm really came out! Her next shot at 270 yards in the opposite direction resulted in a consecutive hit on another steep shot in the wind. At that point she would have been rightly content to stop if her instructors hadn’t urged her to move to the portable bench to try some 650 yard ‘chucks.
Again, Kristy used the Shooter program to input the shot parameters. She dialed her solution into my rifle scope (Her gun was not quite ready for this kind of shot) and after two very near misses, she had her first direct hit on a 650 yard rockchuck. To say she was stoked might be an understatement! We may have just created another LR varmint hunting addict. A few minutes later she took another turn on the rifle and scored a first-round hit at 650. She was virtually in disbelief at what she could accomplish with some basic knowledge and the right equipment.
We really enjoyed taking someone with very little long range knowledge and experience and in three days have them start making hits on targets the size of a football at 3/8 of a mile. I’d say she graduated with honors. Thanks for coming over, Kristy!
No Off Season is back from our first-ever major trade show, The Pacific Northwest Sportsman’s Show, held at the Expo Center in Portland, Oregon.After finding out No Off Season was headed for Portland, a friend of mine who has done many trade shows in another industry asked if we shouldn’t maybe go to Eugene or Central Oregon for our first show.I simply replied, “No.Portland is our market.”The PNW Sportsman’s Show is billed as “The Biggest Sports Show West of the Mississippi” with an attendance of some 60,000 to 70,000 people.They expected 25,000 people through the doors on Saturday alone!Talk about jumping in with both feet!To top it off, after a very busy winter, we didn’t pull the trigger on this venture (or adventure) and secure our booth until a week prior to the show opening.Needless to say between ordering supplies and materials, arranging printing, ordering an additional banner, arranging travel and accommodations, packing displays and inventory and all the other small things it takes to set up an effective booth, it was a challenge just to get to the Show.
John Collett, my sales rep for the show, was extremely helpful and secured a great booth for us. NOS had a corner location at the end of an aisle giving us extra room to interact with the public and display the NO Off Season wares.And, interact with the public we did!Thank you to all of the great people who stopped by and waited patiently to learn about our hunts and our products.And, my apologies to those who stopped and weren’t able to stay long enough for us to meet you.We really appreciate the overwhelming support and attention you all paid to our display.Sales and bookings exceeded our expectations.We are just now coming up for air after booking the many hunts and shipping the many orders for products that were placed at our booth and on-line after the show!
The taxidermy mount of Ben’s 1044 yard rockchuck was a real hit as was the fluttering MOJO Critter and Jack Attack decoy. The long range rifle display caught the eye of many of the hardcore shooters at the show.I joked that by the end of the first day my MOJO decoy had already attracted more hunters than it ever had coyotes but then it was in front of more hunters in a single day at the PNWSS than it ever had been on coyotes!Interacting with so many predator hunters and varmint shooters was a treat for us.We learned a lot about the products that drew special interest and those that are better served with on-line marketing.And, the calendar has filled significantly with sagerat hunters interested in an above-average varmint shooting experience.I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. A little experience goes a long way and even with the overwhelming success of this show, we hope to be even better prepared to take care of our customers the next time around.Without you, No Off Season is nothing!
Thanks to O’Laughlin Trade Shows for putting on an outstanding event and a special thanks to my wife, Lori, and to my son, Ben, for all the hard work and help you both were in making this happen.You guys are awesome!No Off Season has offered to do seminars for the 2013 Show on either Coyotes 201: Advanced Tactics or Long Range Varmint Hunting.Let O’Laughlin Trade Shows know if you like the idea of one or both topics.The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at 503/246-8291.Let them know you are interested in Tim Titus and No Off Season doing some seminars.
Thanks again for your support and for your business!
My oldest son, Hank, was home for the holidays. The last morning of his visit, he shot a coyote off the patio and had bear sausage for breakfast—a Hardcore morning. He could hardly wait to get back to So Cal and tell his buddies and girlfriend about his morning. There was a reason they called him Hank “The Mountain Man” Titus in the Marine Corp!
This morning my youngest son, Ben, and I woke early for a bobcat hunt. Ben grabbed a box of Reeses Puff cereal for his breakfast. I suggested that we had some left over waffles he could heat up–a manly breakfast. No bear sausage in them but definitely more Hardcore than Reeses Puffs! After our manly breakfast we hit the road with CCR playing “Run Through the Jungle” on the stereo and a glow in the eastern sky. This was gonna be a good day.
I’ve taken two bobcats this season so we were trying to get Ben his first ‘cat of the year. Our first stop was a rim I had located during my deer hunt this Fall. The trail across the top was littered with ‘cat scat. It was the best bet we had to call in a bobcat for Ben.
The first stand was a blank but the rim is over a half mile long so I suggested a move down the rim and setup again. It’s a great rim with boulders strewn along the hillside below it—ideal habitat for a desert bobcat. We set up quartering one of the boulders. We set the Foxpro Fury and Jack Attack decoy 65 yards upwind in case a coyote came in and I started the Foxpro with my usual bobcat standby, Adult Cottontail. After a couple of minutes, I gradually increased the volume to almost max then backed it back down. Then at ten minutes I switched up to the Baby Cottontail sound. A couple of minutes later Ben says he’s got a ‘cat spotted. It’s coming towards us along the bottom of the rim but for some inexplicable reason (Who can figure cats?) it climbs to the top of the rim and comes down the top. As it slows, I call the range to Ben–220 yards, 215 yards…. I tell him he has a right to left wind then I correct it and tell him to hold zero wind. The wind is coming straight at us. The cat stops and Ben shoots but there is no sign of a hit. The cat flinches but doesn’t run off. Ben is cold and a little Bobcat Fever has set in. Now he doesn’t know what to do and the ‘cat moves further down the rim then stops with just its’ head and neck visible. It actually beds on top of the rim still close to 215 yards away.
Turns out Ben decided to hold a little wind after all and probably just parted the hair on the right side of the ‘cat. I see Ben’s head shaking and I think he’s shaking his head in disgust at having missed the shot. (Ben regularly hits rockchucks at over 1000 yards.) Then I realize he’s actually shaking that bad. (He later described it as convulsing!) Between the cold, Bobcat Fever and his nerves over having missed his first chance of the year on a bobcat, he’s having a hard time holding it together.
The cat remains bedded for several minutes. Ben wisely chooses not to try the head/neck shot under the circumstances so we wait on the cat to make a move. Thankfully the sun finally makes it over the ridge and the warmth starts to relieve some of Ben’s shakes. I switch the sound to Lucky Bird to try to make something happen and the cat gets up and starts moving further left and closer to us. It hesitates only once but not long enough for Ben to squeeze off a shot then disappears from view.
Now Ben thinks he’s blown it completely as the cat doesn’t show up for several minutes. I change sounds back to Adult Cottontail while Ben in his own words is “praying his head off” and I see what looks like the cat sitting on top of the rim at just over 100 yards. Ben confirms it is the cat and slowly moves his rifle almost 90 degrees to line up again. This time it all comes together and Ben looks like Tim Tebow pointing to heaven saying, “Thank you, Lord!”
Here are a couple of pictures of a very relieved young man and his first ‘cat of the season.
A well-timed prayer can really increase the faith of a young man!
Back at the truck we put on our victory song as we head out, CCR’s “Fortunate Son”. Yeah, it’s a good day….and it’s a good thing he had his waffles or he probably couldn’t have pulled it off!
Epilogue: The cat was a nice female. We estimated her to be around 22 pounds. The .17 Fireball did virtually no damage to the hide so we’re hoping she will bring enough to cover a chunk of the cost of a new range finder for Ben.
Here’s the hero shot. (Red arrow shows the location of the rockchuck.)
And, now the story.
It’s getting close to the time our rockchucks will be going down for the year so I wanted to make a hunt this week. My youngest son, Ben, has held the family record for the longest rockchuck shot. He took one this spring at around 1100 yards. But, since Ben was out of town visiting his brother, I asked my nephew, Gus, if he wanted to go along. Gus was game so we headed out to try to get to a promising looking canyon I’d seen while hunting the previous week. The road was horrible but we eventually made it to within a short hike of the canyon.
The canyon was wider than I had imagined. It turned out to be a little over 800 yards across. We set up on the rim and began glassing. Eventually I spotted a couple of rockchucks beyond the far rim of the canyon standing up in the grass. They offered good shots but poor spotting. Gus ranged the area with his Leica 1200 at around 1250 yards. He only had ten rounds of ammo for his .308 with him. He told me that the previous two rounds from his .308 had scored on two sage rats and one bear and he wanted to keep his string going. I suggested that if that was the case, he probably wouldn’t want to start shooting at 1200 yard rockchucks. But, being the sensible young man that he is, he decided he might as well take a poke at them anyway.
Gus had not shot this particular load past 500 yards. The longest kill he’d made with the gun previously was around 550 yards on a prairie dog on our Wyoming trip two summers ago. With no drop chart we just discussed things and took a guess based on the drops for my rifle and adding more for the rainbow trajectory of the big 175 grain SMK. I told him to dial in 48 minutes of angle elevation and five MOA of wind. It didn’t instill a lot of confidence in him concerning our dope when I told him I hoped I could see his shot in the field of view of my spotting scope!
Gus shoots a Remington 700 SPS in a B&C stock (I think) with a Leupold Mark 4 4.5-14X scope. It definitely wasn’t too much magnification for the situation! He told me later that the horizontal crosshair was covering the whole ‘chuck. He dialed up, settled behind the rifle and squeezed off the shot. I was actually able to call the cold-bore shot. It was within about one minute on windage and several feet low. I told him to take one minute of wind out and come up another six MOA. That got us in the ball park on the next shot and he ended up with 58 1/4 minutes of elevation in the scope and three minutes of wind. For reference, that elevation equates to over 60 feet of holdover at that range!
The shots from that point on were all very close. He was close enough that he was scaring the rockchucks off with each shot. We’d then have to wait to find another in a position where I could spot the shot before he could loose another round. Long story short, on round number seven I saw no dust and the rockchuck took off like a scalded cat across the rocks and onto an angled face of a ledge where it launched itself into the air off a 40 foot cliff! We could see it wasn’t running correctly but didn’t know whether Gus had just hit it in the leg or what. He felt good enough about it to want to go check. I on the other hand wasn’t nearly as excited.
One challenge of long range shooting is the retrieval. This ‘chuck was a long ways away and across the canyon. Because of the rimrock, I didn’t know how far we’d have to go just to get to the bottom of the canyon which also happened to have a good sized stream running through it. But, being the good uncle I am, I went along. It took us over a half mile and an encounter with one very large rattle snake to get to a spot we could descend into the canyon. When we got to the stream, the run-off made it more like a small river and that was where the whole Good Uncle thing gave out!
Gus stripped down to his skivvies and carried his pants and shoes across the swollen creek. I didn’t know if he was going to be able to stay upright in the current but he’s shaped like Gumby so he doesn’t displace lot of water. He made it out, got dressed and headed up the other side of the canyon. I watched through the spotting scope as he approached the bottom of the bluff. A minute or so later he was holding up his 1264 yard rockchuck! The shot turned out to be a centermass hit with close to a one inch exit. The rockchuck was dead before he hit the ground.
It took nearly three hours to get to the ‘chuck and make it back to our shooting location where we finished the “photo shoot”. Gus took several readings with his range finder. The average turned out to be 1264 yards.
Gus was really looking forward to rubbing his new record in his cousin’s face. Ben had pretty well stopped reaching out past about 1100 yards thinking his family record was safe. I can already envision Ben’s drive to move beyond 1264 yards. He’s got his work cut out for him but somehow I think he’s up to the task!
I never fired a shot but it was good day with a good kid and one exceptional shot.
My son, Ben, is my varmint hunting partner. I’m not sure if the relationship will last when he has enough gas money to strike out on his own but, for now, its working. We had a nice day on tap so we set out to look over some new rockchuck country. The day turned into a mix and match of varmints and rifles as events unfolded and we adapted to what the day provided.
As we four-wheeled through the desert, we glassed likely looking areas for rockchucks. Unless we spot several rockchucks, we usually just keep hunting allowing the singles or doubles a chance to propagate. Eventually we spotted a number of ‘chucks scattered among some rocks in a sage basin. This wasn’t typical rockchuck habitat with a rim and scattered boulders on a hillside. But we take it as we find it and Ben got out his .17 Fireball to try for the first ‘chucks we found that were within 250 yards of our location.
Ben shoots 25 grain Hornady hollowpoints and, more recently, 25 grain Berger Match Varmint bullets from his .17. These do double duty on varmints and predators so even though there is not as much splat factor for the red mist crowd, it allows him shoot one load from his rifle. Ben took a couple of rockchucks from our first position then graciously offered to let me take one with his rifle since I had only brought my RF binos along. The little Fireball was a pleasure to shoot and allowed me to take my first .17 centerfire varmint with virtually zero recoil.
From our initial vantage we began to glass further into the basin and saw a fair number of rockchucks out beyond 300 yards so we decided to go back to the truck for our longer range rifles. I was in between scopes on my .243AI so I got my Cooper M21 Varminter in .204 out and Ben got out his M700 .243AI. We skirted behind a low ridge and came over the top as if we were on a big game hunt and rolled out the shooting mat setting up just over the ridge. After removing some grass from in front of the hide, we settled in and began to alternate shots from 365 yards to 475 yards. The lone shot at 475 went just wide but we took several of the ‘chucks from 365 to 425 yards.
When we felt we’d done enough damage to the local population, we went out to take a survey of our shots. We took some photographs but were interrupted several times by jack rabbits as they moved through the sage. Not to let a wayward varmint go to waste, I took several off-hand shots at the rabbits from 75 to 125 yards but I quickly learned that I needed to get off my bipod and do some more position shooting! The rabbits were obviously not very wary as they would only run a few yards and stop thinking of fangs rather than bullets. The couple that did meet with my 39 grain Sierra BlitzKings showed some serious splat factor.
We returned to the truck and went a little farther down the two-track before sighting a rockchuck on a point of rocks at 545 yards. This time we broke out the portable shooting bench from the back of the truck. The wind was almost full value at 15 mph from left to right. Ben doped it almost perfectly and his first shot went within inches of the rockchuck. A quick adjustment and the second shot rolled the rockchuck off his perch.
I glassed around while Ben went after his rockchuck carrying my Savage .17HMR. Shots at jack rabbits sounded as he made his way out and back with his “trophy”. I found a few more ‘chucks in the opposite direction so I turned the bench around and took a large one off a rock pile to the north with a perfect headshot. When Ben got back, we traded shots on another rim to the east shooting at around 330 yards. Again, Ben got some HMR shots at rabbits as we went out to bring back the rockchucks for a picture.
Some good times and some good shooting on a mix and match varmint day. We left the sage rats alone for our guided hunt customers or we could have made it a varmint hunting trifecta. There will be time for them later as there is No Off Season!
We’re going through a transition. I hate that word. Transition generally denotes change and change is not always comfortable but I find the transitions in the predator and varmint hunting world are easier because they hold promise. I love to call predators. It’s one of the most exhilarating things in the world but after a long, cold winter of piling on layers and fighting the snow, the varmint fields start to look pretty inviting. The colony varmints are starting to come out now—actually they’ve been starting to come out for weeks but the transition in the weather isn’t keeping up with the desire of my mind! Our sage rats are trying to get out between rain showers and snow squalls and icy winds . The “‘rats” don’t offer the heart pounding excitement of a charging predator but, hey, there’s something to be said for a hunting sport that doesn’t require a 4:30 alarm and can see hundreds of rounds fired per day!
The sage rats offer the shooter an unequalled opportunity to burn ammunition and utilize that last quarter inch you wrung out of your handloads at the range. This early season ground squirrel and prairie dog shooting is made for the accurate centerfire rifle. It’s just as hard for the grass to go above ground as it is for the squirrels so the cover is almost non-existent. With relatively exposed targets and large ones at that, we get to stretch the legs on the heavy barrel rifles with the Hubble-like scopes. Accuracy trumps terminal bullet performance now and laser trajectories make reaching the practical limits of your rifle’s accuracy on a target that only spans two inches less than a mathematical, computer-driven event and more a relaxed chance for trigger time. We just bust out the benches and shoot! That said, the rockchucks have been peeking out about as long as the sage rats.
Our country doesn’t hold a lot of rockchucks so we have to practice self-imposed conservation measures to keep from shooting them out. What that means for others is up to you but for us, we’ve put a self-imposed limit of “No rockchucks under 1000 yards ‘til May.” A few years ago 400 yards would have been just as realistic in conserving the resource. For you, the minimum range may be much further. My son, Ben, connected on his first rockchuck of the season last year at 1044 yards so, “Game On!” as they say . The size of rockchucks makes them a viable long range target. They will weigh up to maybe fifteen pounds in our area. So, now the need for a dedicated long range rig comes into play and, yes, you better get to the computer or, better yet, carry one with you. One nice thing about long range rockchuck shooting is that there are generally multiple targets at similar ranges and they don’t necessarily run off when the shots are coming out of the next zip code. This allows a shooter with a spotter to “walk” onto target. It doesn’t make it pure sniper “one shot, one kill” stuff but it allows newer long range shooters a chance to work their way into the game. “One shot, One kill” stuff can be progressed into as the LR shooter gains experience.
A few good sage rat shoots have kept the reloading press busy already this spring but the big events have been our LR rockchuck attempts. The first two attempts resulted in more data-gathering sessions than killfests. Does “No animals were harmed in the process of this shooting” mean anything to you? On the third try of the year, it started to come together. My son, Ben, and I each connected on 1000+ yard rockchucks in one evening.
It felt like sweet success but I’ve also come to know that “Pride comes before the fall.” So I won’t hold my breath that the feat can be repeated any time soon. But, you know what? Today is another of those rare-for-this-spring sunny and calm days. Maybe we should go out to see if it was just a fluke or not…..