A couple of weeks back Evan and I took our second trip to the family place down in Texas. It is the place where we both killed our first deer and has been in the family for other 25 years. It is now half of what it was once was, but is still a nice chunk at 440 acres with an off the grid house with all of the amenities. I guess it is a lot like old school lodge hunting, and in some ways is purely a meat trip for Evan and I, but also kind a return to our roots. This year we took a bit longer and had more free time, less chores we needed to help with, and as a result got to do more still hunting this trip in addition to laying up on feeders in the evenings. I made some changes to my gear this year that I thought might interest folks.
My two primary knives this year where my Randall Trapper and a cold steel Pendleton light hunter. I had the opportunity to bone out a large axis buck and a small axis doe. The Randall worked well, but what was very surprising was the CS blade. I got it mainly to have a light fixed blade to leave in my kit bag full time. It weights about 3ozs with a homemade kydex sheath. It flat out took the meat apart and kept its edge well. I think the primary reason it worked so well was how thin the blade is. For the price and weight I might get a few more to throw in when a hunt is in the offing. The Randall is a more general purpose knife and given the thicker blade didn’t slide between muscle groups as well, but I wasn’t disappointed. The Randall resides is a survival sheaths kydex sheath, but I didn’t use the molle clip this year. Taking a page from the way SLG carries his mighty, genuine Rod Garcia made knife I rigged a simple loop and wore it under my left arm under my kit bag. I didn’t ever really notice it was there except at one point when I laid down with it under my rib cage.
The morning we were leaving I pulled a few nice to have, but not required items out of my bag in a worry over weight. One of those items was my electronic hear pro. After last year I knew one of the first things I was going to do was confirm zero, and sitting in a stand I like to wear ear pro. Over the last couple of years I have come to realize that all of the years of riding a motorcycle long distances without hearing protection has damaged my hearing. I aim to keep what I got these days. After the first day I bought a new pair on a quick trip to town. I ended up wearing hearing pro pretty much whenever I was outside the house and had my rifle. With the electronics it is no problem to have a conversation and hear critters in the brush, and still not be worried about hearing lose from a shot. At this point they are a critical part of my hunting kit and I don’t ever plan on leaving without them.
Other the course of the classes I took last year a few things occurred to me. First while I can get everything done with a rifle that I need to with a bolt gun a semi auto makes some things easier. Second smaller calibers are easier to shoot accurately. Third semis are easier for me to shoot accurately for strings of fire as there is no bolt working you can just stay on the rifle. Fourth for travel a shorter barrel and collapsible stock really make things easier. Fifth a collapsible stock makes it very easy to adjust for best eye relief if things change like say you are in a thin cotton shirt in the afternoo or wearing several layers and a pack in the morning and evening, and finally the AR platform is one of the easiest platforms I have encountered to shoot accurately. All of this started me looking for an AR for hunting and general uses. My first thought was a 308, but after some research and handling and pricing those with a reputation for reliability I decided that they were too expensive for me and weighted too much. After hitting the range with my DSA SA58 Carbine I decided it weighted too much and wasn’t giving me the accuracy I wanted. I next considered the .223/5.56, and while I would have no issues using one if I had to for subsistence it strikes me as lighter than I want for a dedicated hunting rifle. After more research and some trigger time with a friend’s rifle I decided that a 6.8 SPC specifically a Noveske Rogue Hunter was the way to go. With a couple of minor changes (grip, stock, and length of rail) the rifle was ordered.
I chose a Leupold VXIII 2.5-8 in Larue mount, VCAS padded sling, DD fixed from sight, KAC 300m rear sight, and a TLR3 light to round out the package. All up the rifle weights 7.5lbs empty. I have been using 15rd PRI magazines. Over the course of several range trips including one at 10 degrees the rifle has been 100% reliable and eaten everything I feed it (approximately 450-500rds of mixed stuff). I settled on 110gr TSXs for my load and have a stockpile laid in. I get the occasional group at ¾ to 1 moa, but in my hands using field positions it is a solid 1.5 moa rifle. I wish that it was better, but that is certainly acceptable for hunting uses. In addition, my 5.56 and .22 are set up pretty much identically (different scopes and both of those have a foregrip) so any shooting with one is cross training with others.
I did a bunch of carrying and using this trip, but other than confirming zero didn’t shoot it. The only shot I had on axis was at 330yds and before I got a steady enough hold the critter ducked back into the brush. Other than that I was able to ambush a bunch of turkeys and one armadillo still hunting and had lots of whitetail in the scope, including three for about 35 mins from about 50yds away. I loved the length of the rifle working in brush and getting in and out of trucks and blinds. I loved the ability to adjust the stock for what I was wearing or the position I was in (i.e. prone for 2hrs in the brush watching a feeder). I was also a big fan of the sling. I know a lot of folks will dismiss it as being to tactical, but it sure was nice to be able to let the rifle just hang while working through the brush, opening doors and gates, climbing towers, taking pictures with my phone, etc… It doesn’t give me anything in the way of shooting support, but boy is it nice for just conducting my daily life. So there it is still unblooded, but banged around a bit and baptized in clache dusty and scrub oak thickets I am happy with my new hunting rifle. I don’t know as I will abandon my 308 bolt gun, but I am considering cutting down the barrel a bit to make it handier. For some uses it will get the nod for others the 6.8. I also anticipate that the 6.8 will get the nod for a lot more of my vehicle trips than other rifles.