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Bill's Blog

Bill McLeod is our branch Patron with years of hunting and shooting experience, including representing some of the biggest firearms manufacturers in the business.  During his career he has come across almost every kind of problem a shooter can have.  In the series of posts below he offers some insights, comments and advice to shooters and hunters.

Thanks Bill.

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  • 17/09/2023 8:51 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    My first 25-06 was a real revelation to me. It was a wood stocked Tikka T3 hunter with a 3-9 Weaver scope. I was working for the Tikka importer at the time so we were encouraged to use and promote the product. I had no problem doing that and took full advantage of the situation. Finished up using a 22-250, a 30- 06, a 308 and the 25-06. The 25-06 was, commercially, the least commonly used of these. None of my working hunter mates used one on the job. A friend had a fancy custom BSA which I fired on several occasions. But it wasn’t till I got my own one that I started to appreciate what you could do with one. The Tikka proved to be a very accurate rifle which I had expected. It was light in weight and easy to carry in the mountains. Looking back through my load data notebook I see that I concentrated on loading 120 grain bullets. Even chronographed some loads to ensure I was equalling factory performance.

    I’d been using it for some time when I had a light bulb moment with it. I had just shot a number of goats which a cocky wanted gone, long difficult shots from memory. The sudden thought was this rifle is the full equivalent of the 270 which I had worn on my shoulder for years and which I had become very familiar with. I was holding at the same elevation for these long attempts and it was working. I had a quick mental tally up . During the time I had been using it I had shot eleven animals for eleven shots. They were not all barrel stretchers, there was some close range bush hunting as well. I continued using the rifle until the new 270 WSM was announced and I couldn’t resist getting one of those. A cobber eventually persuaded me to part with it.

    My present 25-06 is a Remington 700 CDL. I’ve found it to be accurate and easy to carry. No problem to ring the gong at the 500 yard mark using the 120s. It shoots fine with a light load with 87 grain bullets, nice and comfortable for range work.

    As you might guess , I’ve been very impressed with the 25-06 and it’s performance as a hunting rifle.

  • 20/08/2023 9:52 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    I read a comment in a promotional magazine purportedly describing the virtues and drawbacks of the Remington Model Seven. The writer asserted that the rifles were known for losing accuracy after the first few shots and “sprayed” shots because of the light barrel. I had seen this same comment made in overseas publications. This comment caused me some concern because it was contrary to my own experience. For quite some years I worked for the importers of Remington rifles. One job I was tasked with was to test fire the rifles that had been returned to the company because they had been thought to be inaccurate by the purchaser. I have described the results of this test firing in a previous article but, in summary, there were three rifles that were inferior out of all the cases I checked. Only one was a Model Seven and that problem had nothing to do with inaccuracy caused by barrel heating.

    One element was common in the rifles I test fired. Most were 308 calibre. I got to dread getting another one to test fire. When I could, I would palm off the actual shooting of these rifles to Robbie Walker, a mate from way back and a seriously competent rifle shot. Robbie didn’t seem to mind the recoil of these rifles. I found them challenging to shoot. My use of elephant rifles helped me with the correct technique in shooting them but they were still a handful. Sight picture, trigger control. Sight picture, trigger control. All of the rifles produced acceptable accuracy.

    A common assertion by the purchaser was that the accuracy declined after a couple of shots. An observation here. Generally, the more shots you fire the larger the group will be. Three shot groups are often cited because three shot groups are more likely to be smaller than five shots or ten shot groups. I’ve seen a competent statistician's work on enlargement of group size relating to shot count. I would be torturing my memory to recall the exact increase in dispersal but might have been in the order of 1.6 times the size between three and five shots. For my competition rifles I like to shoot 20 shot groups. On Sunday, I saw Jason shooting 10 shot groups through his match rifle. The other comment I could make was if someone told me they got widely displaced shots when evaluating their rifle and this happened with Model Sevens I would certainly believe them. It is very easy to make a mistake with any of the elements necessary to achieve good results with a rifle. If you suggest that the shooter may have been responsible for the wild shots, you would be met with complete denial along with the assertion that the shooter was one of the best in New Zealand despite never showing up at the competitions.

    At one time I must have got seriously annoyed by someone making these assertions. The company supplied me with a Model Seven in 223 to use as a demonstration rifle and also to compete with. The rifle I had been using was a Model 700 which was very accurate and which I had been successful with in competition. The Model Seven was noticeably lighter with way less weight on the front hand but I practiced with it till it felt comfortable. The competition I was shooting called for five shots prone, five sitting, then five standing at 100 metres, then, starting at 100, run forward to 60, load your rifle and fire five shots standing in a short time limit. This was repeated for the competition. All this shooting was done back to back so at the end of the series the barrel was burning hot. During one practice session I decided to check the accuracy of the rifle with a burning hot barrel. The group was five shots in an inch at 100 shot prone without a rest. My concern about hot barrel inaccuracy was proved wrong. I did use the rifle successfully in competition. I was distraught when the company took the rifle back to fill an order.

    Recently my nephew gave me a Model Seven in 7-08. It is a lovely hunting rifle and is very accurate. Easy to carry and very effective on deer. Using my light handloads I find it comfortable and manageable for a competition at the range. Again, an earlier version, the Mohawk 600 in 243 is accurate and comfortable to shoot at the range.

    So forgive me if I look a bit sceptical if someone asserts that a Model Seven sprays bullets after the first couple.

  • 23/07/2023 4:29 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Kelson said did I realize it was school holiday time. I thought this was completely random as we were hunting in the southern Urewera and being paid to do it. Why would school holidays affect us? He said Don’t you even know that, during school holidays, teachers, particularly young female teachers,  would tramp around Lake Waikaremoana. We devised a cunning plan that we would hunt our way over to Mangatoatoa bivvy then set out along a Venetian blind marked track shown going from Mangatoatoa to Waiopaoa hut at the southern end of the lake. We overnighted with Les and Terry then made our way out to Mangaone Station. This area was strictly forbidden to us, if we were seen on the station , we would be sacked.

     All our sleuthing skills at play, we crossed the back of the station careful not to leave any gumboot marks anywhere they could be seen. Found the start of the Venetian blind markers and followed the track. I could not understand where the track was heading. What was this bloke up to? Years later at a Deercullers reunion I met the bloke who had marked it. He said Charlie had given him a bucket of markers, a bag of clouts, a hammer and no map. Charlie told him the lake is over that way, mark a track. He didn’t have a clue where he was going and wandered around leaving a trail of markers till he eventually stumbled out on the Lake. The trail sure looked like it. I see that the trail is still marked on NMS260 Waikaremoana.

    We made our way on the track and onto a leading ridge which we could see heading for the Lake . As we made our way down the ridge we could hear gunshots coming from the creek to our right. Quite a few of them. We decided to investigate and made our way down to the source of the shots. Keeping concealed we saw a bloke shooting at trout in the creek with a 22. What to do? Kelson said let’s put the shits up him. Sounded a good plan so we crept up to him and jumped out. He got a hell of a fright. We demanded to know what he thought he was doing. He said he was an Aussie tourist, that he got the gun in Rotorua and that he was trying to get some tea. We said Right, you're really in trouble, we will take you out to Aniwaniwa to the park headquarters. He came with us down the creek where we found the hut. Shared some of our food with him. I suggested quietly to him that he should wait till we were asleep then creep off. Wised Kelson to this. After tea we hopped into our sleeping bags and pretended to go to sleep. After some time we saw a furtive movement from the bloke as he super quietly packed up his gear and ghosted out of the hut. In the morning there was no sign of him. What he didn’t realize was that we were never going to go to Aniwaniwa as we  would be in deep shit ourselves for being off our block. Passed the day quietly then, sure enough,  a small party appeared. As promised by Kelson, the party consisted of school teachers. Nattered away to them. They asked what we were having for tea. I said venison. I pulled out a backsteak which unfortunately had some milk powder on it and looked revolting. Kelson said we would have some trout as well. They could see we had no trout and no fishing rods. We went back to the stream where we’d sprung the Aussie  where l was introduced to the gentle art of tickling trout. Soon we had our trout on the bank. Easy in a spawning creek.  Back to the hut where we prepared our trout entree and venison main. The teachers just had TVP which looked OK but tasted spack . They helped us eat our meal. An old bloke and two teenagers turned up. He was carrying a bow and proceeded to tell us what a crash hot hunter he was. He was full of it. The teachers headed out first thing which just left the bowhunter and the youngsters. I was curious about how effective a bow would be, seemed a heck of a lot of trouble to me. He had loudly proclaimed that he was such a good hunter that it wasn’t fair for him to use a rifle. I asked him what he could hit with his bow. I found a grocery box in the hut so I propped it up against a bush. I asked him to show us what he could do with the bow. At about 30 yards he clean missed the box a number of times. Didn’t hit it once.  I asked if I could have a go and I hit the box. Kelson did likewise. The deer were in no danger from him. I had a very dim view of bow hunters. 

    We made our way back along a different track which petered out but from the top of the range I was in familiar country so we made it back to our bivvy.

  • 16/06/2023 3:44 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    I was lucky when I first started hunting in that many of my early companions were trout fishermen. The two sports were in many ways complimentary. You could see a deer on the way to your fishing spot or you could waste your time fishing when you had either got a deer or couldn’t find one. 

    I caught my first trout in the big pool immediately under the big falls on the TaurangaTaupo. Martyn and I had carried our camp gear from the te Rimu road for a number of hours and had established a nice camp on the river terrace above the falls. Next morning the plan was to fish the river from the falls downstream. The falls are seriously impressive. Spray drifts over a deep pool shadowed by cliffs. There was a narrow spine of sand going out toward the centre of the pool. I made my way along that up to my waist in water. Made the cast , hooked a trout. I stepped back to go back along the spine of sand and clean missed it. Straight over me head. Martyn said all he could see was the bubble floats from out of my pocket popping up from the depths. I swam back to the shore one handed still holding onto the rod with the fish still attached. Got ashore and landed the fish. After that sort of performance you would think I’d rethink trout fishing but no, I enjoyed it. For some years Martyn and I provided most of the trout for the Deerstalkers annual’s game dinner. 

    Mainly fished the Tauranga Taupo in those years, tried the Tongariro but without success . 

    Then came a spell of hunting for the Forest Service in the Urewera. I got used to putting a takedown rod and spinning reel in my pack. A feed of trout made a welcome change from venison all the time. In the southern Urewera I was introduced to the ancient art of trout tickling. Conditions have to be right before it is successful. I can also observe that the much vaunted technique of “nickel spinning” is just about useless as a reliable means of getting a feed, a rod and reel is far more effective. 

    Keith , Kit and I were hunting the Mangaokura river in the Raukumara Range. We’d crossed in to the head of the river and were making our way down to our proposed campsite. In a pool at the foot of a waterfall we could see a good trout. Keith said I’ll shoot it. I said it is too deep, I’ll catch it with my spinning rod. Keith said you’ll never catch that fish. The only sensible response is sit back and watch me. I put the rod and reel together and carefully approached the pool. First cast, it latched onto my spinner. Keith thundered up yelling I’ll shoot it if you like. He was standing on the other side of the pool from me. I assured him it was all under control and I soon had the fish on the beach. We had it for tea. Just on that subject, I find that the only way to eat wild  trout is straight out of the river, filet it and quick fry it in butter. Then it is semi edible. Further down the same river I spotted a really big trout. All my ninja skills and I had it. It was so big I had to weigh it. Made a balance and it was heavier than Keith’s Browning BAR 270 with scope. And you need a forklift to get one of them off the ground. 

    Fish on the West Coast , Fiordland, and South Westland. All great fun. My last fish was when my cousin, his two sons and I went into Central Waiau. We’d done well on the deer and had a bit of a relax. I took my takedown rod and reel setup and showed Warren how to cast for trout. He was rapt. Just loved casting for and catching trout. Then I had a sobering thought. I’ve just turned a perfectly good northland cockie into a trout fisherman. What if someone finds out. I’ll never be able to be seen in public again.

    Funny how fishing can give you awesome memories. I can still see the trout rising in the evening in the Whirinaki right by Okui hut. Drifting a dry fly down onto the rising fish is something I will never forget

  • 14/05/2023 4:00 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Had a conversation with a senior member of the club the other day, he mentioned the challenges of hunting by yourself. I have long preferred to hunt by myself. I had to think about why that was. 

    As a youngster with my first air rifle, I was tasked by my father with shooting introduced birds on our property. He felt that the introduced birds competed with native birds for food and nesting space. After school I would take my rifle and hunt these birds. My brothers were not interested in hunting so I was always by myself. I guess that,  having six kids, my mother thought it good that one at least could occupy themselves happily. When I went to stay with my uncle and aunt I was hard out keen to go hunting. My cousin Diane came hunting with me once or twice, cousin Robert was totally disinterested in hunting. After milking I would take the farm dog and spend the day hunting rabbits and possums. By myself.

    On my first deer hunting trip into the Urewera on a club party hunt, I hunted with two other “experienced” hunters who were just a bit older than me. On the second day I climbed to the summit of Mount Tarawera by myself, saw two deer in the carpark and missed both of them. Then my first hunt into the Galatea faces,  staying on a farm. My mate didn’t want to leave the pasture. Acting on the farmers advice, I hunted up the Te Kopua stream intending to climb onto the ridge on the south side of the stream and return that night. I didn’t get that far because I shot my first deer up above the big falls toward the head of the stream. Happily carried out the hindquarters. The next day my older “experienced” mate came with me as we hunted the next stream north.

    On subsequent party hunts I was lucky in that some proper experienced hunters took me under their wing and taught me a lot about finding deer. Up on the Kaimanawa faces with Ray Ridgeway, into the Waipari with Sam Lowes, into the Waituhi with Gordon Ford, into the Ruakituri with Eddie Anderton, Clements Mill with Andre van Dreil. Sometimes hunting with my teacher but frequently by myself. Having someone competent in camp was important, giving me the confidence to explore new areas by myself. I found that,  because I was getting deer, new members wanted to accompany me on some of these hunts. That was fine, I enjoyed the company. Found that, after some time, I was taking some of the same teachers into country which was new to them, Ray into the Kakapotahi in South Westland, Sam into the Tauranga Taupo. 

     After some years of private hunting I got a job as a hunter for the Forest Service. This was a different sort of hunting. There was certainly a competitive spirit among the hunters. I think some of us wanted to be the top tally hunter, some,  I wondered what they were doing there. Virtually all our hunting was by yourself. It simply wasn’t efficient to hunt together. Later on , after my stints as a paid hunter, I enjoyed the company of very experienced hunters who I shared a lot of great adventures with. 

    How do you go about gaining the confidence and knowledge to hunt by yourself. I think it’s just like any other endeavour, start with baby steps and build up. Understand the basic skills necessary. Firelighting is an absolute must. Even if you use a cooker for all your meals and smokos,  the skill of lighting a fire gives you a confident mindset when in the bush. Map reading and navigation are, again,  vital skills. You will get lost, it’s not a big deal. Having a mental picture of the country you are going into helps immensely. By all means have a mate along with you when taking these baby steps but keep in mind that you may be the one that everyone depends on if things go wrong. Know how to bind up a bad cut or a broken bone. I find that, although I much prefer to hunt by myself, I like to have the company of another hunter when I get back to camp. Other hunters I know don’t mind protracted solo hunting expeditions, I think that the company of an experienced competent hunter gives an added measure of safety in your hunting. 

    Heed all the advice about checking weather conditions, letting people know of your intentions, being properly clothed and equipped for the conditions, it is important. 

    Then just do it. Challenge yourself. Give it a go, ya mug.

  • 15/04/2023 3:48 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Search and rescue

    There was a mention in the paper the other day about two kids lost in the Raukumaras while hunting. They were found the next morning. This brief report did not detail the skills and contributions of the volunteer teams. It brought an earlier incident to mind.

    We got a call late one night that there was a kid missing up on the Denniston Plateau. He and his cousin  had gone for a walk along the edge of the escarpment intending to go as far as a coaling incline at the southern edge of the plateau. The younger cousin turned back while the older kid kept going. The older kid had got back to their accommodation with no sign of the youngster. To complicate matters the younger kid was deaf. There were quite a number of Search and Rescue volunteers at the appointed start point at first light the next morning.

    Jimmy Lawton, the supervisor at the railway workshops,  was the search controller for Westport. He was locally famous for having won a national arm wrestling competition. The final was held at the Glue Pot pub in Auckland. At the meeting point Jimmy selected team leaders, of which I was one, then assigned people to each team. I started to get concerned about the quality of staff assigned to my team. I got only the best, two outdoor education teachers from Buller High School who were outstandingly capable, a seriously skilled climber, and another of equal ability. I jokingly said to Jimmy how come I’m getting all the best staff. He said wait till you see your assignment. He dispatched teams to the various start points leaving just us. I looked around at  the possibilities he had covered then looked up from where we were. I have to say my heart sank when I looked up from our location. No, surely not. He said “yep, straight up”. A series of waterfalls came off the plateau descending what looked like vertically to where we were. The vertical height was about 400 metres. Jimmy said the kid was last seen near the top of the falls and there was a chance he had fallen. Our job was to check any places he could have fallen into. No wonder Jimmy had given me the best troops. The five of us set off to climb the face. The climbing was very demanding but we made progress. We had reached a spot not far away from the base of a waterfall but the ground between us and the base was very difficult. Geoff said he and Pete, the two teachers,  would make the climb across to check. They had just got back to report no sign when we got a radio message to say that one of the parties had found the kid walking out the way he had gone in. The absolute relief when you locate the missing party and they are well. We thankfully retraced our path back down the escarpment where we eventually met up with the other search parties. Without further ado we all went home to go about our regular work.

    Jimmy took pity on me on our next SAREX, he assigned me to the control room to learn a new set of skills.

  • 07/04/2023 7:53 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Got a rifle in a trade the other day and couldn’t wait to try it. Dropped a cartridge onto the follower and tried to feed it into the chamber. Didn’t go. Not unusual. The nose of the bullet hit the rear face of the barrel.  Pushed the cartridge into the mag and it fed perfectly. Continued shooting using that method of feeding rounds. No issues then a click instead of a bang. Opened the bolt, no round in the chamber, the round was still in the mag. Racked the bolt. Found that you had to bump the bolt stop quite hard on the ejection stroke to get the bolt face to engage the round in the mag. No drama, there weren't hordes of  enemies assaulting my position. It led me to think of other instances where feeding or jams had been noticed. 

    When I went into the army to do national service I was issued a SLR. Great battle rifle, never jams was the official line. Our first instruction was on how to clear jams. I can’t think of  all the acronyms, just remembered Cock, Hook, and Look. They did jam. I’ve heard the claims that the  good old Lee Enfield never jams. Mine did. Mainly my loading errors but the rifle was still jammed. At a recent military rifle shoot at our range there were a number of jams and miss feeds, it happened. 

    My working rifles were very reliable, I don’t recall any particular instances when they caused me grief. Some of my other rifles have. Feed from the mag in some of my bolt action 22s was an issue. In the early days semi auto 22s were very prone to jamming. When we got the 10/22 it was a revelation on how reliable a semi could be. Even they could have jams. A carboned up magazine was normally the issue. Gary McColl showed me how to clean them. When my cousin said his trusty Ruger needed replacing I cleaned his magazines. 

    My superbly accurate Remington 223 which I used for competition used to jam. I mentioned it to Gary, he said you don’t know what you are talking about. He took the mag spring out of the rifle, held it behind his back, did something, then reinstalled it into the rifle. Told me to show him how it jammed. It didn’t. Gary said he had processed a heap of Remington police rifles to correct feeding issues. Was there a particular fix? He said he had to check each rifle to determine what the particular issue was then repair it. He was kind enough to show me a lot of the fixes. 

    Another of our gunsmiths told me 700 bucks to re-barrel a rifle, 7,000 bucks to make it feed. My lovely Sako 300 WSM fed beautifully. I loaded up some 220 grain rounds for it, no way they would feed. The big round nosed bullet would pivot the rear of the case down and the bolt would ride over the cartridge every time. Fixed it by seating the bullets deep enough to stop the problem.

    Rifles will jam. It is frequently an operator issue but it can be a rifle issue. Some rifles are more prone to jamming than others. A careful examination of how the miss-feed or jam occurred will normally indicate a possible fix. Correct loading of the magazine helps. Pulling the bolt completely to the rear on the ejection stroke helps. Short stroking is not unheard of. Sort it out before your big hunting trip. If all else fails, a competent gunsmith can sort out a lot of problems. 

  • 20/03/2023 10:13 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    You’ve sneaked around stealthily like a ninja warrior and finally found a deer. Made the shot. Now what? Difficult as it may seem, take a moment to check some things. If you can, take a mental photo of what your sight picture was when you released the shot. On your first few deer you may well ask yourself, what shot? The intensity of the moment may be overwhelming. I find that having that clear mental picture of what the shot looks like helps in determining subsequent actions. One particular time springs to mind. A shot at the head of a wild bull didn’t look right. The bull disappeared but my mental picture was wrong. I was too scared to go straight to the bull. Just as well. As it turned out the bull was only stunned. This mental picture should include the part of the animals body where the crossfire was when the shot was released. This determines the likely distance the animal may travel after being hit.

    Have a think, did I hear the whack of a bullet striking the animal. Sometimes the strike is clearly audible, a good indication of a hit. I’ve found that a number of factors can prevent you hearing the strike. The blast reflected off a nearby tree may be the dominant audible result. I think my advancing industrial deafness may be relevant.

    Have a think about what you heard after your shot which may give an indication of the deer's direction of travel. Any crashing, hoof sounds?

    No big deal if you don’t have that image or sound in your mind, you still have to go through the checklist to locate your deer. Check exactly where you are when you fired the shot. Next to that whiteywood, near that big rimu. If there’s nothing that distinctive in the vicinity I will scrape the heel of my boot on the ground, just to leave a start point for any search in case you have difficulty locating the deer. Then carefully note the location of the animal when you fired at it. It is important to start the search in the right place.

    If my shot was placed in an area which is immediately fatal, I will then go to the place I’ve marked as the deer's location when I fired at it fully expecting to find it. A clean headshot or a properly centered neck shot will drop the animal on the spot, no mucking around. If the animal is not there with either of those bullet placement there is a high likelihood you missed. They don’t run off with either of those hits. A body shot is a different kettle of fish. The animal may drop like a stone or it may run some considerable distance. I’ve found that the caliber of rifle, weight of bullet, velocity of bullet or brand name of bullet makes very little difference in this respect. If my sight picture is of a thoracic cavity strike I will go to the deer's location and look for indications of the deer's direction of travel. These are primarily hoof marks.

    Two things you are looking for, actually seeking the dead deer or direction of its travel. If you don’t see the dead deer immediately make a mark for a start point for your search. I’ve been surprised when I haven’t found a dead deer that on restarting my search I’ve started in the wrong location. Shooting across a big gully on the Ohutu, dropped a Rusa stag. Went down to the river, made my way upstream, climbed the spur, absolutely no sign. Climbed to where I could see where I fired from, no difference. Climbed down the spur, back down the river, up to my firing point. Looked across to where the deer had been standing and it was immediately clear that the deer was on a spur twice as far as the one I had climbed. Back down to the river, up the river twice as far and climbed that spur. There was my stag.

    A well hit deer may leave good indicators of the hit. Deep hoof marks and a blood trail. When you find a blood mark you know that the deer has run there. You can often get an impression of which direction it’s traveling by looking back to the start point. Follow the blood trail. If necessary, break a fern frond to mark your trail. If you lose the blood trail you can circle back to pick it up again. Don’t be surprised if the animal has travelled a considerable distance, it happens. The cause of death from a thoracic hit is the deer running out of blood. Also, don’t be surprised if there is little or no blood. The bleeding may be mainly internal.

    The mistake you can make is racing up to where you think you hit the deer followed by a blind search which has little chance of success. Take your time, think things through and be prepared to be vigilant. A favoured technique of mine when hunting redskins in crown fern country was to clomp along, not trying too hard to ninja, then spook a deer. You had to really ninja then, sneaking along in the direction you’d seen them take, to where you could see them. A shot to the lungs with the 222 left almost no blood so your tracking skills were important.

    It’s a real buzz when you locate a deer after a protracted search. Sighting the downed animal is the result of using your observation and skills.

  • 24/01/2023 1:34 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Danny Brister and I choppered into the Maungatutara, landing at a shack referred to as the green hut. To call it a hut was vastly overstating its condition but it was late spring with no rain forecast so it would do fine. Danny brought his pig dogs, he was wanting to catch some pork with new dogs, while I was more interested in looking through the catchment for any potential spots for a roar hunt. On the first evening I had a stroll up the valley, not too far, just looking for marks. There was plenty of sign along the river flats both pork and venison. First thing in the morning I was up and away leaving Danny to have a sleep in and then  a pig hunt. Sure enough not a K from the hut there was a spiker wandering through the scrub along the river. It went down to the shot. I was back at the hut with the deer before Danny got away. He put in a solid days pig hunting while I went trout fishing. Lazing around in the late afternoon, nothing much to do except have a swim in the river, I commented how does your rifle shoot. He had a Winchester 44 Magnum lever gun. He said he’d never fired it. That was most unacceptable to me so I found a grocery box and set it up about 25 yards away. The first shot barely clipped the very top of the box. Miles high. Danny said that’s right he got the gun with no sights and he’d just bashed some on. I put the rear sight slide as far up as possible and tapped the front sight over a bit. Shifted the box to 50 yards. The next shot was still well high, actually off the box, but much better and correct for windage. Should hit a pig at bail up range. 

    Next day I went for a big hikoi right to the head of the valley. Stopped in at the Maungatutara hut and made a cup of tea. I’d been to the hut once before but had walked over the top of the range from the Mangaokura. I started to stagger as I made my way down the river still many kilometers from home. Only one thing to do. Ten minutes rest, ten minutes travel, ten minutes rest 20 minutes travel and repeat till I got to the shack. Bit buggered. 

    Next day, our last, I decided to keep Danny company on his pig hunt down valley. I didn’t take a rifle as we were pig hunting. Got well down the valley without finding any pigs. I saw a nice stag standing on a river terrace. Said to Danny Shoot it. He said No you shoot  it. I said No You shoot it. He took his rifle off his shoulder, levered a cartridge into it and thrust it into my hand. Any more of this bullshit and the stag would run away. I made some calculations based on where the rifle had hit the box, held well low of my intended strike area and made the shot. The stag dropped on the spot. Danny is a big unit so he carried the stag back to camp. 

    The rifle I was carrying on this trip was my Sako 300 WSM, a rifle I had carried a lot and shot a lot of game with. Some at long range , some at short range. I had carefully reloaded my ammo with high class bullets and verified that it shot accurately. This was in total contrast to Danny’s rifle which was of unknown accuracy, dubious sighting and a mixture of ammo. There was a huge difference in power between the two rifles. The deer did not notice any difference, they both went down. Sometimes I think we can get a bit carried away with our rifles, some of the most unlikely candidates can do well, just give them a fair go. 

  • 03/01/2023 7:40 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    My father was an instructing officer during World War Two attached to the Fiji Infantry Regiment. He had been trained in bush and mountain warfare at the school run by Major Yerex, the bloke who supervised deer culling operations for the government. When my dad introduced me to shooting, he saw that while I was left handed, I was right eye dominant. He taught me to shoot from my right shoulder thus taking advantage of my eye dominance. I didn’t realize the significance of this till years later when I read an article by an Olympic coach discussing eye dominance issues. He discussed several options but advised that, if possible, get the student to sight with the dominant eye. My dad had been spot on right from the beginning. 

    Another lesson he gave me was how to cycle a bolt action rifle correctly. He passed on the oft repeated tale of how the British army got so proficient with the Lee Enfield rifle that the opposing forces all thought that they were armed with machine guns. I recalled this early instruction last weekend when my cousin, a very experienced shooter, said his rifle would occasionally jam when he cycled the bolt. He demonstrated and sure enough he could get the bolt to stick. I noticed that he used the palm of his hand to operate the bolt.  Recalled my fathers teaching. Fold your index finger right over. You will notice that the three joints of your finger will form a pocket in the middle. Put the knob of the bolt in this pocket then trap the knob with the ball of your thumb. Keep the bolt knob trapped while completing the operating cycle. My cousin was using the same rifle as I was, a Remington Model 7. Mine didn’t jam. Didn’t affect the performance on deer though . My two nephews, my cousin and I had four deer for four shots. I realize that some shooters will have different styles of operating bolts, I’m happy with the method promoted by a large army.

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