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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.

  • 23/07/2021 7:59 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    The first scope I used was a Weaver B4, a ¾ inch tube 4 magnification monstrosity I had fitted to my air rifle. The open sights on that rifle were demonstrably superior. The next was a similar scope on my Dad’s 22. The iron sights on my BSA were better.

    My father gave me a Sako 308 which had very clear open sights. I was successful on deer and at competition shooting with those sights. I saved up my wages and chose a scope. The scope I could see through most clearly was a Lyman. It cost 21 pounds. This fitted my budget. It was a three magnification. That scope proved to be all I hoped for and lasted me decades of hard use. The clarity impressed me, I could see 308 holes in the target at one hundred yards in the right conditions, something that wasn’t possible with cheaper 4 powers. Then another Lyman, a four magnification, on my high country rifle, the 270. I found it suited my eye better than the Leupold 4x,s my workmates were using. I never felt limited in what I could hit with that scope power. 

    Another 4x for my hunting 243, then a 6x, both Lymans for my competition 243. They worked well. Lyman discontinued their scope line. Got a 4x Leupold for the Sako 222, that was and still is a favourite rifle. The 222, the 270, and the 308, all with fixed power scopes,  were the mainstays of my working rifles.

    I didn’t start using variable power scopes till I went to work selling firearms when I realised my knowledge was deficient, so was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the modern era.

    Because I worked for the importer of Weaver scopes it made sense to choose them to fit to my rifles. I used a number of 3-9x40 scopes with very satisfactory results but old habits died hard and a number of 4x and 6x scopes appeared in my safe. Used a 4-16 on a competition rifle and was seriously pleased with the results. 

    Then I changed companies to the importer of Zeiss and Burris so some of them had to be tried. By that time the fixed power scope was almost a thing of the past so I chose midrange variables for most of my use. The Zeiss 3 ½-10 on my Sako 300 Weatherby was outstanding on thar. The Burris 3-9s never let me down. 

    A couple of hunts changed my thinking a bit. Hunting thar up the Dobson for the first time I used my 270 Remington ADL fitted with a 3-9 Weaver. Saw a good bull, a long way away and at a very steep angle upward. Did my mental calculations and made the shot. The bull collapsed and came rolling down the face. I didn’t realise till I checked the setting on my scope and found it still set at 4 power. There were  much more important things to concentrate on like making the calculations and getting into a stable position to make the shot so I forgot to change the power. Next trip into the area I used my new range finder to determine the actual distance, it was 395 yards. Danny and I went for a spring hunt into the Tussock hut in the Kaimanawas. We anticipated getting some open shots so I took my 270WSM fitted with a fixed 6x Leupold. There was essentially no fresh growth in the open tussock so I went bush hunting. The 6x scope, well positioned on the rifle, was no handicap, got a nice six point stag in the Mangapapa saddle. Was so impressed with the result I fitted another 6x Leupold to my 300WSM with very satisfactory results in both open shooting and dense bush hunting.

    I think the key to good scope performance is the correct positioning of the scope to the rifle. Got a good reminder of that last week. My cousin and I went to get a pig for my nephews footy clubs hangi. The only pig we found was hanging around with a mob of yearling steers. There was a lot of pressure on us to produce some pork. Neither of us was keen to do the shooting. Finally my cousin prevailed and thrust his Sako 222 into my hands as the pig was galloping off to safety. Brought the rifle up, couldn’t see a bloody thing. He positions his scope different to me and the stupid thing was on full magnification. Sorted it out and made the shot. Fortunately the pig fell over. If your rifle and scope set up is correct for you, you have a wider flexibility in actually making your shots.

    I listened with interest to one of Paul Carmine’s lectures on marksmanship. His lectures are seriously worthwhile and anyone from beginner to seasoned shooter can learn. A bloke asked Paul how he managed to use a 40x scope for competition shooting. Paul’s reply was classic. “You have to learn to back yourself.” I think I have learned to back myself with my field shooting so will use what I have available to make the best result I can. In field situations I have a real preference for 4 magnification for most work but I will fit and use a 6x for some situations.

  • 22/06/2021 1:05 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Keith, Kit and I started out from Tarndale homestead to hunt stags in the Raukumara range. Keith was keen to get more trophy heads to enter into the branch competitions. He was an old Fiordland  and Stewart Island culler with huge experience in the back country. He had been a Field Officer for years and had been our boss when Kit and I were hunting in the Auckland Conservancy. He had asked me to accompany him. We planned on two weeks of hunting. I contacted Kit and asked him to come with us, he was a great mate in a hunting camp, very tolerant, we’d spent months hunting together.

    Keith went on the first chopper flight taking with him the camp gear and tucker. He was going to drop a food supply at the Green hut and then over the range to the Great Unknown River to establish our first camp. The chopper was soon back so Kit and I climbed on and we were away. Flying over mountain ranges in a chopper is so cool.

    Got to where Keith had landed, disembarked and helped with setting up camp. We used a sheet of heavy polythene stretched over a ridge pole for our shelter. Cut bundles of big branches, then smaller branches, then fern for our beds. These beds are really comfortable. The key is to get big branches down first to form a platform. Also helps if the ground gets a bit soggy, some elevation is welcome. A bit of a thatch down each side of the shelter and enough overhang of the plastic and you have a good camp.The fireplace is important. Good backlog and some side logs to support the billy hooks, green pole over the fire and you are set. We did all our cooking over the fire in billies and frypans. 

    We hunted hard for quite a few days, this was totally new country to all of us so we split up to explore as much as we could. This is where your topo map and compass are absolutely necessary, more valuable than your rifle. Most of the terrain is steep to very steep covered in heavy, dense bush. In earlier hunts a bit further north along the range we’d found deer numbers very light. You may see two deer in two weeks hunting but the size of the stags compensated for the low numbers.

    Keith said one evening that he had heard some roaring at the top of the range to our south and would hunt the area the next day. Kit and I had been having a pretty lean time of it so we were impressed that Keith came back the next night to tell us that had shot a number of stags with the combined number of points totalling 32. We had intended to only shoot big trophy stags but it was clearly too much for Keith having that many opportunities. He didn’t bring a head back with him, they were too small. 

    A couple of days later we packed up and set off up the Great Unknown, over the top of the range and down a small stream which was probably the right one to get us out onto the main Mangaone stream then back up to the Green Hut. We were still very high up the side creek when we saw a hind in the river. Keith got very excited and said we need the meat, his rifle wasn’t going straight so someone had to shoot it. He was almost gibbering with anxiety that we needed the meat. Kit said “You go for it” so I shot it. Keith was most impressed. Took some steak and got going again. It was a huge days travel and we were thankful to eventually get to Green Hut. 

    We were all exhausted by the days effort, particularly Keith. He was always a pretty tough old rooster so his level of exhaustion was noticeable to both Kit and I. 

    We had a bit of a rest day the next day, just camp chores and a bit of exploring later on. I climbed the ridge behind the hut and heard roaring from two places, further up from where I turned around the previous day and some way over the other side of the river toward the top of the range. Keith stayed in the hut all day. 

    Next morning Keith wasn’t keen on going anywhere so I said to Kit “Let's have a go at the ones on our side.” We climbed to the top of our side of the range to where we could hear some strong roaring. The wind favoured us so we closed the gap to where I thought my roars could be heard by the stags. Giving some roars I had some good responses. I always use my cupped hands to focus the roar, I just can’t be bothered with carrying a roaring horn, can’t see the point when you can use your hands which are already attached to your body. While the stag was roaring we closed the gap. Finally we were within close proximity of the still roaring stag. The bush was very thick and difficult to move through quietly. 

    I said to Kit that I would stay in position and keep challenging the stag while he moved in to try for a shot. This enables the hunter to move while the stag is preoccupied with a more distant noise. Quite a lot of time passed with the stag still responding to my challenges. Then a shot, just one. Made my way in toward where the shot was fired and found Kit standing over a huge stag. He was over the moon.

    We butchered the stag and separated the head. Packed the lot down to the hut which was another demanding task. I could still hear a lot of roaring over the river near the top of the next range and there was another stag roaring, he sounded like a young animal, running up and down the other side of the river about half way up to the top giving a roar from time to time. 

    Kit was really happy with his stag so said he would stay in camp the next day with Keith who said he thought he had gout in his leg so wasn’t going anywhere. I decided that I would have a go at the stags I’d heard across the river so started a huge hunt to get to them. It wasn’t until I got nearly to the top of the range on the other side of the river that I could hear what appeared to be several stags challenging vigorously. Planning my approach to have the wind in my favour,  I closed in on the stags. Because they were busy challenging each other there was no point in me adding to the racket. The bush in the Raukumaras hadn’t been chewed out by the recently colonising deer so was very dense. I was cutting through a particularly dense gut when I saw a stag really quite close in. Couldn’t see the head, just the neck and face. To shoot or not ?There was not going to be any time to assess the head so the decision was instant. 

    He went down to the shot. I was using my 308 loaded with 180 grain round noses, a combination which had worked very well for me in the past, I had confidence in the  rifle. Checked him, he was a small nine pointer. Then ahead of me there was a roar. Stalking in as quick as I reasonably could, I closed in towards the noise. I wasn’t expecting the stag to hang around so was a bit rushed when pushing out onto a bit of clearer spur. The stag and I saw each other at the same time and he bolted into the thick bush, just enough time for me to see a good head. Bugger. What to do? The wind was still in my favour so I gave my best roar and started to follow in his general direction. Creeping along,  giving the odd roar I got a hell of a surprise to see him charge out of some thick stuff in front of me. Fatal mistake for him. Checked and found him to be a very strong eleven pointer, a beaut trophy. Took the head and started towards camp which was miles away. 

    Hadn’t gone far when I saw the head and neck of another stag just down the ridge from me. Again, couldn’t assess the head, so on the remote chance he was the holding stag, got him as well. He was smallish eight, clearly a satellite stag just hanging around to challenge the big boy like the first stag. Time was against me now so I had to put the pace on to make it to camp. Crashing down the big ridge which I hoped would drop me into the river across from camp I was surprised to see another stag moving across in front of me. Again, I could not check the size of his head but because he was the closest deer I had seen to camp and we would need his meat, lowered him as well. He was a six pointer. Hung his back legs in a tree, took his steaks, and made my way down, crossed the river, then the long slog up to camp.Brutal day, but worth it. In camp that night I took some delight in telling Keith that I’d got stags totalling 34 points. Normally it’s very poor form to rub it in. 

    Next day Keith was even worse so we made a plan that someone would have to go out to the station and get a chopper to carry him out. It was a big admission for Keith to make that he was incapable of continuing, he was more used to being the top dog. 

    Kit and I discussed who should go to the station and he said in no uncertain terms that I should go. I had worked for the bloke in charge of the Forest Service in the area so he would know who he was talking to. 

    Started the next morning at first light. Without a pack, I could hit a running pace in some places. Got to the station where the manager’s wife was home, made the phone call to Trevor in Gisborne who said he would sort it and I was to stay at the station. The pilot knew the location where Kit and Keith were. I had made it to the station by midday. Saw the chopper heading into the hills and waited for them to come out. So pleased to see the chopper deposit them in the front yard of the station. Kit said he thought that I would be lucky to get to the station by nightfall so he went for a look up the river about midday. He said he was amazed to see the chopper come and had to scurry back to the hut to pack up. It was even good for me because the chopper carried my pack and the head out for me.

  • 19/06/2021 11:13 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    We had been hunting in the Maunganuiohau for a month or more. When we first got into the bivvy Kelson and I discussed which areas we would work in as the only efficient way to hunt was to split up. Kelson said he would try the area immediately north of camp. I chose what turned out to be a very ordinary spot, over the Otaunoa range on the upper slopes down to lake Waikaremoana. The climb to the top of the range was a bit of a gut buster. Took me an hour and a half when I first started but my times gradually improved to where I could do it in twenty minutes when I went hard. I got a few deer but Kelson was ahead of me with his tally when we changed areas. He hunted south while I dropped off the range further north of where he had hunted. My tally immediately improved. I was enjoying my hunting.

     One day, after a quick climb onto the range, I looked for a feasible route down the scarp face. The scarp face provided very few opportunities to descend, what wasn’t vertical was overhanging. Found a way down and started carefully hunting through the bush. Saw a deer in a little clearing, made the shot. A deer sprinted away to my right and disappeared into the bush. Carefully following where it had moved, found a blood trail so tracked it down through thick bush.  Found it. Tailed it then looked for the bullet wound. In the shoulder. Funny, I aimed for the neck.

    Went back to where the deer was standing when I shot and there was another deer, dead as. The shot was in the neck.  The second deer was behind the first when I fired and I didn’t even see it. Beauty, two tails, one shot. Impressive for the little 222.

    Hunted down the same ridge and saw a movement. Yep, it was just a bit of a deer’s head, a long shot for in the bush. The ground between me and the deer was all wrong for stalking in on it so I had to try from where I was. Standing shot, open sights on my rifle and just a tiny patch at the back of the deer’s head to shoot at. Make your best effort. Made the shot. Nothing. Scrambled round to where it had been, found it dead as, clean head shot. Tailed that one. Made my way across the next big gully to a ridge. Followed that and saw an open clearing, quite extensive in size which was very unusual for this part of the Urewera. Across the far side of the clearing saw two deer. This was a long shot but I couldn’t close the gap because they were in the open. Careful bead, made the shot. They both bolted off but I saw my one had been hit. Went across and tailed that one. Four for the day. Dropped down to the river terrace and started making tracks for home. There was a blazed trail from our bivvy down to the river, just a few knife hacks into the odd tree, and I was hoping to cut onto that. Making my way over a bit of a hill, a deer popped up in front of me. Shot it and some more popped up. Got another one. Tailed them then put the pace on. Thankfully, cut the blazed trail then climbed up the ridge to our bivvy. Was an excellent day and put me comfortably in front of Kelson in tally which I kept up till we finished the block.

  • 31/05/2021 5:39 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Years ago I returned to Auckland where hunting opportunities were limited compared to my previous stations. A friend invited me to join the indoor 22 rifle club. He then proceeded to beat me in the competitions. This was intolerable to me. He used a rifle with a heavy match barrel which I thought was contrary to the spirit of the competition. My old faithful Brno was not up to the task. I needed a better rifle which still met my definition of a sporting rifle. We got a shipment of Remington 541S rifles at work. Had to try one. It worked. I could beat him. The proper order of things was restored. Had to analyse what was different between the two rifles. 

    Accuracy was not the issue. Both rifles were very accurate. You lost points because you made a mistake in your hold or trigger let off. Checked the trigger release on both rifles and the Remington was superior, not by much, but enough to get more points.

    The other difference was more subtle. My Brno was set up as a working rifle and I had been very successful with it, it was an outstanding field rifle. However, the scope was noticeably higher relative to the stock than the Remington. Mounting the rifles one after the other in all four shooting positions showed a marked difference in contact between my cheek and the butt. There was more support for my head with the Remington.There are four points of contact between your body and the rifle, each is important. The common term for the contact between cheek and butt is cheek weld. The scope should be at a correct height to enable you to get a good cheek weld.

    I think a crucial element of rifle fit is the ease with which you can see clearly through your scope in all four positions. As you go from prone, to sit, to kneel, then stand, your eye gets further away from the rear of the scope. A mistake I’ve seen made is that the scope fitter will position the scope for optimal eye relief in the standing position. They clearly have not been successful competition shooters. I prefer to adjust the scope location so that I get a full field of view with the scope as far forward as possible while I’m in the standing position. Then as my eye gets closer in the kneel and sit the scope field is optimal. In the prone position the scope can sometimes be a little close but a bit of wriggling and maybe shooting with a little blurring around the edge works. Hard out competition shooters will have adjustable stocks to help with these issues but these adjustments are not sensible on a field rifle.

    A couple of subtleties but they made a difference. Sadly, my cobber who took me along to rifle club drowned in the Churchill wetlands during a big flood.

  • 12/05/2021 3:52 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    While competitive shooting at the Riverhead range donkeys years ago I noticed a really strange problem with my rifle. The first shot out of a cold barrel would strike about three inches high. Consistently. Every time I competed . The second shot would strike two inches high. Consistently. The subsequent shots would group together just above the crosswire in the middle of the target. Our competition rules in those days allowed us two optional sighters so there was no real issue, you just completed your required shots. It was a pain while you were hunting , you had to remember to allow for it with your aim. Knowledgeable club members had no real answer to the question. 

    I happened to be reading an article by Jack O’Connor, the American guru, about hunting in Africa. He said don’t let the gun bearers clean you rifles, do it yourself. The reason he gave was that they would use an English cleaner which would make your rifle shoot inaccurately for the first couple of shots, generally high. I used the cleaner he mentioned in my rifles. I swapped to Hoppes number 9 and the problem went away. Have used it ever since. 

    My competition 22 rifle showed a similar problem. My first shot out of a cold rifle would print about half an inch out, usually low and left at 25 yards. Consistently. All subsequent shots would print to point of aim. The rifle was seriously accurate, when you were holding them well there would be one hole for your prone shots. Just that weird first shot displacement. 

    I don’t have any issues with my present rifles but I’m very careful to check any rifles I’m using in case they exhibit the same problems.  I think that one of the advantages of competition shooting is that to get maximum points you need to hit the middle. Group size is irrelevant, centre hits count. Issues such as first shot displacement or different methods  of rifle support causing different zeros can be evaluated if you are trying for centre hits.

  • 26/04/2021 8:03 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    When I started hunting we zeroed our rifles at 75 yards. That was the distance to the targets from the mound which was just in front of the range hut at the North Auckland range. The range hut was behind the hut used by the air rifle shooters at this moment. All of the shooting was four position format with the addition of a snap target, at the front silhouette of a deer, and at the running deer target. This was  powered by a petrol motor and crossed the gap in about 6 seconds. The 75 yard zero worked perfectly well. The prevailing attitude at the club was that shots at game were taken between 30 and 70 yards. 

    Most of the club members hunted the Urewera, the Kaimanawas or the King Country and the advice on sighting in worked for these areas.  The first time I recall shooting at a longer distance was when we set the targets at the present butts and shot from 200yards. My memory is that of all the shots fired by the participants that day there were only 19 strikes on target. A common comment was who would bother shooting that far away, anyway. The prospect of holding the nationals encouraged competitive club members to practice at that range. I recall being surprised at how much I had to adjust the elevation on my 308.

    As we were mainly close range bush hunting I think the 75 zero was used a lot. My own hunting grounds got more varied. River beds on the West Coast; alpine tussocklands along the Alps; open tussock in the army training grounds at Waiouru and in the Kaimanawas gave opportunities at much longer ranges. I used a system that I had read about which advocated sighting the rifle in at the longest range which would mean that the bullet was not more than four inches high at midrange and then find out the distance at which it landed four inches low.  Then just hold in the middle and you would be good out to 230 to 300 yards. I used this system enough to know I didn’t like it. I found that there was too much of a tendency to get excited and put one over the top of a deer at the middle ranges.

    On one job I tried a 300 zero then held on the belly line at normal ranges. Didn’t like that either. Good at 300 but an absolute pain at closer ranges. A head shot or a bit of the top of a shoulder was difficult. Then there was the problem of when you changed rifles you would have to learn a new set of strikes.

    I’ve settled on a much simpler system. I zero all of my regular hunting rifles at 200. This distance is often available at the club and you can establish a good zero. One thing to watch out for is wind drift at this range. Choose a day when there is little to no wind to finalise your windage adjustment.

    For most of my shots I can forget about holding underneath at normal ranges. Very occasionally when trying for a headshot at mid range I will make sure that there is a good amount of skull visible at the top crosshair.  When I judge the range to be definitely much more than 200 and probably around 300 I will hold the cross wire at the top of the shoulder. When the range is even further than that, maybe 400, and I cannot get closer, I will hold a foot clear of the wither. Complicating these long attempts is that the shot may be at a significant up or down angle. It’s surprising how far an animal may be in steep country and you must still hold on the belly line. I go out of my way not to take these shots unless there is no option. 

    Most target ranges are on essentially flat ground so the opportunity to practise the hold under is limited.  

    I’ve found this system to be very usable in the field. You don’t have to dick around measuring range, adjusting sights, estimating wind velocity, coriolis effect, elevation, barometric pressure, ambient humidity and many more factors which can affect bullet strike. Just go ahead and shoot it. If it’s too far or blowing too hard, don’t shoot.  That works for me!

  • 20/04/2021 8:36 AM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    Years ago, Andre offered to show me around his favourite hunting area in State Forest 90 now more commonly called Clements Mill road. No more than 10 minutes down a bulldozed track he stopped and pointed out a little knoll about 20 metres off the track where he had seen a deer last time he walked along the track. He moved off and I was about to follow him when I glanced back and saw a deer right on the little knoll. Andre was too far away for me to signal to so I took the shot. He hurried back and was very surprised to see the dead deer. We gutted it out and took it back to the car. We split up and continued hunting. He came back that night with another deer. Packed up next morning and drove back out the road. As we passed the Te Iringa carpark I saw a stag in the carpark. I said to Andre stop the car. I had to repeat myself several times. Got my rifle and one bullet and went back. I could barely believe that I had seen the deer. There it was, right in the middle of the carpark which was fortunately empty. The stag fell to the shot. Andre came back saying what are you doing. We both could scarcely believe it. Took the picture, gutted the stag, chucked it in the boot and away to Auckland.

    I took Arnold, my fishing mate, in to Otanatea for a hunt. I don’t know if he had shot any deer before. When we got out of the chopper and moved into the hut I could see plenty of stag marks, prints and big droppings on the grass around the hut. I took Arnold for a look upriver. It was evident that he was not able to tackle anything strenuous in the way of a hunt. He was very tired that night and was not keen to go out the next day. I started the breakfast and he went out for a leak. He rushed back super excited. He said a huge stag had been feeding on the lush grass between the hut and the river. As he watched the stag slowly ambled its way down and across the river and into the bush. He didn’t do any more hunting on that trip, he was over the moon to have seen one that close.

    Simon and I set up a tent on one of the frost flats on the northern edge of the Hanamahi clearings. I’d hunted this area back in Forest Service days but had not explored the Mangaehu Stream. Went for a big hikoi in the morning. Big mobs of nothing.  Headed back down the big ridge running along the Whakatane River. As I was coming down the steep spur toward the swing bridge my knees started trembling. This was a sure sign of fatigue. Having been there before, I knew what to do. 10 minutes rest, 10 minutes march, 10 minutes rest, 20 minutes march, repeated till I got back to camp. Simon was there, he made me a brew. He asked how far I’d got. Said I’d been over into the Pukareao. He said bullshit. I had to show him my marks on the GPS. Lying in the late sun I slowly came right. Simon told me where he’d hunted. I said I think I’ll shoot that one over there. I’d glanced up a slip across the river to see a rusa come out to graze. I made my way painfully across to where I could get a steady shot, about a hundred metres. The deer was hundreds of metres away. Very steep uphill angle. Figured out the hold and made the shot. The deer collapsed and rolled halfway down the slip. I said it was Simons job to go and get it. He called me some rude names but forded the river , climbed the steep as slip and retrieved the deer. He left it on the other side of the river. In the morning he went with Derek in the chopper to pick up the carcass. I’ve never shot one out of the hut window, that was the closest I’d got one to camp and for me the easiest carry.

  • 10/04/2021 4:06 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    I have seen a number of stocks fail on rifles. Not many seeing the number of firearms I have seen in use or have had to examine after they failed.

    At the South Auckland Deerstalkers range, years ago, I watched a bloke lean his lovely Weatherby up against the concrete benchrest. He moved away about a metre. His rifle slid ever so slowly off the rest and landed on the grass. The stock broke clean through the pistol grip. He was incensed. 

    I went into work one morning and saw that the stock on a very expensive Remington over under shotgun had broken into two pieces. It was a beautiful piece of walnut. It was evident that break occurred along the line of grain change. The gun was still locked into the rack.

    I’ve seen the stock of a lovely Sako rifle shattered in the magazine area. The rifle had been fired with a hand load. The catastrophic case failure had released gas into the magazine area rupturing the stock which was exactly what is supposed to happen. The owner denied any responsibility for the failure. 

    I’ve seen a number of rifles with breaks in the pistol grip area which were the result of heavy impacts to the rifle.

    I’ve seen broken plastic stocks on rifles. One example I recall had been run over by a Landrover, another had been dropped out of a helicopter. 

    I’ve seen laminated stocks fail in the recoil abutment area most likely due to a lack of adhesion just in that area.

    I haven’t had any stock failures in my own working rifles and I didn’t see any on workmates rifles. My own rifles have suffered the battering that hunting in rough terrain can dish out, I’ve watched in horror as my precious 308 clattered down a shingle slide after my own spectacular crash down the slide. Retrieved it scarred but unbroken. Done the same with my 270 magnum on jagged glacial moraine up the Dobson. Big gark out of the stock. Kevin Gaskill, the stock doctor, made it go away completely. Don’t know how many times I’ve crashed onto rocks travelling along rivers. Got to the surface after a beaut into the Te Waiotukapiti where the rifle took my full weight. Andy and Ian were awarding me points out of ten for style, grace, difficulty. 

    So when I hear that wood is not a suitable material for making hunting rifle stocks and you must have synthetic, I can only smile to myself and recall when my rifles emerged without breaking from some interesting adventures.

  • 29/03/2021 9:01 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    It was absolutely terrifying! We’d been making our way up the Crooked River hoping to make it to Jacko Flat hut. It was a typical West Coast frog-drowning downpour and the main river was running a banker. There was a rudimentary track we were following and we made progress. The side creeks were swollen but we kept making our way. A slightly bigger side creek blocked our path. I found a place that looked feasible and started to make my way across. Over waist deep from memory and I made a misstep. Put my foot into nothing. The flow caught me and shot me down the creek and into the main river. Terror was the only emotion I can recall feeling. Just as I hit the main river I managed to grab an overhanging branch which pendulumed me in toward the bank. Grabbed another branch and got to the bank. Clive grabbed me from the bank and I managed to gain some footing. So thankful to make it out of there. I managed to find a safer crossing further up the creek so we made it to the hut. Next morning the rain had stopped so it was a much safer trip out.

    Graham and I had to go into Bullock Creek, inland from Punakaiki to carry out an inspection prior to the purchase of the lease to add to the National Park . We’d crossed the river on the way in with no sign of any problems. Carried out our work and returned to the river. We’d been aware of the rain clouds up along the main range but weren’t concerned. When we got to the river it was in flood. The other way to get out took many hours and was just as prone to flooding. I decided to give it a go.  Got a little way out and realised No Way. Tried to turn around but wasn’t going to make it. The river went underground several hundred metres further downstream. I was in a bit of strife. Suddenly I felt a big hand come out and grab me by the shoulder. Chomp is a big unit and was on the Face Rescue team. He dragged me out of there. We decided to climb up through the bluffs onto the big escarpment running down the true right of Bullock Creek. Made it to the top then had to traverse a lot of steep country where all the drainage was underground. This meant climbing down one side of a doline then back up the other side. This went on seemingly interminably. It was West Coast raining the whole time. Finally made it to a place where we could climb down through the cliffs and make it to the lower carpark. We’d hoped that Chomp’s offsider who knew we were up the river would have met us or left a Ute. Nothing. It’s a long way down the bush road out to Punakaiki at night in the pouring down rain. Chomp’s offsider had left for Christchurch that evening despite knowing we were in a bit of strife. I still haven’t forgiven him. 

    Doesn’t have to be the West Coast where you can get into trouble. We had a significant flood when Keith and I were in the Raukumaras. We’d been camp bound for four days but the rain had stopped. In the evening I said we would be able to cross. Keith said no way so to be a smart arse I crossed it and came back. Keith, who was a field officer and a hugely experienced hunter said he was very impressed. That meant a lot coming from him.

    Learning from these and other nail biting experiences I find I have confidence in my method of crossing a river. I won’t get into a river that I think I can’t cross. I won’t get into a river linked to anyone else. If I get it wrong I don’t want to get anyone else into trouble. Rivers will kill you. I will only go into river crossings using a sturdy pole planted upstream to provide extra stability. Then only move one point of contact at a time. One foot, next foot, pole. I’m prepared to spend considerable time finding the right pole. I have been tempted to ditch the pole and make a break for it. Resisting that urge is important. It takes concentration to stick to the plan. Because I seldom if ever actually hunt with anyone else I can only recall a few instances where I’ve had to guide other people across rivers. In those cases I’ve made the crossing and then stationed myself in the most difficult part then have them use the upstream pole method. So far we’ve all come out of it OK.

  • 29/03/2021 8:59 PM | Bob McMillan (Administrator)

    I think there are two sorts of navigational compasses, a magnetic one and a mental one. Both are liable to fail.

    Set off with Danny early one morning to hunt from our tent south from Waihora toward the Mangatu. Dropped off the track into the heads of the Mangatu and hunted the steeply creek cut spurs. Big mobs of nothing. Bit of sign but nothing to get excited about. Heading up one particularly gnarly creek when Danny stopped and got his compass out. He said “h’m that’s funny”. I had a look at his compass and I thought that’s hard case, Danny must have bought a northern hemisphere compass because the red part of the needle was pointing south. Who would be mug enough to get a crook compass. Took me some time to think compasses never point south. My mental compass was 180 degrees out as was Danny’s which was why he’d got the compass out in the first place. Figured we’d travelled south so camp must be north. No matter how wrong it felt we marched north till we saw the edge of the escarpment which was right where the compass said it should be. Climbed up the escarpment when the lay of the land went haywire again. Danny got his compass out again and sure enough the red needle pointed south. Started looking more carefully at the terrain and realised that we were on a spur rather than the main escarpment. Got to the edge of the escarpment and were faced with a choice of difficult or terrible possible routes back to camp. The land directly between us and camp was flat terrace which had been logged years before and had thick second growth vegetation. 

    Bugger this I thought and pulled out my GPS. I’d waypointed our camp last night so found a bearing and a distance to camp. Crashed through the heavy veg and in a surprisingly short time were back at the tent. Bloody crooked compasses.

    Years ago Clive and I left my VW at the Te Rimu skid site and set off to get to our campsite above the falls on the Tauranga Taupo. We’d done this trip a couple of times before and had been very successful on the easy terraces along the river. This morning there was a heavy fog down but, no worries,  we had previously put a bit of a dazzle marking between the first and the fifth creeks. We’ll be right, March on. Lost the dazzle at some stage but my mental compass had us firmly on track. Several hours later the fog lifted. I saw something very shiny a little way in front of us. I couldn’t think what could be making that much shine, maybe water flowing over a rock. Went to investigate and saw it was the windscreen of my vehicle. Bloody mental compasses. 

    I’ve done the same at Chew Tobacco bay on Stewart Island. Heading back to camp from a hunt south to Pikaroro. Got back to the flat land west of the camp and decided to try a different way back. Some time later saw the same tree where I had decided to plunge off into the thick scrubbery. That’s funny I left here half an hour ago. Took a bit of concentration to reorient myself and make a correct decision to get back to camp.

    Both mental and magnetic compasses can fail but I would trust the magnetic one before the mental one every time.

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