The hunt was a 31 consecutive day stay in the mountains North of the North Fork of the Salmon River.
By way of my background. I hadn’t spent more than 3 consecutive days in the mountains since 1971. During my Navy days while stationed 2 years in Idaho I spent 5 days a month during elk season in the mountains around Shovel and Yellow Jacket Creeks. Additionally I’ve been doing long range shooting for only 3 years and have had the APS 270 AM, "Big Girl", for only 2 years.
I was way more of a greenie than I thought.
I figured that Buffalobob could use a little help eating all of that antelope. Which, by the way, was better than beef. The vote on that was unanimous.
My intent was to also assist w/glassing which was a pretty poor performance on my part. There wasn’t an animal spotted that BB didn’t spot first. Except for the day he went on a walk about and I spotted some bedded does at about 1400 yds.
All in all I hope I wasn’t too much of a handicap. This hunt was one of the more rewarding things I’ve ever done.
These posts are focused on my equipment. There is much personal preference regarding equipment. Equipment selection is dependent upon personal preference, locality for use, style of hunting, and weather.
Other than the shooting mat/drag bag and the AM and optics my equipment consisted of a circa 1966 external frame back pack and a 2000 Olympics school type back pack that I got from McDonalds for 5 bucks, after the Olympics were over. And he only called me "pilgrim" once.
In this and following posts I’ll describe equipment and how well it did or didn’t work. I’ll also describe modifications and additions that I’ve made to improve the long range hunting experience.
Shooting Mat/Drag Bag.
I spent the summer designing a shooting mat/drag bag for long range hunting. My research turned up a lot of drag bags but they looked to me to make the user look like a military sniper wannabe. Nothing I found fit fit my wants at a decent price. (Read cheap…).
At Smith & Edwards I found this, at Sportsman’s Warehouse I found that, at the roll end fabric store I found more stuff. At B-B leather I found some hardware. At a girlie place I found a “commercial” sewing machine which came with some counseling on how to thread it and what kinds of thread would jam it up.
The intent of this mat/drag bag was to both protect the rifle during vehicular transport and protect the shooter from such stuff cactus, mud, dirt, snow and to the extent practicable…..ants. The mat/bag was designed for "hide" shooting where packing in and out was not an issue.
The mat/bag works exceptionally well at the range, Prairie Doggin', and antelope hunting
where you are usually close to the vehicle.
For the conditions specific to this hunt I gave it high marks for being nifty but low marks for getting back and forth.
The twice a day round trip treks to the shooting spot were 2200 yds. The first trek brought the realization that the 12 pound rifle and nearly 8 pound drag bag plus the stuff stored in the bag had too much bulk and weight. This took much away from the otherwise enjoyable experience. The second trek, that afternoon, confirmed the morning’s finding. After the second morning, the pain to change was less than the pain to stay the same. From that point on the “Big Girl” along with all optics and other necessary make the shot stuff stayed on the hill 27-7 except for trips to town.
All four seasons were experienced but the “Big Girl” stayed snuggy and dry. However, when put in the case which stayed at camp, by the stream, she ‘drew damp’ big time.
The fix was to develop a mat specifically designed for this type of long range hunting.
I changed the material from heavy canvas to heavy twill for the bottom and rip nylon for the top. The full width padding was reduced to only the center 2 feet. The full 3+ foot wide foot print was maintained with the unpadded outside 6 inches folding in when rolled up for compactness. The 32” unpadded front flap was done away with. With the rifle continually resting on the bipod there is no need for that front flap. The rear 16 inch flap was retained to keep my tootsies out of the dirt or whatever.
The pad now rolls small and weighs less than half of the 7.6 pounds of the heavier version and packs quite comfortably.