Is Old Ammo Safe to Shoot?

ammo 002Mike: I have some boxes of Core-Lokt .270 loads that must be 10 years old? Are those shells still safe to shoot and hunt with? Love the blog, keep up the good work.—George from Nebraska

George: For starters, let me say that I’ve been hunting with .270, .30-06 and 7mm loads from a test batch I got at least 10 years old. Some of the cartridges are 15 years old.They are still reliable and accurate, and I’ve killed dozens of bucks with them.

If center-fire cartridges are stored in a dry place at moderate temperatures with low humidity—say on a shelf in a dry basement where you have a dehumidifier running—they can have an amazingly long shelf life. There are many reports of people shooting 50-plus year-old ammunition with no problems, and killing deer with such ancient rounds.

But before shooting any old cartridges, check each one carefully. If the cases look clean and aren’t corroded, the ammo should work fine. But keep in mind the warning signs of unusable (and potentially unsafe) old ammunition: split case necks and/or corroded/rusty bullets, brass or primers. If ammo shows any of these signs, discard it properly and don’t shoot it.

DISCLAIMER: If you have the slightest doubt that a round or bullet does not look right, discard it and don’t shoot it.  

Probably the best and smartest thing to do with shells left over from the last few seasons is to go the range this spring and shoot them up. Then go buy a couple new boxes of your favorite deer load before next season. The ammo companies will appreciate it, plus you’ll benefit from the shooting practice. You’ll know those shiny new rounds to be safe and effective.

2017: It’s a Tough Economy for the Gun & Hunting Industry Right Now

2017 tough ecnomyThe health care chaos last week on Capitol Hill notwithstanding, things have been looking pretty good since President Trump’s election last November. The stock market is up and consumer confidence is high as the President reduces burdensome regulations on business and moves to act on tax reform this summer.

But ironically the election of our first pro-gun president in 8 years has slowed the sale of firearms and softened the overall shooting/hunting market. In recent years, with anti-gun Barack Obama at the helm and with the prospect of Hillary looming for another 8 years, law-abiding and freedom–loving Americans had a deep and well-founded concern that their gun rights were in serious jeopardy, and so we purchased guns and hoarded ammunition at a record pace.

But now, with President Trump in the White House and our Second Amendment rights secure for now, firearms sales have slowed and as a consequence cast a pale over the entire industry.

Colt, Savage, Remington and Federal Premium recently announced that they are constricting business and laying off employees, and many industry experts predict that other manufacturers will follow suit.

The record sales and profits from firearms and especially ammunition of the last 5 years carried over into the general outdoor and hunting market, and helped to account for decent to good sales. For example, a guy walked into a Cabela’s store to buy 3 boxes of ammo, and he picked up a new camo jacket and some other stuff on the way to the register. But many of those impulse buys have dried up and dried up fast.

In addition to declining gun/ammo sales is the overall retail industry’s struggles of 2017 and beyond. Namely, how do retailers with heavy investment in brick-and-mortar survive and grow in the Amazon world? You likely have empty storefronts in your hometown that thrived just 5 short years ago.

You might have heard that Gander Mountain recently declared bankruptcy, and as a part of that will close 32 of 162 retail stores in 11 different states. Click to see if a GM store near you is on the list to be shuttered.

Word is that Bass Pro Shops’ $4.5 billion deal to buy Cabela’s could be in jeopardy as federal regulators have requested more information from both parties. But most financial experts predict that the merger will still be approved and completed, most likely later this fall.

The bowhunting industry is not immune. The Outdoor Wire spoke with industry experts who pointed to significant problems facing the archery business and the considerable drop-off in bow and gear sales. One big reason—the trend of manufacturers toward high-end bows that cost $1,000 to $1,500. Not all hard-working hunters can fork out a good chunk of a mortgage payment for a new bow, so fewer bows are sold each year, and people are upgrading less and keeping their bows for 4 or 5 years.

While the gun/bow/hunting/outdoor industry is facing uncertain and tough economic times, there is light on the horizon. If President Trump can get our dysfunctional Congress to work together for once and approve meaningful tax reform for corporations and individuals alike this summer, and retroactive to January 1, 2017, the industry (and all retail) will receive an immediate boost. History shows that every time people get even a little more money in their pockets, they will spend some of it on their passions. There are no more passionate Americans than deer hunters. Give us back some more of our money and we’ll buy a new rifle or bow or trail camera or camo, just in time for the 2017-18 season.

As for the manufacturers, you will continue to see some constriction and shifting business strategies in the short term, but that can be a good thing. Smart business leaders step back, analyze changing market trends and then build and market products that people will buy in 2018, in this case quality and affordable guns and bows.

For retailers large and small, the future is inescapable and simple. We all still love to go to a Cabela’s,  Bass Pro or Gander store, and we love our local gun shop. We’ll still buy at those stores, but if a company is not heavily online and Mobile, they’re out of business or soon will be.

What about you? Are you spending less on gear? Buying more online? Will you purchase a new gun this year? Does a new bow cost too much?

Need A Salvage Permit For Deer Skull/Antlers?

IL deadhead - CopyDuring the winter and spring shed hunt of 2017, hunters across the country have been finding, picking up and posting on social media some giant “deadheads,” like this 200-class skull making the rounds on Facebook.

Let me remind you that if you find any-size skull w/antlers in the woods you might—actually you probably– need to obtain a salvage permit (or at least permission) from the state to possess and transport that skull.

In most states a deadhead—the skull and rack from a buck that died of disease, was hit by a car or was lost by a hunter last season—is treated like a roadkill buck, and subject to the same state roadkill laws, which in most cases means you need to call a conservation officer or sheriff and get a permit (or at the very least official permission) before you move and take possession of the antlers.

States where I can confirm you need a salvage permit include: Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma and Indiana, and there are many more. Every shed hunter should check the state laws and know for certain sure. The last thing you need is to come home with a skull with big antlers, post a picture of it on Facebook or Instagram and promptly get a call or visit from a game warden asking if you have the proper salvage permit.

I’d like to greatly expand the list of state salvage laws for deer, so please let me know your state’s regulation, if any, by commenting below.

Study: Trees Know When Deer Feed On Them

deer browseScience continues to uncover interesting things in the deer world.

The Deer Forest Blog reported that a recent study found that some trees know when they are being browsed by deer…and they put up a defense mechanism to stop it.

The study looked at beech and maple saplings that comprised the regenerating under-story in a forest, and thus were often browsed by deer. The researchers simulated deer browsing by clipping buds off the saplings and then applying deer saliva to the wounds.

They found that the saliva caused the saplings to increase production of salicylic acid, which signals a tree to produce more tannins. Tannins are bitter and not palatable to deer. The scientists concluded that the production of tannins may deter future browsing by deer on those saplings. Saplings that were clipped off but not treated with deer saliva did not produce tannins or initiate other defense metabolites.

Bottom line: Some species of saplings that are browsed by deer initiate a defense mechanism so that the trees are literally not eaten alive by the animals, thus perpetuating the growth of under-story and the health of a forest.

Fascinating! Isn’t nature grand?

How to Clean a Deer Skull Plate

skull antlers

Mike: What’s the easiest way to get the skin and hair off the skull plate when I want to mount a buck’s antlers only? Thanks, Dennis

Hey Dennis: Lance Waln, who I watched grow up from a kid to a great hunter and accomplished taxidermist here in Virginia, says to cut and peel as much hide and hair off the skull plate as you can with your hunting knife. Getting the skin away from the bone and antler burr is tough sometimes; try a large flat-tip screwdriver and pry the skin away from the antler base. Use your knife to remove the last hairs that stick to the base and the burrs.

Skin as much meat and tissue as you can off the skull plate. It’s done, but if you want to go a step further, boil the skull plate in water for a few minutes. After that, the residual meat will flake easily off the plate. After boiling, handle the skull carefully because it’s fragile until totally dry.