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?

Oklahoma 2016 Deer Season: Top Big Deer Year!

Ok 2016 ocktor buckOne day last August I blogged: From what I’m seeing and hearing this has the potential to be the best buck season across America since 2010.

It was, and here is a good example.

From Paul’s Valley Democrat: Oklahoma’s 2016 deer season is well on its way to revamping the record books.

Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said: “I have the privilege of seeing a bunch of big deer racks pass through my office every year and I’ve never seen this many at one time.

Several monstrous non-typicals from the bow season have been reported so far, including Travis Ocker’s 245 2/8” beast from Comanche County (photo top).

More racks scoring from 180 into the 190s have been certified by the wildlife department, and huge racks taken during the state’s firearms season have not begun showing up yet.

ok 2016 scott and me buck

I can vouch for the good hunting there last year. Our group of 5 arrived in camp in western Oklahoma the day after Thanksgiving. The rut was still rocking, and although we didn’t shoot any monsters, we went 5 for 5 on solid bucks. You’ll see the action on a 2-part episode of BIG DEER TV on Sportsman Channel later this fall.

Illinois Coyote Hunt: 5 Critters and a Shed

Longtime BIG DEER blogger Scott from MI and his buddies made their annual trek to coyote camp, and he recaps their awesome hunt:

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Hi Mike: We headed out about 9:30 am Thursday morning Jan. 26th from Michigan and made the 6-hour trip to northwest Illinois, to a place along the Mississippi River.  The normal gang was along for the hunt, good friends John, Ryan, Mike and Jason. My dad Russ did not make the trip this year but I told him I would keep him posted with the play by play if we got some action.

The weather was pretty good, mid-teens at night and mid-20s during the day. Winds were a little stronger than we would have liked, about 15 mph average with gusts over 25 mph but the direction was ok. The wind was not too bad in the lower areas where we call. Those bottom lands had almost no snow, but we had a good couple inches of fresh powder on the hilltops and sides.

Mike and I decided to make our first set at Jessie’s draw, a spot that has produced coyotes almost every year we have hunted it. It’s a large ravine that runs the better part of a mile downward from the hilltop. We made our way to the stand location, sneaking in behind some pines so as not to be spotted by any game that was down below.

We set the Foxpro between us and Mike started with some coyote vocals, then rolled into some distress house cat sounds. Going back and forth between the two for 28 minutes I was thinking nothing was going to show. But then a coyote popped out, scaling the bottom of the hill about 100 yards away. Soon as it cleared the brush I gave a mouth bark to stop it and put it down with my T/C Venture chambered in .243, with a 70-grain Nosler ballistic tip that Mike had hand loaded for me. It was a nice-size male, good way to start the day.

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For our 3rd set of the morning we went to another part of the property that has produced for us in the past as well. As we were approaching our setup we noticed something moving across the hilltop about 600 yards away. Turned out to be a coyote heading down into the draw we were just about to call. He hadn’t seen us, so we made the decision to get into position quickly and see if we could call him in before he got too far away.

Mike set up on the closest finger coming out of the large draw and facing the coyote. I looked over the next finger back, in case he tried to flank us. Mike ran the same coyote howls and then some distressed cat sounds with the Foxpro that he did earlier. About 15 minutes later I heard a shot. After he finished the call I walked over to see a guy grinning from ear to ear. Mike had just scored his first kill with his new Cooper rifle chambered in .204 Ruger. The coyote had come running right to him along the hilltop and he was able to stop it with a mouth bark at 40 yards; he put it right down with a 35-grain handload. It was a large male that weighed in at 45 pounds! I sent dad text messages telling him that we had scored on a couple.

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The winds picked up in the afternoon and we didn’t have any more luck the rest of the day. That night we found out that we had gained permission to hunt a large piece of property where we used to call a few years back ago. Excited to hear this, we set a game plan for the next morning.  John, Jason and Ryan would try to cover as much ground as they could with the wind direction we had.

On the first set John and Jason set up on a point overlooking the intersection of two large ravines. John set out his Foxpro and started calling with a TT Frenzy rabbit distress. About 5 minutes into the call a yote came running right in. John gave a mouth bark to stop him at 80 yards and took him with his Tikka .223 using 55-grain Hornady Vmax ammo. Another nice male coyote.

On their 3rd  call of the morning John and Jason made their way down the steep ravine and back up to another nice ridgetop. They set up in a new spot where they could see a good ways off. John started with the TT Frenzy again and about 3 minutes in, a coyote came running in from the bottom. John gave a mouth bark to stop and when he squeezed the trigger the gun dried fired.

scott jason

The coyote, now on alert, took off running and Jason was able to crack off a shot at about 50 yards and put it down with his .22 Hornet. It was a nice-colored female. Jason has been 4 for 4 with that gun since he’s had it. The 35-grain Hornady Varmit Express does a good job on the predators.

After hearing from John that they had called in two within an hour using the TT Frenzy sound I said to Mike, “I guess we better try some rabbit sounds!” The wind had switched directions a little on the way to our next set so we decided to call a tall ridgetop overlooking a huge valley with a power line clear cut running through it. I placed the FoxPro call between Mike and me and started with the TT Frenzy. It wasn’t much past a minute and I caught movement out of the comer of my eye. I turned to the right and saw a coyote trotting down the finger toward me, trying to get downwind. The critter disappeared in the ditch between us.

In a slightly controlled panic, knowing the yote may catch our scent soon as it popped up, I spun around and tried to pick the spot where it might show. A few seconds later it appeared 40 yards farther to my right than I had thought. I gave a mouth bark as soon as it cleared and took the shot. The animal disappeared and I wasn’t sure if I had hit it. Mike and I walked over and saw it lying 15 yards down the ditch. That was number 5 for our trip! I texted Dad to let him know we had just killed 3 in about 2 hours.

Ryan was not able to have any luck getting a yote, but did find a nice heavy shed antler while walking in to make a call. We left it for the property owner that had given us permission to hunt the property again. Hopefully 2 dead coyotes and a shed antler on his property will earn us an invite back in the future! We had another great hunt and are already looking forward to next year.

Thanks Mike and keep up the good work!–Scott from MI

Iowa Muzzleloader: Lady Smokes 240” Velvet Buck!

iowa lyla 1

Hi Mike: My wife, Lyla, harvested this buck with her muzzleloader near Osceola, Iowa on December 22, 2016 at 3:30 pm. The deer known as “The Freak” has 26 scorable points, an inside spread of nearly 24 inches and main beams 27 inches plus. He was 6 1/2 years old.

The Freak lived most of his life on a 4,300-acre farm located 10 miles south of our farm and managed by Steve Snow. Every year in mid-October the deer would come back to our farm, except for 2016, when our first picture of him was on Nov. 2.

iowa lyla 2

The Freak remained in velvet last year, we believe, because he was wounded by a neighboring bowhunter the previous year.

This is a great story on how we put all the pieces together on this buck’s life, until Lyla harvested him. We have not had the buck scored, but estimates from Steve Snow and others are that he is in the 240-inch range or more. Could he be the largest free-ranging buck ever taken by a female muzzleloader hunter in Iowa?

We watch your TV show religiously and thought that this was an intriguing story like the ones you often tell. Thank you, Dave and Lyla Nennig

Thanks Dave, great story and amazing buck! This could well be the highest green scoring buck ever shot by a lady not only in Iowa, but the entire United States. The largest velvet buck shot by a woman for sure! Way to go Lyla, and thanks for your support.