Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Taylor's & Company Ridge Runner Lever Action Rifle

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to get to test a lever action rifle that is manufactured by Chiappa and being distributed by Taylor's and Company. Their 1886 Ridge Runner in .45-70.

At first glance, it looked like any other lever action rifle with a few exceptions. The first thing I noticed was the matte blued finish. The matte complimented the rubber covered wood stock perfectly. The stock being covered in a rubberized finish was black and felt good in the hands. It provided a good grip without over doing it.

I really liked the big loop. Too many lever guns have a loop that does not fit bigger hands, and certainly not any hands in gloves. The Ridge Runner covers this with its generous loop. Lastly, I noticed the large muzzle brake on the end. Being a lover of big bore lever guns, I can appreciate any attempt to reduce recoil. It also comes with a thread protector if you want to take the muzzle brake off. Though, I do not know why anyone would.

Following the 1886 Winchester design, the Ridge Runner has a top eject, something I personally do not care for, but it is in keeping with the original design. To compensate for this, the Ridge Runner comes with a tactical rail mounted in front of the action to accommodate long eye relief optics. It also comes with a Skinner peep sight that is fast to acquire and pretty accurate from the factory. Minor adjustments were needed to get it on the steel targets, but it was simple enough.

Picking up the Ridge Runner the rifle just felt like a carbine big bore rifle should feel. Balanced, sturdy and well built. All of the fits were tight and well made. The action was tight at first, but after firing some rounds through it and working the action, it loosened up a bit, but not too much.

Proceeding to the firing range, I opened a box of Black Hills Ammunition's 405 grain .45-70 bullets. what a beast of a bullet! Made for their Cowboy action shooters, the Black Hills ammunition was the perfect fit for the Ridge Runner. This ammunition is the perfect companion for this style of rifle. I really like the vintage packaging that fits with the old style rifle. I will certainly shoot more Black Hills ammunition in the future.

I have shot and tested a lot of big bore lever guns, from all of the major manufacturers and I can say without hesitation that the Ridge Runner is the best shooting one of them all. The only draw back is the top ejection  - which as I said earlier I am personally not fond of. But the feel, weight, balance and accuracy out of the box were extraordinary.

I had no way of testing the recoil difference. But when I removed the muzzle brake in favor of the thread protector it felt more like shooting a twelve gauge in 3 1/2" steel shot! With the muzzle brake on, it was a light 20 gauge. The difference was extreme. As a comparison, I shot fifty rounds of this rifle with the muzzle brake in place. Something I would never consider in any of my other lever guns. The most I have shot of my other .45-70 lever guns was ten shots before it becomes uncomfortable. Being able to shoot this rifle over and over is a thrill and the time on the range is extended due to the muzzle brake. I really wish other manufacturers offered this option on their big bore rifles.

MSRP on the Ridge Runner is $1,830. A bit steep for this market but a gun well worth the price. If you are looking for a big bore rifle that will put a smile on your face each time you shoot it, the Ridge Runner is the gun to choose. In the world of lever action rifles, the venerable 1886 action is a classic design that has proven the test of time. Marry this with a modern manufacturing process, muzzle brake and rubber coated stock, and you have the makings of a great rifle. The Ridge Runner, by Taylor's and Company is a great gun for your next purchase.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Recycling into Quality Deer Stands

Old Playhouse converted
into a tower stand. Picked up
for FREE.
More than twenty five years ago, I began an experiment in my deer hunting. Being somewhat financially challenged and staring poverty right in the face I tried to get as much out of a nickle as I could. Some have even said that in my prime, I could get $10 out of a nickle. I am not sure if I was that talented, but I have been known to be more cheap than frugal.

During this time, (and to some degree still do) I had an addiction to yard sales. I learned early on that at the right yard sale I could get a dollars worth of goods for a penny - or less. On more than one occasion I negotiated a package deal that included me hauling off all of the left overs for free if I could get a deal on this one item. Often in the "left-over" items is where I would find a gem. Finding an old ladder is common, and these are perfect for fabricating ladder stands. Outgrown playhouses are also common at yard sales. Who wants to go to the trouble of dismantling the whole playhouse, or play-tower? Umm I do! Because I see a perfect deer stand where the children used to play.

Tower stand wrapped in an old
artificial Christmas tree.
Paid $5 for Christmas tree at a
Yard sale. 
Another item I look for with abandon at yard sales are artificial Christmas trees. For some reason, people throw these things away or  practically give them away in yard sales. I have never paid more than $5 for an artificial Christmas tree. Man the uses of the Christmas tree! I have reassembled them right next to ground blinds. Used their branches to hide ladder stands and rungs of climbing sticks. I have donned their decorations on box blinds and anywhere else I can find to use them. The strong wire is easily bent or shaped to fit the items. On wooden stands, I drill 1/4" holes at a 30 degree angle and just place the limbs into the holes - fluff up the limbs and viola you have instant camouflage that will last seven to eight years. If it is not in the sun, it can last over a decade easily. The sun will eventually deteriorate the "needles" and they begin to fall out.

Ground blinds have a bad reputation of fading. I know here in the south where the sun is more than brutal, my blinds seldom last two seasons due to the sun. As they start to fade, I use the loops to wrap Christmas tree limbs into them to hide the outline of the blind.

Shipping pallet blind with Christmas tree
wrapping and a full tree on Front Right Corner. 
I have also made ground blinds out of free shipping pallets. Placing them in a "U" shape I fasten them to one another with "L" brackets and some "T-Posts" to hold them in place and then cover with Christmas tree material. The only expense are the posts and brackets. Usually less than $10 I have a ground blind.

As stated before, I have also erected the entire tree - usually more than one around my blind to make it appear more natural. This works especially well when the blind is in open country. Rather than have an odd square standing out in the field or CRP, I erect two or more Christmas trees next to the blind to break it up. One on each front corner is usually enough. If I need a third, I place it in the center of the back. Trees usually around 7 feet are adequate for this.

When using the trees on ladder stands or chain on stands - one tree will cover several stands. I will wrap the limbs around the legs of the ladder or climbing stick to cover the outline of the ladder. On the stand itself, a few limbs wrapped on the bottom of the stand help to break it up, and keep them out of your way.

Scavenging old playhouses, play towers, shipping pallets and Christmas trees will help you make some quality deer stands and blinds for very little money. Pictured above is a play tower I scavenged from a friend that was throwing it away. I got it for free, modified it some without using any additional materials, hauled it to the location, stood it up (Using the winch on my UTV) and covered the top with Christmas tree material. I will finish the rest of the stand at a later date, but the support arms and legs will be covered in the tree material.

My next items is going to be a "Hay-bale" blind. I believe I can make one out of a few old Christmas trees shipping pallets and some fence panels. Who said a hay bale blind had to be beige? I'll make mine green with Christmas trees!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


My Book “So, You Want to Hunt Turkeys” is selling very well.
I will be conducting a few book signings in the next week. Just in time for Fathers Day.

Thursday June 7th at Books on Main in Newberry, SC from 11-1:00 and again from 5-7:00.

Monday June 11th at Edisto Island Book Store from 3:00-5:00.

If you are in the area, please stop by and get a personalized copy and let’s talk turkey.

Why Do We Name Our Deer?

A few years ago, while watching one of the more popular television hunting shows, I heard the host refer to a specific deer he was seeing on camera as "super freak". At the initial sound, I noticed one of my eyebrows raise involuntarily. Why would you name this buck "super freak?" I wondered. Secondly, I wondered why he would name the deer at all. What purpose does it serve?

As time went on, naming deer caught on like a California wild fire and before you knew it, virtually every outdoor personality was giving names to bucks they were seeing on camera. Names became more and more frequent and outlandish. It looked as if they were not just naming a deer, but trying to outdo their counterparts with the most ridiculous names they could imagine.

It got to the point you could not turn on the television and watch a good hunting show without these hosts referring to their bucks with some insane name. It in itself became a competition to see who could name the most bucks and develop a "hit list" of named bucks.

As I have contemplated this phenomenon, I wondered why they wouldn't choose names like, "Steve, Bill, or Tony." or even, "Rover, Spot, or Drake". Rather than - "Nasty nine," "Broomstraw," or "Sidekick." It seemed just as plausible that they would choose human names or pet names over these outlandish names.

Then in a conversation about this a few months ago, while discussing this with a well known television show host who incidentally refuses to name any of the deer he hunts commented, "We named a deer years ago and it almost killed hunting."  I asked him what he meant by that and he said,
"You ever heard of Bambi?"

It was like being hit in the face! He was absolutely correct. The hunting industry took a big hit when Walt Disney introduced Bambi to the masses. Even today we are still feeling the fallout of that cartoon rendition of how "terrible" hunting is.

As we discussed the impact this has had on hunting I couldn't help but wonder if those who are participating in the name game ever considered that they are one bad name away from setting back hunting like Disney did.

Personalize (humanize) the quarry and you jeopardize the pursuit.

By giving these animals names, we are personalizing them, and in some respects humanizing them. Humanizing the quarry causes the non-hunters to question even more the concept of hunting, much more the satisfaction of success.

Consider this a word of caution. Name them at your own peril. As soon as some PETA member, or HSUS identifies with "Broomstraw" or Nasty Nine" The comparisons to Bambi will emerge and hunting will suffer a greater setback than it has already.

Hunting retention and recruitment numbers are at an all time low. Let's not inflict harm on ourselves by personalizing the animals we are pursuing. Herald them, praise them, and revere them, but do not humanize them. You will do so to your own peril.