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Bernie revering column: Small caliber cartridges for big game?

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"Use enough gun!" That was the recommendation of old time gun-writer Captain Charles Askins. "The .270 Winchester is the minimum-and ideal-cartridge for whitetail deer," was the advice from Outdoor Life gun editor Jack O'Connor. Now there is a proposed modification of Minnesota's interpretation of what is a suitable cartridge for deer hunting. Years ago, the law specifically banned the U.S. Army's 30 caliber M1 round. The caliber was okay, but of course it was, and is, a pipsqueak cartridge. This ban has been repealed, and now they're considering admitting ammo that is in the 22-caliber range. This would admit such rounds as the .220 Swift and the .22-250 Remington -- both high speed but small-dimensioned cartridges.

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Years ago, I shot many fox in the hills surrounding Red Wing and at other locations in southwestern Minnesota, with heavy, scoped rifles of those calibers, along with a .257 Roberts. They killed the fox, and an occasional coyote, as if they'd been struck by lightning. They went down in a heap, leaving very little as an exit wound. They did the job on these light critters, but to use them on a heavy deer? Well, I'm just not ready to say that's okay. To drop the ammo size into the 22 caliber range would introduce a new set of problems. We don't need to do this! The .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 and Remington 7mm Magnum and calibers both above and below these ranges are available and adequate. With a bullet placed anywhere within the vital area of a deer sized animal, it will usually drop at the first shot. The center-fire cartridge in the 22 range should be individually assessed before being the go ahead. Yes, the .22-250 will kill a deer with a properly placed bullet, but will its 55-grain spire pointed bullet penetrate the body of a deer and make a humane kill on the spot? Not in any absolutely reliable manner, it won't. It takes the sectional density-relation to bullet diameter to length -- of more than 125 grains or so. The average .30-06 bullet is 150 to 180 grains. I believe that the .257 Roberts might be the low down minimum, with 125 grains of bullet weight and go up from there. Shooting deer at close range is always a desirable thing, but more often than not, the range will be more than 150 yards, and way out there, the bullet energy has lessened and bullet weight has to be a desirable factor. Only cartridges of 25-caliber diameter are apt to have the sectional density, which makes them desirable one-shot performers. The existing minimums in Minnesota are now at .223 and this permits use of such acceptable rounds as the .243 Winchester, but Minnesota's law on cartridge length eliminates such rounds as the .25-20 and others.

The .220 Swift is a very hot round and to see how it explodes on hitting a perched crow at long range is something you must see to believe. Others like the .223 Remington aren't as spectacular, but their 55-grain bullets -- even at very high speeds -- are not dependable killers on deer or other big game animals. Measured in foot pounds of energy, the proven calibers, up and down from the .30-06 will out perform lighter diameter bullets every time. Placing a shot accurately is something that can be done with a high stepping centerfire of 22-caliber range, but how many hunters can hurriedly do this. When I was hunting the foxes in southeastern Minnesota years ago, I was seated with a good rest, or prone, making for accurately placed shots with my Swift, Roberts or the other varmint rifles I had in my arsenal. Why there is a sudden rush to embrace the small caliber centerfire rifles into the legal range of cartridges for Minnesota deer hunting is difficult to understand. The proposal is being considered, however. It needs a lot of study. Small centerfire rifles and the ammunition used in them should be based on proven ballistics, not because some people fancy them. They're great, spectacular performers, that's for sure, but as big game cartridges, I'm skeptical. Others point to the years of successful use in western states on big animals for some thirty years now. Minimum cartridge dimensions should ban the 22-caliber range of cartridges.

Donating venison

In the first year of a new venison donation program, Minnesota's deer hunters were generous. 78,000 pounds of venison were donated in 2007. Most of the deer meat came from areas in the state where there were a lot of the animals, the places where it was wise to thin the herds. The program provides that the hunters don't have to pay for the processing. Extra deer were taken in areas where wildlife management was needed. Minnesota's hunters killed 260,000 deer last season. Wisconsin is doing even better, with 518,000 deer taken and venison-food bank donations exceeded 4l4,000 pounds of venison in the Badger state.

Fishing with two lines

A bill that would permit a licensed angler to fish simultaneously with two lines has surfaced in the legislature. Putting two lines in the water would give an angler a try at different levels, and would perhaps permit the taking of a daily limit of say sunfish or crappies in less time. It is expected that allowing more than one line would encourage tourism, as many anglers come from faraway states, buy a short-term license and are here on our lakes for just a short time. Many like to eat some of their catch right away, others like to freeze the catch and take them home. The fate of the proposal hasn't been accurately determined yet, but it is being discussed.

Early opponents cite a greater harvest of game fish, with possession of more than the legal limit, a lot of this in the freezer. Our fisheries are pressed hard enough to provide fish numbers to be present and available in our lakes, and a sudden move to provide legal use of two lines seems to be out of place. Many of use aren't adept enough to successfully take fish with one line, so two baits in the water may not make a great deal of difference. Maybe the two-line proposal will have a short life, and get rejected quickly.

Extend the South Dakota pheasant season?

The ringneck capital of the world is considering it! The State's Game, Fish & Parks Commission agreed recently to consider extending next season's hunting time till the end of January.

South Dakota had a record season last year, but the fate of the farm bill with its Conservation Reserve Program is in doubt right now, and the fate of pheasant hunting everywhere is unknown. The extension of the shotgun hunting season makes sense to some and would definitely aid tourism. The incredible numbers of birds available on public and private lands with managed hunting may weather a modest extension. In this situation it amounts to about a month.

One million Browning Citori shotguns

Back in 1973, Brown introduced a successor to the Superposed. Built in Japan by Olin-Kodensa, one million of these guns have been sold. The over-under Citori with serial number one million was specially engraved and given to the National Rifle Association for auction at the NRA convention in Louisville, Ky., in May. The most popular of all over-under shotguns, it is a mainstay in the Browning line of imported guns, popular with Minnesota hunting for waterfowl and upland birds, as well as for sporting clays and trap shooting.

Pheasants Forever

The Pine to Prairie chapter of the Becker-Mahnomen area will stage its annual membership drive with a banquet scheduled for next Friday, the April 11. The affair will convene at 5:30 p.m., and pheasant hunters will learn of the chapter's efforts and successes in providing nesting and brooding habitat for roosters and hens. Come to the banquet and join us, in the Pheasants Forever organization, at The Bear Sports Bar, in Waubun.

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