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Reloading is back -- in a big way

Crafting your own ammunition -- the practice is returning in a big way. Faced with ever increasing prices for factory made center-fire cartridges and shotgun shells, hunters and participants in the clay target games are discovering what their forebears learned long ago -- handloading produces the best ammo and is a learning experience. There is a certain feeling of satisfaction in smashing a clay bird or dropping a big whitetail with ammo that you have created yourself.

How did it come to this? The once common practice of handloading center fire cartridges for hunting or target began to diminish in 1977 when the big three in ammunition manufacturing, Winchester, Remington, and Federal, began to offer "premium grades" of the product. In the shot shell lines, cheaper brands appeared, which gave satisfactory results for informal league rounds.

The centerfires offered the best in aftermarket bullets; lines such as Hornady, Speer, Barnes and Sierra were produced in factories.

At present, there is an unprecedented urge to buy up such factory rounds as the .308 Winchester, the .223 Remington and any semi-auto round used in handguns. And hunters soon had the idea that they couldn't equal the factory product by handloading.

But handloaders, being an ingenious lot, soon returned to reloading. The big makers are cooperating. Federal owns Allied Technology Systems, or ATK. This division includes a slew of companies that are widely known and recognized by handloaders as the best in the business. RGBS is one of these -- about the best there is. Their Speer bullet is another supplier. The current generation of hunters doesn't have the wide experience in home crafted ammo production, but the principles aren't difficult to learn, and soon a beginner will produce superior cartridges, fitted to your rifle. The reloading of shotgun shells is easy indeed, and significant savings can be made, now that a brief period of high priced lead shot has returned to near normal.

There are good handloading manuals available that answer all the questions. There are proven "recipes" of loads that are safe and satisfactory.

If you were once a reloader of both types of ammo, you should get back into making your own shells. It is satisfying, and saving money has returned.

The Northern Flight

The Northern Flight is more myth than anything. It's September, coming up tomorrow. In six weeks, hunters will be looking for a flight of blue wing teal and the annual migration of waterfowl. We look for high winds, a dip in the temperature, for an appearance. First, to head for the sunny south are teal, followed by pintails, then gadwall. The popular and recognizable mallards are among the- last.

Many factors influence when migration starts. Dropping temperatures and winds are identifying factors, but it is the sun that is a much more reliable indicator. Diminishing daylight and diminishing available food come into play as the birds attempt to pack on fat for the long, arduous flight to the wintering grounds. With feather growth and fat reserves ducks like to await favorable flying conditions. It is usually November when birds begin to flock and gather around existing open water. When freezing conditions hit the northern prairies, we hope our areas are still open and ice free so some of the birds will give us some shooting. Lack of water and cold local weather can cause ducks to over fly our area. Migration is a complicated picture that waterfowl biologists do not fully understand. North Dakota, with a lot of shallow sloughs, presents an appealing location for temporary stops by that northern flight, and it provides hunters with shooting.

There was a time 30 years ago when Little Detroit was a stopping place for redheads. Oh, how we had shooting for a week or less. Local hunters kept annual logs and were able to anticipate, to predict, arrivals.

Things change. Habitat, available food, perhaps the global warming trend all factor into the unpredictable picture. In a couple months migration, looking for those northerns will have hunters noting the weather, hoping, and wondering.

Remington Arms expansions

America's oldest gun and ammunition manufacturer is expanding. Last spring, the big green acquired Marlin Firearms in New Haven and has continued to manufacture and market the excellent line of Marlin lever action center fire and rimfire rifles. The top closure of the receiver in the Marlin 336 has always been a favorite for mounting a low powered scope for deer hunting.

Recently, Remington acquired Dakota Arms of Sturgis, S.D. This Black Hills outfit moved to more spacious factory quarters in upper New York state a few years ago, continuing to make really de-luxe center fire rifles. These beauties must be seen to believe. They're expensive, yes, but many men have been willing, apparently, to pay the price to get a top-of-the-line rifle. Now, it will be in the Remington stable, but will continue to be a semi-custom product, not influenced towards Remington's rather standard, competitive line of less costly, yet serviceable shotguns and rifles. Remington continues to be on the lookout for other arms-ammo acquisitions. Remington now imports a line of over-under shotguns from northern Italy. They're nice, cost less, and are selling well.

Sportsmen's club ends trap season

The Becker County Sportsmen's Club ended its 2009 trapshooting season with an awards banquet on Aug. 29. Honored as top gun was perennial winner Archie Wiedewitsch who posted a credible score of 481x500. Runner-up and Class A winner was Dave Veo with 479x500. Dave's teammate, Joel Jokela, was the Class B winner with 456x500 targets. Tony Friesen was Hi-Gun in the junior division with his 480x500 total. Sub-Junior champ was Morgan Nodsle, who is really beginning to hammer 'em! His total for the season was an excellent 430X500.

The club fielded ten adult teams this season and there were two junior teams competing each of the 16 weeks.

The club will have the gates open for practice shooting on Tuesday evenings as long as there is an interested number of shooters who want to extend the season a bit longer.

Club operated sighting-in for rifles used in deer hunting will be on as usual. Dates and regs will be announced here later on.

Geese: September 5

The early Minnesota goose hunting begins on Saturday, Sept. 5. Thousands of local waterfowlers will participate in it. Go hunting at locations where you've seen birds in the past few weeks. Go where the birds are. There's a lot of land that savvy hunters have leased, and usually it means success. But there are a lot of waterfowl production areas and wildlife management areas, owned by state or federal authority, that can provide hunting success, but, of course, there's competition. So get your blinds, decoys, calls and, of course, shotguns and ammo in line now, so you'll be a participant. The Minnesota early goose season has, in the past few years, been a happy and successful venture for a lot of dedicated goose hunters. This year should be no different. I've seen geese in all of the usually reliable locations. You usually don't need a huge spread of decoys for the early season. Usually a dozen or so will bring some birds in. Have a go at it this year, and get a big gander or a goose. Your family will love it when it is on the dinner table.