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The Winchester 30-30, Model 94 makes its return

It was in the fall of 1959 that I bought my first deer rifle. It was the Winchester 30-30, Model 94 carbine. There was no engraving on this standard model, the plain walnut wasn't checkered. It had the reputation of a reliable deer caliber, having already served for decades. Other, more powerful calibers were available back then, but the price of $39 was attractive, and I was familiar and satisfied with Winchester's guns.

The Model 94 Winchester sold well enough over the succeeding years, until the company was sold to employee owned U.S. Repeating Arms Company. But this group shut down the big plant in New Haven, and along with the famous bolt action, the Model 70, these two guns were no more.

But now, both have been revived, the Model 70 bolt gun is produced at a plant in Columbia, S.C. Come next November, you'll be able to buy this old 30-30 again. But it will cost money. Made in High or Custom grade, the new rifles have laser engraving, including Oliver F. Winchester's signature. The price will be $1,465, so not everyone will be adding one to his or her collection.

On the used gun market, a judicious shopper can locate one of these old timers for less than half of that. When acquired nowadays, the Model 94s are usually fired for function a few tines and then take an honored place in the new owner's collection.

Trap shooting etiquette

There are always a lot of brand new trap shooters on the line of the Becker County Sportsmen's Club trap league. The season's new shooters are there right now, and by observation and participation, are learning the accepted rules. If you don't learn the safe and sensible rules, you may not be welcome on the line.

First to remember is the rule of keep it open. If your shotgun is a pump or semi-automatic you should keep it open and unloaded except when right on the firing line. If it is a double or over-under, break it open.

Come to the line with 25 reliable reloads or new factory ammunition. You should always carry just two extras in the shell loops on your shooting coat. Take along shooting glasses and hearing protection too.

Fire promptly when it's your turn. Try to keep good squad rhythm, don't dawdle with excessive aiming. Shoot when your target appears, then dismount your gun and pocket your empty shell. Watch the shooter two positions ahead of you. Put a shell in your open when he calls pull for his bird.

When five rounds are fired, the scorer commands "move," turn to the right and advance to your next station. Keep the squad moving. Keep still when you're not up to shoot. Keep your voice down. Go over and congratulate the shooter who has "run 'em" with a 25 straight. Your time to do this will come soon enough. Keep trap shooting a safe sport.

Predators and habitat loss reduce western deer numbers

Sportsmen, environmentalists, and state biologists are debating over the major reasons for significant losses in deer numbers in the western states. Nevada, in particular, has been hard hit. Everyone is wondering whether large numbers of mountain lions, which roam the state, or coyotes and wolves are more to blame. Nevada has a targeted predator reduction program going on, but is it effective? Some claim that reduction of natural habitat, along with the always-constant wildfires are more the answer.

It is an emotional debate. Nevada's Jan Hefelfinger is attempting to find the answer and then concentrate efforts toward that issue.

In Nevada, the matter at issue is whether killing mountain lions and the coyotes that prey on the mule deer has the State Department of Wildlife at odds with the Federal and a governor-appointed commission that oversees them.

Nevada's mule deer numbered about 106,000 in 2009, brought down from a high of 240,000 in 1988. That's a big loss.

Hunters Alert petitioned the Nevada wildlife Commission to approve several lion-coyote killing groups. State biologists are listening to animal rights groups. Killing the predators isn't scientifically justified, they claim.

Officials with the Federal Fish & Wildlife Service say the pro-hunter hunter groups are doing a good job and that's the way it should go. The issue is heating up in court. Every group is fighting, nobody is compromising, and deer numbers continue to diminish.

"Hunters Alert," mentioned above, is one of Nevada's more vocal hunter groups, and is a force to be reckoned with in the western state.

The coyote is a local critter

Dedicated riflemen who pursue the coyotes know that there are plenty of them in these parts. Some of us see him as a very wild canine, which inhabits the vast grassy plains or the wilds of our western states. Yet, there are plenty of them hereabouts. There are more coyotes in the Smoky Hills forests than we believe, or in the more rural areas of Becker, Clay and Wilkin Counties. Coyotes aren't a migratory animal but they do move around quite a bit, probably following the availability of game upon which they prey. Hunting and trapping mounts or food supplies diminish like abundance or scarcity of rabbits.

A male coyote is about two feet high. He will weigh about 25 pounds, seldom much more.

Unable to compete with timberwolves, coyotes are known to be able to take down an adult deer when working in packs, but mostly they take newborns in deer, sheep, or wild game. They are carnivores and meat is what they're after. Black bears, cougar, great horned owls, and golden eagles may attack coyotes.

Hunting coyote means an accurate, long-range rifle, shooting a small speedy bullet at high velocity. Such rifles produce one-shot kills because the bullet impacts great shock. Scopes up to 12 power are used after the gun is carefully sighted-in. A coyote is speedy. He can't outrun a jackrabbit, but he can quite easily overtake a cottontail, or catch a squirrel on the ground.

Electronic callers are in common use with tapes that duplicate a rabbit in distress. Coyotes answer one another, and tapes that imitate these calls are sometimes effective. It often happens that more than one coyote will come up on a hunter's location, and multiple kills are quite common. It is a great sport, and once you've successfully taken a coyote, you'll get equipped to pursue this wild dog. Hunters are aware that coyotes need and seek out water, so hunting near a lake or stream is often productive. Local coyotes are quite often seen in the Abbey Lake area, but this is an area with quite a few homes, so hunting them at that location is something of a problem.