In chemistry, a catalyst is defined as something that facilitates or accelerates
a process that would proceed slowly, if at all, in its absence. Catalysts play a
very important role in creating the quality of life that we enjoy today --
whether we're talking about producing life-saving pharmaceuticals, high-tech
composites for lightweight fly-rods, skis and bicycle frames, or more durable
rubber compounds for longer-lasting safer tires for your work truck. Catalysts
make important contributions to our everyday lives. What does all this have to
do with leverguns? Well.
A number of years
ago Bob bought a Rossi .357 Magnum levergun. He wanted to learn more about it's
care and feeding, so he did some searching online. One of the resources he found
was sixgunner.com (hosted at that time by Jim Taylor), as well as the related
sixguns.com (hosted by John Taffin). Bob asked his questions and got some good
answers, and was generally pleased with sort of people he found frequenting
these sites. He hung around and adopted the nickname "fatboy" as that was his
nickname among his cycling buddies (Bob is an avid bicyclist). He was one of
several "regulars" at these sites who hailed from the Pacific Northwest.
A certain element
of camaraderie started to gel among the PNW regulars and it was decided that we
needed to get together to shoot, talk guns, tell tall tales and maybe have a
barbeque. The first of these gatherings was organized by Caz, down in Albany,
Oregon. As I pulled up to the gate on that cool, foggy Saturday morning I found
Bob was the first person there, eagerly waiting at the
gate to be let in to the range -- his
enthusiasm was contagious, and soon the whole crew was laughing and shooting and
telling tall tales and eating Caz's delicioso carne azada. We had about 15
people show up for that gathering and a grand time was had by all. These
gatherings have since become tradition, held every summer, the weekend after the
4th of July weekend. The company and the food are excellent.
Over the years, we have become good
friends, and we have had Bob and his delightful wife Audrey as guests in our
home. We have hunted together, we have plinked together, we have made a few
trades, and we have cooked together (Bob is a good cook). Bob had taken a
fair amount of game over the intervening years, but he still hadn't blooded that
little Rossi .357 -- the levergun that had taken him online and led him to a new
circle of friends. It was time, and Bob decided that bustin' a big feral hog
would be just the way to do it.
The trip was planned for late February.
There would be three of us hunting on this trip -- Bob, Steve and myself. Steve
had joined the PNW Sixgunner gatherings over the last few years and is
fascinated by classic old rifles, powered by classic old cartridges (i.e. he has
good taste!). He has recently taken up the timeless art of bullet casting and
this trip would mark the first time that he would be hunting with bullets he
made himself. It promised to be a memorable trip!
The three of us met up at the hunter's
cabin on the Clover Creek Ranch in central Oregon. The weather had been rainy
and cool, so the area around the cabin was quite muddy. We got a fire crackling
in the fireplace, and the cabin warmed right up as we off-loaded our gear into
the mud-room. We had appetizers around the wood-burning stove and then had a
dinner of grilled german sausage, sauerkraut, coarse-ground mustard and salad.
After dinner, we had a show-n-tell of guns, knives, and all the other stuff that
hunters tend to go ga-ga over, then settled in for some serious story-telling
and world-class pontificating. A most enjoyable evening!
The next morning started early with Steve
cooking breakfast of home-raised ham and bacon, eggs, juice and coffee. We were
out of the cabin and hunting before sun-up. We started off by working our way
down a finger-ridge where Bob and I had found some bedded hogs on our last trip
to this ranch. Sure enough, there were a couple of nice black-n-white boars
nestled in their beds in these juniper woods. We decided to pass them up since
we weren't sure if they were the size we were looking for, and besides it was
the first hour of the first day and we didn't want the hunt to end so soon. We
moved on. We hunted the bottoms, we hunted the highlands, we saw Asiatic water
buffalo, we saw fallow deer, we saw bison, and we saw myriad colors, sizes and
varieties of goats and sheep (including one old Ibex ram that had real
character). We saw lots of critters, but we did not see the size of hogs that
Bob and Steve were looking for, so it was back down to camp for lunch and Bob's
home-made bean soup.
After lunch, Bob decided he wanted to go
back and take a closer look at the black-n-white boars we had seen that morning,
so we headed back to the top of that finger-ridge. We worked out way through the
junipers, and eventually Bob worked his way back out into the open, where he
found a group of hogs, of many different sizes and colors, including one big ol'
black-n-white boar that weighed 650-700 lbs. He got himself into position and
from close range used the little Rossi
levergun to plant a 180 grain WFN cast
bullet into that boar's brain, entering just behind his left eye. The boar went
down quickly. This was a well-muscled boar, with a nice set of tusks. Bob had
been given orders by his wife to shoot a pig that was "big enough to have some
bacon". He was successful in achieving his directive!
We had an early breakfast the next morning
and got started hunting right away. Steve and I went out to find him a good
sized hog to take home. Steve was hunting with an 1880s vintage Phoenix rifle,
single-shot .45-70. The Phoenix is similar to the Remington Rolling Block (very
similar frame), except that instead of having the breech-block roll backwards to
open the action, on the Phoenix it flips over the right side of the action.
Steve's rifle is in nice shape, and has a very good bore. He was hunting with
the Gould hollow point (Lyman/Ideal 457122), loaded to about 1500 fps. The Ideal
457122 was designed by John Barlow back about 1890 for A. C. Gould, who was the
editor of "Shooting and Fishing" magazine (Barlow actually designed 3 different
HP bullets and Gould chose the middle one, which weighed 330 grains, and it has
been known as the "Gould bullet" ever since). In recent years, a number of
sources have criticized the Gould bullet as being too destructive and expanding
too rapidly to be useful as a big game bullet. I disagree. It must be kept in
mind that the Gould bullet was designed as a black powder express bullet, and
was intended for velocities on the order of 1300-1500 fps. The fact that it
can be driven over 2000 fps from a modern levergun (e.g. the Marlin 1895)
doesn't make it structurally well-suited for such velocities. The Gould bullet
is a fine bullet for hunting big game, but it does its best work at moderate
velocities, where it is a killer of the first order. Driving it faster is
counter-productive. Steve was using it properly, at moderate velocity.
Having passed up some hogs the day before,
Steve was eager to find a good pig on the second morning and see how well his
carefully hand-cast bullets would do their job. As we worked out way down
towards a small pond below where Bob had shot his pig the day before, we heard
some deep grunting coming from the creek channel above the pond. I took Steve's
pack and waited back, out of the way while he stalked this deep-voiced hog.
Several minutes later, I heard the report of Steve's .45-70, immediately
followed by a loud squeal. As I worked my way down the hillside, there was some
loud thrashing coming from a thicket off to my left. As I moved in to help out,
I see a large black-n-white boar, hit hard, struggling to move through the thick
stuff on three legs. The next thing I see is Steve moving in from the opposite
side, peering into the brush trying to see where his boar is so he can finish
him off. Oops! My mistake! I am directly in Steve's line of fire and he doesn't
know I'm here. I should have been calling out to Steve my whole way down the
hill so he could keep track of where I was, but I hadn't done that. "Steve!
Don't shoot! I'm directly behind your pig. He's right in front of me, hit hard,
but still on his feet. Do you want me to shoot?"
"Thanks for calling out Glen. I didn't
know you were back there. Yes, shoot him. I can't see him from here" came
Steve's response. The boar hobbled around to my left (so I wouldn't be
shooting towards Steve), so I drew my .44
Special and shot him twice through the lungs, and he went down hard. Steve came
up through the thicket and put a finisher in, just behind his ear. This was a
BIG pig! It was estimated that he weighed a little over 700 lbs (hanging weight
of the meat went over 350 lbs).
Steve's first shot had entered low in the
boar's left shoulder, breaking the leg and passing low through the chest cavity,
just cutting the heart and damaging the first couple of inches of both
lungs before it exited through the far-side ribcage. The Gould bullet had
expanded nicely, and punched right through, leaving a large exit hole in its
wake. My .44 Special was loaded with the Lyman 429251 hollow point (BHN = 8),
loaded over 17.0 grains for 2400 for 1235 fps. One of my lung shots exited. We
found the other under the hide on the far-side, expanded to approximately .60
caliber and weighing 194 grains (original weight was 241 grains). Steve's boar
also sported a nice pair of tusks.
On this particular tip, I wasn't looking
for a hog. I had been inspired by my good friend Rob Applegate when he shot his
buffalo a couple of years ago. It was time for me to shoot a buffalo. The first
group of 14-15 buffalo that we tried to stalk were very spooky and took off for
the horizon when I peaked over the hill to see if there were any young "meat
bulls" in the herd. They had been hunted before and were not going to have
anything to do with any human that was trying to sneak up on them. Oh well, keep
hunting. Later that afternoon we happened across another group of 14-15 buffalo,
this time bedded down in some thick juniper woods. I made a stalk that got me
within about 30-35 yards of the herd when we reached a stand-off -- they were
all tightly bunched together, looking at me, and there I stood with my Freedom
Arms 454 Casull, looking at them. There were several meat bulls of the
appropriate size/age in this group, but with them all bunched together, I
couldn't shoot for fear of shooting through one and hitting a second animal.
Finally, the lead cow (who was HUGE!) slowly sauntered off into the thick stuff
off to the left, and the herd slowly started to follow. Eventually, I got an
unobstructed shot opportunity at a young meat bull. The Freedom Arms revolver
came up and the front sight blade settled on the young bull's shoulder. The 454
roared and the young bull reared up on his hind legs, like a stallion. All of
this played out for me in slow motion, with my attention focused on the clearly
visible bullet hole, low in his left shoulder. He came down on three legs and
charged forward to re-join the departing herd. Then a strange thing happened,
the herd gathered around him and neighboring animals leaned in to hold him up. I
have read of elephants "shouldering" a wounded comrade up to aid in their
escape, but I have never heard of this happening with buffalo.
Anyway, after about 10 seconds, as
though someone had flipped a switch, the herd turned as a unit and walked away
from the wounded bull, as though to say, "Sorry, we can't help you.". As the
solitary bull stood there with his head sagging, I snuck into position and from
about 25 yards away put a second shot though his lungs. He raced forward for
about 20 feet and then went down for good.
The 454 was loaded with the Lyman
454629 GC-FP (water-quenched WW alloy, BHN of about 18), loaded over 30.0
grains of H110 for about 1650 fps. The first
shot had entered low in the left shoulder, breaking the leg, cutting the heart
and damaging both lungs before exiting the far-side ribcage. The second shot had
center-punched both lungs and exited. Study of both wound channels revealed that
neither bullet had expanded appreciably. This bull was 3 to 3 1/2 years old,
weighed about 800 lbs, and was in beautiful shape.
All in all, this was a muddy couple of
days, and we covered a lot of ground in order to find the animals we were
looking for, but when it was all said and done, it was a great hunt with good
friends. And Bob's little Rossi was the catalyst that started it all!