A new twist on whistle pig hunting

They say necessity is the mother of all inventions, and I wholeheartedly believe that and think that it is a wise saying. But I also think that if you show up every day, sometimes the light bulb just clicks — or maybe it’s just that since you are participating you just happen to inadvertently try some weird new twist and it works.

Whatever the case, people who do something often will have more tricks than someone who occasionally participates in that same activity. So with all of the above said, a week ago a buddy of mine, Christopher Robertson, and I went crappie fishing. For whatever reason, I threw in my Benjamin Marauder .22-caliber airgun and Chris threw in a .22. Good decision.

As we were driving into our hot spot, we started noticing quite a few whistle pigs out scurrying around. We suddenly went from crappie mode to whistle pig hunting mode. We shot a few and were having a good time. Of course, with the airgun, they pop back up faster than when using a .22 or especially a .17 HMR or a .223.

I guess it was turkey season, but I have never seen a turkey on the route that we were going to be driving, but Chris had thrown in a Quaker Boy Cyclone push box call just in case. We pulled up to a new spot and shot a couple of whistle pigs and then they went under. For whatever reason, Chris pulled out his Quaker Boy Cyclone push box and hit it a few times. Two or three whistle pigs popped up. I unloaded.

We pulled up to another new spot and shot a couple and of course they too stayed down after seeing their bros get wasted. Chris says, “I’ll try to call again.” Long story short, from then on after they went down, he’d say, “OK, you ready?” and I said “yep.” He’d hit the call and 99 percent of the time they’d start popping back up. We’re slow, but we were believers.

We shot whistle pigs for a couple hours and had a blast. Finally, we refocused and remembered we were supposed to be fishing. We finally reluctantly agreed that we had better finish our trek to the lake; after all, we had spent an hour packing our fishing gear.

I had to take out of town the next morning at 5:30 a.m. so we only had about five hours of fishing time. Well, theoretically, if we hadn’t of spent a couple hours shooting whistle pigs I guess we could of fished a bit longer.

I know I say this every two minutes, but gee I love Idaho in the spring time. How can you not? Between bear hunting, turkey hunting, mushroom hunting, whistle pig hunting and crappie fishing you can wear yourself out. Springtime in Idaho is flat out magical.

Any of the above activities could totally consume your free time, much less five of them. No wonder by the time spring has fizzled out I am flat out ragged out and swear off of anything outdoors for a couple of days to I can catch up on my sleep.

But then summer hits and it is off to the races again. Some day when I get old, I’m going to have to slow down. But in July my daughter and I have a big fishing trip planned to the historic Plummer’s Fishing Lodge in The Northwest Territories. That will be the best daddy/daughter date ever won’t it? I can’t wait.

Have a good Memorial day!

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana.

Hunting for morel mushrooms

Our old buddy Jack Sweet told my wife Katy and I that morel mushrooms are the second-best fungi in the world, second only to the truffle in England. I have never tasted a truffle, but morels are the best food in the world that I’ve ever tasted. If you haven’t ever picked them, then you’re missing out on the best food the outdoors have to offer.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, though, take an old timer with you the first season. Because if you accidentally pick the angel of death, well, let’s just say that you and God had better be pretty good friends.

Years ago, I thought, “You know, it’s crazy that I only feel safe picking one species of mushrooms. I spend all that time hunting and hiking around for them. Why not be able to identify three or four edible species?” So I took a class. But I’m still not comfortable, so I just pick two species.

But take heart, morels are easy to identify out West. (I hear that there are some false morels back East that you don’t want to eat.) I don’t know how many states have morels but quite a few do. Back in Nebraska and Iowa, picking morels is a big deal, according to one of my old bosses, but theirs come in season near the first to middle of April. Ours don’t come in season until the middle of May. And I went hunting today and only found one. So next weekend it should be show time.

Places that were good last year should be good this year. And last year’s forest fire areas are magical. I’ve filled up two 5-gallon buckets in a short amount of time in forest fire zones. So last year’s burns are the absolute No. 1 spot to hunt.

I’ve hunted morels for 39 years, so you’d think I could tell you where to be successful, but sorry, I can’t. I have a good spot that is just ever so slightly a depression and it has scattered skunk weed. But not all such spots even in that same locale have them.

Everyone tells you to look around old logs. Well I have news for you. There are a lot of old logs laying around in the woods and not all of them have morels. In fact, hardly any of them do. Today the only one that I found was just sitting by itself in the middle of a semi grassy spot in the woods. Nothing special. So it seems like they’re where they are.

But the general rule of thought is that when it finally starts warming up, and we get a shower, that triggers them to pop up. It was warm today, so I thought they’d be out but it’s just a hair too early.

The hardcore pickers admonish you to carry a cloth (open type of weave) bag to carry your freshly picked mushrooms in. This allows the spores to fall out. They also use a knife to clip them off at the ground so the root stays to help spread spores. At the La Grande gun show this year, I met Lars Hansen from Pendleton. He sells some cool Scandinavian knives, one of which is very unique. It is a mushroom knife and has a bristle brush on the hilt of the handle to dust off the dirt. It is a super cool knife and the handle is made out of reindeer horns and the sheath is made out of reindeer leather. You have to get one of these if you want to be a cool mushroom picker.

Morels are weather dependent, triggered by the temp and moisture. In talking to a lady once at the Forest Service office, she asked me if I had ever taken a temp of the dirt. No. Hmmm, maybe a good idea.

The surest bet is to go the Forest Service office or online and ask them where there were forest fires last year. There will be millions there. Look alongside, almost underneath logs laying on the ground. Nearly a guarantee that burned-out stump holes will have them. I think because they hold more moisture.

I’ve never marked one to see exactly how long they last before they deteriorate and start crumbling but I’m going to say only a few days. You want them to be firm and not crumbly.

There are a million ways to cook them but my favorite method is to crack a couple of eggs in a bowl and splash in a little milk. Pre-cut the morels lengthwise and soak in salted water in the fridge overnight to kill the bugs (although I always cook up a batch the first night).

After dipping in the egg mixture, roll in flour and throw in a hot skillet. When getting golden brown flip, brown the other side and then pull them out and wolf them down. While cooking, I sprinkle them with original Tony Chachere’s seasoning.

So when this weekend hits, get out there. But stay outta my spots!

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana.

Baiting for bears

It is that time of year — in fact, a little past that time of year. If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to start baiting for bears. Twenty-five years ago, no matter how deep the snow, you’d have found me snowshoeing in 5 miles, dragging a sled full of bear bait. Maybe I’ve slowed down, or maybe I’ve just gotten smarter, but now I wait until I don’t have to haul it so far. Or maybe I just don’t take as many kids bear hunting as I used to do, so I don’t have to worry about getting as many bears now as I have in years gone by.

It’s still smart to get your bait out early, but truth be known, if you’re having to snowshoe it in 5 miles, then the bears have hardly (if at all) come out of hibernation in your spot anyway. Plus, the first few weeks, their stomachs are queasy after fasting for four to five months.

I used to carry in meat, but after a long winter of not eating, meat is not the best choice. No doubt, I’ve hauled literally tens of thousands of pounds of meat up for bears to dine on, but there are better choices. They’ll come in and nibble on it, but if you throw out big chunks they’ll grab a piece and run off in the brush to eat. You want them staying in front of you.

So there are better choices for bait than meat. Small bait is better. By this I mean things like popcorn and dog food — stuff that they have to scoop up by the handfuls so they can’t grab a piece and run off and eat it in the brush, out of sight. They love donuts as well.

It works to pour old, used cooking grease over the top of your bait. They love that, plus they track it off from your bait, which leaves a scent trail in every which direction to draw in more bears. I also like to hang a scent bag so the thermals carry the scent up and down the mountains.

You’ll want to use a barrel for multiple reasons. First off, it keeps a bear from gorging and then leaving. Cut an 8-inch (or thereabouts, I’ve never measured mine) hole about two-thirds of the way up the barrel for the bear to reach in and retrieve bait. Make a smooth cut so they don’t cut up their arms.

Chain or strap the barrel to a tree. You’d be surprised how far a bear can roll, carry or whatever they can do to steal your barrel. One time I had a 20-gallon barrel set up for my old bear hunting buddy Roy Snethen. It disappeared. I finally found it out in the middle of a willow thicket. I don’t have a clue how they got it out there. I could hardly get it out with it thrown over my shoulder.

Once the bears start hitting your bait, you’ll want to keep it full. You don’t want it to get empty and then them move on. You want them staying around your bait. When they start hitting it hard, you’ll find their beds nearby. Many times in steep country they’ll lay on the uphill side of a big yellow pine. You’ll find their beds there.

At first, you’ll want to have scent bags hanging, but eventually, and hopefully, with them tracking out grease, you’ll have drawn in all of the neighborhood bears. And if at first all you have showing up are sows, don’t panic. That’s the best bait that you could have.

The later in the season it gets, the more important it is to sows around. They’ll start going into heat the end of May on into June. I’ve had baits with nothing but sows and small bears and then suddenly the big daddy shows up out of the blue.

And one last thing. You’ll want to get in the backcountry so hound hunters don’t run bears off of your bait. That’s frustrating to haul bait to a spot for three to four weeks, then take vacation and go set on your bait only to discover that someone has been running your bait.

Get a big one!

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana.

Favorite calibers

This column may sound a little disjointed, but I thought I would clear the air about my preference of hunting calibers, even though many couldn’t care less what my preferences are.

A few days ago, I was in the gun shop and purchased a couple of boxes of Remington Core-Lokt 180-grain cartridges, which I have been using in my .30-06 for as long as I have had the rifle. The salesman who knows me asked, “Don’t you prefer a .300 Weatherby Magnum for big game hunting?” I told him that it depended on what and where I was hunting.

I am not a one-rifle hunter and have several rifles I enjoy hunting with. I also have some favorite calibers that I have never owned but have shot at the shooting range or seen in action because one or more of my friends hunt with them.

So I will start with the calibers I actually own. First of all, I still have the .177-caliber BB rifle I used as a small boy to stalk dragon flies, as well as other insects, birds, squirrels and snakes I found on my father’s horse ranch. The BB rifle was a real challenge because it didn’t shoot exactly straight, but would veer a little to the right each time I fired. I had to guess how far left of the target to hold in order to hit my mark. I got pretty good at the Kentucky windage guessing out to about 30 feet, but had a problem hitting anything small beyond that range. I still have a large supply of BBs and shoot that rifle for fun every once in a while.

I absolutely love my .22-caliber, rim fire rifle. This is the rifle I learned marksmanship with on jack rabbit hunts on the Arco Desert with my father. It is also the rifle I first taught my children the principles of firearm safety and marksmanship with before moving them up to a .243 Winchester and .30-30.

Once my own children were grown and had their own children, I gave the .243 to my son-in-law so he would have a soft recoiling rifle for his own sons to hunt with. I wish I still had it and kick myself every once in a while for parting with it.

I still own the .30-30 my father purchased for me to hunt deer with when I was 12 years old. I haven’t hunted with it for several years, but still take it with me if I am scouting for game prior to hunting season, hiking or camping in the back country. I would rather have it with me and not need it than to need it and not have it. So far, I have not needed to use it when not hunting.

I have an AR-15 with a 4-power telescopic sight that I hunt coyotes with. The caliber is .223 Remington or 5.56mm.

I still hunt deer, pronghorn and elk with a .30-06 if I feel that the distance I will have to shoot will be 400 yards or less. It also will do a memorable job on bears or any large ungulates in North America.

I also have two percussion, black powder, 50-caliber rifles I like to hunt with. Out to 200 yards, they are very effective on deer-sized game if one understands the drop of a round, 300-grain lead ball.

I also hunt water fowl and pheasants with and old Winchester Model 50, 12-gauge shotgun.

That brings me to the .300 Weatherby that the gun shop salesman thought I hunted deer, pronghorn, elk or possibly moose with if I can ever get the tag for one. He was partially right. I choose the Weatherby if I think the distance I will get a shot is likely to be in excess of 500 yards. I prefer to sight that rifle to hit point of aim at 300 yards. That way I can aim at the center of the vitals of game and not be more than 6 inches high or low out to 400 yards and can hold over beyond that range.

Among my favorite rifles that I never have owned are the .240 Weatherby Magnum, .25-06, .257 Weatherby Magnum, .270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, .308 Winchester, .300 Winchester Magnum, .300-378 Weatherby Magnum, .340 Weatherby Magnum and the .375 H&H Magnum.

I’m not very impressed with the .264 Winchester Magnum because there is no reason in my mind for both the .264 and .270 Winchesters, and I prefer the 270.

I also don’t like the 6.5-300 Weatherby Magnum because the bore is too small for the amount of powder in a .300 Weatherby case and there are better, more efficient, calibers for long-range hunting of deer, prong horn, sheep, elk, moose, or any of the large ungulates in North America.

So there you have it. Basically I like most calibers that serve several purposes well or specific purposes magnificently. I prefer to get as much performance out of a caliber as I can without a disproportionate amount of gut wrenching recoil, but several of my favorites recoil harder than most people want to endure. Sometimes one has to decide if the advantages are worth the recoil.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at mokeydo41245@hotmail.com.

Texas hog hunt

When my buddy Bill Olson who owns Texas Outdoor Journal told me to grab a plane ticket because he had a hog hunt lined up with Slow Glow, I was ready. While at the gun range at the SHOT Show I’d talked to Jeff at the Caracal booth and told him we were working on lining up a hog hunt. He had me shoot their CAR814 A2 PATROL .300 Blackout. I fell in love with it right away. So when this hunt jelled, I contacted him about testing one out on a Texas hog.

Next decision — what scope should I put on it? We would be hunting over Slow Glows, which are LED lights that are motion activated and start slowly illuminating if something triggers them. So I decided to mount on a Riton Optics 2-7x scope. That would allow for fast target acquisition. Their marketing genius Justin also told me to take along their red dot sight and 3x magnifier. He thought I’d favor that for the close-up night hunting.

Now what ammo? I’ve heard a lot of good things about Nosler, so I went with their ballistic tip 125-grain Boattail ammo. The Slow Glow system is unique. If hogs are at the station, you come up behind the light and they can’t see you. Last year, the owner’s son Clint wanted to shoot one with his bow and four of us stalked up to within 15 feet of a whole sounder of hogs. So I sighted in the .300 Blackout for 20 yards.

And lastly what knife should I use? I’ve wanted a Puma skinner ever since I was a kid so that’s what I took to test on this hunt. I was now good to go.

I jumped out of bed at 3:30 a.m. and was off to Austin. Bill picked me up at the airport and we headed to the ranch. We met up with Murray and Clint Choate with Slow Glow and Eric Anderson with Roxor, which is an India-based quad company. They became famous for making parts for the Willy’s during World War II and the Korean war. Their quad looks just like a Willy’s to me.

Bill and I sat at one site and the others took off bow hunting. There was a full moon and with my 10×42 Riton Optics binoculars, I was able to pick out two hogs about 150 yards away and then two more behind us. Then a bunch of smaller ones ran out behind us.

We held off shooting them thinking they would come into the Slow Glow. They eventually started working that way but when they got to our side they must have winded us and shot off for the brush.

The next day, we moved to a different ranch. During the day we tested Roxor and did some filming. Clint is a super good photographer and has all the cool cameras and drones. In fact, last year he filmed an ad for the Super Bowl.

During the middle of the day, Clint took me around to get the layout of our hunting spots. Near dusk, we sat on a hill between our spots and waited. They have an app that alerts them if hogs are hitting a spot and then you scoot down there and do a stalk.

We had an alert but messed up the stalk. We went to check another spot, and they were moving in right when we got close. They were all around us in the brush and spooked every which way, but due to it being dark and in the brush we didn’t have a shot.

We went back and waited some more. Suddenly Clint said we’re up. We sneaked down to the site. Murray had thrown corn in a shallow pool. The hogs were out rooting in the mud and sounded like a herd of carp sucking. Clint and Murray call it snorkeling. You can hear them snorkeling before you even get close enough to see them.

Clint started filming and pretty soon gave me the thumbs up. They were on the other side of the pool snorkeling, probably 25 yards away. The Slow Glow had fully illuminated. I picked out the biggest hog and when the Caracal barked, hogs ran away squealing.

In the melee, I didn’t notice but the hog I shot at ran through the pond and come up over a small rise. When I saw her, she was coming in at 40 mph and didn’t turn until she was a mere 13 to 14 feet away.

We waited a few minutes and then started tracking. Good trail. There was blood on both sides of the trail which was good. That meant it had passed through and double lunged her. After a 60-yard trek, we came upon her. She was a huge 175-pound sow. We took a lot of pictures and then skinned her out with my new Puma skinner.

What a great night.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana.

6mm calibers for dual varmint and big game hunting

There are three 6mm caliber cartridges that are commonly used for hunting deer as well as varmints that my friends and I discuss, sometimes in loud voices, the merits of for the game animals we hunt. The loud voices don’t mean we get into knock-down, drag-out arguments, only that we some times have some spirited discussions concerning the calibers and loads we prefer for the different game animals we hunt if relegated to one rifle for both deer and varmint hunting.

So, if my friends will keep their hands where I can see them, I will try to discuss the different 6mm calibers that we all prefer for the dual purposes of deer as well as varmint hunting.

The three 6mm calibers we normally discuss are the 6mm Remington, the .243 Winchester and the .240 Weatherby Magnum.

The best marksman of the group prefers the 6mm Remington and uses an 80-grain, hollow-point bullet for smaller varmints, an 85-grain, hollow-point point bullet for coyotes and a 100-grain, spire-point bullet for deer.

The 80-grain bullet leaves the barrel of his 7-pound rifle at 3,100 feet per second, hits him with 5.3 foot-pounds of recoil and the recoil velocity is about 6.3 feet per second, which is pretty light, and accuracy is excellent. He prefers an 85-grain, hollow-point bullet for coyotes that leaves the barrel at 2,800 feet per second with 5.3 foot-pounds of recoil that comes back at him at 6.4 feet per second, which is still pretty light. His choice for hunting deer is a 100-grain, spire-point bullet that leaves the barrel at 3,100 feet per second, recoils with 10 foot pounds and comes back at him at 9 feet per second. Still, a pretty soft recoiling caliber with excellent accuracy out to a couple hundred yards.

The 6mm I am most familiar with is the .243 Winchester, which I gave to one of my sons-in-law because I don’t hunt varmints very much with the exception of coyotes, and I hunt deer, pronghorn and elk with a .30-30, .30-06 or .300 Weatherby Magnum. I still kick myself from time to time for parting with that rifle. The .243 is ballistically very close to the 6mm Remington, and that is where most of the loud conversations takes place. The .243 Winchester fires a 75-grain bullet at 3,400 feet per second muzzle velocity from an 8-pound rifle for 7.2 foot-pounds of recoil and 7.4 feet per second coming back at the shooter. It also shoots a 95-grain bullet at 3,100 feet-per-second muzzle velocity, with 11 foot pounds of recoil energy coming back at the shooter at 9.9 feet per second. The .243 also shoots a 100-grain spire point bullet at 2,960 feet per second, with 8.8 foot pounds of recoil energy, coming back at the shooter at 8.7 feet per second.

The .240 Weatherby Magnum was Roy Weatherby’s attempt to increase .243 velocities by about 300 to 400 feet per second. The .240 Weatherby fires an 85-grain Barnes TSX bullet from an 8-pound rifle at a muzzle velocity of 3,500 feet per second with approximately 10 foot-pounds of recoil energy, coming back at the shooter at about 10 feet per second. A 95-grain BST bullet exits the muzzle at 3,420 feet per second with approximately 15 foot-pounds of recoil energy coming back at the shooter at about 13 feet per second. A 100-grain soft-point or Partition bullet leaves the Weatherby muzzle at 3,406 feet per second, generating 17.9 foot-pounds of recoil energy and coming back at the shooter at about 15 feet per second.

When the .240 Weatherby Magnum was first introduced, it was only available in Weatherby’s expensive Mark V rifles and stayed that way until Weatherby’s Vanguard series of rifles were introduced. Now the .240 Weatherby Magnum is available for under $1,000 even though it is still a proprietary caliber.

All of the group agree that the 6mm or .243 caliber rifles are not long-range deer and pronghorn hunting calibers and the 75- to 85-grain loads should not be used on deer and pronghorn because they are liable to break up on tougher deer-sized animals. However, the 100-grain bullets have done very well out to 200 yards on deer and pronghorn by excellent marksmen.

All three of the 6mms discussed here are accurate rifles and allow for year round hunting of varmints and pests, as well as deer and pronghorn during the Fall big game hunting season. With the exception of the .240 Weatherby, they all have very little recoil that would intimidate youth hunters.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at mokeydo41245@hotmail.com.

Early crappie fishing 2019

I might as well cut and paste this paragraph and use it all spring. Springtime in Idaho is magical. We have ground squirrel hunting going on, turkey hunting, bear hunting, mushroom hunting and crappie fishing. You can wear yourself out, can’t you? So I’m running myself ragged right now.

But I had a Texas hog hunt last week. I got home after midnight Thursday and had a talk on Good Friday at the veteran’s home and then three seminars at Sportsman’s Warehouse on Saturday. My family loves eating crappie so I had to get out and see if they were hitting yet.

So I finally got a free day the Monday after Easter and called my buddy Christopher Robertson to see if he was free. He’s a fish-a-holic, so of course he signed up. I had to take Katy to an Aggie Muster that night so we left early so we could get in a few hours of fishing.

I figured we were a week or two early to catch them spawning, but you don’t want to be late, so I always start early. We slipped the jon boat out of the back of the truck and loaded up, and I ran up to park the truck. Chris caught something like four or five fish during that time period right by the boat dock.

My secret spot should be great so we jetted over — well, jetted as fast as my Minn Kota would jet. We were using 1/8-ounce jigs tipped off with tube jigs. This year, I started using Pautzke Crappie Fire Balls. They come in the colors of pink, orange, blue and gold and garlic or shad flavored. The Fire Balls are durable, well scented and prompt fish to bite. I will be using them this spring on my crappie fishing trips.

I also upgraded my fishing equipment and got some Field & Stream fishing rods. And probably just in time because I was attending to some menial task and laid my ultra-light rod off the back of the boat. A big crappie grabbed it and the rod jumped out of the boat like a high diver, never to be seen again.

We fished a while and were catching a few. They had not moved up yet to spawn so we fished out 30-50 yards from shore and that was the main area we were catching them at.

After a while, we decided it would be better fishing back at the dock so we went back and fished there a while as well as a few of my other spots.

Most of the bites were gentle so when they hit, start reeling. The way we were catching them is to cast out a jig tipped off with a Pautzke Crappie Fire Ball and let it sink to the bottom and then gently reel it in. Many taps came right away but we caught a lot of fish up close to the boat. Whether they had followed it up or were up that high feeding I can’t tell you.

To be successful I’d recommend using the Crappie Fire Balls. They are super slippery but very effective. To make them easier to hook, I put a few on my seat. They dry up fast so you don’t want to wait too long because they will really shrink. Just let them dry enough so they’re easier to handle, or I think if you took a little flour and rolled them in it you could grasp them better. I’m going to try that next trip.

Pretty soon it came time to leave, especially because we had to clean our fish before I took Katy to dinner. We caught 92 in five and a half hours. They’re still pre-spawn but will move in and start spawning any day now.

They’re just waiting on the water temp to rise a few more degrees.

I told Chris to keep fishing while I loaded the boat and he caught something like nine to 12 in that short amount of time. I have to get back this weekend. It might be hot.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana.

The all-American gun

Blackfoot is as much my home as Pocatello, because my mother and father grew up there, as did most of my aunts, uncles and cousins. My generation is pretty spread out now, throughout Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas, but we all manage to get back to Blackfoot as often as we can.

Whenever I am in Blackfoot, I like to stop in at Rupe’s for lunch. Rupe’s used to be one of those drive-in hamburger joints where waitresses on roller skates would come out and take your order and then bring it to you and hang it all on the window of your car. You can still do that if you like, but the waitresses just walk out and take your order, and there is also a pretty nice restaurant in the building now.

My favorite meal at Rupe’s is their All-American Burger with a chocolate milk shake.

That got me to wondering, if there was an All-American Burger, why isn’t there and all-American gun? And if there were, what would it be? A case could be made for any number of guns that have some historical value to most Americans.

As I thought about it, I decided that the Colt 1911 .45 ACP is what I think of as the all-American gun. As a matter of fact, I own two of them, a Commander and a Government Model.

During the Philippine-American War, from 1899-1902, the Army’s .38 Colt long revolver proved to be ineffective at reliably stopping Moro warriors in combat, and the Moro warriors were able to get with in striking distance of U.S soldiers with melee weapons even after being shot.

Existing supplies of the old Colt single-action .45 revolver and ammunition were issued to U.S. troops and the skirmishes with Moro warriors took a dramatic turn in favor of the U.S. troops.

After the war and several modifications, John Browning’s M1911 semi-auto design was accepted as the new official handgun of the U.S. Army. The new 1911 fired the now familiar .45 Automatic Colt Pistol round that rivaled the old .45 Colt round in most respects.

For over 100 years, that pistol and caliber have traveled with American troops into almost every crisis, hot spot and war the United States has participated in. It immediately earned the name The Yankee Fist among foreign countries that were issuing their own militaries 9mm semi-auto pistols.

The 1911 proved to be an effective and powerful weapon in the hands of U.S. expeditionary forces and was available to U.S. troops during the first World War and was still the issue side arm for U.S. troops during World War II.

During World War II, several American factories, including Colt, Remington, Singer and Ithaca, were called on to manufacture 1911 .45 Automatic Colt pistols for not only American troops but those of our allies also. Over all, 1.9 million 1911s were produced during World War II.

Almost from the time the 1911 became the Army’s standard-issue pistol, it was available to the general population, as well as criminals such as John Dillinger and others.

The late Col. Jeff Cooper, USMC retired, and the owner of Gunsite Academy in Paulden, Arizona, has emphatically declared that, “If you want to win, this is the gun you will carry,” while holding up a Government Model 1911 in .45 Automatic Colt Pistol.

Although the 1911 design is more than 100 years old, John Browning was way ahead of his time when he conceived the design and had Colt build the pistol. The new generation of polymer, striker fired pistols may be easier to disassemble and have larger magazine capacities owing to staggered loading in the magazine, but they can’t honestly claim better ruggedness or more reliability than the Browning designed 1911. People with smaller hands such as myself find that the 1911 fits our hands more comfortably than the polymer guns, which have larger grips and triggers that are harder to reach.

The 1911’s record as a bucking hand cannon is over-stated. Recoil is really more of a push than a hard snap to the rear if fired with the recommended stiff wrist. The action of the 1911 was designed to work off of a stiff wrist. Recoil is 7.5 foot pounds, which I have found I can teach almost anyone to be in complete control of for quick follow up shots.

Although the standard U.S. sidearm is now a 9mm for more uniformity with NATO troops world wide, the U.S Marines recently ordered twelve thousand Close quarter Battle Pistols (M45A1). The M45A1 is a 1911 built by Colt Defense with modifications such as a Picatinny accessory rail, night sights and a desert tan paint job. The pistols were distributed to both U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) and Special-Operations-Capable Marine Expeditionary Units.

In 2014, the U.S. Army announced they were holding trials for a pistol to replace the current M9 pistol, and I had hopes that the Army had come to its senses and would again adopt the 1911 as its standard issue pistol. However, two of the requirements were the pistol had to be modular and have very low recoil. The Army went on to select the Sig Saur 320, which is certainly a better built pistol than the M9, but it is still a 9mm, which many think is not powerful enough. Because it is modular, I suspect some of the troops will opt for the .45 Automatic Colt pistol caliber for specific operations.

Today, the 1911 still lives on in the hands of Marines and private gun owners everywhere.

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at mokeydo41245@hotmail.com.

Whistle pig five-fecta

Springtime in Idaho is magical. We have a flurry of outdoor activities. Bear hunting, turkey hunting, mushroom hunting, crappie fishing and, last but not least, whistle pig hunting! I love whistle pig hunting.

How can you not? It’s a low-key hunt, there’s a ton of shooting, and it’s a great hunt to start kids on. The last few years, I’ve written articles on the top three whistle pig guns and titled it “The whistle pig trifecta.”

I’ve been swamped this year with seminars and articles and have not gotten to whistle pig hunt as much as normal. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve gotten out, just not as much as I want. Now, I leave for Texas to hog hunt with a Caracal .300 Blk., Riton Optics scope, Puma SGB knives and Roxor quads. In the spring, even with extended daylight, there are still just not enough hours in the day.

But back to the trifecta. What is it when you have five guns instead of three? Is it a five-fecta? So with that, here are my top five guns I’ll be using this spring.


Don’t discount airguns as a good choice. They’re quieter, so whistle pigs pop back up faster, and they’re safer because they don’t skip across the prairies like others might. I use a .22 cal. as opposed to a .17 because they have better killing power. You’ll want to use high-quality pellets to obtain maximum accuracy. I’ve had good luck with their Premier Ultra Magnum Hunting Pellets and hit one last week at 66 yards. My Marauder is my most accurate airgun.

RUGER 10/22

Hands down the 10/22 is the most popular .22. No doubt in part because of the amount of after-market accessories available. I put a Boyd’s stock, Brownell’s bull barrel and a Timney trigger on mine (the only original part is the action). You’ll want to carry at least two 25-shot clips because when the shooting is hot and heavy it will feel like you’re only carrying five-shot clips.

This spring, I’ve been testing Federal Champion ammo and getting 1/2- to 3/4-inch groups, but with the CCI Mini-Mag .22 LR SHP ammo, I got a .15-inch five-shot group recently. That is as good as I get with Eley ammo, which costs five times more.


How can you not love a Henry .22 Magnum? Forever I’ve wanted a lever action .22 since jack rabbit hunting with a buddy who had one 40 years ago on the deserts by El Paso. But I’ve also wanted a .22 Magnum, so I opted instead for a .22 Magnum instead. In a pinch, I can even shoot hogs with it.

I’m using Federal 50-grain Champion ammo. I haven’t shot open sight in 100 years, so any inaccuracies are because of my lack of skills, but surprisingly with the Skinner sight that it came with I am getting some good groups and it’s performing great on whistle pigs.


Ever since the .17 HMR was introduced at the SHOT Show a few years ago, it has been a barn burner.

So for this spring I’m throwing in the Mossberg M817. Because I was going to be shooting small targets, I mounted on a Riton Optics 6-24×50 Scope. It is an awesome scope. It’s an adjustable objective scope, which is great because I’ll be shooting from 10 feet out to 150 yards.

For hunting this spring, I’m shooting CCI A17 Varmint Tip ammo. In case you wonder why people love the .17 HMR, CCI ammo zips along at 2,650 feet per second with their 17-grain bullets. That’s smoking hot.


You may think a .300 Blackout is a bit of an overkill, but in case I run into any mutant whistle pigs, I’m ready! OK, truth be known I’ve got a loaner Caracal to test on a Texas hog hunt, and I thought it’d be fun to also test it out on whistle pigs. At the SHOT Show, I stopped by the Caracal booth and told them about the upcoming hog hunt and Jeffery persuaded me to check out his .300 Blk. I immediately fell in love with it. It is a sweet shooting little gun. With their 30-round clips, I am ready to send multiple hogs to hog heaven.

I will be hunting with Slow Glow so I should be getting 10- to 20-yard shots, so I mounted a Riton Optics 2-7×32 on it. I’m only shooting at 20 yards but am getting down to .2 groups (Kicking out a flier) using Nosler Ballistic Tip 125-grain BT ammo. This will also be fun to hunt whistle pigs with.

Well, enough writing. Whistle pigs are attacking school kids at bus stops. It’s time to go out and do our civic duty and protect them!