Why SCI?

Tom Loy of Tallgrass Gordon Setters with his dog Pete.
Tom Loy of Tallgrass Gordon Setters with his dog Pete.

Today, sportsmen and women face increasing pressure from anti-hunting groups that are looking to restrict our rights to manage wildlife through regulated hunting. These organizations have a loud voice, and hunters desperately need a conservation group that will work to protect our rights to hunt and fish now and in the future. That group is Safari Club International, or SCI. Don’t be fooled into thinking that SCI’s primary interests lie overseas or that you must be a world traveler to become a member. On the contrary, SCI protects your rights in your backyard. If you hunt, this organization is here to protect you. Hunters are a key component to the successful conservation of wildlife across this country, and more than any other single group hunters contribute to the well-being of wildlife. For example, in 2011 696,000 hunters and anglers in Arkansas (both residents and non-residents) spent $1.55 billion, which was higher revenue than the state realized from total soybean production ($1.42 billion) and supported 25,393 jobs in the state, more than the largest employer, Wal-Mart. Sportsmen and women generated $163 million in state and local taxes, enough to support the average salaries of 4,446 police officers, and that’s just in one state.

So, why SCI?

SCI is the mouthpiece for those hunters and anglers and millions more across the country. When Maine’s bear hunters needed aid last year in the face of legislation that would limit hunting SCI was there. When Virginia needed help to overturn a ban on Sunday hunting SCI was their voice. When road closures were proposed to limit access and undermine management practices it was SCI that stepped in. No matter what you hunt or where you live, SCI is standing in to protect your rights.

SCI is a conservation organization first and foremost, and the SCI Foundation is funding scientific research to determine the health and status of a variety of North American wildlife. The Hunter Legislation Fund and SCI Foundation funded the reintroduction of wood bison into the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The organization backed the Michigan Predator-Prey Project to determine the effects of populations of large predators on species like white-tailed deer. In 2011, the SCI Foundation partnered with Montana Fish, Wildife and Parks to fund a study on the influence of predation, habitat and nutrition on elk herds in the Bitterroot Valley. The list goes on and on.

The North American model of conservation is the most successful in the world, and at its core are hunters. Now more then ever, we need a voice, and that voice is SCI. If you’re a hunter then SCI is the organization that will stand with you, both locally and in Washington D.C., to protect your rights. For more information visit http://www.safariclub.org.

CZ and CT

Crimson Trace Railmaster Pro (8)

Recently, I had a chance to travel to the Crimson Trace factory near Portland, Oregon and test some of their products on their indoor range. I was comparing guns with and without lasers, shooting defensive targets from eleven to twenty feet, when the team at Crimson Trace threw me a curve ball. They dropped the lights.

With the lights down, Crimson Trace’s new Rail Master Pro, with its light and laser combo, made it possible to shoot accurately even in very poor light. We all live under the assumption that if we have to use lethal force to save our lives it will happen in full daylight. That’s when we practice, and that’s what we expect. But the truth is that dangerous encounters happen in all light conditions, and if you’re serious about defending your life you need to give yourself every advantage possible.

One shooting session in poor light is enough to convince you that you need a light and laser if you’re serious about surviving a deadly encounter. After the session, I mounted my own Rail Master Pro on CZ-s new P-09 semiautomatic 9mm. The P-09 follows in the footsteps of CZ’s other guns in that the slide actually fits inside the rails of the frame rather than over the top. It’s a hammer-fired double-action pistol with a convertible decocker/safety, a polymer frame with interchangeable back straps, Tritium night sights, and a hefty 19 round capacity, all with a magazine capacity of 19 rounds. MSRP is $596 (www.cz-usa.com)

The CZ/CT combo has proven to be very effective. The gun is well-balanced and very accurate, and the Rail Master Pro makes it possible to shoot accurately in any light conditions. MSRP for the Rail Master Pro ranges from $279 to $379, and I think it’s money very well spent (www.crimsontrace.com). With the Rail Master Pro in place, the CZ is a fantastic home defense gun, accurate and reliable with the added security of knowing that you can light up the fight.

Bear Hunting with Lasers


Alberta is a hunter’s paradise, with thousands of acres of roadless wilderness and an abundance of big game that includes black bear, elk, moose, mule deer, and some of the largest whitetails to be found anywhere in North America. In May, I traveled to Grand Prairie to hunt with the team from Crimson Trace at Red Willow Outfitters (www.redwillowoutfitters.com). While lasers are most often considered a tool for defensive handguns, their use for hunting is growing in popularity. Where legal, lasers offer an advantage in low light and allow for rapid target acquisition, especially on a dark target like a black bear.

It didn’t take long before bears began to show up, and the first one that approached my stand slipped in quietly from behind my position. It’s an unnerving feeling to hear the crack of a limb behind you and to suddenly see the long shadow of an unseen bear walking directly beneath you. As it turned out, that bear was aware of my presence (probably smelled me) and barreled back into the woods with a whuff and a great deal of tooth-popping. 

Later in the hunt, I managed to take two fantastic bears, but not before we stumbled upon an enormous track (possibly a huge black bear, possibly one of the area’s scattered grizzlies). We switched stands to avoid being at close quarters with a griz, but before the weeks was out I’d seen over twenty black bears at close range. For me, the greatest thrill was having the opportunity to be up close and personal with some of North America’s most magnificent predators and to observe their interactions for hours, an experience I won’t soon forget. The Ruger American Rifle I used was outfitted with a Redfield scope and Railmaster Laser from Crimson Trace, and the rig worked extremely well. Articles to follow in several magazines!


The Best Handguns for Beginning Carry

In this month’s issue of Handguns Magazine, I examine ten of the best handguns for beginners. With millions of new gun owners and concealed carry permit holders, there is a huge market for compact firearms. It’s difficult to say which one is right for you, and, like the style of car you drive and your haircut, it’s largely a matter of personal taste. Be wary of anyone who knows “the perfect gun for you” and take the time to find out which guns suit your needs. One of the very best places to do this is the NRA Convention, which happens to be in Indianapolis next week. You won’t be able to buy a gun, but you’ll have the opportunity to look at, pick up, and hold (none of the guns have firing pins) dozens of different guns and get expert advice from professionals in the field.

          I go into much more detail in the Handguns article, but if you’re a rookie gun owner I’ll give you two pieces of advice; find a gun that suits you, and practice often. Revolvers are, as a general rule, simpler to operate than semiautos, and many people purchase a compact revolver for concealed carry. Maybe it’s the right choice for you, maybe not, but you’ll need to try out (that means shoot, if possible) several different firearms. The second piece of advice I’d give is that you need to practice with your gun until you are proficient. Buying a gun for self defense and never practicing with it is useless, and it provides a false sense of security. If you’d only driven a car once or twice in your life how difficult do you think it would be to navigate icy roads on the freeway at rush hour? It would be almost impossible, in part because you don’t have the experience and also because your mind will be so focused on the danger that you won’t be able to think about driving. You need practice so that you can handle that type of situation, and you need to be comfortable with your vehicle if you want to have any chance of getting home alive. The same goes for a concealed firearm.

          Be safe, find a gun that suits you, and shoot often. If you’re a newbie, that should be your creed. And, believe it or not, when you find a gun with which you are comfortable and you learn to use it safely and effectively, shooting is a lot of fun.

          For more information about concealed carry for beginners check out Handguns Magazine at http://www.handgunsmag.com  Image

Heli Hogs


Whether they are called feral swine, Russian hogs, or wild boar, America has a pig problem. Over the last ten years hogs have spread across the country at a rapid rate, and today these feral pigs are found in 45 states including Michigan, Oregon, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Pigs can begin breeding at six months of age and females can produce upwards of 20 piglets a year, and currently wild boar populations are increasing at an enormous rate. Once a rural problem that plagued farmers and ranchers, pigs are now a major nuisance in subdivisions and urban areas, rooting up lawns and gardens. So far control methods haven’t worked well and the population of wild swine continues to spread and increase at a rapid rate.

      In March, 2014 Eddie Stevenson of Trijicon invited me to help with an aerial hog eradication operation in Texas. It would require riding in a four-seat helicopter with Kyle Lange of Lange Helicopters and helping to control population size by shooting pigs in one of the areas worst affected by the explosion in pig numbers near Lubbock, Texas. This technique is expensive but highly effective and has become the best option for many areas where pigs are displacing native game. Arid regions like west Texas offer little water and grass, so when the pigs moved in native deer and other game died off. Hopefully, over time, pig populations will come back under control before they spread to every state, but that’s unlikely. Until then, hunters will do their best to help hold feral swine populations in check.

Look for upcoming articles on this hunt in Gun Digest, Peterson’s Hunting (online), and Outdoor America magazines.


Show Season


   January is show season in the firearms and hunting world, and that means a lot of travel and a little sleep. But it also means that we have the opportunity to visit with old friends and check out the latest products for the upcoming year. The Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trades show, better known as SHOT, occurs in Las Vegas every January, and many companies use that as a launch for their newest items. For the firearms enthusiast, here’s a rundown of some of the best new guns of SHOT:

Smith and Wesson’s (www.smith-wesson.com) new Performance Center 986 is one of the highlights of the show for me. This seven shot 9mm revolver is built on the company’s L-frame and boasts a lightweight cylinder, flat-profile barrel, and a fantastic trigger. Like the R8, the 986 challenges the old notion that semiautos are the only choice for self-defense

Benelli (www.benelliusa.com) has launched their new Ethos, a lightweight, upgraded version of their Legacy shotgun. The new Ethos has dampers in the stock that help absorb recoil, and this shotgun is softer on the shoulder than any Benelli past. I used it on pheasants in Ohio and was very impressed.

Browning (www.browning.com) introduced their new Black Label compact .22, which is built on a polymer 1911 frame that has been reduced by 15 percent. The Black Label is also available with an accessory rail, and this has to rank as one of the most exciting new guns at the show.

Mossberg (www.mossberg.com) is launching a new Duck Commander line of shotguns based on the company’s 500/535/835 and 930/935 line of shotguns as well as a series of .22 pistols and rifles that bear the Duck Commander name.

If you’d like to see these guns and many others I suggest that you attend the NRA Show, which is open to the public and is going to be held in Indianapolis, Indiana beginning April 25. Hope to see you there!  

Return of the Red Label


  When I was in college, I was a member of our university’s trap and skeet team. I’d grown up with pumps, and although they are great field guns, I needed a legitimate competition gun to shoot at school. Like most other college kids, I didn’t have a lot of money, so I put a Ruger Red Label on layaway and paid it off a little bit at a time until I could take the gun home. I broke my first 25 and 50 straight targets with that Red Label, and I eventually carried it to the collegiate championship in San Antonio, Texas. It was a great gun, and I really enjoyed shooting it, but I foolishly sold the Red Label after I got out of college, a mistake I still regret. When Ruger ceased production of that gun in 2011 I was a little sad, viewing it as the end of an era. However, the Red Label is back, and now it’s better than ever. Ruger now builds the Red Label with a one-piece receiver and all parts are CNC machined for the utmost reliability. This month, I had a chance to shoot the revamped Red Label and really enjoyed the new gun. It fit and felt like the old Red Label, but it has less recoil and more standardized parts. Ruger is back in the shotgun game, and the new gun is better than the outgoing model. See my full review of the Red Label in an upcoming issue of Gun Digest magazine or visit www.ruger.com for more details.