Welcome to the host site for outdoor writer Steve Sorensen’s “Everyday Hunter” columns. For a complete index of all columns, go to EverydayHunter.com.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Look At the Havalon Knife

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, October 30, 2010.)

Is it sharp? You betcha!

When I was a kid watching my Dad draw his knife over a whetstone, I didn’t understand what that elusive quality called “sharpness” was. I wondered if sharpness was something that rubbed off one thing and onto another.

I knew that when something dry rubbed up against something wet, the dry thing would get wet. Was sharpness like wetness? Call me a confused kid.

Now I know what sharpness is, and I know that the work my dad was doing on the whetstone is a dying art. People don’t sharpen knives very often anymore, and when we do few of us can get the razor edge we need for the work we ask a knife to do.

Now I know that the angle of the edge is critical to lasting sharpness. I know that the edge of a truly sharp blade is perfectly smooth. And I know that a leather strop polishes that edge.

The knife that has all the qualities you need, and will always have them, is the Havalon Piranta. Is it sharp? You betcha! You’ll never use a sharper knife, and you’ll never have to sharpen it because the blade is replaceable surgical stainless steel.

You’ve seen lots of advertisements for cutting tools which use that word “surgical.” Usually it means almost nothing, but here it means everything. Why? Because these blades are actual surgical scalpel blades made by Havel’s, a long-time medical supply company. They’re the very same blades surgeons use in operating rooms across the nation. They wouldn’t use them if they weren’t the best.

I recently field dressed a deer with the Havalon Piranta. I barely had to touch the blade to the animal’s skin to start a small incision. I inserted the blade, sharp edge up, and opened the abdominal cavity like it had a zipper.

One of the difficult spots in field dressing is proper removal of what we politely call the “vent.” The elasticity of the tissues in that area make it a challenge to cut through with precision. The Havalon knife is so sharp that it slides right through.

If you use your knife to split the deer’s sternum and open the rib cage (something that’s really unnecessary), that’s a job for a bigger knife with a heavyweight fixed blade. The lightweight Havalon Piranta is a folding knife for cutting jobs, not splitting jobs.

Field dressing deer isn’t the only task that the Havalon Piranta makes easy. It’s perfect for small game. It’s ideal for trappers who completely skin animals from nose tip to tail tip. And it’s a huge asset to taxidermists whose work is close and precise, and who can’t take the time to sharpen a collection of knives. When a blade gets dull and begins to slow the work, they just change it and keep going. In fact, this is the knife my taxidermist, Jason Morrison of Buckhaven Wildlife Art in Sugar Grove, PA, takes hunting.

Who else uses Havalon knives? A buddy told me his Alaskan brown bear guides used them to skin his record book Kodiak bear, and wouldn’t let him touch the bear with the knife he brought.

The blade fastens onto the knife by locking into a keyed slot. Before using the knife, practice removing and replacing the blade a few times to get the hang of it. If you have to change it in the field be especially careful – a little blood will make it slippery.

Of all the models Havalon makes, I like the blaze orange one. It would be hard to lose. The handle comes in various styles of metal or ABS plastic, and it’s ergonomically designed. That means it fits your hand, and there’s just enough of a checkered rubber insert to make your grip sure, even when wet.

With the thousands of knives on the market today, why another? Because the Havalon Piranta is so good, it’s a worthy replacement for most any knife a hunter carries – except the one I watched my Dad draw across that whetstone those many years ago. Sometimes, I carry that one for sentimental reasons.

Order your Havalon knife, including 12 replacement blades, by calling 800-638-4770, or online at www.havalon.com.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tracy Schmidt’s New "Venison Wisdom" Cookbook

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, October 16, 2010.)

This cookbook will renew
your appreciation for venison.

Venison fans, grab your forks! Just in time for deer season, a new cookbook is ready to make this year’s deer the best you ever ate. WHAT? You don’t much care for venison? Get ready to change your mind.

Tracy Schmidt has been cooking venison for decades. Despite being married to Dan Schmidt, editor of Deer and Deer Hunting magazine, she has a choice. She brings home her share of the venison, fries it up in a pan (or otherwise produces culinary treats), and never ever lets you forget that venison is as tasty, as healthy, and as nutritious as any meat you can get.

Venison Wisdom is organized into two sections – Tracy’s personal top 100 recipes, plus another 100 she calls “the best of the rest” including over 30 from family, friends and others – a list that reads like the “Who’s Who of Deer Hunters”: Charlie Alsheimer, Mark Drury, Ted Nugent, Bob Robb and many more. Each recipe is keyed to roasts, steaks, chops – whatever type of cut you’re cooking.

The two main sections each contains five chapters so you can focus on what you like best: Herbed, Seasoned & Spiced; Mushroom-Enhanced; Soups & Stews; Sweet & Savory; and Tomato-Based. Tracy offers something for every taste. If you’ve wondered how to use venison in pizza, quesadillas, stir-fry, wraps and more, you’ll find great ideas. And, every recipe uses ordinary ingredients, so you can make a meal on short notice.

One of the interesting features of the book is what I call “venison factoids” at the bottom of nearly every page. They’re fun to read, and describe everything from secrets to the best venison flavor to the important place of venison in man’s history. Plus Dan Schmidt offers a chapter on “Bloodtrailing and Equipment Tips,” essential to recovering the groceries after the shot. And, this book has what every good book needs for easy reference – an index.

The plastic comb binding means the book will rest flat on your counter for easy referencing during use. If you don’t have a good venison cookbook, here’s the one to buy. And if you do, give this one a try – it will renew your appreciation for venison. Order online from Tracy's own website at VenisonWisdom.com, or get it at your local bookstore.

While you’re waiting for it to arrive, you have Tracy’s permission to sample a couple of recipes:

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Call It “the Cher” If You Like

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, October 2, 2010.)

Bullets aren’t necessarily
the caliber they say they are.

Way back a hundred years ago, if people had agreed on a standard way of naming cartridges, life would be a whole lot easier for hunters and shooters.

Maybe you know that the .30-06 has its name because it’s a .30-caliber cartridge invented in 1906. Most hunters do. The “aught-six” is a centenarian, still with plenty of vigor.

Did the .25-06 also originate in 1906? No. Remington conceived it in 1969 by squeezing the .30-06 neck down to hold a quarter-inch bullet. Its name is just a hat-tip to its daddy.

So if we neck down a .30-06 case to hold a .28 caliber bullet, would it be called the .28-06? Nope. We’d call it the .280, and it shoots a .284" bullet. The .27 caliber child of the .30-06 is named the .270, and it shoots a .277" bullet. That’s a difference of a mere .007". Make sense yet?

The .30-06 has spawned a whole family of cartridges, and ego sometimes played a role in the name. Colonel Townsend Whelen had the idea of supersizing the aught-six to a .358" bullet, and called it the .35 Whelen. Then there’s the .338-06, which inherited the “-06” surname just as the .25-06 did.

Bullets aren’t necessarily the caliber they say they are. I once thought all .30 caliber bullets were .308" diameter. Then I met the .303 British, a relative slowpoke among most .30 caliber bullets. It measures .311". I don’t know why it’s not called the .31 British.

Another .30 caliber, a military veteran named the .308, also fathered a big family. Its name is its exact diameter. A couple husky kids followed in that lineage, the .338 Federal and the .358 Winchester.

The .243 is a small child of the .308, but it doesn’t shoot a .243" bullet. It shoots a .244" bullet. There’s a young upstart in that family with a metric name, the 7mm-08, but not because it started life in 1908, or 2008. The “-08” is simply a nod to the original bullet diameter of its parent case.

As a soldier the .308 was called the 7.62 NATO to accommodate the European members of the North American Treaty Organization. Europeans use the metric system not only for bullet diameter, but also for the other principle dimension of a cartridge – its case length. Thus, the 6.5 x 55mm is a cartridge with a bullet that’s 6.5mm in diameter, shot from a case measuring 55mm long. Then there’s the 7 x 57mm, almost a twin to its American cousin, the 7mm-08, but a little bigger and a little longer.

The metric system is mainly a European method of naming cartridges, but the 7mm-08 has no European genes. Its brother is the 6.5mm-08, more commonly known as the 260. Born in 1997, it’s a babe in the woods, as rifle cartridges go.

Another European name, the 5.56 x 45mm, is what we Yankees call the .223. It fires a bullet measuring .224", same as the .222, the .225, the .22-250, and several others. It’s another military recruit with the metric name 5.56 NATO. By the way, the 5.56 actually measures 5.7mm. Who knew?

What can make the world of guns and cartridges even more bewildering? Advertising. Yep, the ad men have done their part to baffle shooters.

Along about 1915, Charles Newton was trying to develop a new whiz-bang cartridge shooting a .257" bullet. The idea was for advertising men to brag that it pushed a 100-grain bullet along at a blistering (for the time) 3000 feet per second. It fell short, but succeeded at getting a bullet weighting 87 grains to go that fast, so the new baby was christened the .250-3000.

Then there’s the .222. Some people call it the “three deuces,” but its actual name often stands alone. Kinda like Cher. It has waned in popularity since its introduction at mid century. Kinda like Cher. In fact, for all the sense cartridge names have, if you invent a new one you could call it “the Cher” if you like.

If anything is clear from all this, it isn’t much. And don’t start thinking about magnums. The term “magnum” has no definition, other than, I suppose, “Here’s a bullet that goes a little faster than you might think. Maybe.”

Lucky for you, I’ve run out of space.