From: Meridian, ID: I’m a bit concerned. Over the past few months – summer, basically – I’ve noticed myself often getting a glass of water when I’m thirsty. I mean instead of a bottle of beer or a gin and tonic. What’s happening to me, Doctor? Is this something that happens to guys when they get older? Like snoring, or getting a skosh hard of hearing? Am I becoming a (gasp) health freak? Don’t get me wrong, now…I still drink beer. And booze. But from whence this strange compulsion to drink water? Ah, well…it seems to please Janet, so that’s a good thing. Here’s to ya…


If you’ve read and Blathers from earlier this year, you’ll know that I have become hooked on varmint hunting in the desert south of Boise. You may also recall that I bought myself a rifle specifically for that purpose: a Ruger Arms .17 HMR, bolt action. It quickly became the favorite gun I own. Recently – and at the risk of sounding like a shill for Ruger Arms – I bought another Ruger rifle: a Ruger M77 “Hawkeye Predator,” chambered in .204 Ruger. Yes, that is the name of the cartridge, and many different gun makers produce a rifle to shoot that bullet. (So you can buy, for example, a Winchester .204 Ruger…or a Savage…or whatever.)

(Ruger Hawkeye "Predator.")

(Ruger Hawkeye “Predator.”)

I didn’t really need another rifle for the ground squirrels in our desert…the .17 HMR is, in my mind, perfect for the job. And the .22 WMR (a Ruger brand, also) my wife uses is almost as good. But the world is filled with varmints of various sizes, including some that might be bigger – and farther away – than a ground squirrel (a.k.a. whistlepig, squeaker, or sage rat). Ergo, a fellow needs a rifle that can shoot farther, and a bullet that will hit with more impact. There are a number of manufacturers that make rifles suited for that market. And there are a number of different calibers to choose from: .223, .204 Ruger, .220 Swift, .22-250…plus quite a few more. There are advantages and a few disadvantages to each, but I went with the .204 Ruger, a fast, flat-shooting round that will pop a prairie dog into the air at a couple hundred yards and also handle a coyote with little difficulty.

Idaho – and perhaps a few other states – even allow deer/elk hunting with the .204. More specifically, the law is worded to disallow “rimfire” ammunition (of which there are relatively few sizes, or calibers), rather than listing the many centerfire cartridges that are legal. I suspect that in an ongoing attempt to keep verbiage to a minimum the rule writers used this language in order to avoid having to list each and every cartridge as to whether allowed or not allowed. I also suspect this part of the rulebook was first written long before the proliferation of the smaller diameter centerfire rounds available today. So we have the situation where a .22 magnum bullet (a rimfire cartridge) is not legal for “big game,” while a .20 bullet (in a centerfire cartridge) is legal. (Not that I’m likely to hunt deer or elk with the new Ruger while I have my old standby, a Reminton 7mm Magnum.)

Anyhow, I picked up the new Ruger the other day. After one of my two “higher end” scopes was mounted, I took it to the range…an indoor range near my house. Being indoors, the maximum range one can shoot is but 25 yards, which is obviously much closer than one will be shooting at prairie dogs. But when a new scope is placed on a gun, I make it a practice to shoot at short yardage first and adjust the crosshairs so that I should at least be able to “hit the paper” at longer ranges. (If it doesn’t “hit the paper” it is difficult to tell which way one must adjust the crosshairs.) I shot several groups, making incremental adjustments after each group of three rounds. After going through a box of twenty cartridges, I was hitting the target very, very close to dead center. I loved everything about shooting the new gun…and its appearance, as well. It shot so well it made me look as though I actually knew what I was doing…every group of three could be covered with a dime, leaving plenty of room to spare. Doing that at 25 yards is, all in all, pretty easy, compared to long range shooting…but a fellow has to start somewhere, eh?

(Aimed at lower right hand box - five shots.)

(Aimed at lower right hand box – five shots.)

The target shown is the one used for my last group, aimed at the center of the lower right-hand square. I can’t explain the “flier” on the right side of the white bullseye – wait…I think someone else at the range must have walked behind and poked me just as I was squeezing the trigger – but the hole just a hair left of center is where four of the five shots hit. Okay, okay…it may not be competition class shooting, but I’m certainly satisfied with it. Those four bullets were all between ¼ and 3/8 inch left of center, which means I need another couple of clicks right for the windage adjustment on the scope. I didn’t do it at the time because I didn’t want to open a new box of ammo…and I was simply ready to get out of there. At any rate, I will certainly be “on the paper” at 200 yards!


Jan and I recorded the Ken Burns series, “The Roosevelts – an Intimate History,” that ran on most PBS stations a few weeks ago. It consists of 7 episodes, each two hours long. And, like every Ken Burns production I’ve seen, I think it is absolutely great! The series first highlights Theodore’s life, but introduces both Franklin and Eleanor as they come on the scene, i.e., when they were born. I hadn’t remembered that Eleanor was a Roosevelt before she married Franklin…Teddy’s niece, to be specific. The daughter of his brother, Elliot. Theodore and Franklin were fifth cousins. That is, they could trace their lineage back to a point where they had a common great-great-great-great grandfather. I suppose most of us have a slew of fifth, sixth (and so on) cousins…but who keeps track? At the extreme, it could be said that all humans are “cousins,” having descended from the same first human cell, where and when ever that occurred. (Garden of Eden?) (Noah?)

(Theodore, Eleanor, and Franklin Roosevelt.)

(Theodore, Eleanor, and Franklin Roosevelt.)

When traced far enough back, some strange “cousin-ships” can be encountered. For example, the New York Times once published an article explaining that President Obama and George W. Bush are 11th cousins, their common ancestor being one Samuel Hinckley, an early colonist in Massachusetts. (So might the would-be assassin of Ronald Reagan be another of their cousins?) Mr. Obama, it is said, is an 8th cousin to Dick Cheney, as well.

But enough of that, “The Roosevelts” is television at its best, in my opinion. Not the least of what makes it interesting is the general history of that period in America, taking the viewers through the Great War (later to be called World War I), prohibition, the Great Depression, and World War II. One of the historian-consultants on the series was asked, “What was the very first Great Depression called?” His response: “The Dark Ages.” So, yes, I guess the Great Depression our grandparents lived through was pretty bad.

I can’t help but wonder how many photographs of Eleanor the project researchers must have looked at to find one as nice as the one used above? She was an intelligent, hard-working, compassionate woman, but while she looks quite pretty in the photo, the poor baby did not age well, did she. Anyhow, if you get a chance to watch the series, I would recommend you do so.


Finally, then, from one cousin to another…I hope you’re set up for a great weekend. Bud

3 Responses

  1. Jerry Howard says:

    Bud you do know what you are doing. Being a good marksman is about 30% gun and 70% shooter. As you know so many different things go into good shooting. Among them are stance, gun hold, sight picture and eye relief when using a scope, breathing, muscle memory, trigger pull, ones eyesight in general, etc. With all of your varmint shooting you have regained your expertise for shooting. As you know I always blame the flyer shots on Satan. Like Flip Wilson used to say The Devil made me do it!

    • Bud Larson says:

      Hi Jer, Good grief! You make shooting techniques sound like the secret to a good golf swing…and I don’t care for golf anymore. (Because I never got any good at it.) But, yes, I’ll admit that after a rather embarrassing beginning of the whistlepig season, I got more confidence pretty quickly. And I think it showed the other day at the indoor range. Still…a lot of things to remember all at the same time. :-) I’m thankful for the 29% the new Ruger added to the deal! Later, Ol’ Bud

  2. Jerry Howard says:

    Denise just saw the picture of your new rifle and said that you need tennis shoes to match the colorful stock. Ones with orange laces. And perhaps a new hunter vest with the same colors. :) Women!

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