WILTZ: An update on Kocer’s ND elk huntI know you’re all waiting for a report on Tom Kocer’s management elk hunt in North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Unfortunately, Tom failed to qualify with his rifle.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
I know you’re all waiting for a report on Tom Kocer’s management elk hunt in North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Unfortunately, Tom failed to qualify with his rifle.
As related last week, Tom had to hit a paper plate eight of ten times at 200 yards. In a 25 mph crosswind, Tom took the wind into account and put his first two practice shots at dead center. He waived his eight additional practice shots and went right after it. Though Tom felt solid enough using his backpack as a rest, things went awry when he couldn’t detect where some of his shots were hitting.
If Tom had it to do over again, he says he would have taken all of his practice shots. He also could have tried qualifying with a second rifle, but he wasn’t prepared for it. Non-toxic copper bullets were required for the depredation hunt, and Tom wonders if some of the copper bullets might have come apart. However, if you know Tom, there are no excuses.
Tom says the staff at TRNP was great, the country was beautiful and it was a good experience. During the orientation, Tom came to know and respect Wade Jones, the project director who had South Dakota roots. When Tom failed to qualify, Wade wondered how Tom could remain so upbeat. As Tom put it, “Why shouldn’t I?” Though I haven’t been around Tom much since he graduated from high school, the Tom I know would handle any crisis in a calm, well-thought-out manner.
I asked Tom if he had any thoughts on the project. He felt that it was too bad that so many elk would be killed when other areas, such as South Dakota’s Black Hills or Wind Cave National Park, were way down on elk numbers. However, the park service had their reasons — a fear of introducing chronic waste disease (CWD) even though none of the 406 elk killed last year had the disease.
Regardless of what happened at TRNP, Tommy Kocer can flat out shoot. Three weeks ago he took out a buck antelope at 350 yards in the wind.
Just another day at the office for Tom.
I haven’t quizzed many opening day pheasant hunters as there weren’t many in the Wagner area, but from what I’ve heard, hunters averaged about a bird apiece. Though we quit at mid-afternoon on Saturday, seven of us bagged 12 birds. We lost only two and shot quite well, so we felt pretty good about it, other than bird numbers being way down. The birds we found were adjacent to harvested corn.
After bird cleaning, we followed tradition and retired to Curt’s kitchen. With cold beer to wash it down, we savored Bob’s smoked salmon, Dave’s hot nacho dip, Jerry’s shrimp with homemade sauce, various cheeses and some pepperoni slices. One of the guys commented that pepperoni is made from the oldest, mustiest boars with the peppers masking the otherwise offensive taste. I really needed that as I munched the spicy slices.
With our average age creeping up on 70 (Don’s son-in-law was a notable exception), we relished the day and briefly pondered how many more like experiences we would enjoy before time started throwing curveballs at us. To be sure, our hunt was mostly about camaraderie, not ringnecks.
A Browning Citori over-and-under was my gun of choice Saturday, but most of the guys carried modern autoloaders. I respect their choices, but I don’t care for them.
My first autoloader came in the most unusual of circumstances. It was winter 1962 and I was a college student in Brookings. As a growing boy, I was always hungry, and more often than not, 11 p.m. found me in George Brush’s Nighthawk Café for a burger and a bowl of chili. The Nighthawk was on the west side of the Brookings Main Street, and amounted to no more than a grill, a counter and a half-dozen stools. George, a big guy and a real character, was my friend.
Late one night, a guy walked into the Nighthawk with a shotgun. He was desperate for money and wanted to sell the gun for $15. I asked to see it.
It was a Winchester Model 1911 12-gauge autoloader. I had never seen anything like it. Instead of having a protruding device on the side of the bolt for cocking and loading, knurling was engraved into the barrel about six inches from the muzzle. One was to grab the barrel at the knurling and pull down toward the receiver in order to cock it. I didn’t like it, and I had little desire to own the gun.
Neither I nor anyone else in the café was interested. Then, he wanted to match quarters for it — my $15 versus his shotgun. I told him I wasn’t a gambler. Then, he asked if I were willing to finger pull for the gun.
Well, it just so happened that we had been finger-pulling back in East Men’s Hall recently, and I learned that I was pretty good at it. After thinking it over, I told him that I would pull.
The pull lasted perhaps 10 seconds. I won, and I had the shotgun. I tried my new shotgun the next day. When I pulled the trigger, it felt and sounded like a bear trap releasing.
I sold the 1911 within the next few years as I never used it. Winchester collectors call that gun “The Widow Maker” because in cocking that gun, it is difficult to control where the barrel is pointing.
I later learned that Winchester was limited in what they could do with the Model 1911 without infringing on Browning’s patent for the famous Model A-5 autoloader.
*See you next week.