Howard Delo

A couple of weeks ago, when I was helping man the MSBFWC/KRSA outside table at the Outdoors Man’s show on Friday at Raven Hall, the wind was blowing and, even though the sun was out, the temperatures were only in the teens. Combine that with 20 mile-per-hour winds and it was nasty cold!

The next Monday, temperatures had warmed up into the 40’s and low 50’s and breakup was off and running with a vengeance and has continued to this day. The two-foot depth of snow in my yard is now down to only a patchy couple of inches. Some big bare patches are showing on the driveway and there is standing water in every low spot around. Spring has definitely sprung.

I was looking forward to the snow being gone so I could do some shooting outdoors, but I must admit, it’s a mixed blessing. I was also looking forward to a late season trip or two with Gnarly Dan to do some icefishing in his new icefishing tent. Sometimes, the best laid plans of mice and men….

Gnarly had to make a trip out to the Alaska Peninsula in late March for a job, but we discussed going icefishing after his return. Shortly after he got back, he wasn’t feeling well and, after the appropriate testing confirmed Covid 19, he was down for the count until medical folks gave him the “all clear.”

Gnarly has had some health issues over his lifetime, leaving him with a compromised immune system. Because of some of the ingredients in the Covid 19 vaccines, he chose not to get vaccinated. That came back to bite him.

He spent two days in the hospital during this time but is now recovering at home and feeling much better. I’m really happy he’s improving daily. The downside to his illness timing is that we have probably missed the ability to make a late season icefishing trip. I’m hearing that the ice is still solid on many lakes, but not for vehicles. There are soft spots around and the ice is weakening daily in the sunshine and warm daily temperatures. The forecast for the next week is for sunny and highs in the 50’s and 60’s. That’s okay, I’m done for the season of hard water fishing and already looking forward to open water angling.

This past weekend, I helped man the Mt McKinley Mountainmen tables at the Houston Gun and Outdoor Show held at the Big Lake Lion’s Club skating rink in Big Lake. I have always enjoyed helping at this show. There’s a comfortable atmosphere that seems to go with this show that none of the other gun shows around the Valley seem to have.

The display theme for the muzzleloading firearms on our display tables was shotguns or smoothbore firearms. I brought my 10-gauge, side by side, percussion sidelock shotgun and my 56-caliber sighted smoothbore “rifle.” I’ve had the 10-gauge for probably 30 years and have hunted ducks with it back before lead shot was banned.

My 56-caliber percussion sidelock “rifle” is assembled from parts I found online. The model was originally made for muzzleloading hunting in several eastern states where rifled firearms were not legal to use at the time. Since that period, all those states have legalized rifled guns and the market for this smoothbore firearm basically disappeared.

The NMLRA sanctioned Territorial matches held nationwide have an aggregate specifically for “sighted smoothbore” firearms. I assembled my firearm to use in these Territorial matches and have been doing so for several years now. Not to brag, well, maybe a little bit, but I’ve done well, usually placing in each match as well as scoring well enough for an aggregate medal each year I’ve shot that aggregate.

I also brought my 62-caliber (20-gauge) smoothbore flintlock pistol to show as well. I have this pistol as a companion piece to my 20-gauge Northwest Trade Gun. Originally, the pistol was used primarily as a close range, personal defense firearm, protecting the user from marauding Indians, grizzly bears, and other two-legged “varmints” encountered in the western expansion across our nation during the late 1700’s to mid-1800’s.

The club usually has a member sales table at these shows, and I brought several items I had no more use for. The two big items I was hoping would go were a partial duplicate set of history books on the old west and an old shotshell reloading press with dies. A history buff bought the books, and a collector took the press.

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