January in Wyoming usually does not allow for much shooting. Cold temperatures, wind and snow are not exactly ideal conditions to try out new guns. We had couple good snowstorms providing much needed snow pack for the mountains and many mild beautiful sunny days just above 20 degrees. We spent many of those nice afternoon at the range but I also took full advantage of the weather and got out to the mountains. The first thing I did when I arrived home after the holidays I went to our local Wyoming Game and Fish office and purchased mountain lion tag. My plans were to spend few days snow shoeing in the mountains and look for coyotes and possibly a mountain lion. I do not have the dogs to hunt cougars and chances of seeing one are almost non existent as they are very stealth, but you just never know.
I selected couple areas where I would “concentrate” my efforts. If you think northwestern Wyoming is big rugged country in the summer or fall, it becomes even more so in the winter. I do not use snow mobiles or skis. I just love snow shoeing, the winter version of hiking. I chose the right area to look because I never saw another human being or signs of human activity during my travels. I usually told my daughter when I dropped her off at school what canyon I would be starting at that day, just in case. Search and Rescue teams could narrow their search that way. It is or it should be common practice for everyone to do. I hiked through bottom of many canyons and to the top of few ridges. I was very cautious to stay away from avalanche prone spots. I got to see several moose walking in the deep snow and it seemed like lot of effort. They just looked that way but they are well equipped for it. The elk and deer hung out at the creek bottoms to have an easier time to find food. Some of the elk still making it’s way to the elk refuge in the southern portion of the valley. I did not see any mountain lions but few good tracks. That was enough to get me excited. I could not believe the size of the paw prints. Those are some big cats. My last day out was clear, crisp, cold sunny day, 25 degrees bellow. I spent about 4 hours snow shoeing but stopping and setting up to try to call coyotes was very difficult. At those temperatures you have to keep moving. Saw many fresh coyote track and scat. I was really convinced they’re there. And they were.
Finally it was time to go back to the truck. I was about mile in on a forrest service road. I left my loaded rifle next to me until I get to the main road. As I’m trying to warm up using modern conveniences of well heated truck I keep thinking how can all these animals survive these extreme conditions. I know science can explain it but sometimes it’s just hard to believe. I pulled over, still on forrest service road, took the magazine out of the rifle, opened the action and put the rifle in the back seat. As soon as I did big furry coyote walks across the road. He stops in the middle looks at me and I believe he smiled. I grabbed the magazine, the rifle and I tried to get out of the truck. As I opened the door he’s gone. I tried quickly to turn my truck around and got the truck stuck in snow bank. No panic, I’m equipped for this. Shovel, sand bags and chains are always in the back of my truck from November until April. Well, it took a little bit of work and help from a FedEx driver to get out but I did.
What a great way to end my winter adventure. Be humbled by nature, again. I really appreciate these moments. They make me think about what small speck we are (the humans) in a big picture. I was carrying my CZ 550 308 caliber with Leupold 4×12 illuminated fire dot. This is my go to mountain rifle. I experienced little difficulty locating the non illuminated cross hairs on some of the darker hide of deer and elk in the past. The reticle is very personal, more than the rifle itself. The illuminate works for me better in all different conditions. The scope is also more streamlined for the type of hiking and hunting I do. My favorite backup sidearm became CZ 97 BD. The decocker version of the 97 B I reviewed and matched up against Dan Wesson previously. It is a double stack 45 auto. It carries 10+1 rounds. I’ve shot few different defensive ammo brands and types of bullets but Hornady +P 220 gr Flexlock Critical Duty turned out to be the right one. It might be larger gun than most would like to carry but it works for me. The right holster will let you forget you actually have a full size 45 on you. It sure happened to me. I had to stop couple times on the trail just to reach out to the side and check if the gun is still there. And it was. The holster Galco Fletch Hide Ride fits it better than a glove and keeps it extremely secure. I’ve field tested it too by falling several times in very deep snow. My range holster is Fobus Evolution Paddle. No frills plastic piece that will take the abuse. Overall I became such a fan of 97 not only as self defense tool and also fun gun to shoot at the range. I will not be trying any more 45s anytime soon. It would be hard to beat the comfort, low recoil and accuracy combination. It is an excellent gun to take with you into the mountains in the winter when the bears are sleeping. It will do its job just in case you need a backup for any animal up to the wolf or a mountain lion.
I do not like to let other people to shoot my personal gun but many of them insist. When they first look at the 97 they think it’s too big. After they pick it up, even ladies or men with smaller hands, they can not believe the fit. Most of shooters who have tried it for the first time got better results with this 45 than any other gun except the SP-01 Tactical. We will talk about several of the new and time proven CZ 9mm guns in the next blog.