Author Archives: Joshua Mapes

Ammunition review, 243 and 17WSM

Well, the 2014/15 season ended too long ago and the new season is taking too long to get here. So, I want to follow up on our ammo review back when I changed to 58 grain VMAX for the ol Ruger 243. Also I will throw in a few tid bits regarding the 17 WSM that I recently, thanks to T.O.T.T.S, won in a Michigan predator contest.

If you remember, I used to handload for the 243. 95 grain sierra MatchKing were the pill of choice, propelled by some odd number grain count of IMR 4350. Cant remember the numbers off the top of my head, but they were accurate. Im talking shooting eggs at 200 yards accurate. But, the damage done to coyote furs? Far more than I expected OR wanted. You see, I am not the kind of guy that goes after coyotes because I hate them and want to see them dead. I want to help control the population, hunt as much as I possibly can, but also USE the animals I harvest. So, putting a hole through a coyote big enough to put a pumpkin through, just wont cut it for me.

I asked the expert, Kevin Rought, what HE would do. He went through his books, or maybe just closed his eyes and dug into the vast assortment and YEARS of knowledge on ammunition, and came up with various different choices for me. We decided to try the Winchester VarmintX 58 Grain Vmax, as well as the Hornady Superformance Varmint 58 grain VMax.

Range tests showed these two different choices were shooting about an inch different than each other, so I sited in the Winchester, blew up some water jugs that showed us that these would expand rather quickly, and hopefully not send 1 coyote flying in 2 different directions.  After that, it was time to wait, and wait, and wait some more until that magical day, July 15 FINALLY showed its beautiful face.

Late July I was finally able to call a coyote into range with the rifle in hand.  Did I call any in before this? Yes.. with the shotgun and YES they both escaped the barrage of Hornady BB flying around them. But thats not what this is about. So late July as the Foxpro sang the bunny blues, a nice male made an appearance on the edge of the hay field I was sitting on. He was watching the field intently, trying to find where Roger Rabbit was breathing those final breaths. Instead he was met with the smell of gunpowder and a 58 grain Winchester to the chest… something he never felt, heard, or saw coming. That was the last sound he heard and that was the first, successful and satisfying test of the new ammo.

trail coyote


Upon inspection, this male had a small 6 mm hole in the chest, and no exit. EXACTLY what I wanted! Because the ticks and fleas were so bad on him, I didnt take the time to skin him out to see the internal damage, instead he went to a hog farm to be put to good use.

The next stand after this was even better. After a single howl, we had a reply from the corn field. A small pup it sounded like, but these farmers don’t care what size the coyote is, they just want them gone. After 30 minutes of trying everything I could, FINALLY the pup showed his face at around 150 yards. Unfortunately he showed up straight down wind, and the only 2 shots I had were as he was running back into the corn. Both turned up empty, but not long after, a single male came from across the road at about 60 yards. He was also downwind, however started trotting straight away, leaving a wide open easy shot. The trigger broke crisp and down he went, only to get back up for one more round. This time, there was no getting up.

Upon inspection, the first shot connected back in his hind leg, nearly separating it from his body. The second was right behind his shoulder, as any well placed shot should be. He was anchored quickly by this shot, with NO exit wound.

2 sleepin

To make this short and sweet, I took a total of 6 coyotes with the Winchester 58 Grain VMax ammunition this season. I hit 1 low, leaving a big tear across his belly, another was placed perfectly in the head…

Long story short, I will continue to shoot the 58 grain vmax. It is what I look for in a coyote round, leaving little to no exit wound which is exactly what fur buyers want in a prime animal fur.

Lets move on to the 17 WSM. This caliber was introduced last year, and was quickly picked up by many predator and small game hunters because of its energy, accuracy and because, well, it was new to the industry. Savage was the only company to have a firearm in production at the time, called the BMag, however a few others have jumped onto the bandwagon and released some new ones as well, including Ruger. Same goes for the ammunition. The first to make WSM ammo was Winchester, but now we have Federal American Eagle, as well as Hornady.

Winchester ammunition had quite a bad spell of ammunition for this caliber for awhile, from brass blowing up to improper/different amounts of powder used in each round. This wasn’t by the box either, it was literally by the round. This left a bad taste in my mouth for the Winchester ammo, but when I received my gun this spring, I tried it anyway. To say it wasn’t accurate would be a lie, as we were grouping somewhere under an inch with the 20 grain as well as the 25 grain, however the 25s held tighter groups from the start. But, none of them exploded in my face, and that was definately a good thing. We also shot at half gallon jugs of water to test for expansion and penetration. The 20s expanded almost instantly, where the 25s penetrated 2 jugs before exploding into the third.

I hadn’t gotten my hands on the American Eagle or the Hornady yet, so I set to the field in hopes of finding a woodchuck to properly test the rounds on. Fortunately for the woodchucks, they didnt show their faces, unfortunately for the Starlings, they are open year round.. and I was able to take 2 down with the 25 grain Winchesters at right around 100 yards. Sorry, no pictures of these ones, but I will tell you that the damage was small, assuming this is because the 25s didnt have enough time to expand on such a small animal.

I finally picked up a box of American Eagle 20 grain ammunition from Kevin about a month ago, and compared them at the target range to the 20 grain Winchester. Point of impact was almost identical, which is awesome in case you cant find that ONE brand you want at the local store. You could pick up a box of either one and still be shooting without the need to re sight in.

I set back out with the American Eagle ammo loaded up with my son, searching once again for a woodchuck. And there, at 167 yards, she stood. I was not comfortable with the shot at that time, so we elected to sneak in closer to try and get within 100 yards. After about 20 minutes of waiting, she showed up again, about 115 yards feeding on the farmers soybeans. I steadied the crosshairs, squeezed the accutrigger, and MISSED! Why? Because my instinct is usually to aim a bit higher that I intend to hit, and the BMag was sighted in 1 inch high at 100 yards. But, she didnt run, she merely turned broadside begging for me to take another shot. And I did, and I connected.

The impact, as you can see, sent a shockwave through the 15 pound chucks body. There was no struggle and there was no suffering, the damage was minimal, and the woodchuck was removed. But, I wasn’t done there. 2 short weeks later I recieved an invitation to come take out a few more problem woodchucks, from an area not far from the first. They said they had a problem with them, and they werent kidding.

As you can see from some of the slow motion impacts, some of the American Eagle 20s created quite a mess. But, these are small animals we are talking about. I wanted this gun primarily for night time predator hunting, but the other small game nuisance critters are the first to tested on. The larger testing will come hopefully as soon as first light on July 15, if a coyote blesses me with its presence.

When that time comes, I will update again on the effects of the 17 WSM ammunition. Until then, shoot straight, kill clean, apologize to no one, have fun, make friends, and take your family. The outdoors are here for US to enjoy. Do it right, do it with respect, and God Bless America.


Do you have what it takes to be a Michigan hunter?

So, you chose Michigan to call home, and you want to be a HUNTER? Well, no matter the horror stories you may have heard, allow me to assure you that it can be done. From beautiful whitetail deer, furred up coyotes and red or grey fox, to the smallest squirrels and rabbits, Michigan has what you are looking for. It might take extra effort in a lot of ways, but that is what makes it so rewarding.

The first thing you will have to determine, is what animal you want to target. If you are a deer hunter, like myself, you know that deer need food, and they need cover. These things can be found anywhere in the state, but you need to dig a bit deeper. Are you going to be one of the state land hunters, or will you be finding a piece of private land? Stand land can be found in basically every county in the state, and with a little bit of work you can find some tremendous hunting sanctuaries. You need to get away from the beaten path, and believe you me, there are literally beaten paths throughout most of the public hunting grounds in Michigan. So many hunters choose the easy way, to walk from their vehicle into the woods, only a few hundred yards and then plopping down against a tree. Can they be successful? Absolutely. The old saying, “Even a blind squirrel will find a nut eventually,” holds true in this situation. With the state land that I target, there are always gun hunters, dressed in full orange suits and hats, walking the woods doing deer drives. This can help the hunter I mentioned above, as deer will need to find a way out. Their only way out might be to cross this hunter, sitting against a tree. And maybe that is all you are looking for. But do you want it to be this easy? Or are you willing to, quite possibly, go the extra mile? Go deeper into the woods than most will, scout harder for that tell tale sign of a good mature deer, and determine exactly what you need to do to harvest the majestic beast?

Nine times out of ten, you will not find a mature buck laying right off the roadway, watching cars drive by and hunters walk past. They will seek out cover that is as far away as they think they need to get, and you will need to find this. Mature deer DO exist in this great state, no matter the stories you have heard. Each and every season there are new deer being added to the record books, but it is seldom done by the hundred yard from the truck tree sitter. It is achieved only by the hunter that is willing to put in the work, sweat during the hot summer months while scouting, and pay attention to mother nature.

Private land, although my favorite to hunt, is growing harder and harder to access. Landowners live in fear of someone having an accident on their land, and coming after them in court for it. Although they were kind enough to give a hunter permission, this is all too common. Unfortunately many landowners will not allow hunters to access their land due to liability fears. There is a great way to solve this. I, as well as a few others I know, carry Liability Release Forms. Legally binding, this form states that you cannot hold liable a landowner in the event of an accident. Pretty simple way to relieve the fear of a landowner, and it works.

Secondly, many landowners have been bitten by the bad hunter bug a time or two in their life. They allow a hunter to access, and that hunter assumes they are allowed back forever. This is not always the case. Sometimes they may want you there only for one season. The only way to be sure is to ask, year after year. It can be hard to hear that you are not welcome a second or third year, but it needs to be respected. The landowner pays all of the taxes and other fees that come with owning the land, and they should not be taken for granted.

One thing I always do to maintain permission on a piece of property is to make sure I am always willing to give a hand. Landowners understand the value of hard work, and they understand the importance of family. Most the time they will understand if you have prior commitments that do not allow you to come out and help when they need it, but you need to be sure you do what you can, when you can. The landowner where I hunt is perfectly happy when I come for a visit, weather it be to do some farm work, hang some stands, or whatever reason. I always make sure to sit and talk with him about anything that may arise, from family to work or hunting. They don’t want you to only show up when it’s time to hunt. They appreciate when you offer to help bail hay, or cut fire wood. Long story short, do not use them for what they have, do not abuse their land, but show your appreciation. This is all it will take to maintain permission for years to come.

Now that you have located where you would like to hunt, it is time to figure out how you are going to hunt it. Our best friend, in my opinion, is the trail camera. Hang it once and leave it alone for a week, month, or few months if need be. When you go back to check it, pictures, or lack thereof, will tell you if your gut instinct was right. I am fortunate enough to hunt land where the landowner allows me to till up part of his hayfield to plant a small, yet effective, food plot. One of our Primos cameras hangs over this plot the entire year. It tells us when the deer are using the field, time of day, temperature, and moon phase. All these things can be used to create the plan. Honestly, if you see that deer are using a certain location only in the evening, are you going to hunt it during the morning, or do you use that information to locate a stand location for morning hunts?


Now that you have the proof you need to start hunting, it is time to enjoy what Michigan has to offer. Hang your stand, I prefer months before season opening, where you feel would be the best spot to intercept the deer you are after. The deer above managed to elude us the entire season, however that can be blamed on my lack of patience. With a growing family at home, choices are made to wait for a specific animal, or take what you can, when you can. This buck showed up almost daily on camera, and was always closer and closer to being in daylight hours. However, I chose to fill my tags on different deer, in order to be able to spend more time with family. But, if you want it, you have to hold out.

Watch the weather. Mother Nature can make you or break you. She will throw you a curve ball when you are hoping for a slow pitch. But eventually, that west wind you have waited for since October 1 will come, and you can climb into that stand. The woods are beautiful during a Michigan fall. Leaves change colors, and even the smell of the woods change. The crunching of dry leaves will get your’ blood pumping if you are truly a sportsman. The weather will change, from warm afternoons in a treestand, to frigid temperatures that nearly require a heating blanket and a wood stove. But that, is Michigan. There is nothing more gorgeous than watching the sun come up over a frost blanketed field, or watching a fawn nurse on its mother as the sun sets over a beautiful green field.

If you want to hunt in Michigan, you need to be mentally, and physically prepared. From scouting in the preseason on land you have decided to hunt, to climbing down from your perch on the final night of deer season. It wont take but a single season to figure out that this aint no walk in the woods, but it is absolutely worth it in the end.

Good luck this season. Have fun with your friends and family. Get kids involved so that we may always have sportsman running the woods of Michigan. And always remember that, in the end, it is the memories that count.

“Go afield with a good attitude, with respect for the wildlife you hunt and for the forest and fields in which you walk. Immerse yourself in the outdoor experience. It will cleanse your soul and make you a better person.” –   Fred Bear

7 pt


The right optic choice, so many options!

This winter, when I received my escort shotgun from Tools of the Trade, the hunt began for a good, quality optic. But where do you begin in this quest? There are a million and one choices, from standard iron sights, to the insanely high end with all the bells and whistles that perhaps only an IT genius would ever get figured out. But for a shotgun, the extra “necessities” of high zoom, eye relief, crystal clear, night vision heat seeking scopes was not needed. At least, not for a guy like myself.

First up to try was an eotech knockoff. It looked the same, weighed the same, and heck. even smelled the same. But was it? After the simple installation, it only took a few shots to figure out that this was NOT going to work for me. The Holographic sight came with a quick release for attaching to a picatinny rail which was spring loaded, and tension adjustable with a screw on the outside. After setting to where I though was tight enough, and 5 shots later, the scope was no longer holding tightly. Easy enough, tighten it a bit more and try again. This was not the case. 5 shots later, and it was loose again. After a few bad words and a call to my buddy, I tried it once more, with the same results. Most likely this was just not made for the recoil a 12 gauge pushing 3 inch fur droppers can put out. So back to the books we went.

Second try was a cheap, simple BSA optic reflex sight. This did not have the quick release, however 2 bolts holding it on. And it held on, and was quick to get zeroed in on my shotgun. Shot after shot, the sight held true to the rail. I was smiling, so I decided it was time to try it in the woods.

The first trip was a good one. The sight was still on the gun, but no coyotes or fox presented themselves to give it the true test. I placed the gun back into the hard case to head off to spot number 2. When I arrived, I took the gun out and ventured to the small field set back into the woods. As I always do when I arrive, I turned on the sight to make sure everything was good, and to my surprise, it was not. The red dot had made its way from center to high left side. And without a way to quickly adjust the sight, the gun was set on my lap and not picked up again the entire day. This BSA was not going to be for me either, because I cannot explain in words how upset I would be to pull up on an incoming predator and notice that my sight was no longer where it needed to be.

I had recently been to a small sports show and been speaking with a gentlemen about his choice sight for a shotgun. He said I HAD to try out this sight, a Sight Mark Ultra Shot QD. They could be had for cheap, and installed like a breeze. He had a new, fancy shotgun sitting there with this sight installed, and said it had seen its abuse, but never failed him. I was thinking, “yea right, everybody says that about a product they are trying to push”, but I decided maybe I would give it a try.

I finally was able to locate them. This sight can be purchased through Tools of the Trade Sales and Service for about $115,  and it really DOES install like a breeze. It has stayed tight after the quick first installation, and has not left the zero from where I originally set it. It has taken some abuse, mostly just popping water jugs and wooden targets at the range, but also bouncing around in a case, and smacking things on the way into and out of the woods. This is a reflex sight, not a holographic like an eotech, but lets face it, this simply is NOT an eotech.  It is much cheaper, and perhaps will not last as long or be as reliable for as long a time as a high priced sight, but for the money I have been very happy with it. I have not gotten a chance to take any predators down with it, but hopefully this summer will be the time to properly break it in.


Two coyotes, 1 day and many memories

It was Sunday morning, March 23. The weather was just about perfect for a day of coyote calling, and that is exactly what I was planning to do.
The first stand was gorgeous. The small field I would be overlooking was full of deer when I arrived, and I felt this was a positive sign, as deer know to use the wind to their advantage when they choose where to feed. They cleared the field when I walked around the corner, and the sounds of breaking branches and snorting deer was enough to make me wonder if they had taken every other living creature with them.
I decided to set up anyways, video camera, shotgun, rifle, and FoxPro doing the work. The wind was slight, blowing right to left, towards where I had just walked in. Assuming nothing would approach from that area, I set facing the left, hoping a coyote would come from where the deer had gone, and circle in front of me into the open, making for an easy shot.
Group howls played loud and clear on the FoxPro, breaking the crisp morning air. The sound of the first call of the morning was a beautiful thing, and my heart was pumping with anticipation. After a minute, I hit the mute button, allowing coyote pair howls to flow from the hellfire speaker. The sound is amazing..yet bone chilling at the same time.
The video camera was running as a very loud sandhill crane made its way across the sky above me. I panned the camera to the sky to catch a glimpse of what nature has to offer all of us outdoor enthusiasts. As I began to pan back towards the earths surface, I caught a glimpse of a large bodied coyote running towards me, yet still following the tree line. As fast as I saw him, he turned to head the opposite way. Immediately my instinct told me to play some puppy distress, and it worked like magic. The large male came barreling over a small hill, directly towards the FoxPro hanging from a branch 30 yards to my right.
As the coyote came closer and closer, the choice of which gun to pick up was bouncing through my head. When he stopped moving, the decision was made much easier, and I lifted my Ruger MK2 model 77 243 to my shoulder, placed the crosshairs on the big male, and pulled the trigger. The crack of the powder propelling the 95 grain Sierra matchking down the barrel was followed by a hollow thud. The coyote was down, just about 100yards from me


coyote 1 down

The damage from the bullet was much greater than I had hoped or expected, but Kevin Rought and I decided that possibly I hit a bone, and that caused the bullet to expand more than normal.

After skinning this coyote and getting cleaned up, Kevin and I went to see what we could call in together. We made a few sets through the afternoon with no luck, normal for Michigan predator hunting. But as darkness began to creep its way over us, Kevin decided we needed to make one more stand at last light in an area he had previously called in a triple, but could not get a shot.

We arrived at the location, and immediately found tracks that we assumed were from earlier in the morning. The tracks were headed into a small, yet very deep, ravine. Kevin decided where we needed to set up, so I got my gear together and set while he placed his FoxPro firestorm and Mojo decoy in front of us. My video camera was set to capture the memory of two friends doing what they loved to do, hopefully successfully.

Kevin let out a few short howls with his FoxPro, and shortly after we had a group of coyotes howling at us from what sounded like a few hundred yards away, in the next fence line past the ravine. He again let out a few howls, and the wait was on. No coyotes replied, vocally at least.

After what seemed like 15 minutes(which actually was about 2 minutes) I heard Kevin whisper “We got coyotes coming.” My eyes began to do their dance, in search of the movement that Kevin had seen. Finally on the left of us, a single coyote made his way into the field. Followed by a second, which was then followed by a third.  This was the first time I had ever had 3 coyotes in front of me. I have had doubles and plenty of singles, but 3 was almost a myth, no different than the Rugaru in Louisiana, or Godzilla in Japan. My heart began pumping out of its chest, as they slowly made their way towards us.

triple coming

When they had finally made their way into a good spot that we could each make a shot, Kevin let out a few simple, quiet, coaxing lip squeaks. Almost immediately the last coyote to enter the field turned and became the first coyote to leave. The others stood there, the lead coyote holding its paw off the ground. Instantly I thought that they were ready to turn and bolt, so I whispered “take the one on the right.” Kevin had heard me whisper, and simultaneously, we pulled the slack from our triggers. The left coyote began its death dance, while the second kicked up smoke in the snow, turning on its afterburners to exit the field. A few more shots were fired, and we had one down. Video footage proves the excitement we were feeling, as words were shared as well as high fives and hand shakes.

1 out of three.

After inspecting this male coyote, we discovered that the 95 grain sierra matchking had also put a very large hole in the hide. The fur on this coyote was beautiful, very thick and very light colored. Unfortunately, the hole was big enough to put a hand or two inside, and that is not what we like to see for fur friendly ammunition. The decision was made that I needed to find another round, something that would either hold together without expanding, or immediately fragment to allow maximum devastation, with little fur damage.

During the week of May 25-30, I will be in New Mexico hunting with a living legend in the coyote hunting world, and I will be testing 3 different loads. First will be a 58 grain VMAX, by Winchester, second will be the Hornady Superformance Varmint 58 grain vmax, and third will be Hornady 3″ Heavy Magnum Coyote BB load for my new Escort 12 gauge, purchased from Tools of the Trade. I will do another, hopefully picture heavy, write up at that time.