George Block Column

Loaded for bear but the bear didn’t cooperate

Loaded for bear, but the bear decided not to cooperate

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More often than not, the best of our plans end up in the trash bin. That’s what happened this past hunting season.


Bobby Rogers has always looked forward to bear season, but he wanted to use a different rifle than the one he carried the previous bear season. Like the rest of us, he used his deer rifle – or should I say one of his deer rifles.


A few years ago, he shot a bear with his 300 Winchester mag, but he decided to switch to his .270 Weatherby.


I hunt with Rogers near his home in Greene County and understand his use of fast, flat-shooting rifles. Many of the areas he hunts require shooting from hillside to hillside.


But, in 2012, found Bobby in a different area than the one he was accustomed to hunting. Instead of Driftwood, he found himself hunting north of Port Allegany where the cover was much more thick.


The long-barreled .270 mag was kind of awkward in the thickets, so he vowed to own a new rifle that would be easier to get through the heavy cover with. Over the summer, he purchased a new lever-action rifle chambered for the .45-70 cartridge.


The old pumpkin tosser had been around for some time. In fact, I think it might have been one of the two center-fire rounds that entered the cartridge field in 1873. The other was the 45 Colt revolver round.


Regardless, Rogers now owned a bear hunting rifle that would be used only for that purpose.


But he found a major problem with the rifle and returned it to the factory. So, he went into the bear season with no bear rifle.


That problem was quickly solved when I acquired a Henry big bore in the 45-70 chambering. The receiver for the rifle is made in Washington County.


The first thing I did with the Henry was remove the rear peep sight and mount a low-powered variable scope. The rifle handled flawlessly and shot groups that measured about one inch.


When you consider the holes made by this round are 1/2 inch wide, that’s superb accuracy.


For those who don’t know, the 45-70 utilizes a 405-grain bullet that it pushes at around 1,300-feet per second. It’s hardly a long-range cartridge, but it does hit hard.


The 45-70 was the official round of the millitary at one time and was probably used by George A. Custer’s troops at Little Big Horn.


Factory rounds are loaded to a low pressure because of the many trapdoor rifles floating around, but in a lever-action or falling-block rifle, a reloader can boost third round to near .458 performance. The round will not be fast but it will knock any North American animal for a loop.


Incidentally, the demand for Henry centerfire rifles has become so big that the plant that produces it has had to expand. In the near future, it will be moving to a larger building next to the Rostraver airport.


I am constantly asked where a Henry can be found and know of one person who drove to Columbus, Ohio, to get one.


All I can say about our hunt is that the bears didn’t cooperate. Bears can be that way, and I keep telling Bobby that they knew he was there. They weren’t going to show him a hair for fear that this year, they knew he was ready.


I took the Henry out a bit during deer season, bubt using it where I hunt in Greene County would be futile. The shots and long and lobbing a 405-grain bullet across the valley would be like using a mortar.


The 45-70 is still a great round but its performance is limited to short distances.


Those buffalo hunters of the 19th Century had to be good at guessing distances. If they missed at 1,000 yards, the bullet would pass over or under the buffalo.



George H. Block writes a Sunday outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.


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