QUESTION: I inherited a beautiful old 12-gauge shotgun that has Damascus twist barrels. Can you tell me how these barrels were made? Is it safe to use modern ammunition in this shotgun?
ANSWER: Before modern technology allowed gun makers to drill out a barrel, shotgun barrels were manufactured by twisting alternating strips of steel and iron around a mandrel. Then the strips were forge-welded together. Finally, the mandrel was removed and the barrels were polished, inside and out. The resulting twist-pattern was a thing of beauty.
Damascus barrels were intended to be used with black powder, which does not generate as much pressure as modern smokeless powder. It is not recommended that modern ammunition be used in Damascus or twist steel barrels. Many old shotguns have been blown up with modern ammunition, often resulting in injury to the shooter. Your old shotgun will be better off hanging over the fireplace.
QUESTION: Will bluegill bream spawn again this year? How many times do they spawn? How about bass and crappie?
ANSWER: Bluegill spawning is finished for this year. Bluegill bream generally spawn during the full moon in April, May, June and July. Occasionally they will spawn during the new moon, but this is rare. During some years, depending on the weather, bream might have a partial spawn in August.
Unlike bream, bass and crappie only spawn once a year. Crappie spawn first, when the water temperature passes the 62-degree mark. Bass usually spawn when the water temperature reaches 66 degrees.
QUESTION: I am in a hunting club that utilizes just under 1,000 acres. Our deer population is less than half what it was three years ago. Do you have any idea why the numbers are down?
ANSWER: I am not a biologist, so I cant address all the possibilities that could happen. Deer herd numbers go up and down due to disease, habitat conditions, hunting pressure and food supply.
On my own land, I have been finding signs of predation on fawns for the past two years. I suspect that my fawn survival is under 30 percent. This factor has reduced the deer population considerably. The signs I find point to predation from free-ranging dogs and coyotes. It is easy to tell the difference. Feral dogs -- and even family pets -- will kill deer just for the fun of it. If you find a deer kill and the carcass has been left intact, usually dogs are the culprits. Coyotes kill for food, and much of the carcass will be eaten during the first day or night after the kill.
Coyotes can be thinned by trapping or predator calling. Both require some training and practice because coyotes are very intelligent. If you make mistakes in either technique, the coyotes will shun the traps or refuse to come to the calls.
Emory Josey writes a weekly outdoors column. Send questions for him to The Telegraph, P.O. Box 4167, Macon, Ga., 31208-4167, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org