Category Archives: 2010

Remington – Shooting Straight Under Fire?

It seemed only a matter of time before one of my hunting pals said something to me. And so it was walking along a wood line exiting the woods last weekend.

“Be careful unloading that 700,” my buddy ribbed.

“Oh, that’s a bunch of crud,” I said.

The historic Remington Model 700 (Image borrowed from

Remington Arms has come under a good amount of heat the last couple weeks after CNBC aired its “Remington Under Fire: A CNBC Investigation.” The piece, which aired Oct. 20, was promoted with a good bit of anticipation by the cable channel prior to airing, and has seemed to raise a hornet’s nest worth of heartburn and debate ever since. Hosted by Scott Cohn, the show set out to go in-depth into a series of lawsuits alleging that the Model 700 is unsafe and susceptible to firing accidentally.

My family has shot Remington Model 700s long before my baby boots ever set foot on this fine Earth. That heritage held true when I started amassing my own rifle collection several years ago. In fact, nearly every caliber is represented across my immediate family’s rifle repertoire. My father has been a Model 700 Classic fan for decades. And that probably makes me a little bit biased.

Part of our attraction to the rifles is their well-documented tune-ability. You can work with the triggers, easily bed the stocks and drive tacks with the guns out to ridiculously long distances when you combine a few tweaks with the unmatched action that has helped sell more than five million guns over the last quarter century.

I didn’t watch the CNBC piece live. In fact, I somehow missed all the hullabulou leading into the program and found out about it afterwards through several online conversations that circled the outdoor world on Oct. 21. I have since watched it.

I was initially disappointed with the defensive measures taken by Remington to combat the piece, the company seemingly taking a defensive posture that seemed a little juvenile and knee-jerk. However, I was far more pleased with the response provided – and announced through the company’s Twitter feed – earlier today. Feel free to watch the piece here. I do wish this kind of response (which clearly took time to produce) came a little closer to the day of detonation.

The response by Remington makes a lot of sense to me. Especially since I have spent a lot of time handling 700s and even tried to get any kind of failed safety response out of my own rifles. I’ve never seen one fail.

It’s hard to watch the CNBC piece and not feel heartache for what some of the families have gone through. They’re the kind of accidents that you just shake after learning more about. But I think the cases featured on the program are just that – terrible accidents.

What’s your take?


‘To a perfect best friend’

The following is an article I wrote 11 years ago while a sports writer, republished verbatim and borrowed with permission from The Lynchburg (Va.) News & Advance. Please find commentary about the piece at the bottom.

‘To a perfect best friend’

Cancer broke up hunting duo after two decades

By Kurt Culbert
(published 10/2/1999)

BEDFORD (Va.) – It doesn’t take long to see that Mike Cottrell is an avid outdoorsman.

Eight or so mounted bucks hang throughout his house, evidence of the countless hours Cottrell has spent working the woods for the majestic whitetail deer.

How the article appeared on A-1 in October 1999

Most of those hours, though, doubled in enjoyment for Cottrell because he was spending time with his best friend, Al McFaden.

This season marks the first time in 21 years Cottrell won’t be venturing into the woods with McFaden, who died May 7 at 47 after a battle with cancer.

The excitement that normally precedes hunting season for Cottrell isn’t quite as strong this year. Hunting without his best friend just won’t be the same.

“Without question, this is going to be the hardest hunting season I’ve ever experienced,” said Cottrell, 42. “I’ve hunted with Al for the better part of my life. He is the perfect hunter.”

Cottrell pauses for a moment and just shakes his head and smiles.

“He was the perfect hunter.

“I’ve had a real hard time with this. I guess I’ve never had to deal with anything like this before.”

No one ever said losing a best friend is easy, but Cottrell says that McFaden was more than a best friend.

“I was thinking the other day of a headline for Al,” Cottrell said. “I thought of ‘A tribute to a perfect hunter.’ Then I said, ‘A tribute to a perfect best friend.’ He was both of those and so much more.”

Cottrell remembers the day the pair met in November 1978 as though it were yesterday. They were both starting their first day on the job at Siegwerk Ink, in the prime of hunting season.

A photo of Mike that also ran in the paper

“I had just left the farm for public work,” Cottrell, of Bedford, recalled. “The city life was kind of new to me. The first guy I meet is Al and he sticks his had out and says, ‘Nice to meet you.’ He had a huge smile. I like to call it a ‘magical Colgate smile.’”

It didn’t take long for the two to start taking their hunting interests afield and begin the bond that would carry them for the next 21 years.

“From that first day we met, we never had a cross word,” Cottrell said. “Heck, I seen him more than I seen my own wife.”

The memories Cottrell has of hunting with McFaden seem countless. Most of the time, the two hunted with Cottrell’s brother-in-law, Randy Walker.

But a few stories stick out in Cottrell’s mind. Judging from the smile on his face, they’re all no doubt pleasurable.

An article was written about the adventure the two had in November 1985, when Cottrell shot his first bear.

On a dreary, rainy day, the two went into their normal hunting area in Bedford County for a quiet, still hunt. To get out of the rain, Cottrell crouched at the base of a tree and awaited the rain and his friend.

“All of the sudden I heard (a whistle),” Cottrell said. “I looked up and saw Al sitting under a … bush. I waved back at him, but when he pulled his hand down, I see this black blur running away from him. I thought, ‘Heck, that’s a bear.’”

Cottrell grabbed his gun and shot the bear on the run. It turned out the bear had actually been sitting under the same tree as McFaden.

“He didn’t even know it,” Cottrell said. “He was as excited as I was. But that’s the kind of guy he was. He was my rabbit’s foot and my lucky charm.”

Another time, the two had rested from an early hunt and were standing, talking and drinking soda and eating a candy bar. They could hear a housedog chasing deer just over a ridge.

“Al had just missed an eight point the day before,” Cottrell said. “I know his bullet must have hit a limb or something, because there was no better shot in the state of Virginia. But Al gave me his gun and told me to go after it.”

Cottrell went out looking for the deer, which ended up being a “huge buck.” With a broadside shot well within range, Cottrell pulled the trigger only to discover he had no shell chambered.

“Al was always safe,” Cottrell laughed. “I thought, ‘what in the world have you don’t to me?”

After getting a shell loaded and finally getting re-situated, Cottrell ended up getting a shot at the monster buck.

The two waited an hour before beginning the search. They found a speck of blood where the buck was last seen and began what turned out to be a six-hour journey for miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“My eyes were just burned out,” Cottrell said. “Al said, ‘If he’s as big as you say he is, ‘I’m gonna find him.’ I couldn’t even see any longer, but after miles of tracking just prints in the dirt, Al said, ‘There’s the deer right there.’”

The buck turned out to be the largest Cottrell has killed with his gun, a 10-pointer with extra-long tines.

“I would’ve never found that deer,” Cottrell said. “I wouldn’t have half the deer I shot if it weren’t for Al. There wasn’t anyone better in the woods.”

Cottrell remembers McFaden as a family man who is survived by his wife, Cynthia, and two children, Scott and Tracy.

“He’d always bring up his family and how much he loved them and how fortunate he was to have such great kids.”

The hunting group grew a bit in recent years when McFaden’s son Scott began to join them. Cottrell remembers when Scott was able to shoot his first buck.

“Al was so happy and proud,” Cottrell said. “He dragged that buck to the creek and started to field dress it and ended up cutting his thumb because he was so excited.”

Last hunting season was memorable in other ways for Cottrell. After a nearly two-year fight with colon cancer, all indications were that McFaden had defeated the disease.

“He kept going back for regular check-ups and they gave him a clean bill of health,” said Cottrell.

During hunting season, McFaden began to get sick.

“I knew it was different than a normal sick,” Cottrell said. “I told him that he needed to go back to the doctor. They ended up telling him the cancer had spread and it was getting worse fast. He asked them for a timetable and they said they couldn’t be exact, but maybe two or three years.

“He just kept telling me that he wanted God to give him one more hunting season because he wanted to take Scott hunting one more time.”

His vigorous battle with the disease didn’t last long: He died six months later.

“You know, he was a real winner,” Cottrell said. “His battle with cancer was the only thing I’ve ever seen him lose. But, he was still a winner because of all the lives he touched while he was here.

“He asked me if Scott could hunt with us even after he passed. I told him that as long as there’s a breath in me and I can hunt, Scott will hunt with us.”

On one of the two best friends’ final hunt, Cottrell shot a dandy eight-pointer. He holds up the rack among other fine animals. “Al could have shot that deer. He ended up watching me shoot it and he could have shot it himself, but he wanted to let me.”

Cottrell paused one more time and stared at a picture of his friend with a monster buck. “To sit and watch your best friend suffer is so hard. What’s that Alabama song? God spent a little more time on you? That’s what he did with Al.”

Looking ahead, Cottrell hopes he gets excited for the upcoming season.

“It’s gonna be hard. Al’s not here with us to put a smile on our face, but he’s gonna be in our hearts doing it. I know he’s flashing that ‘Colgate smile’ in heaven.

“The woods in Bedford County aren’t going to be as perfect this season. The perfect hunter is not gonna be there.”


I remember the day well when Mike Cottrell was escorted to my desk in the newsroom in 1999. He had his hat in is hand and was hell bent on finding a way to honor his hunting buddy. He was clearly hurting from the loss several months earlier and I’m not sure he expected to find someone who shared a passion for the outdoors when we chatted by my desk. Then again, I’m not sure I expected to find one of the kindest-hearted human beings I’ve ever met.

This story was one of the easiest I ever wrote and ranks among the top-two articles ever in feedback volume. I am so thankful that I got to meet Mike that day, to get to spend a day with him at his house talking about his friend, and later sharing opening day of the 1999 Virginia opener with him in the same woods that he and Al used to travel. It was on that day that I shot my first Virginia deer, a basket racked buck on a beautiful mountainside atop a large rock that Mike dropped me off at before daylight. And to top it off, Mike shot a dandy 8 point that morning as well. Sadly, I have not connected with Mike in quite some time. Thinking of this article has sent me on a mission to find him and see how he’s doing. I will do that immediately.

I’m not sure the reach of this story really hit me until I walked into my cousin’s deer camp that same year, in Western New York, to find the article framed with a small note reminding his guests that the article’s homage to a hunting buddy was “what it’s all about.” The article still hangs there today.

Taking Wildlife Art to New Levels

Have you ever been turned down by a taxidermist? I have. And three duck mounts and several hours of trading hunting stories later, I know why.

Mark Benfield is the best waterfowl taxidermist I’ve ever come across. It’s that simple.

A hunting buddy who felt the same way about his work recommended Benfield, who owns and operates Mark’s Waterfowl Creations in Lincolnton, NC, to me several years ago. So imagine how excited I was to take my first bull canvasback to him after it made the delicate journey from North Dakota. Imagine my surprise when Benfield spent less than a minute looking at the duck before telling me he wouldn’t be able to mount it.

The most recent additions to my game wall - widgeon and redhead mounted by Mark.

“I’m sorry?” I said.

“I could mount that bird and you’re never going to like it,” Benfield said that day. “The head color is not in full plume and I’m not going to mount something that you have to spend the rest of your life wishing you wouldn’t have gotten it mounted.”

Benfield has a scoring system for birds he takes in and if it doesn’t fall on the right end of his spectrum for mounting, he will tell his customers not to mount the bird. It’s not that Benfield is arrogant or overworked that he has to turn it away. He doesn’t want his customers to be unhappy.

Imagine how hard I worked to shoot a duck that would meet his expectations for mounting. The following season, Sage’s first as my hunting buddy, saw us shoot two beautiful drake woodies that I knew had to meet his threshold. And both did so I chose to mount the first duck Sage ever retrieved. Lucky for me, it turned out to be one of the most beautiful mounts, of any species, I’ve ever seen.

The most beautiful mount I've ever seen. I am biased!

And on a coastal trip in North Carolina last year, I was fortunate to shoot a drake redhead and drake widgeon that made their way to Mark’s taxidermy shop. And instead of missing the scale, the widgeon actually topped Mark’s scoring system – a feat that seemed to impress even the best bird taxidermist this blogger has ever seen. I opted to get the ducks mounted in a dead mount against an old barn-board frame I built using wood my buddy Kenneth and I took off an old barn a few years back. I couldn’t be happier with his work on those birds as well.

I’m not the only one who has noted Mark’s work, evidenced by his 2007 National Championship in waterfowl and Blue Ribbon Awards in both the World and State taxidermy competitions.

For you out-of-state hunters, I promise the shipping prices to get Mark a bird for consideration would pay off when any mount is completed. He is truly that good.

Tales … I need to send congratulations to my fellow outdoors blogger, Nick Pinizzotto, who connected on a sharp looking 10-point on Pennsylvania’s archery opener earlier this month. Nick, who blogs at, is done bowhunting until we meet up with him at Riverview Outfitters in Hancock County, Ill., in four weeks. He reports that he’s got plenty of videographer duties remaining for his fellow PA buddies.

Johnston’s Take: Unethical to Farm Raise Whitetails

By Greg Johnston
AHT Guest Contributor

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a tree hugger. I burn wood, eat meat and enjoy killing God’s great animals for sport.

However, a recent trip to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) left me asking this question: Is it ethical to raise, breed and grow whitetail deer for human benefit?

Photo of 170-class whitetail that spurred author's opinion of pen-raised whitetails

I say no.

Hunting ethics and sportsmanship are the core roots of our sport and without them where would we be? I don’t want to imagine.

To me, raising a wild animal for personal benefit crosses this line. Free roaming whitetails continue to be the No. 1 hunted big game animal in North America and this should give whitetails a free pass from captivity.

Let’s take the buck pictured in this post.

This was one of two trophy animals on display at the NYDEC event I attended. Although impressive to look at, I couldn’t help but wonder if the deer was enjoying the event as much as the dozens of gawkers who were looking at him.

For those of you unfamiliar with whitetail farming and its benefits, whitetails are grown and raised for one reason – money. Farmers either sell the animal for breeding stock [at a high-fenced facility] or collect their urine for scent sales. Either way, I’m opposed to it.

This hits at the heart of my argument. We’re not dealing with an Angus or an Appaloosa, here. The whitetail continues to roam free in all but five U.S. states – Nevada, Utah, California, Hawaii and Alaska currently have no published whitetail herds.

I’d like to see it kept this way.

I believe our Creator put the whitetail deer on earth for reasons unknown, but I’m pretty sure putting him in a pen wasn’t one of them.

Where do you stand?

Hunting Pioneer & TV Legend Offers Tips, Strategies

By Greg Johnston
AHT Guest Contributor

It isn’t often you get to meet someone who’s helped grow the sport of hunting into the mega giant it is today, but I recently had that rare opportunity.

Mark Drury, the co-host of Bow Madness, Dream Season and Wildlife Obsession came to Upstate New York for an evening of food, drink and as you may have guessed, hunting.

Drury has years of experience, and success, to back his wisdom! (Image borrowed from

Drury needs no introduction, but for y’all who don’t know (mainly my city relatives), he and his brother Terry began producing hunting videos since 1989. The duo is the real deal, the big time, the whatever you want to call ‘em … they’re it.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting several hunting celebs over the years, and all have turned out to be what I hoped – just regular guys sharing a common passion. Drury is no exception.

An Iowa boy who made it big, Mark Drury remains humble and driven by his passion for hunting. Drury addressed our group and then graciously answered questions for over an hour.

From this, four themes seemed to emerge.

First – Technology only takes you so far. Drury, who is endorsed by Scent Blocker, openly admitted that there is no substitute for a favorable wind. Will scent elimination products improve your chances of harvesting that animal of your dreams? Yes, according to Drury, but other factors come into play – mainly he says wind direction and the speed of the wind.. Hunting is hunting, and fooling a wise old whitetail isn’t easy. We all know that.

Second – If you feel the urge, kill ‘em. Drury says a trophy to you may not be a trophy to him. His theory – if you get the feeling over a certain animal, whack ‘em. Having said that, Drury said he believes whitetail deer don’t reach their full potential until the ages of 7 – 9. Here in New York where I hunt, it is extremely rare to encounter a deer that old, so to me a 3 – 4-year old deer is a trophy and, in that case, I will almost always feel the urge.

Third – Hunt the edges. Drury preaches and practices non-intrusive hunting tactics. He says his success comes from hunting the perimeter. He suggests that you do the same and not penetrate your hunting parcel, rather set up on the edge, hoping to catch that mature deer on his feet … makes sense to me.

Fourth – Use trail cameras to find and locate you deer – and don’t check them too often. Drury says he sets his cameras out in the summer and often times won’t check them until October. He says on many occasions, he’ll capture over 300,000 images from one camera set. He has around 50 cameras running on his farms today, and although that may not be feasible for most of us, we all can afford a camera or two to help gain that advantage. Point made.

One other interesting note that Drury shared with me is the ramped poaching he deals with on a daily basis. He said some scum already this year poached a 165 + deer on his land. He says every year he finds numerous headless animals on and around his property. Sick isn’t it?

The best deterrent he’s been able to come up with is planting vegetation along the edges and along the roadways of his property to physically block the poachers’ view.

I’ve had the displeasure of having an animal I was hunting poached, so I feel for Drury on this.

So there you go, tips from a true hunting star! Happy hunting this fall!


Last month we told you about Luke Pearson, the North Carolina resident who had a video headed into the finals of a contest sponsored by Mathews Inc.

Pearson’s video, “A Mathews Tradition,” was recently named the winner of the “My Mathews Moment” video contest!

Pearson gets to enjoy a very nice turkey hunting trip as his prize. Here’s hoping the readers of helped put Luke over the top! Congratulations to the entire Pearson family.

What would you do?

My love and passion for whitetails is hard to explain. And for any of my non-hunting friends, it’s even harder to understand.

While I spend many hours chasing them throughout the fall and winter months, I enjoy observing them, and Lord knows I can’t stand to see them suffer. Trying to extrapolate on that to friends usually gets me a few wrinkled brows. Yes, I kill deer. But, yes, I also respect them plenty enough to get a knot in my oversized belly each time I see one suffering. I get that way about a lot of animals.

A Black Bear finds dinner at the hands of an apparently-injured buck. Photo borrowed from

My friend, Greg, passed along a recent photo series from Deer & Deer Hunting’s chat forum (Click here to see the photos. WARNING: Graphic). The series, titled “Bear Attacks, Eats Buck” is a voyeuristic peek at what happens in nature. A whitetail buck, apparently injured in what was likely an encounter with a vehicle, makes very little effort to get away from a fortuitous black bear. The buck, which appears to have a broken leg among his injuries in the first shot, dies a painful death. The bear feasts.

That part I understand and can accept. Click here for the rest