My name is Mark, M-A-R-K, and I'm addicted to hunting and firearms (insert theme music from "A&E's Intervention" here).
I grew up in a nice, loving, supportive home in Irvine, California, but unfortunately even cap guns were banned in the home.
I always had an interest in living creatures, and thought I wanted to be a veterinarian most of my childhood. My dad says I cried when he took me to the Brea Tar Pits at age 3, telling me there would be dinosaurs. When we arrived, I began to cry, saying "These aren't dinosaurs, these are MAMMALS!".
In 1992, things really took a turn for the worse at age 12 on a trip to Alaska. This was my first exposure to real gun and hunting culture, and it set my mind on fire. I bought my first gun magazine, actually an annual with a whole firearms catalog to study up on. I hid it from my parents, like it was a porno on that trip. When we got home, I began buying gun magazines without my parents knowledge for the next few months, digesting everything there was to know about them.
It turned out they were fine with my interest, and even began taking me shooting! I was shocked. I began to beg them to let me get a gun, but they were still fairly skeptical about my interest. When I took a hunter's safety course at age 13, then began rollerblading(despite 1 mile of dirt road after the pavement ended) to the only public outdoor gun range in all of Orange County(now sadly closed) and renting guns after school, they realized my interest wasn't just childhood "experimentation". I was already an addict.
Being a kid by yourself at a large range introduces you to all sorts of people who want to see you shoot their large caliber handguns and rifles, by the way.
At age 14 I reduced my begging to a bow, which would still allow me to hunt. So, on my 14th birthday, my dad took me to a pro shop without telling me where we were going and I was finally armed! So, my gateway drug, which was viewed as innocent enough by the parents, then developed into a desire for a shotgun, with the rationale that I could both deer hunt and bird hunt with it.
I went on my first hunting trip with a friend's mom from 4-H(it wasn't like that you sickos!). She was the only person I knew who had hunted before. We basically just drove around the desert with a bow in my hand for a couple days while staying in a casino at the state line. She had hunted off and on since she was 14, but at age 35ish, had never harvested anything. I needed a better mentor.
Christmas Eve 1994 found me at Turner's in Orange with a Mossberg 835 Ulti-Mag that wasn't going back in the rack. With that gun, I even did science experiments for school in ballistic gelatin with every size buckshot available to test total wound volumes( ie, what's better, many pellets, low penetration, or a few deep penetrators). The school didn't like it very much. Damn hippies!
By the way #1 buck was tops in total wound volume.
Things get worse, depending on how look at it.
I saved up enough when I was 15 to finally buy a big game rifle. Without having gun savvy parents to guide me, and me being quick to love anything the gun writers were touting, ended up with a .45-70 Marlin 1895. 100-150 yards sounded like a really long way to me, so I thought that would be plenty. My parents shipped me off to a family friend who had a deer lease in Alabama to give the gun a whirl.
I couldn't even focus on the crosshairs, I'd just pull the trigger with a deer in the scope. I had buck/doe fever in the worst way. I went hunting with that guy the next year in Tennessee on a planted bird hunt and finally got my first kills with that shotgun I didn't need. That same year I somehow justified in my mind and my folks that I needed a .22, but in a handgun. In California, you must first pass a test before you can buy your first handgun. So I made my mom study ( I was 16), so I could buy it. My problem was getting worse.
So, now I'm 17, time to start looking for colleges, and I get the brilliant idea of becoming a wildlife biologist. My parents are both University of California (Irvine and Santa Barbara) alums and wanted me to stay in state. I said screw that, I'm going where I can go hunting and keep my guns in the dorms. I'm going to Montana State!
Like sending a coke addict to Columbia.
I finally got my first deer that fall (HS senior), back in Alabama with the family friend on the last day of the hunt, and if I wasn't already hooked for life, that probably sealed the deal.
In Montana, I finally met my kind of people. Every other guy I met was a hunter, and about 1 in 4 women hunted. It was awesome. And I basically focused my classes on those that would make me a better hunter. I found the next object of my desire, a stainless, laminate .280 Ruger 77. Oh, and finally a .22 rifle, then a MAK-90 for shooting TVs we bought from the Salvation Army. Hey, where'd my money go?
When I moved out of the dorms, I moved into into a house with 4 other gun and hunting addicts. One of them had a Draathar that wouldn't point but would get us on grouse 2-3 times a week when we should have been in class, so the big 835 got retired for a used Stevens 311 16 gauge side by side.
And I finally got an elk with that .280. However, a bunch of college kids who had only vaguely paid attention to how their dads packed out and butchered an elk was a horrible situation in the field. But, between us and our buddies(who hunted) down the road, we had 4 freezers that couldn't contain all the meat we had.
In our group, someone was always in the market for a gun, and with my ability to retain and regurgitate information, I was always being called on as gun consigliari. Somehow, I managed to control myself most of the time, and only self medicated once or twice a year.
When I graduated, I ended up with a job in Central Montana, working with sage grouse. I wasn't interested in eating or killing them, but there sure was a lot of prairie dog towns in the area . I scraped together enough on my $850/month(this was 2002, not 1962) salary to spring for an NEF Handi Rifle, heavy barreled .223 and cheap tasco scope. How could I not? I was in varminters heaven. Should I not partake in the festivities?
When that job ended at the end of the summer, I moved back to Bozeman with my girlfriend. Now I had a problem, I was unemployed and it was the beginning of hunting season. I had friends around with time on their hands. Guess it's time for a backpack hunt deep into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness! You can hunt elk and deer with a rifle starting September 15, if you get 7 miles from the start of the Wilderness Boundary
At this point I still hadn't mortgaged my future for my interests. I was a college graduate with no debt. That needed to change because a Winchester M70 Sporter in .300 Ultra Mag was calling my name. And I didn't have a REAL elk rifle yet. I knew credit cards were good for something, but at that point I didn't know what . Not just good for guns, but good for optics, which would only be appropriate for my shiny new toy. Oh and this was the first gun I hid from my girlfriend. It was the next step in my out of control habit.
Things got even worse when I got accepted to grad school in Texas. Our professor dropped me and another grad student off on a ranch on the border and said "kill all the hogs and coyotes in the research enclosures (6, 200 acre heavily brushed enclosures on each of two ranches, 2400 acres total), I'll see you in two months." Fate had me rooming with another gun fanatic. In our little 110 degree paradise, we fed off eachother's increasing debt and bought more guns. Especially when additional students were added to the project.
Then as fate would have it, we couldn't catch and remove deer fast enough from the enclosures, so we found ourselves the recipient of a scientific harvest permit that allowed us to shoot deer round. What? The school will pay for our ammunition?!!
We got pretty good at calling our shots, experimented with reloading, gunsmithing, bullet placement and refined our shooting skills with game in the scope.
At one point in that crappy little trailer we stayed in, there was nearly 50 guns in the possession of really broke college students. No locks, and frequent "break" ins by hot and thirsty "undocumented migrant workers" , but never a stolen gun (on the border remember).
All good things must come to an end, and my girlfriend was demanding I move closer to her (now in Colorado), so I took a job in Nebraska working with bighorn sheep (seriously). I slowed the gun buying because I now had time to train a hunting dog, and 4000 acres to train him. The debt shrank and I was in control of my life again. But then hunting season came along, and I started guiding a little bit, had to have some new gear! Still, it wasn't as bad as what Texas did to my financial health.
An opening in my girlfriend's private conservation group in Colorado found me with a better job in the state I now call home. After 6 years of hiding guns and deflecting questions about how I spend my money, I decided to break up with her to look for an addict whose parts mine are designed to fit in.
The job that brought me there was temporary, and thankfully it ended in time for hunting season. After hunting all autumn, I was having a hard time going back to wildlife, the $14.00/hr pay, temporary jobs and moving every 6 mos to 2 years.
I didn't know what I was going to do, and like any addict, wanted to sell the drug that I loved, but was afraid to make that leap. Instead I sold cars, which is cool if you like working with real addicts. ,)
But, I met a guy who offerred to take me on as a full parnter in a car stereo and window tinting business. Apparently he thought I was a good salesman. Life was good, for a little while. I had a little cash, started building more custom guns, then my partner stole a bunch of money and disappeared. Festive.
I was now supposed to do something I had little skill or interest in, so I sold contracts with our dealers to other window tinters and stereo guys until I ran out of takers. But thankfully, that was just in time for this past year's hunting season, and I had a new custom .264 Win Mag done just in time.
So now I have a problem, I think I just got approved for my manufacturing FFL, am broke again and am going to make my addiction my business. This was supposed to be a good thing, right?
Time will tell, but I'm pretty excited about it!
Bring on the debt!
(I originally wrote that as an introduction of myself on another forum for guys who wanted to know what the background on my handle was, but I'm pretty active here and felt like sharing. It's therapeautic.)