Ask Petzal: BB Guns, Dave’s Favorite Tag-Soup Recipe, and Three Rifles He’ll Never Part With

tag-soup recipe, David E. petzal, hunting tags,
David E. Petzal answers your questions about guns, shooting, hunting, and life.Illustration by Mark Matcho

David E. Petzal answers your questions about guns, shooting, hunting, and life. Got a question for our rifles editor? Send it to We cannot guarantee polite answers to all questions.

Do you have a good tag-soup recipe?Stan Kemmerer, Spring Creek, Nev.

A: The best tag-soup recipe I know of came from the late Larry Koller, a formidable hunter and outdoor chef. (This version serves four.)

As many tags as possible, shredded medium-fine

  • 2 quarts water, if possible containing some industrial effluent
  • 4 oz. crow meat, shredded
  • 1 tsp. gall
  • 1 tsp. wormwood
  • Boil ingredients for 15 minutes, let cool, serve with humble pie. Enjoy!

Q: Any tips for how I can shoot a bigger buck than my father-in-law?Justin Clouthier, Ottawa, Ontario
A: My suggestion is to lock him in a closet, and then go deer hunting. That way, whatever you get will be bigger. Just keep in mind that he may want payback.

Q: Is it O.K. to clean my rifle's bore with patches cut from an old T-shirt? Tom Kleist, Eagle Lake, Minn.
A: Cut-up tees make fine gun patches, and they're also very good for spit-shining jump boots, in case you have a pair of those. Feel free to continue using them.

Q: Why is it that so many rifles these days come with a 24-inch barrel for non-magnum cartridges?Jacob Claussen, Little Canada, Minn.
A: Fashions come and go, and right now, the fashionable barrel length for rifles chambered for standard-length cartridges is 24 inches. Also, if you make 26-inch barrels for the magnums and 24-inch tubes for non-­magnums, you can use the same-length stock for both, and it won't look bad.

Q: Is it in poor taste to put a silencer on a classic wood-stocked rifle?Eric M., Richmond, Va.
A: It may be in poor taste, but it is by-God practical, and I'd do it in a heartbeat if I had any hearing left to protect.

Q: How far would you shoot at an elk with a .30/30? Would I be crazy to take mine on my next hunt?Levi Barber, Conifer, Colo.
A: I think the .30/30 is no more than a 200-yard rifle, but it has taken untold numbers of elk. If it's the only gun you have, you can take it with no fear of having a net thrown over you.

Q: What kind of BB gun did you have as a kid, and did you shoot anything you weren't supposed to?Chip Garrett, Abilene, Texas
A: I had both pump- and ­lever-action BB guns but did very little killing with them. That waited until I got a good air rifle. I was unsupervised and did a lot of shooting I shouldn't have, which I regret to this day.

Q: Do you have any rifles that are not for sale at any price?Ralph L. Innes, Poplar Bluff, Miss.
A: I have three: a plain .280 that was built for me by Jim Carmichel; a very fancy .300 Weatherby that was stocked and engraved by Winston G. Churchill; and a 7mm Weatherby Magnum that was restocked by Griffin & Howe in the '70s and went all over the world with me before I retired it. I go first, then they go.