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Finland – Land of Sako … and Whitetails
Tecomate’s Gary Schwarz and wife Marlee joined my wife, Debbie, and me on a recent trip to Finland, where we were hosted by a wonderful group of guys with Sako Arms and Chip Klass with Beretta, USA, the parent company of Sako. We went both to hunt and to visit the Sako/Tikka rifle plant … The Bucks of Tecomate cameras in tow. And, what a trip it was!
What were we hunting? Moose … and, of all things, whitetails! Yes, whitetails. It may seem hard to believe, but there is an excellent population of whitetails in southern Finland. In fact, it’s the largest population outside of the Americas. Where did they come from? A handful of animals shipped over from Minnesota way back in 1937 by Finnish immigrants, who wanted to see the homeland enjoy these marvelous game animals. From less than 15 original deer, the whitetail has now become the second most important and popular game animal in Finland, second only to moose, with an annual harvest of about 25,000 whitetails!
We only had about 2½ days to hunt, but our hosts were determined for us to get all we could out of our short time there. We split our time between hunting moose and whitetails. The primary way of hunting was drives, both using dogs and men to push the game. For whitetails, we also sat over food sources late in the afternoons. Actually, that’s not quite accurate – we started our “sits” for whitetails late in the afternoon … and continued them well into the night. You see, it is legal in Finland to hunt at night, as long as you don’t use artificial light. If you can see the animal, you can shoot him … any time day or night! Of course, night-hunting and cameras don’t go together very well, so we Tecomate folks didn’t pursue the night-hunting opportunities much past dark. But, after hunting those very nocturnal Finnish whitetails, I know why they stand-hunt them at night – that seems to be the only time they move on their own! If you want to kill one during the day, you had better plan on driving!
The Tecomate group with Sako hosts and Finnish whitetails taken on a whitetail
drive. Great experience!!!!! Reminded us all that hunting is about the Great
Outdoors, friends and shared experiences. The Fins get the most from the hunt
and the game and don't measure success by size alone! Good lesson and great trip.
I won’t go into all the details of the hunt. I’ll save that for the TV show. Suffice to say – it was an incredible experience! Chip Klass, a delightful hunting companion, shot a great bull moose the first morning. One of our Sako hosts (Raimo) shot a whitetail buck the first afternoon (read night). On the second day, Gary shot his first moose ever, a young bull, and another of our hosts (Jari) shot a whitetail doe in the early moonlight. And on the final day, Gary scored again on a whitetail doe, as did another of our Sako hosts (Pentti), during exciting drives using “badger dogs,” which look like long (I do mean long) stretched-out beagles. I, on the other hand, failed to score. The only thing that I saw during the trip was the moose that Gary killed on the second day. I was on the uphill stand next to him and had a bird’s eye view of the whole event, which was captured by our cameraman, Mason Gertz.
Chip Klass with Beretta took this bull moose in Finland on the first day of the
Tecomate hunt. Finnish moose are not nearly as large as those in North America.
This is considered a good one. In fact, ANY moose is considered a trophy there,
where emphasis is placed on the hunting experience rather than the size of the animal.
The Fins take their hunting very seriously, and every aspect of it is steeped in Old World tradition! The people, the countryside and the hunting traditions made this trip very special. By American standards, we would not consider most of the whitetails or moose in Finland “trophies” based on size, but because of the appreciation and value the Finns put on each and every animal, regardless of size or sex, all the animals seen and harvested on our trip were TROPHIES!!! Anybody who sees the show next fall will understand why this hunting experience was so special to Gary and me, as well as to our lovely wives. The incredible hospitality, the centuries old traditions and the beautiful countryside made this trip one we at Tecomate will ever forget.
The real reason we went to Finland was to visit the Sako factory, where Sako and Tikka rifles are made. That opportunity was made possible by an invitation from Christopher Merritt, president of Beretta, USA. World-famous Beretta now owns Sako, and Tecomate is working with Sako on the development of a “Tecomate” rifle (maybe two) designed specifically for the whitetail market. After touring the plant, we knew for sure that Sako is the right place to build such a rifle. Gary and I were very impressed by the materials, manufacturing process and the pride and workmanship of the people, many of whom have worked there all their lives and all of whom take extraordinary pride in what they do and the products they turn out. Even today, in the world of manufacturing shortcuts, Sako still builds rifles THE RIGHT WAY!
I’ve always wondered how Sako and Tikka could claim their rifles are guaranteed to shoot groups of one inch or less. Well, now I know – it begins with the best materials, manufacturing process and people and ends with EVERY rifle being tested for accuracy with at least three shots. If the rifle doesn’t group less than an inch, it is rejected and returns to the factory for re-working! Right there under the factory is a 100-meter underground shooting range, and before a rifle is “passed” and ready for packaging, it is shot for accuracy … every single one! Amazing! I saw it! Heck, I test-shot one .308 Winchester myself for accuracy. It shot a .41-inch group. That’s barely wider than the .30-caliber bullet diameter! Now I know why Sako and Tikka can make that accuracy claim! If you watch the show next year, we’ll show you the factory tour and you can see for yourself why Sako rifles are world renown.
Well, for more, you’ll have to watch The Bucks of Tecomate next fall. With that, I’ll close by sharing our e-mail note to our hosts. I think in that note you can see the appreciation we all had for the great hospitality extended us by of gracious hosts and how impressed we were with Sako and Finland and its people.
Raimo, Kari, Jari, Pentti, and Timo, all of us at Tecomate want to express our appreciation for the great time and hospitality you all showed us during our visit to Finland! We had a wonderful time in your beautiful country and really enjoyed our time with all of you. During the Sako factory tour, we were amazed by the pride and workmanship obvious in the manufacturing of your rifles. It is no wonder Sako has such a well-deserved reputation! Congratulations on making world-class rifles you can be proud to make and your customers can be proud to own.
We know you are all very busy and really appreciate the time you took away from your schedule to show us around the factory and to share your great hunting tradition with us. We know that much time and effort went into the preparation for our hunts and express our sincere THANKS! It was a privilege to share in the age-old hunting traditions of Finland. The Fins’ deep love and appreciation for the chase and the game took us back to our own hunting roots, when hunting was just plain fun and sharing it with others made it even more enjoyable. Gary couldn’t have been more excited over a record-book whitetail buck than he was over his moose calf and whitetail doe. It was a privilege for all of us to participate in the great Finnish hunting tradition!
Chip and I will follow up on the Tecomate rifle discussions and get our ideas back to you. We are very excited about the prospects of working with Sako on a specialized rifle made for the serious whitetail market.
Once again, from Gary, Marlee, Debbie and me, thanks for your gracious hospitality! We look forward to seeing you all in Florida during the SHOT Show.
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