Rather than hunt alone, the Old Duck Hunter said he needed “a good pair of eyes” to share his blind on this cold December day.
Almost as if by feel, he maneuvered the ancient, battered aluminum boat through dark winding channels. His mind’s eye remembered these familiar twists, snags and channels after 70 years of running this backwater. These eyes dodged trees that weren’t even growing when he hunted this swamp as a child. Ahead, something lifted from the water with whistling squeals.
Every March in the Red Hills Region around the bobwhite quail hunting capitol of Thomasville, Georgia, an invitation-only field trial has taken place for the past 36 years that celebrates the rich tradition of African-American bird dog trainers who have been thriving on the local plantations for generations.
The aerial acrobatics that a pigeon can perform are awe-inspiring in the world of wingshooting. The pigeon can only be rivaled in speed by a teal or a dove. A pigeon can turn on a dime. It can barrel roll or loop to loop with the best jet pilots. So it’s no wonder that when I ask well-traveled wingshooters “What’s your favorite bird to hunt?” more often than not they answer “pigeon.”
Most all shotgunners know that proper footwork goes a long way toward successful shot making. It wasn’t light enough to shoot ducks yet, but I was wishing I had a knowing shotgun instructor behind me with some useful advice. But it was shooting assistant Lucho behind, and he didn’t speak much English, and my Spanish is somewhat of a joke. So no help from Lucho. Did I mention my feet were stuck in the mud – in Argentina?
Blaser has parlayed its winning reputation with the F3 shotgun into a new line of affordable models that uphold the original’s quality, handling and performance at less than half the price –resulting in the exceptional Blaser technology becoming far more accessible to wing and clays shooters.
Safari Club International, long-known for big-game hunting and conservation programs, is making a significant push into wingshooting, which we expect to accelerate next year with the appointment of Paul Babaz as the organization’s next President.
As September approaches, in our secret heart every shotgun disciple anticipates their annual pilgrimage to a beloved place. For some of us it’s the autumnal woods of Maine for woodcock, a goose hunt on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, sporting clays at The National Shooting Complex in San Antonio or maybe throwing clays from that rusty hand-loader at a family barbeque. Personally, that special journey takes me to Griffin & Howe’s gorgeous Hudson Farm in Andover, New Jersey.
From the small town of Thomasville, Georgia, Kevin’s Plantation Collection of exquisite shotguns has amassed an oversized influence on the wingshooting community. And now the collection’s namesake creator, Kevin Kelly, is ready to rock our world again with his remarkably low priced 20-gauge over/under.
Story | Photos by John N. Felsher
“Shoot,” I yelled as birds exploded in all directions from thick reeds just a few feet from us. “There’s another one. Fire! Here comes a straggler. Get him.”
In seconds, my son Steven pumped out three rounds from his Remington Model 870 20 gauge, scoring a double. More birds flushed from the dense cover while others raced into the canes to escape on foot as Steven tried to reload as fast as he could. Hastily dropping one shell into the chamber, Steven nailed another bird struggling to get airborne.
Once you have handled a really well-balanced shotgun, you will never again be satisfied with less. One shooter, back in the 1990s, described it as being like the first time you taste a really great French wine. Your palate changes forever.
When we think of bird hunting, we instantly go to a sacred place that exists in our hearts – a sacred covert we protect. We dream of finding that place again and want to know it will still be there long after we are gone. As a group, we engage in friendly debates about the dogs, guns and game we prefer. We share our stories, but it’s that moment we find alone in the field that we think about at the end of the day, in a comfortable chair. The birds we hunt are worth finding for the first time, worth fighting for and worth remembering.
There is no shortage of pheasant hunting lodges in South Dakota. Yet one lodge seems to rise to the top as an Orvis Endorsed Lodge in 2009 and Orvis Wingshooting Lodge of the year and in 2016.
Story|Photos by Tom Keer
Say the word “woodcock” in a room full of bird hunters and you are likely to capture most everyone’s attention. Hunters are fascinated with the eclectic, migratory bird for a wide variety of reasons. Dyed-in-the-wool woodcock hunters seem to have camaraderie that knows no bounds. I suspect if you asked any of them if they’ve ever wanted to embark on a five-month journey that follow the flights from their breeding grounds to their wintering grounds most would say yes. Most nod in agreement when the phrase “anything done in moderation shows a lack of interest” is quoted.
This past October we visited my wife’s sister and brother-in-law in central Nebraska. I was a willing participant. I love my extended family, I love visiting that part of my country and I had a selfish motive: shooting at the Oak Creek Sporting Club in Brainard, Nebraska with a pristine thumb lever Purdey built in 1869 loaned to me by a friend. Shooting a classic British shotgun in the heart of the New World intrigued me.
Stone butts and red grouse on a wine colored Scottish moor. Mule drawn wagons following bobwhite seeking pointers beneath loblolly pines. Rolling hills filled with olive trees and red legged partridge. Undulating plains rhythmically swaying to the wing beats of sharptails.
Gary Kramer is a professional photographer, writer and sportsman. One of his favorite places is Los Laureles Lodge in the Argentina Province of Entre Rios. Here is Gary’s diary from a recent trip to Los Laureles Lodge.
The porch was long and spacious. There were comfortable chairs and tables along the wall, and a short drop from the porch down to the natural flora of Texas Hill country spread a few dozen yards out to a limestone bluff that overlooked the valley of Joshua Creek. I was leaned back in a chair with a cup of black coffee, watching the morning unfold. Across the valley, I could hear the calls of quail, pheasant roosters, and a couple of hen mallards gossiping, or arguing, or whatever it is they talk about.
Welcome back to America, F.A.I.R.
After five years, Fabbrica Armi Isidoro Rizzini, known to its friends as F.A.I.R., has returned to the U.S. with an expansive inventory of affordable Italian shotguns and rifles.
Wingshooting has been my lifelong passion and the motivation that has resulted in my occupation which runs the whole gambit of wingshooting worldwide. I have worked for several of the top gunmakers in England and Europe as shooting instructor, gun fitter, gunmaker and sporting agent (outfitter).
In Minneapolis-St. Paul we boarded a two-engine plane and buckled in while the pilot tried to start the engines. An hour later, we deplaned and made preparations to camp out in the airport. Apologetic employees gave us cookies and stale sodas while we called our loved ones and scratched out our last wills and testaments on the backs of airline napkins.
We showed up on time. Oh dark-30. Parked our car on a pull-off area on a mountain road in Kebler Pass, located in the Crested Butte area. The twins stepped out of their vehicle next to us – dressed in camo, do-rags and running shoes. The reflective tape on their shoes gleamed in the pre-dawn and I thought, “I’m in trouble here.” My hunting boots already felt heavy.
Entering the new gunsmith workshop of Rich Cole, I immediately recalled my days as a graduate student at the University of New Hampshire when we lived in the picturesque, riverfront town of Portsmouth.
When I developed the “Hunting With Hank” television series starring my Llewellin Setter Hank, for what was then The Outdoor Life Network, I had confidence that the series would find an audience. But, the amazing success of Hank’s show actually caught me off guard. Along with its popularity, came requests from viewers all across the country to explain how I trained Hank for the work they saw him performing on our upland bird hunts that spanned the country.
I was stunned. Pleasantly stunned. Roberto Ferrata uncased his new titanium Fabbri 12 gauge shotgun and handed it to me. “I want you to use my gun today.” I received the magnificent firearm and held it as gently as if it were a newborn baby. Bringing it to my shoulder, I noted with conflicting emotions and thoughts that it fitted perfectly.
Even though Anne Kania is owner of the new wingshooting retreat and shooting academy for women called Joy of Hunting, she may in fact be one of the best relationship gurus for couples.
American shotgun shooting with English influences. English traditions with an American twist. Call it what you wish but Richard Smith’s The Royal United Company has created a hybrid style of sport shooting that has everyone talking. From game birds to sporting clays, in just a few years, the now 30-year-old originally from South West England has not only made sport shooting more accessible by creating a completely mobile shooting experience, but has changed the way many American view the sport here in the states.
Here in Colorado Springs, a bright and unseasonably warm February afternoon boasted clear skies and no wind — perfect for a clays-shooting session with USA Shooting team members, skeet whiz Amber English and her trap colleagues Dakotah Richardson and Collin Wietfeldt. We also caught up with team trap shooter Kelsey Zauhar.
The thrill of bird hunting in South Africa struck on our first morning out when, driving on rutted roads to the fields, we spotted zebras, wildebeest, reedbucks, eland and jackals. And as it would play out a jackal had grabbed an Egyptian goose I had downed even before our German Wiredhaired could retrieve it.
I learned of the CZ Sporter shotgun improbably. I was at the last station in a registered shoot at the Colorado Clays Sporting Club in Brighton, Colorado, a thirty-minute drive from downtown Denver. The station had five true pair of overhead tower shots coming from behind like F-16s. I was shooting my favorite Italian over/under masterpiece but I wasn’t hitting the targets solidly and even missed a few. The joy of shooting felt like a week-old soufflé.
Story | Photo by Ron Spomer
In the 1960s pheasants were big game birds in South Dakota, the upland equivalent of Canada geese. Tough, durable, armed with spurs and ready to shoulder through a dense swarm of shot. A big ringneck was no bird to fool with. The full-choke 12 gauge was the hands down favorite for taming South Dakota’s feral pheasants.
But I didn’t use one.
“No” is the favorite word of Englishman Robin Watson when it comes to teaching his British Labrador Retrievers their gamebird craft.
“I train a lot around the word ‘no’ because it’s like in the wild when animals growl at each other,” he explained.
There’s nothing like a little controversy to stir things up – reading here about opinions on Winchester’s vaunted Model 21 side by side – along with opinions about a possible up-and-comer in the used gun realm – Browning’s BSS (acronym for Browning Side by Side). The Winchester Model 21 has a long standing favorable reputation among many shotgunners, but especially among those who favor Winchesters of all types, maybe even more especially among Winchester collectors.
Well before dawn, the camouflage-clad hunter stepped off the gravel road running through the wildlife management area in eastern South Carolina and followed a small creek into the forest.
Scooby stands at the highest point of Crubenmore (a 3,000-acre beat on Drumochter estates, which is part of the Cairngorms National Park). He breathes in this mysterious landscape – with its light grey sky, patches of bare rock face and carpet of short muted heather – hoping to catch the scent of grouse.
The legendary Matarese family continues its winning ways as their M&M Hunting & Sporting Clays – home of champion Anthony Matarese, Jr. and venue for top clays competitions – exerts their presence of three generations in the industry with an expansion of “fair chase” hunting complemented by old-world luxe lodging within earshot of the Mid-Atlantic’s largest cities.
Most grouse hunters are sentimentalists at heart and dream of owning a good side by side, which was the gun of choice for the old timers around the turn of the 20th century. The first half of the 1900s was truly the Golden Age for American side by sides and companies such as Parker Brothers, L.C. Smith, and A.H. Fox were producing some of the finest double guns ever made in our nation’s history. It was a time when industrial efficiency and true craftsmanship were co-equals in the shotgun industry.
The acrid smell of two-stroke exhaust mixing with the sweet smell of the cedar transported me back to a bygone era – a time of wooden decoys and boats and huge duck numbers.
The boat was a cedar sneak boat over 50 years old. In the water 200 yards distant, the decoys were mostly hand-carved wooden blocks. Although not as old as the boat, the decoys were still carved with the same care of the decoys of old.
If you’ve strolled the tents at the Southern Side by Side or the grassy vendor row of Orvis’ Sandanona Game Fair you’ve seen ruddy Gregor McCluskey manning the BraeVal collection of sporting apparel – the Buffalo Plaids, Shepherd’sTweeds and Uplander Gun Checks.