Irwin Greenstein is Publisher of Shotgun Life. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking back to April 2019,there were 26,678 student clays-shooting competitors from 1,042 high school teams across 25 states who participated in the USA High School Clay Target League.
That program isn’t the only game in town for youngsters looking to become the next George Digweed, Kim Rhode, Bill McGuire or Anthony Matarese, Jr.
Mike Burnett was given a mission: design and build an impeccable 32-gauge side by side for his boss, Russell Gordy – quail-hunting disciple, shotgun connoisseur, self-made billionaire and owner of the luxury outfitter Gordy and Sons in Houston, Texas.
On March 26, 2019 the German-based Blaser Group, manufacturers of the F3 and F16 shotguns, announced that industry veteran Jason Evans had been hired as CEO of Blaser USA in their San Antonio, Texas headquarters. Mr. Evans replaced Christian Socher who returned to Germany to accept his promotion as the new Head of Sales and CEO of Blaser GmbH, after a remarkable seven years of leadership that burnished the Blaser brand in America to a high luster.
Monty Lewis called the bobwhite quail hunt a “Fellowship Opportunity,” and he wasn’t kidding. Our party of 20 current and retired board members from Ducks Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited Canada had collectively served nearly 400 years as volunteers for the revered wetlands conservation nonprofit.
The hunts are not official DU events, but as Mr. Lewis described them “Traditionally, after joint meetings in the Southeast, we have a recreational activity. We get the Canadians out of the cold weather. I’ve been the host a few times and this year we’re extending some Southern hospitality where it’s the dead of winter for them.”
Kevin Kelly has a knack for cultivating the sweet spot in America’s fine shotgun market. His collection of bespoke Plantation side by sides and over/unders for the field are built to his exact specifications by family-owned Fratelli Poli Armi in Gardone Val Trompia, Italy – replete with the hand-finishing you’d expect from an $80,000 English Best, but starting at $8,995.
“Much of the pleasure of shooting is what accompanies it and sharing it all with a good friend.” ~ George Bird Evans, The Upland Shooting Life (1971)
The child tells what he got for Christmas, the mature man tells how he spent the day; the immature hunter tells how many birds he shot, the mature gunner tells of the experience. If I can impart a sense of gunning values through my writing, I urge the gunner at any age to lift himself above the childish state of mind, thinking only of himself and not what he is doing to the birds.
– George Bird Evans, An Affair with Grouse (1982)
Now for the unthinkable: from the workshop of English best gunmaker James Purdey & Sons emerges an audacious 12-gauge clays gladiator fit for the Olympics. The idea may not seem so far-fetched after shooting the new Purdey Trigger Plate over/under.
The topic of Team GB competing with a Purdey shotgun at the 2024 Paris summer Olympics arose from a conversation with George Juer, Purdey’s Manager of North American Sales. He was driving a Polaris as we zipped through countryside hills of the sporting clays course at Griffin & Howe’s Hudson Farm in Andover, New Jersey. I was still talking about a few of the remarkable shots I had made with the Purdey Trigger Plate (even surprising myself), despite that the 8-pound/11-ounce demo model came with extra barrel thickness for high driven pheasants. Final production weight should be closer to 8 pounds/3 ounces.
Up until a few weeks ago Rich Cole’s stellar career was 100-percent Italian shotguns. Starting in 1979 he joined Beretta USA as a five-dollar-per-hour apprentice gunsmith. The job included extensive time at the mothership in Gardone, Italy learning the finer points of repairing and enhancing Beretta sporting shotguns.
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.
The horn blasts, I look to the sky of burnished blue and pheasants appear over the hillside trees. The birds glide high and fast toward us, riding prevailing winds with gusts like pheasant afterburners.
The volley of shotgun blasts marks another driven hunt as dropped birds get taken up by our eager dogs. I discovered that here at 8,000 feet shotgun shells hold their patterns longer and tighter than at sea level, giving rise to extraordinary wingshooting – although our party includes serious talent.