There is a reason that the majority of annual sportsman’s shows take place this time of year. Your past season is still a fresh memory. The idea of hunting a new targeted species or changing venues for the same species is all you can think about. These shows are well attended by outfitters and lodges to help you make your decisions. You can talk with the guides, managers and, in many cases, the owners of these businesses. References can be obtained for further research after the show. High-caliber shows like Safari Club International and others like it are, in a way, filters themselves. The long list of vendors waiting to get in means the existing outfitters have to be successful to maintain their spot. A bonus to these shows is that they are typically held at destination locations (Las Vegas, Reno, etc.).Some, like the Southern Side-by-Side Spring Classic in Sanford, North Carolina are held at a shooting facility allowing for some fun shooting while doing your homework. This makes for a fun post-bird season trip with your shooting spouse or buddies.
It’s always more fun when the line is filled with your friends.
Quality of birds and accommodations are very important ingredients for a great season, but the most important is the company of others. I was talking with a gun customer of mine about his recent trip to Argentina for dove and pigeon. “The shooting was great,” he said “but some of the other guests attending really brought down the quality of the trip.” If you do not have enough guns to fill a line of pegs, estancia or lodge you are taking a chance of fill-in guests.
Shooters are coming from a different background now. When I started coaching, 30 some odd years ago, my students came from a hunting heritage and so did their shooting buddies. All they wanted from me was to learn a methodology that was best for their wingshooting interests. It was easy for them to fill a lodge or line with known companions. Now the majority of my students are new shooters. They are surrounded by friends who would like to learn but are intimidated. We, as responsible instructors, are now teaching safety and etiquette as well as sound methodology. Encourage your friends to join you in a shooting school that teaches the entirety of the wingshooting lifestyle.
Painter Bucky Bowles is a regular exhibitor at the Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival. Here’s his painting titled “In the Cutover.”
Once the fear of shooting a shotgun for the first time is gone, take them to fun shows that are more hands on. Expositions and festivals like the Southeastern Wildlife Expo in Charleston, South Carolina and the Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival in Thomasville, Georgia, will help your friends understand the traditions of bird hunting through an artist’s eye and learn the different dog breeds and their history. Culinary experts will show your friends that wild game is not “gamey”. Pretty soon you will have your own little group of shooters that will fill up a lodge.
To many, the thought of visiting dozens of outfitters over a period of a couple of days is overwhelming. Being the concierge to their friends is incredibly time consuming. There are other options, and they come in the form of tutors.
It’s always better when you can share days like these with your friends.
Clubs are great, and they offer a tremendous amount of convenience. Knowing the procedures and protocol is a help just as it's comforting to know where the clays courses are and where the field hunts take place. Clubs have a limitation, and they don’t allow for new experiences. I introduced my LJ Roving Syndicate as a way to offer the private club experience with an ever changing suite of destinations. Sometimes I'll arrange trips for members to Southern quail plantations, other times we'll travel to states that allow for pigeon hunts.
Staunch dogs are a must for a quality hunt.
Driven and rough shooting in the U.K. is highly desirable as are high volume shoots to South America. My decades of experience in the sporting life has given me the knowledge to insure high-quality trips as well as to properly outfit and educate my syndicate members. Everyone arrives at our destination fully prepared for an adventure. Due to the great connections I have created I have been able to offer the members very unique venues that most didn’t know existed.
Whether you do the homework or find a tutor, the off-season is the very best time to do your research. The test is when you arrive at your venue of choice next fall. If you do it right you'll be surrounded by like-minded people walking up on staunch points for wild or high-quality birds. In other words, you'll be on the front end of a “great” season.
Unless Lars Jacob is running dogs, wetting a fly line or turkey hunting, everything he does revolves around shotgunning. Jacob has been teaching the finer art of wingshooting for over 30 years. He has run programs and gun rooms for the Dutch River Club, Covey & Nye and Orvis Company to name a few. Jacob is the founder and CEO of Lars Jacob Wingshooting, LLC and LJW Roving Syndicate. In addition to instruction, Jacob is recognized as one of the country’s finest gun fitters and recently worked with Perazzi’s Al Kondak to develop the Perazzi Ladies Sporter. He has a soft spot for side-by-sides and has introduced thousands of shooters to the nuances associated with shooting such shotguns. For more information visit www.larsjacobwingshooting.com.