Shotgun Lives

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Ann Kercheville

Ann Kercheville is President of Joshua Creek Ranch. Located in the renowned Texas Hill Country just 45 minutes northwest of San Antonio and 90 minutes southwest of Austin, Joshua Creek Ranch occupies a uniquely diverse terrain including miles of Joshua Creek and Guadalupe River bottomland planted in fields of grain crops for prime upland and deer hunting habitats. You can visit their web site at

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Ken Hartshorn

Ken is a technical writer and has spent the majority of his career documenting storage hardware and software products for start-up companies. Although start-ups demand long hours, he always finds time to get to the club and break some clays. Ken is not a shooting instructor and he is not a professional shooter. He’s part of the majority of people who love to shoot clays just for the sheer fun of it.

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Lars Jacob

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

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The enigmatic, unfathomable and sphinx-like Georgetown Trout & Gun Club.

The phone rang and I got my assignment: track down the elusive chaps at the Georgetown Trout & Gun Club for a daring exposé in Shotgun Life.

Only in certain circles did the name Georgetown Trout & Gun Club ever bubble to the surface. It was the equivalent of the Order of Skull & Bones at Yale that counted presidents, spies and billionaires among its ranks.

The Georgetown Trout & Gun Club was a name never spoken -- only whispered with great reverence.

Members valued their privacy above all else. If you were fortunate enough to ever find yourself in the company of a member, you could never ask about the club. His customary reply is that the organization was established to promote interpretive dance.

The national media was all abuzz when the Georgetown Trout & Gun Club turned down the Washington Post for an interview. And the group's reticence doesn't stop there.

Most queries about membership fall into a black hole of silence. Or if you did receive a reply, it's usually one word.

In our Information Age, you have to really dig deep for the smallest scraps of intelligence about this private men's society.

An Extraordinary League

They say it was founded 700 years ago and is now the oldest and most exclusive sporting club in the country -- if not the world.

It is "the extraordinary league of very ordinary gentlemen," yet when you dig into the annals of the organization the members seem far from ordinary.

A former FBI spy who is serving time on espionage charges was booted from the club for non-payment of dues since 2001.

The club's Director of Fishing left for Denver (at least that's what he said) as part of the Federal Witness Protection Program.

Then there's the Chairman...

He is only shown in photos as Sir David Niven. The Rules Committee stipulates that members must stand when the Chairman enters the room. The Chairman is always the last to enter and the first to leave. And he is never to be addressed by his Christian name, only as Mr. Chairman.

The Chairman (David Niven, right) bestows the traditional ballerina trophy to the day’s champion.

The Chairman is known for reciting The Iliad by heart in local taverns. His favorite diversion on road trips is staying in Howard Johnson motels.

A Powder Keg: The Smith Endowment

And the club's secret handshake? It's only known by two people: the Chairman and the Director of Ops.

Despite its secrecy, there was one powder keg that the group managed to quietly extinguish.

It was started by the club's Smith Endowment, after word leaked that some of them claimed to have fathered children with the notorious blonde bombshell, Anna Nicole Smith.

So now that I finished due diligence on the club, my next step was to make contact. How would I do it? Would I ever get through? Would they completely ignore me? Was bribery appropriate?

The Phone Number

As it turns out, I had an ace in the hole. After digging and digging and digging, I found a phone number. I did a quick Avé Maria before I called it. A man answered. It turned out apparently to be the Director of Ops, since he answered the phone "Ops."

I politely introduced myself. There was a long pause. I continued that I was with Shotgun Life and could I do a story on the club?

"Sure," he said. He explained that The Great Challenge was coming up in a few weeks and asked if I would be interested in a press pass.

"You bet," I said.

"Consider it done. And by the way..."


"There's one teeny-tiny stipulation."

"Of course."

"You cannot identify our members. You refer to them by their numbers. To shield our privacy, you understand."

I couldn't believe my good luck. I must've caught him in a good mood -- or on the tail end of a three martini lunch. Regardless, I shot him off my email address. Over the next several days, I received missives about the upcoming Great Challenge. Finally, as we neared the date, the actual invitation arrived.

Attention able-bodied men -- and The Chairman!

Remember that Saturday is our Great Society's annual Sporting Clay Tournament in Remington, VA. Due to the success of last years event, we have many more guns attending and it will be much fun as we shoot and eat while enjoying the companionship of our fellow lads in the field. Several non-resident members are traveling from California, Pennsylvania and The Democratic Republic of Congo to compete.

Schedule of lively events:

8:00 am

Arrival, coffee and registration

8:30 am

Identity and gender check

8:45 am

Knife fight

9:00 am

Practice shoot through the APC course

12:00 PM


1:30 PM

The 2008 Challenge begins

3:30 PM

Awards Ceremony

3:30 PM



Sonnet reading

another knife fight

Be sure to see the Shooting League page on the club's website for details, directions, convoy and late breaking news of the event.

This event will define, defy or defile you as a man.



Knife fights? What was I getting myself into?

I laid awake nights leading up the Great Challenge. Knife fights was all I could think about. I obsessed over the knife fights. During the day, the distractions of daily life kept my fear at bay. But at night, when I turned off the lamp and lay my head on the pillow and the silence welled up around me...knife fights...glimmering steel in the darkness -- and blood!

The final email before the Great Challenge revealed that this manly day of action would be staged at the Shady Grove Kennel and Hunting Preserve. Owned by the renowned trainer, Mr. R.N. Selby, Shady Grove was the venue for the prestigious 2007 Master National Retriever Trial hosted by the Rappahannock River Retriever Club.

Smelling the Pedigree

I could already smell the pedigree of the members.

On the appointed morning I donned my Harris Tweed shooting jacket, tattersall shirt, pheasant tie and Barbour hounds-tooth cap. My shotgun of choice was a 20-gauge Caesar Guerini Magnus -- a lovely gun ideal for the highly anticipated Great Challenge.

In addition to packing ammo, water and a clean towel in my waterproof shooting bag, I added a roll of sterile gauze, white adhesive tape, antiseptic ointment and a fresh change of boxer shorts.

Finally, I removed my razor-sharp buffalo knife from its crocodile sheath for a quick once-over: mirrored stainless steel, full tang, trailing point blade with a polished buffalo horn handle. It had been a gift from my beloved uncle, my namesake, Cletus Clapp. I slipped the knife into my bag. There, I was set.

I departed from home just north of Baltimore in the wee hours of the morning, and some two hours later I arrived at Shady Grove in rural Remington, Virginia.

The Trout One jet (pictured here in an extremely rare photo) has shattered numerous global air-speed records under the steely headship of its Captain, Chairman.

The First to Arrive

The gravel parking lot was empty, but upon my arrival a rugged-looking man pulled up in a sporting-clays cart. With his long Southern drawl, he introduced himself as Mr. Selby. Yes, indeed, I was the first to arrive, he confirmed, and then suggested I take a stroll down the pasture to the safari canopy in the distance, which would serve as the nerve center for the Great Challenge.

The canopy stood under a tree ringed by the sporting- clays stations. There was an underbelly of ominous storm clouds, with the heady scents of imminent rain and fresh-cut grass. The club's coat of arms waved in the breeze from a low branch.

The hospitable and witty Mrs. Selby introduced herself as she applied the final touches on a beautiful spread of pastries, juice, fruit and coffee. Mr. Selby joined her to help attach the table skirt with Velcro.

Cup of coffee in hand, I mentioned that this was my first time shooting with the gents, and Mrs. Selby chuckled -- shooting her husband an all-knowing glance.

Prodding Mrs. Selby

I prodded Mrs. Selby with a few delicate questions about the knife fight, but all she said is that I would enjoy the company of the boys. Mr. Selby remained mum as he worked the Velcro around the table. At the first opportunity, he hopped in his cart and sped off.

With the conversation clearly closed, I decided to reconnoiter the property on foot. The club house was a converted drive-up ATM booth with a sagging wood porch. A few pick-up trucks were parked nearby, some with kennels in the beds. Two Porta Potties stood sentry against the looming storm.

A pair of retrievers frolicked with each other as their owners attended to the property.

The sporting-clays stations looked like short-range shots, but experience taught me that these types of presentations could be tricky with deceiving quartering angles, sudden drops and small windows of visibility. My analysis later proved correct, but I couldn't possibly foretell what our gonzo trapper had in store for us.

As I walked back to the canopy I noticed two men had arrived. They turned out be members 454 and 302. At the same time, a fetching member of staff in snug jeans named S. had taken to tending the food and beverages. Of course, the lads were preoccupied with S. -- a slender, raven-haired beauty with penetrating eyes and a really, really tight body.

What About the Knife Fight?

Introductions all around. One of the members was obviously English, and the other, a former college roommate of the Director of Ops, had flown in from California specifically for the Great Challenge. They gave the impression of being decent sorts. At the first discrete opportunity I asked about the knife fight and everyone seemed to laugh at my expense.

After some chit-chat, a convoy entered the parking lot. The two members took leave for the convoy and I quickly followed.

About 10 gentlemen piled out of the vehicles. The Director of Ops immediately identified me as the new face and extended a hail-hearty welcome. A dashing and hospitable fellow, we walked together back to the canopy in an affable manner. I thought it indelicate to broach the subject of the knife fight with him, not wanting to blow the opportunity for this exclusive exposé at the risk of being pegged a chicken.

So as we sauntered along, he introduced me to members we encountered by their three-digit numbers. Of course I was the picture of decorum, but I judged each handshake by its strength and firmness, assessing whether or not I could take that guy in a knife fight.

Finally, the Chairman

We bantered about under the canopy when, out of the corner of his eye the Director of Ops saw something that turned his countenance sober. "I want you to meet the Chairman," he whispered.

I glanced in the direction of the Chairman. All I could see was his back. It was a distinguished back, probably hairy based on the thickness of his mane. The Chairman was in the middle of a lesson with the resident pro.

As the Director of Ops accompanied me, he listed all the rules and protocols of greeting the Chairman. After each one, I had to say "Yes I understand" or "No, I do not understand."

We deferentially waited until the Chairman acknowledged us. Shaking hands I said "A pleasure to meet you Mr. Chairman," thinking that I could definitely take this guy.

"Welcome, Fielding-Clapp." And the Chairman returned to his lesson.

"Good form," the Director of Ops told me as we returned to the canopy.

The Practice Shoot

Soon, the Director of Ops had convened everyone for a pairing of the teams for the Practice Shoot of the Great Challenge. I was in a squad with the Director himself and member 327, a tall chap with an excessively long reach and big hands. Hmmm, I thought.

Ready with gun at hand, I observed the chaps as they prepared themselves. It was 09:00 and since the scheduled identity and gender check had not taken place yet I wondered if the men did it in the cars on the way up here to save time. As for me, well, they either didn't care about my identity and gender or they had much bigger plans to spring on me.

And what about the knife fight? It too was behind schedule. Everyone seemed blissfully blasé about it as the team-up coalesced. One thing was absolutely certain: I had no intention of bringing it up.

We convened at station 3 for the kick-off of the Practice Session of the Great Challenge. The Chairman prepared to take the first shots. As skill and fortune would have it, the Chairman ran the station, followed by a genteel applause. The 50-round Practice Session of the Great Challenge commenced.

Our Wily Trapper

Our trapper proved to be a husky fellow with a booming laugh named B. We discovered that he worked full time for a military contractor in Virginia. His expertise was submarine logistics. He enjoyed trapping to spend quality time outdoors. He obviously took his profession quite seriously because B.'s trapping skills were every bit as wily and stealthy as a submarine.

He would give us the lookers then change their order when we called for them. He threw targets upside down, the centers punched out, midis, minis, battues -- concocting any combination of simos on a whim that would take a contortionist to hit. He especially liked to tilt forward the portable platforms that held the manual throwing machines so the targets angled straight into the dirt. Nothing was too devious for that big lug of a chap and each round would be punctuated with his great booming laugh.

Now that we had the defilement out of the way, I look forward to a hearty lunch.

She Squeezes Between the Lads

We took to our vehicles and drove the few miles to the lodge. The house had a sprawling country kitchen and wide verandah where we ate our build-your-own sandwiches, wraps and savory side dishes. S. would squeeze between the lads ready to fill a glass or take an empty plate. It was a picture-book spring afternoon in this part of Virginia, and everyone was of lively disposition.

I was just about to ask about the knife fight when the Chairman stood and announced that it was back to Shady Grove for the Great Challenge.

With backslapping and fanfare we repaired to our vehicles. I wondered, which I would encounter next: define or defy? Or perhaps I would be defile all over again. Either way, with a full stomach and a perky attitude I was ready for whatever lay ahead in the Great Challenge.

The three-man teams were different this time around. My squad consisted of members 351 and 409, and we were accompanied by trapper, J. -- a short wan fellow who was an excellent instructor.

The Chairman Chokes

Once again, the Chairman led with the opening shots followed by a polite applause after choking big time and missing all the targets.

The character of this squad and the Great Challenge itself was markedly more serious. Fifty rounds, and may the best man win.

The pressure of the competition compressed time. Before we knew it, the Great Challenge was over. I fared second in my squad -- behind the architect and ahead of the movie producer.

No doubt, we were more than ready for the alcoholic beverages, cheese and crackers and more desserts. It was back to the lodge.

The Dreaded Ballerina Cup

Unbeknownst to me there was a palpable trepidation among some of the members. What I was about to discover is that the man with the lowest score of the Great Challenge wins the dreaded Ballerina Cup.

On the verandah we quenched our thirst with beer, wine and just about anything within reach that contained alcohol. The Director of Operations called the meeting to order with a slam of the gavel. Past, present and future business was covered in true parliamentary procedure, yet the well-lubed lads broke out into rollicking laughter as we moved to the prizes.

The Great Challenge of 2008 would prove to be the biggest upset in the 700-year history of the club. The Chairman took the floor and announced the results. The ace shooters didn't place at all. The winner's cup went to member 428. The second-place ribbon was awarded to member 305. And much to my own surprise, yours truly placed third.

Member 413 accepted the Ballerina Cup with fortitude and magnanimity.

Another Heaping of Defilement

The Chairman returned the floor to the Director of Ops. It was time to announce new members. He read off six names followed by their numbers, each garnering a round of applause.

The Director of Ops then called for silence. I felt certain that the knife fight would begin, with yet another heaping of defilement coming my way. This was going to hurt bad.

"We have one more new member to announce," the Director said. "This is a big surprise, but the decision is unanimous. Let us welcome to the Georgetown Trout & Gun Club, Cletus Fielding-Clapp."

It certainly generated the biggest applause of the day and I beamed with pride. A few words were called for. The Chairman stood beside me and I thanked everyone for acknowledging me as a member. It was a heady moment, indeed, to be standing right within spitting distance of the Chairman.

The group began to disperse. What an incredible feat, I thought, to become a member of the Georgetown Trout & Gun Club.

As we filed into the parking lot, I managed to find a moment to buttonhole the Director of Ops.

"What about the knife fight?" I whispered.

He looked at me in amazement, then broke out laughing.

Cletus Fielding-Clapp is a Nobel Laureate in the art and science of journalistic writing who is widely credited with coining the maxim of 21st century media: “I never let the truth stand between me and a good story.” You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

It's at great peril that we publish the link to the web site of the Georgetown Trout & Gun Club: Please be advised that the photos of gentlemen depicted on the group’s web site are professional models paid to shield the real members from the prying eyes of the public.

by Hellen Lee-Keller, PhD.

I got up early on a frosty winter morning to prepare for my first duck hunt ever. Sacramento can get pretty chilly in the morning. I packed my new camouflage bag with snacks, camera, money, ID, and all sorts of other goodies that Holly told me that I'd need for our day out. After getting all geared up, I kissed my hubby goodbye and headed out the door.

Derek wore a bemused smile on his face as he watched his Los Angeles-bred wife march out the door carrying a camouflage bag and wearing a Ducks Unlimited camouflage cap on her way to help and watch someone shoot ducks out of the sky. In fact, that bemused expression has been rather constant on his face since before Christmas when I found out Holly is a hunter and that I wanted to become one, too.

Bugs and More Bugs

You see, Derek grew up in Georgia where lots of folks hunt. So the thought of his short, Asian, loudly articulate, and very prissy wife going out into the bugs (I hate bugs!), wearing camouflage (not elegant), and sitting-in-wait in the tall grass (more bugs, disgusting water, and God only know what else is lurking in there) just brings on too much cognitive dissonance.

But he is extremely supportive of all the hobbies that I pick up. Just the day before, he drove me around town, even though he was hung over, as I was searching for the perfect cap, bag, and hooded poncho (must be in shadow-grass pattern) to wear out on my first ducking hunting foray.

Would the Duck Scream Out in Pain?

As I was driving over to Holly's lots of questions ran through my mind. How would I feel when Holly shot a duck? (While Holly, apparently was a bit worried that she'd drag my butt out into the wild and not shoot anything, I blithely had supreme confidence that she would. She's determined that way.) Would it scream out in pain? Would it freak me out? How would I feel about eating snacks without being able to wash my hands first? Would I be cold? Would the repair on her spare set of waders keep the water out? (I hate cold, wet feet!) Would I get tired and bored?

Still mulling over these questions, I came up to Holly and Hank's house. A cute ‘50s ranch-style sitting on a quarter acre. Holly took me into the back room where she had laid out several items for me to try on: her camo jacket, a face mask, cap and hood. She also brought along another sweatshirt, just in case I got cold.

Then she inspected my gear and was absolutely delighted with my bag. Just perfect, she said. I felt quite pleased.

Now the Waders

Then we headed out to the garage to try on the waders. Now I’m not sure if I mentioned that Holly is about a foot taller than I am. But the waders, being flexible, fit rather nicely and with the top of the waders snugly fitting under my arms; I felt reassured that if I fell into the water that I would be covered unless the water was very deep. She had already loaded up her car with the wheelbarrow, lots of decoys, and a bunch of other paraphernalia. Mountains of stuff. She tossed in the last of her items, and we headed off.

On the way there, we mostly talked about grading (both miserably procrastinating until the last minute--love teaching, hate grading), our jobs, our former jobs, and the other usual stuff when two academic women get together.

I also got to find out a little bit more about where she grew up. That was by accident. We were talking about the scenery of the Central Valley. It's low and flat, surrounded by buttes and mountain ranges. It's stunningly beautiful. And it's always amazing to me to think that I'm living on the bottom of a sea bed that had dried out. Anyway, she was telling me how much she loves it and thinks it's beautiful, in a way that I've come to recognize over the past year and a half.

Since Derek and I moved to Sacramento, we've come across many locals who extol the virtues of the Central Valley in a slightly over-earnest, too enthusiastic way when they find out that we're from San Diego, and that I grew up in Los Angeles. At first it was a bit annoying because we are very happy here and couldn't figure out why people assumed that we weren't.

Then, we figured it out. People had a hard time believing that we actually like it here: their hometown, their home region. Yes, it's an odd bit of chauvinism, but aside from the few exceptional cases, it's also a sweet kind of chauvinism. They love it and they want others to love it, too, not in an obnoxious my-town-go-home sort of way but in the way that Holly was expressing it. Their love of the region. It's nice to be living in a place where people take pride in it, but not to the point where they are overly protective.

Into the Refuge

All this to say that Holly lived for a part of her life, up and down the Central Valley region. This was before she became the urbane and sophisticated political journalist. So as we were both commenting on how much we loved the beauty of California, it struck me that I wanted to take a picture of the road up to Delevan National Wildlife Refuge. When I turned to the backseat to look for my camera, I couldn't see my bag! To be fair, there was so much camo back there, it was kinda hard to sort through the various items to see it. But after much digging, it slowly and horrifyingly dawned on me that I might have left my bag at Holly's. So, Holly pulled over at a rest stop and we searched. Sure enough, I left the damn thing at her house. When I told Derek about this later, he was amused and simply replied, "I guess the camouflage worked so well that you couldn't see it to bring it." I, on the other hand, was disheartened. My camera! My ID and money! My snacks!

Holly was unfazed and said that there was a convenience store where we could pick up some snacks and so we did. I had to also get a new cap. I had to trade my perfect cap that matched my perfect camo bag for a cap that was all-wrong and didn't match anything. I’m sure you ladies will understand my sorrow. But, I have to admit that it was serviceable.

When we arrived, Diane, who runs the place, kidded Holly about being a "Bird Watcher" because apparently Holly had not shot many ducks at Delevan. So, she assigned us to Blind 2 because it had an average of 3 ducks shot per day. She was rooting for us.

When Your Back End Falls Asleep

Throughout the day I mostly I sat in on a camp stool, just an inch or two above the waterline with my feet dangling in or floating on the water, but toasty and dry. Now in case this sounds uncomfortable and miserable, it's not. In fact, I fell asleep for a bit, sitting on the stool with the sun gently shining on me. When I was awake, I tried to be very still, but after several hours the back end starts to fall asleep. So, I would shift a little and try to be subtle about it.

Well, let me tell you, it did not deter the ducks. Because both times I was stirring on my damp seat, I saw Holly rise up, then BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! followed by a shout, "I hit it!" Next thing I would see was Holly wading out into the water to retrieve her kill.

Holly Gets a Widgeon

The first time this happened, I stood up in amazement. I hadn't seen a thing! Once she reached the duck, she gently picked it up by the neck, gave it a few quick twirls to break the neck and watched to make sure it was dead. The first one had jerky nerve twitches, so she gave it a couple more twirls before she proudly held it up for me to see. It was a lovely, lovely duck. A widgeon, I believe. Beautiful coloring and good size. I was impressed. The same procedure happened the second time, but I was quicker to look up at the first BLAM! so I saw the second duck fall out of the sky.

Ducks, when they fall and if they aren't killed instantly, fall to the water and float with their heads ducking into the water. No quacking, no sound. I wonder if it's shock, I think it might be a way to cope with the pain of the injury. Our cat Lucy did that at the end of her life when she was in pain. She'd hide her head, quietly. So, I'm guessing that they are coping with the shock and pain. So, it's kinda nice to think that hunters quickly retrieve their prey to finish the job immediately. It's not like fishing where people toss the fish into a bucket after taking the hook out of them to keep them "fresher." It always seemed like it must hurt and that they must be pissed off swimming in a cramped bucket with a giant wound in their mouth or throat.

When the sun set, we headed home. Once we got back to Holly's we could take a closer look at the birds as we plucked and prepared them for the freezer.

Holly shows off her prize ducks

The next part of hunting is plucking, cleaning, and gutting. It's not that difficult and quite what I expected.

After we plucked all their feathers, I was simply amazed at how downy they are underneath. They were both grey underneath and reminded me so much of our little kittens. All soft and downy.

Hank had figured out that a good way to pull off the down is to wax them. Yes, ladies, just like your own legs. So, Holly dipped them both into a vat of hot water and paraffin and the ducks came out with a nice crust of wax. The wax grips onto the down so, as you pull away, it all comes off rather neatly. There are parts that you need to go over and pull with your fingers, but on the whole it comes of in strips.

I didn't take pictures of the gutting, which is expectedly gory. But it's pretty much what you'd expect, entrails and organs and blood.

So, after my first duck-hunting trip, I am looking forward to next season so that I can start hunting ducks. It's too late in this season for me to get licensed, learn to shoot, buy a shotgun, and get all the gear. Holly and Hank are so enthusiastic that they think that, if I hurry, I'll be ready to get in one shoot this season, but I'm methodical and I like to make sure I know what I'm doing. So, knowing myself, I’ll be ready for next season. In the meanwhile, if Holly is willing to bring along the noisy fidgeter, I'm ready to head out again.

Hellen Lee-Keller joined the faculty of California State University, Sacramento in 2006 as an Assistant Professor of Multi-Ethnic Literatures in the English Department. She holds a doctorate in Literature with a concentration on Cultural Studies from University of California, San Diego. She earned an M.A. in Humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills. And she has two B.A. degrees in Fine Art and Women's Art Practice and in French Studies from University of California, Santa Cruz and University of California, Irvine, respectively. She teaches courses that emphasize the intersections between race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and class formations in cultural production in the United States. Since she is currently searching for the perfect shotgun, light enough for a small woman to carry but powerful enough to get the job done, she will entertain all recommendations and advice. She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In her sexy black dress and four-inch stiletto heels, no one could have guessed her secret passion.

But finally, she revealed it to a handful of men at a private party -- changing the course of her life forever. This story begins in January 2003 in a trendy section of Dallas. Anginette and her girlfriend hosted their annual soirée. The cocktails were chilled, the hors d'oeuvres extravagant and the guests straight from central casting of a smart Hepburn classic. The warm glow of the house against the evening bespoke of hospitality and elegance.

Anginette mingled in the swirl and buzz, making introductions, spreading her hallmark gaiety, relying on the same wit and charm that propelled her through a career as a successful mortgage broker…when the doorbell rang.

She crossed the room to answer the door, and there stood Mark Jorrey. She graciously invited him in and mixed him a cocktail, then led him through the party in a round of introductions. It was the first time they had met, and Anginette lived up to her reputation that new acquaintances should always feel right at home.

Later in the evening, as she carried an armful of coats to the upstairs bedroom, she passed a small group of guests -- Mark being among them. Bits of conversation caught her attention. She paused, calculating her options…Should she interrupt? Bring it up later? Or just forget about the whole thing?

She continued up the stairs, rolling around in her head exactly what she heard. It was something that she’d been dying to try.

Coming down the stairs, she politely interrupted their conversation. She would confess to them that she overheard her conversation. If they were accommodating, great. And if not, well at least she tried.

She Confessed Everything

She approached the group and confessed everything. She had overheard them talking about duck hunting, and that was something she really wanted to do. She’d been an avid dove and quail hunter, but never quite got the chance to shoot ducks. Could she come along with them? She could really hold her own in a duck blind. She wouldn’t be a bit of trouble. Just consider her one of the guys. Well, what do you say?

The men checked out the dress, the heels, the makeup -- and for a moment they were speechless.

Finally, Mark explained that in fact he was the one going duck hunting the next morning, and that he would have to speak with his friends and get back to her.

She thanked him and returned to being the perfect hostess -- everything the same except for one tiny thing: now her secret was out.

No Girls Allowed

Sure enough, when the phone rang the next day, Mark gave Anginette the bad news. Guys only -- no girls allowed on this duck-hunting trip. They had already told their wives, no girls. Then he surprised her by asking Anginette to dinner. She said yes.

Nine months later, they were married.

“Having something in common really adds to our relationship,” Anginette said. “We are best friends and we do not have to look far when we want to go shoot some clays. We just say, ‘want to go’”?

So she packs up her Beretta 390, and Mark takes his Remington 11-87, and they take a five-minute drive to the Family Shooting Center at Cherry Creek State Park.

Now that the word is out about Anginette’s secret passion, they’ve been making the most of it. As Mark explains, “We have a turkey hunt planned for later in the year and I said my wife is going and my friends said no problem.”

The Colorado DIVAS

Anginette’s world of bird hunting has really opened up since relocating from Dallas to Denver in mid-2006. By virtue of bringing her organizational experience from Dallas, she’s introducing a new group of Denver women to the shotgun sports.

The way it happened is that in Texas she was a board member of the Texas Women’s Shooting Sports/DIVAS. The charter of the group is to teach women and help women learn about shooting sports and outdoor skills -- shooting, fishing, archery…you name it.

Since moving to Denver, she started the Colorado chapter of the Divas and today it has members who actively shoot and bird hunt. Last year, the Colorado Divas took four women on a pheasant hunt with a guide “who loves new shooters,” Anginette noted. Since then, there has been a second pheasant hunt.

This year there are plans for a turkey hunt, duck hunt, dove hunt and shooting clinic for new shooters. They also have a monthly shooting day where women can come and practice shooting with other women.

Even though she’d been around guns all her life (she grew up on a ranch in Texas), when she turned 40 she started looking around for something different to do. She tried softball along with other sports, but nothing really satisfied her.

How Anginette Got Hooked

Then one day a girl friend who was a shooter gave Anginette the name of a woman instructor. That was in 2000. Anginette wanted to learn the etiquette and rules in the shooting sports. Soon, she was hooked. After that first lesson her instructor suggested Anginette join the DIVAS. Today Anginette is working with women in Nebraska and Pennsylvania in helping new DIVA chapters get started.

And as the group’s International Liaison, they have their eyes on launching chapters in every state as well as outside the U.S. (Divas already has 17 international members).

Even though Anginette takes the lead in Divas, she appreciates Mark’s full support of her shotgun endeavors. “As I implement outings, hunts and shooting days for local women under the Diva umbrella...he is right there with me helping,” she said. “He knows he doesn't have to, no expectations from me, he just does. And I greatly appreciate him and his help with all our events. I enjoy catching him in a conversation with other men about Divas and how important it is to get women out shooting. More importantly, I appreciate his support of my shooting and hunting.”

In fact, Anginette believes there are plenty of women around like her who like enjoy shooting, but tend to keep it to themselves -- especially those women who aren’t fortunate enough to have a supportive husband like Mark.

Shooting Isn’t Lady-Like

“Women have been raised to be lady-like, and not participate in such things,” Anginette observed. “And let’s face it, in this politically correct world, shooting is perceived to not be lady-like.”

But the times are changing -- for the better -- when it comes to women and the shotgun sports. “Now women realize they like to shoot and they can shoot. They love the camaraderie. Just watch a woman’s face when she shoots for the first time with other women shooters, and you know they’re thinking it’s just great to break that old taboo. And they’re still ladies.”

She talked about a professional networking event that she attended recently, where everyone had to reveal something about themselves. She stood up in a roomful of people and confessed that she likes the shotgun sports. Sure enough, she received plenty of emails afterwards from women wanting to find out more.

Good for Their Relationship

As far as Anginette and Mark are concerned, shooting is a great way to keep a relationship going.

“He encourages my shooting and hunting,” Anginette added. “He wants to shoot and hunt with me. Not because he thinks he has to, because he wants to. Some husbands don't encourage their wives and daughters. They don't mind if the women do, they simply do not encourage it and usually this type of man would rather go off on his own or with the boys and let the little ladies go do their own thing. I am blessed we do it together. He's the hunter and I am the shooter.”

When the Jorreys do go their own separate ways, Anginette goes off to shoot clays or birds, and Mark will hunt big game. Mark’s pursuit of big game got him actively involved in several wildlife organizations.

For Mark, “clays is about getting ready for hunting season.” In particular, he enjoys shooting pheasants in Texas. Recently he was shooting pheasants in South Dakota. Anginette and Mark spent a couple of days with friends pheasant huntin . Mark said that when he got back the other men said “We didn’t know women could hunt like that.”

Mark grew up a hunter in tiny Heath, Texas, just east of Dallas. As a boy “We could always go to different places to hunt on people’s places. We’d hunt lots of small game.”

Mark would be out all day and get home just before dark. As far as the Jorrey’s are concerned, children today do not have that luxury any more. They believe kids need to spend more time outside and out of the city -- where shooting and hunting can be an excellent way to encourage discipline, self-confidence, and caring for things other than one’s self.

Anginette’s Revenge

When it comes to duck-hunting, though, this time girls are most definitely invited. Maybe it should be called Anginette’s revenge.

It turns out that one of the guys who put the nix on Anginette’s duck-hunting invitation doesn’t stand a chance any more of doing that ever again. Anginette taught his wife and son how to shoot on a trip out to their family farm. They loved it. Mom’s a good shot and has even built her own collection of firearms. The son, as it turns out, is a born hunter. Now the entire family shoots together…just like Anginette and Mark.

“Shooting is an excellent outlet for getting out and being together,” Anginette said. “And being together is something we really like to do.”

Michael Sabbeth
by Irwin Greenstein

The years passed in Colorado, he got married, had kids, and had not picked up a shotgun in nearly a decade. That would’ve been around 1970.

Now it’s 1996, and Michael Sabbeth vividly recalls that pivotal moment in the Denver suburb of North Cherry Creek…

“I’m in my law office, it’s lunch time and I get out and walk to a sandwich shop. That’s when I run into my friend, John, who I hadn’t seen in several years since he moved to Florida.

He had been a very dear friend who was a stock broker. He was an avid shooter, competitive trap. And we used to shoot together. After he moved away, the shooting sports became very ephemeral for me.”

The two old friends were catching up when John invites Michael over to his apartment.

“When I go over there, it’s covered with gun magazines, guns, reloading supplies…you name it. It was there that I picked up my first issue of Double Gun Journal. I had never seen anything like it, and I was very intrigued. I leafed through it, this world of elegant guns, travel, clothing, leather -- it all came at me like a sandblaster. I asked if I could borrow a few issues. John then made a comment: ‘You want to be a big shot? See if you can get published in this magazine.’ There was no reason for him to say that because I never expressed any interest in the magazine. I had never written about guns. But as I looked the magazines over the next several weeks, I had an intuition that if I could get published in that magazine, something good would happen, something elegant and out of the ordinary in my life.”

And over the ensuing weeks Michael did in fact come up with an idea to submit to Double Gun Journal. The topic? Teaching the ethics of shooting to children.

“They sent me a handwritten card that they would publish the article, and not pay me for it. That’s how I got involved in the gun trade.”

Journey to Spain

After that breakthrough article, Michael’s next assignment for the esteemed Double Gun Journal took him to Spain for a story about the exquisite gun maker, Kemen.

Michael traveled to the town of Elgoibar. “That is one of the two gun-making cities in the Basque region, in the province of San Sebastian. I called my wife, Nancy, to tell her I was OK. She asked where I was. I told her a tapas bar and she blew up -- thinking that I was at a topless bar,” he says, laughing.

After the Kemen article, Michael says he got his first big break in writing about shotguns.

Visiting Beretta in Italy

In 1999 Beretta acquired Benelli and Franchi. As a foundational advertiser for Double Gun Journal, Beretta offered the magazine an exclusive about the merged company. Double Gun Journal turned to one of their long-standing writers, but something went sour with the writer. That’s when editor/publisher Daniel Côté turned to Michael, who flew to Italy for a week-and-half on an all-expense paid trip to cover the story.

With that trip, “I had to ratchet up my understanding of shotguns voluminously,” he recalls. “That started me writing about many other guns. And as a consequence I was received warmly by gun makers and then transformed those relationships into articles.”

Michael believes that his deeper understanding of shotguns played a role in synthesizing his collected passions into a whole way of life.

“The great things about the shotguns, it has given a purpose for many disparate and unrelated aspects of life…food, wine, travel,” he says “I’m now seeing things that I would not have seen. Exquisite sunsets, a double rainbow -- the collegiality -- and meeting some of the esteemed craftsman and women on the planet. All of which has enriched my life immeasurably.”

And an enriched life is the one thing that Michael does not take for granted. In 1989, he survived surgery for an artificial heart-valve implant. “Being close to death made me value those people who strive for excellence in their craft: the heart surgeon, the chemist, the biologist, those people who created the artificial heart valve, and all of those wonderful nurses and staff who were so competent and expert who allowed me to live. I felt very blessed to have survived, and I thought, now that I've had this good fortune, what can I do?"

Repaying a Cosmic Debt

To repay his "cosmic debt," Michael developed a curriculum that teaches ethics to elementary school children. While recovering from the implant, Michael crafted a course to make it easier for young people to more critically analyze the consequences of their choices, with the hope that they will ultimately make the right choices as they get older.

He started with the students at Cherry Hills Elementary School in his hometown of Cherry Hills Village, Colorado.

From Michael’s perspective, ethics is shorthand for applying moral reasoning to problems such as racism or peer pressure. It’s a form of character education to engage students to work hard to reduce bullying, sexual harassment and drugs in schools.

In effect, Michael uses current, historical and personal events in the lives of the children to frame an ethical theory. His approach is to stimulate conversations about issues that most adults believe are over their heads.

The conversations allow the children to use terms such as the "sanctity of life" and "beneficence.” What Michael achieves is a format that helps them understand how to make choices, that in turn can help other people, and help elevate humanity.

11 Concepts

At the core of Michael’s curriculum are 11 ethical concepts that he calls The Moral Measures..

Four of them are universal ethical principles drawn from the writings of Aristotle and biomedical ethics. They are autonomy, beneficence, justice, and sanctity of life.

The others are the "Seven C's," which Michael devised. They are character, choices, compassion, competence, consequences, conscience, and courage.

Michael has since conducted his program more than 500 times. It has gone beyond children to first responders as well. His efforts have garnered him an impressive article in the Christian Science Monitor in 2002.

His ethics course also set Michael on a path of what he calls the “political aspect of gun ownership.” He has become involved in Second Amendment issues -- lecturing nationally.

“I’ve become politically involved in the general field of selectively defending and advocating gun ownership rights,” he says. “That involvement with guns as an advocate, has enhanced many relationships, and is generally very well received.”

Among Michael’s accomplishments, perhaps those most cherished are the friendships he’s developed with the most elite shotgun makers in Italy.

The Craftsmen of Gardone

It started in 1997, when Michael and his wife traveled to Switzerland and Italy to celebrate his fiftieth birthday. After racking up miles of skiing in the Swiss Alps, they took a train to Milan…and then to Gardone, where craftsmen have excelled in making fine shotguns for more than 500 years.

Through introductions from Double Gun Journal, he met Italy’s greatest artisans of the shotgun craft -- many of whom are still his friends today.

There was engraver extraordinaire, Mauro Dassa. His company Incisioni Dassa has engraved numerous Beretta premium shotguns, including stunning new SO 10 models, which can cost upwards of $80,000.

Dassa then introduced Michael to other Italian shotgun legends.

Ivo Fabbri, who at the time made shotguns in the basement of his house -- using state-of-the-art computer systems. Fabbri shotguns then started at $90,000. At the 2008 Safari Club Convention, they were selling for over $250,000. Making only 30 shotguns a year, Fabbri’s clientele include Steven Spielberg, Tom Selleck and King Juan Carlos of Spain.

There was Piotti Fratelli, who is widely respected as among Italy's premier gunmakers. Their shotguns and rifles are made to individual order -- tailored to meet the customer's specifications. The result is an elegant gun that has been rated among the top-10 shotguns produced in the world today.

He also met Elio and Remigio Bertuzzi. The brothers learned to build shotguns from their father and grandfather. Working in a space no bigger than a garage, they only make 10-15 shotguns annually -- each one a collector’s prize.

Michael also visited FAMARS di Abbiatico y Salvinelli. In their small factory, they helped usher in the computer-designed artisan shotgun replete with stunning, old-world engraving. Starting at the $25,000 price point, a stunning .470 N E Express double rifle sold for $165,000 at the 2008 Safari Club Convention.

From Vail to Italy

But one of Michael’s greatest memories is about the improbable connection between a modest Beretta semi-automatic shotgun and Beretta’s Patriarch, Ugo Guassalli Beretta.

The story starts on a road trip to Vail, Colorado in 2001. He was going to drive his daughter, Alexandra, then 13, to a friend’s bat mitzvah, when he remembered that Piney Valley Ranch Sporting Clays Club. was about 20 miles west of their destination. He asked her if she would mind bringing a book to read so he could shoot afterwards.

After the bat mitzvah, as they approach Piney Valley Ranch, his daughter said that she would rather go shooting with him than sit around and read. The only shotgun he had on the trip was a Dassa-engraved Perazzi that weighed about 8½ pounds. Michael knew it was too heavy for his daughter. Fortunately, Piney Valley Ranch just took possession of a new Beretta 391 Urika youth model 20-gauge shotgun, an ideal shotgun for his young daughter. They went trekking off into the mountains to do some shooting.

Well, not only did she run the first station, but she “creamed” the course, Michael says. “She was outstanding. I was stunned.”

The following month, he was Beretta’s guest for a week to write an article for Double Gun Journal about the seven extraordinary shotguns and rifles built as a surprise gift honoring the birthday of Ugo Gussalli Beretta. On the afternoon of his last day there, he found himself in a large conference room behind the world-famous Beretta museum. In attendance is the family patriarch, Ugo Gussalli Beretta -- a direct descendant of Maestro Bartolomeo Beretta who started the company in 1526.

As they are admiring the collection of shotguns on the velvet-covered table, Michael began telling the story about his daughter’s incredible sporting-clays game at Piney Valley Ranch.

Realizing that the Urika youth model was constructed merely 200 yards away in the Beretta ‘industrial’ facility, and in a moment of inspired enthusiasm, he ordered the shotgun directly from the boss himself, Ugo Gussalli Beretta. Michael’s only request was that the names of his two younger children, Erik and Alexandra, be engraved on the receiver -- one name on each side.

“Then, Mr. Beretta, one of the wealthiest and most powerful people in Europe, excitedly said ‘We put today’s date on the gun.’ Michael recollects. “Here’s this industry titan and he’s as exuberant as if he’d just made the largest sale in the company’s history. It was a magical moment. Now I have the gun, but more importantly I have the story. The cost of the gun was not at all that much, but the story, well, that is priceless.”

Useful resources:
Was it because he used to cut class to go shooting? Was it because his father was a champion skeet shooter in the Army? Was it that darn Remington 1100 of his? He was shooting 100 straight in skeet -- and that was no fluke. His vest was covered with patches. What’s up with that kid, anyway?

His Father’s Beretta

Well, Alessandro credits his father, Rinaldo. In fact, Alessandro still owns his father’s first shotgun, a Beretta SO3 that he bought in Brescia, Italy, while stationed at Fort Darby there.

The Beretta SO Series marked the company’s entry into sidelock over-and-under shotguns. The elegant design of the lock work has only five basic parts, plus three pivot pins and a single screw -- in an attempt to make the shotgun extremely reliable. The minimum number of parts, and a chrome-plated action, made the SO Series smooth and easy to use.

Alessandro recalls that his father paid $300 for the SO3. These SO3s are no longer in production and today can bring in upwards of $5,000 -- with some exemplary combo sets demanding nearly $10,000.

That Beretta SO3 was the Vitale family’s introduction into shotguns. Rinaldo had emigrated to the United States from Calabria, Italy in 1961 at age 16. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and then found himself stationed back in his native country -- this time, in the Tuscan region surrounding Florence and Siena. He became a small-arms training Sergeant and fell in love with firearms and cooking.

Rinaldo befriended many local chefs and restaurateurs -- enabling him to become a restaurant success story in Maryland. Today, along with Alessandro, his older brother Sergio and their mother Regina, the Vitale family operates Aldo’s in Baltimore’s Little Italy and Cibo Bar and Grille in nearby Owings Mills.

The 10-Year-Old Skeet Shooter

While laying the foundation for the family’s culinary legacy, Rinaldo continued to pursue skeet shooting. He joined the Loch Raven Skeet and Trap Center in 1971 -- the year before Alessandro was born. But by age 10, the kid practiced skeet with his father. Firmly planted on stations 1 and 7, Alessandro kept shooting away at targets with a pint-size .410.

The kid graduated to his first gun, a Remington 1100 Sport in 20 gauge. That was the shotgun, in fact, that really got the goat of the Loch Raven shooters. Alessandro recalls shooting several 100-straights with it. As he got older, he completed a full set of Remington 1100s, buying them in .410, 28 and 12 gauge.

Alessandro thought he would be a Remington 1100 guy for life until his first visit to Italy to spend a summer with family. Like his father, Alessandro found Italy to be a turning point when it came to shotguns.

It was 1988, and he was shooting skeet and trap. That was the year Enzo Ferrari passed on, and Alessandro remembers the entire country went into mourning (Of course, Alessandro had no way of seeing into the future when he would become a Ferrari owner himself.)

Love at First Sight

But that fateful summer Alessandro laid eyes on his first Benelli M1 Super 90 semiautomatic shotgun -- the civilian model. “It was love at first sight,” he recalls.

With its black synthetic stock and forearm, and the optional magazine extender, the thing looked like a riot gun. Italy’s famous voluminous paperwork, though, prevented him from bringing it back home with him.

So he started calling just about every gun dealer in Maryland (this predates the Internet) until he found a small gun shop in Maryland’s Eastern Shore called Vonnie’s Sporting Goods in Kennedyville that had one left in stock.

Alessandro was there in a heartbeat. It was the bomb: matte black finish, 18.5-inch barrel, imported by Heckler & Koch. He shelled out about $800 for it, twice the price of a Remington 1100.

Just by looking at it, you could tell the Benelli M1 Super 90 was way ahead of its time. The shotgun incorporated a patented, super-fast, recoil-inertia system compared to the more usual gas-operated systems found in most other semiautomatic shotguns.

The engineers at Benelli had figured out how to perform both extraction and ejection into a single mechanism using something called a rotating bolt head. A model of shotgun innovation, it uses only three components: the bolt body, the inertia spring and the rotating bolt head.

Fires Five Rounds Per Second

The reduced mass of parts makes the system extremely fast and reliable. Alessandro said the shotgun was capable of firing five rounds per second without ever jamming.

And because it uses recoil rather than spent gas to chamber the next shell, the system stayed clean -- a big benefit for Alessandro.

As much as he loved the Remington 1100, the gun consumed a lot of time in maintenance. He still bemoans the cheap rubber O-rings used to seal the barrel. It was a twenty-five-cent part when he used the shotgun all the time; and once the O-ring broke the shotgun went kaput (that only happens once before you learn to pack extra O-rings).

Then there were the gas ports that needed to stay cleared. And the oil had to be just right when he took it waterfowl shooting -- or too much moisture in the lubricant would jam up the shotgun.

Out Shooting on the Farm

These are common complaints among the legions of loyal Remington 1100 owners who now swear up and down that the factory improved its quality control. (Plus you can buy after-market O-rings that may be more durable.)

Still, back then, Alessandro grew reluctant to take his Remington 1100 hunting. When it comes to the Benelli M1 Super 90, Alessandro swears the dirtier it gets the better it shoots. That’s why he now owns almost every model of Benelli shotgun -- his collection is up to about 20 models.

He’s also a Beretta aficionado. Add it all up, and he has some 35 shotguns in his gun room.

There are plenty to go around as Alessandro shoots with his father and brother. The family owns a farm on the Eastern Shore and leases others for waterfowl hunting. And the three Vitales get out there whenever they can to shoot geese, ducks and even doves.

In addition to his shotguns, Alessandro loves his cars. Ferraris, BMWs, Mercedes -- he’s had them all -- the top-of-the-line, tricked-out models that nail you to the seat when you floor them.

Not that the old crew at Loch Raven expected anything less from Alessandro.

Useful resources: huntingandshootingsports/

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Shooting Tips, Gear & Shotguns

In a riverfront honky-tonk deep in the South, the sliding doors open to the verandah, women sat on bar stools wistfully blowing cigarette smoke at the stars.

It was the kind of forlorn place where a man could bring his bird dog and let it curl up on the floor between the stools, and you could never tell which one stunk worse - the man or the dog.

Time was of no consequence in this place, here on the river, in the darkness, where the hours and minutes were marked by the bug zappers incinerating their random catch. Yes, the Universe was clearly at work, here, now, in this honky-tonk where men and women wandered in drawn by the Big Mystery.

I never did get the name of that bar, but there's one thing I'll always remember about that place. It was where I first met Jim and Bugsy.

Their table was heaped with the remnants of peel-and-eat shrimp and empty beer bottles. I'd accidentally bumped into a corner of the table on the way to the john, a bit sodden myself, when I whirled around to see Bugsy splendid in his Vintager apparel and Jim in a shooting vest and baseball cap.

They looked up at me - more startled than menacing. Both sported long, thick cigars, and I remembered what Freud once said.

Taking in the scene I thought "these men are my kind of men." So I decided to hold it in and rather than hit the john, and asked, "Can you buy you gents a beer for the inconvenience?"

Bugsy broke out laughing and turned to Jim: "Can you believe this guy?"

Jim simply nodded, world weary and wise.

"Of course you can buy us a beer," Bugsy shouted.

"Hefeweizen with a wedge of lemon?"

"Sure, why the hell not?" Bugsy shouted.

Jim simply waved his hand, as though to say, que sera, sera.

"Miss, oh, miss," I called to the barmaid. "Three Hefeweizen with a wedge of fresh lemon, if you please."

She was young and lithe with a tank tap and no bra and she leaned over into the ice box, drawing the attention of the great rough slab of tramp-steamer maleness, each of them shanghaied to this forsaken place, here on the river, and she put three long-necked Snake Venom Ales on the bar in front of me.

"We're outta lemon wedges, handsome" she said. "Start a tab for you and your pals?"

"That would be excellent," I said. "By the way, do you have any coasters?"

She turned away, and resumed her conversation with the burly men at the end of the bar.

"Hey, you gonna eyeball those beers all night or bring 'em over here?" Bugsy said.

"Sorry about the coasters," I said sitting down. "Fielding-Clapp, Cletus."



Bugsy had a mischievous glint in his eyes, his face part pugilist, part English professor. Jim wore a scruffy beard, his dark penetrating orbs awash in a secret sea of resignation whose powerful tides shifted with the whims of Lady Luck. I couldn't help but notice he wore an orthopedic shoe with a platform sole; one leg was longer than the other.

Their cigar smoke enshrouded us in a place within a place, here on the lazy river. The bar opened directly on to the water, giving the impression that we were on a slow boat to the end of the world.

"Shrimp?" Bugsy asked, pushing the plastic basket toward me.

"That's extremely generous," I said, "but I have a shellfish allergy."

"No worries," Jim said. "I always carry antihistamines."

I put forth a polite smile. "So I see you chaps are into shotguns."

Bugsy broke out laughing. "Hey, this guy's a regular Sherlock Holmes," he said to Jim."

"Don't start," Jim said.

"Actually, I write for Shotgun Life."

"I love it," Bugsy shouted. "Man, we've got something for you to write about."

"Well, fire away."

"That's a challenge we'll gladly accept," Bugsy said. "Go ahead, Jim-bo, you go first."

"I think I will."

It turned out, that Jim was a dentist, originally from Long Island. He ended up down South to attend dental school in Charleston, South Carolina. And that's when he started getting into shooting -- at the end of dental school and his first residency.

He got invited on his first dove shoot, borrowing a neighbors bolt-action 16 gauge. It was old and weird. "I was hooked. I had a knack for it, and killed my limit rather quickly," Jim recalled.

Well, by now Jim is married with three children and a successful dental practice.

Jim had also turned into a dove-hunting addict; and after doves he got hooked on quail. When he couldn't hunt birds, he started to shoot skeet. If it flied, it died, whether it sported feathers or fluorescent orange, it was going down. And as he got deeper and deeper into the shotgun sports, he joined a shooting club in Charleston, which was where he met Bugsy.

After skeet, Jim and Bugsy discovered sporting clays. They started to shoot competitively. Every weekend, Jim was out shooting - and it didn't matter what the heck it was...doves, quail, skeet, sporting clays...

Jim was telling all of this to me, until he paused for a moment of deep reflection., where he gazed into his fate like a warrior about to face the battle of his life... "Then I got bit by the tick," he said.

Bugsy nodded to me, puffing on his cigar.

"It's back in '94," Jim said. "I was on a dove hunt in Somerville, South Carolina. I got a tick bite without even noticing it - until the rash. Things started falling apart...neurological balance gave way and I started having pains and troubles with my legs.

"For almost two years, no one could diagnose it as Lyme's disease. I went to urologists, neurologists and internists. People weren't aware of Lyme's disease at this point -- and they never tested him for it. Mostly I was tested for MS, and it always came back negative.

"You see, Cletus, the doctors didn't really believe that Lyme's disease made its way all the way down south. You know, it was first detected in Lyme Connecticut.

"In the meantime my situation is deteriorating. Well, I finally got lucky. My sister and brother-in-law are physicians, and when they finally identified the problem, they put me on antibiotics immediately. And they also hooked me up with the head of infectious disease in Columbia, in South Carolina. My sister pulled strings."

Jim pushed out his chair. He showed me his orthopedic shoe. "That's what Lyme's Disease will do to you. You tell your readers, first to spray before they go out to hunt, and if they're bitten, they should run, not walk, to get treated."

"Jim, you gotta face it, you've always been jinxed," Bugsy said. "Falling on those fire ants...that woman who got sick on the plane next to you when we flew to Argentina..."

"Well, I do live under a cloud," Jim told me. "But I've never been..." He gave Bugsy a meaningful glance that only men who've seen it can know how meaningful it really is.

Bugsy nodded. He took a long, enjoyable puff on his cigar. "Heck, Cletus, what I've been through, that's just one more good story to tell."

And he proceeded to tell it with a flourish...

His introduction to the shotgun sports was more sordid than Jim's. At about 14, his parents introduced him to shooting in Savannah at the Forest City Gun Club in Savannah. They took him there because it was a private club and they could drink on Sundays.

As the years passed, he never lost of his love of shooting. He started a home-building company in Columbia, South Carolina called Colony Builders.

"That was 25 years ago when I started at Colony," he said wistfully, puffing on his cigar.

Well, in the great tradition of the South, Bugsy introduced his son, Bugsy II, to hunting. In 1998, the father took his son for his first shooting trip outside of the U.S., to Mexico, in John Wayne territory: Rio Bravo.

To minimize any dangers, Bugsy decided to stay in Texas. From their base in McAllen, Bugsy and Bugsy II would cross the Pharr Bridge and make day hunts South of the Border. Bugsy knew his outfitter well and they always adhered to the same routine. Pick-up at around noon, shoot until 6:00 or 7:00 on the preserve, and then to the world-famous La Cucaracha in Reynosa for dinner.

It was the kind of routine that men followed through the ages - for time immemorial -until such said day, when out of the blue, it happened...

"The horror," he said, gazing into the darkness, beyond the slow river.

"Well...," Jim said.

Bugsy, never one to lose his composure while telling a good story, sucked it up and resumed his compelling narrative.

"We were hunting some five miles from Rio Bravo when a storm came up," he recalled. "There had been a misty rain, the kind of rain that chills men to the bones and makes you want to brew up a strong cup of Earl Grey tea.

"So we get there, three vehicles full of hunters. It clears up and the rain quits. The day before it was all dry so you could drive to the spot but now it was all gumbo and you had to walk. We walk into the field - my son and myself and the two bird boys, and we're out in the field, it begins to rain again. I don't mind the rain but I don't like the lightning. You know what I mean, Cletus?"

I nodded, a somber nod, reserved for men of few words, like Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

But off in the distance, lightning had hit an electrical transformer - causing a loud explosion. "By my count, 1, 2, 3, I figured it was about 10 miles away," Bugsy said.

Bugsy and Bugsy II decided to take shelter under a nearby mesquite tree. What they didn't know, unfortunately, was that it was the devil mesquite tree.

Yes, of all the mesquite trees in all of Mexico, they unbeknownst to them stood under the mesquite tree that went by the name of El Diablo. But before any of the outfitters could warn the two men, Bugsy II had asked his father "What are the chances of getting hit by lightning here?"

Suddenly, it came up out of the ground and hit Bugsy, lifted him off the ground like El Diablo itself, and threw him down with a body slam that would've made Hulk Hogan proud. A fireball ran down the outside of the gun and there was a huge explosion.

"I'm going to tell you something, Cletus, that was my moment of truth. Because if that bolt of lighting had gone inside the gun, well, just let me say that I had three shells in that guy and it sure as hell would've gone off and killed both me and my son," Bugsy said. "Yes, it would' us both."

There was a silent aftermath, the kind of long silence that makes men wonder, in the solitude of the vast nothingness where men have dwelled among other men in a silence of their own, wonder to themselves as they barely move their lips "It sure is mighty quiet - too quiet."

At first, Bugsy II thought his father had fired the gun.

Bugsy remembered what followed as clear as if he were laying in that field now.

"In my calmest voice, I said 'I've been hit by lighting, I'm hurt and you need to go get help.'"

You can imagine the fortitude of this man amongst men.

From the waist down he could feel nothing whatsoever. There was a tremendous pain in his left arm, so that he actually thought it had been knocked off and sent flying clear across the field.

There was blood, plenty of it coming from somewhere and he truly believed that his arm had been knocked off and sent flying across the field, where now the vultures had gathered. And they weren't ordinary vultures. They were the vultures known as El Diablo.

"I pulled on my arm to see if it was attached -- so I realized I didn't need a tourniquet. There was no wound either," he described with the most masculine fortitude I'd ever heard.

As fate would have it, the wound was on his hand and it came from falling on broken glass - also known as the tears of El Diablo.

"My son runs off, through the gumbo, to get some help, and I'm on the ground, can move a thing from the waist down, and there are the bird boys, speaking Spanish to me," Bugsy recalled. "Speaking Spanish."

"Yes, Spanish is a very manly language," I said.

Bugsy and Jim gave me a solemn nod.

"It took them about 40 minutes to get back though the gumbo, to find the guide on the other side of the field, and explain what happened and get them back to me," Bugsy said. "I'd been hunting with him for about eight years and when he saw me laying there and he said, 'Bugsy what have you done now?'"

Bugsy insisted they take him to the hospital on the other side of the border. It was the hospital known among the muscular men in this part of the world for its cherry Jell-O with fruit cocktail in it.

They got Bugsy to his feet - a brotherhood of hunters that has rung true and square through the millennium, and got him into Rio Bravo where they got a cab back to Texas. It was now about 7:00 PM, on a Saturday night, in the emergency room of a border-town hospital.

And he waited.

"By 10:00, they were bringing in the fighting victims, the knife fights, the fights of honor fought by men against men in parking lots with no name," Bugsy said.

By time the doctors got around to Bugsy, his blood pressure was 200 over 150 (normal is about 110 over 70). The doctors gave him several doses of medicine to lower his blood pressure, sewed up his hand and kept him on a heart monitor over night.

The next morning, the doctor comes in and says to me "You were really lucky."

"Let's see if I understand, doc. I'm in a field with 15 guys, I get hit by lightning, and you call that lucky. I think I'd like a second opinion. The doctor said 'that's not what I meant' and I said I know what you meant."

"Yes, now I know what you mean," I said. "Yes, yes, yes."

Jim was puffing on his cigar through Bugsy's tale of his travails. "Hey, Cletus, let me ask you something."

"Sure, Jim."

"Want to go shooting with Bugsy and me tomorrow?"

Cletus Fielding Clapp is an official correspondent for Shotgun Life. Please send your comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Shooting Tips, Gear & Shotguns


My Afternoon With Olympian George Quigley

Written by Rick Robinson

Author, part-time fisherman and lousy shot

The picture which the folks at Shotgun Life have used to introduce me to you ought to tell you something.  All the people profiled in this fine publication are pictured holding their favorite shotguns.  My profile picture has me holding up a beautiful lake trout which I caught on the Niagara River cutting the border between New York and Canada.

What that has to do with clay shooting is what my story is all about.

Fishing (or at the least brackish lake water associated with it) is in my family's blood.  My dad had hunted when he was a young man, but by the time I was born he was afflicted with horrible arthritis.  So, instead of hunting, he taught me how to shore fish at a young age.  On my mom's side, I had an uncle for which fishing was his life.  Just to be able to fish on a daily basis, he spent his twilight living with a Seminole Indian tribe in the Everglades.

So, fishing is one of my sports of preference.  Although, the way I fish, calling it a sport is an insult to sportsmen everywhere.  I spend more time choosing my cigar for the day than I do choosing my lures.  Quite honestly, it's the quiet and solitude which I enjoy about fishing. Catching a fish is a side benefit.

One of my regular fishing companions, Lytle Thomas, mistook my love of fishing for being an all inclusive outdoor sportsman.  Lytle spends his weekends hunting things with and without a pulse.

"I'm running a charity sporting clays shoot next week at Elk Creek," Lytle said excitedly to me one day.  "I signed you up to shoot in my fivesome."

"I haven't shot since elementary school," I replied, hoping that would end the conversation.

"Yeah, I know," he persisted.  "You told me about it.  Remember?  You won a shotgun for breaking clay pigeons.  It's like riding a bike.  You'll be fine."

Lytle was only half right.  My bragging was catching up with me.  My dad had taken me to a youth shooter's safety clinic when I was a kid.  After a lecture from a local 4-H volunteer on safety (don't ever point a gun at anyone except your calculus teacher), everyone got a turn at the range.  Clays were going to be thrown out for us to shoot.  The prize for the most clays hit, winner take all, was the shotgun we were using.  I missed the first one and then hit all that were served up.  My dad was proud (although I do remember overhearing him explain to my mom that I had my eyes closed on each shot).

Dad had visions of some kid in my class with buckshot marks on his face from me trying to shoot rats along the river banks and convinced me to trade the shot gun to a neighbor for a baseball bat and glove or something.  Dad was a smart man.

"Anyway, it's a celebrity shoot," Lytle snapped me back to reality. "Our celebrity is George Quigley."

I gulped.  I knew just enough about clays to understand that George Quigley was an Olympic shooter.  But the thought of spending an afternoon with any athlete who is the best in his sport intrigued me.  I accepted the invitation.

"Great," Lytle exclaimed and told me the real reason for the invite.  "My boss is also in our group and he sucks.  I put you on my team so that he'll have someone to beat."

George Quigley is a legend around my community.  He is one of the best known ambassadors of shooting in the world.  He and his dad are both nationally ranked.  George, Jr. was on the United States Olympic Skeet team which finished 6th in the 1996 Games in Atlanta.  He won a gold medal at the 1994 World championships in Cairo.

On the day of the celebrity sporting clays event, I showed up at Elk Creek Hunt Club in Owen County, Kentucky - the home of this year's US Open.  Lytle had loaned me a 12 gauge Beretta 682 Gold E to use for the day.  In the parking lot he told me that it was bored and ported to reduce recoil and declared that I was going to use 1 ounce loads of number 8 shot rather than the standard 1 and 1/8th ounce loads.

I pursed my lips and nodded a knowledgeable nod.  I had no earthly idea what he was talking about. I took the gun anyway.

After a quick refresher on gun safety in the pro shop where we watched a Dick Cheney speech, I headed to the course.

I looked for Quigley, but didn't have to really search the crowd.  At 6'5" and around 250 lbs. he stood out.  And, he was the only guy at the practice range who was actually shooting.  Everyone else was just standing around watching him.  "Pull," he'd shout and two clays would fly out.  He'd shoot twice and both clays would explode.  "Dead Pair," he'd say as the crowd applauded.

I decided to wait to introduce myself.

I showed up at our first station. All the men in my group (including Lytle's boss) were dressed in gear appropriate for a shooting event - ammo vest, shirts with padded shoulders, and orange hats.  Suddenly my ensemble of a Bass Pro Shop baseball cap and "Fishermen do it With a Lure" tee-shirt didn't seem like such a good choice.  These guys were serious.

I retreated to what I normally do when I'm intimidated - I became a smartass.

"This clay pigeon thing sounds like fun," I said approaching the Olympian Quigley with my hand extended.  "I hear they are good eatin' when grilled."

Lytle shot me a WTF look.

Quigley just stared at me.  "Oh God, he's pissed," I though to myself.  "I've just insulted the king and his own sport.  This is not a good start to the day."

Then, Quigley smiled a rather sly grin.  "They're a lot more tender if you boil them first."

He was as nice of a guy as everyone had said.

I stepped onto the shooting platform, took my first two shots and missed both targets.

Quigley stood behind me shaking his head.  He gave a quick beginners lesson on how to balance my feet and gave me a better way to position my shotgun on my shoulder.

"And your eyes," he said.

"Yeah?" I responded.

"Try opening them."

What the hell?  It had worked the last time.

As I proceeded to each successive station, my shots inched closer and closer to a target.  Although I have to admit, I didn't particularly care if I ever hit a clay.   Learning to shoot was one thing.  Learning to shoot under the tutelage of George Quigley was quite another.  I was watching one of the best and from a very close range.

What was remarkable about George Quigley was the zen-like manner in which he zeroed in on his intended targets.  I make jokes about me shooting with my eyes closed, but George's approach to shooting was just that.  He didn't shoot with his eyes.  He shot with feeling.  He and the gun were one unit.  He didn't need his eyes.  He shot by pure instinct.

George Quigley hit 99 clays out of 100 on that hot summer day.  His only miss was a clay that was thrown from behind him.  I swear that the shot went past my head as a warning that I better start trying harder.  George said it didn't come anywhere near me.  Just to make sure, I started paying closer attention (and standing closer to Lytle).

I feared that George had visions that the president of the National Sporting Clays Association was waiting for him in the pro shop.  Being an ambassador of the sport is one thing.  But encouraging someone like me to enter the sport was enough for the Association to ban him from competition.

Whether a result of George's stellar lessons or pure dumb luck, with a few stations left, I suddenly got the hang of it.   He was right; you don't shoot with your eyes.  It's all feel.  Each time I hit a clay, Quigley would boldly declare "Dead Pair."

Suddenly with one station left, I found myself tied with Lytle's boss.  I had the distinct possibility of not being the worst shooter in the match.  Lytle glared at me.  His whole point of inviting me was to lose to his boss.   Quigley, knowing why I had been invited, winked at me.  I went 5 for 5.

Dead Pair!

Rick Robinson is an attorney with the law firm of Graydon Head & Ritchey, LLP in Northern Kentucky and the author of political thrillers.  His debut title, The Maximum Contribution, was named a Finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book of the Year for political fiction and earned an Honorable Mention at the Hollywood Book Festival.  The sequel, Sniper Bid, was released on Election Day and opened on Amazon's top seller list of political thrillers at #46.  He is published by Publisher Page, an imprint of Headline Books.  He can be reached via e-mail at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Visit for Rick's novel, The Maximum Contribution.


Visit for Rick's novel, Sniper Bid.

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Shooting Tips, Gear & Shotguns

Story and photos by Lisa Metheny

Typically, when a gun manufacturer is ready to launch a new gun model they often take the predictable advertising road and take out magazine ads, do television commercials, and maybe even hire a celebrity to endorse the new model and then sit back and hope for the best.  Benelli, makers of world class firearms, is not your typical gun company and neither are the folks that make up their promotions and advertising departments. This group of creative individuals tends to think outside the box and they have a knack for generating more buzz and hype over new products than most companies could only hope to come up with. So unless you have been living under a rock for the last year, chances are you have probably heard about the now famous Vinci shotgun “Torture Test” that took place in Argentina.

When I first heard about the Vinci I was excited, like many shotgun enthusiasts, I thought perhaps the excitement generated was due to the media blitz created by Benelli rather than excitement over the gun itself.  Benelli must have anticipated this type of skepticism and figured a torture test trip to South America would likely silence most critics. Not only did it silence many of the skeptics, the torture test may have raised the bar for future shotgun testing.

Benelli’s Christi Gates With a Vinci.

Some called it the torture test. Others referred to it as the ultimate shooting test because for three days nearly 88,000 rounds of ammo were fired from twelve Vinci shotguns. The stories generated from this media blitz dominated the press as story after story of the blazing hot Benelli Vinci began appearing in countless magazines, blogs, photos and newswires.

Perhaps some of the excitement was caused by the millions, yes I said millions, of doves that filled the sky hour after hour and which may have influenced some of these writers. Or perhaps it was the romantic lure of Argentina, although I doubt if a dozen manly, outdoorsy type men found standing shoulder to shoulder in a dove field under the blazing hot Argentina sun romantic. According to legendary outdoor writer J.Wayne Fears, the new Vinci shotgun was a homerun for Benelli. Todd Smith of Outdoor Life added that “the Vinci is an absolute ten.” So maybe it was the actual gun and not the media circus that generated the excitement over the Vinci. But whatever it was, I knew that I was anxious to give this shotgun a try.

My first opportunity to see the Vinci was all too brief as the editor for Shooting Times, Joseph VonBendict toted the gun to a Gil and Vicki Ash OSP shooting clinic that I was attending. In a sick sort of way it was like a mini torture test because of the fact that I only had the chance to shoot the Vinci a few times. It seems like anytime there is a new gun around gun enthusiasts, politeness is thrown out the window and we all become gun hogs. Thankfully, Joseph did let me shoot his Vinci and despite shooting a mixed bag of loads, from light Winchester AA to a few heavy Federal goose loads, I didn’t feel much recoil.  Unfortunately, a few trigger pulls is not much of a torture test for me or the gun. Instead, it was just a brief introduction, more like a teaser, rather than an all-out test drive.

Benelli’s Vinci in the SteadyGrip configuration.

Fast forward nearly a year and I found myself embarking on a turkey hunt in Oklahoma with Benelli, Hunter Specialties and SHE Outdoor Apparel. Anytime you hunt with Hunter Specialties you know you're going to get some great products to use and the same can be said about SHE Outdoor Apparel. And from my experience, any gun from Benelli would work just fine to shoot a turkey with. Thankfully, Cristi Gates of Benelli sent the Vinci 12 gauge for us ladies to use and I would get my own Vinci for three days. I could hardly wait.

Although the small cowboy town of Sayre, Oklahoma is several thousands of miles north of the dove filled skies of Argentina, there was still plenty of game for the Vinci to take aim at on nearly 24,000 acres of Rut and Strut Outfitters.  Despite mile after mile of gently rolling hills, brushy draws and creek bottoms dotted with century old Cottonwood trees the land offered its own version of torture for the hunters and for the guns. Country duo Brooks and Dunn may have sung about it, but I was getting a taste of the famous Oklahoma Red Dirt. Like sand on the beach, the red dirt finds its way into every imaginable place, including inside zipped interior pockets, ears, nose, turkey calls, boots and guns, especially the guns. Add in the constant hurricane-like winds of western Oklahoma and the red dirt literally becomes part of your DNA.

The Vinci in Realtree camo.


Six women turkey hunters, a bumper crop of Rio Grande turkeys, an ample supply of ammo, and a Vinci for everyone gives you the makings of a great hunt. Despite the fact that we would not be shooting thousands of rounds of ammo, this hunt still would put the Vinci through the paces.

We had a wide range of shooters, from the beginning shotgun shooter to the intermediate level to the advanced level of shooter. As every shooter knows, if it don’t fit, you can’t hit, so the mix of body types, some with long arms, others with short arms and even a leftie shooter thrown in would create a challenge for the Vinci as it would need to fit a variety of body types.

The majority of firearms are made to fit one body type and that is the body type of a six foot lean man with long arms and a flat chest who is right handed, of which I am none of. The first noticeable difference about the Vinci compared to other brands is the quick change recoil pad system. Because I am a left handed, shorter arm shooter, I have had my fair share of traditional gun stocks that do not fit. The stocks are too long and usually come with a recoil pad with a pitch for the right handed shooter. More often than not the recoil pad requires a screwdriver or some other special piece of equipment to change the pad.  Not the case with the Vinci. One twist and the pad was easily changed to accommodate a recoil pad for a leftie or to give a shorter length of pull.

Besides the ease of changing the recoil pad, there are several things that set the Vinci apart from other semi-auto shotguns. First, compared to the majority of semi-auto shotguns on the market today, the Vinci is lighter than others, weighing only 6.9 pounds.  Because of its advanced ergonomics, the Vinci offers flawless gun movement. And with fewer moving parts, this equals less hassle, less cleaning and more shooting.  An added bonus is the Quadra Fit buttstock module, making this gun easy to shoulder and with the uber-comfortable Comfort-Tech recoil system combined with the in-line inertia driven action, this gun is not only lightning fast but a blast to shoot. You simply forget you are shooting a 12 gauge. Also the gun breaks down and easily packs into its own cool James Bond-like distinctive carrying case.

The NWTF's Shannon Coggins with her first two gobblers.

Forget the futuristic carrying case or the catchy marketing campaign, what really matters is how the gun performs in the field.  Six women hunters with a total of twelve Rio Grande turkey tags among us would ultimately be judge and jury for the Vinci. First time turkey hunter, Shannon Coggins, Public Relations Specialist for NWTF admits to concerns surrounding shooting a 12 gauge shotgun “The Oklahoma turkey hunt was not only my first turkey hunt, it was my first time to shoot anything besides a youth model shotgun. I was very nervous about shooting a 12-gauge because I thought it would kick so hard that my shoulder would be bruised and sore— or that it would knock me to the ground. The recoil from the gun wasn’t bad at all so my neck and shoulders didn’t hurt afterward. I also give full credit to the Vinci because it was accurate enough that this novice made two shots at about 35 yards and killed two birds

Don’t let the fact that we are women fool you into thinking that we are delicate flowers when it comes to shooting or that we worry about breaking a nail or getting dirty, nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact just the opposite could be said. In fact, when Gina Schmitz of the NRA accidently stepped into an armadillo hole in the dark, both her and the Vinci crashed to the ground. Although she spent a number of weeks in a cast she was a trooper and proved to be just as tough as her Vinci.

Author Lisa Metheny with her Rio Grande turkey, taken with the Benelli Vinci 12 gauge.

As for me, I tend to be rough on equipment, a princess I am not; still there are often things out of your control such as the endless battle with the red dirt. Rick White, pro staffer for Hunter Specialties chose to guide me as we chased bird number two. When you hunt with Rick, a 10-time Iowa State Calling Champion it is just a matter of time before you’re given a shot opportunity, so you and your equipment better be ready.

After Rick, Cristi and I arrived at our evening hunting spot I prepared to load my gun.  As I jacked a shell into the chamber I noticed the large amount of red dirt in the barrel, despite the fact that my gun had been in a case while driving. With no time to clean the gun before our hunt began, I could only hope that the excessive amount of dirt would not cause a malfunction.  Thanks to Rick’s champion calling skills, I soon tagged my second gobbler, I emptied my remaining shells along with another a handful of dirt, obviously the excessive dirt in the Vinci barrel did not cause any problems, although I could swear that I saw of puff of red dust fly when I shot the bird. Perhaps the dirt added an extra wallop to the Federal load I was using, but I doubt it. Ideally you should always have a clean gun, but with real, in-the-field hunting situations it is not always possible to do so.

Perhaps Leonardo Da Vinci, master artist, innovative thinker and the namesake of the gun said it best, “Simplicity is the highest form of sophistication.” Benelli has created a shotgun that is simple, hassle-free and fun to shoot. Guns and Ammo magazine’s Peyton Miller said, “the only thing wrong with the Vinci is that you can’t keep it loaded.” I tend to agree with Peyton.

From the fertile farm fields of South America to the target rich rolling hills covered in red dirt, the Benelli Vinci really doesn’t need any slick marketing campaign to convince serious shooters that this gun is worth its weight in gold and is well on its way to the front of the gun safe.

Useful resources:

Benelli USA

Hunter’s Specialties

SHE Safari

Rut and Strut Outfitters

Georgia Pellegrini stands at the crossroads of the Upper East Side in Manhattan and the Lazy Triple Creek Ranch in the Big Hole Mountains of Idaho.

A Harvard and Wellesley alum, she takes to the fields with a 20-gauge shotgun ready to bag any game bird, as part of her quest to fuse hunting with haute cuisine.

One prong of her culinary mission is to upend the metropolitan revulsion of fresh-killed ingredients taken by thine own hand. Grass-fed buffalo from New York’s Ottomanelli’s Butcher Shoppe is splendid, but if you really want to sit down to some real, honest meat Georgia suggests you start with buying a shotgun and a box of shells.

Of the 13 million American women with the ability to show off a freezer full of elk and venison that they personally harvested, it’s Georgia’s contradictions that make her unique in the tribe of female hunters.

A former cubicle dweller with Lehman Brothers, which was vilified for sparking the mortgage meltdown, Georgia now devotes her life to the little guy – the mavericks who live off the grid hand-crafting artisanal foods.

While strangers expect to find her strutting the runway in Alexander McQueen and Jimmy Choo, you’re more likely to find her shooting over dogs in Filson and Le Chameau.

And her role of chef-as-hunter forges a new media spectrum currently neglected by the likes of The Food Network, the Outdoor Channel and the Today Show.

From her unique cultural junction, we can expect Georgia to rally the next wave in the locavore movement here in the U.S. Started in Europe, the strict interpretation of locavore cuisine demands food culled within earshot of the village church bell. In countries such as Italy and France, the audible perimeter virtually ensures food untouched by the maws of industrial farming and slaughterhouse assembly lines.

You can savor locavore dining today in white-table-cloth restaurants devoted to the daily, backdoor delivery of regional ingredients. Georgia, meanwhile, is adding pride of the pursuit into the locavore movement by hunting the meat herself – and advocating the same sense of duty by fellow carnivores. For hunters who spend half the year in camo, there are no surprises here. But the sudden revelation of this Ivy League stunner slitting the throat of a fresh Tom can render a Jean-Paul Gaultier fashionista wickedly speechless.

Georgia Pellegrini

Armed with her trusty CZ 20-gauge, Georgia has taken her fair share of quail, dove and turkey in a quest for the freshest fare. Give her a rifle and she’ll track down a hog for a savory repast reminiscent of Sunday suppers at grandma’s.

“So many chefs are focused on food pyrotechnics and the food often suffers as a result,” she said. “Keep it simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves.”

Georgia’s affirmation of simple, flavorful cooking complements the barbequed pheasant hunters proudly serve with a sly grin that dares you identify their secret ingredient. In her own twist on the preparation, Georgia substitutes the slathering of Oscar Mayer bacon strips bought at the supermarket with her recipe for homemade bacon from dry-cured pork belly, sugar and kosher salt.

The bacon recipe was inspired by a boar roast she attended. As she wrote on her blog on

The first time I saw a wild boar smoking slowly under the soot-blackened eaves of a dome-shaped grill I was mesmerized. I was standing 100 yards from the banks of the Mississippi, deep in the beating heart of the Arkansas Delta.

The body of the pig was cloaked in thick slabs of bacon which were coated in thick layers of molasses and the whole thing oozed and dripped onto a tray of cut green apples.

The mere sight of the animal left a permanent imprint on my brain, and the taste set into motion my quest to relive that culinary experience as many more times as I could in one lifetime.

“The reason I started hunting was to use every part of the animal” including the offal such as liver, heart and brains, which she described as “delicious,” during an online radio interview on

When we caught up with Georgia via phone she was in the very non-offal city of Berkeley, California – home to Alice Waters’ restaurant, Chez Panisse – the birthplace of the American locavore sensibility. Berkeley is the third point in her constellation of residences that includes Manhattan and the family farm where she was raised in New York’s Hudson Valley.

From Berkeley it’s a quick drive across the Carquinez Bridge to the finest wine terroirs in the country: Napa, Sonoma and Cry Creek. And America’s most highly acclaimed restaurant is also there, The French Laundry – along with other not-too-shabby eateries including Bistro Jeanty, Dry Creek Kitchen, Tra Vigne and Mustards Grill.

Berkeley was Georgia’s West Coast base of operations for the research on her second project called The Girl Hunter. The agent-brokered package of book and TV show teams Georgia with seasoned hunters in locales where she cooks their quarry hauled back to the lodge kitchen. The Girl Hunter follows on the heels of her first book titled Food Heroes: Tales of 16 Artisans Preserving Tradition slated for publication in the fall of 2010 by H.N. Abrams.

If you haven’t heard of Georgia Pellegrini yet, the trajectory of her rising star seems destined to make her a household name in the kitchens of every American hunter and (hopefully) subway rider.

The gig at ESPNOutdoors, her own award-winning blog, the books and possible TV show, an appearance on Fox TV, all serve as outlets for her message.

“The success of any food culture lies in preserving its artisan foods. These artisan foods are the foundation of a food culture, and upholding them are the small-scale culinary artisans who choose to make their products the traditional way, the slower way, and perhaps the less economical way, because they are passionate about their craft.”

Call it artisanal or simply homemade, her gastronomical journey started as a kid. In a local creek, she caught fresh trout for breakfast. Her great-aunt was an expert gardener. Her father raised honeybees and quince trees. There were always chickens running about. Her mother instilled the importance of healthy food on young growing bodies. And when it comes to her grandmother, Georgia’s blog pays homage with an entry…

She took care of me when I was young. She would pick me up from nursery school and bring me to her house and sit me at the end of her long wooden table so I could watch her cook. She cooked every day. She still does. And every day after nursery school she made me one of two things: pastina with butter, or broccoli with cheese. I can still taste them. The memory still nourishes my soul.

Georgia’s call to food ultimately proved as inescapable as her own DNA. After Lehman Brothers, she enrolled in the French Culinary Institute in New York City – graduating at the top of her class. She worked in two highly acclaimed restaurants, Gramercy Tavern and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, as well as in one of the premier destination restaurants in Provence, France, La Chassagnette. In fact, it was in the back of La Chassagnette that she slit the throat of her first live kill – a turkey – and then butchered it.

“I realized this is what it’s about to be a meat eater,” she told us.

Georgia is the first to admit that she came to hunting late in life. But at the end of the day, does it really matter?

As she writes on her blog:

In life, you need few things. Everyone has their list. Mine includes a shotgun, good whiskey or a smooth Cabernet, a butcher and an open flame.

Here is Georgia’s recipe for Braised Pheasant…

Pheasant, quartered


White wine

4 cups


1/2 bottle


1/2 cup


2 cups, diced


1/2 cup, chopped


1/2 cup, chopped


1/4 cup, chopped


2 sprigs

Bay leaves



1/2 bunch


2 sprigs

Bacon, cut into 1” cubes 

1/2 cup


2 tablespoons

Chicken stock

12 cups

1. Heat the white wine and sauternes and cool.

2. Marinate the pheasant parts in wine and vegetables overnight.

3. In a hot pan, brown the pheasant. Then remove the meat from the pan and add vegetables and bacon.

4. Separately, heat marinade to a boil with chicken stock.

5. Deglaze the pan of vegetables with verjus, return the meat to the pan and cover with the heated braising liquid.  Bring to a simmer.

6. Let simmer for 60 - 90 minutes, until meat is tender. Reduce some of the braising liquid by half and serve as a sauce.

Irwin Greenstein is the Publisher of Shotgun Life. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Helpful resources:

This is the third installment of our occasional series on DIVA, Women Outdoors Worldwide.

While there are certainly plenty of women in the great state of Texas who own a gun, Cheryl Long is special among them. That’s because she’s the current president of the organization, DIVA Women Outdoors Worldwide.

DIVA is thoroughly dedicated to encouraging and mentoring women of all ages in the shooting sports.  For more than 10 years through successful clinics for women and youth across the USA, this unique organization has introduced more than 3,000 women to the shooting sports.

And so it only makes sense that a devoted gun enthusiast like Cheryl takes the helm of DIVA. It also makes sense that the group was formerly known as Texas Women’s Shooting Sports, since Cheryl and her husband, Denny, love to hunt quail, dove, duck and mule deer on their leased 12,000 acre spread in west Texas.

Cheryl came into the world of shotguns and hunting from a fairly unusual start.

“I sang with a band called Maya for 20 years in Oklahoma City,” she recalled.

She subsequently became acquainted with shooting when she moved from Oklahoma City to Texas 1992. She had moved to Texas because of the big “L,” love.

“I had fallen in love with this gentleman who was very big into hunting and who was just an overall shooting enthusiast,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t know a thing about guns, and really, I was afraid of them.”

Still, she was swept off her feet and onto the alter.

As proof that love conquers all, despite her fear of guns, she stuck by her man even though there were loaded guns stashed all over their house. “They [guns] were there for home protection and the occasional coyote and skunk.”

Eventually, Cheryl was talked into her first shooting experience by her husband. He handed her a Smith & Wesson .357 pistol and told her to hit the target. Without having any ear protection, the boom of that first shot only served to frighten her all over again. But she didn’t give up.

The turning point for Cheryl was a Dallas Safari Club convention where she found an instructor who offered an intensive two-day course in shooting. Shortly afterward, she purchased her very own first gun, a Glock 17 9mm. This Glock took her on a journey from someone who was frightened of guns to where she reached the point that she could speed shoot from the holster and sometimes “beat the men,” she said.

It was during this time as a crackerjack pistol shot that Cheryl was introduced to shotguns.

There was a one-year anniversary soiree in 1998 of the Beretta Gallery in Dallas, and she attended the reception. She registered for the door prize and sure enough won a 20-gauge Beretta 390. She was elated…until she tried shooting the gun.

“I shot horribly,” she recalled. “I tried to get better, but couldn’t.”

It turned out that the main problems were eye dominance and gun fit. Her first instructor, Gaylen Capps, recognized that she was a right-handed shooter, but left-eye dominant. He  had mentioned the eye dominance issue and suggested using Chapstick on the left lens...but that was way too messy for Cheryl and she really didn’t understand the importance of seeing the targets with the right eye...the SHOOTING eye.

After learning this important piece of information, she got that Beretta 390 fitted to her and started using a patch on her left eye to shift the dominance to her right one. As usual, there was no stopping Cheryl after that.

She started taking lessons from the greats such as Andy Duffy and Dan Carlisle, and made it into B Class for sporting clays.

As Cheryl’s sporting clays career began its ascent, she had a terrible and unfortunate turn of events. Her beloved husband passed away in 2003. Now a woman shooting on her own, she decided to join the Dallas Gun Club to find other people to shoot with.

Fate would intervene…

In 2005, a mutual friend introduced her to Denny Long. Their friend told Cheryl, “You have to meet this guy. He’s single, he’s fun and he’s a great shot and I think you’ll be wonderful together.”

They went on their first date that Memorial Day weekend. “I thought he was OK,” Cheryl confided. “He didn’t have much to say and he didn’t call me, and I didn’t think much about it because he didn’t make much of an impression.”  That was about to change.

It was about three weeks later that Cheryl went with one of her girlfriends to Backwoods Gun Range (sadly now closed) north of Dallas to practice skeet for an upcoming league at Dallas Gun Club.

“There was Denny,” she said. “When my girlfriend and I were finished with practice and about to leave, he convinced us to get to get into his 1949 Willys Jeep named Nellybelle and join him for some sporting clays. We had the best time, we laughed, had a lot of fun. We’ve been inseparable since then. We’ve been married three years now.”


Cheryl and Denny Long

For their honeymoon, they went to South Africa to hunt kudu, blue wildebeest and impala. Last month, she and Denny went to Argentina with DIVA founder, Judy Rhodes and a bunch of her closest friends in the Provence of Cordoba at an estancia operated by SYC Sporting Adventures.

“We hunt a lot and love it,” Cheryl said.

Cheryl has graduated up from her 20-gauge Beretta 390, which she still uses for birds, to a 12-gauge Beretta Urika 391 for all other shotgun sports. 

By her own admission, the Urika 391 is chock full of aftermarket bling including a Briley action closer button and forend cap (both in red), Briley titanium chokes and a dropped and a canted stock by Ken Rucker of Speedbump Stockworks. Her initials are engraved on the receiver by a renown Italian engraver. And DIVA TEAM is proudly displayed on the barrel.

Now most of her life is tied up hunting with Denny and staying involved with the DIVA WOW.

“DIVA has done so much for me,” she explained. “I receive great satisfaction from what I’ve learned by sharing and passing that knowledge on to other women. It’s extremely empowering to women. I know, because shooting and hunting has empowered me…and I feel a sense of purpose. To see it take shape in front of you, and see someone else run with it is extremely rewarding.”

Deborah K. McKown is Editor of Shotgun Life. You can reach her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

To read Shotgun Life’s previous stories about the DIVAS, please visit:

Judy Rhodes Gets Women Out of the Mall and into the Hunt

The Secret Passion of Anginette Jorrey

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