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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Last month we mentioned how much we love the fall shooting season! It’s the season where we finally get to pull out the Dubarrys or other favorite boots, tweed vests, and scarves for some driven shooting, or our favorite upland field pants and jackets for a great day of walk-up hunting over dogs. I’m looking forward to some excellent duck hunting as well, so here comes the CAMO. Yes, I admit it I’ll be sporting the camo for some duck hunts this year ranging as far south as Louisiana and North to the Delmarva Peninsula as well.

In the days and weeks leading up to the California duck hunting opener, the reports from my buddy Charlie were good. The lake we hunted in his neck of the woods was filthy with puddle ducks. That would’ve been a head-scratcher in any normal year, because this was strictly a diver lake.

September had all the makings of an epic dove season in Northern California. The state was filthy with doves, our daily limit had been boosted from 10 to 15 and I was shooting really well, thanks to spending way too much money on skeet and sporting clays this summer.

With the surge in popularity of shotgunning among women, gun manufacturers are realizing there is definitely a need for better fitting guns for women right off the shelf. This is a tall order to fill. Why? Because I am not sure there is such a thing as a perfect fitting gun off the shelf, but we are getting much closer.

The new Syren USA line of ladies shotguns and accessories underscores an encouraging trend of premium shotguns designed for the shape of a woman’s body.

A friend of mine recently shared an interesting article provocatively titled, “The Learning Myth: Why I Never Tell My Son He’s Smart.”

I thought it was going to be a treatise on how to avoid making your child obnoxious, arrogant or insufferable, which I can get behind 100 percent. (Feel free to hurl insults – I am one of those childless adults who has little practical experience with how difficult it is to raise great children).

But I was wrong. It was actually more important.

“Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows,” writes Salman Khan. “They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.”

What this had to do with Khan not telling his son he’s smart was this: Praising the boy for the sometimes painful struggle to do something difficult rewards a mindset of intellectual growth, rather than the expectation of easy success.

What this has to do with shooting and hunting should be obvious, unless you’re an elderly Olympic shooter who can’t remember missing any target in the past 50 years: Shooting isn’t easy, but failure and perseverance will ultimately reward you with the thrill of learning, which ultimately leads to connecting with your target more often.

The importance of failure is something I share with all the new shooters I work with. While it’s great to smash that clay, your brain learns from missing it, too: It learns what not to do.

Having pretty much zero innate shooting talent, I know full well how hard this can be for new shooters to accept. You see other people with great hand-eye coordination dropping more ducks with fewer shells than you, and you wonder if you’re ever going to get the hang of it.

The answer, of course, is that if you persevere, you will get better.

While I have little natural athletic talent – yup, I was always picked last for every team in school – I was blessed with tenacity that I never really put to good use until I was 30, when I decided to enroll in a tae kwon do school.

Tae kwon do is one of the flashier martial arts, incorporating a lot of aerial kicks that look beautiful if you’ve got a knack for them. With me, though, I just looked like a cat that’d been hurled into the air and blasted with a hose while she was up there for good measure: utterly graceless. But I did ‘em anyway, and I did in fact get better at them.

When I took up hunting 11 years later, I was grateful I’d conquered my lifelong expectation to be perfect at everything I did. While that attitude had made me look accomplished, it had really served only to narrow the range of endeavors I was willing to attempt.

Very early on, I started going out duck hunting by myself. If I always went with other hunters who did the calling and called the shots, I’d never know whether my calling and my perception of “in range” were improving.

It was more than a year before I killed a single duck while hunting alone, and another year before I killed more than one duck while hunting alone. This wasn’t for lack of shooting. It wasn’t uncommon for me to bring home a shell box that was empty as my strap. I just had not even remotely mastered the timing, mount and follow-through required to drop a duck.

But there were other things I began to learn right away. What kind of calling brought birds closer. What kind of concealment it took to avoid flaring incoming birds. What I needed to bring into the field to stay comfortable, hydrated and fed. What kind of weather produced good hunts. What kinds of birds made what sounds as they whizzed past me unscathed.

Even when I was frustrated with my results, I finished almost every hunt feeling like I’d learned something useful, and that was enough to keep my self-esteem afloat until I got the hang of things a few years later.

With the 2014 hunting season nearly upon us, I’m confident that this season, too, will be full of learning as I navigate the challenges (and probably benefits) of hunting waterfowl during the worst drought California has experienced in decades.

Oddly enough – or maybe not so oddly – I’m excited about the adventure.

Holly A. Heyser is the editor of California Waterfowl Magazine. A hunter, forager, writer and photographer, she lives in Sacramento, California. You can see more of her work at

“Really?” “Wow!” “Fantastic!” All of these words were going through my mind while I watched a recent news segment about the rise of women shooting shotguns recreationally. This was not just some local news segment, but actually on the CBS Good Morning America show. What an unexpected pleasure to see, not only a positive side of shooting presented, but featuring just a few of the many, many women who are recognizing the joy of shooting shotguns and embracing it as a new hobby. 

I’m afraid to add up how much money I’ve been spending at the shooting range these days.

Seriously. I don’t want to know. I just walk up to the counter, hand over the plastic and sign the slip without looking at the amount. It’s super easy if I just don’t bother putting on reading glasses!

In the last few months, I have had the pleasure of actually getting out and shooting some myself and in the process, have loved seeing so many more women out on the clay courses. I am also thrilled to see the growth of women interested in, and pursuing, wing shooting! Truly a passion of mine and there is nothing like being outdoors, with good friends or family, a shotgun and hopefully a great dog or two....Right?

Just recently I was looking through some of my favorite recipes for preparing fresh summer vegetables. I came across one for okra gumbo that my grandmother used to make. I must have been an extraordinarily weird kid to have liked okra. Still do, because Grandma’s recipe for gumbo was always made with garden fresh okra. “Delicious” really was an appropriate description.