Most shooters aren't aware there is another shotshell manufacturer out there aside from the big four here in the United States. It’s RST and its has been around for a number of years. Their shotshells are manufactured in Friendsville, Pennsylvania, so they are not imported.

Published in Guns
Wednesday, 27 January 2010 23:27

Winter Hunting Memories

I was hunting ducks one day, with a fine gentleman on the Massachusetts coast. Things were slow in the blind and we got to chatting about this and that. He gave me the impression that he was a well-educated man and I asked if he graduated from Harvard. He replied, "Everyone I have met that went to Harvard told me so in the first fifteen seconds of my meeting them." He went to Yale and Dartmouth himself, but only confessed after being held at gunpoint.

Another time, I was duck hunting with a good friend on the Massachusetts coast and taking a few pictures at sunrise. It was very cold and I tucked my very expensive camera into my gunning coat. Suddenly, a banded Red Leg came over the decoys and I leaped up and dropped him into the blocks with a single shot. In my zest, my camera flew out of my gunning coat and landed in a tidal pool that was several feet deep. We figured that northern red leg duck cost about $1,800 dollars to bring down, not counting guns and ammunition.

I once shot and killed a hen mallard and drake stone dead with a single round from my 12-gauge Browning Gold. The pair landed belly up on the other side of a small river. I walked up river looking for a place to cross, and fell through an iced-over ditch up to my neck. It was January 17th and I nearly drowned. A do-gooder, watching through his telescope from his trophy home, called the police – not to report a man through the ice, but to complain about a hunter in the marsh that he could see from his property!

Ever get caught in a forty-knot blow while sea duck hunting three miles offshore – in an open skiff – with the anchor lines and decoy lines wrapped around each other and then firmly wrapped around the prop – with your stern to the wind and sea in January with sub-freezing temperatures? I have. The water was over my knees and going over the gunwales. It scared me enough to re-think my idea about "hardcore gunning" for sea ducks. I still go, but I go differently than I did.

On a more pleasant note, when I was ten years old Dad took me rabbit hunting on the Island with my new shotgun I got for Christmas. I looked over a cliff, saw some ducks, and crept back and asked if I could try for them. He said, "Go ahead." I went back and shot my very first duck, an eider drake. Mum took my picture in the kitchen when I got home and Dad had the eider mounted. Thirty-eight years later I still have the mount, Mum's photo and my first shotgun. Thanks Mom and Dad. You have no idea how much that meant to me.

Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, "A Sportsman's Fireside Reader – Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures." Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (781) 934-2838. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 02331.

Published in Captain David Bitters

Imagine a game of sporting clays without the hassle of a clipboard and pencil.

As you walk up to the cage, you don’t have to search for a place to rest the clipboard that holds the score sheet. Where should I put it? Lean it against the gun rack? Balance it on the railing? Leave it in the cart and remember the scores to write down later? Hand it off to a friend who hands it to a friend and so on until eventually someone in the squad ends up dealing with the clunky thing?

Published in Destinations
Tuesday, 01 December 2009 00:00

Shotgun Talk

Writer Michael McIntosh once said, "Collectors and shooters see guns from different angles..." To that I say, Amen! I happen to be both a collector and a shooter, which creates a whole new set of angles that I won't get into right now. But what I thought I would do in this month’s column is share a couple of my staunch opinions about shotguns. For space reasons, I will limit my comments to hunting shotguns. So, for better or worse, here they are... Don't feel too embarrassed if you disagree with me on one or two.

The most stupid thing ever put on a good double gun is a Selective trigger. Double triggers are a love, and a single trigger is fine by me. But a lever that lets you switch back and forth from one barrel to the other? Please... This is one novelty that I hope goes away.

The best American-made over under for the money is the Ruger Red Label. The best pointing auto-loader ever made is the Remington 1100. And as long as we are at it, the best waterfowl gun is the 3 1/2" chambered Benelli Super Black Eagle II and the Browning Gold Hunter auto loaders. The best waterfowl load? The 3-inch Heavy Shot. It is amazing...! But who wants to pay $3.00 every time you pull the trigger?

The best barrel length for a doublegun is 28 inches. You won't swing it too fast and you won't slow it down or stop the gun too soon. For a young shooter just starting out, I will give the nod to 26-inch barrels to lighten the gun – as long as they can be upgraded to 28-inch barrels as soon as they can handle them. The best gauge for a young shooter? It’s 28 gauge. Not a bad upland gun for any shooter, young or old, except maybe for pheasants. The best load for the 28 gauge is a 2¾-inch shell with ¾ ounce of #7½ shot. Trust me on this! The best chokes for this load in a 28 gauge? Skeet and skeet. It is a dandy quail gun/load combo.

The best fixed chokes for any double gun? If I had to pick two it will come as no surprise that I would choose improved cylinder and modified. If you are shooting steel shot at waterfowl over decoys the best choke is improved cylinder. Steel patterns are very tight. Last year I shot a black duck with an improved cylinder choke at 87 paces with a 3-inch Kent Fasteel cartridge loaded with #2 shot. A great cartridge if you don't mind watching the brass rust while you hold it in your hand.

Pistol grip or straight stock? This falls into the “whatever your preference is” category. You will shoot either equally well if you practice with them. In the end, it just doesn't matter, as long as you can live with it. I shoot both and switch back and forth regularly. I kind of like the lines of the straight stock, but I'm a loyal Yankee and will never let go of the fact that I come from a nation of riflemen.

Now you will hate me, especially if you love the game of skeet. I think American skeet shooting ought to be done with a low gun. No pre-mounting. Further, I think the shooter should not be able to call "pull" when he is ready for the target. This job belongs to the one pulling and he should be able to pull at will. I would really like to see a "new" skeet game start at clubs all across America that I call "walk-up skeet." The shooter moves around the field freely and the puller pulls at random. In the end, 25 birds total have been launched and the shooter never knows from what direction or exactly when. This in my mind, puts back some of the spontaneous excitement back into skeet shooting that most closely resembles flushing birds during upland hunting. Which is the whole reason skeet shooting was invented for in the first place.

Just one more. Is the worst gun law (one of many) in the State of Massachusetts? It’s the trigger lock law. I was guiding some gentlemen from Texas not too long ago and told them we have to have our guns cased and trigger locked while transporting them in our vehicles, and locked up while in our homes. And if they ever get stolen, the police and the DA prosecute the gun owner. Their jaws dropped, their eyes got big, and then they spoke in the manner that makes Texas the great state that it is: "That’s the stupidest thing I've ever heard of. What if you got to get to your gun?" Amen brothers. Don't ever give up your freedoms in Texas like we have here in Massachusetts.

Capt. David Bitters is a writer/photographer and a striped bass/sea duck hunting guide from Massachusetts. His photos and essays have appeared in over one-hundred magazines. Capt. Bitters is currently finishing his first book, A Sportsman's Fireside Reader - Tales of Hunting, Fishing, and Other Outdoor Pleasures. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (781) 934-2838. You can also write him at P.O. Box 366 Duxbury, MA 0233.

Published in Captain David Bitters

A research team at Remington has developed a revolutionary new wad design that lets steel shot fulfill its long-promised potential as the ultimate waterfowl load.

For waterfowl hunting, steel shot is the odds-on favorite. Other non-toxics are available, and most all of them result in better performance than steel. But these other non-toxic waterfowl loads are not purchased in huge quantities for one basic reason – they are more expensive than steel loads – a lot more expensive.

If you shot any of the early steel loads from several decades back you know those loads were very poor. They shot horrible patterns, produced a lot of powder fouling, and maybe crippled more ducks than the lead pellets that ducks ingested. Slowly the shotshell manufacturers improved on the steel loads. One factor that helped this along was new powders designed with steel in mind. This resulted in less powder fouling. Those who shot semi-auto shotguns at ducks cheered this breakthrough as this meant their shotguns now kept shooting instead of jamming so often.

Another factor that helped steel loads kill ducks more effectively was that the ammo companies were able to increase velocities with the new powders. Since steel is less dense than lead (lighter by 30 percent), the increased velocity helped steel enhance its killing power.

However, current steel loads are at their maximum – both from a velocity standpoint and from a chamber pressure standpoint. In fact, most high velocity steel loads produce chamber pressures that are right at the top of what experts consider safe. Increase chamber pressures further and we increase the chance of starting to blow up some shotguns. No ammo company is going to do that in these sue-happy times.

So how can we (1) reduce chamber pressures and still keep velocity of steel loads at current levels, and/or (2) increase steel shot velocity levels – and still keep chamber pressures within proper safety standards?

A research team at Remington went to work on this problem, and they have come up with a solution that promises to be a major breakthrough in shotgun ballistics – not only for steel shot but lead loads as well – in fact maybe all future shotshells.

Remington developed a totally new concept in a plastic wad that makes all of the above possible. The wad design is so new that we don’t even have any new loads to test – that have these wads installed. Remington is so confident in this wad’s potential that they are calling this the biggest breakthrough since the introduction of the plastic wad itself.

Remington had a name for this wad, but they have pulled that name back in hopes of a better one. Maybe now you’re getting some appreciation of how new this technology really is.

DRAWING

Check the accompanying artist’s rendition of this wad. The main breakthrough is the precision engineered “ignition chamber,” the smaller cylindrical part at the base of the wad. This ignition chamber is designed to nestle into the top of the primer pocket.

The powder is dropped in a normal manner. When the new wad is seated some of that powder works its way into the ignition chamber. To insure that powder fills that ignition chamber a ball-type powder with tiny grains will be used. Now remember that the ignition chamber is sitting right on top of the primer.

When the primer is ignited the small amount of powder in the ignition chamber gets ignited first, thus the burn is started. In turn, the wad and shot column move slightly forward, and this allows the burning powder in the ignition chamber to ignite the rest of the powder charge.

How can this reduce chamber pressures? It’s all about delaying (slowing down) full ignition of the powder. Use of the new wad system means that powder ignition is stretched out over a longer period of time – and that’s how chamber pressures are reduced. Bottom line – these researchers had to think out of the box to come up with a new way to reduce chamber pressures.

While I like the idea of the new wad for reducing chamber pressures in steel shot loads – I’m thinking to the future – and hopefully building this wad technology into target loads and field loads using lead shot. Being a recoil conscious freak I’m hoping the new wad will reduce felt recoil in target loads – via reduced chamber pressures – but still maintaining standard target load velocities.

Remington says they will be using slow-burning ball-type powders with the new wad and their new steel loads. I know of no current slow burning ball powders available to reloaders, but evidently Remington has worked with a powder manufacturer to develop such a powder.

An example of a slow burning powder and the resultant reduction of felt recoil would be reloading with slow burning IMR 7625 powder to develop an 1150-feet-per- second load with 1 ounce of shot in 12 gauge.

Work up the same 1-ounce, 1150-feet-per-second load using a fast burning powder, and it won’t take any rocket science research to feel that the 7625 load is very soft in comparison. Of course, 7625 is not offered in a ball-type configuration, but I can only assume that the science to do that is doable. The same principal that allows a slow burning powder like 7625 to have less chamber pressure – is now offered via a wad – a wad that slows down the burn rate and results in lower chamber pressure – and lower chamber pressures mean less felt recoil – a gentle shove rather than a sharp rap.

Remember – as the ignition chamber powder ignites the wad and shot charge move slightly forward – increasing the area for the rest of the powder burn – and thus we get the slower powder burn – ignition stretched out over a longer period of time.

A second new feature of breakthrough wad will be the “stress concentrators” built in near this wad’s base. Again, check the artist’s rendition. The new wad is not split down the sides, as most all other wads are. The “stress concentrator” areas, however, start the wad slits upon powder ignition. There are internal “slits” inside this wad, making it easy for the stress concentrators to start and complete the wad slitting up the sides. But because the slits start opening from the bottom, the pellets in the wad are held there longer, which Remington says results in tighter down range patterns.

Initially, (which means Fall 2010) Remington will only offer the new shotshells with the new wad in 12 gauge and in steel 3-inch and 3 ½-inch loads. All these loads will be at the same velocity – a whopping 1700 feet per second – which means no lead changes no matter which of these loads you are using.

Remington is calling the new shells HyperSonic Steel. Interestingly 1 1/8, 1 1/4 and 1 3/8 ounce loads will be offered in the HyperSonic Steel – again all at 1700 feet per second. The 3-inch 1 1/8 ounce loads will be offered in BB, 2 and 4. The 3-inch 1 1/4 ounce loads will be offered in BB, 1, 2 and 4. The 3 ½-inch HyperSonic Steel will be offered in BB, 2 and 4 at 1 3/8 ounce.

As much as I’m excited about these new steel loads with the new wad I’m looking farther into the future – and lead target and field loads that utilize this new wad technology that permits slower burn rates with resultant lower chamber pressures and less felt recoil.

If a slow burning powder like 7625 in ball form could be used with this new wad chamber pressures could be reduced even further. Think of shooting a 1-ounce 12-gauge load at 1200-feet-per-second that results in even less recoil than we see today using slow burning 7625. The 7625 is used only as an example here, for there are other slow burning powders, though when it comes to 12 gauge shotshell powders IMR 7625 is one of the slowest.

I predict you are going to be hearing a lot more about this new wad design, and this wad could be the biggest advancement since the development of the plastic wad – especially if the wad technology can also be applied to lead loads.

Nick Sisley has been a full-time freelance outdoor writer since 1969. He writes a regular shotgun column in Wildfowl magazine, Sporting Clays magazine, the Skeet Shooting Review and others. He's authored eight books and penned thousands of magazine articles. He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Remington Ballistics:

http://www.remington.com/products/ammunition/ballistics

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Shooting Tips, Gear & Shotguns

Published in Guns
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 01:00

Hunting the Wiley Chukar in Utah

Having hunted most of the species of upland birds in North America, I’ve come to appreciate the qualities of the chukar. Hunting chukar is an exciting adventure that always includes a surprise or two. Chukars are not only fun to hunt, they are also one of the most hearty birds to put down and typically don’t present a head shot on the rise as pheasant tend to do – making them challenging as well.

Published in Wingshooting

Shooting 100 rounds of sporting clays with the new Caesar Guerini Apex is best summed up by how the gun performed on the last station: I crushed a pair of teals with a single shot.

Even my shooting partners, made up of Blaser F3 and Beretta owners, were impressed with the incredible target-crushing power of the Guerini Apex. Like so many other shooters who appreciate fine shotguns, they heard the advanced buzz over the Guerini Apex but never had the privilege of actually seeing one in action.

These highly coveted shotguns have been in short supply since their introduction at the 2009 Shot Show, held January 15-18 in Orlando, Florida. Recently, shipments of the new Guerini Apex have started trickling into the U.S. from the factory in Brescia, Italy.

I managed to get one of the few Guerini Apex Sporting Models on the sporting clays course thanks to Bart’s Sports World in Glen Burnie, Maryland. The three Bart brothers – Jack, Wayne and Roy – live close to Caesar Guerini’s U.S. headquarters in Cambridge, Maryland. In fact, one morning I called over there Wayne was making his usual rounds on behalf of his customers.

The Guerini Apex is a premium shotgun. It ranks under Guerini’s most expensive Forum in the Caesar Guerini lineup. Although the Guerini Apex is not the top model, it exudes a transcendental vibe unlike any Caesar Guerini I’ve ever shot.

ApexSIDE

A round of sporting clays with the Guerini Apex delivers an epiphany by defining the benchmark for a $7,500 shotgun. The Guerini Apex makes you feel like every target moves in slow motion and is simply there to be pulverized.

I put the Guerini Apex through its paces at Schrader's Bridgetown Manor, in Henderson, on Maryland’s fabled Eastern Shore. Schrader’s is known locally for its challenging course. The stations are in wooded surroundings, with mottled sunlight and plenty of natural obstacles. Schrader’s rabbit targets seem to be powered by afterburners and bounce like they are cam-shaped. Schrader’s outgoing targets tend to be slower than at other courses, but far more acrobatic and elusive as they seek the trees.

I shot 100 rounds with Roy Bart, Bart’s store manager, Al Koch and three of their shooting buddies. Wednesday mornings at Schrader’s is a weekly ritual for them, followed by lunch at the Batter Up in nearby Ridgely, and then perhaps a second round of sporting clays at Schrader’s.

The Guerini Apex I shot possessed every attribute that sets the gun apart from the other Caesar Guerini shotguns, except that for some odd reason this one had arrived from Italy with standard quality wood uncharacteristic of the figured, hand-rubbed walnut you should expect. So rather than upgrade the wood, it was turned into a demo gun. That said, it displayed a flawless wood-to-metal finish and everything about this particular Guerini Apex was a testament to quality craftsmanship.

The 32-inch over/under barrels and Prince of Wales-style forend all fit into place with no trauma or struggle. The two IC chokes screwed in effortlessly even though the threads had never been touched by oil. I then grabbed four boxes of Estate #8, 1-ounce loads and was ready to shoot.

Since Shotgun Life was the first publication to cover the Guerini Apex prior to its unveiling at the January 2009 Shot Show, it was nice to also be the first to write about actually using the gun.

In my visit to Caesar Guerini prior to the Shot Show, I had spent about two hours with Wes Lang, president of the company. Wes had filled me in about what to expect on the Guerini Apex, but no gun was available for me to handle.

Now, all of that has changed…

Although the Guerini Apex shares the actions, barrels and accessories with other Caesar Guerini shotguns, it benefits from new high-tech applications that we’ll probably see in future enhancements to the Caesar Guerini family.

The Guerini Apex combines laser, EDM (electrical discharge machine) hand engraving and other techniques to yield deep, elaborate patterns on the full sideplates. In the case of the Guerini Apex, the results are a stunning marriage of floral and scroll patterns with gold details on a polished coin finish. The full coverage of the engraving continues beyond the frame to the trigger guard, extended tang and forend hardware.

By using trunnions instead of hinge pins, and a “blind” sideplate mounting, Caesar Guerini receivers are free of the visible screws and hinges that can detract from the engraver’s art. That’s why the Guerini Apex can present a museum-quality sideplate on a shotgun that starts for under $10,000.

The integrity of design also extends to a trigger guard that eliminates screws, as it joins seamlessly with the elongated tang devoid of screws, which dovetails into a skeletal grip cap fastened by two screws. In effect, it’s a minimalist industrial rendition of an old-world, best gun approach.

The continuous ribbon of engraved metal from the trigger guard to grip cap creates an elegant line through the swept-back pistol grip. The stunning cosmetics are more than skin deep. As I discovered, the motif also gives the shooter a smooth, ergonomic grip that enhances the shotgun’s handling.

ApexUNDER

Caesar Guerini Apex Tale of the Tape

Gauge

12

Barrel length

30”, 32”, 34”

Avg. Weight*

7lbs. 14oz. - 8lbs. 4ozs

Receiver finish

Coin finish, urethane coated

Stock Finish

Hand rubbed oil

Checkering

26 lines per inch

Recoil Pad

Black rubber

Chamber

2.75"

Top Rib

10mm (.4”) Parallel

Center Rib

Ventilated

Forcing Cones

5” DuoCon

Avg. Barrel Weight

30” (3.28lbs), 32” (3.35lbs.), 34” (3.44lbs.) **

Avg. Bore

.735, Chrome lined

Chokes

6 MAXIS competition chokes

Sight(s)

White Bradley style front, brass center bead

Fore-end

Rounded

Trigger

Single selective, adjustable for length of pull

Safety

Manual (Automatic as an option)

Accessories

Stock and trigger wrench, choke case, friction choke wrench.

Case

Plastic and leather hard case with fit interior.

Source: Caesar Guerini
* Weight may vary based on wood density.
** Special order only through the Caesar Guerini Custom Shop

Mind you, the feel of the Guerini Apex won’t be mistaken for a round-body FAMARS Excalibur, but I will say that in a blind test the Guerini Apex would probably emerge as the most comfortable shotgun among its peers.

Out on the sporting clays course, one of my immediate reactions to shooting the Guerini Apex was how sturdy it felt. The Caesar Guerini boxlock actions are machined from solid billets of steel and alloys. This process provides both stronger actions and better recoil absorption. That’s one of the reasons why shooting 100 rounds of 1-ounce loads never bothered me.

The inertia trigger group on the Guerini Apex felt crisp enough that it contributed to a more aggressive and confident shooting style. Caesar Guerini’s triggers are designed for reduced friction. Marry that with the inspiring ergonomics of the Guerini Apex and the gun seemed hard-wired to my brain for nailing that critical point of impact in the more difficult presentations at Schrader’s.

One particular station featured a simo-pair consisting of a fast quartering away bird flying straight for the trees, followed by a much slower looper suddenly popping out from a bush about 15 feet in front of me before plunging into tall weeds.

Instinct dictates that you go after the fast quartering away bird, thinking that the slower looper would be the natural second shot. That wasn’t the case. It took a lot of patience and gun control to wait for that looper to finally appear, smash it first, then track the quartering away bird as it transitioned into a low, fast, 20-yard shot.

The new Prince of Wales-style forend on the Guerini Apex gave me the superior control in a shot that demanded a combination of nerve-wracking patience followed by a burst of speed.

Making its debut at Caesar Guerini, the Prince of Wales-style forend replaces the Schnabel forend on other Caesar Guerini models. In comparison to a Schnabel forend, the Prince of Wales-style forend tapers toward the muzzle and eliminates the lip on the leading edge of the forend to create a more organic contour.

Like forends on other Caesar Guerinis, the Guerini Apex features an Anson pushrod forend latch. It appears as a small button on the nose of the forend. It’s recognized for three significant benefits: By eliminating the big external latch used by most other gunmakers, the checkering can wrap completely around the forend for a more secure grip. In addition, it’s self-adjusting over time. Finally, there are fewer working parts to deteriorate.

The payoff of this beautiful forend is a steady left hand in waiting for a slow looper plus the effortless handling in establishing and crushing the second, faster quartering away bird.

As we made our way through the sporting clays course, it became increasingly obvious that the Guerini Apex was an extraordinary shotgun. My squad-mates repeatedly praised some of the more difficult shots I had made with it. But for me, it was a shot made by Al that truly opened my eyes to the gun’s superiority.

We were at a station where rising outgoers were thrown from a hand trap: two reports followed by a simo pair. They were pretty much lay-ups, but for whatever reason Al missed one bird in the simo pair. After we had all shot, Al asked the trapper to throw him another simo. Al totally crushed the birds and I immediately thought, wow, I hadn’t seen Al hit targets that hard all morning. When Al turned around he raised the Guerini Apex in a triumphant thrust. Until that point, I had no idea he was using it for that shot.

What was it about the Guerini Apex that made it feel so special?

I will say that the Guerini Apex I used felt more balanced than the other 12-gauge Caesar Guerinis I’ve shot. It could have been the density of the wood or any combination of factors, but the gun performed as though all the incremental improvements made to the Caesar Guerini family of shotguns had been unified in the Guerini Apex. There’s a sense that the Guerini Apex is the culmination of the entire Caesar Guerini aesthetic and philosophy.

Its perfect center of gravity, clean elegance of the design and that touch of Italian magic gave the Guerini Apex the authority and poise rarely found in a production shotgun for under $10,000.

If you’re interested in a Guerini Apex, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $7,550. Standard options include $200 for a left-hand stock and $120 for an English Stock.

You can also consign your Guerini Apex to the company’s new Custom Shop for upgrades such as the D.T.S Kinetic Balancer, custom engraving, bespoke stocks, adjustable recoil pads or anything else a proud new owner could desire.

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

Useful resources:

http://www.gueriniusa.com

http://www.bartssports.com

http://www.schradershunting.com

Shotgun Life Newsletters

Join an elite group of readers who receive their FREE e-letter every week from Shotgun Life. These readers gain a competitive advantage from the valuable advice delivered directly to their inbox. You'll discover ways to improve your shooting, learn about the best new products and how to easily maintain your shotgun so it's always reliable. If you strive to be a better shooter, then our FREE e-letters are for you.

Shooting Tips, Gear & Shotguns

Published in Guns

Although my first shooting trip to South America took place in 1972 I didn't get to shoot in Uruguay until 1997. In retrospect I hate that I missed shooting in that country and enjoying those wonderful people for so many decades. This had been a winter trip, so the duck and partridge seasons were in full swing. Of course, it was summer back here in the USA.

Published in Wingshooting
Tuesday, 03 March 2009 10:46

Pheasant Phun

I was recently invited to go to South Dakota pheasant hunting, and what a trip it was. Kirstie Pike the President of Prois Hunting Apparel, Keli Van Cleave, and I went as Prois Hunting Apparel Pro Staff members and were treated to outstanding hospitality by the owners and staff of Pheasant Phun at the Olsen Ranch in Hitchcock, South Dakota.

Dave Olsen is the proprietor and the head wrangler of the operation. Dave's mom, Annie, and his father, Art are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. The film crew of SSOutdoor Adventures was also there filming for an upcoming show.

We got to the Olsen's J Bar Ranch early on a Friday morning. We were received with a warm hearty breakfast and were given the game plan and instructions for the day. Anxious to begin, we headed out to the garage for the safety talk and a thoughtful prayer by Dave for our good day.

The trucks were warming up and we ladies were supposed to ride in a nice warm, cushy dually. As we walked outside to the waiting vehicles Kirstie, Keli and I spotted a huge beast of a machine sitting among the vehicles that were not being warmed up. Almost simultaneously we asked if we could take the huge retired military radio truck. Dave laughed, then realized that we were serious and was more than willing to let us hunt in the beast. When will men understand how much we ladies love big trucks? We climbed in and as we sat down for our ride, all got a huge chuckle at our seats. The beast was well outfitted in antique church pews.

STORY2insideA
Kirstie Pike


As we bumped and rolled along the road we got to know the other hunters and the wonderful dogs who were to be our helpers. Charlie and his delightful, young, yellow Lab Bailey, Bob and Zoe, Gerard and Titan and our host Dave with Grizzly and Chopper.

It was cold that morning and the birds seemed to be flying out way further than I was comfortable shooting. I was using a small 20 gauge that I hadn't shot much before, so I didn't want to take ridiculous shots. A few birds were harvested that morning, but not by me. Keli Van Cleave was hunting with her bright pink bow and we were all curious to see if she could actually hit a flying bird with it. I didn't know Keli well and was skeptical.

We headed back for a hearty, hot meal of chili and some of the most wonderful Cheese-Broccoli soup I have ever tasted. I knew my diet was heading out the door. We took our belongings up to our loft bedroom and were shown the lay of the 'bunkhouse.' The bunkhouse was a converted barn that slept around 18 people very comfortably. There was a warm, inviting sitting area, with a long bunkhouse dining room. To look at it from the outside it still looks like a working barn, but once inside it is clean, luxurious and well-appointed. The view from any window is beautiful and the sunrise, breathtaking.

After lunch we went out again and some of the hunters filled their limits. I didn't shoot any birds, but had a great long walk and lots of exercise. Maybe going off my diet at lunch wasn't a total loss.

At dusk, we returned to the bunkhouse and enjoyed a fabulous dinner followed by cocktails and tastings from Dave's wine collection. We chatted with the other hunters there and soon found ourselves getting sleepy. We got ready for bed and once we turned in, found ourselves behaving like we were at an adolescent slumber party. We gabbed and chatted for quite some time before finally falling into warm, deep sleep in our cozy beds.

When the sun came up we were ready to go with a delicious hearty breakfast of pancakes, eggs, biscuits and gravy. We hunted all morning and I took a few shots, but nothing fell. I was a little discouraged and frustrated with myself, but still had a great time. Keli and Kirstie didn't shoot anything either and were also a little frustrated. The men were all able to get birds, so we knew they were out there and plentiful, but we were getting nothing.

Lunch was amazing and the table was set for a special holiday party that was to take place that evening. Kirstie and I were keeping an eye on the weather reports because we had a 14 hour drive home the next day. We learned that a storm was headed our way, but still planned on staying for the party and leaving early the next morning.

We knew that afternoon would be the last time to shoot so we needed to make it a good one. After lunch, we loaded up into the big green beast for the last time. We went to a thicket of trees and began our long walk. The dogs jumped several birds right off the bat and I was never in the right place for a shot. We walked about a quarter mile further and suddenly the woods came alive with pheasants. I pulled up on one as it flew up into a tree. It was hit but needed another shot. I finally bagged one. Then a few feet later another flew up and I shot it.

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Anne Vinnola and Kirstie Pike


Out of the corner of my eye I saw a beautiful pheasant fly up through the trees toward Keli. I hollered at her to watch for it and for a few minutes guided her back several feet to where she could see where it had landed. The bird flew up, off of a tree limb, and she stuck it with her arrow. WOW she actually did it! We all cheered and were so excited for her. It was a perfect shot and was her first pheasant taken with a bow. I had never seen anyone shoot a flying bird before. It never occurred to me that it was possible, but Keli sure made a great shot and believers of us all. That was some serious "girl power!"

Kirstie shot two birds and loaded up for another. The dogs were everywhere and each was working hard and fast. In the midst of all of the noise and excitement, two pretty little does ran out and startled everyone.

I was quickly onto my last bird of the day and shot it just as it started to land on a branch. It was wounded and luckily I was able to get to it with the aid of my favorite dog of the weekend, Grizzly.

I had earlier asked Dave to show me a quick way to finish off a wounded bird without wringing its neck. Ever mindful of keeping a bird whole for taxidermy, I know that many hunters get into a bad habit of wringing the neck of a bird and invariably ruin a good mount. Dave showed me to place my thumb in the V of the throat and to press with up with my thumb and my forefinger on top of the head to crush the windpipe. This was a quick and humane way to finish off the bird without damaging the feathers. I also felt it was important to personally know how to finish off an animal as the hunter, and not need to rely on a guide to do it for me.

In the last few minutes of this exciting hunt we all limited out and met our hunting goals for the weekend, Keli, with her bow and Kirstie and I with our shotguns. The happy dogs were all running with their tongues hanging out after a thrilling afternoon. As we all went back to the bunkhouse, we had a lot to congratulate each other about.

Kirstie and I took one more look at the weather and decided to hit the road that night and drive as far as we could. We were going to have to miss the wonderful holiday celebration that Annie and her crew were putting together, but we felt the weather was making it impossible to stay.

If you are in need of some great pheasant hunting, warm hospitality and friendly, welcoming people, give Dave and his family a call. They will make your stay as happy as possible and you may even get a few beautiful pheasants for your table. Kirstie and I decided this will be a place we will return to and bring our families. Once you are there you are treated as family, and somehow, as royalty too. If you need help finding the place call Dave at 605-266-2848 or go to www.pheasantphun.com. He will leave the lights on for you. Keep an eye out for our show on SSOutdoor Adventures.



Anne Vinnola is a dedicated sportswoman. She is a freelance writer and blogger on the outdoors, and co-owner with her husband of the Colorado Institute of Taxidermy Training and Big Timber South Taxidermy Studio. Anne is also a Pro-Staff member of

Prois Hunting Apparel.



Useful links:

http://www.coloradotaxidermyschool.com/index.htm

http://skinnymoose.com/annevinnola/

http://www.proishunting.com/

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Published in Women Shooters
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 07:04

My Afternoon With Olympian George Quigley


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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..



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Visit Amazon.com for Rick's novel, The Maximum Contribution.


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Visit Amazon.com for Rick's novel, Sniper Bid.

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