Our friend Silvio Calabi gave us a heads up that the book he co-wrote called “Hemingway’s Guns: The Sporting Arms of Ernest Hemingway” was about to be published. Having seen some of the chapters in advance, we were excited about the new information revealed from the in-depth research. Silvio gave us permission to run a chapter titled “The Winchester Model 21 Shotguns,” which appears following  the introduction below.

Call me crazy, but when someone handed me the 12-gauge model of the new A-10 American sidelock for the first time, it evoked a $100,000 pigeon gun by the ultra-exclusive Italian firm of Tullio and Ivo Fabbri.

Published in Guns

In the shadow of Capitol Hill, a forgotten patriot consigned to America’s trash heap of the unemployed has created a new national symbol that celebrates the values Sarah Palin holds true.

Published in Guns

Written by Irwin Greenstein with the opinions of Stephen Biello, Debbie Clay, Barry Goff, Sr., Brad Landseadel, Elizabeth Lanier, Joe Notarfrancesco , Vero Ricci, Steve Toomey, Kent Witters, Carolinn Poucher Woody

Published in Peer Review
Sunday, 02 May 2010 14:52

A Gun in the Office

I’ve gotten into the habit of carrying a gun to work with me every day. Heck, I’ve always taken a gun with me everywhere I’ve gone for the past thirty years, just out of common sense. Good medicine in case I run into the sick.

But I’ve been taking another gun to the office with me lately, a BB gun…! That’s right, a BB gun. A little lever action Daisy that I got from my father when I was six years old. It measures 30” inches muzzle to butt. Dad bought it for me to teach me marksmanship, discipline, and safety in handling firearms. Best thing he ever did and I would recommend it highly, to all parents of sound mind and judgment.

I was the top fly shooter in my neighborhood, maybe even in the whole town. I was also the top bee shooter, but Dad discouraged bee shooting. Bees were beneficial, flies were not.

Dad started me out shooting flies on the side of an old, falling down building along the edge of our land. We’d sit on the little hill overlooking the building and gun flies for hours on sunny days as they landed on the shingles. Dad would shoot for a while, then I’d shoot. It might have been just a little competition in marksmanship between a young boy and his father, but it was a lot of fun!

Whenever a hornet came into view, my finger began to twitch and I wanted to smack it bad. I’d been stung many times in my six years, in the raspberry patch while picking berries. But Dad always whispered quietly when he saw me getting edgy, “Now, don’t shoot the hornet. Hornets are beneficial...” Dad liked hornets. I hated them. I did not like bumblebees, either, after getting stung on the arm while sitting innocently on the school bus one day. Man, did that hurt!

Well, time moved on and I moved up the ladder and got into hunting full-bore. I got into rabbit hunting, squirrel hunting, upland birds, deer, waterfowl, you name it. If it was huntable, I hunted it and ate it.

Years later, when my own kids starting getting into shooting, I still had the little Daisy BB gun Dad bought for me when I was six years old. Naturally, I used it to teach my own children about marksmanship, discipline, and safety in handling firearms. My son has become quite the fly shooter, and I’m guessing, he’s probably a pretty good bee shooter, too, but I wouldn’t know about that. Bees are beneficial – UNLESS they are in your office!

I was sitting at my desk the other day, minding my own business, when the biggest , meanest, loudest bumblebee I have ever seen in my life, barged through the door and threatened to harm me.

Always on the alert, I did not sit there and wait to see what was going to happen. I took the threat seriously and went into instant defense mode. STOP THE THREAT!!! I lunged at him, taking a swing with one hand while reaching for my gun with the other. The Daisy came up and snugged into my shoulder in lightning fast auto mode, as if it were a part of me. I worked the lever action in one smooth, quick stroke and had the offender in my sights in a split second. I gave commands loud and clear for all to hear: “STOP! DON’T MOVE! DON’T MAKE ME SHOOT YOU!” The offender ignored my commands and came right at me – THWAK!!! He tumbled out of the air and fell to the floor. I cocked the gun and again shouted: “STOP! DON’T MOVE! DON’T MAKE ME SHOOT YOU!” But once again, the offender rose up and came at me with fire in his eyes – THWAK!!! He tumbled to the floor again, and I opened the door and flicked him outside. The threat was stopped, peace had been restored, and I returned to my desk. OOPS – did I just hear a fly???

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
Sunday, 02 May 2010 08:25

Chasing That Hunting High

The other day I was thinking about what has driven me to hunt. I see so many companies and services within our ranks that use words like “obsession” and “addiction.” Both these, and other terms like them, are certainly intense, but they are also harsh in some respects and I wondered at the thought that maybe they were overused, misused, much like “terrorism” has become an all-encompassing term for anything remotely horrific ever since 9-11. Use a word too much, apply it too liberally to too many things that are similar but lacking extremeness, and you run the risk of the word losing its impact. And so I wondered if we are danger of that with our hunting “obsessions” and “addictions.”

Published in Jennifer Pearsall

The middle Tennessee hills are a hidden treasure of superb quail hunting habitat.

Published in Destinations
Wednesday, 07 April 2010 16:18

The "Un"-Magnum Approach to Turkeys

In anticipation of the upcoming turkey season, I’m sure most of you have noticed that outdoor print media and television airwaves are filled with scene after scene of toms getting annihilated by 12-gauge and 10-gauge shotguns spewing magnum loads, and the advertisements in between the pages and during the commercial breaks are filled with supercallifragilistic, triple-Xtra, super-duper magnum this, that, and the other. Sheesh, you’d think a turkey had the armor plating of a rhinoceros, rather than a coat of feathers.

Part of the problem has been that the bigger-is-always-better approach has long defined the mindset of more than a few Americans. We’ve seen that philosophy exacerbated in more than a few areas. Take, for instance, the ever-increasing size of our SUVs and trucks. Remember when a Toyota Tundra was the size the Tacoma is now, and when the Tacoma was the size of a Ford Ranger? Or how about Dodge’s Durango, which used to be Chevy Trailblazer size and now rivals a Tahoe for girth. Housing, too, became oversized (naturally, with bigger garages to accommodate our bigger vehicles). And then there’s the glut of television reality shows that tell of sweet-sixteen parties that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, housewives that think nothing of hopping on a private jet to do a “little” shopping in the next city over, and other glitzy examples of largesse living.

turkey-hunter-2
At the end of a great day.

I hate to say it, but the gun industry has followed suit. Think of all the Super Short Magnums that have come on the market in the last decade or so. There was a resurgence of the 10-gauge in recent years, too. Even the archery side of things has its extremes. When I was working at the NRA, we never talked about someone in print claiming to make a clean kill shot on game at more than 40 yards. Yet today, there’s more than a few hardcore archers who know their equipment and have solid skills and will tell you they regularly kill at up to 80 yards (I don’t know, maybe the braggings gotten bigger, too). Still, one of the segments that pushes excess the hardest are the purveyors of guns and ammunition designed particularly for killing turkeys.

I get it, it’s marketing. Kill it further out! Kill it faster! Kill it deader than dead! Now, I’m all for a fast kill, and I have seen where advancing ammunition technology really does result in a faster kill. I remember when some of Federal’s first tungsten shotshells came out, for instance. I took those loads goose hunting, and without question saw a better quality, faster kill than I did with steel shot (airborne geese hit with those loads responded like a bug hitting your car windshield as you cruise down the highway—they never knew what hit them). But I haven’t seen the same results with turkeys. The push for 3 ½-inch 12- and 10-gauge shells that can reach out and tag a tom at 50 or 60 yards is fine in and of itself, but in my opinion it’s unnecessary. I’ll tell you why.

Ask yourself this: are turkeys harder to kill now than they were 20 years ago? No. Do you need to kill a turkey at 60 yards? No. Do you need the recoil of a long-shelled 12- or a 10-gauge bruising your shoulder and cheek? Still nope.

Let me break those questions down for you a little better. The first one is simple enough. Turkeys aren’t any harder to kill or “better educated” now than they have been before. Can they become call shy? Sure, but when the spring season for them lasts, on average, four to six weeks, they don’t become over-exposed like migrating geese and ducks do that have seen and heard it all by the time they end their months-long trek from north to south. So while the argument for magnum loads in waterfowling has a distinct application – pass-shooting call- and decoy-shy geese at the end of a long and liberal season – it falls flat for turkeys.

How about the need to kill a turkey at 50 or 60 yards? “Need” being a relative term, I’d say that, if you find yourself shooting toms as distances much farther out than you ever used to, you need to practice your calling and decoying skills. Yes, turkeys hang up. No, sometimes they can’t be worked closer. Live hens compete with your fakery for a tom’s attention and love and often wins. Crows distract and confuse. That is the romance that is hunting – hunting – this game bird. You have six weeks and one or two tags. I’d rather spend several beautiful spring mornings watching the sun come up and call a gobbler in the right way and close enough for an instant-death, one-shot kill, than plunk a tom down way in the distance on opening day (or any day, for that matter) just because the shot string from my gun reached that far. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

BrowningGold
The Browning Gold is my turkey gun of choice.

 

Finally, recoil is absolutely an issue with 12- and 10-gauge shotguns loaded with 3½-inch shells. I know some of you are thinking “Heck, it’s just one, maybe two shots.” But it’s not. You have time on the bench with different chokes and dozens of shells shucked through your gun, if you’re responsible about patterning a shotgun you intend to kill live game with – and if you intend to kill a thickly feathered 20-pound or better bird at 60 yards, you damn well better perfect your gun on paper before you head for the field.

But if you spend the time on the bench that you should, the chances are you’re going to start to flinch, especially if you conventionally and regularly shoot shotguns with less strength. I don’t care how tough you are, how much testosterone courses through you, and how big your truck is, this is physics, and hard-recoiling guns, most often those shot infrequently, do things to you mentally and physically.

Even worse than a flinch, though, is your shot-to-shot recovery. Remember you were thinking “one, maybe two” shots? If you’re going to shoot at distance, the faster a suddenly necessary secondary shot comes the better, and speed in getting the bead or scope back on target following the muzzle rise from the first shot is compromised when you increase the load.

Need one more reason? I’m going back to the how-tough-you-are argument. Plain and simple, there isn’t anything pleasurable about the recoil from these guns. If you say there is, okay for you, but I think that qualifies you as a masochist, and that’s not an attractive trait no matter how you slice it.

If you’re still not convinced, I’d tell you to go back to watching all the turkey hunting shows on TV. Notice the abundance of youth hunts filmed? Take a look at what all those kids are shooting. It’s the 20-gauge. That’s right, the no-notoriety, lil’ ol’ yellow-hulled 20-gauge. Notice anything else? These kids and their small shotguns kill turkeys just fine, especially when an adult with calling skills and hunting skills has called one in close enough. (Get it? Called. In. Close. Enough.) So if the lowly 20-gauge is good enough for your kids to kill a gobbler with, why do you need to buy into the magnum hype?

BerettaOnyx
Beretta’s White Onyx.

I say don’t. Personally, I often carry a 12-gauge auto, an older Browning Gold I’ve owned for some time. It’s super easy on recoil, even with a stiff turkey load, but when I go after gobblers I load it with either 2¾- or 3-inch loads, not the 3½. I don’t need the bigger shell. Maybe more often than I take out the Browning, though, I have a little Beretta White Onyx over/under in 20-gauge that’s my favored tool for turkeys. It’s more maneuverable, fast to reload, accurate as any other shotgun when patterned correctly, and easy to carry if I have to do some hiking for a tom. And it kills just fine.

Try it, try something smaller, like the 20-gauge your kids are hunting with.  Resist the temptation to up the distance at which you kill. Resist the marketing hype that bigger is better just because it’s bigger and work on what really should be better, and that is your scouting, calling, and setup techniques. It’s okay to be a magnum hunter, just do it without the magnum gun.

Jennifer L.S. Pearsall is a professional outdoor writer, photographer, and editor, who has been a part of the hunting and shooting industries for nearly 20 years. She is an avid clays shooter, hunter and dog trainer. Please visit her blog “Hunting the Truth” at http://huntingthetruth.com.

Published in Jennifer Pearsall
A SENSE OF PLACE

"We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto!" I said to Steve Lamboy as we left the small home that serves as the clubhouse for the Arzaga Drugulo hunting club. Steve and I were guests of Paolo Zoli and his father, Giuseppe Zoli, owners of the preeminent gunmaker Antonio Zoli located in the center of Italy's historic arms producing region, Gardone Val Trompia.

Published in Destinations
Wednesday, 31 March 2010 00:47

Grey Cliffs Ranch

It was one of Montana’s best-kept secrets nestled away in the hill country along the Madison River. The ranch opened to the public back in 2007, but it didn’t hold its grand opening until early 2008 when all the finishing touches were completed. The ranch is a 5000 acre deeded property with about an additional 2000 acres in leased land. Some of the land, only about 1,500 acres, is farmed but the majority of it is in a natural state for wildlife.

There is catch-and-release fishing on the ranch but you also have the Madison River only a few minutes away. There is upland bird hunting with pheasant, chucker and all the native huns and sharp-tail grouse available. They also have deer and elk hunting available on a limited basis. There are many others things to do including hiking, horseback riding, wildlife watching and wildlife photography. It’s not unusual to see herds of several hundred deer or elk on the ranch. In winter you can snowshoe or cross country ski. When you get into the high country you can see the four mountain ranges that surround the ranch area. It’s a beautiful area where you can truly relax and unwind.

Lodge
The Grey Cliff’s Ranch lodge.

The majority of the people that come here are the residents of Bozeman, Montana area who want to get away from it all and relax in an Idyllic atmosphere. I always thought if you lived in Bozeman you already got away from it all. But you could also find a couple from Atlanta or Zurich, Switzerland enjoying the outstanding atmosphere of the ranch and the lodge. This is a really unique ranch with a totally different outlook about it being a place to stay. It can be a bed and breakfast, or it can be a hunting lodge, or a fishing lodge or a dude ranch. It can be anything you want it to be. And it can be all yours. They aren’t trying to keep all the rooms full all the time, just the opposite. It’s what they call low impact lodging. They want you to have a really unique experience while you are there for whatever reason. You can be by yourself or just a couple. The lodge will hold about eight to twelve people depending on the mix. And it can be all yours for a day, a week or a month, it’s up to you.

The lodge is really a work of art, from the timber and glass exterior to the hard wood floors, marble counters, luxurious furniture and game heads from around the world adorning the walls. It reflects the personality of its owners and is one of the finer places I’ve ever had the pleasure to stay at.

You can pick one of their guest packages or design your own. Instead of the typical B&B package which includes your breakfast, you could do your owning cooking of dinner in their state-of-the-art kitchen or have their gourmet chef come in and cook your dinner right before you every evening. I don’t think you’ll ever find another place like this where they consider your experience as a greater value than having all the rooms full.

My first experience there after it just opened in 2007 was a real surprise. I came up from Idaho to do some bird hunting and met several hunters from Bozeman who I hunted with and had a great time. They were there for the day just to bird hunt while I was going to be spending several days there doing different things in addition to bird hunting.

 

Mountains
Spectacular vistas while bird hunting at Grey Cliffs Ranch.

We had a fun-filled day with some great bird hunting. We also had some good laughs about the birds we missed. We had a pheasant that was hit hard, but not dead and all four of us were looking for it very intensely as were the two dogs. Something caught my attention and I looked up at what I thought was a large flock of song birds, they didn’t look that large. Someone else also saw them and didn’t think anything about them as well. When the birds were right in front and above us, we realized it was a huge covey of huns. All the guns started to move and there was a lot of gunfire at the going-away birds, but not a bird dropped from the sky. We all looked at each other somewhat dumbfounded and burst out laughing. It took awhile to get over what had just happened. We did finally find the one we were looking for. We all ended up with a good mix of birds. Each one of us had either three or four birds.

The next time I was at the ranch was early in January of 2010. We just had over a foot of snow in Idaho Falls and a few days of single digit temperatures and when I got up to around Ennis, Montana, the temperature was 34 degrees, the skies were clear and the roads were clear and dry. I was expecting a foot of snow or more at the ranch and the ground was basically clear and dry. After a quick, small lunch, Chris, the ranch manager, and I headed out to one of the hunting areas with his dog, Katie. In the time since I was here last, Katie had matured into a first-class hunting dog.

We headed out to one of the areas that had very deep cover for the birds. After some walking, Katie went on point as Chris and I walked a little closer. The cock finally couldn’t take it any longer and tried to make his escape while Chris and I started to mount our guns. Chris got the first shot off and hit the bird but it didn’t go down and when the bird got clear of Chris I took my shot and hit the bird as well but it still kept going. We saw where it landed and backtracked to where the bird was and Katie quickly got the birds scent and went on point.

When the bird took off it looked like it was just hanging there and when I shot the bird it took a couple of somersaults in the air before it hit the ground for the last time.

During the rest of the afternoon hunt I got three more birds, but one got away. It was hit hard but managed to maintain some gliding flight for awhile. We went to look for it and could not find it after seeing where it landed and searching for some fifteen minutes. After we started back to the truck Katie picked up a scent and took off on a diagonal run while Chris and I stayed on track to the truck. When Katie got to the base of the hill we saw her pick something up and then drop it and then came running back to us. Chris and I both thought the same thing. The bird we were just looking for didn’t go into the heavy cover where it landed; it doubled back to the hill close to where I shot it and died there. Thanks to Katie, I ended up with the four birds I shot.

 

DogINSIDE
Katie with the four birds she retrieved on our hunt.

Being that I was the only guest at the ranch, I decided to soak up some of the ambience of the lodge and get some writing done. The chef was coming in that evening to cook dinner for Chris and I and I knew it was going to be a grand and memorable dinner. Chris himself is an excellent chef, so when “the chef” comes in you know it’s going to be even more impressive.

I was not disappointed. Tiffany started us off with a delicious squash, carrot and potato soup that was out of this world. Our salad was light and very tasty with some citrus that was a delight. The entrée was pheasant with a red wine and fig reduction glaze and polenta, and was without a doubt the very best pheasant I ever had; Chris agreed. And I have a few good recipes for pheasant myself. The dessert was as exceptional. It was a roasted pear sorbet which I have never had before and will never forget it was so delicious.

The following day Chris and I went out to shoot some clays.  They have five automatic Promatic traps set up in some interesting terrain.  They have a formal shooting station for each trap, but Chris and I tried to make it more interesting and fun. We also shot between two stations so we could shoot report and true pairs off of two stations. On stations four and five we had the most fun. Standing 10 yards above station four, which was a fast left-to right quartering bird that you couldn’t dally on. Station five was a high incomer arching right to left that was always in transition. Four was the harder bird to hit so we tried report pairs to start and we both accomplished getting the pair. Then we went for true pairs and we both accomplished that after a few misses.  Then we got ridiculous. We shot them in reverse. There were a lot of misses but we were able to get a pair and Chris’s second bird, the one quartering away looked like it was in China, and he still got it. We sure hooted and hollered and high fived on that one.

Grey Cliffs Ranch is a great experience in itself, but when you add the outstanding food served there by either Chris or Tiffany it really becomes a truly grand and memorable event. To book your fun experience or adventure call 406-285-6512 or go to: www.greycliffsranch.com

Published in Jerry Sinkovec
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