Wingshooting

Something we hunters have in common is a deep fondness for hunting tradition and all its trappings. How many of us do you know who wax nostalgic about the good old days and carry their father’s gun or knife or other hunting heirloom passed down from a recent ancestor that not only anchors the original owner to the present day, but its current caretaker to the past?

Spring weather makes every dog trainer and handler smile. Low temperatures, occasional rain, and breezy winds bring dogs alive. Conditioning is regular, scenting conditions are good, and it’s a time when regular progress is made. If only we could roll right into hunting season… 

But summer is in between, and the hot, dry temperatures and bright, cloudless skies threaten to undo all of our hard work. Keeping your pup safe in the heat is the first order of the day, and continuing to build on their foundation is the key to a successful fall. Here’s how some pros handle the heat.

Chris Mathan has joined the ranks of local heroes working to introduce kids to the shotgun sports. Ms. Mathan, through her online field-trial publication Strideway, recently formed the non-profit Youth Field Trial Alliance to acquaint youngsters in the U.S. and Canada with the benefits and beauty of bird-dog field trial competitions.

For generations, the 12-gauge shotgun has been synonymous with duck hunting, but many hunters are choosing 20 gauges for close-range environments.

There are several logical reasons for this trend. Older hunters can’t tolerate the abuse that a 12-gauge spitting 3-inch or larger waterfowl loads inflicts on arthritic or surgically repaired shoulders.

If the British had won the War of Independence in 1776, chances are you’d be wearing tweed instead of camo or blaze on your wingshooting adventures.  

Upland hunters in particular tend to romanticize traditional estate tweed through that gauzy sentimentality of a Doris Day close-up. Armed with our venerable double gun on a crisp autumn afternoon while adorned in tweed breeks, jacket or waistcoat and flat cap, as Fido scours the landscape, we hike though the heather ever vigilant for a flush.

Robert Milner of Duckhill Kennels is upping the ante in what constitutes a well-trained bird dog. The influential source of British Labrador Retrievers based in Somerville, Tennessee is now mandating that all of its dogs complete the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Test.

Monty Lewis called the bobwhite quail hunt a “Fellowship Opportunity,” and he wasn’t kidding. Our party of 20 current and retired board members from Ducks Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited Canada had collectively served nearly 400 years as volunteers for the revered wetlands conservation nonprofit.

The hunts are not official DU events, but as Mr. Lewis described them “Traditionally, after joint meetings in the Southeast, we have a recreational activity. We get the Canadians out of the cold weather. I’ve been the host a few times and this year we’re extending some Southern hospitality where it’s the dead of winter for them.”

“Much of the pleasure of shooting is what accompanies it and sharing it all with a good friend.” ~ George Bird Evans, The Upland Shooting Life (1971)


The child tells what he got for Christmas, the mature man tells how he spent the day; the immature hunter tells how many birds he shot, the mature gunner tells of the experience. If I can impart a sense of gunning values through my writing, I urge the gunner at any age to lift himself above the childish state of mind, thinking only of himself and not what he is doing to the birds.

– George Bird Evans, An Affair with Grouse (1982)

A much-welcomed late September Canadian cold front pushed out opening week temps in the 80s from my Northern Minnesota ruffed grouse hunting haunts. Temps were now in the 50s and soon my springer Hunter and I hit the road for our first grouse hunt of the year.

When a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The answer is “Yes the wolf hears it.” The wolf’s direct descendant, the dog, shares the wolf’s very sensitive hearing. According to the sparse research available, the dog’s hearing is four times more sensitive than man’s.

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