The acrid smell of two-stroke exhaust mixing with the sweet smell of the cedar transported me back to a bygone era – a time of wooden decoys and boats and huge duck numbers.
The boat was a cedar sneak boat over 50 years old. In the water 200 yards distant, the decoys were mostly hand-carved wooden blocks. Although not as old as the boat, the decoys were still carved with the same care of the decoys of old.
Most grouse hunters are sentimentalists at heart and dream of owning a good side by side, which was the gun of choice for the old timers around the turn of the 20th century. The first half of the 1900s was truly the Golden Age for American side by sides and companies such as Parker Brothers, L.C. Smith, and A.H. Fox were producing some of the finest double guns ever made in our nation’s history. It was a time when industrial efficiency and true craftsmanship were co-equals in the shotgun industry.
Well before dawn, the camouflage-clad hunter stepped off the gravel road running through the wildlife management area in eastern South Carolina and followed a small creek into the forest.
The moment arrived! After months of anticipation, we sat still and chilled in the dark blind waiting for a new duck season to open.
I could feel the bite of the north wind on my face as I struggled to break trail through the deep snow. I was exercising my fingers inside my gloves to maintain feeling as my bird dog Timber, playfully skimmed along the top of the crusted snow. However, for me, every step was a chore but I had to keep pace and maintain a good shooting position.
When we think of bird hunting, we instantly go to a sacred place that exists in our hearts – a sacred covert we protect. We dream of finding that place again and want to know it will still be there long after we are gone. As a group, we engage in friendly debates about the dogs, guns and game we prefer. We share our stories, but it’s that moment we find alone in the field that we think about at the end of the day, in a comfortable chair. The birds we hunt are worth finding for the first time, worth fighting for and worth remembering.
American shotgun shooting with English influences. English traditions with an American twist. Call it what you wish but Richard Smith’s The Royal United Company has created a hybrid style of sport shooting that has everyone talking. From game birds to sporting clays, in just a few years, the now 30-year-old originally from South West England has not only made sport shooting more accessible by creating a completely mobile shooting experience, but has changed the way many American view the sport here in the states.
In Minneapolis-St. Paul we boarded a two-engine plane and buckled in while the pilot tried to start the engines. An hour later, we deplaned and made preparations to camp out in the airport. Apologetic employees gave us cookies and stale sodas while we called our loved ones and scratched out our last wills and testaments on the backs of airline napkins.
Griffin & Howe clients recently had the chance to hear shooting pointers from one of the world’s top grouse shots, and then to shoot simulated driven grouse under his expert eye. Phil Burtt, who manages the shooting at England’s Belvoir Castle, was in the US with his boss—Her Grace, the Duchess of Rutland—and presented a tutorial at Hudson Farm, Griffin & Howe’s shooting preserve in Andover, New Jersey, on March 19, 2014.
Story|Photos by Tom Keer
Say the word “woodcock” in a room full of bird hunters and you are likely to capture most everyone’s attention. Hunters are fascinated with the eclectic, migratory bird for a wide variety of reasons. Dyed-in-the-wool woodcock hunters seem to have camaraderie that knows no bounds. I suspect if you asked any of them if they’ve ever wanted to embark on a five-month journey that follow the flights from their breeding grounds to their wintering grounds most would say yes. Most nod in agreement when the phrase “anything done in moderation shows a lack of interest” is quoted.
Story | Photo by Ron Spomer
In the 1960s pheasants were big game birds in South Dakota, the upland equivalent of Canada geese. Tough, durable, armed with spurs and ready to shoulder through a dense swarm of shot. A big ringneck was no bird to fool with. The full-choke 12 gauge was the hands down favorite for taming South Dakota’s feral pheasants.
But I didn’t use one.
The skiff cracked skim ice as our duck-hunting party worked the oars to push through the cypress swamp of Beaver Dam Lake. Dawn infused the mysterious atmosphere with Mississippi sapphire light while a hand-held torch illuminated the murky water oozing up through the fissures. Our destination slowly materialized as an apparition in the mist. It was a blind, the weathered plywood camouflaged by scavenged, gnarled branches, perched atop stilts, medieval and mesmerizing.
While more than 100 acres of winter wheat blanketed the spring soil not ten yards forward of our position we felt strangely closed in, but it was nice, even intimate. Nothing means more to a young son sitting in the darkness than knowing he’s next to his dad; I can say the same for sitting next to him. We sat, whispered and giggled for nearly an hour before I noticed a silver hue raining down through the treetops over our shoulders. It was just enough to expose the haunting glow of layered fog as it began to roll back its stranglehold on dew-laden wheat. As minutes ticked away so did darkness. The silver hues succumbed to radiant shades of amber and gold as frigid temperatures dropped several more degrees. My son Jacob said I looked like a bull with “smoke” surging from my nostrils.
When I developed the “Hunting With Hank” television series starring my Llewellin Setter Hank, for what was then The Outdoor Life Network, I had confidence that the series would find an audience. But, the amazing success of Hank’s show actually caught me off guard. Along with its popularity, came requests from viewers all across the country to explain how I trained Hank for the work they saw him performing on our upland bird hunts that spanned the country.