Saturday, September 10, 2016

Gearing up; whats new this fall.

     The grouse season is just around the corner. I haven't checked, but early goose season is probably already open. I don't feel like it's the advent, nor do I feel ready. Sure, I'm constantly train with Ginger, and shooting skeet, but gone are the days of making all kinds of lengthy plans, and mapping out destinations. Now when the season opens its just, off I go. It's nice to know your coverts intimately, but the thrill of heading into the unknown, that feeling of excitement and expectation doesn't attach. Still, I wouldn't miss it for the world.

     While the grouse season up north opens October 1st I generally don't start seriously hunting until around the 15th of October. Generally it's still quite warm before then, and unless there has been a heavy rain there can be a lot of leaves still up on the trees. That said, It's been quite some time, perhaps 10 years or more since I've made an early season, opening day dash to Maine. In the past I'd spent a few early days in the Down East region, and often shot an opening day grouse there. I love the state of Maine, and am considering making a quick, budget trip up there.

     As the weather is still quite warm during the earlier part of the season I thought it would be a good idea to get a shirt more suited to the weather. Hunting clothing are usually quite warm. I decided to go the athletic route.
What do you think?

     And now a quick word about Under Armour. There has been a lot of people going on about Under Armour being anti-hunting. This is not true. Yes, UA did fire one of their Prostaffers. Yes, the firing might have been contivertial, or unjust. But UA has not stopped supporting the field sports and hunting. UA still has hunting pro staffers. Still makes hunting apparel. Still produces the Ridge Reaper TV show. UA still supports hunting. They just fired one individual. If they'd have fired one of golf or tennis pros, would they then be anti- golf, or anti-tennis? Lay off the hype.

     I've picked up some new kit for the upcoming season. As I've stated before, my primary hunting boots are Wellies, but  I'd been contemplating giving lace-ups a try. I took the plunge, and bought a pair of Cabelas by Meindle. I'd been looking at Meindle boots, and hearing good things about them. After hearing a serious grouse fool, cover dog fool, hunting guide friend rave about them, I knew they had to be good. As fate would have it, they were not only on sale, but the young man working the register at Cabelas gave me the military discount in lieu of a public safety/first responder discount, which cabbalas doesn't offer (yet Bass Pro does).

     I also found a great deal, online, of a light weight, packable, breathable, water proof shooting coat. So I now own another article of Musto clothing. Truthfully, one can't go wrong with Musto. This coat, as well as the new boots, will be making the trip to England with me this year. 

     I also decided it was time for a new upland hunting vest. I like a strap vest, but I carry quite a bit of stuff with me, so I need storage space.  Because I often walk/hike a long way into the woods on my outings I also wanted something that has a lumbar belt to carry the weight on my hips. I looked at quite a few. Some were nice, others not quite there. 

     One of the first vests I looked at was the LL Bean Pat'ridge II. I really wanted to like this vest, but it needs improvement. The lumbar belt was nice, but the vest lacked adjustability in the back. The belt is attached too high to the game bag, so the entire back section rides up, and the straps bulge out. A loaded game bag would pull down and back at an uncomfortable angle. If changed slightly, this vest would be very nice.

     I also looked at the LL Bean Technical Upland Vest Pack. Believe it or not, this thing is pretty nice. It's not got much style, but it has got lots of adjustability, and storage. No doubt this could be an all day hunting vest. The issue that kept me from buying it was the pockets. The front pockets are basically designed so that a box of shells fits right into each pocket. Who keeps that many shells, and only shells in their pockets? In addition to shells I carry a knife, GPS, EMT gel, a compass, a snack, and several other small essentials up front. With a couple of proper pockets, this vest could be a keeper.

     The Browning Bird n Lite vest was also on my short list. This vest has been around for a while, and gets the job done. Nothing kept me from buying this vest other than a better deal coming along. 

In the end, I ended up ordering a Q5 San Carlos vest through a friend who is a pro staffer for Q5. Unlike the others, the San Carlos rides lower, primarily around the hips, with only the straps running up your back. I like this because I tend to sweat right in the middle of my back and don't need a vest helping that along. I haven't got the vest in hand yet. I'll be picking it up next weekend, but I'll be sure to review it later.

     Q5 also makes an upland bird belt. I am very intrigued by the belt, but don't think it'll satisfy my requirements as a hunting accessory, however, it may make a nice dog training belt at some time in the future.

     And that my friends, is all I've got for you.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Still Dreaming.

     The Glorious 12th, opening day of the grouse season in the UK, arrived a couple of days ago. I've long dreamed of making a trip to the moors to shoot Red Grouse, but it has yet to become a reality. Truth be told, I hadn't noticed the 12th was upon us this year. Probably because I was stuck at work. Of course the Glorious 12th means little here in the US, but to me it means that someone's wait is over, that someone is shooting grouse, and that my season is not far off.

     Fortunately, Red Grouse shooting is popular enough, and moorland habitat special enough, to get year round attention. Here is a short video I came across that highlights the year round work, the benefits thereof, and some estate shooting of both grouse and pheasant. Oh yeah, there is a little falconry in there too.

A Red Grouse in a North Yorkshire moor.

The closest I've yet to come to grouse shooting, an old grouse butt.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Dog Days of Summer

     As summer passes by one can not be blamed for starting to think about the autumn, and approaching hunting season. Sure, the summer is great, and I certainly don't want it to end any quicker, but a cool August evening has a way of reminding you that soon it will be time to hit the woods. That means it is time to start getting ready, for many hunters. Time to brush off the gun and shoot a bit. Time to get the dog a work out and brush up on manners. Time to get yourself out and get some exercise. Time to pull out the hunting close and see which still fit, and which need replacing. Time to check the soles on the old hunting boots. The list goes on. Around here, however, these preparations are constant (except maybe the exercise bit), but take on a bit more meaning and urgency as the days begin to get shorter.

     Shooting is an essential part of hunting. Both your skills and the gun you choose can play a big role in your enjoyment afield. I enjoy shooting sub-gauge shotguns, 20 & 28 gauge, preferably over/unders. Living relatively close to a skeet club doesn't hurt, though I will admit, since my surgery this past winter, and the shooting layoff as I recover, I haven't been shooting well. Still, twice a week at skeet is a good thing. Sporting clays is a great help, too.

     Knowing that I have a preference for O/U guns I've decided to sell my only side-by-side. I've struggled with my Beretta 20g Silver Hawk for years. The gun, while a real beauty, just doesn't fit me at all; short barrels, short LOP, and not enough drop. So off it goes. I'm not giving up on SxS guns, however. I am just taking a break. Someday in the future I will replace this gun with a SxS that fits, probably a 12 or 16 gauge, and one with 28" or 30" barrels. My Browning Citori White Lightning has become my go-to gun for a while now, and it does the job quite well, so I will not be in any hurry to replace the Beretta.

The soon to be gone SxS w/ a NY Ruffed Grouse.

High 8, shot low gun w/ my Citori.

     Dog training is as important to me as shooting skills. Like shooting, I enjoy dog training. And, as you all know, the whole dog thing is more than just about hunting season to me. Hunt tests, and field trials have extended my hunting season and made dog training much more important to me. While many hunters are just getting around to conditioning their dogs for the fall I am working with Ginger all season long. Of course, anyone with a dog will tell you that sooner or later you'll run into some kind of a training issue which will require extra effort to overcome. I had a problem with Ginger a couple year ago, and needed help, so I turned to Steve Church, at Churchie Kennel and Gun Dog Training, in Epping New Hampshire. With Steve's help we overcame Ginger's issue, and earned her a Master Hunter title. Trips to Steve's training grounds to overcome Ginger's issue, became just regular trips to Steve's training grounds. 

A bit of dog work at Churchie Kennel and Gun Dog Training.

     Finding what works well for you in the field is important, and sometimes one must expand their horizons to do so. If you want to shoot well, and be successful in the field you must be comfortable. If you are thinking about your aching feet, you are not thinking about your shooting or dog handling. I believe so strongly that comfort begins at the feet that I packed, and brought my own pair of comfortable, well fitting wellies to England with me last year, despite my host offering the use of several pair of extra wellies he owned. We wore different sized boots, and didn't want to risk blisters from floating around in oversized boots.

     In my quest to stay comfortable I am expanding my field clothing selection to include another pair of breeks. Yes, those just-below-the-knees pants worn in the UK. Why? Comfort. As a guy who pretty much wear wellies exclusively in the field I have discovered that not having pant legs bound up inside your boot uppers is infinitely more comfortable. So I'll be adding another pair of Musto Sporting breeks to my closet.
Musto Sporting Breeks

     Not being lively tweed, but simple green moleskin, these breeks hardly stand out. Keeping your socks relatively low, rather than hiked way up, makes these look just like a pair of trousers tucked into wellies. Simple green breeks are a great way for anyone interested in trying a pair to dip their toe in the water. Many companies make moleskin breeks, but the quality of the Musto products is hard to beat. Of course if one decides to get breeks one must also get shooting socks, a number of which are readily available, in a variety of colors and prices.

     Having stated that I am primarily a wellie wearer, I am also looking for a quality pair of lace-up upland boots. I haven't worn a pair in years, but I'd like to have an option. There have been some hot dog training days when I wished I had something else. I also have a few hunting spots at elevation that, while still wet, are much less wet than other lower land ones. I think I'd like to give a more climbing, walking oriented boot a try.

So, add to the growing list of ASO endorsements Browning, Churchie Kennel and Gun Dog Training, and Musto.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Things You Should Check Out, Japan Outdoors

     Having begun a Japanese language version of ASO I think it's time to feature a little bit of the Japanese outdoors. Here are a few links to some hunting, fishing, and dog trialling pages I've come across. Take a peek at at what Japan has to offer the outdoorsman.

     There are quite a few retriever enthusiasts in Japan. Here is a link to the Gundog retriever Trial Association.

     Like big game hunting? Lots of deer, bear, and boar in Japan, as well as pheasant, and ducks. Take a look at the Hokkaido Hunting Guide Facebook group. I think you'll be impressed.

     There are plenty of trout streams in japan, too. Flyfishing Club is a Facebook group that I think you'll enjoy. It's made me want to fish again.

     For you foodies, the Hunting, Butchering, and Enjoying Delicious Meat Group Facebook page will have your mouth watering in minutes.

     You can also check out the Virtuovice YouTube channel. This channel has a many knife reviews, sharpening tips, field dressing and butchering tips, and some real good deer hunting footage. Oh yeah, much of it is in English, too.

So, if you're interested in learning a bit about the outdoors in Japan, Check them out.

Monday, July 4, 2016

ASO Global Debut

     I've decided it is time for All Seasons Outdoors to go global. Really, I have. When I started this blog in 2011 I really had no idea what I was planning to do with it. As an avid outdoorsman I knew I had a lot of experience I could share, and being the type of guy who likes to help people this seemed like a good way to help out other outdoorsmen/women. Thus, All Seasons Outdoors was born.

      I've been fortunate also that I've had a couple of international adventures; fishing in Japan and driven pheasant shooting in England, as well as my usual grouse hunting and dog trialling, I could  share with readers,  Through All Season Outdoor I have also had the opportunity to correspond with some wonderful outdoor bloggers around the globe.

     Recently,  my wife and I have been thinking about what is important to us and re prioritizing many of our goals. We've been seriously discussing moving to Japan when I retire. It seems appropriate that we start exploring what outdoor (hunting) opportunities are available for us in Japan. So naturally we decided to expand the ASO audience to Japan. To do this we have built a mirrored All Seasons Outdoors blog in Japanese.

     The Japanese version of ASO will pretty much be a mirror image of the English language version, however, it will not have all of the old posts. All new posts will be translated in to Japanese, and over time we will translate some of the past posts into Japanese. Both versions of the blog will also have a link connecting each other, so one can switch back and forth between languages if they wish. Hopefully this expansion will entertain, and educate Japanese sportsmen and women, and open an avenue of education and networking for us.

In the meantime, if you know any Japanese hunters, anglers, gun dog people, or anyone who you think might be interested, please direct them to the blog.

All Season Outdoors- Japan

Also, here is a link to the ASO introductory post from 2011.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Pay Off

     Hard work, discipline, and consistency. In the realm of dog training these things are not new, and if one wishes to train a dog up to the highest level they would be best served adopting them as traits. I did, and with a bit (lot) of help from Steve Church at Churchie Kennel and Gun Dog Training in Epping, New Hampshire we managed to get Ginger performing to a high standard, and added a bit of polish to her.

     I approached Steve a while ago with a plan to screw Ginger down tight. I've been wanting to get some good field trial performances out of her. While she's always been easy to handle, hunted hard, and retrieved great, she's been quite loose in the steadiness dept, and has insisted on not sitting readily  on the flush, and sometime even scooting forward with her butt on the ground after she would sit. I needed better, sharper compliance. Last summer Steve and I worked Ginger for a couple of months prior to our club's trial in the fall, and we got her screwed down, a bit. While she was improving, she still wasn't sharp. We had a great couple of series in the trial but, we did not get called back to the 3rd. So, earlier this year, after hunting through the fall, and letting winter pass us by a bit, we started off where we had finished. My wife and I drove north with Ginger almost weekly, and Ginger was put through the paces. Every time things looked easy for Ginger, sometimes because she let us know how bored she was, we changed the rules, and upped the intensity. And every time we tested her she showed us that she understood. 

     Along this road to the fall field trial season I decided I'd attempt to get the 3 remaining qualifying scores Ginger needed to earn her Master Hunter title, and entered her in a couple of weekend tests in Maine and New Hampshire. Both tests proved to be challenging, but both tests also showed me how far Ginger had come along with our zero tolerance steadiness training. Our first day in Maine Ginger had a great run in the land series, and was super steady. She had 4 contacts, and planted herself sharply on every one. Unfortunately something went wrong on the hunt dead portion of the test. While she still made the pick up in the required amount of time she somehow became confused and (uncharacteristically) came back to me looking for help. I ignored her plea for help, which got her out in front again where I was then able to handle her to the bird, she was essentially re-cast, which is a mortal sin. So I found myself drinking gin n tonics early. I could have cared less, however, as I was still buzzing from how well ginger ran her land series.

     Our next day in Maine was different. If I ever thought the land series couldn't get tougher, and more tricky, I would have been wrong. If ever there was a land series to fully illustrate the bond between me and Ginger, and just how strong a connection we have, this was it. Started out with Ginger having a double flush on her first contact. Not a standard 2 birds in the air double flush, but 1 bird getting out hard, and the second doing a double hop, flop within 10 feet. Ginger was steady. The bird that flew flushed towards the trees, and was shot (?) just inside the wood line. Ginger was sent for the retrieve, and went for it, rather than going after the flop. However, just as she hit the wood line another bird came screaming out, flushing down the field. Ginger was steady. I was informed that she's still need to pick up the first bird, that the bird that flushed was not the same bird. Okay. But I'd do it from my side, so I brought her to heel, and sent her on a "back". Well, sure enough she was still thinking about the second flush, so I had to stop her and call her off the poison bird twice. Then after a quick whistle to handle her close to the mark to get her back into the area of the fall a swirl of wind pulls her into the grass where she promptly comes up with the "flop". So again I have to send her to the fall on a "back", but this time she makes game, and tracks the wood line toward us where she comes up with the bird, which appears to have been a runner. The judges wanted to see a bit more, and after a few minutes another steady flush, this time into a tree. So a hand thrown retrieve ordered up, which was handled cleanly, and I was finally able to breathe. The rest of the test went off smoothly, and we drove home needing only 2 more qualifying MH scores.

     The New Hampshire tests were tricky, too. The land series was held in heavy cover, as were the hunt deads, though not quite as heavy. The heavy cover made marking shot birds very difficult for the dogs, and almost every handler had to handle their dog to the mark. On the first day I was relieved to hear a splash after handling Ginger towards a mark that was over a bit of a drop off. I didn't know there was a creek just out of sight, but I was sure glad she got a bit of relief from the heat.

     While everyone has different opinions about dog work, and different things they like to see, I found Ginger's water blind on the first day one of the most satisfying moments of the last two weeks. After getting the approximate location of the bird on the far bank I lined Ginger and gave her a "back" command. Ginger hit the water, and took the line like she was laser guided. Upon climbing the far bank she got a fortuitous wind gust which brought her straight to the bird, and before you knew it she was on her way back to me with the prize. I never had the need to blow the whistle and raise an arm. 

    Without boring you any further with the details, I can say that after our second weekend of testing we secured our 2 remaining qualifying scores, and earned Ginger a Master Hunter title. Of course, it doesn't end there. This was just a stop on our journey, and we will still be training regularly with the goal of impressing a couple of field trial judges in the fall. 

Photos by JNR

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Road to Recovery

     The road to recovery is paved with lots of interesting twists and turns. Those of you who follow, and check in on my blog regularly probably know I had a wee bit of orthopedic surgery this past winter. Fortunately I'm well on my way to getting as back to normal as the procedure will allow. In fact I can once again properly mount a shotgun, so.... Anyway, the surgery also sucked up lots of my free time by way of having to transition from working a rotation, to working a Monday thru Friday administrative job until I'm fit for full duty. The fact that I'm also preparing for (studying 3-4 hours daily) an up coming highly competitive promotional exam hasn't allowed me too much time for outdoor activity.

     I have been spending a lot of time training and working Ginger, and in a couple of weeks we will be participating in a few hunt tests trying to get the 3 remaining passing scores she needs for her Master Hunter title. The admin position I'm occupying has allowed us to travel north every weekend to train with a group of like minded spaniel enthusiasts, and put a lot of polish on Ginger.

     The admin position also afforded me the time to participate in another spring activity I love; coaching high school rugby. Though I had to assume a bit of a different role this season, as I was forced to be less physical, and hands off so as not to aggravate or injure my wrist, I was as dedicated to the club as always. I'm am pleased to report that once again the boys of the Milton RUFC Wildcats made it to the D-2 state finals for their 4th year in a row. While we were unable to get past the physicality, and fantastic offloading of boys of the Lincoln-Sudbury RUFC we made it. And, in making it to the finals we prevented our crosstown rivals, Brookline RUFC, from being there. All in all, it was a fantastic season, and I am happy to have made a small contribution to the sport.