Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Grouse School 2019/ Boston/South Shore RGS Chapter News

     Once again, Grouse School was a success. On August 18th I held another Grouse school event for the Ruffed Grouse Society. This year the event was held at the Mass Fisheries and Wildlife Headquarters in Westborough, Mass. The grouse school is designed to give put n take pheasant hunters baseline info to allow them to expand their sport in to the woods and after wild birds. Roughly half of the 22 attendees were exactly the demographic the program was designed for.

     Like the last Grouse School RGS regional biologist Andy Weik discussed habitat, and where to find grouse. Mass small game biologist Dave Scarpitti talked about public lands in Mass, and the state of grouse and woodcock in Mass. Both Andy and myself talked about scouting, and Andy's presentation on how to use Google Earth to scout was as popular as ever.

     After lunch I did a presentation about dogs and dog training, but unlike the last event, we did not do a dog demonstration due to the heat. Boston/South Shore RGS chapter president Ernie Foster did a nice presentation about guns and shooting followed by RGS regional director Joe Levesque's discussion of equipment. We concluded the event with about 45 minutes of tactics and Q & A. I was happy with the way the event turned out, and we all received good feed back. The event went so well, that rather than alternating between Grouse School and the shooting clinic every other year, I am going to scrap the shooting clinic, and hold Grouse School every year.


     After the Grouse School concluded I decided it was time to get involved with the local RGS chapter. Until now I had been operating as a RGS Nomad, but I have been impressed with the level of  commitment the members of the local chapter have shown. So, I tossed my hat in that ring.

     That brings me to the next issue. We are having a "banquet".  Not a traditional banquet, but rather a good old fashioned party. The event is called A Night For Conservation, and all hunters and anglers are welcomed. We are intent on cross pollinating with other conservation groups, such as Pheasants Forever, WTF, and TU. Our missions overlap, and by understand each other, and when needed, working together, we are that much stronger.

     I've also got another campaign I'm beginning to work on. I think it's time to call it like it is, and stop being polite to those who would hurt us. In particular the anti-timber cutting crowd. We need to start calling them what they are; anti-forest management. While they "care" about the forest, they clearly don't care about the animals living in it, especially the 388 species of vertebrates that have a dependency on early successional habitat. Without proper forest management and timber cutting no new early successional habitat is created, and existing habitat becomes mature and no longer provides for the species that depend on it. I've begun working on a fact sheet that address this very issue. 

Prototype of fact sheet. Still under construction.

Monday, August 19, 2019

You Want To Hear a Secret?

     You want to hear a secret? I have uncovered the secret to successful wingshooting. Really, I have. Do you want to shoot more grouse, or pheasant, or ducks, or whatever, this fall? I know I do. So how is that done? Was is the secret? Well it's been staring you right in the face for a long time, and it's a pretty easy solution, really. Practice. Yup, that's right. Practice. Get out your trusty shotgun and practice.

     To be fair, it's not quite as simple as just going to a club and shooting some skeet or trap, but it's not that far off. The key is to practice like you play. Wingshooting in wolves quite a lot of dynamic, coordinated movements. A simple round of regulation skeet or trap will help to some extent, but lacks most of the additional movements that must be coordinated. So how does one add a bit of dynamics to their clay shooting? Like I said, practice like you play. Do you walk in to a bird flush, or sit is a duck blind with the gun up and in your shoulder, ready to swing? I'll bet you do not. So start shooting your clays with a low gun and implement your gun mount in to your practice. Try to develop a smooth gun mount with as little extra movement as possible, but one where you incorporate your swing (left-right movement), in to vertical movement of lifting the gun into your shoulder.

     Once you've established a gun mount you can begin to incorporate it in to your clay shooting to make it more dynamic, but it doesn't stop there. Oh no. This is just the beginning. Here are a few of my favorite ways to make skeet more dynamic, and help you prepare for the bird hunting season. 

Delayed Pull. This is where you have the trapper (the guy pushing the button to send the clay) delay the pull anywhere from 1-5 (or more) seconds after you call for the clay. 

Trapper's Choice. Similar to delayed pull, but the trapper gets to decide whether to send the high house first or the low house, surprising you even more.

Doubles. Shoot doubles on all stations, taking your second pair on stations 1, 2, 6, and 7 backwards. 

Remember, you are shooting every station, including station 8, with a low gun.

     I prefer skeet to trap, but if you only have a trap field on which you can practice there are ways you can make trap more dynamic too. Delayed pull works on a trap field, too. Where permissible, stand directly behind the trap house, and have someone surprise you with the pulls. If possible, cranking the spring arm up to doubles speed will send the clays even faster, and if your trap field is equipped with wobble traps, then that is another option. Again, always practice low gun.

     Practicing like you play isn't just about shooting low gun. It is also about using the same equipment. No more dedicated clay target guns, use your field guns. Use the same choke combination you would in the field, too. Many clubs have restrictions on shot size, but if you can use the same size shot, or even the same ammo you hunt with. Do these things and you will see improved success afield this fall.

** A quick word for those who always find a way to criticize clay shooting, and claim there is no relation to wingshooting. I often hear people come up with some reason clay shooting is no good as practice. You are wrong. If you don't enjoy clay shooting just say it. Nothing wrong with that, but to say that improving the relationship between your eyes, hands, and brain does not improve ones wingshooting is just stupid. 

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Awakening

     The Awakening has commenced. No, I am not referring to any horror movie type scenario. I am referring to all the clues around us that grouse season will soon be here.

      Some of the clues are quite apparent. Today as I browsed Facebook I was inundated with post after post of people celebrating "The Glorious 12th", which marks opening day of grouse season in the UK.  I enjoy reading about moorland outings, and one day will have my own tale of tweed and heather to tell. Just not this year.

     Other clues are less apparent, sneaking up on us, and upsetting the household balance. Like every year, the first cool, dry August nights signal a change in behavior and thoughts of the upcoming grouse season start occupying our cerebral space. Like an Autumn moon affects the woodcock, the changing night air affects the wingshooter. None more than the grouse hunter, who begins straining in an effort to spot the first hint of leaves changing color.

     I am affected no less than anyone else, maybe more. In the week alone an obvious change has occurred. Equipment which has been stored since last winter has once again seen the light of day as it is inspected. Boots have suddenly found a new coat of boot oil, and plans to sit at the reloading bench, building the perfect grouse load have been laid. The change has not been lost on my very lovely and supportive wife, who upon returning from work in the evening does not make mention of the fact that I am watching the same Ruffed Grouse Society YouTube video for the 15th time. She knows, through experience, how this pre-season build up works. It benefits her, too. She often refers to herself as a hunting season widow, acknowledgement that I do in fact spend a lot of time away from home when grouse season is open.

     This year the build up is probably a bit more intense as I've organized another Grouse School event for the Ruffed Grouse Society. The event is a one day clinic in which we pass on everything the new hunter will need to know to start grouse hunting.

     Of course real life isn't about just grouse hunting, and I've have got a couple other fantastic things in the works to distract me. Next month we will be going back to Japan to visit family. I most certainly look forward to this. We have tentative plans to do some hiking when we are there, and I was informed last night that there is a place I can go fishing, with equipment rental, near where we are staying......but hiking and fishing are not the things I am most looking forward to (after seeing family, of course). The things about this trip that are providing the most distractions from the season build up are my tattoo appointment, and rugby. For some time now I have been in the process of getting a traditional Japanese full back tattoo from Horiyoshi III. This trip I will be having the final installment of what has been a long, interesting adventure. This trip to Japan also corresponds with the Rugby World Cup, which Japan is hosting. I've long been a rugby supporter, and was thrilled to be able to get a ticket to see Wales v Australia in Tokyo. Two dreams coming true in one trip to Japan.

 .......but still, I can't stop thinking about the fact that I will miss the opening day of woodcock season here at home.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Grouse School 2019

     You may have noticed I haven't posted in a while. It's not that I haven't wanted to, but real life has just been getting in the way. One thing "real life' hasn't stopped me from is organizing another "Grouse School" program for the Ruffed Grouse Society. The program is geared towards new and novice hunters who wish learn what it takes to hunt ruffed grouse or improve their success afield. If you live in New England and want to learn about grouse hunting, or know some one who does, come on down.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Back To Basics; Shotguns

 This blog is a collection of my experiences and thoughts. From time to time I will express an opinion which many will not agree with. These opinions have formed as a result of spending lots of time afield and shooting. These thoughts and opinions are not meant to offend, nor to be judgmental,  but rather to promote more thought on the subject. If for whatever reason you feel my post is directed at you, it is not; I don't know you. This post is part 4 of several (don't know how many yet) on the subject of wingshooting which some will object to. Fair warning.

     Have you ever really thought about how a shotgun works? I'm not talking about triggers, ejectors, and actions, but about how they impact a target. Truth is, how a shotgun impacts a target depends on which end of it you hold when you swing it, because shotguns don't impact a target. The pellets propelled out of the muzzle do, and that is where a lot of the "misunderstanding" about shotguns, and their effectiveness stem from. Shotgun shells are what defines how a shotgun will perform on a given target. Let's look at a common "misunderstanding" (and pet peeve of mine), and try to clear some thing up.

  •      Gauge has no relation to power-  Too many people, some of whom have been shooting for a long time, think that a shotgun's gauge somehow relates to the amount of power it has. It does not. A 12 gauge shotgun is not anymore powerful than any of the sub gauges. Why not? As explained in the paragraph above, shotguns do not impact a target. What you put in to them does. The shotgun is just the means of delivery. The components, and make up of the ammo you choose is what bears the "power". 
  •      Gauge has no relation to range- Range is a function of a combination of pellet size (weight) and velocity. You can read about it here.
  •      The ammo dictates the "power"-Take a standard ammo load, for example, 1 oz of #6 (222 pellets) propelled at 1200 fps. This load will carry the same amount of energy (power) whether propelled out of a 10g, 12g 16g, 20g, or 28g. Which ever gauge you choose, this load has the same efficiency, when all the other variable remain the same. 
  •      Don't use flawed logic- I know what you're thinking,"My 12gauge 1 1/8oz #5's @ 1250fps are more powerful" Yes. They are more powerful than the first load, but that's not because they are a 12 gauge load. It's because it's a bigger load, and a faster load. If you packed 1 1/8oz of #5's @ 1250 fps in to a 16g, or a 20g hull they would have the same "power" as you're 12 gauge. If you're not comparing equal variables, then you are using flawed logic. 

     What are some of the advantages of a 10g, 12g, or even a 16g?

  •      Room for more pellets- Having a larger bore diameter means that more pellets can be fit in a shotgun shell. When shooting loads with smaller sized pellets often a load as light as 3/4 oz allows for a pattern with enough density to efficiently hit any target. When shooting larger pellets, going to a larger payload increases your pellet count and pattern density. Where  a pheasant hunter may have adequate pattern density of 222 pellets shooting 1 oz of #6's, a waterfowler may appreciate having better pellet density than the 87 pellets in a 1 oz load of #2's. In that case one could choose to shoot a magnum 1 1/2oz load with 130 pellets. This is not an increase in power. 
  •      More pattern density- unlike the example above where one goes to a larger payload to increase the pellet count of larger pellets, sometimes your target may leave you wanting more smaller pellets. I do not shoot competitive clays, but if I did I would do so with a 12 gauge. Why? A clay target is a smaller target, and often shot edge on. This means a clay target can more easily slip through any holes in a pattern. To remedy this one can increase the density of their pattern by increasing their pellet count from 356 pellets (7/8 oz #8's) to 508 pellets (1 1/4 oz #8's). This is not an increase in power. 
  •      Convenience- One will never have to look very far to find 12 gauge ammo. If you travel to shoot, either clays or in the field, sooner or later you will need to buy ammo while on the road. Not only will you find ammo, you'll probably find ammo you like. There is an abundance of 20 gauge ammo available, and I've never struggled to find some, but there have been times when I've had to shoot #6's when I'd have preferred #7 1/2's. This is where the popularity of the 12g becomes an off brand benefit. This benefit, however, does not transfer to 10g, or16g ammo, both of which can be quite difficult to find.

      So why would anyone choose to shoot a 12 gauge (or any other gauge)? It comes down to choosing a gauge and a gun that best meets your need.  I tend to break gauge down in to two categories; large bore and sub-gauge. I define large bore as 10g, 12g and 16g, and sub-gauge as 20g, 28g, and .410. Many 16 gauge shooters consider it a sub-gauge, but in my mind it's a large bore gun even though it is marginally closer in size to a 20g than it is to a 12g.  Each category has it's own pros and cons. I shoot a 20 gauge almost exclusively. It works for 90% of my shooting needs. That said, there are a couple of situations where a 12 gauge would actually provide an advantage.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Paying It Forward; Savage Service Program

     Sometimes a little recognition is a nice thing. As someone who has spent nearly his entire adult life working in the public safety arena (4 years USCG, and 23 years career fire dept), the recognition and appreciation go a long way in helping to make it feel like a worthwhile venture during the times when you start questioning your judgement. Of course, those times when you do receive a bit of recognition and appreciation aren't why we do it, and I doubt I could explain why we do, but take it from me, it isn't always easy, so....

     Anyway, a while back I became aware of a program Savage Arms is running that recognizes, and shows some appreciation to those in public service. The Savage Service Program is a program where police, firefighters, EMTs, Military members, Veterans, Retired Military, and other in service can purchase a firearm from Savage at a 30% discount. There are restrictions as to who qualifies, and how many firearms per year can be purchased, so read the fine print closely. You will also need an FFL holder to receive the firearm for you, as is required by law.

     To find out if you qualify, or to purchase a firearm go to, and scroll to the bottom of the page. Under Resources click the Service Program link. This is where you can find out if you qualify.  Then at the bottom of the page click DOWNLOAD THE SERVICE PROGRAM FORM. This is the form you use to order your firearm. Savage may or may not have what you are looking for, but they do have a pretty broad selection of rifles and even a few shotguns.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Fit For A King.

     Ruffed grouse are a tough bird, living in tough conditions and tough habitat. No doubt hunting them is tough, too. Truth be told, it's the fact that the Ruffed Grouse is a) excluding Woodcock, the only wild upland bird in New England, and b) tough to hunt, my main attraction to hunting them. This means one would be wise to get themselves and their dogs in shape prior to the opening day of the season.

     Fitness is an area where I have fallen by the wayside. Not too long ago I actively kept my self in shape to the point where even at 50 years old, a couple of weekends each spring and fall I made my way on to the rugby pitch for a bit of a throw down. But the last couple of years I haven't made any effort to be/stay fit, nor get back in shape. A few years ago I suffered a wrist injury, and after a year of not working, a surgery which left me with a partially fused wrist, and months of physical therapy, I finally had a wrist that was good enough for me to go back to work. This doesn't mean I was without my troubles. I lost a lot of mobility and strength in my wrist. 

Even as an old-boy I could leave a trail of destruction. Will it happen again?

     My lack of mobility left me unable to correctly hold and mount a shotgun. To get past this issue I installed a soft rubber palm swell on all my pistol grip stocked shotguns, which allow me to get the gun in to my shoulder correctly while filling the void between my palm and the stock caused by the lack of wrist mobility. Straight stocked guns, being shaped somewhat differently require the use of a Gripswell glove. Anyway, my wrist issues have been floating around in the back of my head for some time, and I've been scared to get in the gym, or out on a bike in fear of aggravating my wrist. Time to put that behind me and start getting back at it again.

     There are two kinds of outdoor grouse related exercise; exercise for man, and exercise for dog. The two do not really go hand in hand very well in many cases. This year I have decided to make a serious effort to increase my fitness level in a few different ways. Let's look at what I plan to do and why.

  • Hiking- I live very close to the Blue Hills Reservation in Massachusetts. This reservation has hundreds of miles of trails, some quite challenging, I can hike. I enjoy hiking, and think the endurance aspect of a long, tough hike on a regular basis will be beneficial when grouse season opens. In addition, I can bring the dogs along. While the dogs will certainly enjoy the hike, it is not very strenuous for them, and wouldn't be my first pick for getting them ready for the season.

  • Mountain Biking- This is my plan to get more serious cardio going. Mountain biking is fun, and a few good hill climbs is a great way to increase the heart rate. This, too, can include the dogs, but one would need to select the right location and, understand the limits of their dogs. In the past I routinely roaded Ginger from a mountain bike to get her in top shape. We had two different routes we could take, a 4 mile course, or a 5 mile course. Both courses were relatively flat, and offered numerous places along the way where she could get a drink of water, or cool off with a quick dip. Roading Ginger, however, was not an activity where I got lots of exercise. A 4 or 5 mile run for a Springer is a decent run for the dog, but not anywhere nearly enough cycling for a human to get a good workout. Sure, I got some benefit from it, but as a stand alone, it isn't enough, so there will be two different types of mountain biking happening; for me, and for them. No doubt a bigger, leggy pointing dog could run more than 4-5 miles, getting both of you a workout. Depending on the breed of dog you hunt with, mountain biking may be the thing.

  • Yoga- Well, not really, but I may give it a try sometime soon. I have, however, begun a comprehensive stretching routine. Stretching helps keep the blood flowing, and I just feel better when I do it. Truth is, I am not very limber, so this stretching came out of necessity, but as I see and feel progress, I really do feel better. I can't help but think being more limber will help to swing a shotgun better, too. Shoot better? Hmmm,....Maybe I will give yoga a try. 

      Hopefully this plan will pay off when grouse season opens, and I find myself following various spaniels across the New England uplands. In the past I used Apps like Runkeeper and Strava to track my workouts. I may start doing that again, and posting my workouts on the ASO Facebook page to keep myself accountable. Who knows? Maybe I'll even find my way on to a rugby pitch again.