Monday, January 16, 2017

Rabbit and Pheasant Leg Meat Pie

     One of life's greatest comfort foods is a nice chicken pot pie. At least, to me anyway. But a nice thick meat pie of just about any variety is pretty satisfying too. Not a pot pie with veggies and gravy inside, but entirely filled with meat, then smothered with gravy.  Last December, when I was in England I had the opportunity to eat a couple of meat pies; one a pork haggis pie, the other a game pie. Both were delicious. Inspired by the memory of these delicious pies, I decided it was time to pull a bit of game out of the freezer, and get busy.

     I decided I'd use a rabbit, and some pheasant legs I'd put aside. Rabbit is a very delicate meat, with a rather sweet flavor. It also cooks and strips off the bone easily. Pheasant legs are a piece of the bird many people don't use. They can be tough to deal with because unlike chicken or other birds, they've got 3, rather than 2 tendons, running up the leg. The tendons tend to harden when cooked. But pheasant legs have a nice, rich, dark meat on them, which compliment rabbit nicely.

     Having decided on which proteins to use for my filling, a plan was hatched. Now, before I get into the play-by-play, rest assured, this recipe is actually quite easy, but time consuming. I didn't make it all in one day. One day I made my meat filling, and the next I assembled the pie. Also, despite my trip to England fueling my desire for a meat pie, the flavor profile of this dish is more continental, French in particular. Anyway, let us begin.

You will need:

1- Rabbit
4- Pheasant legs
4 cups- chicken stock
2-4 cups white wine
1/2- finely chopped onion
1- finely chopped carrot
2 sticks- finely chopped celery
Thyme, Parsley, Sage
cooking oil
3-4 cups slice mushrooms
Salt & Pepper
Dijon Mustard
2- frozen deep dish pie crust
1- Egg

Here we go.

     In a large sauce pan heat a bit of cooking oil, and when heated add the onion, carrot, and celery, and begin to brown slightly.

     Once browned slightly add and brown the rabbit. The rabbit should be cut into 4-6 pieces for easier handling and cooking.


     Once the rabbit has browned, add and brown the pheasant legs.

     Once all the meat has browned add the chicken stock, wine, and the herbs, and cook over a medium-hi heat until brought to a boil, then lower the heat and cook at a low boil for a couple hours. 
Cooking down the filling

      When the meat is easily pulling away from the bone, turn off, and remove the meat from the stock to cool. 

     Strain the stock to remove all the herbs and veggies, retaining the stock. Discard the bits and pieces strained from the stock.

     After the meat has cooled, remove all the meat from the bones, discarding the bones and any bits of tendon. Set meat aside.
The Meat

     In a sauce pan reduce the stock to about 1 1/2-2 cups, and sift in flour slowly while stirring until the stock becomes a nice gravy of whatever consistency you prefer.

     The gravy and the meat is then mixed together. Add salt and pepper to taste. The meat should not be awash in gravy, rather just moistened and coated. At this point the meat filling can be put aside and the pie finished another day. 
The Meat Filling

     The next step is to cook the sliced mushrooms in butter until softened and browned. Don't go light on the butter. Butter is good. You want the mushrooms to retain a lot of butter flavor.

     Take the pie crust out of the freezer, and defrost for about 15-20 minutes.

     Fill the crust with the meat filling.

     Brush the top of the meat with the Dijon mustard.

     Top the meat filling with the buttery mushrooms.

     Place the other pie crust over the top, crimp the edges, put a few vent slits in the top, and brush liberally with an egg wash.

     Bake on the middle rack at 375 degrees for 40 minutes,........

     ........and enjoy. 

     I brought this pie to the skeet club, and to was on the table very long before the first slice was cut, and everyone was digging in. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

England, Part 2. Musings.

     Since I've been back from my shooting trip to England, last year, I've been giving a lot of thought to the state of driven bird shooting here in the US. Over all, it does not exist. Why not? There are plenty of sportsmen who would give it a try. To a degree the interest is there.

     Around the country numerous shooting preserves hold regular tower shoot where pheasant are released form a tower of some height to fly over the guns who have formed a circle at some distance around the tower. These shoots are usually called European shoots, but truth be told, they are nothing like a driven bird shoot. Some clubs offer a different form of "driven" bird shooting where birds are released from a hill top over a line of guns in a valley below. These shoots often have more than 1 "drive" and the guns move around the property, and change pegs as they would at a real driven shoot. In fact, some of these shoots are quite authentic, like the shooting offered by Royal United company. But it's not "driven" bird shooting. Then there is Blixt and Company. They offer true driven bird shooting out west. Something, however, tells me that this isn't exactly affordable for the average household. Driven bird shooting shouldn't be something that anyone can't aspire to partake of. And it needn't be. The syndicate I shot with in England is a DIY syndicate. The members do all the work. They don't hire a gamekeeper, nor beaters to push the birds over them on shoot day. Before the season they all pitch in and make repairs to the bird pens and feeders. They take delivery of the pheasant poults and care for them. They haul feed, and fill feeders all during the season. On shoot day they split in to 2 teams, red and black, and alternate shooting and beating the cover. This form of syndicate  operates on a walk1-stand 1 format, and is common in the UK.

     What is keeping us from having driven bird shooting here in the US? I think the biggest factor preventing the formation of driven bird syndicates in are the bag and possession limits on game. Unlike in the UK, here the game birds belong to the public, and limits have been established to ensure a fair distribution of the resource, and to prevent game hogging. It'd be hard to get a people involved in a syndicate when they could only shoot 2 pheasant a day. In fact it'd be probably too much effort to organize a driven day for such a small bag. Coupled with the fact that it'd probably be pretty hard to find a property in many states with enough birds to make the day exciting. Here in the east, most pheasant are released by the state, and they aren't exactly releasing all that many. A solo hunter with a good dog has a better chance at killing his limit, in a shorter time, with less effort than would be done working in unison with a syndicate. Of course, a day of driven shooting isn't just about the number of birds killed. Driven bird shooting is a social affair that involves shooting birds. Still, trying to organize a syndicate, and drives when there just aren't many birds around isn't very inspiring, and unless the local arrangements are second to none, I doubt there'd me many repeat customers. But that isn't really too much of a problem. Shooting preserves have long been established, and because they raise, and release their own game birds have been exempt from the bag and possession limits. The special rules for preserves is what allows Royal United to operate, and why tower shoots exist. So why not a preserve dedicated to driven bird shooting?

    I think it's time to form a driven bird syndicate, and get some true driven bird shooting going here in the US. Why not get a syndicate started, and find a property which could be licensed as a shooting preserve, and spend a few weekend each fall doing a little walk1-stand 1 driven shooting? I have a hard time believing that I am the only one in the New England area with an interest in driven birds.

     Here is a link from the Shooting UK website to an article, How to start your own DIY shoot. While I don't think we would need to do everything the way the article suggests, and couldn't do some of it, I do believe that with the right base of people putting their heads together a driven shooting syndicate could be a reality. So, what do you say? If you are in the New England area, and have an interest in driven shooting, and would like to see a syndicate formed dust off your tattersall and tweed, and send me an e-mail.

Monday, December 26, 2016

ASO goes to England, again.

     Sometimes things just fall into place, as was the case last year when I was lucky enough to spend a day shooting driven pheasant in England, so it seemed almost to good to be true when I found myself on a plane headed back to England to do it again this year. There seems to be some truth in the saying "birds of a feather stick together". Last year I met, and fostered a long distance friendship with several members of the Watton Carrs syndicate whom take their shooting sports as seriously as I do. They saw fit to invite me back to shoot again this year, and like last year, naturally I was excited to make the trip.

     The trip mirrored last year's trip in many ways, except rather than staying a week, a few days of which were shopping in London, I'd pretty much just make it a stretched out weekend; fly out Wednesday night, arriving Thursday, enjoy Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in the Yorkshire countryside, then fly back home on Monday. And that's what I did.

     The red-eye out of Logan airport, to me at least, is brutal. I just don't sleep well on a short overnight flight, so like last year I'd planned an overnight in Manchester. Early check in at the hotel allowed me to get in a few good hours of sleep before hot shower, and an evening meal with my friend CK, who lives in Manchester and works at the university there. CK and I, after a quick pre-dinner drink at Brown's headed over to Sam's Chophouse for what was an outstanding feast, in a fabulous atmosphere. With neither CK nor I really being well versed in the art of wine selection, we followed the advice of the seasoned and saucy waitress and ordered a red. I can't speak to the quality of the steak and kidney pie CK enjoyed, but it sure looked as if he was enjoying it every bit as much as the lamb chop and cauliflower I ordered. Absolutely delicious. But it didn't stop there; we couldn't resist their puddings, and it was there that my sticky toffee pudding (with an excite dollop of clotted cream!!) addiction was born. After dinner we strolled to a new pub in the area which CK claims would be right in my wheelhouse, owing to the fact that it is home to some 400+ single malt scotches.  He was right. The Britons Protection was a scotch drinkers paradise, and I was happy to help them drain a bottle of Longmorn.

     Friday morning I awoke before the sun. Not because I woke up early, but because I forgot that the sunrise is a bit later there than I am accustomed to. My plan for the day was simple; pack, eat breakfast, then jump on a train to Leeds to meet they guys. Now, let me say this; I love a good breakfast, and don't think anyone does breakfast better than the Brits. So I headed over to Cafe North, a spot my wife and I stumbled upon a couple years ago, for a proper (by proper I mean huge) breakfast, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Having a bit of time after breakfast I decided I'd swing by J. Wippell & Co to see what country clothing they had in stock. If you're not familiar with Wippell, be prepared for a bit of confusion. Wippell is a clothing store that caters to the church, and sell everything a priest might need. They also have a small men's wear shop with plenty of tattersall and tweed. But don't go looking for them online, as their internet presence is minimal. Do take a walk by their Princess St location should you find yourself in Manchester.

Wippell & Co. Princess St. Manchester
A big British breakfast

    In the afternoon I caught my train to Leeds where PP would intercept me. From Leeds we headed north to Ripon where PP had arranged an evening of duck flighting with a local gamekeeper. In North Stanley we met up with SL, CC, and the gamekeeper, and headed out to a small, brush choked pond to shoot some ducks. The evening provided some fantastic sport with lots of ducks flying over, and coming in to the pond. Shooting roosting ducks in the dark is fast, exciting shooting. Unfortunately, my eyes aren't what they once were, and I've been told (rather asked) why I didn't shoot at a number of the ducks which dropped in, or passed by me. Of course, when my best opportunity presented itself my Browning Citori 20g decided it didn't like the heavy British shells I popped in to it, and didn't fire, so I got to watch a couple fat Mallards fly off while I broke and rechecked the gun. None the less, it was a fantastic evening, despite my only dropping one lone teal. After the evening's shooting we found our way to the Staveley Arms for dinner. Again, another outstanding meal, in an absolutely fabulous atmosphere, and a top shelf sticky toffee pudding.

     Saturday morning I again awoke well before the sun. This time it was by design, as PP and I were off to the farm where we would meet up with the shoot captain TH, and a few others with whom we'd line the edge of a field a short distance from a reservoir popular with the geese. The idea being that as the sun rose, so to would the geese who would fly rather low over the field, and hopefully one of the guns. That is exactly what happened. The geese chatter from the reservoir would get louder and more excited before a skein would decide to make their exit. Their flight path took them directly between me and T, and pretty much out of reach of both of us, but twice the geese banked to the left, and into the restricted air space T was guarding. The first flight escaped, however the second was not so lucky, and T had the first kill of the day. He'd also be saddled with carrying the heavy beast back to the cars, but that's the price you pay, and any of us would have been happy to be in his shoes.

     After the geese stopped moving we made our way to the barn where we would meet up with the balance of the syndicate, and get the day organized. Earlier in the morning PP was suddenly overcome with worry. In the morning, as we set out, his morning routine was somewhat put off having me in tow, and the question of whether or not we closed the front door of the house could not be answered. Being a guy who is lousy with names, and seldom remembers people out of the context of which I know them, I get it. So, PP was off to make a quick round trip home to make sure his place was secured. At the barn the rest of the syndicate gathered, where I caught up with members I'd not seen since last year, and was introduced to new members. The teams were named, the drives announced, and pegs drawn. Then we were off to the first drive where the team I was assigned to would be beating. Armed with stout sticks, noise makers, and hype dogs we held a line across the cover, and pushed through sending birds out over the line of guns. To my pleasure a dog flushed a big woodcock right in front of me, which flew back across the beating line about 4 feet directly over my head. While this wouldn't make the guns happy, it have me my first opportunity to see one in flight. When we hit the end of the woods/cover the whistle was blown signaling the end of the drive. The guns were cased, birds picked up, and everyone gathered to organize for the second drive. The decision was made to break for elevensies early, then shoot 2 drives before lunch, so out came the cake, cheese, meat pies, port and brandy.

The beverage selection 
I've been caught enjoying a cake and port during elevensies.
But, how does she stay so clean?...

     After a short belly warming break we were off to the second drive. This time I would be a gun, and found my self standing out in a large field between were the cover woods ended, and a hedgerow behind. The birds started coming out at a pretty good rate, and at a decent height. My neighboring guns got in some good shooting, and I got in a few shots at birds on the edge of my range that my neighbor missed, but not many flew over my airspace. On the drive I did have 2 good birds come over, but I missed. The first flew directly over, but I failed to give it enough lead. Another good bird flew over high to my left. Not wanting to rush, or swing in a manned that would cramp me, I turned and took a step with the intent of taking the bird as a high R-L crosser. Problem was, when I stepped I  my foot hung up on a hummock in the tall grass, and rather than swinging the gun I was doing dancing a jig with it trying to stay upright. Two long shots as it exited the back door had no effect on the bird. Oh well.

     The day would go on pretty much the same way, alternating between beating, and shooting. The sun broke through the clouds, and the day warmed up enough that Layers were shed, and my sweater deposited in the truck.  Unfortunately, I didn't draw the best pegs, and after my first drive I never pulled the trigger again, save for one suicidal woodcock which few the entire line of guns late in the day, untouched by all, though we tried. Nevertheless, a good day on a shoot isn't summed up solely by the number of shots, nor the number of birds killed. It's about much more than that, and I enjoyed every minute of the day. I took pride in knowing that our team put good birds over the line of guns, and found the steady stream of pheasant flushing infant of me quite exciting. I can see why non-shooting people enjoy beating. At the end of the day we had a bag of 50-something pheasant, 5 woodcock, 1 pigeon (which PP killed with a fantastic shot), 1 hare, and there was armor that a partridge, too was killed, but I didn't see it. While I didn't kill any of these, I certainly feel I earned an assist.

     After dividing the game amongst the guns PP, SL, and I were off to do a bit of duck flighting again. Neither the ducks, nor my eyes cooperated again. A few teal flew in low, and in the shadows, unseen by me. Down the line a few flew in where the guys got off quick shots, but they were gone just as quickly. The only duck I saw was a teal silhouetted in the sky as it tried to escape high over a hedgerow. I was quick enough to ruin it's plan, and dropped it on the far side or the hedge.

     In many parts of England, like here in the states, there is no hunting on Sunday, so PP and I after a relaxing morning headed out for a drive around the countryside, and a bit of sightseeing in York. Then, in the evening we opened a few beers, popped some finger food, and a game pie in the oven, and tuned in to the football game. And by football, I mean the NFL. PP, like myself, is a New England Patriot's fan. Watching the Pat's beat the Ram's was a great way to cap the weekend. Monday morning I was again up before the sun, and on my way home.

     I'd very much like to thank the members of the Watton Carrs syndicate for again allowing me to shoot with them. I would also like to offer a special thanks to Melanie, Claire, Tom, and Shaun, who's pics I have pirated, and used in this post. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Grouse Camp 2016

     Grouse camp has come and gone, without much fanfare. As is usual Ginger and I pointed the car north where I met with BK and his Labrador, Ruby. This year BK's father FG made a long trip to  joined us in camp. Unfortunately, grouse are on the down side of their population cycle, so we didn't move as many grouse as we have in past years. Still, as cliche as it sounds , a day in the grouse woods is far better than a day in the office.

     The weather didn't cooperate with our plans either. Of the 11 days I spend in camp the first 5-6 were quite warm. Actually, hot. The weather started out in the low to mid 60's, which will wear a dog down really quickly, not to mention what it does to us two-legged hunters following them. The warm weather also does not provide for good scent conditions for the dogs. poor scenting, and worn down dogs breathing through their mouths does not make for a good combination when the grouse cycle is low. Of course the warm weather didn't last, but rather than become the seasonal cool, dry weather we all love to hunt in, it turned cold,....and windy,.....and overcast,.....and it snowed. Now, cold isn't terrible, nor is snow, but overcast doesn't help, and windy just plain messes things up. All was not lost, however, as the cold wind delivered the Woodcock, which had been more or less absent. The arrival of the Woodcock made for a couple of fun, hot barreled shooting.

A rare glimpse of sunlight

     Sadly, this was the first time I can remember, that I did not shoot a grouse at grouse camp. That is not to say others did not shoot grouse, but my shot opportunities were few and far between, and I did not connect. The first half of the trip we averaged 10 grouse flushes each day, and only a handful of woodcock flushed. The second half of the trip the balanced changed; fewer grouse flushes, but double digit Woodcock flushes.

Ginger with a couple of Woodcock taken with the 28g Gamba

     On the plus side of things, my best day saw 35 flushes over the dogs. I also hit another milestone; I killed birds will all 3 guns I brought to camp. I usually bring two guns, because it's always wise to have a back-up gun when traveling.  I couldn't decide which two guns to bring, so I brought three. I brought my 20g Citori, 20g Beretta SxS, and 28g Gamba O/U.  I've struggled with my SxS over the years, but have recently changed my shooting style a bit, and have been shooting it quite well. In fact, I killed more birds with the SxS than either of the other guns, and have actually fallen in love with it.

Ginger with a couple of Woodcock taken with the 20g Beretta SxS

Monday, October 3, 2016

Where Do We Go From Here

     It's often said in the spring of each year that spring has sprung. Well, I'd say that fall has fallen. Yes. Autumn is here, and with it hunting season. Up north Grouse and woodcock season opened on Oct 1st, and bear season and archery deer season a few weeks before. Here in Mass, woodcock season opens the 5th, and the season opens shortly after that, followed by our archery deer season.

     Like always, Ginger and I have been preparing for our annual grouse camp up north. I seldom seriously hunt the upland before the second half of October. I've found that the weather is often still quite warm and both man and dog get worn out too quickly. Coupled with the leafy canopy still being thick, making shooting tough, I elect to take a couple more weeks to get ready. Those two extra weeks pay off in other ways. The beginning of October is a great time to fine tune a deer hunting set up. I've got a ground blind and a tree stand to put in. I know generally where they will go, but now is a great time to really pin point their location. As the archery deer season opens while I'm away at grouse camp, these stand sites will get to sit undisturbed  for a couple of weeks, and end up blending in to the surroundings. And truth be told, I don't even plan on sitting in my tree stand until the fire arms deer season.

     Other preparations have included lots of skeet shooting, but that is nothing new. Unfortunately since my wrist surgery this past winter my shooting has suffered. Sort of anyway. Over all my scores at skeet have dropped, not that I was any good, but I've figured out how to shoot a couple of stations that had plagued me. That said, I am a grouse hunter not a skeet shooter, and I shoot enough, and break enough clays to feel like even with falling skeet scores my performance in the uplands will be improved. I also have had second thoughts about selling my Beretta side-by-side. Seems I was making some common SxS shooting mistakes. Earlier this summer I picked up a copy of Fieldsports Magazine which had an article entitled Fit For Purpose by Simon Ward which highlighted the differences between O/U and SxS guns, the differences between them, and common mistakes shooters make. After reading the article I grabbed my SxS and mounted it a few times using a new hand hold on the fore end and barrels, and the difference was instantly noticeable. The gun no longer felt too short, and I was no longer seeing rib. Of course I was keen to try shooting the gun this way, and what, After a slow start on station 1 that had me thinking maybe there was nothing to this article I proceeded to smash clays, finishing the round with only 2 more misses, one miss at station 4, and then missing low 8. I even went clean on stations 2, and 6, which have been my worst stations. So, it looks like the SxS will be making another trip to grouse camp.

     Our pre-season prep also saw us trying our hand at field trialling Ginger, once again. We did things a bit differently this time. The Central Virginia Spaniel Field Trial Club, after having had their spring Springer trial cancelled due to snow earlier this year, held their Springer trial in Conway NH the day before our club, Patriot Sporting Spaniel Club, held their Springer trial. We decided to enter Ginger in the Open All- Ages stakes of both trials, however, we wouldn't be handling her in the Virginia trial. Rather, Steve Church, the pro we train with regularly would handle her in the Virginia trial, and I would handle her in the Patriot club trial. I was proud of my little girl, and at the end of the day she had made it all the way through to judgment. She had a great day, but 4 other dogs had exceptional days, so a placement was not to be had. The next day I handled her through 2 series in the Patriot club trial, but despite some good work, and some smoking hot bird finds, she has gotten a little loose in the flush, and we didn't get invited to the 3rd series. Still, she had run 5 series in 2 days, only having come out of her heat cycle the previous Wednesday. I was happy, and proud. The field trial placements can be seen here.  Videos of Ginger's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd series in the Va club trial, and a video of her 2nd series in the Patriot club trial can be seen on our YouTube channel, here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New Logo, The Explanation.

     A few weeks ago I unveiled a new logo  and page stop for All Seasons Outdoors. I'd put a lot of thought in to what elements I wanted in a new logo. I wanted a simple logo, but one with some meaning. Many of you, especially long time readers will probably immediately see the significance. Others will be left scratching their heads wondering. I shall explain.

     The base of the logo is a moose antler. The moose antler is significant to me. Years ago I found a moose shed antler while hunting up north. I used that shed for the cover photo of this blog 5 years ago, and still use it, today. That moose shed antler has become one of my prized outdoors finds.

     The crest has 4 quarters, each with a different flag in the background, and a different animal in the foreground. On top is an American flag with a Ruffed Grouse. I am an American, and as a sportsman I identify as a grouse hunter. It is the grouse that get me into the woods each fall. Yes, I do spend time hunting other species, but the Ruffed Grouse is my passion. Traveling clockwise you will find a Japan flag with a trout. This is significant as I've fished in Japan, and have a very good trout fishing friend there. Moving on you will find a Canada flag with bear tracks. My first international hunting trip was to Canada for a Black Bear hunt. As we come around we move on the the flag of Great Britain with a  Pheasant. England was my second (and soon to be third) international hunting expedition, and it was there that I shot driven pheasant in the English countryside. The page stop is layed out differently, but the meanings are the same. So there you have it. 

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.