Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Future Planning

     Like hunting seasons, ideas come and go very quickly. Each off season brings new ideas of hunting destinations with the turn of of each page of a glossy shooting magazine. I've consistently planned out a grouse camp, often with friends, sometimes quite meticulously each year. Destinations varied, but were always within driving distance; New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Maine and Vermont have all been the scrutinized by the loosely organized syndicate with which I associate. In the early years, before children, mortgages, promotions, and moves we laid down a long term plan; every 5 years we would travel together to a more distant, exotic local to shoot birds. The plan was for each member to write down a destination on a piece of paper, toss them all in a hat, and then pick one. Members who's destinations had been pulled would not be allowed to drop another destination in the hat until all members had seen their dream hunt realized. Granted, travelling every five years meant it'd be a good 30-35 years until all the choices were exhausted, and we started again. We were young, and enthusiastic. Our plan never materialized, and our camps, due to external circumstances grew shorter each year, but we did still travel New England, and shoot grouse together. Recently, in an online forum I frequent the subject of a "bucket list" came up, and it got me thinking.

     The "Bucket List" as a concept is a little grim, to be honest. Future planning sounds better, and is something I've been doing all along, though rather shortsightedly. Of course picking out a few destinations/quarry isn't hard. Everyone has a dream hunt, or hike, climb, visit, etc. Thinking about the outdoor things I'd like most to do came quite naturally. It's the realization, that I may actually be able to make them happen that is slower in coming. But it's coming to me. The more I think about my bucket list, or future plans as I'd prefer them called, the more I see a way of making them happen. Let's take a look at my "future plans".

     Number one on my list is a shooting trip to the UK. I've for quite some time wanted to give traditional British game shooting a try. I particularly would like to try my hand (and eye coordination) at Red Grouse shooting. It's often said that The Red is the fastest, toughest game bird on the planet. As a die hard Ruffed Grouse hunter I find that hard to believe, and the only way to know for sure is to try it myself. Of course driven grouse shooting is the pinnacle of grouse shooting, and I'd be glad to spend a day in a butt on a moor, but to get a true comparison to Ruffed Grouse shooting  it'd have to be walked up shooting with dogs. Second in line to the Reds is Woodcock. I'd love to get a European Woodcock in the bag. I've shot some surprisingly big woodcock here, but nothing close to the heft the European birds seem to have. Of course any opportunity to shoot in the UK would be a new experience, and the first deal I find will be booked, Reds of not.

     Number two on my list revolves less around what I want, and more about enjoying a trip abroad (loosely defined) with a friend. I've never been very good at hunting or shooting waterfowl. I've had my moments, but all-in-all, my average on waterfowl sucks. BK however does well on waterfowl. BK has also been my number one hunting partner for a very long time. Bk and I have hunted together so long that we find it unnecessary to communicate much when traversing a grouse cover behind the dogs. I know he's drawn to blowdowns like a magnet, and he knows I'll pull a crazy Ivan, going out laterally, and back in again, on a whim. BK has long wanted us to go south to shoot ducks in flooded timber. He's right, we should. A trip like this may well bring my horrible life time average on waterfowl up, and I'd enjoy seeing BK fulfill his dream.

     Third and fourth place on the list could be interchangeable. Both would be great, but for different reasons. Those destinations couldn't be further apart either; Argentina, and the Mid-West. It's hard to put my finger on what exactly it is about Argentina that makes me want to go there. It seems like a good time from every account I've read about it. The opportunity to shoot Perdiz, or high volume ducks or doves, and then follow that up with some serious steak, and a Malbec? Yup. That's it. The Mid-West, on the other hand, would be more Ruffed Grouse shooting. Sure I do a lot of grouse shooting, and I've even had some banner days with great flush counts, but it'd be nice to have a week of consistently high flush counts, and to really sling some lead. So Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are all earmarked for future travel.

     Domestically there are some destinations and species I'd like to see. For the most part I'm species driven, but as I research a trip things may change. Anyway, to that end I'd like to hunt wild Pheasant one day, either in Montana, or Kansas. Chukar are on my radar, too. I've shot plenty of pen raised Chukars. They're quite tasty, and even pen raised birds have been enthusiastic fliers, so I imagine in the wild they'd be even tastier, and quite challenging on the wing.

     Rounding out the list, for now, I venture into the big game arena. I'd long wanted to take a black bear with a bow. I seriously hunted bear here in Mass awhile back, and while I didn't manage to hang my tag off of one, I learned a lot, and even saw one. One day I'd like to give this a try again, only this time it'll be somewhere I have an honest chance at getting a shot.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cabin Fever Ramble, and A Couple New Endorsements.

     Winter has really dumped on us this year. In less than 30 days we've seen about 100" of snow fall, with very few days of above freezing temps. As one might imagine, this much snow has made getting out, and doing anything difficult. Dog training has come to a halt, and I haven't shot skeet in a month. I've been on the look out for snowshoes, but I started my search too late, and it seems everyone else beat me to it; no snowshoes to be found. Truth be told, I don't think I'd enjoy snowshoeing in single digit temps very much. So what is an outdoorsman to do?

     To start with, I've begun collecting information, and working up some ideas for a wingshooting get-a-way. And what better way to do that than reading tales of other's adventures. That is where Covey Rise Magazine has proved invaluable. I know I've mentioned Covey Rise in this blog before, but I believe it deserves an other mention. It's a quality publication. While it has a tendency to feature quite a few high end items and destinations, unlike Shooting Sportsman magazine, a similar type of publication, Most of the featured hunts are DIY, and not exclusively pay-to-play-hunts like tend to be featured in SSM. If you haven't yet picked up a copy of Covey Rise Magazine, I highly recommend it.

      When it comes to high end, top quality adventure/outdoor clothing one can not have a conversation without mentioning BraeVal. Located in Connecticut, BraeVal is making some really comfortable shirts. In addition to clothing BraeVal just started a distillery in Litchfield Ct, and will be making a bourbon. If their bourbon is as good as the BraeVal scotch (specially distilled using an ancient McCluskey family formula which dates back to when the McCluskey family distilled in Scotland) owner Gregor McCluskey treated me to in grouse camp, it's sure to take off.

     In a further effort to prepare for the upcoming season (take your pick: field trial, hunt test, or grouse. I'm preparing for them all) it was decided that it was time to get my wife a decent pair of wellingtons, as she routinely helps me with dog training, and attends all the tests and trials. I don't know why, but it just seems that spaniels and mud go together, which is why we chose to get wellingtons. After looking around a bit a decision was made, and a pair of Hunter boots were ordered. I know what you are thinking, but let me tell you, these are not the Madison Ave prep look rain boots you are seeing in every shopping mall across America. Hunter actually makes some proper, durable wellingtons, and their Balmoral line of field boots is it. My American made wellies still have a lot of life left in them, but when the time comes to replace them I will surely look at the Hunter line again.

     I am pleased to announce that these product have earned an ASO endorsement, and shall be featured on the endorsement page.

     Moving on to a bit of sad news, it has been reported that Lane Benoit of Vermont's first family of deer hunting has passed away at the age of 60. The Benoit's,  have published several books and produced several DVDs of their deer tracking methods, and their father Larry was once featured in Sports Illustrated as one of the best deer hunters in America. I have had the pleasure of meeting the Benoits on two occasions (though briefly) and found them to be sincere gentlemen. The outdoor world has lost a true icon.

Photo credit: Great Northern Productions.