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.

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.