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.